Ask Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

Everywhere I turn today, I hear people talking about austerity. Whole nations need to be more austere. The world itself is on an austerity binge, if such a thing is even possible.

And yet everyone seems to hate austerity at the same time they’re urging others to subject themselves to it. But here’s the thing – I’ve been into austerity all my life, always cutting back on expenses with relish and always trying to take as little pleasure in everything as I possibly can. For example, if I were you I would have dropped those pearls a long time ago.

I have even tried not to feel too superior about my own austerity when compared to everyone else, because to enjoy it would be a luxury, and we Austeriterians don’t go in for that sort of thing. That’s why I have to suppress a laugh when when they ask me to cut back on my budget at work or someone tells me to not use the air conditioning in my car so I can get better mileage. I’ve been making those sacrifices for years! No one can out-austere me. All these downsizing latecomers and expense slashing woe-is-me-ers really burn my hide.

Or they would, if I had any hide left to burn. As an austerity measure, I got rid of my frilly, self-indulgent hide years ago. I’m better off without it, and you would be too!

Frugally yours,
Already Ultra Austere

I told AA it can certainly be frustrating when amateurs try to horn in on your territory, but there is nothing to be done. It is human nature to believe one has “discovered” a way of life or a new experience. The idea that others have known about this for a long time and have already made the sacrifices you’re demanding diminishes one’s enjoyment of being in the vanguard. In the case of the current crop of austerity fanatics, taking away this one source of joy would be … well, ultra austere and compulsively cruel. Just like you.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

The Long Weekend, Day 3

Not that I would ever do this to you, but one of the frustrating things about being brought along on other people’s vacations through regular photo updates is that you, when at home, are stuck in slow moving routine time while they, on holiday, are experiencing super-fast pleasure time.

Water Sports!

That means the Holiday People will think the whole thing is a giddy, fascinating lark throughout, rushing by them at a breakneck pace. To you, however, their vacation seems to go on forever.

Aren’t they done yet?

If I had taken a long weekend and ducked out on Thursday, I’d be in my third day of recreation and relaxation today while you would be just getting used to the idea of not having to report for your usual duties because it is Saturday. How cruel! That’s why I’m probably not taking a loooooong weekend, and certainly not telling you about it at length and in excruciating detail. It would be rude. That’s also why I wouldn’t send you pictures of the fun I was having. Why waste even a moment of your precious weekend wishing you could be where I am, doing the outrageous and crazy fun things I’m doing?

Time for a Sand Castle!

If I did subject you to my vacation, you would only have Sunday to look forward to. Then, at least, you could take some satisfaction in the knowledge that I would spend a large part of the day packing, and the rest of it traveling, possibly stuck in an airport or jammed up in traffic, just so I could be back where I’m supposed to be on Monday.

Meanwhile, you’re already there.

Time for relaxation. Ahhhhh!

What makes for a perfect Sunday afternoon?

The Long Weekend – Day 2

No, I’m not really skipping out of work for an unreasonably but seasonably Long Weekend and then rubbing your face in it by gloating.

The Glittering Lights of Somewhere Else Dazzled Us!

Probably not. But maybe it wouldn’t be much of a loss if I did. Not a lot gets done on Friday anyway – in some workplaces the whole day is almost a complete waste of time, especially during the summer months. You could argue that a person might be MORE productive if they worked extra hard Monday through Thursday and permanently reassigned Friday to weekend status.

The Local Transit System is Surprisingly Plush

That’s assuming they didn’t already take Thursday off.

I don’t think I did that. Probably not. But if, by chance, I did and in the process saw a few exotic, exciting places and took in some unique or at least highly unusual sights, I would keep it to myself. In any case, I certainly wouldn’t bother you by sending puzzling pictures of my ambiguous activities dully described with cryptic captions. That would be wrong.

They Certainly Know How To Have a Good Time Here!

But enough about me. What are you doing this weekend?

