The Personal Website of Mark W. Dawson

Containing His Articles, Observations, Thoughts, Meanderings,
and some would say Wisdom (and some would say not).

Thoughts on Life, Living, and Death


An Unexamined LifeTop

Socrates once famously said:

"An Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living"

Socrates was wrong. An unexamined life can be worth living if it is lived in a legal, moral, and ethical way. However, an examined life is a more fulfilling life. If you examine your life you will learn more about yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses, and have a better understanding of yourself and what is happening around you. However, too much examination can lead to self-pity, egotism, or narcissism, traits that I particularly disdain. I, therefore, offer these examinations of my life not to invoke feelings of sorrow over my life, or to inflate my self-importance, and most importantly not for the admiration for myself, but simply to be utilized as a basis of why I have reached the conclusion on life that is in this article. You should also be careful not to indulge in self-pity, egotism, or narcissism when you examine your own life.

The means that I hope to accomplish these goals are through the Aristotelian “modes for persuasion” as follows.

Ethos, Pathos, and Logos Top


Aristotle's "modes for persuasion" - otherwise known as rhetorical appeals - are known by the names of ethospathos, and logos. They are means of persuading others to believe a particular point of view. They are often used in speech writing and advertising to sway the audience.

Meaning of Logos, Ethos, and Pathos

Aristotle used these three terms to explain how rhetoric works:

"Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker [ethos]; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind [pathos]; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself [logos]. Persuasion is achieved by the speaker's personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible."

Logos (appeal to logic) is a way of persuading an audience with reason, using facts and figures.

This is my preferred method of persuasion to be accomplished With Facts, Intelligence, and Reasoning. I will also utilize the “Precepts” as explained below to persuade you of the correctness of my observations.

Ethos (sometimes called an appeal to ethics), then, is used as a means of convincing an audience via the authority or credibility of the persuader, be it a notable or experienced figure in the field or even a popular celebrity.

I only do this when I think that a great mind (myself not included) has said it better than I could possibly have done. When quoting someone I will offset and italicize the quote followed by the person's name whom I am quoting. If I have failed to do this, it may simply be that I was unaware that it could be an attributed quote. If you, the reader, have noticed this, I would kindly ask that you notify me via e-mail so that I may properly attribute the quote.

Pathos (appeal to emotion) is a way of convincing an audience of an argument by creating an emotional response to an impassioned plea or a convincing story.

I only resort to this method, usually near the end of the article, when I wish to emphasize the importance or conclusion of my observation.

I do not consider Pathos as a valid argument to prove a point. Logos should be the primary means to prove an argument, with Ethos used only as a substantiation of an argument by someone more intelligent or wiser than yourself. Pathos is often utilized to stir up a crowd to actions, and many time inappropriate actions that Logos and Ethos would not support.

Argumentation, Debate, and DiscussionTop

The incandescent light bulb has often been described as a heat source that provides some light, given that a light bulb generates more heat than it does light. In today's public debates we often find the proponents of an issue providing a lot of heat and only a little light. These observations are meant to provide illumination (light) and not argumentation (heat).

Opponents in today's society often utilize the dialog and debate methodology of Demonize, Denigrate, and Disparage (which I refer to as The Three D’s) upon their opponent when discussing issues, policies, and personages. To demonize, denigrate, or disparage the messenger to avoid consideration of the message is not acceptable if the message has supporting evidence.

The only acceptable method of public discourse is disagreement - to be of different opinions. If you are in disagreement with someone you should be cognizant that people of good character can and often disagree with each other. The method of their disagreement is very important to achieve civil discourse. There are two ways you can disagree with someone; by criticizing their opinions or beliefs or critiquing their opinions or beliefs.

  • Criticism - Disapproval expressed by pointing out faults or shortcomings.
  • Critique - A serious examination and judgment of something.

Most people and most commentators have forgotten the difference between Criticism and Critique. This has led to the hyper-partisanship in today's society. In a civil society critiquing a viewpoint or policy position should be encouraged. This will often allow for a fuller consideration of the issues, and perhaps a better viewpoint or policy position without invoking hyper-partisanship. We can expect that partisanship will often occur, as people of good character can and often disagree with each other. Criticizing a viewpoint or policy position will often lead to hostility, rancor, and enmity, which results in the breakdown of civil discourse and hyper-partisanship. It is fine to criticize someone for their bad or destructive behavior, but it is best to critique them for their opinions or words. We would all do better if we remember to critique someone, rather than criticize someone.

I would ask anyone who disagrees with what I have written here to please keep this disagreement civil. I am open to critique and will sometimes take criticism. I will always ignore demonization, denigration, and disparagement, or point out the vacuous nature or the character flaws of those that wish to silence the messenger rather than deal with the message.

To Argument, Debate, or Discuss — That Is the QuestionTop

I have been asked why I do not personally engage in argumentation or debate, and only rarely become involved in discussions unless they are amongst my friends. There are actually a few major reasons; my introverted nature, The Three D’s, Light vs. Heat, and my deficiencies in recalling information on demand. As I have discussed in my article “Introverted” I am by nature an introverted person and find it difficult to open up to the degree necessary to engage in Argumentation, Debate, and Discussion. I am also loath to become involved in The Three D’s which most modern Argumentation, Debate, and Discussion often become. Many times, the arguments and debates turn into just “Talking Points” on each side in which much heat is generated with very little light on the subject. This, to me, is a waste of my time and efforts. One of the things that you will discover about me is how much I hate to waste time and effort, and how well this hatred has stood me in my life and career. Finally, for successful Argumentation, Debate, and Discussion you need to have your names, dates, titles, facts, and figures on command to appear to “win” an Argument, Debate, or Discussion. I am not very good at recalling this information in a moments notice, which is why I keep much of this information on my computer. I also do not wish to “lose” an Argument, Debate, or Discussion because of my inability to recall this information at a moments notice. “Winning” or “Losing” an Argument, Debate, or Discussion should be based on the substance and not the form of the Argument, Debate, or Discussion. Unfortunately, in today’s world, much of the focus is on the form and not on the substance. I pride myself on thinking and the substance of my thoughts and wish to keep the Argument, Debate, or Discussion focused on the content and facts, not who can recall information better.

Please remember that if you disagree with the messenger it is not acceptable to kill the messenger. You may kill the messenger, but the message will remain. If you have any comments, concerns, critiques, or suggestions I can be reached at I will review reasoned and intellectual correspondence, and it is possible that I can change my mind, or at least update the contents of these articles. This is why these articles are dated. Whenever I make a change to these articles they will be re-dated. So, check back and see if any articles have been updated (or perhaps I shall add articles).

These, then, are my observations on my examined life.

Who Am I?Top

I am an overweight, out-of-shape, newly minted senior citizen. I am a heterosexual male, married, and father of one adult daughter. I am of European descent (mostly Scottish, English, German, and some Eastern European), but most importantly I am a Human Being (this is what I put on all forms that require I state my race).

As a human being, I have intelligence and can think and learn from knowledge, experience, and education. I attempt to keep my mind active and engaged and learn and think about the world around me. I have interests and hobbies (mostly classical, popular, and rock-n-roll music, movies, historical America, and the history of the physical sciences, as well as astrophysics & quantum mechanics).
I was born (on the Ides of May - 1952) and raised in Philadelphia, PA. I spent my entire adult life in the northern suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. I attended the Thomas Holme Elementary school, and Abraham Lincoln High School of Philadelphia, PA, and I have some undergraduate credits at the University of Pennsylvania. I was an average to a poor student in elementary and high school, as I was unmotivated, of poor eyesight (which was not discovered until I was in High School), and I believe I am slightly dyslectic. Not until I entered the real world (having a job) did I become interested in learning, which I then took up with great enthusiasm.

My career has been almost entirely in the Information technology field. I started out as a Computer Operator on mainframe (big iron) computers, became a Software Configuration Manager, a Computer Programmer, a Computer Systems Designer, then a Computer Systems Project Leader. From there I became a Lead Computer Systems Engineer, A Chief Engineer, a Proposal Manager, and a Program Manager as a contractor on classified U.S. Government contracts. I then became an independent Computer Consultant for small businesses, the self-employed, and families in my local residential area. During this time I have worked on Mainframe, Mini, Workstation, and Microcomputers. I am or have been, very knowledgeable on several computer programming languages, database systems, and data communication systems, as well as various commercial computer applications (such as Microsoft Office, Quickbooks, Goldmine, etc.). I have taken brief respites (for fun or sanity purposes) as a Travelling Science Show Instructor for the Franklin Institute during the Bicentennial school year and as a Pet Sitter.

I started my adult life being highly introverted and technically oriented. I have since learned to become more extroverted and people oriented. Most people who know me now would have no idea that I was such in my earlier years, and do not suspect that I am still introverted, as I make extensive efforts to be more extroverted when I am with other people. I am considered by my friends, acquaintances, and associates (clients) to be easy going, humorous, and a nice decent person.

I have traveled somewhat (mostly business) and have spent several months in Sunnyvale, CA, and weeks at a time in Northern Germany, Southern England, and Washington, D.C. I have also spent many days at a time in Dallas, TX and Denver, CO, as well as a few days in numerous other US cities. My vacations have been spent in Bermuda (honeymoon), Cancun Mexico, central California, and my mother's homestead in Northern Minnesota. My other vacation places have been at various places in the Northeastern USA from Maine to Virginia.

I was born with, and still have, a minor heart murmur that is getting progressively worse (now it is Bilateral Bundle Branch Block), and I have absolutely no arches on my feet (every doctor who has examined my feet has commented on this). I have had my tonsils and appendix removed, my nasal passages cleaned out twice, and my deviated septum repaired. I have had very poor eyesight since childhood, have a progressive hearing loss due to my occupation, and not much of a sense of smell. I had ulcers in my early adulthood (mainly due to work-related stress), and I continue to suffer from hyperacidity of my stomach) I suffer from sleep apnea, lower back pains from ligament damage, and occasionally upper back pains from a case of whiplash I suffered in an automobile accident. I also suffer from wrist, elbow and shoulder pains (tendinitis) when I am extensively utilizing a computer. I have high cholesterol and am borderline diabetic.  I had my Droopy Eyes (Ptosis) repaired when I was sixty, and have recently had cataract and eye lens replacement surgery. I regularly have upper respiratory infections, but I fortunately never had any broken bones or serious injuries in my life. Mostly, all of these conditions could be improved if I exercised regularly and had a better diet. But being busy, lazy, and unmotivated I do none of these things.

People who know me claim that I have a good sense of humor, but a very poor joke teller. I do, however, have the ability to tell stories from my own life, and well as historical and scientific stories, and as such, they regard me as a good storyteller. I have tried to live a legal, moral, and ethical life, and honesty and integrity are very important to me in my dealings with myself and others (in other words I am a straight-shooter).

In other words, I am much like most other Americans, and there is nothing special about me, other than I think a lot. I have often said that English is my second language, while thinking is my first language. Those that know me, and my writing, know that my second language (English) can be very poor in both spelling and grammar (thank God for computer spell checkers, thesaurus, and grammar checks), and I struggle to write anything. I am a very organized and logical person, and I attempt to keep my writing organized and logical. I attempt to write clearly, concisely, completely, confidently, and understandably. As such, I hope that these articles are readable to all with a high school education.

