Bad Advice: The New Man Edition

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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42 Responses

  1. Doctor Jay says:

    My biggest problem with this kind of thing is the “either this or that” presentation. I prefer the strategy of “never subtract, only add”. There’s nothing wrong with hunting, but learning to cook for yourself is very valuable. Why tell people to stop hunting?

    This carries all the way through. To most people who are disciplinarians, it’s about maintaining standards of behavior. That’s ok, but learning to communicate in addition is also valuable.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      The thing is, the author believes he is subtracting things that cause/are associated with toxic masculinity, but he never actually makes that case. He just assumes that everyone will accept the truth of that.Report

  2. Mike Dwyer says:

    As one of the commenters on the article puts it, it appears most of the articles on are now written for some deal of the perfect Beta Male. Doctor Jay explains it correctly above. You can be good at decorating your house AND knowing how to fix things. You can prefer to resolve things peacefully and still know how to defend yourself. Etc, etc.

    Not one to put much stock in the cause of feminism, even I am also a bit offended that they assume all of those are exclusively male skills to begin with.Report

  3. Point one is laughable; the vast majority of hunters (or fisherman, for that matter) can prepare their game for eating really, really well and usually in a variety of ways.Report

    • Marchmaine in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

      I hunt because I cook… I bought property to raise animals to process because I cook. What’s also strange is that the ratio of cooking to Hunting/Processing is very large… I cook far more often… so always start with cooking – which might just lead you to Hunting and Shepherding.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    From what I understand, “emotional labor” originally referred to how McDonald’s employees aren’t paid enough to smile at the register rather than how girlfriends need to be recognized for listening to their boyfriends open up to them.

    How it has evolved into complaining about men talking about their feelings is really, really freakin’ interesting.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird says:

      Of the junk food we get, the place where the help seems to be consistently cheerful and smiling is Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake pizza. Now and then I ask them about it. The last time, the young woman gave me a big smile and said, “No ovens, no dealing with delivery drivers, and I still get to put a reasonable amount of toppings on so it’s a decent pizza.” I had heard the first two before but the last one was new.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Michael Cain says:

        There’s much to be said for not being alienated from your own labor.

        (The first time I went to Papa Murphy’s, I ordered a pepperoni pizza and the guy asked me if it was my first time there and I answered “yeah” and he said “I’ll take care of ya” and he put together a pizza that probably would have cost me an additional five bucks if I had answered “nah, I’m here all the time.” He put the amount of pepperoni on it that a five-year old would have asked for.)Report

    • If minimum wage kept pace with the payouts/bonuses to oligarchs, min wage would be $33/hour.

      I’d smile all the ding-donged day working 40/hrs a week for those wages.Report

  5. greginak says:

    You could power a small city for this weekend with the heat from burning this pile of garbage. So simplistic and trite. Yeah the good things to add are good but the false dichotomies are, well, false.Report

  6. Michael Cain says:

    Learn to Code

    It is getting harder to answer the question “What language?” and somewhat simpler to answer the question “What environment?” There have been a plethora of new languages in the last several years: Go, Rust, Swift, Dart, Kotlin, etc. For a given language, the number of environments in which it can be run is steadily increasing. The browser environment in particular has seen many older languages made available through tools like WebAssembly: Python, PHP, C/C#/C++, Perl.Report

    • I for one support more people learning PHP and HTML to help us out.Report

      • And CSS. HTML and PHP are imperative, and you can (for the most part) follow the order of execution and find where something goes wrong. CSS is declarative and the problem can be anywhere, subject to all of the obscure priority rules. The whole thing with <i> and <b> not working in comments on the new version of the site was missing CSS declarations.

        I estimate the State of the Discussion CSS could be about half its current size if all of the redundant, overlapping, excessively-special-case statements were cleaned up. But I’m sort of terrified at the prospect of starting through that.Report

    • George Turner in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Fads. All fads.

      Young’uns should stick with FORTRAN and COBOL because those almost guarantee a job. If they get all uppity about structure, they can use Pascal.