The Long Weekend

With the arrival of summer, the luckiest ones among us (those who have work) may also have the privilege (if they have the resources) of taking an occasional break from the routine – a long weekend to kick back and relax.

This was certainly more than we expected.

I’m not saying that I get to do that, but if I did, I’d resist taking pictures. Taking pictures is work. A Long Weekend is supposed to be the opposite of work. Plus, receiving pictures of someone else’s vacation can be a very mixed blessing. While it’s nice to see that your friends get to travel and have fun, when you’re stuck in place it can be thoroughly annoying to see that your friends get to travel and have fun. No one wants to be so selfish and resentful in response to someone else’s joy. It just happens.

The room had a memorable view!

It’s even worse if they give you a detailed description of the fun they’re having without you. I sometimes imagine there are darker truths behind the “having a wonderful time” e-mail – horrible things vacationers try to obscure with their overly cheerful accounts of sights seen and towns toured. You know – petty arguments over where to eat and tales of disappointment about the lodgings. An update on THAT part of the trip would be much more compelling. Perhaps.

Flora and Fauna

But I would never burden you with that. Like I say, I might not even be having a long weekend right now. Thursday morning is pretty early to start – that’s almost BEYOND a long weekend – nearing AWOL status. It’s the sort of embarrassing behavior a shy and humiliated person apologizes for at length in a roundabout way without even admitting it. And since I wouldn’t take pictures anyway, you’ll just have to use your imagination with these photos, which were definitely NOT taken this weekend.

Where do you go for a long weekend?

The Break Dance

Summer is about to start, officially. This is a time when the urge to work slows down and hours are wasted gazing out windows at sunny scenery. Idea man and dealmaker Spin Williams knows all about this – though it is no longer an issue in his company.
Spin is also an efficiency expert!

Here at The Meeting That Never Ends, we’re always trying to find new ways to hike our productivity to levels far beyond those posted by other idea factories. That’s why we moved to the Around The Clock Meeting paradigm in the first place – we were simply taking too much time convening and adjourning our conferences, planning them and scheduling them and re-convening and re-adjourning, etc. Valuable inspiration-generating time was being being burned the same way your car guzzles gas on jackrabbit starts from a red light!

Now that our meeting is constantly in session, we’ve been able to dispense with pleasantries and stay productive 24/7 courtesy of regular breaks! Yes, experts from famous high-productivity workplaces like The Mayo Clinic and The New York Times agree that people do better when they interrupt their workflow with some down time. So at TMTNE, we work for twenty minutes, break for ten minutes and repeat, ad infinitum. That means in a typical day we can have up to 48 productive discussions! And people still get 8 whole hours off every single day, which is plenty of time to get some sleep, or a little food, or a bit of both! If they want to skip a nap or a meal, they can change clothes or spend intensely focused quality time with a relative or some sort of friend. Who needs more than that?

Not only does our perpetual professional parley promote productivity, it discourages a host of other social and environmental ills. With no time for employees to go “home”, there’s no longer any need for the economy to support a domicile outside the workplace! Land-use stresses are reduced. Commuting is no longer a problem. Romance is still possible, but it’s limited to ten minute interludes. That’s better because it reduces unwanted pregnancies (you have to be very focused and intentional) and keeps the mystery alive. Casual “dalliances” become a thing of the past – there’s simply no time to dally. Domestic unrest is unheard of – every conflict is a workplace situation of one sort or another, which can be easily handled by the experts in the HR department. Children are raised and educated in a series of meeting of their own, which happen just down the hall. When we go on vacation, we go together and keep working! Under this system we could (and sometimes do) switch to a year-round holiday schedule without losing a moment’s productivity because time off is simply a calculation that happens as part of the paperwork.

Some people (i.e. Corporations) call our company a “cult” or a “commune”, but I think name-calling by the competition is a sure sign that you’re doing something right! I’d love to hear what you think of our plan, but the meeting is about to resume. Let’s touch base in twenty minutes!

