The Democracy Pie Eating Contest: Stuck

Hey, I get it. You know it’s a pie eating contest and you are stuck at a party you don’t belong to. As much as you’d like to be at the other party, doing your part, eating that pie, it’s just not where you are.

So, you are thinking it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to participate in the contest. You can eat any pie you want. And, as long as you don’t eat the pie at the party you’re stuck at, you’re not helping them with winning the contest so why does it matter. No harm, no foul.

You are likely correct. Because this contest is designed as a winner takes all game, one person deciding not to play does not really affect the ultimate outcome.

But, sometimes we do things for deeper reasons. For instance, because it “doesn’t matter” in the grand scheme of things you’re not forced to have the pie they serve you at either party. You can choose any pie you want. You can pick your own pie. One that you like best. Perhaps picking your own pie is a reason; it’s a message that you are opting out of the entire idea of pie eating contests or even the idea that the contest should be limited to only two parties. Yay you!

But here’s the thing… As nice as it might sound to flip the bird to both of them while eating your delicious pie, the truth is no one cares about it. While you feel satisfied, ultimately those calories are empty and meaningless and do nothing to make either party care what the hell you eat or even what you might want to eat in the future.

You know what the party you’re stuck at does care about? You know what sends a stronger message and lets them know you are there, in protest, flipping them the bird? You know what really gets under their skin? You know what makes the party you’d like to be a know you still give a care about helping them out and, in turn, makes them care about you?

Eat the same flavor of pie from the party you want to be at. Even if it doesn’t help win the contest. Eat the pie while looking at the people from the party you’re at in the eye, smiling at them, enjoying every delicious moment. Make them uncomfortable. Even offer to give some to a couple of people at that party when they pass by. Tell them where they can get more (at the other party in the contest) if they like it (they sure seem to love Infrastructure Pie, even if they don’t believe it when you tell them who made it) . Make that your reason for eating that pie instead.

Isn’t that more satisfying and delicious than living with the knowledge that no one cares what pie you eat?

The Democracy Pie Eating Contest

Democracy, as it exists in America in the year 2024, is like a pie… Let me explain…

Despite no parties existing when it was founded, there are — for any practical purpose you can muster — two parties now. And those parties have to share a pie.

Due to the natural balance that eventually (inevitably?) occur in such circumstances, that pie has been sliced down the middle and each party gets to eat half. It’s a contest. Everyone must finish eating their pie. Whichever party eats the most pie wins.

Let’s say there are an equal number of people at each party. Let’s say that number is ten. Ten people to eat half of a pie. Not a lot to go around for sure. But, let’s make sure everyone gets a slice.

Let’s say that there are some people in your party who are not really into the pie they have. Maybe there are people that don’t like that flavor or the texture is a little bit off. Maybe they want to just check out what the other party has going on and they decide to go join them and take their pie… Now, one party eats more pie. That party wins.

Let’s say that 2 of the ten people at the party hate pie. They detest it. They decide they are not eating the pie… Then, the other party wins.

Let’s say one person in one party is able to convince two people in the other party that the pie is rotten and they shouldn’t eat it and get them to throw it out. Then, the one person’s party will eat more pie and will win.

See how this works?

I would love to live in a world where everyone can eat or not eat or give away or have more pie and walk away feeling that is the way it should work.

It doesn’t. It’s a pie eating contest and if you decide not to eat the pie your party host serves, you then are putting the potential of winning that pie eating contest in jeopardy for everyone at your party. No matter how fair that is, that’s the way it works.

So, I guess what I’m trying to do is to get everyone to understand that they should eat their pie.

The Three Legged Horses

I had a tabletop a that I wanted to use for extra work surface in our office loft but I needed some legs for it. I didn’t want anything permanent just yet, mainly something quick and dirty to try it on for size. I knew that sawhorses would be the best solution for that but , due to the size of the worktop, would leave no room in front to pull up my chair and have my legs under. Then, thanks to the YouTube algorithmic overlords, a solution presented itself to me…

Worktop on Three Legged Sawhorses

Make sawhorses with three legs. With about $20 of construction grade 2x4s, a mitre saw, impact driver, course thread screws, and an hour and a half of time the problem was solved.

Beyond the advantage of leaving room for my chair and legs underneath, a three legged sawhorse (or stool, or any built thing really) is that it will always find its own center of gravity on uneven surfaces. Get the measurements slightly off on a four legged horse and it will be wobbly. A three legged horse does not have that issue (though, I did measure twice, cut once, and use a level throughout so that fact is irrelevant here).