      *finds a Sourceforge link*

      A 32/64/16-bit Pascal compiler for Win32/64/CE, Linux, Mac OS X/iOS, FreeBSD, OS/2, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo NDS and DOS;

      *snort* OS/2 compatible. The latest OS/2 release was 17 years ago.Report

      • J_A in reply to George Turner says:

        Young’uns should stick with FORTRAN and COBOL because those almost guarantee a job. If they get all uppity about structure, they can use Pascal

        A good friend of mine joined IBM as a young’un about 20 years ago and was taught some very obscure old language that was used to build data bases in the 60s and early 70s that only run in those mainframes that fill a warehouse

        As it happens, like every large and mid size bank, insurance company, etc., in the country, and abroad, has one of those data bases, and the people that know this language are vanishingly small. My friend spent years travelling all over the USA and internationally, working 80 hours a week, devising and applying patches to make sure the financial system wouldn’t collapse. Until he was the one who collapsed from exhaustion, and resigned.

        It took him 24 hours to find another job, with the Social Security Administration. He keeps devising and applying the same patches, but most days in PJs from his house.

        I shudder about my retirement if my friend retires. I’m not confident, from talking with him, that the SSA has anyone else that can do what he does.

        tl/dr: Hell yeah, go FORTRAN!!Report

        • Michael Cain in reply to J_A says:

          Out of curiosity, I googled for Fortran jobs here in Colorado. There are a (surprising) number of openings. Applicants best have a math degree to go with their mad Fortran skills. Many of the openings where Fortran is mandatory specify a second language that is desirable. Python seems to be the most common.Report

        • George Turner in reply to J_A says:

          When I was setting up IBM Research Triangle Park PC production line (which was initially just going to be me, but because of their binders full of production rules I was expanded into include a team of ten), they painted themselves into a corner. They needed their RS/6000 AIX (Unix) box to talk to a some derivative of an IBM 370. Making the connection required some piece of mainframe software, possibly called “DataQueues” or something even more obscure.

          So IBM management sent out the call, and only about three people knew how to set it up. So IBM RTP was billed $2,000 an hour by some company with former IBM folks in California, who flew their guy out for a couple of days to get it working.

          A bit later in the project they needed to communicate some PC serial # and model # to the mainframe computer that handled shipping. The shipping mainframe knew which IBM distributor is supposed to get which PC on which truck, but the mainframe couldn’t handle TCP/IP, much less Unix sockets. After some months they decided to print a 3D barcode on each box down in the boxing area, and then convey the box 15 feet up to the shipping mezzanine, where they installed a $100,000 high speed 3D barcode scanner to read the information they’d just printed and send it serially to the mainframe. That probably wasn’t cheap either, because I’d done jobs where we sent barcode data to an AS/400 and the serial port card cost $10,000. To meet manufacturing rules, they had to have a spare 3D barcode scanner, and along with the automatic labeling machines, the price of the paper connection was about a quarter million. That was considered cheaper than getting our RS/6000 to talk to the shipping mainframe.

          I was stuck at that site for a year, and sometimes in the evenings when I’d go back to the hotel there would be an IBM ad on TV where they said they were the connectivity company. I would always laugh hysterically at those.

          That factory was later sold to Lenovo. The Chinese tried to run it for a year or two, realized that whatever was going on was apparently worse than Soviet productivity standards, and just locked the doors and walked away.

          But all the IBM specialists who knew some obscure piece of mainframe software made out like bandits.Report

          • Marchmaine in reply to George Turner says:

            Interesting… about 17 years ago, I think I sold that IBM group in RTP a TCP/IP monitor for the OS/390… for the purpose of tracking all the UPC Barcodes in what was back then an aging system. It was memorable because at the time IBM had a competing product, but they wanted ours… so we had to work out some clever business arrangements to do it.

            I still tell the young sales guys that nothing was better than the old MVS – OS390 days when software simply worked… not like all these PC/UNIX/Windows platforms that just piss and shake like over-bred dogs. Now I’ve (mostly) moved past installing on UNIX/Windows and much of what we offer is “in the cloud” — which just means that the pissing/shaking over-bred dogs are *our* problem and not the customer’s… which is A-OK from a sales perspective.Report

            • George Turner in reply to Marchmaine says:

              That was probably it! OS/390 sounds familiar. We were taking barcode information into an RS/6000, which is trivial because UNIX basically thinks everything is a serial port. But their business side also wanted the barcode information so their mainframes could do their thing, and I think we’d given up on passing that on to them directly from our RS/6000. So someone came up with another solution and I wasn’t part of that loop.