Efficiently yours,

I think Spin’s scenario is the wave of the future! This is where we’re headed, but I’ll have to become much more productive if I’m ever going to make it happen.

How often do you need to take a break?

Unexpected Sideline

Today is the birthday in 1903 of bandleader Guy Lombardo, conductor of the Royal Canadians and the cultural figure who “owned New Years Eve” before Dick Clark took it over. Lombardo’s music is clean and precise and by the more modern standards of those who were raised on rock and roll, sterile and empty.

But he wore a nice red jacket and made a name for himself at a time when a person could become a popular star simply by smiling and waving a baton. And for people in my age group, he carried an air of mystery because he did his best known work on TV, in front of my parents, after we were sent to bed.

The other thing Lombardo did is unexpected (to me). He raced hydroplanes, roaring across the surface of rivers and lakes at frightening speeds powered by engines that were loud and obnoxious in a way his music decidedly was not.

He was good enough at it to be inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame. I never would have guessed this – it makes about as much sense as discovering that Liberace was a heavyweight prizefighter. (Can we start that rumor here?)

We assume people who are known for a particular thing or make their living in a specific realm love only that and never indulge in anything different. But it’s undeniable that the Guy who seems so mild and pleasant in the video above enjoyed having the wind in his hair and could have swamped a slow boat going anywhere when he was having fun on the weekend.

What is your unexpected sideline?

Wayfaring Stranger

I felt silly last week while going through a mild panic about hail hitting my new car. There was no actual damage, and in the larger scheme of things, what’s the difference?  I’m planning to keep the car for at least ten years and suck all the value out of it anyway. When it comes time to sell, there will be many more concerns than a few little dimples on the hood.  And really, aren’t there much better things to be alarmed about?  Just about then, I ran across a NASA Press Release with this title:

Giant Black Hole Kicked Out of Home Galaxy

WASHINGTON — Astronomers have found strong evidence that a massive black hole is being ejected from its host galaxy at a speed of several million miles per hour. New observations from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory suggest that the black hole collided and merged with another black hole and received a powerful recoil kick from gravitational wave radiation.

“It’s hard to believe that a supermassive black hole weighing millions of times the mass of the sun could be moved at all, let alone kicked out of a galaxy at enormous speed,” said Francesca Civano of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), who led the new study. “But these new data support the idea that gravitational waves — ripples in the fabric of space first predicted by Albert Einstein but never detected directly — can exert an extremely powerful force.”

The press release goes on to say that while this is probably a rare occurrence … “it nevertheless could mean that there are many giant black holes roaming undetected out in the vast spaces between galaxies.”  And because they have consumed all the gasses surrounding them, “… these black holes would be invisible to us.”

Thank you NASA!  This is exactly the sort of thing I was hoping for – a new reason to worry about armageddon arriving in a way I have not yet imagined.  Black holes absorb everything in their vicinity – even light doesn’t escape.   I had become relaxed about the ever-present potential for the sudden, random strike of a massive, undetected asteroid, exploding like a thousand nuclear bombs over my back yard.  The odds haven’t changed on that one, but now that I’ve had a few years to factor it into my nightmares, I’m accustomed to that particular level of dread.

I’m Not From Around Here

A black hole wandering into our galaxy would crush my car and me and all my stuff into something smaller than a hailstone, so let’s get our priorities straight!   This exciting new bit of dark information opens up a higher level of paranoia because it combines an existing, somewhat abstract fear of outer space with an old horror film classic – the mad, wandering loner.

The notion that there are orphaned Black Holes roaming the cosmic countryside with nothing to lose means I can marry my trepidation about galactic surprises to my conviction that all strangers are potentially insane and probably homicidal.

It’s not so farfetched. If you had just been ejected by gravitational slingshot from the center of your home galaxy, wouldn’t you nurse a grudge against pretty much everything, but especially against tiny planets where some clueless people place too much importance on a flawless paint job?

Tell us about a surprising encounter with a stranger. 

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