Probably pretty ugly if using Internet
Explorer 9 or earlier.
10 13 18
It's About Time
A very busy front end::: warning: This post contains some very deep concepts, almost Zen-like in nature. It may not be suitable for people still waking up or under the influence of heavy metal music. ::disclaimer. I have been known to procrastinate.
I have a computer mah-jong game that rewards a win with three fortunes or sayings. One is usually humorous, the others
profound. I bumped into this one yesterday:
Today is the start of tomorrow. Besides for calling into question the very nature of time, it really shakes up one of the basic tenets of procrastination–that there really is no tomorrow, only now.
Yes, the sun comes up, the sun goes down, the seasons change, but we only experience them as they happen. All other time constructs are human constructs, and the value we place on them is totally artificial. As is their reeality.
What that little phrase is saying is that tomorrow has already begun, and putting things off until tomorrow means doing them now. This is a real problem for those of us who like to push unpleasant or
not ready to do tasks into the tomorrow space. Like light, time is a particle and a wave, but there is only one accessible particle–the now particle&38211; in a river of nows. No thens, no nexts–only nows.
I would like a satisfying conclusion, but I just don't have one at the moment. That happens when your world view is shattered. I'd say I'll deal with it tomorrow, but that's not an option any more. *Sigh.*
They Said It
If you ever find you're the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room.
10 7 18
It's rant time again! And it's a long rant, so buckle up for safety.
Charles Dudley Warner (or maybe Mark Twain) said,
While everybody talked about the weather, nobody seemed to do anything about it. Even when a huge superfluity of professional weathercasters spew effluvium about the weather, nothing is done about it, unless you count handwringing and fearmongering.
Yes, my friends, we have just too much weather. Not outdoors–there, we have the baby bear amount of weather, or just the right amount. No, it's on all our screens and newsfeeds with weathercasters and
newspeople stumbling all over each other to be the first to report that yes, the eye of the hurricane has moved a mile to the west in the last six hours.
It started with the local news, where the local broadcast provided the first weather, the main weather, and then a little follow-up, until the
newstime could be better described as
weather with a little news and sports thrown in. Then they started three day forecasts, seven day forecasts, and ten-day forecasts, admitting that the further out they forecast, the less accurate (more useless) the information is. (You can see this in hurricane reporting.) Then, since they had entered the realm of fuzzy weather, they went in whole hog with fuzzy temperatures. They call them
wind chill and
heat index, but it's just a way to make it seem hotter or colder out than it really is. If you're not confused, you're not paying enough attention.
And they all have all these wonderful technical-marvel toys, or at least toys with techy-sounding names. One station here has
Super Doppelganger Hoochy-Koochy 3D Side-Scan Radar and Soft-Serv Ice Cream that shows it's raining when it's not. Although ultimately a good thing, hurricane tracking that starts with the first rain shower in the Azores is bogus, for the same reason that ten-day forecasts are useless. They just don't work–there's just too much time for things to change. And the models! In the early stages, they look like the old Family Circus cartoons that plot Jeffy's path from the phone to his dad to tell him he has a telephone call. Speaking of calls, give us a call when the models start to come together. If you need a recent example, there's a tropical storm south of the Yucatan Peninsula. It will be providing us with rain and/or wind this coming weekend, we're told. Or not. Imagine that. We might have rain. We might have wind. I don't care what its source is. I just need to know if I can take an umbrella or if I need to go for the raincoat.
Hurricanes Harvey and Matthew showed how accurate those models were, as those two storms did not behave at all like the models said they should. And the models were wrong even until the storms were storms no more.
The data freaks have taken over the weather, too. I guess they ran out of things to analyze in sports and business. So we now have the hottest, coldest, wettest Tuesday this week, or
you have to go back to the beginning of time to find temperatures this hot, cold, wet, normal, whatever. One weather source has started reporting temperatures in tenths of a degree (i.e., 71.1) and another is reporting
chance of precipitation to a single digit (23%) instead of the more traditional and useful measure in 10 percent increments.