              Among all of IBM’s other problems in adapting their old IBM management methods to the dynamic PC industry, they hadn’t updated their distribution model to reflect market realities. All IBM PC’s were shipped to IBM distributors on regular trucks, so there was no UPS or FedEx from the production line to the customer’s door. Any PC’s that the distributors didn’t manage to sell after a few years were shipped back to IBM, which paid the distributors the full list price of the computer, as if the price of a particular PC model never drops no matter how obsolete it is. As a result, there was a vast warehouse in RTP that was storing all the PC Jr’s that IBM never sold. It was a huge building full of boat anchors that any sane company would have sold for scrap.

              As for the database, I’ll bet it was IBM’s Db2 and a dedicated database language, DL/I, along with SQL, of course.

              As an aside, IBM named SQL “SQL” because Hawker SIddley (founded by Thomas Sopwith of Sopwith Camel fame, who lived to the ripe old age of 101) owned the trademark to the word “Sequel”. His company, through a chain of mergers and acquisitions, is also a partner in the F-35 program, so in a way we’re flying a Sopwith Lightning, which is kind of amusing.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to George Turner says:

                Yeah, that sounds like they problem they were trying to solve… we just provided the TCP/IP monitoring because (IIRC) there were all sorts of fingers pointing at where exactly the transactions were getting lost. My MF guys were 100% sure it was the mid-range/unix slapdash coding… but I never heard the end result. My job was done.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Marchmaine says:

                Yep. There was some slapdash coding! Thankfully it wasn’t mine.

                When the project first started I was going to use popular commercial software and some C to run the conveyor lines. Within a week a grey-haired IBM manager came to a meeting and said we had to use IBM’s C compiler, because there was a rule that if IBM had an equivalent to an outside product, manufacturing had to use it.

                So we got to spend time with IBM’s C compiler on an OS/2 machine. Their ‘C’ compiler is interesting. If you select “Help” it just says “Lorne Parson’s hates this.” It wasn’t nearly ready for a beta release, much less a major project.

                So after a long while they ditched that idea and went with an RS/6000 and some other software. Sadly, that software was version 1.3 or something, and they have a rule that no software version less than 2.0 can be used in manufacturing.

                So they went with some other obscure option, and then they brought in a team of programmers with some experience in it to deal with coding, one of whom didn’t speak English. He turned out to be a Chinese spy who was only there to try and access other IBM facilities in RTP. Things kept going downhill.

                So my company’s initial idea to go with a few man-months of programming morphed into IBM’s internal approach that stretched into about 20 or 30 man-years, finally wrapping up about two years behind schedule.

                When they first realized they were going to be at least several months behind schedule, they asked if I could write a PC program to control the manufacturing lines until the real software systems were done. I said “sure” and had the factory running in two days. My interim software didn’t hit any databases and fed them all the barcodes as a text file that they could feed to their other systems as they wished. But the PC’s were going out the door, and on time.

                I have so many amusing horror stories from that job.Report

            • …nothing was better than the old MVS – OS390 days when software simply worked…

              So long as the software you wanted was available in an appropriate sort of package. I was at Bell Labs when UNIX came out of research and into general use. One of the biggest uses initially was as a Remote Job Entry system for the big IBM mainframes — submit a batch job from this file, have output wind up in that file, but with the much friendlier* interactive UNIX environment for editing, documenting, e-mail, etc.

              Under pressure from the part of the engineering staff that eventually wanted to do everything in one environment, UNIX was ported as a guest operating system under VM (the initial “UNIX on big iron”). PDP-11s might support a dozen users at once**; it was a surprise to run the “who” command and get a list of a couple hundred.

              Geez, am I old.

              * “Friendlier” came in several parts for a place that was engineer- and programmer-heavy. The text editors were easier and more powerful; there were dozens of little existing tools for manipulating files; it was easy to build new little tools.

