Are You a NIMBY?

First of all, NIMBY is the acronym for “not in my back yard.”  It generally refers to people who like the idea of something so long as it does not exist in their back yard, or in close proximity to it.

Recently, in a Cape Cod community, a group of people managed to get a wind turbine shut down because they claimed it made too much noise.  I am trying to imagine that but it escapes me how something that is not burning fossil fuel makes much noise at all.   But I’ll come back to this issue.

A number of years ago the Massachusetts Port Authority pushed the idea of getting a commercial airline to serve out of Hanscom Field, the civil portion of Hanscom Air Force Base.  There was an almost immediate uproar from the good citizens of Bedford, Lincoln, and Concord, all of whom declared unequivocally that such a move would create an unnecessary noisy nuisance.  They claimed the increased air traffic would be responsible.  MassPort was making the move in an attempt to alleviate Boston’s Logan Airport of some of its congestion.  No one with any knowledge of air travel expected anything more than small commuter aircraft to serve Hanscom Field.  The true noise makers were, and are, the corporate jets that frequent the airport.  To date, not a single commercial jet as availed itself of Hanscom.  Commercial propeller aircraft have served.  To quote the bard, “Much ado about nothing.”

More recently, the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, along with other groups, has been pushing to convert an abandoned railbed into a bicycle trail under the auspices of the RailTrail Act.  The idea is to have a bike path extending from Waltham MA to Chicopee MA.  One community, Weston, has stood in the way of this happening.  They claim it would bring an undesirable element into their fair town.  For those of you not familiar with Weston MA, it is a Boston bedroom community of considerable wealth.  It is somewhere between difficult and impossible to find a house selling for under $500,000 there.  The people of Weston fear that a bicycle path will increase the crime rate in their town.  And there it is, NIMBY!  The people of Lexington MA, another upscale Boston bedroom community, did not have the same concerns when the railtrail was developed in their fair town.  Today it brings in hundreds of bicyclists, pedestrians, and tourists into the town.  Even more, it provides a resource for the townspeople who want to go out for a stroll on the tree-lined and beautiful path.  But somehow this fact is lost on the NIMBYs of Weston.

Most recently, a group proposed that a rather substantial wind farm be built-in the waters off the coast of Massachusetts adjacent to Cape Cod.  Well don’t you know, out came the NIMBYs claiming first that it was unsightly.  And then when that got laughed at they claimed it would irreparably harm the fishing grounds on which it would be built.  That too was proven false but they persist.  Now they claim that it will generate electricity that is too expensive.  Of course these are the same sort of arguments used when the automobile was first introduced.  Many said it would never amount to more than a novelty.  It was expensive, at first, but then a guy named Ford figured out how to drastically reduce the cost of production.  I expect the same is going to happen with wind generated power.

Another group of people howled when the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority decided to reopen a long abandoned rail line to help alleviate traffic congestion on the Massachusetts south shore.  Once again out came the NIMBYs.  One small group claimed that some colonial structures would be ruined by the passing of trains.  Of course they failed to realize that heavy freight trains had once toiled over the same location without incident.  Others were trying to protect illegal structures they had built on the old railroad right-of-way.  To its credit, the MBTA pushed the line through and now nary a complaint can be heard.  The line is doing what it was intended.

Americans are spoiled.  They want things like cheap power which translates to oil forever.  Of course oil will run out by the end of the century.  That is a given.  In the mean time Americans have to accept that things like wind farms are going to have to go up in their back yards if they really want to continue to enjoy cheap electricity.  The price of wind generated electricity will go down and the price of fossil fuel generated electricity will go up, and rather quickly in the not too distant future.  The same is true of other emerging technologies.  They will take time, and space, to develop.  If Americans want to continue to enjoy the fruits of our society there is a price to pay.




People of the Lie

I have stolen this title from Dr. M. Scott Peck who wrote a book, same title, on the subject of narcissistic people.  I recommend it as a good psychological read.  M. Scott Peck was a well-known psychiatrist, now deceased, who also wrote the best-selling book “The Road Less Traveled” which stood atop the NY Times non-fiction best seller list for years, literally.