My ApproachTop

This may appear to be a long book – but it is not. It is composed of many observations that are fairly short, and can be read in a brief period of time, and then put down until you have another brief period of time to read another observation. The order of the observations has been done so that one observation leads to another. However, you need not read these observations in order, as I have tried to make them as self-contained as possible. I would recommend that you read this General section, before you read the other sections, as much of the General section contents are referred to in my other observations. When an observation refers to another observation, I have noted this in the observation so you can read the referred to observation to obtain additional context.
As far as my education is concerned I am Autodidact - A person who has taught themselves. But I have a wealth of knowledge and experience gained over a lifetime of reading about and researching these observations, as well as examining my own life.

When I began writing my observations I did what I always do before writing – review my books and research the topic on the Internet. I do this to be sure that I cover the basics of what I believe is important to the subject. I sometimes cut and paste important points from the Internet, but then I rewrite them to better explain my observation. I have often cut and pasted sentences and paragraphs from the Wikipedia website (, and I would recommend your visiting this website as you research the topics in these observations. I also believe in not reinventing the wheel, so sometimes I take entire paragraphs or essays from my Internet research. I have tried to credit the originator when I have done so, but if I have sometimes failed to do this I would ask your forgiveness when this has occurred.

My Observations on life and societal issues are based on my readings of philosophers, theologians, ethicists, economists, scientists, and commentators. They form the basis of how I think about various issues. Proponents and opponents of many of the issues today often argue past each other, based on different assumptions and propositions. Whenever I look at an issue I try to obtain all sides of the issue. I then try to perceive, recognize, or understand the core of the issue, and examine this core based on facts and intellectual reasoning. I apply my knowledge, experience, and intellectual reasoning as the basis of these observations, with very little feelings involved (as feelings can often lead you astray). If you wish to differ with me on these observations I would ask that you do so based on knowledge, experience, and intellectual reasoning, as I have done so in writing these observations. By doing so we can have a civil discourse on these observations.
Much of these observations utilize common sense, but common sense seems to be less common in society today or is not being utilized in the discussion of the issues and concerns of today. These observations are also only brief summaries. Many people reading these observations will offer the critique that I do not propose solutions for all of these observations. To do so would require more knowledge and experience that I am qualified to provide. However, a wise person once said, "the first step of resolving a problem is to recognize that you have one". These observations are meant to recognize what the problem is, not necessarily to propose a solution to these issues. To do a fuller examination of these issues I leave for more knowledgeable and experienced commentators. However, in some cases, I believe I am knowledgeable and experienced in the subject matter so that I can provide intelligent solutions. When this occurs, these observations will have a proposed solution based on my knowledge and experience.

I also believe that in today's society people will not invest their time in reading a lengthy or argumentative article. I, therefore, have purposely kept observations minimal, in the hopes of more people investing in their time to read them. I also attempt to write what I mean and mean what I write. I do this by trying to write as clearly, completely, and concisely as possible to illuminate these observations. I also realize that I am often stating the obvious, or expounding common sense. But unfortunately, in today’s world, the obvious is often obscured for political purposes, and common sense is not so common anymore.

The incandescent light bulb has often been described as a heat source that provides some light, given that a light bulb generates more heat than it does light. In today's political debate we often find the proponents providing a lot of heat and only a little light. These observations are meant to provide illumination (light) and not argumentation (heat).
The following observations are based on my examined life. A wise man once said, "True wisdom is often the result of bitter experience, considered!" If this is true then I have much wisdom to impart. I hope that these observations will be of benefit, and will help you more fully understand your life and the society we live in.

I have a few observations that I believe should be kept in mind at all times, and by all persons. They are as follows:

Pearls of WisdomTop

As we pass through life, we often encounter pearls of wisdom. Whether it be from something we have read, heard, or watched we are often struck by this wisdom. We often make a vow to ourselves to remember and apply these pearls of wisdom, and we often many times forget or not apply these pearls of wisdom. But pearls of wisdom should not only be remembered but incorporated into our life in our words and deeds. I, myself, have tried to incorporate the pearls of wisdom I have encountered in my words and deeds.

I vividly remember the first time this happened to me. As a young man I was reading a biography f Benjamin Franklin when I read his speech on the final day of the Constitutional Convention. A speech that was needed to rally the conventioneers to approve the Constitution. While reading this speech I encountered the following two pearls of wisdom:

“For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others.”


“Doubt a little of your own infallibility.”

I read, and reread, this speech as I was so impressed by it, and I vowed to consciously incorporate the above pearls of wisdom into my life. Since that time, I have done so and it has served me well. I have not been afraid to change my mind by better information, or fuller consideration, and I have also doubted my own infallibility whenever I do, say or write anything, or whenever I make up my mind. I also encountered another pearl of wisdom, from my review of the Law of Unintended Consequences and its outcomes of unexpected benefits, unexpected drawbacks, and perverse results, to think about the consequences if you should be wrong, or right, in all you do, say, or write. I therefore filter my words, deeds, and writings (including this website) through these pearls of wisdom before I act. I would recommend that you also remember and incorporate these pearls of wisdom into your life, as it will serve you well.

Please Note – for more pearls of wisdom in my life I would direct you to my "Pearls of Wisdom" article and my “Principles, Truisms, Locutions, and Rules” section of this Observation.

The Ten CommandmentsTop

If you wish to live an ethical and moral life the best way you can do this is by following the 10 Commandments. The 10 Commandments, as given to Moses by God, is the best way to live an ethical and moral life. In fact, if we all lived by the 10 Commandments we would probably have a society that approaches perfection, or the Utopian ideal. However, most people do not understand or misunderstand, the true meaning of the 10 Commandments. There are a number of factors that lead to this misunderstanding the primary being that the original 10 Commandments are written in ancient Hebrew. These Commandments were then translated into Aramaic, then Greek, then Latin, then medieval English, and finally modern English. Any time you translate something from one language to another you run the risk of mistranslating. In addition, words change their meaning throughout time. Sometimes words that mean one thing in the past do not have the same meaning in the present. This is especially true when you use words from medieval English to modern English, being that English is such a dynamic language.

The best explanation of the meaning of the 10 Commandments in modern English is from Dennis Prager's short videos located on the website Prager University. I would encourage all to review these short videos (5 to 6 minutes long) to gain a modern understanding of what the 10 Commandments mean. For the purposes of this article a brief list of the 10 Commandments will suffice.

    1. I am the Lord Your God
    2. No Other Gods
    3. Do Not Misuse God's Name
    4. Remember the Sabbath
    5. Honor Your Father and Mother
    6. Do Not Murder
    7. Do Not Commit Adultery
    8. Do Not Steal
    9. Do Not Bear False Witness
    10. Do Not Covet

A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous ThingTop

This is one of the most misused phrases in the English language that originates from Alexander Pope in his work "An Essay on Criticism". This is because most people use the first part of the phrase, but had no idea about the other parts of the phrase. The entire phrase is as follows:

“A little learning is a dangerous thing
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fired at first sight with what the muse imparts,
In fearless youth we tempt the heights of arts
While from the bounded level of our mind
Short views we take nor see the lengths behind
But more advanced behold with strange surprise,
New distant scenes of endless science rise!”

Note - in Greek mythology, the Pierian Spring of Macedonia was sacred to the Muses,
            as the metaphorical source of the knowledge of art and science.

As can be seen, this phrase has an entirely different meaning when it is quoted in its entirety. It is a warning that if you're going to become knowledgeable about something you should become as knowledgeable as possible. Otherwise, a little knowledge shall lead you astray. This applies to all areas of human experience, and not limited to scientific, political, economic, the arts, etc... When seeking knowledge in all these areas you should listen to and examine all sides of an issue. To not do so could lead to a false or erroneous opinion or incorrect or incomplete knowledge of the subject of your examination.

My Message to AmericansTop

The most important thing you can do with your life is as follows:

1.    Get an Education.
The best path to success is by obtaining the highest quality of education possible. Some people have an artistic talent, and some people have an athletic talent, and those people can have a very good life based on these talents. But most of us do not have an artistic or athletic talent good enough to make a living. For the rest of us, we all have another ability; the ability to think well and work hard. If we employ our ability to think well then most of us can have a good life. The best way to fully utilize our ability to think is to get the best education possible and continue educating yourself throughout life either through continuing education or autodidact activities (autodidact activities are much easier today with the internet and cable television). The best education is obtained by attending school, by paying attention to the teachers, trying to do your best, trying to learn as hard as you try any other activity, doing all your assignments, and by being polite and respectful to the teachers and other students

2.    Pick a Career Path that Suits You.
Choose a career path that utilizes all your talents and abilities, and become as knowledgeable in your trade or profession as possible. Work as hard at your job as you are capable of. Do the task at hand, do it completely, and do it to the best of your abilities. The harder you work, no matter what the task, the better off you will become. If not betterment at your employment it will better yourself. Not only will this provide personal satisfaction, but it makes you more valuable to your employer, or your future employer. The rewards may not be immediate, but they will come and accrue throughout your life. Whether those benefits are financial or personal they will make your life better, and you will be rewarded both emotionally and financially for your efforts.

3.    Create a Family.
To be a man or be women is not done by creating a baby. It is done by creating a family, in which babies are raised to become children, then responsible adults. Therefore, do not have babies until you are ready to create a family, do not have babies out of wedlock, and do not separate from your spouse unless you or your children are suffering physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or abandonment. This is also the best way to overcome or avoid slipping into poverty, or dependence on others or government for your family’s needs. A family is also critical for providing the best education for their children by encouraging their children in their education, not through threats or intimidation, but by being positive and supportive.

4.    Become Religious or Spiritual.
Religiosity and Spirituality are two separate approaches to life, but they share a common goal (please refer to my “Spiritual Not Religious” observation for the differences between the two). Religiosity and Spirituality give meaning and purpose to your existence in this universe. They also establish a moral and ethical code of conduct that is beneficial to you, your family, your neighbors, and to society as a whole. In addition, a religious or spiritual outlook on life precludes your being involved in criminal activities and also solidifies the family.

5.    Cooperate with the Police.
In a just society, we should not be confrontational to civil authority, but we must all confront societies injustices, and try to become a more just society. The United States is one of the most just societies in human history, although there is room for improvement. The most important and consequential confrontation we may have is with the police and other law enforcement officials. If you have a dispute with the police or law enforcement officials do not try to resolve it in the street. Civil complaints and the courts are the only legitimate means of resolving your dispute. To try and resolve it on the streets against a physically fit, armed, and trained police or law enforcement officer (and their partner or backups) will always result in your losing. It may also result in the possibility of you being harmed, wounded, or losing your life. The odds of your succeeding in confronting the police or law enforcement officer in the street are slim to none. To engage in a confrontation with them in a fight that you will lose, and possibly lose your life or limb, is therefore idiotic. Be the better person and prove as much by cooperating with the police or law enforcement officer, and resolve your differences outside of the streets. Besides, civil complaints and the courts are a better way to reform the system, as they often impact all police or law enforcement officials rather than the individual police or law enforcement official you encounter on the street.

Wisdom Is A BurdenTop

If you apply the following observations to your own life and today’s society you may discover that wisdom can be a burden. A burden because you will recognize your own and societies shortcomings. You will no longer accept excuses for yourself and others but will recognize the reasons for what is happening in your life and society. This wisdom will help you to better understand how to improve your own life and society if you should decide to apply this wisdom. And applying this wisdom will help set you free to experience life to its fullest. You should also remember the following quote as you obtain wisdom:

Man is always prey to his truths. Once he has admitted them,
he cannot free himself from them.
  - Albert Camus


The following are the precepts I have held throughout my adult life, and the precepts I have utilized in these observations.