Maybe we all should be conspiracy theorists now…

Increasingly, as I see some popular meme spreading like wildfire through the social media forest I’m suspicious of its intent…

  • Is that random person asking if women would rather be stranded in the woods with a man or a bear really interested in provoking a mass thought exercise in gender politics or is it the Chinese government using TikTok to fervent discord to further divide us into Team Man and Team Bear?

  • Is that thread asking me to reply with a picture of myself at 18 (or 21, or from 1977, or…) really just for fun or am I training an AI for facial recognition to ultimately be used against me?

  • Is the movement to write in “uncommitted” on the ballot really a progressive grassroots effort about sending a message regarding my country’s response to a war or is it an attempt to influence a major election?

My point being is that we should all be asking such questions in today’s day and age. We have copious examples from our last two (at least) major US elections that similar tactics were used and the results were impressive/devastating. We’ve obviously learned nothing about being suspicious of the things we see, especially on social media, and not immediately calling into question the source and the intent.

This is why I generally refuse to participate in such things online. Perhaps doing the same is worth your consideration. At the very least, think through the “what if” when you do.

The Reviews are in…

I’ve received a few wonderful short reviews of For You so far. I’ll update this post as I see more come in…

Patrick’s book is a remarkable collection of seemingly simple platitudes that pack a gut-punch of life-changing truth. I’ll do whatever I can to encourage Chloe and Candela to read it. (I’d assign it to my “First Year Experience” students but we don’t assign extra readings in that class; college freshmen are overwhelmed enough as it is.) To those of us a few decades older who need a verbal hug or a hand reaching down to pull you up from where you find yourself now… this is it. Buy it. The Kindle version is cheaper than a beer; you’ve got no excuse.

— Eric Larson (on Facebook)

Patrick’s specificity on how to bring about life with our speech is more needed than ever in an age of misinformation, creation without citation, and when the false confidence of appearing to be right carries no shame when proven wrong. When advice is packaged in the way he has written this book, it has great potential for positive internal change and for the ripple effect that has within a community.

— Jacoby, A mini-review of For You by Patrick Rhone | xxxx

A beautiful collection of essays and wisdoms of a man whose writing has been a constant inspiration for me… This one stuck with me: “You are not a story. Stories are the things we tell by the things we say and do. You create the story.”

— Manuel forestweekender on Micro.blog

Such a great book and as the title suggests it really is For You, now granted Patrick wrote it for a very specific You in mind but the words and wisdom in this book can be shared and internally reflected on by anyone.

— Eric Walker For You by Patrick Rhone | Eric Walker

It doesn’t take much…

We had driven by three other brunch options in the neighborhood before choosing this one.

The first was too crowded. It’s a small place as it is, but the food is very good and we had suspected it might be despite the cold, rainy, dreary weather we have today. Even with that, there were a few people standing outside as it was too crowded to wait for a table within.

We drove past, hooked a u-turn, and headed towards the place we’d pre-established as a plan B. Yet, upon pulling up there we saw a turned off open sign. A squint at the door revealed that their hours had changed and they now were closed on Sundays. So, that was out.

My wife mentioned a third possibility but she wanted hashbrowns and nothing on their website indicated they had them on offer. So, we drove right past and headed to a place we’d not even really considered but was also in the area and we suspected they’d have both hashbrowns and an available table. They did.

We walked in the door and were quickly seated at a nice table by the window. It wasn’t crowded but there was a large party behind us. We were willing to be patient, understanding the server may have her hands a bit full. Yet, within minutes, the manager stopped by to great us, explain that our server was a bit tied up but would be over as soon as possible, and offered to get us started and grab some water and anything else to drink we might desire.

She came back with some waters and, seeing that the server was still juggling the large party offered to take our order and try to make sure she got it right having nothing but her memory to rely on. We, helpfully, made it easy and both ordered the exact same thing (which is what we were planning anyway but nice that the dual priorities aligned) and she pleasantly thanked us for being understanding and agreeable.

Afterwords, the server finally was able to stop by and make sure we were taken care of and apologize for the situation and not being able to do so herself. No problem! We understand, Thank you for checking in!

She brought us a couple of complementary mini doughnuts as a gesture of thanks.

Our order arrived in the time expected. Large portions and delicious. My wife and I had great discussion, found the atmosphere comfortable, and it was exactly what we were hoping for to begin with.

The server checked in after the food arrived as did the manager to make sure all was well. Even after we finished and paid and were lingering around to finish our conversation the manager stopped by one final time to make sure the order was right and we had everything we needed.