However, for all this data, I dare you to find answers to simple questions like
how much rain did we get in the past two days? without resorting to complicated Google searches. Once it happens, it is no longer of interest to the weathercasting class. After all, they can't scare us with yesterday, which I really think is the point of the whole exercise.
More data requires more people, too. The Weather Channel sent two dozen people to the Carolina coast, and CNN and NBC both had sizable contingents there. I'm sure other networks sent people as well. There was a greater hazard to residents of tripping over a weathercaster than there was from the storm. And why are weatherpeople exempt from mandatory evacuations? You report on a number of people who can't afford to evacuate. Why don't you take the money you spend on deploying and use it to help people who should get out of the storm's way do so?
A special note to all those idiots standing out in the storm. Your credibility suffers when reporting from the middle of the storm. Why should we believe you when you say
Do not do this? We're not even sure you're an intelligent lifeform at that point, so telling me to not do what you're doing is not really convincing. As a group, the
don't know enough to come in out of the rain crowd should win a Darwin Award.
Overall, weather reporting has become useless. I need to know how to dress and how to prepare. I need some basic information for the next few days on the outside chance I'm planning on doing something outdoors. And telling me today will have a high of 41.232447 degrees but will feel like 40 degree wind chill with a 67 percent chance of precipitation is not going to do that.
10 1 18
Each morning, I sit on the front (enclosed) porch with my wife before we head off to work or some other part of the day. It's a pleasant, relaxing time. We chat about the day, and watch the world go by.
This school year, we've been watching a dad accompany his son to preschool (at least that's the presumption). It's a charing scene. The tiny young scholar proudly wears a huge, brightly patterned backpack that hangs down almost past the bottom of his butt, with his thumbs hooked into the shoulder straps. He looks enthusiastic, eager to get to school. I imagine that he has a lot to say, talking about school, neat stuff, asking questions, and just whatever it is little boys talk about when they spend quality time with dad as they grow up.
But then I notice that the dad is looking at his phone. Every day, head down, thumb moving up and down on the screen.
What a wasted opportunity.
Since I'm in the mood....
A flock of Canadian geese just flew over, heading south and honking loudly. Instructions? Warning? Joy of life? I don't know. They were low over the house, but disorganized, or at least not in the classic
V formation. So they may have been in pre-flight to continue their journey to Florida and Texas.
I took it as a sign of fall. Each year when I was growing up, the geese would fly overhead. But those geese were flying high, in the
V formation, and the honking was distant, almost inaudible. Often they would be in the air at first light, sometimes hidden by low clouds, so it was a rare treat to see them flying over on a great journey or adventure. It spoke to something in me, at the same time sad and exhilarating.
But these geese? I don't know. There are large flocks of Canadian geese that have taken up permanent residence here, so there's honking and traffic blockages all year long. I don't know if these geese are the real deal or just moving to annoy someone in the next block.
It's kind of sad. Another piece of magic and mystery taken away. It's like being able to walk in the grocery store and finding sweet corn all year, instead of having only a few weeks in August to rush to a roadside farm stand to be able to enjoy it at its best.
Of course, fall is a time of sadness. Maybe that's why I like it so much.
They Said It.
So many things go wrong, we should be suspicious when someone gets it right.
9 24 18
Why Retail is Dying
OK, I don't have all the answers, and I'm sure the reasons that retail stores are dying is unique to each one. A while back, I mentioned a number of factors that contribute to the decline, none of which began with
Well, I'm back with one more. I need new sneakers. My wife favors on-line shopping. So I looked around there. Searching for men's athletic shoes returned a million hits, with a zillion types and models of shoes.
Do you know he difference between Model 409 and Model 410?
Neither do I. And the websites I visited weren't going to tell me.
I was going to be near a mall, so I decided to try there. (Irony Alert: I was getting athletic shoes to get more exercise. While walking around the mall, I got all the exercise I was planning for the month.) The sporting goods store had hundreds of right shoes on the wall, but nobody to help me find the left shoe. I had no more luck at the athletic shoe store, a couple of department stores were not carrying athletic shoes (or I couldn't find them),
I finally got to Penney's. They had lots of shoes, but nobody to help with them. Which I sort of thought was the whole purpose of buying shoes in person. Try them on, find out the difference between 409s and 410s. You know–service.
