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Sayings I Don’t Like: Failure is not an Option.

24 Feb

“Failure is not an option.”

Let me ask you this, in any endeavor run with good faith, is there any reason why one would choose to fail?  I guess there are situations where failure is an option, but the norm is that we do things to succeed.   It’s human nature.     So part of the reason I hate this saying is that I find it to be nonsense.   Failure sometimes is mandatory–after all, certain parts of any plan will fail, and then the planners will change things as needed.  That’s the normal process for things.   Also all things, given enough time, eventually fail.

I also loathe this saying because it’s the kind of t-shirt message that really means nothing.   It sounds like a positive bit of pappy advice, but what it hides is not quite so positive:  perfectionism.

Perfectionists believe that failure is not an option, and perfectionists are a stressed out and unhappy lot.   Failure being not an option does not allow people to take risks or to change anything.    It’s the sergeant’s bark to get you back in line.  Can you imagine telling some baby learning to walk that failure is not an option, so they either need to walk correctly or to sit and do nothing?   To walk, one must fall down over and over and over again, learning each time.

Well I’m here to tell you that failure is and will always be an option.    You can fail at anything, and you can choose to fail at anything.    I invite you to have a great big wonderful messy failure.  To choose to make one.   Fall on your face today, and live to laugh about it.


Essay: The Bottom of the Internet

9 Feb

A couple of days ago I ran across a phrase that I really liked–“the bottom of the internet.”  I don’t remember what article I read it in, and for all I know it’s a common phrase that will show everyone how uncool I really am.   What it was referring to was the comments section that is pretty much standard on any website.

In the mid-90’s, back when I was in school and the internet was called the information superhighway (remember that?)  one way people imagined cyberculture was a place where people could have in depth discussions about many topics and a sort of enlightenment would come about.  That hasn’t happened.  In fact, it became clear rather quickly that people wouldn’t cluster around discussions about platonic ideals or, symbolism in 18th century poetry, or which painter had the most masterful use of the color red.   Nope–what we get are memes, porn, and trollish snarking.   I’m not saying there aren’t some wonderful things the internet has, and there’s certainly some corners of the internet that have bracing conversation, but scroll to the bottom of nearly every page, there it is, the dregs.    Here’s what is objectionable there:

1)  Racism and homophobia:  One thing that is unclear in these comments is how much is authentic, but you’ll hear more racist and anti-gay epithets thrown around here than anyplace else.   Whether the person is racist or just likes pissing people off, it’s just as awful.

2)  Preaching:  Because I will choose my religion based on what people say beneath an article about Paula Deen.

3)  Extreme opinions:   You’ll get people wanting to spout off without listening to anybody.

4) Justin Bieber and Barack Obama:  No matter what the article/video is about, conversation will inevitably go towards one of these two.   It doesn’t even have to have anything to do with politics, pop culture, or music.   How a story about a Picasso painting possibly being a forgery can lead to a rant about Obama overregulating everything is beyond me.   Ditto a recipe for sponge cake and whether this is the most delicious or not can veer into Bieber rants.  Are these two guys the center of the universe?

5)  Horrible grammar:  I can handle things being a little bit rough–I’m no stickler, but there’s comments that are barely readable.

6)  ALL CAPS:   Caps doesn’t make me take you seriously.

7)  Rants about how the video you just watched sucks:  Look guys, the internet is purely voluntary.   I can understand getting sick of hearing about an overexposed celebrity, but if you go to a site and choose to watch something, you’re the idiot.

8)  Rants under articles where it’s clear the person didn’t read it.

9)  “You call this news?”:  Even when the comment is correct, it’s really annoying.

10)  …back when music was good:  Let’s be clear.  There was never a magical year where “music was good.”  Every year thousands of songs come out, most of which aren’t very good at all.   What you’re telling me with that statement is that you like certain songs that you’re used to and are uninterested in anything else.

11)  …things used to be so much better:   You’ll get someone going on some sort of speech about things being better “way back when.”   People used to be respectful.  Kids used to be clean cut.  Everyone went to church.  America was glorious and strong.  A regular person found it easy to do well.    Sorry people, this is completely imagined.   When I was little, people used to say that about the fifties.  Now people say that about the 80’s (?!)  Yep, the mall decade was officially when people used to be respectful, music was good, pie tasted better, and everybody got laid.   Nope.   Not even close.

12)  Complaining about “political correctness”:  Political correctness isn’t political at all.  They’re examples of the social bargain, where we as individuals sacrifice some of our desires due to the group.  In exchange we get the benefits of society.   This is why you don’t pee on the subway or slap a crying baby or a number of other things.   Sometimes both sides can go too far.   Sometimes the group demands too much, and sometimes individuals push their limits on freedom.   However, to claim that politics has anything to do with this conflict that has existed since tribal times, is incredibly ignorant.

Oh, there’s much much more you’ll find at the bottom of the internet–conspiracy theorists, anti-smoking zealots who smoke pot, “knowledge” that is really hearsay, mentions of studies that never actually happened, corporation bashing, haters, bringing up Hitler, exaggeration, trite sayings, and more.