Narcissus was the guy in Greek mythology who would look lovingly at his own image and fail to see any faults what-so-ever.  Unfortunately our society is filled with such people.  I offer up Dick Cheney as an excellent example of narcissism.  He could lie so well I think he actually believed his own b.s.  What is worse about the narcissist is their absolute failure to either see or admit to having a part in anything wrong.  They rationalize their own bad behavior in a manner that leaves them blameless.

In his book Peck identifies these people as being evil.  It suggests that you need only look at history’s most evil villains and you will find they are all narcissists. The question becomes, then, how do you protect yourself against such people?

I think the first thing you have to do is recognize them when you encounter them.  Fortunately they are, it is my belief, relatively rare in their “full blown” form.  That is, the total narcissist is not all that common.

Unfortunately, aside from recognizing them and keeping them out of your life as much as possible is about all you can do.  I know, no answer, how can that be?  Sometimes you run into circumstances that one person cannot overcome.  You surround yourself with people who know you, trust you, and love you, and there is nothing the narcssist can do to you that you cannot overcome.   Now that you know what you are looking for, be careful and be safe.


How To Land the Job You Want

I will assume that you have an interview coming up.  That interview is the most important step to landing the job.  The first person you meet likely will not but the decision maker but rather someone from HR who will sort of “check you in.”  But should the first person you meet actually be someone who has a say in your hiring you want the look of success and the sound of success to be drooling from you.  So here are the points you need to make.

You only get once chance to make a good first impression.  That means, dress for success.  You should dress well enough that you wonder if you might actually be over-dressed.  Not to worry.  Being “over-dressed” is a sign of respect for the person you are meeting.  Men, that means a dark suit with a red tie.  Ladies it means a business suit, conservative.  Do not try to trade on your body.  If your great body is what gets you hired, you are in the wrong job.

When you meet someone for the first time, reach out and firmly shake their hand while looking them in their eyes, smile, and say something like “good to meet you.”

Be totally honest and forthcoming.  Now this does not mean tell them your life story.  Answer only the question asked, don’t offer more “icing” because it more likely will ice you.  Interviewees have a tendency to talk to much, offer up too much.  If you don’t understand the question being asked, say so.  Every interviewer asks the question, “what do you think you strength and weaknesses are.”  Be ready to answer each question, briefly.  They guy who claims to have no weaknesses will also have no job.  Have a list of at least five questions you want to ask the interviewer.  These questions will revolve around potential growth in the job, what the future of the company is, what position you will be holding, etc.  The more interest you show the interviewer the more interest they will show towards you.

Look the interviewer in the eyes.  People who look other people in the eye are thought to be honest.

Directly ask how soon they need the job filled, intimating that you can start tomorrow if need be.  This not only sends the message that you want the job, but you are ready, now.

Don’t talk yourself out of the job!  Being enthusiastic about getting a job is a good thing.  But show that enthusiasm in short, direct questions.  Too many people who interview for a job try the “tell all” method.  Unless you are asked a complex question, which is unusual, you should never have to talk for more than about 1 minute at a stretch at any one time.  Stay focused on the question asked.  But complete and succinct.

Strengthen you weaknesses.  You know what they are, just don’t offer them up.  But when asked, pick one that can be remedied in your new position.  You tell them how this position will put you next to people who excel in that area and how you hope to learn from them.  Then say, you also hope to get additional training through company offered programs or local colleges.  That is when you ask about college reimbursement.  By doing these things it sends the message that you are already considering what a long-term investment in that company looks like.  That is always a good message to send.

When the interview is winding down, and you have decided that you want this job, tell the interviewer that fact in no uncertain terms.  Just come right out and say, “I want this job.”

If they are unwilling or unable to commit, ask about follow-up interviews.  Also ask when they expect to make a decision as to who they will hire.  The effect you want to give at that point is “I want this job but I need to move my energy in another direction if I am not going to get it.”

