So far today I’ve sat down with every intention of blogging three times now. The first two obviously didn’t take. Hopefully the third time’s the charm. I’m not expecting much… and maybe that is, or at least should be the them for the post. Or the week. Or possibly even the month. In reality it’s probably been the theme for a lot longer than that.
The only times in my life I’ve ever really been let down where when I let expectations get the better of me. The best things have always come when I didn’t expect much at all, or more specifically when I was expecting the worst possible outcome. Surely that informs my approach to getting through the day. If you walk in expecting everything to be on its way to hell in a hand basket, often enough it is in fact heading that direction. Other times, though, it’s not and those moments come as a pleasant surprise.
If I can attribute my own warped sense of pessimism to anything, knowing where expectations most often lead is probably somewhere near the root cause. If only from the point of view of keeping my blood pressure more or less in check, the occasional pleasant surprise feels like a better idea than daily consistent disappointments. I seriously don’t know how anyone walks into a day full of optimism knowing that the its ration of shit is never more than a few minutes from hitting the fan. It seems like you’d be setting yourself up for a whole lot of unnecessary disappointment.
1. Standards. As a matter of principle, I never hold anyone to a higher standard than I hold myself. By the same token I don’t hold them to a lower one either. I’m many things but I do my best to avoid having hypocrite show up on that list – especially when it’s no harder a matter than maintaining just a little bit of consistency. Jaded as I am, though, I still find I can be surprised when people seem to behave with no sense of personal standards at all. Unfortunately, I’m not entirely sure whether it bothers me more that they do it or that I care.
2. Low Expectations. The high point of this week at the office was the arrival and unboxing of a new industrial strength shredder. I’m not even making that up. Given the volume of paper we push a heavy duty shredder isn’t a luxury item. It’s damned near an essential. An essential that we haven’t had for the last quarter of a year. It makes me a little sad to find my expectations of what constitutes a “good day” have been lowered so far that being able to turn PowerPoints into confetti now falls near the very top of the list.
3. Apple. I found myself reading through the initial reports from this afternoon’s Apple product rollout and rather than finding myself in need of selling a kidney for some new tech, I found myself mostly shrugging with something that approximated indifference. The latest iteration of iPad lacked something of the wow factor of a truly new product. The new iMac looks well enough kitted up, but not nearly enough to get me to drop $3K+ on on a desktop computer. There was nothing there that will find me leaping from bed at 3AM to make sure my pre-order is in. I know that every new product update can’t be a show stopper, but I’d have appreciated a little bit of “wow” when it comes time to deliver what should be iconic product offerings.
We were told ebola wouldn’t come to the United States, but it did. We were told its spread was easy to prevent, but as it turns out trained medical personnel are the ones who seem to end up getting it. The whole issue is a grand demonstration of one of the major problems with politicians. In their pursuit of 50.00001% of the votes, they speak in generalities too often tailored to what the best research tells them people want to hear. Even where people want a world of black and while, I find the shades of gray are far closer to the universal constant.
So far in America we have two cases of Ebola being transmitted, It’s hardly a national epidemic. It’s frightening mostly because until a few weeks ago Ebola was far away nightmare that happened “over there.” Now it’s a real thing. It’s in at least one of our cities and apparently on our planes.
This isn’t a call to ban international travel or to mandate we all take our temperature before leaving the house for the day. It is, however, a statement of opinion that the country needs more than a press conference and repeated assurance that our standards of care and facilities can handle anything. That the two most recent victims are healthcare workers themselves gives lie to the notion that we are in any way prepared for something even a town or two over from “the worst.”
Far more people died in America today driving themselves to work than contracted Ebola, so I want to keep that in perspective. Even knowing that’s a fact, it would be nice to see more than a lick and a promise from the smart people who are in charge of keeping this shit from happening.
Usually I sit down at the computer with at least a vague notion of what’s going to end up on the screen. It should be something heavy, but not too bleak. Something entertaining, but not too frivolous. It should be witty, but not comical. None of those are hard and fast rules, of course. They’re more like selectively enforced guidelines. Since on any given day what’s going to end up online is up in the air right up until the last minute, I find it best to have very few hard and fast rules. All they tend to do is get in the way of posting something halfway interesting.
Even disregarding the guidelines, I’ve had some trouble today focusing in on what I wanted to say this evening. There were plenty of news articles that I could justifiably talk about. The office? Sure, it’s full of ridiculous things that would be easy enough to spell out in 300 words. The Fortress of Solitude? There’s always something dinging around that I can make sound new and noteworthy. Still, none of those struck a chord today. Nothing stood out screaming “write about me right the hell now.” Most days by the time I get home I’ve got two or three ideas in the running. Days like today, it’s like the theme is just grinding it out, jamming one foot ahead of the next, and getting through to the end.
