Saturday, September 27, 2008

Thoughts about ways to fail to act.

I rarely take action on anything. After watching tonight's presidential debate followed by Bill Moyers’ interview with Andrew Bacevich, I am still failing to act. But these are a few ideas I ought to explore.

Personal Position Statement
Political candidates have them. Nobody actually reads them, but it occurs to me that their value is as much for the author as for the reader. Deciding to codify and publish my positions on political questions and issues might actually force me to think them through, rather than tweak them on-the-fly for the convenience of a given conversation.

Personal Economic Responsibility Plan
It’s undeniable: we collectively live beyond our means. Am I contributing to the problem? How can I fix that? How can I encourage others to?

Core Values Statement
In my mind, “The American Way of Life” is a euphemism for all of our excesses and self-indulgences. What am I actually willing to fight for? What would I be willing to give up?

Diary of The Fall
Is it all ending? Will I witness first-hand the collapse of our nation, our global economy, civilization as we know it? What will people afterward want to know that I could tell them?

Petition of Permission
Politicians’ actions, when influenced by the public at all, seem driven by our lowest-common-denominator demands to address short-term grievances. Our collective long-term best-interests almost always suffer. (Lower gas prices now, or energy independence later?) If I were to draft a Petition of Permission to our representatives in government, offering tolerance for the short-term sacrifices necessitated by long-term solutions to big problems… would anybody else sign it? Would politicians listen? Would I even honor my part of the agreement?

Warrior Politicians
Which is more useful… an elected official who first-and-foremost works to stay in office, or one who fights the good fight once but pays the political price? We recognize the duty of our soldiers to die if necessary in defense of our freedom and national interests. Why do we not demand that our representatives in government make the infinitely smaller sacrifice of ‘political suicide’ when doing so might enable a policy victory worth having?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Over a year later...

...they are still doing it.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Waiting at The Bell.

With the plethora of facinating and important debates currently taking place in this country and around the world, I feel compelled to break my long blogging silence and begin an over-due discussion about... Taco Bell.

Lately when I go to the drive-thru, they greet me with “How ya doin?” Which is cute. What’s less cute is that when I reply like a civilized human by saying “Fine, thank you” the conversation abruptly ends.

I’d have thought that anybody capable of, you know, eating, would recognize that the next line in this script ought to be some variation of the message “What can I get for you?” but it seems that’s not the case. I suppose I could just go ahead with my order (as I’m sure they expect me to) but I don’t. I wait them out every time. You know why? Because no matter what their bosses may be telling them, the proper response to “Hi, how are you?” is not “Two chicken burritos please.”

And since I generally figure if somebody is doing something stupid they might want to know about it, I thought I’d drop a quick line to the Taco Bell brass to let them know that their greeting policy makes their order-takers look like imbeciles. Along with the 14 (fourteen!) required fields on their website's contact form, know what it said?


Huh. Stymied again.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

How's this for optimistic?

Jen tagged me. I figure my chances of going out with her improve if I make good, so without further ado:

A book that changed your life: Yeager: An Autobiography What can I say, I was young and impressionable.
A book that you've read more than once: Mastering SQL. No matter how many times I read it, I still don't get it.
A book that you'd want on a desert island: Duh.
A book that made you laugh: Microserfs, by Douglas Coupland.
A book that made you cry: This has never happened. Ever.
A book that you wish had been written: Why nice guys finish last: A practical handbook for teenage dorks.
A book that you wish had never been written: Piercing the Darkness. Insulting, narrowminded, uninformed, and abysmally written. Even for fiction!
A book that you hope someone will write: Why nice guys still finish last: A practical handbook for 30-something dorks.
A book that you wish you had written: Snow Crash. Crappy sci-fi actually CAN predict the future!
A book that you're currently reading: The Instrument Flight Manual. Bill Kershner.
A book that you've been meaning to read: A Memory of Light. Robert Jordan. Because after 11 books leading up to it, you damn well have to read the 12th.
A book that you've bought but haven't read: The World Is Flat. Thomas L. Friedman. I started it, but just can't seem to care enough to finish it. It's a book that could (and should) have been a 20 page essay.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I'm in the dark here...

Before Edison and the whole light-bulb thing, what was the generally accepted iconic representation of 'an idea'?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A quick survey...

When presented with a question that requires a rated response on a scale from "never" to "always", how often do you answer "Never"?

1 - Never
3 - Sometimes
5 - Always

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Good ideas are like STDs. You sleep with them, and they grow on you.

Sorry, I just needed to write that down somewhere.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Word partners.

Just as the letter "q" always has a "u" next to it (in english), there are words that always seem to be accompanied by particular other words. I think they're usually found in idiomatic phrases, but for whatever reason, I think they are interesting. Unfortunately, I have a hell of a time coming up with examples when the topic arises in conversation, so I'm going to start recording them here when I think of them. Feel free to join in!

What I have so far:

Moly:Holy (Thanks, Stevie!)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

We are wimps.

I’ve said as much before. Compared to virtually every other mammal I can think of, we are horribly fragile when it comes to temperature. We turn on the heater below 68°F, and AC above 80°F. We require all manner of external temperature-control in virtually every environment on Earth. Meanwhile, my cat comes and goes as he pleases, perfectly comfortable sitting complacently outdoors from January to July, wearing nothing but his fur. Whenever I bring this up, people are quick to enlighten me by pointing out that we have ‘adapted’ to various environments by inventing clothing, shelter, etc. but I think the opposite is true. These inventions have made us less able to cope with the natural rhythm of the world we live in.

