Ancient Mariner's Rules #1 and #2


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1. Everyone needs to make a living somehow.

A person is usually just viewed as an individual but consider that each person is somehow connected to a support system. The support system affects each person in different ways and just as a person can change -- his support system can change or evolve. Just as a living person is breathing -- he is also somehow making a living. When we use a word like 'lawyer' or 'plumber' as an adjective we are adding that connection to the person -- but it does not in fact describe his means of support unless that word really describes his means of support. Someone trained in the art of plumbing may be living off an inheritance for instance and not actually working as a plumber -- is he still a plumber? A 'plumber's wife' could be a housewife living off the income of her plumber husband -- but could also be a trained and working lawyer. An important detail is whether the person is just trained as a plumber but not currently working as one or if he is fact supporting himself as a plumber. Context is important.

everyone has to make a living
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Woman robbing a man.
    A vector image of a woman robbing a man. Click on the picture and you can download the vector file.



A definition over 100 years old from http://www.efm.bris.ac.uk/het/seligman/econinte.htm The following definition is from an article in the 'Political Science Quarterly' 1901-2 "We may state the thesis succinctly as follows: The existence of man depends upon his ability to sustain himself; the economic life is therefore the fundamental condition of all life. Since human life, however, is the life of man in society, individual existence moves within the framework of the social structure and is modified by it. What the conditions of maintenance are to the individual, the similar relations of production and consumption are to the community. To economic causes, therefore, must be traced in last instance those transformations in the structure of society which themselves condition the relations of social classes and the various manifestations of social life. This doctrine is often called "historical materialism," or the "materialistic interpretation of history." Such terms are, however, lacking in precision. If by materialism is meant the tracing of all changes to material causes, the biological view of history is also materialistic. Again, the theory which ascribes all changes in society to the influence of climate or to the character of the fauna and flora is materialistic, and yet has little in common with the doctrine here discussed. The doctrine we have to deal with is not only materialistic, but also economic in character; and the better phrase is not the "materialistic interpretation," but the "economic interpretation" of history."

cdm--the above definition is cumbersome but its derivation for me was in my research on socialism and communism. The original Marxists -- including Marx -- took the scientific approach as indicated in that definition. They believed that just as we study genes and DNA and expect to discover truths -- they expected to find the science in man's 'ability to sustain himself' in a new and better economic system.

This is not to say that a person's support system defines the person. I worked for over 25 years in medical engineering and most of the people I worked with on a daily basis would have called me an engineer but my superiors would not have called me an engineer as my two engineering degrees were associate level. Oddly enough they only considered bachelorate level or higher as engineers even though most of them (including my superiors) were really only acting as managers with the actual engineering contracted out to third-party companies or delegated to subordinates like myself. In another corporation my experience and associate degrees would eventually have allowed me to move up to become a salaried engineer but Abbott was an extremely conservative company. I was surprised when I entered medical engineering to find it has a two-tier system just as the military with the division not named as officers and enlisted but as exempt and non-exempt. This odd division can further be defined as exempt or not from overtime pay with the 'exempt' employee receiving a 'salary'. Technically an exempt person could be ordered to work overtime and there would be no extra pay but in practical operation that person would probably get to take off time at some other period as compensation. Additionally the non-exempt people had to somehow have all of their hours tracked by some type of sign-in sheet or a time clock or scanner for your badge. An exempt was salaried and if he called in sick -- he would be paid regardless -- the definition of salaried. A non-exempt was usually paid some fraction of his normal rate for sick time and the number of days was limited unless there was a reward system that for example paid 100% for sick time after 15 years on the job. Just as the military had its two class system of officers and enlisted -- corporations have two classes with the exempt status usually defining the division. We would have an important change in the corporation -- such as when Abbott spun off its HPD Division into a separate company called Hospira -- and the intial information would be provided to the salaried personnel in an 'exempt' meeting which was followed in time by 'non-exempt' meetings for those poor souls like myself who were paid by the hour. Some time after the new company was formed -- stock options were given to all employees who still remained with the company -- perhaps as compensation for the trauma of separation. But the options given to the 'exempts' were several times the number given to the 'non-exempts' and the exempts were further instructed to not reveal the details of what they received.

I read John DeLorean's memoir called 'On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors'. The title refers to the company name that appears on the skyscraper housing the corporation executive and management division. Just as I referred to the competing number systems of cardinals and ordinals in my introduction -- in all decisions relating to quality there are two competing systems of judgement -- qualitative evaluations and quantitative evaluations. DeLorean was the head of the Pontiac division of GM in the days of the GTO and Transam and was highly rated there because of the obviously apparent sales numbers and profit margins of these desireable vehicles (clearly quantitative). His success pushed him out of that position and into a vice-president or management position in the corporate tower. In the tower the numbers associated with Pontiac were now someone elses and to rise further in the corporate management structure another system superceded the numbers or quantitative values that he used to have associated with him. He titled the chapter on this issue 'The Un-Obvious Choice'. When an opening to move up appeared -- he did not get the promotion. It apparently went to someone who was clearly not as qualified as DeLorean but because of the intangibles of loyalty and identification with the superiors. DeLorean was a kind of Hollywood celebrity in his dress code but the guy who got the promotion apparently took his cue from his superiors. If they wore pin-striped button-down colar shirts -- that is what he wore. If they golfed -- he golfed -- you get the picture. The guy promoted personally knew he was less qualified but this gave him a reason to be extremely grateful -- and loyal -- to those who promoted him. When the judgement was divorced from actual numbers it leaves the field open to less concrete qualities -- amorphous and vague -- qualititive values.