Human NatureTop

Human nature is that part of our psyche that is a result of millions of years of evolution. It is a basic part of all humans. We must all acknowledge our human nature and account for it in our dealings with others, as well as in the creation and administration of social policy. To not do so will result in much effort, time, and monies being spent on a task that is doomed to failure. And failure is what is inevitable if you do not account for human nature. In many of my observations, I deal with human nature and its impact on the observation, and I take human nature into account when I propose a solution. I will not deny, or not acknowledge, human nature in my observations. For someone who denies human nature, or will not acknowledge human nature, is foolish, and you should not pay attention to fools.

General RuleTop

These observations are based on an as General Rule reflection. As such there are always exceptions to the General Rule. These exceptions don’t disprove the General Rule, but only point out where the General Rule may not apply. Where there are many or serious exceptions to the General Rule, the General Rule may not apply at all and can, therefore, be rejected. Using a few or unserious exceptions to reject the General Rule is disingenuous. Anyone who would like to disprove the General Rule through exceptions must show that there are many and serious exceptions to disprove the General Rule.

Standards of JudgementTop

I apply my own standards of judgment to myself and people who agree with me, as well as to other people who may disagree with me. Whether you are male or female, your sexual orientation, conservative or moderate or liberal, Black or White or Asian or Hispanic or other, religious or anti-religious, your faith or nationality, etc., I believe in holding all to the same standard of morality, ethics, behavior, speech, and conduct. After all, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. To apply a different standard to people who agree or disagree with you is unjust, and demeans your position on an issue.

Wasting Effort, Time, and MoniesTop

Anyone who knows me knows that I hate spending effort, time, and monies unless it is necessary. This is somewhat because I can be lazy, but mostly because I am efficient. And this efficiency has stood me well throughout my life and career. Many time s my co-workers and supervisors, and my clients, have noted how efficient I am, and this has resulted in my career advancement and my clients’ satisfaction. And I dislike it when I see others wasting effort, time, and monies, and I especially hate it when I see it in government activities. In government activities, this waste results in more monies being spent, higher taxes as a resultant, and usually the activity not achieving its goal.

Knowledgeable – From Information to WisdomTop

What is Knowledge and a Knowledgeable Person? Is knowledge everything that is known, the psychological result of perception and learning and reasoning, the factual information that a person knows, or the (technical) knowledge and skill required to do something? Is a knowledgeable person one who is highly educated, has extensive information or understanding, an alert and fully informed mind, or a person who is thoroughly acquainted with knowledge through study or experience? It is my belief that Knowledge is everything that is known, while a knowledgeable person is one who has accumulated much Information, Understanding, Intelligence, Experience, and Wisdom about different areas of knowledge.More information on this topics can be found in my article "Knowledgeable – From Information to Wisdom", but a brief recap is as follows:


So, how does a person become knowledgeable, what are the processes in the accumulation of knowledge to become a knowledgeable and wise person, and how are these processes interrelated? And what separates a knowledgeable person from a wise person? A simplified diagram that illustrates these processes and the flow of the accumulation of knowledge to become a wise person is as follows:

Generally, Information is the acquisition of facts, while understanding allows you to fill in the meaning of the facts. Intelligence allows you to connect the information and understanding that you have acquired, while experience allows you to discover new information and/or understanding that were unknown to you. Information, Understanding, and Intelligence cannot only be obtained by formal education but it can also be obtained autodidactically and through experiences. Experience is essential, as experience often reveals the gaps in your information, understanding, and intelligence. To obtain Wisdom much more is required than the accumulation of knowledge. Wisdom is the ability to apply what you have accumulated to determine truths and falsehoods, to weed out the important from the unimportant, and to make a judgment of the best manner to put into practice the knowledge that you have acquired.

The issue is, as always, how can you be confident that the knowledge you obtain is correct, as incorrect knowledge is often more harmful than no knowledge. There is no definitive means to assure that the knowledge that you obtain is correct. The best means to guard against incorrect knowledge is to heed the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin:

"Doubt a little of your own infallibility."

"For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others."

Therefore, doubt the correctness of your knowledge, pay attention to others that may be more knowledgeable, and be willing to change your mind if new or changed information becomes available to you.

Knowing vs. UnderstandingTop

To know something does not necessarily mean that you understand something, and conversely to understand something does not necessarily mean that you know something. A perfect example of this is from the Maya.

Mayan Astronomers were very good at predicting the times and locations of moon and sun rising and setting, as well as predicting lunar and solar eclipses. Through simple calculations, they were highly accurate in predicting these events. They knew when and where these events would occur. Yet, they had no understanding of why these events occurred. They did not, nor could not, understand that these events occurred due to the motion of the Earth revolving around the Sun and the Moon revolving around the Earth. They did not conceive of this possibility, nor were they not interested in explaining why these events occurred, they were only interested in determining when and where these events occurred. Even if they did conceive why these events occurred, they did not have the mathematical knowledge to predict these events based on this understanding.

This dichotomy between knowing and understanding is true not only for science but for all areas of human activities. The more you understand something the more likely that you will be able to gain accurate knowledge of something. It does not mean, however, that if you understand something that you have complete knowledge of something. The human quest for knowledge is about gaining a more complete knowing and understanding of how and why something occurs.

Therefore, it can be said that when you know something you are learned, and when you understand something you are intelligent. Learned people are important in guiding human activities, but intelligent people are necessary to realize human activities. This is why:

Knowing why is often more important than knowing how.


To properly reason you need to understand Formal and Informal Logic, Logical Fallacies, Cognitive Biases, and Common Sense. These must always be ascertained and incorporated for a rational debate to occur. You must also be aware of how to utilize common sense appropriately. Below is an outline of Formal and Informal Logic, Logical Fallacies, Cognitive Biases, and Common Sense.

Formal and Informal LogicTop

There are two general types of ways to examine arguments for soundness: Formal Logic or more precisely Mathematical Logic and Informal Logic as explained in the Wikipedia article that is hyperlinked. As this subject is too extensive to outline in this article I would direct you to the Wikipedia articles on these subjects. A brief recap of Formal and Informal Logic is appropriate for this article.

Formal Logic fallacies are errors in logic that are due entirely to the structure of the argument, without concern for the content of the premises. We can refer to all formal fallacies as Non Sequiturs. Aristotle held that the basis for all formal fallacies was the non sequitur, which is why the term is known in Latin as Ignoratio elench - or an ignorance of logic. Formal Logic is also the basis for all computer processing. If in your reasoning your Formal Logic is wrong, then your conclusion will be wrong. 

Informal Logic fallacies occur when the "reasoning" or rationale behind the specific content of a premise is illogical - i.e. the support for the argument relies on rhetoric (appeals to emotion). While these arguments also possess a particular form, one cannot tell from the form alone that the argument is fallacious. This fallacy is most often the case when you have a Logical Fallacy or Cognitive Bias in your reasoning.

Logical FallaciesTop

Most people are mostly ignorant about logical fallacies. A logical fallacy is a flaw in reasoning. Logical fallacies are like tricks or illusions of thought, and they're often very sneakily used by politicians and the media to fool people. You should visit the Wikipedia article that lists logical fallacies:

Examples of logical fallacies are:

Argument from Ignorance, also known as appeal to ignorance (in which ignorance represents "a lack of contrary evidence"), is a fallacy in informal logic. It asserts that a proposition is true because it has not yet been proven false (or vice versa). This represents a type of false dichotomy in that it excludes a third option, which is that there may have been an insufficient investigation, and therefore there is insufficient information to prove the proposition be either true or false. Nor does it allow the admission that the choices may in fact not be two (true or false), but maybe as many as four.

    1. True
    2. False
    3. Unknown between true or false
    4. Being unknowable (among the first three).

In debates, appeals to ignorance are sometimes used in an attempt to shift the burden of proof.

The following examples are from Philosophy Terms:

  1. Appeal to popular opinion
    in an argument, have you ever heard someone say “everyone knows” or “9 out of 10 Americans agree”? This is an appeal to popular opinion, and it’s a major logical fallacy. After all, the world is full of popular misconceptions. For example, most Americans believe that Columbus proved the world was round; but actually, this is wrong. That had already been proven thousands of years earlier by the Egyptians, and no educated person in Columbus’ time believed the world was flat.
    An appeal to popular opinion is very different from an appeal to expert opinion. If 99 out of 100 geologists agree that earthquakes are caused by tectonic plates, then that’s almost certainly true, because the geologists are experts on the cause of earthquakes. However, the geologists are not experts on Korean history, so we shouldn’t appeal to their opinions on that subject. And the majority of people are not experts on anything other than their own lives and cultures, which means we should only trust popular opinion when those are the subjects at hand. Popular opinion is a fallacious argument; expert opinion is not.
  2. Ad hominem attack
    this is when you attack your opponent as a human being rather than dealing with their arguments. For example: “Einstein here says space-time is a continuum, but he’s a creepy little weirdo with awful hair, so he must be wrong!”
  3. False dichotomy (A.K.A. False choice or false binary)
    sometimes a person will present two possible options and argue that we need to choose between them. But this assumes that there is no third option, and that might not be true. For example:
    “Either we suppress protesters violently, or there will be chaos in the streets.”
    In most cases, such a choice is fallacious: There will be moderate, careful ways to keep the public safe from chaos without any need for violent suppression.
  4. Non sequitur
    this is when you draw a conclusion that doesn’t follow logically from the evidence. Sometimes it’s very obvious: “I own a cat; therefore, I work as a computer programmer.” It’s easy to see that the evidence (the pet) doesn’t match the conclusion (the job). However, sometimes the non sequitur is quite subtle, as in the reductio ad hitlerum.
  5. Reductio ad hitlerum
    despite its comical name, this is a real fallacy that you can see all the time in news media and political debate. A variety of non sequitur, it basically looks like this:
  1. Hitler was evil.
  2. Hitler did x.
  3. Therefore, x is evil.

On its surface, the reductio ad hitlerum can look appealing, and it often persuades people. But think about it: Hitler did many horrible things, but not everything Hitler did was evil. Let’s try filling in the blanks:

    1. Hitler was a vegetarian.
    2. Therefore, vegetarianism is evil.
    3. Hitler had a mustache.
    4. Therefore, mustaches are evil.
    5. Hitler was a carbon-based life form.
    6. Therefore, carbon-based life forms are evil.
    7. Clearly, this line of reasoning doesn’t work at all.

It is very important to understand logical fallacies when examining an issue. To not understand logical fallacies can lead you to an improper conclusion. And many advocates of a public policy position utilize logical fallacies to gain your support.

Don't be fooled! – Understand Logical Fallacies

For more information on logical fallacies I would recommend the book; “Mastering Logical Fallacies” by Michael Withey. The following charts that encapsulate the major logical fallacies should be kept in mind when analyzing an argument (from Your Logical Fallacyis).

Cognitive BiasesTop

Cognitive biases are tendencies to think in certain ways that can lead to systematic deviations from a standard of rationality or good judgment, and are often studied in psychology and behavioral economics. They are inherent in all forms of dialog and debate. You should be aware of cognitive bias in your own thoughts, as well as the opinions of others, as this will allow you to reach a more rational opinion. You should visit the Wikipedia article that lists Cognitive Biases.

What are Cognitive Biases?

Cognitive bias is an umbrella term that refers to the systematic ways in which the context and framing of information influence individuals’ judgment and decision-making. There are many kinds of cognitive biases that influence individuals differently, but their common characteristic is that—in step with human individuality—they lead to judgment and decision-making that deviates from rational objectivity.