So this is what enlightenment looks like.






Essay on Errors

1 Feb

I’ve been thinking about errors a lot lately.   I work in a hospital, very closely with a group of schedulers who set up appointments and check insurance for a whole group of providers.   Occasionally they make errors.   What I find interesting is how the providers and managers react to those errors.

What I notice is that there’s three kinds of errors.   Errors in ignorance, where someone does something wrong because they don’t know how to do it right, errors in judgement, where someone makes a decision based on a specific situation that could be better, and errors of transference, where someone performs the right actions in the wrong context.   Transference errors are by and far the most common.

The solutions to these errors are pretty simple (in concept anyway).  Ignorance requires education, judgement requires coaching, and transference requires quality control.   The problem comes when the powers that be apply the wrong solution to an error–which just creates frustration for everyone.  If someone makes questionable judgments, you cannot send them to a bunch of classes and expect them to get better–what they need is to know the consequences of these judgments so they can get a better view of how their actions effect everybody.  If someone is doing something wrong because they don’t know how to do it properly, all the talk about consequences won’t do a bit of good.   If someone inadvertently altered some information when transferring it from one source to another (like a list of numbers), it’s not because they don’t know how to do it  properly, and it’s not because they’re using their judgement at all, all that means is that they need someone to double-check that information to make sure it’s correct.


Why I’m Quitting Facebook

3 Nov

Well it’s time.  I’ve finally cut the tie to Facebook.  We’ve had some lovely times, but it’s time to move our separate ways.  Here’s the reasons I’m leaving:

1.  Facebook is too intrusive.  Too many times things I don’t want posted on my page autopost on it.  It has this creepy spidery way of embedding itself in anything on the net and collecting it.  I’m not an occupy person, and at first the data mining did not bother me, but now it does.

2.  Facebook is a huge time waster.  I’m looking for ways to clear some room for bigger better things to fit in.

3.  Facebook connects to others too well.   There’s many people that I was thrilled to get back in touch with.  There’s others that I’m happier to leave in my past.   I can’t distinguish between the two without hurting feelings.

4.  Facebook causes stress.  People can get mad about Facebook stuff.   Arguments can boil over.  I’m really tired of Facebook rants.

5.  I’m not that interested in people’s mundane life details.   I’m glad you got a cookie, I’m glad you love cookies, I’m glad they make you happy.  However, I don’t need to know this.

6.  Facebook is a pale replication of actually talking to someone.

7.   Facebook has become the repository for all the “funny’ memes that people used to email to you.

8.  People use Facebook to be nosy.  It’s not a haven for people who want to mind their own business.

So.  I’m done.  I haven’t updated in months.  I want my life to be small and private, and more of a life.  I’m not cutting the internet altogether–it’s a good tool, but social networking will be at a minimum, at least for the time being.

Pop Culture–Katy Perry, “Roar”

21 Sep

katy perry


I don’t understand Katy Perry.   Ok, well I understand what she’s doing, but I don’t understand why she’s so big.   I looked at her website and it seems like tween girls are the ones who follow her, which makes sense…I guess….?   The biggest thing about her music is how banal it is.    Also, have you noticed that she’s slowly morphing into a boobier version of Courtney Cox?

So this song is trying really hard to be a “you-go-girl” anthem, with the singer once being held down by “you” but now she’s going to “ROAR.”    The lyrics are filled with every cliche imaginable: she’s got the “eye of the tiger” she “is the champion” “she stood for nothing, so she fell for everything.”  It’s sort of like an empowerment song written with the mentality of a thirteen year old cheerleader.   Now I’m not looking at this as art, because though I think Katy Perry is talented I don’t consider this song crafted for any expressive purpose.  It is product, pure and simple, and what I find interesting is what it’s trying to do.

One thing I notice is how many songs by female artists catering themselves to teenage girls is how prevalent the break-up song is.   If you think about it, why would a grown woman like Katy Perry be in a relationship in the first place that “held her down.”   Why would two adults be involved in a relationship where one had to be held down?   The truth is that this song is not about romantic relationships at all.

Roar is catering to the Twilight crowd.  Tweens don’t primarily feel held down by their pre-romantic relationships.  They feel held down by their parents.  So we’re into adolescent fantasy.   “You used to hold me down, tell me what to do, but now I’m going to have my own voice and do what I want.”   The video underlines this because what does Katy Perry do after she moves to the jungle with this new power?  She paints elephant’s toenails, she makes a flower skirt, she makes the island into a big giant multi-species sleepover.

The other group that gets into twilight is middle-aged women, and this has to do with mid-life crisis stuff.   Not much is said about mid-life crises for women, we’re accustomed to the male cliche centered around getting stupid cars and being around bimbos.  It’s amazing how similar it is for women–after spending half their life doing things for other people (their family), suddenly they’re left with adult children, and they go back to an adolescent place emotionally.   Not because they feel the same as they did with their parents, but because it’s the last time they really thought about themselves.   It’s  a starting point for growth.   I also think that middle aged adults reach for that adolescent mindset because it seems so much simpler than the complexities of being a middle-aged–they both have to do with finding direction, and that’s one of the hardest parts of being human.