It’s the kind of day that makes a guy appreciative of the other days – the ones where things go like butter, the words fly onto the page by their own accord, and you’ve got some spark of life left when the lights go out. Three-day weekends, man they mess with the routine. A holiday weekend is a great thing, but getting back makes me feel like a junkie coming down. There’s plenty going on around me, but all I’m really thinking about is where I’m going to find my next fix.
Columbus Day is one of those odd holidays that no one enjoys unless you’re Italian, work for a bank, or find yourself in the employ of the federal government. There are plenty of hand-wringers out there who tell us that it’s Indigenous People’s Day or that there should be no celebration at all commemorating the arrival of Europeans in the New World – I also choose not to quibble about things like who got here when or whether it should be Lief Erikson Day. The concept of discovery is more important than the individual act itself. And to those out there wanting to argue that you can’t “discover” a place where people already life, I mostly say “nuts.” Columbus and his crew discovered territory that, to them and to most of Europe at the time, was new and wholly unexpected. Call it a flapjack and it’s still a rose by any other name.
See, Columbus sailed during what use to be called the Age of Conquest. Some nations and civilizations did the conquering and others were vanquished. It’s happened since the dawn of recorded time and was happening long before we bothered writing the stories down. As often happens with the vanquished, we don’t hear much about their history. Now as a student of history myself, I’m all about understanding their story, but I’m not about rewriting the entire age of exploration into an overly simple victim narrative. Likewise, I’m under no illusion that Columbus or those that followed are some kind of demigods. History is a more complex animal than that.
All I’ll say is we’d do well to learn a bit more about the Age of Conquest. I suspect some of the lessons there are shockingly applicable to those of us schlepping around in the modern world.
No one knows better than me that the best laid plans tend to go wildly off course at the first opportunity. This weekend has proved to be no exception to the First Rule of Operational Planning. Instead of attacking the arm-length list of things to do today, I’m mostly sitting here nursing a sore throat and wondering if I’d be better off switching from coffee to tea with honey and lemon for the day. I don’t feel sick so at least for the moment it’s just another minor irritation making its presence known among so many others.
So today is changing gears. Instead of going out and getting things done I’m going to try being an indoor cat (and getting things done). After all, having some kind of throat crud doesn’t prevent me from doing research, or laundry, or from getting my first attempt at beef stew in the pot before first light this morning. All I’m really trying to do is avoid talking if at all possible.
If my temperature spikes and this starts looking like Ebola, though, I’ll be out and about quick as you please… Should I find myself about to expire in a agonizing, blood-soaked death there’s a list of people I need to find so I can give them a big slobbery kiss.
1. Purpose. I don’t think everyone needs to go around all day every day at 1000 miles an hour with their hair on fire, but I do think we would all be better served if people would at least drive with a sense of purpose; as if getting from their point of departure to their destination was actually important to them in some way. Instead, what I find most every afternoon is a mass of people wandering the highways and byways as if they haven’t a clue where they are, how they got there, or what they’re supposed to be doing. Even if we can all agree to move with purpose between the hours of 4:30 and 7:00 PM, I truly believe the world would be a better and more harmonious place.
2. Flashing Lights. While I’m on the topic of roads and transportation, this might be a good opportunity to give everyone a refresher on flashing traffic lights at an intersection and what they mean to you. Red, almost universally means stop yes, even when it’s flashing. Unless Mr. Williams taught me the wrong skills lo those many years ago in drivers ed, yellow flashers hanging above the intersection mean proceed with caution. It should be noted here that it is not an alternative method of telling drivers to stop. Sitting in your car at a flashing yellow light yelling at me while I’m sitting at a flashing red makes you look like an asshat or maybe more like an ignorant skank. Possibly both.
3. Doubt. I like to ponder. Having the time to sit and think has always been important to me. Unfortunately I also have a tendency to spend an inordinate amount of time dwelling on slights both real and imagined. I’ve been afflicted with that particular problem since I was a kid. Although I’ve learned plenty of coping skills to keep those rough edges from showing too much, I still feel it acutely. I hate how even a momentary doubt can seep in and color every other thought and decision for days on end. I hate that I sometimes take counsel of my fears despite all my best efforts to the contrary. It’s without question the one element of my personality that I’d most like to change.