I personally wrote or participated in writing over 100 validation reports of our manufacturing processes as supportive documents to show we had proper procedures and processes in the case of FDA auditing. To generate statistical proof for the process it was much easier and took a fraction of the number of tests and parts evaluated if you could use quantitative test numbers -- actual numbers that could tell the exact position within or out of accepted limits. It took many more parts and tests when numbers were not involved but if instead of numbers some type of pass or fail criteria were used. Some people I worked with understood the value of getting the actual numerical data and others cared only for the pass or fail aspect. Do the terms 'quantitative' and 'qualitative' have any significant differences in meaning to you? Success in moving up the food chain in your particular support system may rely on your portraying your value to your superiors and recognizing what systems they use to evaluate for promotions.

everyone has to make a living
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Quantitative vs qualitative observations.


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2. Everyone puts a spin on facts.

Similar to #1 in that getting everyone on the same track of thinking (yours of course) promotes your economic and personal peace of mind (unless you are some kind of a masochist). The point is that you should be skeptical of any person's motives and at least be aware that a particular spin may be put on facts. Fair and balanced is a nice objective but the reality is that it is basic human nature to have an opinion and favor the facts that support your opinion. That you may know of other contradictions to your set of facts does not require you to present those contradictions -- the basic human nature is to favor your facts. This can be related to different patterns of reasoning (see #52 below) but it is also a window into the slowly evolving or devolving basics of human relations. Consider the term 'romanticism'. It does not relate to the Roman origin of something but to the fact that at least some people believe that life should be like a fairy tale -- that is with a good ending and other people are 'realists' (not to be confused with the 'realists' of universalistic reasoning -- in the case of universalistic reasoning, a hypthetical idea becomes real and is believed as a fact). If you watch a movie or read a book and it ends badly for the characters or actors you have invested your feelings in -- in other words you wish the ending was a happier one -- you are being romantic. Some authors write their stories or scripts with a romantic ending or a realistic ending -- apparently based on their own world view. In his book on the history of western philosophy, Bertram Russell stated that 'romanticism' started with Rousseau's writings. He did not elaborate on the issue but it bothered me and I have done some research into this idea and it would appear that prior to Rousseau the basic education of people included the logic of the Greek philosophers which stressed skepticism. For some reason Rousseau's ideas allowed most people to suspend their disbelief and believe in the fairy tale endings for life in general. The basic belief systems reflected in the French Revolution, Marxism, and Facism relied upon a suspension of normal skepticism. With this in mind -- putting a spin on facts is not necessarily a bad thing as the person stressing or editing his facts may have nothing but good intentions. Is it propaganda when the person believes the propaganda he is regurgitating? My favorite cartoon character is Eek The Cat and his favorite philosphical statement is 'it never hurts to help' -- of course he always gets severely injured immediately after helping out.

When it comes to politics the spin is definitely there. Something to keep in mind is that there has been well over a hundred years of socialist and communist propaganda and it would be foolish to think it has not had an effect. It is not a bad thing to believe in a better world -- but to suspend much of your basic instinct for skepticism is not wise. The power of peer pressure on belief systems is not something to forget. Look at the conservatives in Hollywood like Clint Eastwood and Charleton Heston. I suspect that they had to keep their real politics under wraps until they had reached a significant level of stardom or they would have lost many movie roles. I remember reading an essay from a book of collected essays on general semantics and the topic of the essay dealt with romantic versus realist song lyrics. The romantic lyrics were those represented in pop music where ideal relationships are the normal topic. The article pointed out that 'blues' music was the opposite and that the lyrics in a blues song would indicate that a woman singer was just hoping for a 'good' man rather than a 'perfect' man. I can remember a personal story that perfectly illustrates romanticism versus skepticism. When I was single and went to organized social groups, I found something called the 'Card Dance'. The idea is great -- all of the single people pay a fee to the organizers and the dance is set up. The format is that the man gets a phone number of the woman and he buys her a corsage and picks her up and takes her to the dance and brings her home afterwards. The cards are given out at the dance and both the man and woman fill in each others names for the first and last dances and go out together for the first dance. During that first dance each of them has the opportunity to look around at other couples and before the second dance -- get the middle dances of the cards filled in. For the last dance they re-unite and the man drives the woman home. I don't remember the name of the girl I drew but I do remember much of the initial conversation we had and it had everything to do with romantic versus skeptical thinking. She apparently had a single sister that also signed up for the card dance but her escort did not just call up and ask for her address. He asked whether or not she had a bachelor's degree and when the answer was 'no' he apparently told her he could not take her and that he would ask the organizing committee for another girl's number until he found one that had a degree. The guy was apparently no longer a romantic and had been 'mugged' by life and was not going to waste his time on someone without an education and the means to support herself if the happy ending was unfulfilled. The girl and her sister apparently did not see the practicality of the man's position and preferred the romantic approach over his methodology. I don't remember my response but at the time I was supporting an ex-wife who had no education or meaningful job skills and I ended up providing all of the support her and for the six children of that marriage. My ex-wife managed to tranfer or 'spin' her world view on the four that chose to remain with her and like her, their education did not include a bachelor's degree before marriage. Ironically, she pursued a wealthy married man and after several years he divorced and married her -- but he had to pay an exorbitant amount of alimony and he did not marry her until she finished the LPN and RN degrees (bachelor level) which she dragged out for years. She never worked to support her children but after her marriage she was able to support what was important to her -- raising horses.

I would admit to having my own 'spin' in writing this set of ideas, articles, and essays -- that is to get anyone interested in reading them thinking about thinking. I would hope to influence people to do their own research and have the knowledge to recognize the 'spin' coming from others and to hopefully have some increased level of practical or skeptical thinking -- but don't skip taking the time to smell the flowers.

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