Fear vs Danger, How to Avoid Huge Ships, and Other Pitfalls of Modern Life

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David Ryan

David Ryan is a boat builder and USCG licensed master captain. He is the owner of Sailing Montauk and skipper of Montauk''s charter sailing catamaran MON TIKI You can follow him on Twitter @CaptDavidRyan

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11 Responses

  1. Avatar Kim says:

    I have the same thing about signalling. Hate saying
    “look how much money I have, I can afford a MK purse!”Report

    • Avatar Roger Ferguson in reply to Kim says:

      I don’t even know what an MK purse is, an element of ignorance that has now made my day! (As a young boy I was signaling-averse without even knowing what that was: I carefully removed the little alligators from the shirts that were supposed to be part of my uniform.) With age I have come to realize that the trick is in focusing on functional utility rather than how things will be perceived by others. I don’t wear logo stuff, but do have boat shoes that others might recognize. And my car looks like crap but is a blast to drive.Report

  2. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    As you point out, signaling is sometimes a means of survival. You signal another ship at sea to avoid a collision. You signal goods for services available to induce others to transfer that money to you, and thus feed yourself and your family. But brand name labels on things you own do not serve this function. They are signals of superiority; they signal a desire for strokes to the ego, not for food in the belly. I suspect that part of the basis of your disquiet at the more-expensive deck shoes comes from the fear that you are misusing your ability to signal, as well as the deviation from your habit of preferring functionality to Veblenism. This is not the case, for sometimes goods of a particular quality are only available concurrently with the prestige signal.Report

    • Avatar David Ryan in reply to Burt Likko says:

      This is some of it, but not all of it. A brief and incomplete response:

      Prestige brands are no longer a reliable indicator of quality. We have a Bosch fridge (wife found floor model at a huge discount) with a dead ice maker. My Honda motors are reliable enough, but not trouble free. I have no confidence that my just purchased Sperry Topsiders will hold up any better than the Payless Shoes version I wore last year.

      To a certain degree I prefer functionality to Veblenism (I had to look it up) but also I put no small amount of effort into signaling that signaling isn’t important to me. On the balance this has worked well for me and my family. Our income has always been quite modest, but we are asset and life-style rich.

      But this winter two things have emerged in my consciences. One has to do with the self-promotion thing; just because a lot of people who self-promote are assholes doesn’t mean you have to be an asshole when you self-promote. Similarly, just because a lot of people end up doing status signaling in a way that is ultimately contrary to their/their family’s long term financial interest doesn’t mean you have to do this sort of signaling in a way that is self-harming. I think I’ve reached a point of diminishing returns concerning myself with how concordant this brand or that brand is with my sense of self.

      Also, where Tony Comstock’s movies were concerned there was a deliberate effort to scrub the movies of any sort of “tell” that would help guide the audience to the conclusion I wanted them to reach. That, with the benefit of hindsight, was a mistake, and not one I want to repeat.

      More later. For now it’s back to the (very frustrating) removal and replacement of a magnetic starter switch on Mon Tiki’s port side engine. I should have been nicer to Matthew Crawford.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to David Ryan says:

        Prestige brands are still an indicator of quality. However, many formerly prestigious brands are now being stripmined (Progresso), so one should always question assumptions.

        Bodum, Behmor, Mountain hardware — all good brands.Report

    • Avatar Roger Ferguson in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Signaling affects conduct as well. Does a gentleman stand when a lady enters the room as a gesture of respect (for tradition or the lady), or to show that he is a gentleman? Does one not stand upon the entrance of a lady in order to signal defiance of rules he may perceive as oppressive? The dilemma presented by the example of the boat shoes applies to much of life. In David’s case, at least, there is an independent reason to use his choice of boat shoes to “signal” to his customers that he is capable and competent and that their safety is assured. I don’t pick up clients in my crappy car for their sense of well being, not for mine (although indirectly they may be one and the same in that instance).Report

      • Avatar David Ryan in reply to Roger Ferguson says:

        Yes, sort of. I take peoples trust and safety seriously, and I’ve never had much trouble with the various ways — clothing, manner, etc. — that one communicates professionalism. There’s a certain bearing one can and should affect that completely overwhelms any sort of brand choice about footwear. If you can’t muster that, expensive shoes aren’t going to raise anyone’s confidence level.

        Cruising Mon Tiki solo this winter is another matter. A discerning eye might make the Honda throttle controls at the con, or the Dyneema rigging, but otherwise what you would see is an well-made, but not fussy, entirely hand-made craft utterly devoid of any sort of branding at all, with a wild-haired middle aged man wearing a thrift store sweater (cashmere!) and a K-mart brand PFD.

        As it happened, I found a Columbia wind-breaker and sweater combo at TJ Max just before I left last Fall, and it was remarkable how much easier that made things for people I ran into along the way.Report

  3. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    It is remarkable how blasé we can get about daily risks. If some new thing had anything like the death toll of automobile transportation, we would freak right out – if the thing came from abroad, we’d go to war, if it was local we’d declare a “war on [thing]”, both of which would probably do more harm than the thing itself, but at least the harm would be of a more familiar sort.Report

    • Avatar Lyle in reply to dragonfrog says:

      But contrary wise, what was the accident an injury rate when one rode a horse or in a horse drawn carriage? In particular in 1900, as I suspect today both are safer. Horse are know to bolt in situations where they get scared and if riding one might get the ride of ones life. Were even early autos more dangerous than horse powered transport?Report

  4. Avatar Jim Heffman says:

    It might just be that with the sailboat you were the captain, able to make decisions that influenced the outcome. In the van’s passenger seat there was nothing you could do. This has been shown to have a strong effect on stress response. And when you’re an airliner passenger, not only are you not in control of anything but you can’t even see where you’re going.

    Moreover, there are the possible consequences of an incident. A car wreck that results in 100% destruction of both vehicles is survivable; in fact, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll suffer only minor injuries that don’t require hospitalization. On the other hand, there’s a 25% chance of dying in any airplane accident that results in structural damage, and a near certainty of severe injury (the Asiana folks got lucky because they were low and slow, which was the whole reason for the accident, but most of them went to the hospital and some are still there.)

    Air travel incidents stand out because the consequences are more severe. And that, too, is a valid method of risk analysis–in fact, more valid than just looking at the basic probability of an incident. Death has a higher weight than minor injury. (That said, this is how we get those calculations that show you have a higher probability of dying from an asteroid impact than of getting cancer or whatever.)Report

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