In some cases, cognitive biases make our thinking and decision-making faster and more efficient. The reason is that we do not stop to consider all available information, as our thoughts proceed down some channels instead of others. In other cases, however, cognitive biases can lead to errors for exactly the same reason. An example is confirmation bias, where we tend to favor information that reinforces or confirms our pre-existing beliefs. For instance, if we believe that planes are dangerous, a handful of stories about plane crashes tend to be more memorable than millions of stories about safe, successful flights. Thus, the prospect of air travel equates to an avoidable risk of doom for a person inclined to think in this way, regardless of how much time has passed without news of an air catastrophe.

Types of Cognitive Bias

There are hundreds of cognitive biases out there – way more than we could ever explore in a short article. This list includes just 10, chosen because they are either especially common or especially interesting. (the list is extracted from Philosophy Terms)

Anchoring Bias The tendency to focus too much on a single piece of information rather than all information; this usually happens with either the first piece of information you received, the most recent information you received, or the most emotional information you received.

Availability Heuristic The tendency to attach too much weight to information that we happen to have available to us, even if we’ve done no systematic research. For example, people tend to believe that their personal anecdotes are evidence for how the world works. If your cousin’s child developed autism after going through a standard round of vaccinations, you may believe that vaccinations cause autism even though science has conclusively shown that they don’t.

Bandwagoning The tendency to adopt the same beliefs as the people around you, or to assume that other people are making the right decision. If you live in a city with a subway, you may have seen bandwagoning at work – sometimes, a long line will form at one turnstile while the one next to it is completely free. Each new person shows up and just assumes that the second turnstile is broken, or else why would there be this disparity in the lines? But if no one decides to test this assumption, then the line will get longer and longer for no good reason!

Confirmation Bias One of the most important cognitive biases! This is a tendency to find evidence that supports what you already believe – or to interpret the evidence as supporting what you already believe. Changing your viewpoint is hard cognitive work, and our brains have a tendency to avoid doing it whenever possible, even when the evidence is stacked against us!

Dunning-Krueger Effect Less competent people have a tendency to believe that they know more than they actually do. Well-informed people usually have very low confidence in their own views, because they know enough to realize how complicated the world is. People that are not well informed are extremely confident that their views are correct because they haven’t learned enough to see the problems with those views. This is what Socrates meant when he said that true wisdom was “to know that I know nothing.”

Fundamental Attribution Error The tendency to believe that your own successes are due to effort and innate talent, while others’ successes are due to luck. Conversely, it’s also the tendency to believe that your own failures are due to bad luck, while other people’s failures are due to lack of effort and talent. Basically, it means you give yourself credit while denying credit to others. This bias has broad effects in cross-cultural encounters.

Halo Effect The tendency to perceive a person’s attributes as covering more areas than they actually do. For example, if we know that a person has one type of intelligence (good at math, say) we tend to expect that they will show other kinds of intelligence as well (e.g. knowledge of history).

Mood-Congruent Memory Bias The tendency to recall information that fits our current mood, or to interpret memories through that lens. When in a foul mood, we easily recall bad memories and interpret neutral memories as though they were bad. Leads to a tendency to think that the world is a sad, happy, or angry place when really it is only our mood.

Outcome Bias The tendency to evaluate a choice on the basis of its outcome rather than on the basis of what information was available at the time. For example, a family may decide to send their child to an expensive college based on good financial information available at the time. However, if the family later falls into financial hardship due to unforeseen circumstances, this decision will appear, in retrospect, to have been excessively risky and a bad choice overall.

Pro-Innovation or Anti-Innovation Bias The tendency to believe something is good (or bad) simply because it’s new. In Western society, we tend to overvalue innovation, while other societies (and many sub-cultures within the West, such as religious fundamentalists) overvalue tradition. Both biases are irrational: just because something is new or old doesn’t mean it’s going to be more or less beneficial. When we evaluate ideas, we should do it on the basis of their own merits, not simply how new or old the idea is.

Why We Have Cognitive Bias

According to Buster Benson's "Cognitive Bias Cheat Sheet" for every cognitive bias is there for a reason — primarily to save our brains time or energy. If you look at them by the problem they’re trying to solve, it becomes a lot easier to understand why they exist, how they’re useful, and the trade-offs (and resulting mental errors) that they introduce.

  1. Too much information. There is just too much information in the world, we have no choice but to filter almost all of it out. Our brain uses a few simple tricks to pick out the bits of information that are most likely going to be useful in some way.
  2. Not enough meaning. The world is very confusing, and we end up only seeing a tiny sliver of it, but we need to make some sense of it in order to survive. Once the reduced stream of information comes in, we connect the dots, fill in the gaps with stuff we already think we know and update our mental models of the world.
  3. Need to act fast. We’re constrained by time and information, and yet we can’t let that paralyze us. Without the ability to act fast in the face of uncertainty, we surely would have perished as a species long ago. With every piece of new information, we need to do our best to assess our ability to affect the situation, apply it to decisions, simulate the future to predict what might happen next, and otherwise act on our new insight.
  4. What should we remember? There’s too much information in the universe. We can only afford to keep around the bits that are most likely to prove useful in the future. We need to make constant bets and trade-offs around what we try to remember and what we forget. For example, we prefer generalizations over specifics because they take up less space. When there are lots of irreducible details, we pick out a few standout items to save and discard the rest. What we save here is what is most likely to inform our filters related to problem 1’s information overload, as well as inform what comes to mind during the processes mentioned in problem 2 around filling in incomplete information. It’s all self-reinforcing.

For more information on these items please review Buster Benson’s article on this subject. For now I will leave you with an amusing cartoon of Kris Straub that sums up the importance of understanding Cognitive Bias.

Don't be fooled! – Understand Cognitive Biases

For more information on cognitive biases I would recommend the book; “Mindfields: How cognitive biases confuse our thinking in politics and life” by Mr. Burt Webb. The following charts that encapsulate the major cognitive biases should be kept in mind when analyzing an argument (from Your Bias):

Common SenseTop

I have mentioned applying common sense to these observations, but common sense can lead you astray. What most people mean by “Common Sense” is common knowledge and sensible responses. But common knowledge may not be so common amongst many people, or sensible responses may differ among reasonable people.

Common Sense also has the problems of circular reasoning, social influences, uncommon sense, and various other sociological problems, as well as Logical Fallacies & Cognitive Biases. A very good book that explains these problems, and the problems of utilizing common sense, is “Everything Is Obvious – How Common Sense Fails Us” by Duncan J. Watts.

Common knowledge is not so common as each person has a different breadth and depth of knowledge. The knowledge, education, and experience of each person differ. As such, each person may reach a different conclusion from another person. This does not necessarily make someone wrong if they disagree with you. Most often if you politely discuss the disagreement you may often come to a common agreement, or modify your or the others opinion, or simply agree to disagree. But you should always keep in mind that you may be wrong, and be open to change your conclusion.

Sensible responses are different amongst people, as each person has their own priorities and judgments of the importance of an issue. Sometimes people place more importance on their personal goals, while others may place more importance on the social goals. And even within the goals, there are different priorities. They weigh the criteria to determine the sensible response, with each person putting different weights on each criterion, and then have a sensible response based on their criteria, which may (and possibly will) be different than another person’s response. Until you discuss the criteria and weights you cannot know the reason for the other person’s response. Therefore, do not be quick to judge another’s response as it may be perfectly reasonable from the perspective of the other person. Again, politely discussing the response will help you better understand the other person.

Common sense is most appropriate in our social interactions with each other. We grow up and learn how to treat each other (such as politeness and common courtesies) within our cultural norms. This is one of the best purposes of common sense, and indeed we could not function as a society without this type of common sense. So, what do I mean by common sense?

My personal usage of common sense is to utilize human nature, our cultural norms, obtain as much knowledge on my own as reasonable, pay attention to the knowledge, education, experience, reasoning, and criteria of others (especially those that I may disagree with), and apply formal and informal logic to reach my own conclusions. I also allow for the possibility that I may be wrong and try to determine the consequences of my being right or wrong, to reach what I consider a reasonable conclusion. It is on this basis that I have written these observations.

Additional PerspectivesTop

Think About ThingsTop

Do you ever think about things that you do think about? Or do you just feel about the things you think about?

This question is a paraphrase from the movie “Inherit the Wind” which I have examined in another observation of the same name. In the movie, the lawyer Drummond is questioning the witness Brady, and the following snippet occurs:

Drummond: What do you think?
Brady: I do not think about things that I do not think about.
Drummond: Do you ever think about things that you do think about?

Sometimes we substitute our feelings for thoughts, but thoughts and feelings are two different things, and we should characterize each as such. Most times it is much easier to feel about something rather than think about something and to make up our minds based on feelings rather than thought.  But we should always think about things before we make up our minds. And we should always utilize our “Knowledge, Experience And Wisdom” and “With Facts, Intelligence, And Reasoning” as I have stated on these topics within other observations. And when we think about something we should utilize our feelings only as a guideline, never as reasoning. It is also important that we occasionally re-examine our thinking, as new knowledge, experience, or wisdom in our life could lead us to a different conclusion.

So, I would suggest that you think about things that you think about and occasionally rethink about things you have thought about. Or in the words of Benjamin Franklin:
For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. – Benjamin Franklin

Life Is MessyTop

Life is messy, full of twists and turns, highs and lows, good and bad, and Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda. It is not important that these things happen to us, as they will happen to us. It is important how we deal with these things. If we deal with them in an honest, moral and ethical manner then we should come out of them a better person. If not, we come out of them a worse person. And we should all strive to be a better person. Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda: Overcoming Regrets, Mistakes, and Missed Opportunities by Dr. Arthur Freeman, and Rose DeWolf is a good book that discusses how to deal with past regrets. Who of us can claim never to have made a mistake, missed a goal, regretted a choice, or suffered because of another's action? For those who suffer from a constant sense of regret about the past, who feel their present lives have been immutably shaped by actions they could or should or would have taken but didn't, real help is at hand. In clear, uncomplicated language, Dr. Arthur Freeman, a leading exponent of cognitive therapy, and his colleague Rose DeWolf, a skillful translator of the cognitive method, describe the techniques and provide exercises that will enable readers to actually "unblock" the past. The authors demonstrate that woulda/coulda/shoulda thinking can be unlearned and that this process can be accomplished in a relatively short period of time.
To put it more graphically remember my truism “Shit Happens” and "This Too Shall Pass".

Shit HappensTop

Sometimes you shit on yourself,
Sometimes others shit on you,
And other times shit just happens.
It doesn’t matter how shit happens.
It only matters how you deal with the shit.
You can either clean yourself up and smell the roses,
Or you can wallow in the shit and everything stinks.
And remember; It’s just as important to learn from the shit,
as it is to clean yourself up from the shit!
– Mark Dawson

This Too Shall PassTop

Just Stick Around; This Too Shall Pass

No matter how we play the game
Nothing ever stays the same.
Bane or blessing, boon or curse
Some things get better, some get worse.

The things we like and those we don’t
Won’t stay the same, we know they won’t.
But we do have the illusion as we go from day to day
That whatever the world has become,
That’s how it will stay.

History keeps teaching us with every page we turn
But somehow, although we’ve been through
We never seem to learn.
In triumph or tragedy, in failure or success,
We win a few, we lose a few, we all do more or less.

But when there is defeat or victory of any kind,
There is a little thought that one should always keep in mind

This moment, the bitter and the sweet
It’s not the end. There’s always more. The story’s incomplete.
And better or for worse, we cannot say exactly how,
Changes will come and nothing will be, what it is right now.