This is how you make your business one that isn’t even a consideration into one that will, next time, be top of mind. Good service, checking in, stepping in even if it’s not “your job”, making sure the expectations are met. It doesn’t take much.

The Only Camera That Matters

I was in the middle of the Serengeti, about to witness a kill.

Our guide received word of at least two lionesses stalking the edge of the great wildebeest migration, which has come several weeks earlier than normal this year. Tens of thousands of wildebeest stretching to the horizon as far as the eye can see. A lesser, yet still large, number of zebras intersperse the herd as well. They are a cooperative species and the zebras provide some protection as they have better senses than the wildebeest and can alert them of such a danger.

Yet, with numbers this large it is still fairly easy picking for the lions and, with the migration starting early and the grasses still very high, today was going to be easy work for them.

When we arrived on the scene, we quickly spotted two lionesses in the grasses, watching and waiting. Carefully scanning the herd for the right mark. This was a patient game, for them and for those of us watching. Every few minutes, they would move a few steps forward, stop, sit, wait, and scan. The wildebeest herd, moving and shifting — oblivious. The zebras, beginning to sense danger slowly shifting deeper into the herd, as if to sacrifice a weaker wildebeest or two to save themselves.

I was shooting the scene with my good camera. Trying to get the shots that would tell the story well. I wanted to capture every single moment once the lions decided to strike.

Then, my camera died…

Dead. No backup battery. I had decided not to charge the one I had the night before as it was a little over half full and I thought it would survive another day. I was wrong.

This is the last shot I took with it before it died:

Lioness scanning anhead for wildebeest and zebras in the Serengeti

My wife offered her condolences and empathy. My daughter was slightly incredulous I’d let that happen. She knows I’m usually better prepared.

But, here’s the thing I said to them. Your mind is the true camera and the one you always have with you. A camera may take a snapshot of a moment but it is your senses that really are the record. Pictures are simply a trigger to be able to recall the experience in the future. A way to spark the story you’ll tell. Now, with the camera dead, I can be fully in the moment and take in the full fidelity of this once in a lifetime event that I’ll never be able to witness again. They say a picture is worth a thousand words but that’s true only if there is a story worth telling with them.

I have, right here inside me, the only camera that matters. I have the one that tells the story.

Because I have that, I can tell you that one of the lionesses sensed an opportunity open up and pounced on it, weaving around our vehicle into a blind by a stream, taking one of the smaller beests down into the water. As she held it down and it whined and whimpered as much as it could with a paw on its submerged throat, a dozen other lionesses suddenly sprang forth from the grass one-by-one to join in the spoils. The same grass we’d been scanning and watching intently for nearly 45 minutes and the whole time and could only see two. Obviously, they had the herd surrounded and were so good at using the environment for cover even we could not see how many there really were. Unbelievable.

Thirteen lionesses weaving around our safari vehicle and the couple of dozen others safari jeeps now joining us on the scene. It was a sight to behold. Wondrous.

To top it off, this is one of many such once in a lifetime moments we experienced on our trip. And, though I have the pictures to trigger the memories, the experience is a part of me now and I was a part of it and I don’t need a photo to know how that feels.

There’s no camera that can do that.

Darn Tough

I’m tough on socks. I always have been. I had a friend tell me about Darn Tough socks and their commitment to be the best, toughest, socks you’ll own and that come with a lifetime guarantee. I’ve purchased nothing but for years now and they’ve absolutely been the longest lasting ones on my feet by miles.

As of this writing, I have now returned four pairs of socks to them under said lifetime warranty (which I’ve worn for years before having any warrant to do so) and received four pairs in return, fee and hassle free (besides the cost of postage to send them from my end).

Buy Darn Tough socks (this referral link will get you $5 off). If you see them on sale buy more. Trust me. Worth every cent.

This is not a paid sponsorship post I swear! I’m just a very happy long time customer.


There are very few chances that arise in life to achieve a dream. Sometimes, the universe puts one of those dreams in front of you that seems at first read to be just outside of your grasp. It is these times you have a choice, give into fear and walk away or to stretch just a little bit further, beyond your comfort zone, and snatch it.

That’s what my wife did today and I’m so proud of her.

An original lithograph of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: Woman with Tray, Breakfast (Femme au plateau, Petit déjeuner) from Elles
1896 held by Bethany Gladhill outside of house

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: Woman with Tray, Breakfast (Femme au plateau, Petit déjeuner) from Elles