American culture, On the Internet, Psychology

Laws and Principles (Observational, Not Legal)

There are some laws and principles used in American journalism that are referenced very often. It’s presumed the audience knows them by their name.

Unlike Einstein and relativity, or Newton and gravity, I suspect everyone knows the ideas presented below, but not the man or woman behind them. These laws are not scientific, they are more behavioral observations.

I thought I’d devote a blogpost to summarizing a few of them here:

Dilbert Principle: Created by Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip. It says that companies promote the least talented employees while the most talented are stuck where they started. The most talented are so effective where they are, management doesn’t want to risk losing their output by moving them elsewhere.

Godwin’s Law: Created by Mike Godwin. It says the longer a discussion goes on, the likelihood someone will reference Hitler or Nazis, or compare someone or something to Nazis, reduces to 1.

Hofstadter’s Law: Dr. Douglas Hofstadter of observed this one. It says any activity takes longer than people originally think it will, even if those people take into account Hofstadter’s Law. 

Murphy’s Law: There wasn’t necessarily a “Murphy,” most likely it was a De Morgan. The gist of the law is, if it can go wrong, it will go wrong. [In the UK, this is called Sod’s Law.]

Pareto’s Law: Pareto was an Italian economist who noticed 80% of his peas came from 20% of his pods. Management consultant Joseph Juran created the law, and named it after Pareto. It says 80% of results come from the input of 20%. For example, companies find 80% sales come from 20% of customers.

Parkinson’s Law: Cyril Northcote Parkinson was a Naval historian who submitted a humor piece to The Economist in 1955, followed by two books on similar themes. His law says the amount of work expands to fill the time allowed to complete it.

A political spin on this idea is that bureaucracy will grow and grow unimpeded within an organization. Unfortunately, the more layers that exist, the less effective the whole thing becomes, and the more costly it is for the organization to do much of anything.

Parkinson’s Law of Triviality: Also the observation of Cyril Northcote Parkinson. The gist of the law: the more trivial the issue is, the more time is spent dwelling on it. The converse is also true, that difficult, complex, dangerous decisions are made in haste. 

Peter Principle: Introduced by Laurence J. Peter, it says that employees get promoted and continue to get promoted until they are barely effective, if not completely ineffective in their roles. 

Poe’s Law: Introduced by Nathan Poe on a Christian messageboard. The synopsis: Unless you accompany your humorous, sarcastic, kidding, or facetious posts online with an emoticon (later, emojis), or a phrase like *Sarcasm intended*, readers will assume you were serious about what you wrote. Without body language, voice inflection, or the benefit of knowing the other person’s humor, internet exchanges are prone to misunderstandings. Poe was originally talking about creationists, but the law has since bled over into any subject area discussed on the internet.

So, did I forget one of your faves? Please let me know and I can include it in a followup to this post. I will credit you for it, unless you tell me otherwise.

American culture, Just Musing, Public Service Message


Easy is often used in tandem with convenient.

Easy implies simplicity.

And if something isn’t hard, why not do it?

Aren’t we fools for not doing what comes easiest?

Actually, no, but it can seem that way at first.

Why not throw trash out the window of a moving vehicle? 

Why not eat drive thru or prepackaged food every day and night? 

Why not put off necessary responsibilities things when you’re not in the mood to do them?

Why not take the people in our lives for granted? 

Why learn new skills when your job pays pretty good and you never liked school before?

Why start working on a project early?

Why not stay in bed instead of going to work or school?

Why speak up when I might endure ridicule, embarrassment, or backlash? Who is even listening? What is the point?

Why not avoid confrontation?

All of the above “whys” are easy choices to make in the moment. But they’re not wise.

Easy isn’t censored, though it is, literally, a four-letter word. But like expletives (four letter words) that are censored, it should give us pause. Easy isn’t innocent or harmless. It’s effects are just slow to show themselves.

Taking the easy route is a shortcut to a pointless, wasted life.

American culture, In the Media, Time of the Season

Have you ever wondered why Black Friday is “Black”?

Every year, the day after Thanksgiving is “Black Friday” in the US. Have you ever wondered why Black Friday is black? Black is a color of many meanings, after all. So just which one applies here?

Black Friday is so named because it’s the day that many stores can finally “catch up” financially. In accounting, operating “in the red”* means operating at a loss, and operating “in the black” means operating in balance, or solvent. When a store is “in the black”, its debts are repayable. Hopefully, there’s even a profit being made.

TRIVIA SIDEBAR: When the Avengers’ Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johansson) says she “has a lot of red in her ledger” she’s also using an accounting metaphor. She saying that she used to be evil and did lots of bad things. As an Avenger, she’s trying to change that. She’s got a lot of catching up to do to make up for all the evil she’s done in her past. She’s trying to balance her karma and it could take the rest of her life to do it.

Back to Black Friday… It seems like the sales keep starting earlier and earlier in the day, some even start Thanksgiving night. Some diehard shoppers camp out overnight at electronics or suburban department stores to be first in line at the store’s opening to get the best deals. A worker at Walmart was even trampled to death on Black Friday in 2008. In recent years, cartoons and young family movies have started to debut at the cinema on Thanksgiving Day, too.

Black Friday is a 20th century development in the US. It has its origins with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924. The parade winds its way around blocks of New York City from 9am-12noon on Thanksgiving morning. The point of the parade was to be a dazzling spectacle, entertaining people first, then leading them straight to Macy’s to start their Christmas shopping. The parade ends with someone dressed as Santa in his sleigh.

Over the years, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has gotten bigger and bigger, and promotion for more than Macy’s has become part of the show.

  • Broadway features a handful of musical numbers to promote its newest shows before the parade, usually kid-friendly songs.
  • NBC promotes its shows via actors stopping to say “hi!” to the parade’s anchors; other networks do the same thing.
  • The parade anchors are hosts of a network’s daily morning news or other personalities
  • The balloons and floats in the parade feature popular children’s cartoon or gaming characters.
  • Sometimes the floats feature singers, most of them cater to the 15 (and under) age group, but some appeal to the parents and grandparents in the crowd as well. For instance, I recall (the late) Andy Williams being a part of the parade for several years when I was younger, now James Taylor and 1970s-1980s artists fit that bill. Typically all the artists performing at the Macy’s parade have an album out, or coming out very soon. Watching the parade on television was a Thanksgiving tradition in our house.
  • On a less commercial note, high school bands and cheerleading troupes from all over the US are also a part of the parade. It’s a once in a lifetime trip that is surely exciting for all involved.

With the arrival of online shopping, Cyber Monday arrived around 2005. It’s the Monday following Thanksgiving, and stores like Amazon offer amazing deals. Shoppers stay at home and shop from their screen. The crowds and the traffic are virtual. No trampling stampedes or wrestling over Cabbage Patch dolls here.

Whatever you do Black Friday, stay safe. Remember focused (silent, facedown phone) time with the most important people in your life is the best gift of all. It can’t be bought, it’s given, and it’s not forgotten.