So beware, but don’t despair when everything seems bleak
We can not see tomorrow or the middle of next week.
Both good and bad, when they appear, quite often wear disguises,
And that is why our lives are filled with two kinds of surprises.

If you don’t like the way things are as now they can be found
Experience says all you have to do is stick around.
Change is the sand that falls each moment in the hourglass
For one way or the other, be assured,

Be the Better PersonTop

We all carry emotional baggage from our present or past interactions with others. Whether it be your parents, siblings, relatives, friends, associates, or co-workers’ things happen – both good and bad. It is not important that they happen, as in life they will happen, but it is important how we deal with them. And this dealing with it is as important at the time they happen, but also how we deal with it afterward. We can choose to act negatively, both at the time they happen or afterward, or we can attempt to be the better person. You should also remember one of my "Shit Happens" Truisms when these things occur.

I have often seen, and become personally involved, in negative interactions. Not only with my friends and associates but also with my family. Friendships have been lost and family members have become estranged. All of this has led to nothing but unhappiness for all those involved. Unhappiness that has led to negative repercussions in life for all those involved.

Dealing negatively with the bad at the time it occurs is a normal human reaction. We should try to be more understanding of the other person and deal with the situation at the time it occurs in as positive a manner as possible. This is not always possible, but we should try to be positive when they occur. Utilizing my observation of “Principles” can assist you with these situations. However, this observation is not about how to react to the present but how to deal with it afterward.

Carrying negative baggage about another person results in negativity in your life. It can result in your being sad, upset, angry, anxious, or depressed. Emotions that we should reduce or eliminate in order to lead a happier life. The two pieces of advice that I can provide in how to better deal with these situations are:

  • Remember you cannot control what others think, say, or do. You can only control what you think, say, or do.
  • Try to let the situation be a positive reflection on yourself.

The first piece of advice is to remind yourself that you can only control yourself and not others. Therefore, control yourself! Control what you think and feel about the situation. Control what you think and feel about the other person. And most importantly control how you deal with the person in the future, as well as control how you discuss the other person and situation with others. Always be polite and respectful of the other person when discussing the other person with others. This will not only put you in a good light, but others will see you in a good light. If it is difficult or impossible to deal with the other person in the future don’t deal with them. Politely ignore them or refuse to discuss anything about them. Remember your mother’s advice – If you have nothing good to say about someone say nothing! If you can accomplish the first piece of advice the second piece of advice will come naturally. If you were in control of yourself during the situation and afterward you will have a positive reflection of yourself, and other people will notice this, and it will garner you more respect from others.

What about the situation where you or the other person weren’t controlling yourself or themselves? The best advice I can give you is to remain as silent as possible and to politely walk away. Walk away and give yourself time to calm down. After you calm down think long and hard about what had occurred. Think not only of how you felt and thought but what the other person may have felt or thought. Be willing to admit to yourself that you may have been wrong in some particulars and/or were not as polite or respectful to the other person as you should have been. Then be willing to approach the other person and ask if you could have a private conversation with them. A conversation in which you should first admit where you have been wrong and apologize for not being polite or respectful. You may find, and often find, the other person receptive and being willing to admit their faults. This can be very difficult to do but it is often very worthwhile in doing. Even if you cannot get satisfaction from the other person you will have the knowledge that you were the better person, and you will feel better about yourself.

The situations involving parents, siblings, and relatives are more intense and more difficult. After all, as the saying is you can choose your friends and associates, but you cannot choose your family. Your family will be your family even after you or they die. This is where forgiveness becomes important. You must have that private conversion to try to rectify the situation. If it cannot be rectified, you may have to practice forgiveness. Forgiveness not only for the other person but forgiveness for yourself. Forgiveness that may not be successful but must be attempted. Attempting forgiveness will allow you to become a better person. Above all you must reduce the negative baggage that you carry because of the situation. Do not allow this negative baggage to control your life. My final piece of advice when dealing with family members is - Get over it! What has past is past. Do not let your family control your life based on the past. Take control of your life and decide what is best for you based on the present and the future. Remember that your life is your life, and you need to make the best decision that will improve your life. Put the past into the past and look to the future when you make these decisions. These decisions will often be better if you became the better person.

We often make life decisions based on this positive and negative baggage. And often the negative baggage we carry results in bad decisions. Decisions that will decrease our happiness in life. If you become the better person you will often make a better decision that will increase your happiness. So, become the better person. Become a better person by being polite and respectful to all persons in all situations. This will demonstrate to those who would disrespect you that you are worthy of respect. It could also bring shame to the disrespectful person and may also cause them to reexamine their behavior. It will also imbue you with confidence and self-esteem that will stead you well throughout life. In addition, people like working with and associating with other people who are polite and respectful, which may advance you in your work or personal life goals, and lead to greater success and happiness in life.

Who are you to judge?Top

Judge not, that ye be not judged.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged:
and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye,
but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Matthew 7:1-3 King James Version (KJV)

These words of wisdom from the Bible are not to say that you should not judge others, but a reminder that when you make a judgment you will be judged by the standard you have set for others. They are also a reminder that before you judge others you should examine your own life and take your own life into consideration when making a judgment.

We all make judgments in our life. Whether it be who we wish to associate with, to whom we wish to engage in commercial transactions (both goods purchased, and services retained), to the guilt or innocence of someone when we serve as jurors on a trial. These judgments are necessary for the proper functioning of society. We often judge by the words and deeds, the behaviors and actions, to even the appearance of others. It is how we make these judgments that are important, not that we make these judgments.

If you have led a legal, moral, and ethical life then you may judge others based on your legal, moral, and ethical values. If you have not lived this life but have changed your life for the better, and are repentant, then you may judge others based on your changed life. If you are still leading an illegal, immoral, or unethical life you do not have the right to judge others. For those who would respond that if you have done ill in the past then you have no right to judge others I would remind you of one of my “Truisms”:

Just because you have committed an unlawful, immoral, unethical, or unwise act, and upon reflection determine that it is an unlawful, immoral, unethical, or unwise act, does not preclude you from speaking out against others committing that unlawful, immoral, unethical, or unwise act. It does not make you a hypocrite, it makes you repentant.
  - Mark Dawson

You also need to take into account my observation of “The Sins of the Fathers and of Youth” when judging a young person. There is also the question of forgiveness. For those that have had lapses of illegal, immoral, or unethical behavior, and who have turned their life around, then forgiveness of their past words, deeds, behaviors, and actions is appropriate.

When making a judgment you should also make sure that you have all the facts of the situation, for without all the facts it is most likely that you will make a poor judgment. In this it is best to remember one of my “Principles”:

There are three sides to every story; one side, the other side, and the truth. It is best to discover the truth before making up your mind.

It is not always possible to discover all of the facts, but you should try to gather as many of the facts before you make a judgment of others. You should also remember another of my “Truisms”:

Perfection is reserved for God; humans should strive to do their best.
  - Mark Dawson

Do not expect people to be perfect and do not make a judgment based on perfection. If someone is trying to do their best they should be commended for the effort and forgiven if they do not achieve their best.

We often make judgments based on what a person says and do not pay enough attention to what they do. It is more important as to what a person does, as often the doing will significantly impact others, while the sayings have minimal impacts on others. Impacts of a positive manner are to be commended, while impacts of a negative manner should be condemned. And these positive and negative impacts should factor into your judgments. You should also remember the wisdom of the following:

Well done is better than well said.
  - Benjamin Franklin

Do not be too judgmental if someone has changed their mind. Be reminded of the following:

For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others.
  - Benjamin Franklin

If someone has changed their mind based on better information and/or fuller consideration than you should have a better opinion of the person after they have explained their reasoning. If no reasoning is given, or if the reasons are deficient, or appear to be for the purposes of the person to gain an advantage then you should make a negative judgment on the person.

For those who would say that all are innocent until proven guilty I would respond that this is absolutely important – in a legal sense. When a person sits in judgement of another during criminal or civil proceedings they must always presume the defendant is innocent until they are proven guilty. As the defendant may have their life, liberty, or property taken if found guilty they need this presumption to assure that justice is served. But the judgments that I have been discussing are not those made in a judicial proceeding but in private actions or the court of public opinion. The standard of guilt in these arenas is much less but is still important. You should initially presume innocence and not rush to judgment. Be careful in your considerations and utilize a standard of judgment as appropriate for the offense alleged. This standard of judgment may be reasonable doubt, preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. You should also remember that nobody may be required to prove a negative (prove you didn't do or say something) as it is impossible to prove a negative, and the burden of proof is always upon the person or persons making an allegation. But once you have taken into account all of these considerations it is acceptable to make a judgment. In the court of public opinion you should be more circumspect as the accused stands to possibly lose their reputation, employment, wealth, and even family and friends based on the allegations. These court of public opinion allegations should not be taken lightly or hastily and without credible, verifiable, and substantiated evidence of wrongdoing. It is only after this information is available that you should make your judgment. To do so otherwise would cause serious harm to the accused as well as the social fabric of our society. My observation on "The Rule of Law" examines this issue in more detail.

What then, are the criteria that should be utilized for judgment? Legal, moral, and ethical behavior are the best criteria for judgment. As to what is legal, moral, and ethical behavior we can say that anyone who violates the human rights of another should be judged negatively. As to legal violations it depends on the nature of the crime. Felonies should almost always be a basis for a negative judgment while misdemeanors should be judged less harshly and many times be forgiven based on circumstances. Some felonies and misdemeanors are known as "wobblers", in that they could be either one based on the judgment of the prosecutor. For the "wobblers" you need to determine the seriousness of the offense and its impact on the victim or society in making your judgment. We also have the Ten Commandments of the Bible that is an excellent guide for human behavior and as a basis for judgment. We also have only the wisdom of the great philosophers, ethicists, and theologians to guide us. In all these items it can be said that legality, morality, and ethics are not relative and that each person does not get to choose what is legal, moral, or ethical for themselves. To make legality, morality, and ethics relative is to create anarchy within society. And anarchy leads to the destruction of society, the violation of human rights, and unjust, immoral, and unethical behavior of all. I, therefore, will make judgments of others based on legal, moral, and ethical grounds, and the previously defined methods of making judgments, to preserve a decent society.

Therefore, it is proper for you to make judgments on others if you utilize the proper methods and criteria for judgment. But in all judgments, you should judge wisely lest you be judged on your unwise judgments.

Lies, Truths, and BeliefsTop

Benjamin Disraeli once famously said, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." However, there are actually four kinds of lies: mistakes, lies, damned lies, and statistics.

  1. Mistakes are when you have said something that you believe to be true, but later discover it was untrue. After the discovery of your mistake, you have a moral responsibility to correct the record with those who you had misinformed.
  2. Lies make the world go around. They are told to protect the feeling of others or to prevent embarrassment to ourselves. They should only be told if no harm comes from them. Otherwise, they will become Dammed Lies.
  3. Damned Lies are told to gain an advantage for ourselves or to demonize, denigrate, or disparage another. They are despicable, and when they are discovered the Damned Liar should be roundly condemned.
  4. Statistics are covered in my observation "Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave" and I would direct you to this observation for further thoughts on this subject.

You should keep this in mind when someone claims another is a liar and base your judgment on the person telling a lie on what type of lie they told.

You should also keep in mind that:

Just because you believe something to be true does not make it true.

We all have our beliefs based on our knowledge and experience. But our knowledge and experience can be incorrect or incomplete. Or in the words of Benjamin Franklin:

“For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others.”