              ** Unless one of them was me on a day when I was doing numeric stuff. Early on, UNIX machines tended to be I/O bound. I found out at one point that the computer center staff sometimes referred to me as “the one-man load balancer.”Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Michael Cain says:

                “So long as the software you wanted was available in an appropriate sort of package”

                Well, that was kinda the thing… for a little while we had to worry about Hitachi flavors of MVS and one other (I forget)… but they were all fundamentally IBM clones… so support was for MVS-OS/390 IBM with maybe some variation for a machine or two.

                AS/400, RS/6000 midranges (which many software vendors mostly ignnored) and then UNIX in all their branched idiosyncrasies played havoc on Software support and made my life miserable until LINUX (mostly) killed them all.

                Oh, you are on HPUX on what hardware socket set? Oh, yeah, that particular combo isn’t supported… but HPUX on mainline hardware works like a champ (he said optimistically). SUN? Uh, sure, works great… is Oracle still supporting it? No? Windows…? (stops laughing) yep, supported… No, I can’t promise your servers won’t fail and you’ll have to reboot several times during a week. Did I mention that the mainframe IPL is scheduled months in advance?Report

              • In the early days of HPUX, they were notorious for putting critical files in slightly different places than regular UNIX did, and other oddities. OTOH, I really loved the reliability of the hardware they were building at that point.

                One of the oddities was that their C compiler grew the stack in the opposite direction as everyone else. Back when C++ was still C with Classes, I got stuck with porting it to HPUX. I got to call Bjarne Stroustrup and chastise him for hard-coding the direction of stack growth into his code. For at least a while, my name was mentioned in the comments.Report

      • A former employer of mine used COBOL specifically because they were willing to train programmers but wanted to train them in a language they would have difficulty using in another job.Report

        • George Turner in reply to Will Truman says:

          Probably the weirdest leap a modern programmer has to make when going back to some of the early ones like COBOL is that the code is column sensitive. For example, it’s really important whether the text started in column 7 or in column 8. Needless to say, such languages predate the idea of indenting for readability or to reflect control structures.

          But perhaps the most primitive, obsolete language still in widespread use is G-code used on CNC machines and robots. They way I would describe it is to have you list a hundred or so things a machine could do, off the top of your head, neglecting about half the useful things you didn’t think of but including a bunch of crazy ideas that nobody would ever use. Then number those hundred things. The programming language is the list of those almost randomly assigned numbers.

          Cut a circle clockwise? G02 X__ Y___ I___ J___ F___, where X and Y are where you’re going, I and J are the center point, and F is the feed rate. It assumes you’re already at the start point. A counter-clockwise circle? G03. Switch from English to metric? G21. Tap a hole? G84. Tap a reverse threaded hole? Oh no! All the integers are already taken, so invent decimal commands like G84.3!

          You’d think that many, many decades ago someone would have implemented the idea those commands should be called something like “circle” and “tap”, but sadly, no. It’s like they’re afraid to waste extra vacuum tubes on the processing power it would take parse a word.

          And there are a ton of job openings for G-code programmers, even though almost all modern CAD/CAM software generates it automatically, as if it was PostScript.Report

  7. Pinky says:

    The author may think he’s saying “don’t have these skills”, but he’s really saying “don’t be the kind of person who has these skills”. None of them are obsolete, but thinking you can get by on just those seven is unrealistic. I’ll probably never have to hunt.

    Auto repair is a tough one; the wrench and primer sides still matter, but when you get into more serious problems, you practically have to be a coder, or at least able to run computer diagnostics.

    For my part, I can be a mediator because I can fight. It’d be nice if that weren’t the case, but mediation doesn’t always work, and the mediator is going to be a lot more confident if he’s got a backup plan. The same relationship holds for being a communicator (but able to discipline), expressing your emotions (but being able to master them), and collaborating (while being able to steer a group when that would lead to the best result).

    The only flat-out stupid thing on this list is preferring to decorate over repair. You can decorate to your tastes, but repair deals with objective reality. A good repairman can move things around to his liking after things are fixed. A good decorator without repair skills is in trouble. I guess you can redecorate your place all the time after your toilet floods, but you’d be better off learning how to fix your toilet. Really, this was such a bad example for his article. He could have gone with a whole soft-power theme and been free of criticism. Instead, with this one piece of advice, he opened himself to a whole “be ineffective but make things look nice” angle that undermines all his other points.Report

  8. Tod Kelly says:

    I suspect that a lot of this is a generational thing. I was taught all of the “old” things here growing up, and literally non of the “new” things — because when I was a kid it was the assumption with a lot of American families that learning the “new” skills somehow was effeminate.