This is particularly apparent to me right now. For weeks I resisted the urge to turn on my furnace (in defiance of my inherent human wimpiness), only to discover when I finally gave in that the ornery box of sheet-metal had other plans. In a fit of noise, dust, and electrical smoke, the blower died. This was three nights ago.

We are wimps. Call the repairman! Pay overtime if you have to! Sleep somewhere else! Buy a space-heater! Forget it. If my furnace wants to pick a fight, I say “bring it on.” It’s going to take more than a few “cold” nights to convince me otherwise. By “cold” I mean the interior of my house has been drifting between 52°F and 62°F. Seriously, is this really what passes for “cold”? The average global temperature is 59°F. Am I going to crumble in the face of nothing more oppressive than “average”? No. This is a battle that any man of mettle knows I can, and must, win.

Of course, there’s more to it than wearing stocking-caps indoors. The furnace does need to be fixed, and so a whole second arm of stubbornness/resolve comes into play. Pay someone else to deal with it? I think not. I am smarter than a furnace. The guy who fixes them for a living may know more than I do, but I’ll not learn what he knows by paying him to make my problem go away. Instead, I have chosen to get my hands dirty. And my pants, and shirt, and workbench. If the problem were gas-related, I would concede to the professionals — I’m not a complete idiot — but it’s just electrical. I may zap myself, but I’m not going to blow up the neighbor’s dog. The fan motor doesn’t turn. How complicated can it be?

Admittedly, somewhat more complicated than I hoped. I have replaced the burnt-out (I think) motor. $130 and 6 hours spent… cheaper than the repair-guy. But the blower still isn’t turning, and that’s a problem. I’ve poked and prodded, tested and tried, and have decided that (maybe) the controller circuit was fried when the motor burnt up and overloaded it. Now I am faced with the question: will I replace the board for $85, or roll the dice and pay somebody $100/hour to either a) tell me that I need a new board for $150, or b) point out the 30-cent fuse that I’ve overlooked? I think I’ll sleep on that, but it’s going to have to be under a few extra blankets. We are wimps.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Xeroxed bagles.

It is 2:00am, and I've just arisen from a dream in which (among other odd things) notified me via phone text-message that I was in close proximity to somebody who I should meet. It was an odd little game, in fact, with my phone giving me directions about which room I should go into in order to meet this secret person, and only a short amount of time to do it before the opportunity was gone.

In the dream, the secret person was (rather awkwardly) an old classmate who sadly had no interest in having sex with me whatsoever, but I'm still intrigued by the concept. It sounds technologically feasible, at least to a degree, given my phone's ability to report my location. Then again, a high school teacher of mine used to warn us of the dangers of acting on ideas made when not fully-awake with a story about an associate who'd once jumped up from a deep meditation yelling "I've done it! I've solved world hunger! Xerox bagels!"

So. Am I xeroxing bagels here, or what?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

From the "How dumb do they think we are?" department:

This excerpt from a copy of USA Today sitting on the kitchen counter at the office: "These survey results, which have not been publicly released, were provided to USA TODAY by the Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine."

Monday, October 17, 2005

On the car in front of me:

Bumper sticker 1: "End suffering for all beings."
Bumper sticker 2: "Please spay and neuter."

On the one hand, I understand conpletely. On the other hand... uh?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The un-relationship.

I’m a master of the un-relationship. It’s really quite easy.

1) Put (or find) yourself in any situation with a person or persons with whom you are likely to cross paths again.

2) Don’t interact with them.

3) Next time you see them, continue to not interact.

Before you know it, you will have a non-verbalized but mutually agreed-upon social contract with this individual. He or she will not make eye-contact, will not speak to you, and will generally make a point of not acknowledging your presence at all, even when failing to notice you is inconvenient or even downright impossible. This is the un-relationship.

The un-relationship is clearly differentiated from simply not knowing a person. When you don’t know someone, introducing yourself is a relatively natural and honest thing to do. But once established in the un-relationship, there’s no pretending that this other individual is somehow new to you. They are not new. You know them. They are the person with whom you don’t speak.

There are many physical cues that disclose the un-relationship. Angling the shoulders and body toward anybody else in the room is a typical sign. Finding a distracting object, such as an empty glass, or a bit of lint, is also common. Leaving the room entirely is not unusual.

The un-relationship is most visible when you and your un-counterpart share mutual friends. On social occasions with these groups, you will find that you are conspicuously omitted from introductions, conversations, and the like. If absolutely forced to interact, it will be perfunctory, rarely exceeding a blatantly required “excuse me” or “thank you.”

Although less common, it’s quite possible to form an un-relationship with someone you have actually known. The process is the same… simply fail to interact with them anymore when you happen upon them. I’ve done this with clients, classmates, friends, even extended family members. I get the distinct impression from many of them that they regret having ever known me at all.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Relative (un)importance.

It's easy enough to feel like my job making websites is a pretty meaningless "contribution" to civilization, but never it is more apparent than when I run across something like this. Aiming for the moon, when speaking metaphorically, is something that I generally shy away from, but when we're talking literally? Sign me up!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Comic Tragedy

I wasn't initially quite sure what to make of these two emails I received today from a friend who's father's health has been failing:

From: Lynna Howard, 12:46 PM
Subject: Calvin Howard passed away

From Lynna Howard, 1:43 PM
Subject: correction