Importantly, if the interviewer offers something you can relate to, join in a short conversation about whatever it is.  You want to endear yourself to you possible employer in any fashion you can.  Leave no stone unturned.

Vegans and Health Food People Really Piss Me Off!

Last night I was at a restaurant with my wife.  I had a particularly good piece of baked haddock and then decided, which is unusual, to indulge in dessert.  My wife pointed out that on the dessert menu was flour-free cake.  I told her that was either a misprint or a misrepresentation.  Cake is made with flour, sugar, butter, and in this case, chocolate.  I told her it was indeed a chocolate something but it sure as hell was not cake!

I blame all of this on California, of course, the land of fruits and nuts.  They started it all when someone decided alfalfa sprout would be such a good thing to put on a sandwich.  Are you kidding me!  Everyone knows alfalfa is grown to feed to livestock.  But they couldn’t stop at that, nooooooooo.  The next thing you know they are marketing this stuff called tofu.  Be honest, how many of you had any idea what tofu is when you first heard of it.  For that matter, how many know even now?  Tofu is soy but sounds better, somehow, when you call it tofu.  Except on Chinese food, where it’s great, soy/tofu, is evil!

Then they came up with this stuff called “soy milk.”  Really?  Last time I heard there were two sources of milk, mammals and coconuts.  But now these bastards have invaded my favorite coffee shop with their soy milk.  One day I accidentally poured some of it in my coffee.  One sip and I was certain I had been poisoned.  In coffee you put cream, milk, low-fat milk, skim milk, or nothing at all.  But as any real coffee drinker knows, you never ever put soy into such a drink.

One day I was out with a good friend and we stopped for coffee and a snack.  She was buying and she knew what kind of coffee I wanted and backed it up with a brownie.  Chocolate is a huge addiction for me but it goes so well with coffee.  Well, one bite into the brownie and once again I thought I had been poisoned.  When I questioned her about the brownie she snickered and said it was “gluten-free.”  Once again, I must insist, that is NOT a brownie.  It is something but not a brownie.

Remember those commercials for “I can’t believe it’s not butter.”  Really?  Have you no taste buds at all?  I can tell the difference all day long.  Do you put margarine on pop corn?  No!  Of course not.  It tastes like crap!

Take ice cream.  By definition ice cream is a combination of sugar and milk fats churned and cooled into its solid form.  People used to respect this and when they made something similar, but which did not quite meet the actually definition they called it sorbet.  My hat is off to them.  But sugar-free ice cream?  That is an oxymoron.  Even worse is “fat-free” ice cream.  Impossible!

And what about those people who say we should not eat meat!  Really?  We all have two front teeth, incisors or canine teeth.  They are an ancient remnant of humans having to tear at the flesh of animals to feed ourselves!

Americans desperately need to learn that it is not what we eat that is unhealthy, it is how much we eat.  We are so indulgent of our food desires that we are fat a lazy, and that is what is unhealthy.  If we think healthy, and act on those thoughts, we will be healthy.  Once I am finished with this I am acting on my thought of quickly finding and devouring a whoopie pie.  It’s not at all healthful but I will get a truly healthy sense of pleasure.  Eat on!


Don’t Sell Yourself Short

When I was younger, much younger, I had two mental lists. The first list was of everything I wanted, and the second list was of everything I believed I could have or could get. The second list bore only slight resemblance to the first. That should not have been the truth, but it was. That first list was not a truth for me because I did not believe that those things were within my reach or that I was capable of gaining them. That, I believe, is the exact definition of selling yourself short.

As a young adult I had an absolutely miserable self-opinion and my body image was not much better. That was at the base of all my problems. People always said, “just be yourself.” But what good is that when you don’t know who you are? Even that would not have been such a great problem if I had someone to bounce things off. That meant I needed someone in my life who would be non-judgemental and give me good advice. I actually had such a person but I was so fearful that I could not get up the courage to talk my mind to her.