“doubt a little of your own infallibility.”

So, therefore, always doubt your own infallibility and be willing to change your mind or opinion based on better information or fuller consideration.

You should also ask yourself, and others, what are the repercussions of your being wrong — or right. Since reading the above Benjamin Franklin quotes I have tried to make it a point to always doubt my own infallibility. I often ask myself what if I am wrong and what would be the repercussions if I were wrong. I also ask myself the opposite as well - if I were right and the repercussions of my being right. I then began asking the same questions of other persons opinions and policies. I have found this very helpful in trying to determine the truth, as well as determining the best course of action or forming an opinion.  

Perhaps if we all did this it would help us to make a better judgment or a fuller opinion. Also, keep in mind the (attributed to) Mark Twain statement:

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Mark Twain also said:

“When I was sixteen I thought that my father was the dumbest most ignorant man in the world. And when I turned twenty I was amazed how much he had learned in four short years.”

Most of us learn as we mature, and our knowledge and experience increase even as we become senior citizens. You should keep this in mind throughout your life. As to the knowledge and experiences of youth I have written on this subject in my observation on “The Cult of Youth”.

Principles, Truisms, Locutions, and RulesTop

The following are the Principles, Truisms, Locutions, and Rules that I have tried to apply to my life. I have not always succeeded, but I have tried.


Below are some of my principles that I always keep in mind in my everyday dealings with people. Practice them regularly, and they become easier to practice.

  • A smart person knows what to say, a wise person knows whether or not, and how to say it. Try to be a wise person.
  • Always be careful with your non-verbal communication. It says much more about you than your words.
  • Be careful in what you say to people, as most people are not interested in hearing the facts or truth, they are only interested in hearing their own opinions reinforced.
  • Be careful what you ask for from others - you may get it.
  • Be prepared for both the positives and negatives for anything that you say or do.
  • Before speaking your mind always consider what is to be gained or lost.
  • Comment only on those things you really know something about.
  • If you are given the responsibility you must have the authority, for responsibility without authority is an illusion.
  • Never ask a question unless you are prepared to deal with the answer.
  • Polite and Respectful speech is the only form of acceptable communication.
  • Self-deprecating humor is the best form of humor in dealing with others.
  • The first step in solving a problem is for everyone to recognize that there is a problem.
  • There are always unintended and unknown consequences for all we say and do. Be prepared to deal with these unintended and unknown consequences when they occur, and do not disclaim responsibility for them when they occur.
  • There are three side to every story; one side, the other side, and the truth. It is best to discover the truth before making up your mind.
  • There are things that we know, things that we know we don't know, and things that we don't know that we don't know. Be aware of all of these things in your dealings with others.
  • You cannot control what others think, say, or do. You can only control what you think, say, or do.
  • You may be the smartest person in the room, but you're not the only person in the room, and most times you are not the smartest person in the room.
  • You should always mean what you say, and say what you mean.


A truism is a claim that is as obvious or self-evident as to be hardly worth mentioning, except as a reminder or as a rhetorical or literary device. The following are some of my favorite truisms.

A cynic was 'a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing'.

 - Oscar Wilde

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.
  -  Alexander Pope - An Essay on Criticism

All models are wrong, some are useful.
  - George E. P. Box, one of the great statistical minds of the 20th century.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.
  -  New York Senator Danial Patrick Moynihan

I think we ought to exercise one of the sovereign prerogatives of philosophers— that of laughter
 - Charles L. Black

If you have to sneak to do it, lie to cover it up or delete it to avoid being seen, then you probably shouldn't be doing it!
  - Anonymous

If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything.
  - from Darrell Huff's book "How to Lie With Statistics" .

Man is always prey to his truths. Once he has admitted them, he cannot free himself from them.
  - Albert Camus

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
 - Hanlon's razor

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.
 - Albert Einstein

Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive!
 - Sir Walter Scott

Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.
  -  H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Patience is a virtue, possess it you can.
Seldom found in woman, never found in man.
  - Anonymous

Plurality should not be posited without necessity.
- Occam's Razor.

Remember to love people and use things, rather than to love things and use people.
  - Anonymous

Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us.
  - Thomas Paine

Responsibility is a unique concept... You may share it with others, but your portion is not diminished. You may delegate it, but it is still with you... If responsibility is rightfully yours, no evasion, or ignorance or passing the blame can shift the burden to someone else. Unless you can point your finger at the man who is responsible when something goes wrong, then you have never had anyone really responsible.
  - Admiral Hyman G. Rickover

The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it is called the present.
  - Alice Morse Earle

The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.
 - Leonardo da Vinci

The harder I work, the luckier I get.
- Samuel Goldwyn

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
  - The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.
  - Henry Ford

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
  - Edmund Burke

The simplest explanation, that fits all the known facts, is most often the correct explanation.
- Variation of Occam's Razor.

There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.
- George Orwell

There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
- H. L. Mencken

What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.
- Christopher Hitchens

Whether one believes that man was created by God or by evolutionary processes, the conclusion ends up being the same. Man has reason, individual and corporate dignity, individual and corporate value, and these are not subject to revision by any prince, power, or potentate.
- Kevin D. Williamson

You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequence of your choice.
  - Ezra Taft Benson

Doubt a little of your own infallibility.
  - Benjamin Franklin

Well done is better than well said.
  - Benjamin Franklin

For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others.
  - Benjamin Franklin

In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.
  - Frederic Bastiat – That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Not Seen

Life, faculties, production—in other words, individuality, liberty, property—this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it. Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.
  - Frederic Bastiat - The Law

The Government! What is it? Where is it? What does it do? What ought it to do? All we know is, that it is a mysterious personage; and, assuredly, it is the most solicited, the most tormented, the most overwhelmed, the most admired, the most accused, the most invoked, and the most provoked of any personage in the world.
  - Frederic Bastiat - Government

“I believe each individual is naturally entitled to do as he pleases with himself and the fruit of his labor, so far as it in no wise interferes with any other man’s rights … and that the general government, upon principle, has no right to interfere with anything other than that general class of things that does concern the whole.”
- Abraham Lincoln

I cannot and will not recant anything,
for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.
Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.
- Martin Luther

A mind is a terrible thing to waste, and a mind that is not fully utilized is a wasted mind.
- Mark Dawson

Be careful in what you say to people, as most people are not interested in hearing the facts or truth, they are only interested in hearing their own opinions reinforced.
  - Mark Dawson

Educated Guesses always have the inherent questions as to the quality of the education and the accuracy of the guess.
- Mark Dawson

Explore beyond your boundaries. For the journey will expand your knowledge, and then perhaps lead you to wisdom.
 - Mark Dawson

I'd rather be factually correct than politically correct.
- Mark Dawson

It always helps to know where you are going so that you may plan how to get there.
  - Mark Dawson

In this world, as regards to reproduction, the male is the inseminator, and the female is the incubator. It is neither fair nor unfair that you are male or female. Rather it is by random chance you ended up male or female.
   - Mark Dawson

"It always helps to know where you are going so that you may plan on how to get there."
 - Mark Dawson

Just because you "believe" something to be true does not mean that you "know" something is true, and just because someone says it is true doesn’t make it true.
   - Mark Dawson

Just because you have committed an unlawful, immoral, unethical, or unwise act, and upon reflection determine that it is an unlawful, immoral, unethical, or unwise act, does not preclude you from speaking out against others committing that unlawful, immoral, unethical, or unwise act. It does not make you a hypocrite, it makes you repentant.
  - Mark Dawson

Life is like a double entry ledger. For everything that happens there are both positives and negatives, especially for anything that you say or do.
 - Mark Dawson

Life is neither fair nor unfair. Life is what it is. To deal with life, other than for what it is, is foolhardy and wasteful.
  - Mark Dawson

Most people don't really think about what they think about. They bring their own viewpoints and prejudices to their thinking to reinforce what they already believe. They rarely consider alternate viewpoints, and almost never consider both the negative and positive consequences of what they think or believe. And it is the very rare person who looks for the unintended consequences of what they think or believe.
- Mark Dawson

Nothing is as good as it appears, or as bad as it seems. But on rare occasions, it can be better, or worse.
  - Mark Dawson

Obtaining advice from a person who is neither knowledgeable nor experienced in that particular subject is obtaining worthless advice (i.e. don't ask an opinion of someone who does not know what they're talking about).
  - Mark Dawson

Perfection is reserved for God; humans should strive to do their best.
  - Mark Dawson

Shit happens. Sometimes you shit on yourself, sometimes others shit on you,
and other times shit just happens.
It doesn't matter how shit happens, it only matters how you deal with the shit.
You can either clean yourself up and smell the roses,
Or you can wallow in the shit and everything stinks.
And remember; It’s just as important to learn from the shit,
as it is to clean yourself up from the shit!
   - Mark Dawson 

"The Law is not all that is needed for Human Rights to be established. For human rights require the Morality and Ethics of all for the protection of human rights."
- Mark Dawson

The world is full of quotes, but not so many quotes of wisdom.
- Mark Dawson

To deny human nature, or to not acknowledge human nature, is foolish.
To not do so will result in much effort, time, and monies being spent on a task that is doomed to failure.
   - Mark Dawson

To understand well you must read; and read well, often, and on subjects on which you are unfamiliar.
- Mark Dawson

True Courage is doing the right thing, at the right time, regardless of personal consequences.
   - Mark Dawson

True Wisdom Most Often Comes from Bitter Experience... Considered!
   - Mark Dawson

You cannot implement a wrong social policy the right way. For if it is a wrong social policy it will always fail. While the goals of a social policy may be noble the details of its implementation will determine if the goal can be reached (i.e. the devil is in the details).
  - Mark Dawson

You'll never get confused if you simply tell the truth. Then you don't have to remember what you have said, and you never forget what you have said. And you won't get in trouble for telling a lie if you have told the truth.
  - Mark Dawson

When faced with a dilemma or predicament,
choose to do the right thing for all,
not the right thing for yourself.
For, although it may not work out well in the short term,
it will work out well in the long term.
- Mark Dawson

“Without knowing the details, it is impossible to know the devils.”
- Mark Dawson


A word or phrase that is used in particular situations. While these locutions are generally true it does not mean that they are applicable to all situations. Therefore, be careful when you utilize or apply them. Some of these locutions may be quotes, but I cannot find the attribution. I hope I can be forgiven when this occurs. The following are some of my favorite locutions (in alphabetical order) that I have used throughout my life.