I came home empty-handed.
I still needed shoes, so it was back on line. Penney's seemed to have what I wanted, so I checked their web site. They had a sale, so I got two pairs of shoes, one white, one black. A few days later, they arrived--one pair of what I ordered, and one pair of what I call Italian granny shoes, although now that I think about it, my grandmother used to wear shoes like that, too. On the packing slip, there were very sketchy directions for returns. There were four categories, including
You sent me the wrong thing. But there were no other instructions except to take the package to the post office. There was also a 1-800 number, so I called that.
A quick aside: Most of my wife's clothing purchases are made on-line. Everything arrives promptly in well-designed, attractive packages that include a return label if you're not satisfied with the purchase, even if you changed your mind. It goes back at their expense.
Not so, with Penney's the person on the phone told me. I had to pay for returning the shoes. After I whined a little about me paying for their mistake, she coughed up a
return at Penney's expense label. Still had to find packing materials, but at least the shoes are out of the house.
And that's why traditional retail is dying. They don't know what they're doing. I can't say I was keeping Penney's afloat, but the last two experiences have been bad enough to keep me from any more purchases,.
Alas, no more Towncraft ties.
9 16 18
Don't Glue on Your Face.
I don't hang much with kids. Maybe I should more. It seems when I do, I learn something, usually profound. Like the time just before my wife and I went to Ireland and our nephew Shawn, then 7, sent a nice hand drawn card that said,
Watch out for leprechauns. They steal your stuff. Sure enough, my passport went missing halfway through the trip.
I've been watching out for leprechauns ever since.
I just had another infusion of this wisdom of children. Owen Kleon, age 5, occasionally posts on his dad's web site. Last week, in his post
A day of zines, one of the entries was titled
Don't Glue on Your Face. The accompanying picture shows exactly what he means. Applying glue to face art makes a mess. And yes, glue can make a mess of real world faces, too. It can stick your nostrils together and remove eyebrows. It would take weeks to recover! Practical advice for art and makeup. I'll follow that advice.
But there is also a deeper ambiguity in the statement. I thought of the persona that we all glue on. You know the ones–the bored, don't-bother-me face for work, the faux happyface for the cousin we don't like but have to put up with, a look of studious concentration in a philosophy class or a happy hour conversation where you lost the thread a long time ago because you got a little ahead on the dollar jello shots.
Anyway, don't glue on your face. Let your true self and feelings show! Be authentic, be real. T.S. Eliot probably said it best–
there will be time/ To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet. Best except now for Owen, who said it more colorfully and graphically. So don't glue on your face. It's a lot of unnecessary work.
Even I'm surprised that I'm quoting Eliot. I'm still ticked at him for resuscitating Moby Dick. If Melville and the try works were still buried in obscurity (that is, not on the syllabus), I would have enjoyed college a lot more.
9 2 18
Things We Do
Last week, I mentioned practicing some automatic learned behavior when someone asked for a light.
A couple of days ago, I was watching The Hallmark Channel (AKA the guilty pleasure network) and spotted another example. An older couple was bicycling, using two old-school girl's bicycles, (the type without a top bar for you young'un hipster millennial types, who, now that I think about it, probably know exactly what I'm talking about, since they've probably gone full circle and now are back in fashion).
When it was time to continue the journey, the woman stepped through the bicycle, putting her leg in front of the part of the frame that held the seat. The man, meanwhile, swung his left leg over the seat, like he would have done when he was younger and riding a
real bicycle, i.e., a boy's bicycle. Boys didn't ride girl's bicycles. You could catch cooties that way.
Even so, they still got one thing wrong. Usually guys would get on from the left side, because that's the side the kickstand is on. Raise kickstand. Swing leg. Pedal off.
