Bits & Pieces 2012-06-28

Links and things that I’ve run across recently.

Even a Quasi-Government Agency Occasionally Does Something Right

True story:

Waiting in line at the post office, thinking I should probably see if I can buy stamps online and just have them delivered. Finally got to the front of the line.

“I need a book of stamps,” I said.

“You’re in luck!” said the woman behind the counter, grinning ear-to-ear. “We have those!” Fetched one from a nearby drawer.

“Excellent!” I said. “I thought you might.”

Never got around to checking for that online thing.

Black Bear, Black Bear, Where Have You Been?

We had a little excitement here in the Boston area, as a wild black bear made its way through Medfield, Norwood, Dedham, Needham, Newton, and into Brookline.

Eventually, the bear was tranqed and escorted to Western Mass… but not before he posed for photos.

Nerds and Free Spirits, Unite!

Dave Ramsey has this thing in Financial Peace University about “nerds” and “free spirits.” The nerds are the people who come out with family budgets longer than Congress’s (in the years when Congress comes out with a budget), which they pore over incessantly, and freak out when they accidentally spend 16% of the recommended 15% on groceries. The free spirits, on the other hand, are unpredictable, uncontrollable, hate budgets, but might do what you ask if they feel like it— like cats. And Dave claims that every marriage has one of each.

I don’t actually believe that last part. My Beloved and I, for example, each of us is a mixture of nerd and free spirit, and each a different mixture. Just about every human being on the planet can see a piece of himself in each of the two, and a different piece at that. But personality types can still be a useful concept, to make sense of personal preferences… or fictional characters.

This past week I finally got around to watching, on Hulu, The Return of Jezebel James, a story about two estranged sisters, one a nerd, the other a free spirit, thrown together by a bizarre twist of fate and choice. Written by Amy Sherman-Palladino, who also created Gilmore Girls, it turned out a delightful seven episodes, cut a bit short.

See, Jezebel James came out on Fox–bad move–the same year as the cliché comedy Till Death. Fox, being Fox, dropped Jezebel James after 3 episodes and kept Till Death for 4 seasons. Now, don’t get me wrong; I hold no loathing toward Till Death, in the same way I hold no loathing for Janet Evanovich: she makes me laugh, and I sometimes read her stuff when I don’t want to think or feel anything meaningful at all. But Jezebel James, in Sherman-Palladino style, takes the concept to whole new levels of character depth, and I still recommend the series, even if only for the first seven episodes.

You’re Not So Special, Eh?

The world is still buzzing about David McCullough’s speech to this year’s Wellesley High School graduating class, in which he actually admitted to them, “You are not special. You are not exceptional.” Because, apparently, that is what four years of government high school will do to you, make you not special, not exceptional.

I prefer Perry Marshall‘s take on it, from one of his emails, “Oddly, the way you develop your USP chops is by hanging with folks who have great USP’s. The thing they all have in common with each other is… they have almost nothing in common.”

But Jim “Suldog” Sullivan, who once ran for Massachusetts State Representative and got at least 23 votes, wrote a way better, cooler, funnier, and more useful commencement address, which includes the line, “Nobody wants to hear your cell phone conversations. Well, nobody except the government.”

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! Starbucks Snubbed the Marines?!

This 8-year-old urban myth popped up on my Facebook newsfeed, shared by a friend, who got it from one of her friends, who also had another friend who had shared it. And not one of these people bothered with a simple Google search on starbucks marines. Yes, two seconds of research could have arrested a stupid and harmful myth, that Starbucks had refused to donate coffee to some marines in Iraq, on the grounds (no pun intended) that they disapproved of the war.

My first reaction, actually, was, Sheesh! I didn’t know Starbucks was so damn courageous! After all, I’m one of those traitorous ingrates who hates US military adventurism because I believe it harms our freedoms and damages our sovereignty. At the same time, I too have friends in the military, one who has even recently served overseas, and I see that they’re all just making the best of a stressful situation. And sorting between those two realities is in certain instances difficult-to-impossible. So my first gut reaction was to want to buy more Starbucks coffee, simply because they had taken a courageous stand on principle, regardless of what I would have done in the same situation.

However, I came to my senses long enough to do that Google search I mentioned before. Everyone on Facebook commented that they’re not going to be drinking at Starbucks anymore. But I like Starbucks, and I plan to keep drinking their coffee, and I commented by posting the following link:

Please follow my example, and if you see this myth propagated on Facebook or elsewhere, reply with that Snopes link.

Today’s Quote

The need to slough off the outworn old to make possible the productive new is universal. It is reasonably certain that we would still have stagecoaches—nationalized, to be sure, heavily subsidized, and with a fantastic research program to “retrain the horse”—had there been ministries of transportation around 1825.

(Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive, p. 108)