  • A little learning is a dangerous thing but a lot of ignorance is just as bad.
  • A man has got to know his limitations.
  • Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence.
  • Be careful what you ask for as you may get it.
  • Common sense is not so common, or not so sensible.
  • Correlation does not imply causation.
  • Do not lose sight of the forest by concentrating on the trees.
  • Do what is right, not what is easy.
  • Don't get depressed, get determined.
  • Don't get paralysis from analysis.
  • Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good – and remember that Perfection is reserved for God; all others should just do their best.
  • Engage your brain before your mouth.
  • Every public policy problem has a simple solution – and it’s usually wrong.
  • Everyone in life has a purpose, even if it's to serve as a bad example.
  • Experts should be on tap, not on top.
  • Failure isn't falling down, it's remaining where you've fallen.
  • Figures can lie, and liars can figure. And most times people figure incorrectly.
  • Follow the Money.
  • Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
  • Getting old sure beats the alternative.
  • Half of something is better than all of nothing.
  • Hope springs eternal, but reality intervenes.
  • I never lose nor fail ... Either I win, I succeed, or I learn.
  • I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.
  • If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well.
  • If all you had was a hammer everything would begin to look like a nail.
  • If it ain't broke don't fix it.
  • If it is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you'll find an excuse.
  • If you argue from a false premise you will reach a false conclusion.
  • If you can't read deeply you will not be able to think deeply.
  • If you caused a problem it is up to you to resolve the problem.
  • If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten (i.e. Insanity).
  • If you want to improve your life improve yourself.
  • Illegitimi Non-Carborundum (don't let the bastards wear you down).
  • Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
  • It is easier to obtain forgiveness than permission.
  • It takes a lot of truth to gain trust, but just one lie to lose it all.
  • Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
  • KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid.
  • Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.
  • Life is hard, then you die.
  • Listening sure beats talking.
  • Never judge a book by its cover.
  • Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
  • Never start a sentence until you know the finish.
  • Ninety percent of everything is crap. It’s getting to that ten percent that makes wading through the ninety percent worthwhile.
  • No good deed goes unpunished.
  • Not every problem has, or needs, a solution – It’s called Life.
  • Nothing so queer as folk.
  • Perfection is not required, but incompetence or carelessness is not acceptable.
  • People with good intentions make promises. People with good character keep their promises.
  • Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
  • Show respect even to people who don't deserve it. Not as a reflection of their character, but as a reflection of your character.
  • Silence is agreement.
  • Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you.
  • Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn't.
  • Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. And most times you choose something between the two.
  • Stupid is as stupid does.
  • That's so convoluted that only a Ph.D. could believe it. (Remember - B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. stand for Bull Shit, More Shit, and Piled High and Deep).
  • The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.
  • The devil is in the details.
  • The difference between genius and stupidity is that stupidity knows no bounds.
  • The first step in solving a problem is to recognize you have one.
  • The more you know the narrower your focus becomes.
  • The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
  • There is no such thing as a free lunch.
  • There’s no accounting for taste.
  • They that have the authority have the responsibility.
  • Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
  • To find yourself, think for yourself.
  • Two wrongs don’t make a right.
  • Well-meaning is not well doing.
  • Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.
  • When life hands you lemons . . . Make Lemonade!
  • You can guard yourself against malicious attacks, but there is no protection from stupidity.
  • You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.
  • You pay your money and you take your chances.

The 10-80-10 RuleTop

In any field of human endeavor, whether it is a professional, tradesmen, labor, clerical, etc. 10% of those involved in the endeavor are incompetent and should find another endeavor. 10% of those involved in the endeavor are superior and are those who you would want to do the endeavor. The other 80% of those involved are somewhere between those two extremes, usually graphed on a bell curve with the peak being around 50%. You can sometimes make some of the 80% better and shift the peak towards the 60%, but other times they can get worse and shift the peak to the 40%. People have different skills and abilities, and different motivations that place them on the bell curve. This is simply human nature. You should be cognizant of this fact in your dealings with others.

The 90/10 RuleTop

Isaac Asimov, a famous science fiction writer, had often told the story of a science fiction fan convention he attended in the mid-1960s. This convention was held in New York City, and featured a guest speaker and panel of science fiction authors, with a crowd of several hundred science fiction fans. In the mid-1960s science fiction fans were looked upon as very strange and different people. Being science fiction fans, with the large number of them from the New York City, they were very opinionated, loud, and rowdy during the course of the convention.

The guest speaker, Robert Silverberg (another famous science fiction author), was preparing to give the keynote address. As he was standing at the lectern the audience was being their normal loud and rowdy self. After tapping on the microphone a few times, he realized he was not going to get the crowds attention without doing something drastic. He, therefore, bent over to the microphone, and in a very loud voice, said: "You know, 90% of science fiction is crap". The crowd immediately went silent and began to glare at the stage. The science fiction authors on the panel began to become worried about their safety and were looking over their shoulders for the nearest exit. Just as the silence of became almost unbearable Robert Silverberg leaned over to the microphone and said "but then again 90% of everything is crap. It's getting to that 10% that makes wading through the 90% worthwhile". The crowd laughed, settle down, and Robert Silverberg could give his keynote speech followed by the panel discussion, where everybody behaved in a civilized manner.

Upon hearing this story, from Isaac Asimov himself, I realized Robert Silverberg had spoken a truism, which I adopted as my 90/10 rule. I now expect in the normal course of life that 90% of everything will be crap, but that 10% will be worthwhile. Whenever I do something for myself or get involved in something with others, I apply the 90/10 rule. If whatever I did was 10% worthwhile I think my effort has been successful. Getting more than 10% is a bonus. So, if I read a book, listen to music, watch television, go to the movies, visited museum, listen to a speech or lecture, attend a festival, visit a park, or any activity I look for the 10% to enjoy it, and consider the effort worthwhile and not a waste of my time or effort if I found the 10%.

It should be noted that this 90/10 Rule only applies to your personal life and decisions. For the actions of government and society, it is the reverse—10% crap is acceptable if you obtain 90% good. The difficult question is how to determine the percentages of the crap and good in any governmental or societal action? As always, you must take into account the wisdom of Thomas Sowell when making this determination:

"The most basic question is not what is best, but who shall decide what is best?"
- Thomas Sowell

If It’s Worth Doing RuleTop

If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well. While this is a truism you should make it one of your rules. And it should be a rule in all aspects of your life; personal, public, professional, or in your employment efforts. Making this one of my rules has stead me well in life, and as a matter of fact, it has significantly improved my life. This is borne out by my Non-existent job and the Agony and the Ecstasy stories from my life.

The Non-Existent JobTop

At one point in my career, I became the lead designer and developer of a computer system that was as far as anybody knew had never been attempted in the information technology field. Nobody was even sure that this effort would be successful, indeed, many thought that it would not work, but they thought it was worthwhile giving it the effort. Even the database vendor who we were utilizing for the effort did not know if this could succeed. After a year of design and development effort, we were successful, and we spent another year in improving the computer system. We were so successful that the database vendor asked us to give a presentation to an international conference that they were organizing (as discussed in my observation on “Public Speaking” as “The Big Speech”). We were so successful that the company realized that they were saving millions, if not tens of millions, of dollars a year. At the end of this effort, it turns out that I was the lowest paid person on the effort. This was because of the way in which I was hired and the personnel policies of the company. I was originally hired as a maintenance programmer at a good salary. But because of my efforts on this project, I was much more than a maintenance programmer during and at the end of this effort, and I thought I was being underpaid. My manager agreed that I was being woefully underpaid and he attempted to correct this situation. But because of the personnel policies at this company, he was restricted on how much of an increase in pay he could give me. The personnel policy stated that raises had a maximum percentage over a minimum time period, including promotions. Although my manager put me on this accelerated schedule it would take approximately 4 to 5 years to bring my salary up to what my market level was. Being a young man, with a young family, I was not interested in waiting for five years to get paid what I was worth. I, therefore, put my resume out on the market to see if some other companies wish to hire me at a greater salary. Within a few days of putting my resume out, I received a phone call from another company (GE) who was indeed very interested in hiring me and at a greater salary.

I had a 90-minute telephone interview with the hiring manager who would also be my new manager. As this was a classified government contract he could not give me any details of what I would be doing. He just assured me that they would be utilizing all my skills and talents, and I would be the leader of this effort. At the end of the telephone interview, he informed me that he was very desirous of hiring me and that the next morning he would put an offer letter in the mail. Several days later I did receive this offer letter at a 25% increase over my current salary. My current company informed me that they could not match this offer because of their personnel policies. I decided to accept his offer, and I showed up for work two weeks later. The first day I showed up for work was also the first day that I met my new manager. He informed me that as it was a classified government contract that I would have to attain security clearances before he could provide me any additional information. This clearance process took approximately 7 months before I finally received my security clearances. When I gained my security clearances I showed up at my manager's office who was then able to give me more details. He told me that the government contract was subdivided into six segments, with a different contractor responsible for a different segment. They had obtained the segment four contract, and he informed me the first thing he wanted me to do was read about all the different segments and what their segments were doing, as documented the segments’ specifications. As the segment specifications were rather large and boring, it was going to take me several days to accomplish this. We agreed to meet on Friday afternoon to discuss my duties and responsibilities. Upon reading the segment specifications I discovered that segment four, which was our segment, there was no mention of my specific skills and abilities. However, in segment five there was quite a bit of mention of my specific skills and abilities. When meeting with my manager on Friday afternoon I discussed this with him. At that point, he informed me that when they were hiring me they were very certain that they were going to win the segment five contract, but as it turns out they did not win segment five, they won segment four. This meant that they had no job for me relating to my specific skills and abilities. I asked him what would then be my duties and responsibilities in segment four. He informed me that they had a pressing need for someone to take charge of the Factory Engineering Review Board (FERB), and to get it organized and operating smoothly. FERB was the group responsible within a government contract for handling requests for changes (RFC) within the contract. My duties and responsibilities were to get FERB working properly for the contract. This involves receiving government RFC’s and evaluating them for the responsible technical manager(s) for the change, distributing the changes to the appropriate technical managers for them to determine the technical impacts, cost impacts, and schedule impacts of the RFC. A meeting would then be held with all the responsible technical managers to determine the total impacts for the RFC. This recommendation would then be reviewed by the Contract Management Board, who would approve, modified or rejected the technical managers’ recommendations. An approved impact statement would be forwarded to the government for review. If the government accepted the change then FERB was to so inform the Contract Management Board and the technical managers of the acceptance, who would then incorporate the change into the contract. This job was essentially a paperwork job being given to me, a highly technically skilled and abilities person. But I applied my rule of if it's worth doing do it well, and I did it well. Within several weeks I had the FERB organized and operating efficiently, and then I spent several more months doing the work. After about four months my manager called me into his office and informed me that upper management, and indeed all the technical managers, thought that my efforts were outstanding, and they wanted to make me the permanent manager of FERB. But I hated this job, I hated getting up every morning and going to this job, I hated every minute I was doing this job, and I couldn't wait to leave it the end of the day to forget about this job. But I always did it very well. I informed my manager that if he could not find a job that utilizes my technical skills and abilities within GE I would start looking for a job that utilizes my technical skills and abilities outside of GE. He laughed! He informed me that he had told everybody that he did not expect me to accept this job, and he thought I would outright rejected the job (he knew and understood my frustration with this job). And he had an alternative job for me to perform.

GE had just purchased another company that was highly technical and engineering oriented. However, this new company lacked the skills of a database designer, developer, and manager, and that they needed assistance in this area for a product they were producing. They had hired an outside vendor to develop the software and database that would be needed for this product. However, they were concerned about the skills, abilities, and capabilities of this outside vendor. They wish to have somebody evaluate what this vendor was doing to determine any issues, concerns, and problems, and propose solutions for anything that was discovered with the software vendor's efforts. So, off I went to the other side of the country to perform this evaluation. Originally, I was scheduled to be there for three weeks, but after one week of initial evaluation, I determined that it was a much larger job than the original three weeks, as I had already discovered several major problems. After presenting my initial results to the management of the subsidiary they'd agreed it was a larger job, and they were willing to hire me for the larger job, which would take three months. For three months I applied my rule of if it's worth doing well do it well rule, and I did it well and I was able to resolve all the issues, concerns and problems. They were then able to successfully produce their product with this capability. The subsidiaries President was so satisfied with my efforts that they wrote a glowing letter of commendation and recommendation, and sent this letter to the President of GE. The President of GE read this commendation and recommendation and passed it down the chain of command to my management, and my reputation for quality work was established. Upon returning from this assignment I was informed that they had a technical problem with one piece of another contract and that they required my skills and abilities to help resolve. They allocated three months of my time to resolve this problem, but because of my skills and abilities, and my previous experience with this type of problem, I was able to resolve the problem in six weeks.