They Said It
Creativity is not and never has been sensible.
8 28 18
Strand Magazine just announced that they will publish a previously unpublished Ernest Hemingway story. Titled
A Room on the Garden Side, Hemingway had apparently told an editor about it and five other stories back when he wrote it in the 1920s, but only gave the editor one of the stories to publish. The others were tucked away until now (apparently)
I haven't read the story, and don't plan to. I suspect Hemingway had reasons for not releasing those stories for publication, and I, for one, am going to respect the author's judgement and wishes in this regard. My guess is he probably thought they weren't good enough and wasn't going to insult his readers, no matter how tempting the money was.
Last week, I was walking back to the car from the library, when young man politely asked if I had a light. I slapped my pocket to make sure before I said,
I knew I didn't have a light. I haven't smoked in nearly twenty years. So what am I doing checking the pocket on the outside chance that a lighter had suddenly materialized?
They Said It
Sanity Lies in Paying Attention.
8 19 18
On Being Tall
I've always been tall. Most of the family is. I guess given a choice, that's preferable. I have heard that tall people have many distinct advantages, especially men. Women prefer tall mates and tall men are supposedly at an advantage in the workplace in terms of advancement.
Well. maybe. I'm sure there are advantages i've received that I'm not really aware I'm receiving, because I've always been tall.
And yes, of course there are disadvantages to being short. Lord knows I've heard most of them, usually from short people who resent my height.
Hey, don't put that on me. Go back in time and get taller parents, or get better fed, or whatever it is that makes people taller. Maybe a different ethnic heritage. Lots of possibilities.
So what are the disadvantages? They sound petty, but they can have profound effects far beyond the simple surface statement.
- Tall people are always in the back in any photographs or lines or classes based on height. Even if the class was alphabetical, if I was in the front row or two, I would get shifted to the back of the room. After a while, you just automatically head to the back of the line or posing area. And once you start thinking that way, it applies to life. You're going to be in the back in all sorts of ways. So just go and stay there.
- Getting things on low shelves. Yeah, people keep you around when they need something off a high shelf. But where are they when you need something from a low shelf? Right. Nowhere to be found.
- Health hazards. I am constantly banging my head in our basement. I'm surprised I haven't knocked myself out yet. I was in my thirties when I finally was able to stretch out completely on a bed, and then I did it by lying diagonally on a queen size bed. (Yes, I know there is such a thing as a long twin bed, but try and find sheets for it, especially at a reasonable price.) Anyway back trouble, head trouble, shorter life?
- Adjusting to a Lilliput world. I saw an episode of Property Brothers where the construction brother was fighting with the homeowner about the height of a kitchen island–the homeowner wanted it higher than
the standard. I find it much easier to cut, chop and prepare food on a higher counter. We have one in this house. I am happy.
On the other hand, I think that plumbers' unions have a height requirement for membership, and once a member, ll no plumbing fixture, including shower heads, can be installed any higher than they can comfortably reach. So every morning, I get into the shower and I'm staring down at the shower head. I't's a perfect height to serve as a microphone if I sang in the shower. The list goes on, everything adjusted to the height of the average American, set I think in 1830, when the height of the average American was like 5 feet 3 inches, also known as really short.
- Stereotypes. OK, I know people are just trying to be nice, or acknowledge your presence, or whatever, but sometimes, the same ol' gets, well, old.
I bet you played basketball in school. (No, I wanted to be a racehorse jockey.) or
How's the weather up there? (Raining [or sunny, whatever the opposite weather is]. How's it down there?)
It's probably just as well that when we were growing up, we were always told to not intimidate people. Otherwise we could get really mean. If only our backs didn't hurt so much from not being able to stretch out in bed.
8 12 18
Telling the Whole Story
In Turtles All The Way Down, the protagonist Asa learns that a story her mother told her was not the whole story. Because of her new knowledge, she undergoes a transformation and acceptance of self.
Asa's mom is not the only one who shorts stories. Angel Chernoff did it too. Here's the story she told.