This person in my life, Pat, was one of the more beautiful and intelligent women in the community I was living it at that time. I mention that because I was living in Italy at the time and in a rather small community of Americans living over there at the time. Pat was kind, compassionate and understanding. I could have confided anything in her and gotten good advice in return but my insecurities did not allow for that and so I suffered.

In my senior year in high school I was smart enough and had good enough grades that I was able to secure early admission to Boston University. I don’t know if things like that happen anymore, but at the time it meant I had my letter of acceptance from B.U. in November of my senior year while others had months of waiting in front of them. But when I got to B.U. I failed miserably. Why? I did not believe in myself and once again my insecurities did not allow for my owning up to my shortcomings and asking for help from my advisor. Of course I flunked out of college. They didn’t throw me out. I left because I knew I was failing and didn’t know what else to do. I resolved that by joining the army, not the greatest idea in 1968 but not the worst either.

The things I have just spoken of are classic examples of “fear of success.” It sounds like an oxymoron but it is not. I could not handle success so I made certain I torpedoed any success I was having by some sort of ridiculous action. Let’s say, for example, I was dating that gorgeous blonde. I would inevitably allow my insecurity to take control and say something that made her want to run for the hills which of course meant an end to the relationship, such as it was.

While I was at B.U. my advisor one day said that I should have gone to Harvard. I thought he was kidding me, of course, because I definitely was not smart enough to go there. But he wasn’t and so I set up an interview. I was usually good at interviews but I was so intimidated by where I was that at the end of the interview the man told me that I should never even consider going to Harvard ever again. Many years later I went to, and graduated from, graduate school at Harvard but that is another story. I does show, however, how much I was selling myself short. Rather than take what the interviewer said as a challenger, I took it as fact.

Earlier I mentioned a fear of success. The other half of that is a fear of failure.  I was projecting.  I was always going to worst case scenarios and thinking that failure was the only possible result.  What didn’t occur to me was that it was okay to have failures along the way as long as I kept with it until I succeeded.   I had a course at Harvard once that I got a C+ in.  That is an unacceptable grade in graduate school and the course does not count towards the degree but that 2.7 does get figured into your GPA.  That stopped me dead for a while.  But once I got my wits back about me, I pushed onward, wrote my thesis with a lot of help, and graduated.  Decades later I recognized, fully, what I was capable of if only I allowed for failure.

I heard someone say recently, “don’t worry if you are shooting for the moon and miss.  It just means you will end up among the stars.”  And so much of life really is that simple.  Relationships failure, we fail in school, work, sometimes stumbling just walking down the street.  We feel foolish briefly but we move on.  In the long run, regardless of what happens, I know I will be all right.  Not everyone is going to like me and accept me as I am and that is all right.

I wrote this because I was inspired by a young man today who had just left a toxic relationship and was feeling badly about it none-the-less.  I advised him that he can have anyone he wants and that he need only continue on as he is.  I didn’t mean that he can simply go out and point to any woman and she’ll be his, no.  I mean that when he meets someone he truly likes and is compatible with that he is the quality kind of guy a good woman will want to be with.  That’s the “don’t sell yourself short” part.

Did 70s Music Really Suck More Than 80s Music?

All right, I know, who cares?!?  But it is a Friday night, I just got done watching a SNL rerun from 1977, and the thought came to mind.  Mind you (pun), the particular episode had Leon Redbone as its musical artist and I think he certainly did not typify the 70s.  But then I thought of Wendy O. Wiliams, lead singer of The Plasmatics, and the debate was on.

Early 70s music was actually pretty good with groups like Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Santana, Blood Sweat & Tears, headling.  But there was also The Archies (Yuck!), the Bee Gees, Abba, and Barry Manilow.  The 70s were closed out with Disco music which supposedly died in 1979 in spite of New Yorkers trying to keep it alive for the next decade.

In its defense, the 70s also produced Elvis Costello, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, most of the great punk rockers, the B-52s, Talking Heads, and the Clash.  I loved those groups, still do.  There is truly a timelessness about their music.

