Thursday, September 24, 2009


It's amazing how different two people's reactions can be to the exact same scenario. Even more fascinating is the consistency in differences between two types of people and their responses.


Obviously we're talking about the workplace and the way things are handled (it's not like I have a social life to discuss). As I was saying, the most interesting difference I've noticed is the way parents and non-parents interact with other people in the workplace.

Parents seem to be able to deal with a much wider range of personalities and managing styles and are much less likely to make or listen to excuses of others. Frankfurt wrote a book about the difference between bullshit, lies, and simple ignorance. In my experience parents and cynics have an uncanny ability to sniff out the bullshit shoveled by other departments. Maybe people just aren't cynical enough anymore. Maybe. It might be the teacher in me, but I find myself having much more in common with my parental co-workers when it comes to social temperament and the competence level of the people I'm working with.

By contrast, people without kids or experience with them seem to be much more passive or at least willing to put up with the rationalization other people put forth. I'm not sure if I would describe this approach as soft or simply diplomatic but it drives me crazy. My two biggest points of contention occur when a.) people can't handle criticism or view it as some sort of personal attack when commenting on an idea or procedure or b.) some one's not doing their job and rather than hold that party responsible some excuse is made (or accepted) and the behavior is never corrected - the ringing bell in this Pavlovian example is the bullshit being proposed as some acceptable excuse and the salivating dog is the diplomat who wants nothing more than to believe that everyone is telling the truth and no one has any need for deception. There is no food here, the subject has already been properly conditioned.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


You know what I hate? My conscience or maybe more accurately, my sub-conscious, or something. Not that I think I'd be better off without them/it, just that I wish it'd shut up every once in a while. Like when I'm walking through the store wondering how the hell I can manage to spend a hundred sixty dollars a month on groceries and I grab a bag of Doritos because they're on sale for $1.88 and that little voice goes, "THAT, THAT RIGHT THERE, THAT'S HOW YOU SPEND ALMOST TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS A MONTH ON GROCERIES!"

"Geez, calm down, you don't have to yell at me, man I haven't had Doritos in forever and they finally go on sale and I get a lecture...I really don't need this. Oh crap, am I having a breakdown in the snack food aisle of Safeway? OH CRAP AM I SAYING ALL THIS OUT LOUD?!"

"Now, who's yelling? I needed to yell to be heard over that stupid iPod. What's your excuse?"

It's an awkward feeling watching security of Safeway approach you, nervously glancing at each other, hands hovering over what I can only assume are high-caliber hand canons needed to protect the grocery store from fat people in their Hoverounds and old ladies with their walkers.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

my moment

I think rituals and routines are very close cousins in the evolution of habits. They needn't be something we get sucked blindly into and continue doing by going through the motions. That morning cup of coffee used to be a nice morning ritual - walk through the park to get to the barista, slowly sip, give tongue second degree burns, soak in the rising sun and singing birds. And now it's become a chore? People ask where you're going and you angrily mumble something about caffeine and the intense need for everyone to shut the hell up. Take back your morning. Take back your ritual. Whether it's a morning cup of coffee, a walk at lunch, a cigarette after dinner, or watching the sun lower itself to bed on Wednesdays, don't let the ritual routinize.

Personally I have a moment. One moment everyday that alleviates my stress. One point where everything that has built up and grayed another dozen hairs gets released. It's a moment of pure freedom. I fight gravity and win, if only for a second, and in that moment I'm literally flying.

There's a small ramp where the bike path I take climbs to the sidewalk as the street goes over the I-10. It's the kind of spot with a wide line of sight and plenty of time to get up to cruising speed. Everyday I hit that ramp in top gear and go airborne. My moment lets me forget everything that's happened that day and everything that might happen that night and focus, ever so briefly, on not dying upon returning to earth.

My point is, it's important that we all have our moment, our ritual. Having that space that we can step into gives us the freedom to evaluate things from a different perspective. When I'm soaring, weightless, over the concrete I'm not concerned with the day that just occurred nor am I thinking about the approaching evening - my only thought is on sticking that landing, and maybe how you would describe the taste of cotton candy.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


So where did you think you would be twenty years ago? If your life is anywhere close to where you thought it would be, then congratulations you are either incredibly focused and single-minded or some kind of sorcerer. "Having a job" or "being happy" don't count, you don't get points for being a vague and smart-alecky preteen. Five years ago you probably had a better grasp on where you'd be standing today, maybe even ten years ago. But, unless you're over forty, twenty years ago is probably a stretch. Why? Because thinking in the abstract is hard. Especially for young minds where the ability to think abstractly about a solution or outcome are limited at best. (The prefrontal cortex doesn't really start developing until 15 or 16 and doesn't finish developing until 24 or 25 - yes, most of us have passed our cognitive prime. High-five you guys!)

And guess what - for some of us it's still nearly impossible. Look at me, I've talked about 'when this is finished then...' or 'once I've done this I will...' with virtually no detectable progress towards anything that can reasonably be called a goal. The thing is, time has a way of catching up to someone that's always putting stuff off and I think that moment for me might have been last weekend. It's so easy to talk about things when all your projects will take *years*, and suddenly those years have passed and the moment of The Next Step is upon us. I think Next Step's are a necessary part of growing up and experiencing life and accordingly each Step becomes harder and harder to make as networks are built, comfort levels discovered, and priorities get re...prioritized. Sometimes Steps can be put off for more school or a new job or a stable relationship, but school finishes, jobs get monotonous (unless it's a career, in which case you might be done with Steps!), and relationships end (or take their own Step).

In the end I think it's about priorities, what's important to a person will determine their next step. Whether it's career, family, travel, location, people, culture, or something else entirely, these are the things that make it hard to know where we'll be in five years and nearly impossible to know where we'll be in twenty. These are all the things that are affected by the abstraction of time that make life a pain. Oh, but also worth living. Den-what?!