A couple thousand years ago in ancient Greece, the great philosopher Socrates was strolling contemplatively around a community garden when a neighbor walked up to him and said,
You’re never in a million years going to believe what I just heard about our mutual friend.
Wait,” Socrates interrupted, putting his hand up in the air. “Before you continue with this story, your words must pass the triple filter test?
The triple filter test, Socrates said.
The neighbor just stared at him with a blank expression.
The first filter is Truth. Are you absolutely sure the story you are about to tell me is true?
Well, no, the neighbor said,
I literally just heard it from someone else I know.
Ah-ha… Socrates quickly replied,
then let’s move on to the second filter. Is what you are about to share Good in any way, shape or form?
No… no, the neighbor said,
This story is actually quite…
Before he could finish his sentence, Socrates interrupted him again,
Ahh… so may not be true and it is definitely not good.
That’s right, the neighbor assured him.
Well, you may still be able to save yourself, Socrates said.
Is anything about the story you want to share Useful?
The neighbor stared blankly again for a moment and then said,
No, I suppose it’s not really.
So, you want to tell me something that may not be true, is definitely not good, and is not useful to know? Socrates asked. The neighbor looked down at the ground and nodded.
Well, you have no good reason to tell me this story, and you have no good reason to believe it yourself, Socrates added, as the neighbor dolefully walked away.
The rest of the story: Before the neighbor was out of earshot, Socrates called to him.
Is it about Aristophanes? Or Zeno? Or their wives? If so, we can make an exception.
Or at least that's the way the story was told to me.
Conversation with Editor:
Do I really have to put a winking emoji on this, or some disclaimer that it's a joke? I mean, do you really give my readers that little credit? I think they're smart enough to figure out that I wrote the ending. Just because you missed the humor is no reason to have to add silly little marks that aren't even really English. Yes, I do think my readers are smarter than you. I think the tie you're wearing is smarter than you. Well, same to you, buddy.
8 5 18
Apple just passed $1 trillion in valuation. What does that mean?
- To Apple:. Nothing. Market valuation is a made-up number derived by multiplying two other numbers. it does nothing much for Apple. It probably helps Warren Buffett. But then, doesn't everything?
- To Apple haters: They're spinning. Some are pointing out that Apple isn't really the first trillion dollar company. Or they take out the publicly traded part. Or they focus on who will be next.
- To Apple operations: Pretty much nothing. Apple hit that number by not paying attention to money. At least, it wasn't its primary focus. Apple focuses on building great products that deliver a great user experience. The money is secondary. No Apple executive ever appear those
100 best paid executives lists that show up from time to time.
I guess the lesson is to pay attention to what you do, to what you make, not to your compensation. If you have customers, pay attention to meeting their needs and making them happy.
We are all products of our time and place. I was reminded of this when I saw an article about archeologists uncovering a building in Cologne, Germany, which they claim was a huge, second-century public library.
My first thought was,
OMG! Do I have an overdue scroll?
How did they know it was a public library? Did they find a list of card holders, or checked out scrolls? Or was there a sign over the front door that said public library? I was going to have to read the article, darn it..
I found out that the archeologists knew it was public because of the location and the size of the building. It was big and in the forum, so public. They found 20,000 niches in the walls, so library.
Partly what threw me was the phrase
public library. I was picturing a building with books where people can read and check books out, just like I do every couple of weeks down the street. Then, far less than ten percent of the population could read, scrolls were very rare and of interest only to historians, archivists, lawyers, philosophers and other academical/professional types, not the motley assortment of people at the local library. (I fit right in with the clientele at my library, by the way. No judging me, please.) So not public in the way we think.
It's interesting that the Romans thought it important to establish libraries, even in the hinterlands. Personally, I never think of the Romans that way. Decadents, conquerors and engineers, yes. But they understood that administration, law and culture were equally important to maintaining the empire as the military.
I could be wrong. Maybe they did have Vandals and Goths Days, where tribesmen were let though the gates, er, doors. But my whole wrong attitude? Chalk it up to looking at the past through the lenses of this time and place.