    As an example, people seem to be scoffing at the idea that it might be better to learn how to cook that learn how to hunt — that’s actually pretty solid advice, aside from a very small minority of people living in very particular sets of circumstances. And I say this as someone who *was* taught to hunt at an early age, and was sent out into the world with not a single instruction from either parent about how to cook anything – or likely ever thought it would be a good idea to do so.

    Also, I’m not sure where other people have worked in their lives, but I think the stuff about collaboration and not being a disciplinarian is advice that a whole lot of people who are in management have yet to learn. Same with pretty much everything on this list, the author’s not quite understanding what the definition of the word leadership is notwithstanding.

    Except the thing about don’t learn how to fix things at home, learn to decorate instead. That’s just weird.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with someone who was an actual leader and didn’t know how to collaborate. It might be possible, but I’ve got to figure it’s rare. (Actually, you may be making the same point with your comment about the author not understanding the word.) There are plenty of people in management who are neither leaders nor collaborators. but they’re more incompetent in general rather than people who don’t understand how to collaborate.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I had an odd upbringing, I guess. Dad and I hunted and fished. Mom cooked. But when I got up to about age 10, it was Dad who said, “Everyone should be able to cook. You’re tall enough that you won’t hurt yourself on the burners. We’ll start with breakfast.” Some of it was that he spent time as a brakeman for the railroad — cooking in the caboose was one of the brakeman’s responsibilities. He was also in the Navy and certainly all of his stories about good and bad food involved male cooks.

      Myself, in terms of my wife and kids and colleagues, my attitude has always been, “Anything that’s drudgery — cooking, fixing the car, the annual forecast for whatever — I teach you how to do is one less thing I have to do, and I can learn something new.” Where does laziness and boredom fit into this?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      All you need to decorate is one of those pictureframes that holds four LP albums holding the four solo albums from the members of KISS.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      My parents followed the Heinlein quote, the one about specialization being for insects. What that became in practice was, “Everything is worth learning how to do if it helps you be a better person.”

      Honestly the weird thing about the article is not the alternatives, it’s the idea that the pairings are somehow mutually exclusive.Report

    • I don’t think people are “scoffing” at the advice to learn to cook or at most of the other advice (decorating perhaps excepted). I think it’s more that people are suggesting the list presents some false dichotomies. I do agree though that for most, or at least for me, learning too cook has been more important than learning to hunt would have been.

      From my jobs, I’ve noticed management is usually a combination of both discipline and collaborate. Discipline seems to have been more favored for those lesser skilled jobs where the output of widgets was most important. Collaboration seemed more prevalent when employees needed to exercise more independent thought. I do think the “widget” jobs could probably have done with more collaboration, and some of the better managers knew how to thread that needle while others not so much.

      I do think point 7 does well with Will’s gloss on it. It’s possible to be too expressive of emotions and it’s possible to hold things in too much. It depends on the when and the how (and the why…..sometimes being more expressive can be a way to manipulate people).Report

  9. Learn to cook. Why hunt if you don’t know how to cook? Kudos.

    Learn meditation. Fighting’s a perpetuation of manchild syndrome, which is evident with the persistent superhero genre and “nerd culture” being foisted upon America maintaining prevalent infantilization. Men think, then talk it out. Children fight.

    Repairing your car. Learn to code? Sure, if you have a Tesla then learning to code might be helpful. Knowing the basics of auto mechanicery will get one far, especially if Bad Things happen. Plus one can save money on repairs.

    Fixing things at home. Dude. It’s not about being manly or post-meta by decorating without a sense of irony. Learning to fix stuff is important rather than shopping it out to someone else.

    Learn how to collaborate. A fine idea.

    Learn to communicate. Another fine idea, especially since “men” as we know them do not communicate.

    Express yourself. Seriously.

    Two outta seven ain’t bad.Report