The 80s produced grunge rock, which for me a hard rocker, was difficult to understand.  While people were raving about Def Leppard, I was saying, “really?”  It was also the era of Boy George.  His music was a little fruity for me.  Then there were The Go Go’s, the water skiing girl group.  Lots of glitz, not a lot of talent, but they sold a lot.

But the 80s also produced Pat Benatar, Blondie, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Billy Idol, Heart, the Eurythmics, and The Pretenders.  Great rock by Van Halen, INXS, Joan Jett, and Joe Jackson.  It was also the beginning of Rap music, which, although I do not care for it, I look at it like Blue Grass, I don’t understand either and that is my shortcoming, not the music’s.  I bring up Rap because I really thought it would run its course by the mid-90s.  Obviously I was seriously wrong.

I think the biggest turn-off of the 1970s is how it was so totally taken over by Disco.  Now at the time, I liked Disco, I admit it.  But when it was done, so was I!  The first time I heard Punk Rock I loved it.  It was edgy which is something I’ve always liked in music.  But it also harkened back to the Bob Dylan style protest music of the 60s.  That was music that made a difference, I thought, and I believed the same to be true of Punk.  Eddie Van Halen brought back hard rock and that was terrific.  But there was the mid-80s gap when Punk was fading and the hard rockers had yet to take hold.  It seemed like only Dire Straits and Duran Duran were defending us against the likes of Wham, A-ha, Huey Lewis, and Billy Ocean.  Those groups I dislike seemed to produce music that was nice to hear for about a week.  Then it got overplayed which made you want to turn it off.  But even hearing it again after years, it just does not seem to cut it.  It doesn’t have staying power.

Staying power is like the open rip of ZZ Top’s “La Grange “, Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” and Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky.”  Those openings draw you in and keep you.  There is not a bad song on Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album.  Anything done by Steely Dan, Blood Sweat & Tears, and Santana seem to survive the test of time.  Eric Clapton, who actually started in the mid-60s, re-invented himself in the 2000s when he brought out his album “Me and Mr. Johnson” where he played Robert Johnson’s blues songs from the 193os.  One of the cuts made it to the top of the pop charts!

I bring up some of these groups because they spanned the 70s and the 80s, and you cannot tie them to any single decade.  Mark Knopfler, of the 80s Dire Straits, went off on his own in the 2000s and continued to succeed.  That means when I am considering throwing the 70s under the bus as the worst decade I have to consider that these great groups started there.  Others started in the 60s, the Rolling Stones, for example, and are still going today.  Do I dismiss them from 70s consideration?

All that said, I am still going to throw the 70s under the bus.  There was just too much sugary, air-headed music to ignore.  The 80s did have its share but I feel like it was to a lesser extent.  The 80s also had a lot of really good female artists who held things up, like Patty Smyth, Pat Benatar, Sinead O’Connor, Stevie, Nicks, Kate Bush, Rickie Lee Jones, and Melissa Etheridge.  The 70s lacked for such artists of either gender so my vote makes 70s music as considerably worse than the 80s.

A Young Person’s Guide to Future Success

When you are 18 years old and thrust out into the world having graduated from high school, the world can seem a foreboding, scary, and intimidating place.  Most 18-year-olds have only the vaguest idea of what they want to do with themselves for the rest of their lives.  And half of those who think they do are wrong.  The question becomes, how does one successfully navigate those years and do what is best for themself?  I have a few simple suggestions that do not guarantee success, but do guard against failure.

Figure out what thrills you.  This concept, while simple in form, can be most difficult to follow through.  For at least a year prior to graduating from high school, young people are bombarded with how to get into college but with little guidance of where to go and what to study.  The most successful people of all time have always done something that thrills them, something that wholly and complete draws them in and makes them thirst to know all they can in that field and be the best they can be.  It is always a mistake to allow making a substantial income to be crucial.  It is always better to have a job you love and live on a modest income than a job you hate to satisfy the desire for a large income.