Given my efforts in FERB, the subsidiary, and the technical problem I was called into my managers’ office for a performance appraisal. He informed me that my efforts were so outstanding that upper management decided that I was hired at the wrong pay grade and that I was to be promoted two pay levels and receive an additional 25% salary increase. It was also very fortunate that I finished the technical problem in so short a period of time, as because when I finished it coincidentally happen that they had received a new 18-month contract for which they were staffing up. It was decided that I would be the technical lead on this contract. A contract in which my responsibilities were to manage two other government contractors working on a classified government contract for a classified agency. The personnel at the classified agency were very concerned whether it was technically feasible to do what was being asked and that if it was feasible whether the end results would be useful. It didn't help that the two contractors were feuding with each other. My job was to end the feuding, get them working together to solve the technical issues and produce something that would be useful. And at this, I succeeded, and I succeeded so well that the manager of the classified agency wrote a glowing letter of commendation to the manager of my GE division, commending me on all my efforts. At this point, my career in GE was pretty well set. I continued to receive important jobs and positions, of increasing responsibility, and of increasing salary.
And all this happened because I made the truism “If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well” a rule, and applied it to everything that I did.

The Agony and the EcstasyTop

How often have we been given a task by our employer, or started something in our personal lives, that would take a considerable amount of effort to accomplish. Most people would grit their teeth, dig in, and start doing the task. I have learned, however, that this is not the best way to get the task done. I have learned to stop, think about, and plan what was necessary to accomplish the task. I would often discover in this process of thinking a more efficient and effective way to do the job, which was also less laborious. I have also discovered that while I'm doing the task I may find a more efficient and effective way of doing a task. When I discover this more efficient and effective way I stop what I'm doing, and try to determine if the effort to do it the new way is less than the effort to do it the old way. If it is less effort I abandon the old way and start the new way. I also discover that the new way usually results in better quality and fewer errors, and therefore results in a higher quality job. And as a supervisor, I have also stopped work for all the people on the job when I discovered this and had them start over. Although this can be risky if it is carefully done it will be rewarding. Sometimes my employer has not been very convinced that this is the correct approach, but it has always worked for me. I have done this a number of times in my employment (or personal life), and my employers (or my wife) have been much more satisfied with the results of the task. I would, therefore, recommend that you always stop and think before beginning a task, and not be afraid to stop in the middle of the task and start over.

A more historical parallel to this rule is in the painting of the Sistine Chapel, as depicted in the movie “The Agony and the Ecstasy”, the biographical story of Michelangelo's troubles while painting the Sistine Chapel at the urging of Pope Julius II. Although not a great movie, it is a good and entertaining movie, with an important moral point. Michelangelo was hired by Pope Julius to paint the portraits of the Apostles on the archway panels of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo objected to this commission as he was a sculptor and not a painter. But the Pope being the Pope, the Pope got what he wanted, and Michelangelo started working on these portraits. He did not like what he was doing, and he did not feel that what was being produced was worthy of him or Pope Julius. One night while leaving the Sistine Chapel after a full day at work he stopped at a tavern to get a glass of wine and some food. Upon being served the wine he drank it and discovered that the wine had turned and was bad. Upon complaining to the tavern owner the tavern owner agreed and started shouting out if the wine is bad throw it away, and the owner started using an ax on the wine casket to empty it of its contents. Michelangelo took this advice to heart and went back to the Sistine Chapel and destroyed the paintings he had been working on, and then fled from the wrath of Pope Julius. He fled to a stone quarry and finally to the Italian Alps, to think about what he would like to do with the Sistine Chapel, and what would be worthy of himself and Pope Julius. He finally approached Pope Julius with his plan for the Sistine Chapel, and Pope Julius agreed with him it was a much worthier endeavor. So, Michelangelo started a five-year effort to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It was an effort that took much longer than expected, as it was originally expected to be one to two years of effort. Pope Julius was very anxious and somewhat impatient for the Sistine Chapel ceiling to be completed. He would often yell up to Michelangelo when walking through the Sistine Chapel and say, “When will you put an end?” to which Michelangelo replied, “When it is finished!”. And when it was finished he had created one of the greatest works of art in human history.

It was a job is worth doing, and it was worth doing well. And if you do something well it may not be a great work, but it will be something that you are proud of, and reflect back upon, and have the emotional satisfaction of knowing that you did your best and did it well.

Ten Pretty Good Rules to Live ByTop

1.    Never wrestle with a pig: you both get dirty and the pig likes it!
2.    Never argue with an idiot; people watching may not be able to tell the difference!
3.    Observe everything, comment rarely!
4.    It's easier to obtain forgiveness than it is permission!
5.    Rarely resist the opportunity to keep your mouth shut!
6.    Don't ask a question if you cannot live with the answer!
7.    If you want a new idea, read an old book!
8.    If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there!
9.    Never have a philosophy which supports a lack of courage!
10.  Never look back unless you intend to go that way!

Martha MacCallum plus Variations Top

A Lady.... (from Martha MacCallum)Top

1.    Always sends a thank you note. Handwritten is best, but in a pinch a thoughtful email.
2.    Never squabbles over the bill.
3.    Knows that leggings are not pants.
4.    Swears only when absolutely necessary and to great effect.
5.    Reads actual books and newspapers and limits the use of Oprah or Ellen as sources.
6.    Knows that it’s easy to be a friend in good times, but is there when “it” hits the fan. (See #4)
7.    Is not a "hook up" girl. * (Minor transgressions permitted, everyone needs at least 1 good story, even lady Mary.)
8.    Is a team player, not a diva. 
9.    Discreetly touches her teeth, to signal when there is a poppy seed stuck in yours.
10.    Is conversant in art and politics. (This is when your liberal arts education kicks in, ladies)
11.    Does her homework in school, before a meeting or a dinner party.
12.    Knows that giving is better than receiving. (With a few exceptions, see Hermes, or substitute your weakness here)
13.    Need not be wealthy, or well educated (there are plenty of women who are both, who are not)
14.    Has faith and respects the faith of others.
15.    Makes a home for her family. No matter how modest, it's warm and inviting.
16.    Makes her husband/boyfriend feel like a hero, and knows it does not diminish her in any way.
17.    Puts her smartphone away and her hand over her heart during the national anthem at football games.
18.    Does not check her phone during dinner… ever.  (I can’t do this one, but I’m working on it)
19.    Has some actual skills, horseback riding, skateboarding, archery, calligraphy…anything.
20.    Knows the words to some Rodgers and Hammerstein and some Eminem. (See #4)
21.    Owns a cocktail dress, heels and something to go underneath.
22.    Oh and… accepts criticism and praise with equal grace.  (No guarantee, but I’ll try.)

Also from Martha MacCallum:Top

Life isn’t about just getting things, but also maintaining things.
Sometimes, you have to fight.
Read books, watch movies, listen to music, and learn about the world outside your experience.
Cooking and cleaning are essential skills.
Take care of the elderly, children, and animals.
Women are thoughtful, intelligent, and equal to men.
Be humble and classy, because the world truly is neither.
It’s about you.
It’s about us.
Embrace difference.
Passion is a priority.
Parenting is fundamental.
There is no “men’s work” and “women’s work”, there is only work.
Be you.
Pick up after yourself.
Return the favor.
Keep your promises.
Hold the door open.
Be clear about what you want.
Find your purpose.
Connect with people.
Keep language PG-13.
Be a grown-up.
Keep your hygiene in check.
Define your personal style.

A Gentlemen.... (variation from Martha MacCallum)Top

1.    Always says please and thank you.
2.    Never squabbles over the bill.
3.    Knows that jeans are not pants, and tee-shirts are not shirts.
4.    Swears only when absolutely necessary and to great effect.
5.    Reads actual books, magazines, and newspapers.
6.    Knows that it’s easy to be a friend in good times, but is there when “it” hits the fan.
7.    Is not a "hound dog", and always treats women politely and respectfully.
8.    Is a team player, not a blowhard. 
9.    Is well groomed except during times of physical activities.
10.    Is conversant in the arts and politics, as well as sports.
11.    Does his chores/homework before watching the game.
12.    Knows that giving is better than receiving.
13.    Need not be wealthy, or well educated, but uses his intelligence.
14.    Has faith and respects the faith of others.
15.    Makes a home for his family by taking care of his spouse and children.
16.    Makes his wife/girlfriend feel respected and appreciated, and knows it does not diminish him in any way.
17.    Puts his smartphone away and his hand over his heart during the national anthem.
18.    Does not check his phone during dinner… ever.
19.    Has a few hobbies that he is very good at.
20.    Knows the words to some romantic songs.
21.    Owns a suit, tie, and shoes that can be worn on formal occasions.
22.    Oh and… accepts criticism and praise with equal grace.

Variation from Martha MacCallum:Top

Life isn’t about just getting things, but also maintaining things.
Sometimes, you have to fight, but you fight fair.
Read books, watch movies, listen to music, and learn about the world outside your experience.
Cooking and cleaning are essential skills for men as well as women.
Take care of the elderly, children, and animals.
Treat women as thoughtful and intelligent, and equal to men.
Be humble and classy, because the world truly is neither.
It’s about you.
It’s about others.
Embrace difference.
Passion is a priority.
Parenting is fundamental.
There is no “men’s work” and “women’s work”, there is only work.
Be yourself.
Pick up after yourself.
Return the favor.
Keep your promises.
Hold the door open, and put the toilet seat down.
Be clear about what you want.
Find your purpose.
Connect with people.
Keep language PG-13.
Be a grown-up.
Keep your hygiene in check.
Define your personal style.


A poll of Americans has revealed that their two greatest fears are dying & public speaking. As for public speaking I have another observation on this subject. As to the subject of dying I have written eulogies but have not expressed my opinion. My opinion is that we are all dying! From the moment we are born we are dying. All life is born then dies. To fear the inevitable is a waste of emotional energy. For death comes to us all, and there is no way to escape death. The fear of dying can be healthy, as it makes us cautious so as to not endanger our life. This is not the fear I wish to address, but to address the fear of the inevitable act of death.

I have seen death up close several times. I myself had severe appendicitis in my youth and the doctors were unsure for two days if I would survive the peritonitis poisoning my body was exposed too from my ruptured appendix.  As I lay in my hospital bed wondering if I would live or die I came to grips with my inevitable end and learned to accept that I will inevitably die. This acceptance led me to the determination, that if I should live, that I would live to the fullest extent possible.

I have also experienced the death of my father and mother, one of my sisters, my in-laws, and my brother-in-law as they were close members of my family who have died. I miss all of them, but accept the fact that they have met their inevitable end. And this is how it should be. For the death of an individual means the ultimate respite from the trials, tribulations, and possible pain and sufferings of living. It also is a passing on of the torch of life to the living.

So do not fear your inevitable death but accept it will happen. But prepare for your inevitable death by living your life to its fullest. You should also prepare for your inevitable death by making arrangements for your funeral, financially helping your loved ones as much as possible after your death, and most important making your peace with your loved ones and your life. If you prepare yourself in this way you can pass away peacefully and with a clear conscience.

I See Dead People: Dreams and Visions of the Dying by Dr. Christopher Kerr is a TED video of a doctor who has experienced death up close many times by many people. His insights may help alleviate your fear of death.