Tryin’ Hard

It is generally conceded that the public is upset with its government. Yet things are better than they ever have been. Poverty is lower than it has ever been, more people are employed, the elderly are better provided for, inflation has been under control for twelve years, incomes are up for the rich and the poor, taxes are lower than ever, and opportunities abound. At the same time, crack cocaine, AIDS, crime, and assault weapons are available and plentiful. Drive-by shootings make the news regularly and some neighborhoods are terrorized. Policy issues such as abortion cause a choosing up of sides as never before. People feel so strongly about such issues, they are willing to kill others to get their way. A small minority of those eligible actually vote for their leaders and yet people are upset with the leaders selected. At the same time, illegal immigrants flood into the country, wanting at all costs the economic opportunities we have. Other nations abandon decades of revolution to adopt a political system like ours.

It’s enough to make a student of the situation cry in frustration. Perspective and maturity chooses laughter. But the yin and yang of life suggests one has to cry to enjoy laughter, and one must have perspective to appreciate when to laugh and when to cry.

Tryin’ Hard to Mellow Out provides enough fuel for either flame, and attempts to offer perspective through it all. It treats serious subjects in a decidedly unserious way: short vignettes of about a thousand words each.

This book is organized around four sections, to take the reader on a journey of commentary and thought leading to the destination of a conclusion of what to do. The four sections are:

  • Change, Governance, and Perspective
  • Help for Leaders and Followers
  • It’s a Strange World
  • Looking to the Future

An introduction to each of the sections follows.

Tryin’ Hard to Mellow Out is available as an eBook download.


Change, Governance, and Perspective is the title of this section and that of course attempts to describe what follows. The world sees a great deal of change occurring—the vanguard being technology, where technology changes a generation every eighteen months with an improvement in capacity by a scale of magnitude—and people’s ability to adapt to that change is not as quick. Just to learn to use that new technology requires a mental abandonment of old skills, at some risk, and some ambiguity about return on that risk. It usually involves some new cost, the avoidance of which raises new risks, that of falling behind and being unable to compete.

Yet our governance mechanisms do not respond other than as the generations change. The old story in the south in the sixties, where the father asked his son what was necessary for these integration problems to go away, and his son replied, “Daddy, your generation’s gotta die.”

Nothing so describes the problem with achieving change that I’ve seen than Thoreau’s apt definition: “People only believe what they already half-know.” That’s useful to understand change in people. There’s kind of a half-life to an idea that has to germinate a while for people to accept it–a means of assimilating the idea or concept into the individual’s idiolect. That occurs usually only after it has been forgotten to have been learned, and it pops back up as “I’ve got an idea.” Then it can be accepted. The half-know Thoreau described has be to in the back half, the forgotten half, of the mind.

Our governance structures, our leadership models, our ability to follow all need some change, some creativity applied, and some recommitment. But it also needs a considerable amount of perspective; all is not lost, nor is all bad. This section looks at these with an eye toward stimulating some thought while treating a mostly serious subject most lightly. And of course, anytime we look at governance and humans, there is someone taking themselves too seriously. As if it mattered. This entire book tries not to take any person too seriously but the subjects sometimes are. It fits the credo I’ve tried in my organizations of having fun while doing serious work.

The issues of candidacy and elections and how we go about evaluating and measuring performance, from the public through the private sector, and the differing standards we use, are all important to ponder. The impacts of federal financing and the lack of decision-making are worthy of comment and perspective. Morality of governmental leadership is always an issue and keeping perspective on past issues compared to todays is useful too. Then there are some perspectives from our past that help us frame the question so we may have an opportunity to create an answer.

Railroad Scale: to Measure Customer Service
The Important Candidate Questions: “Want a Big Mac or a Whopper?”
Error Scale: to Balance Bad and Good
Not Enough Credit Balances Blame
Point System for Clarity of Election Mandate
Our Kids are Paying Our Taxes
Myth: We Pay Our Way
Washington and the Budget
Political Party: Anachronism?
Missiles to Councils: How Truthful is Government
How Moral Do We Want Presidents to Be?
Society Learned from Hart
The Call from God
Gospel on TV
The Benefits of Star Wars
It’s Time for Change On Guns
Day the Myth Died a Day Away
Celebrate the Constitution



“We have met the enemy
—and he is us.”

— Pogo

Help for Leaders and Followers is a look at some of the issues current, decision-making constraints, some of the problems we face, and some of the solutions.

There is consensus that a fairly serious crisis of leadership exists in this country. It’s not just at the national level; it’s at the local level, the state level, and regionally. Revised perspectives can be useful in providing better leadership.

A multitude of books have been written about how some organizations provide wonderful examples of charismatic leaders conversion of the masses to a smoothly running organism with honors and kudos to all involved. Others about innovative systems installed that controlled behavior so well that a smoothly running organization resulted with honors and kudos to all involved. Still more books are out there about how important it is to empower the individuals to make their own decisions, resulting in a smoothly running organism with great results, honor, and kudos, etc.