It is not unusual for an 18-year-old to claim he does not know what he wants to do.  That being the case, he should avoid college until he does know.  Get out into the world and earn a living for a while, and figure out what you want.  But if for any reason you do find yourself in college, take a course of study, preferably liberal arts, that will serve you well regardless of what direction you eventually move in.  And do not let taking 5, 6, or even 7 years of study to graduate be an impediment to getting a degree in a field you love.  I can assure you, employers never look at how long it took you to graduate, only what you studied and what your GPA was.  And if you cannot maintain at least a 3.0 GPA you might consider two things, first, you are in the wrong field of study, or second, you are not committing yourself to do whatever it takes to get good grades, in which case dropping out until you can commit is not only cost-effective but sensible.

Have a plan!  Once you decide what you want to do, decide where you want to be in that career field when you are 45-years old.  It is all right if it is a “pie in the sky” scenario.  Even that gives you a place to start.  Once you know what your 45th year should look like, you can research what it is going to take to make that come true.  The first question is, what schools are best suited to giving you respectable degree in your chosen field.  Then, after undergraduate education is a graduate degree desirable or necessary.  If so, make a plan to include schools that will fill that need.  Now at this point many of you will point out that you will probably already be carrying a huge student loan debt.  Not to fear.  Your plan will include a job search, upon college graduation, that will land you a position in a company that will pay for in part, if not entirely, your education in graduate school.  Some companies will pay, at least in part, for education unrelated to your job.

Gain and maintain a health mind and a healthy body.  One of the unfortunate idea young people have about college is that it is a time to party hard.  The problem with this should be obvious, if you are focused on partying how can you expect to succeed in academics?  A few can but most cannot.  And even those who can, do so at their own peril.  Those four or five years are your first chance to teach yourself things outside of the home you grew up in and its influences, parents and others.  I am not saying that the occasional party should be avoided, no.  But feeling the need to party every weekend, or even nearly every weekend, is quite unhealthy and inevitably leads to unhealthy habits.

Equally important during this time, and in life in general, is dealing with your fears.  The person has not be born who does not have a fear of something.  Most common is a fear of failure.  But also is the fear of rejection, fear of success, and any other fear that gets between you and success.  Most fears are actually fairly easily dealt with once they are brought to the light of day, once you share them with someone who can help.  It is not unusual, for example, for college students to have problems with retaining the material.  This problem can be overcome by simply bringing it to the professor and requesting help.  All people need help.  Successful people get help as quickly as possibly once they realize their dilemma.  There is no disgrace in saying you do not understand something and need help.

Always have a “Plan B”.  This is actually a very simple concept.  The successful person recognizes that failure is unavoidable but it is what you do when faced with failure that influences future success.  Today’s failure may simply be a signal that your plan needs altering, possibly only slightly.  But it may also be a sign that your planned in too flawed to ever be successful, and this is when Plan B comes to fore.  For example, my plan was to become a family doctor but along the way I discovered I really am not good at dealing with people’s problems.  But along the way I discovered also that I was a fabulous researcher and my energies needed only redirection.  Or, I was on my way to becoming a world-famous computer engineer, but along the way I discovered I hated learning micro-electronics and all that goes with it.  But I also discover I was particularly good at math, and since I really love math, maybe my future lies in that direction.

Having a “Plan C” is not a bad idea either.

Do not allow yourself to be sidetracked.  Life is fraught with distractions, many of which have the ability to take us off our desired course.  Chief among these, I believe, are romantic relationships.  While in college our job is to learn.  But where we are social creatures, it is only natural that we form bonds with others.  If we are committed to our college career then we recognize when a relationship is distracting us too much from our stated goal.  This means the intensity of the relationship must be lessened or the relationship ended entirely.  Neither is easy but they are necessary for our future success.  Suffering a failed relationship is a small price to pay for a successful life.

Never compromise on morals and ethics.  Cheating in college is not unusual, and some might even say, epidemic.  One of the most common forms is the purchasing of term papers.  It is an immoral act that speaks to the character of the person.  It is better to fail while doing your own work than pass with someone else’s.  If you never cheat, never lie, you need never explain yourself for your actions will remain above reproach, even when such attempts on your character are made.  Decide on your moral and ethical character and then never give an inch on them.