That being said, Roar really plays to the broadest, most generic, least threatening aspect of this sort of thinking.  This is not a song that someone will really inspire someone into  being strong and changing the world.  This is a song that inspires adults into having a spa day or buying a new pair of shoes because “you deserve it.”   So while I don’t think it’s message is bad, I don’t think it’s one that  goes any deeper than a makeup commercial.  (How much do you want to bet that there will be a Clairol commercial that will say something like “release your inner roar.”)

The Great Things about the United States

4 Jul

Ok, so today I want to make a little list, in honor of July 4th.  To begin, I want to emphasize that I’m not making a list that is how the U.S. is better than other countries, any country has its strengths and weaknesses and America is no different.  Nor am I saying that the United States is without its problems and issues.  However, I do want to show my gratitude for this country that I’ve lived in most of my life, so think of this as my little fireworks show for Independence Day.

1.  The United States has some lovely (and variable) country.  From the majesty of Niagara Falls, to the mind-boggling hugeness of the Grand Canyon, from the Rockies to the Great Lakes, the Smoky Mountains, Hawaii’s island paradise, Alaska’s frozen wonders, Southern beaches, the glorious west coast–every state has something marvelous to look at, some well known, some obscure.   This country is a road-trippers dream.

2.  The people here are just as varied–the United States has people from nearly everywhere in it, and the cultural make-up changes wildly from area to area.  This includes everything from religion, to ancestry, to local flavor.   It’s amazing that (in most ways) we work together so well.

3.  The United States’ history moves in a general direction from limited freedoms for some people to greater freedoms for greater amounts of people.  This trajectory has been hard-fought and has been seriously challenged in the past, but it’s still there.

4.  Americans love being entertained.  For things to pass the time, there is an endless array of different things to do.  Also American audiences are VERY appreciative when entertainment is good.  Our applause is heartfelt and enthusiastic.

5.  If there’s one common thread to much of American culture it is the infinite capacity of dreaming.  I’m not just talking about the American Dream, but the very idea that the world is full of opportunity for anybody with a little know-how, grit, and hard work–that’s a charming worldview.   Honestly, this capacity has brought more healing and hope in times of trouble than anything else.

6.  The freedom of expression is an obsession for Americans.  I can’t think of a time where people’s right to say what they think hasn’t been seriously discussed.  It comes up in nearly every political issue, from both sides of the aisle.  Not every country has that freedom.

7.  When someone captures the American public’s heart, America is a very giving country.  I’m thinking of every internet story where someone was mistreated and strangers step in to try to make things right.  Every day I hear inspiring stories of common citizens trying to do the right thing.  It’s wonderful.

8.  You like big bustling cities?  We’ve got them.  You like a home in the middle of nowhere?  We’ve got that too.  Are you fast-paced or a slow-poke?  Take your pick, we’ve got room for you both.

9.  American food–yes it’s often bad for you, but who can deny the simple happiness that a hamburger, or a slice of pizza, or Coca-Cola, and yes, Apple Pie.  Americans love comfort so much that all their distinctive foods are comfort food.  And don’t forget the regional dishes–Southern Cooking, New England fare, New Orleans’ spicy stewpot, California Cuisine–and also all the different peoples of the world that came to this country and made an American version of their foods–go to any Italian restaurant or Tex-Mex diner or Chinese take-out and you know what I mean.

10.  And finally, I want to praise the regular ordinary people of this country.  The ones who are not famous or important, at least not in the ways that get on TV.   I want to tell the rest of the world that these are the people worth getting to know.  Yes, there’s a few bad apples, but by and large, a vast majority of Americans are good people who work hard, who have simple virtues like friendliness, openness, neighborliness, sharing, curiosity, and a whole lot of fun.

God bless this country.  Let us continue to improve and prosper.

The End of 2012

29 Dec

Well, the end of another year looms, and while it’s not quite over yet, I’m ready to embrace 2013 with open arms. There’s something about 2012 that just needs to end, to be history, to be memories.

Of course I also have to be wary of rushing forward, because in that rushing, we can miss life as it happens, and that’s a shame. So I’m going to put 2012 into a set of images.

An unwinding spool of thread. An old lady wearing one of those hats with a mesh veil. Squishy wet earth. An airport all grey and silver. City lights gleaming in a set of neon squares. A lovely dinner in an unfortunately extremely noisy restaurant. Little E and her gigantic hair.

All the small trees, brightly colored, huddled together. Old tv shows and their congenial chatter. If news was a person he’d be that person that makes all older people look bad.

Clicking clocks. My phone cracking and breaking apart piece by piece. Leaving resolutions by the wayside this year. Some lovely meditations.

Being in a lot. Avoiding people. Monklike. Couplehood, comfortable, and delightful.

A year of building, of looking inward, of opening my eyes. A year of wait.

I of course have my hopes for 2013, but I don’t want to say them yet. 2012 isn’t over yet, and I have time to put a few more memories in, before we box up this year and put it in the attic.

I recommend that you do the same.