There are no answers that work everywhere for everyone in all situations.

“Only he deserves power who
every day justifies it.”

—Dag Hammarskjold

We have many problems yet unsolved. How to deal with homelessness, crime, drugs, and guns are intractable, societal problems, unable to be dealt with at the neighborhood or local level. We’re not even sure they can be dealt with regionally or on a statewide level, open movement able to thwart any control mechanisms contemplated.

How to get agreement on some course of action is very difficult on the conflicting moral imperatives that exist: abortion, right-to-life, control of one’s own body, the right-to-die, family values, pornography, free speech, sex education. Compromise is not amenable for many on these, and following a leader who disagrees with our individual position is not acceptable. People who feel strongly about these issues sometimes use them as the basic litmus test for support; some people say, “if he will vote right on abortion, I figure he’ll vote right on other issues too.” A host of supposed leaders is ready, willing, and able to demagogue each side on each issue. Fewer and fewer leaders argue the need to compromise on such issues, suggesting leaving perhaps some of the decision to the courts, because each knows there will be no supporters, no followers for that–what we normally would call in this country–reasonable approach. Single-issue supporters are no longer willing to consider any position other than their own as reasonable.

“In matters of conscience, the law of the majority
has no place.”


Cognitive dissonance is the academic term for holding two conflicting thoughts at the same time, and our society is holding several. As we saw in the last section, where the morality of truth in our government is a strong value held, we know further that presidents probably need to have more options for decision-making than mere open-ness and truth.

How to deal with these situations today needs some thought–but perspective also needs some humor. This section attempts all three.

Real Leaders Don’t Pay Attention to the Media
They Play for the Long Season
Wimp Scale: Measure of Effectiveness of Leadership
Plausible Deniability
Charisma in Leaders: Government by Seduction
History Made by Doomsday Computer Leadership
FUTSY: The Parliamentary Overlay: Leadership by Referenda
Hard Choices and No Choices
Political and Moral Lessons from Tuskegee
Carl Sagan Did It



It´s a Strange World Today is filled with both as the unusual connections between us all are observed.


Universe Revealed in Daily Life
Open and Shut Case: Openers Don’t, Closers Won’t
It Used to be By the Book, Now It’s By the Numbers
The Anomalies: Answers are Easy; But What are the Questions?
Causes and Commitments: I Brake for Animals and Other
The Hunt for Sasquatch is On Again
Get the Telemarketer!
Searching for Secretaries
Base-Calls: A Solution to Labor Disputes
Sports and Violence on TV
Subliminals Are Upon Us
You Can See A Lot By Looking
Colorblindness Makes Me See Red
“And then I wish I had said…”
Phone Service Catch 22
Pronounce the Diphthongs
Get Up and Change the Sheets
Put Down the Toilet Seat?



“Never make predictions
—especially about the future.”

—Old Chinese Proverb

Looking to the Future is the name of the section that attempts to chart where we are going from where we have been. We can see some events that are single occurrences and nothing can be learned from them, save that they happened. If another event can be related to it, then the two may become data points on a trend line. From a series of trends we may infer where the world is going and from that conclude what we should do to serve that direction–or to change it. The future is somewhat knowable, somewhat createable, and therefore lays the justification that it needs to be visited now. We needn’t go blindly where no one has gone before, but with some preparation. And if we trend toward the undesired, then we can change those trends to the more desired.

“Make no little plans.
They have no magic to stir men’s blood…”

— Daniel Burnham

Inventions need creativity and creativity in turn needs imagination. Peter Drucker says we “animate by ideas” and to some extent this section does that, offering an idea here and another there–not so much to sell the idea as to stimulate toward a course of thinking. That course is of course “rethinking” or changing from the conventional wisdom–what’s called the current paradigm–to a new paradigm, so it then becomes the conventional wisdom.

The way we look at things and then express them has been called our idiolect, defined as an individual’s speech pattern, but more than that, it is how our intellect thinks about a thing and then how we use our idioms to express it. The creative process needs new expressive patterns to be freed up and to function. This section attempts to give some new phrases and expressions to free up creativity.

“There are two kinds of forecasters:
Those who don’t know what’s going to happen, and
Those who don’t know they don’t know what’s going to happen.”

—John Kenneth Galbraith

The Inventions We Need
The Four Possible Futures Help Decision-making
Vandal Park: An Anti-Graffiti Strategy
The Endowed City
Urban Ecology for Our Cities
The Preposition Proposition
Look Out for Sexist Signs
In the Future Lies Gender Confusion
Newscasters Speaking in Tongues: All or None
Trend-Searching: The Newest Game
Spare Me from TV Counseling
The Hope of Magic

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