Moments of Adequacy
Updated irregularly, with wildly varying degrees of enthusiasm and skill.
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Area Man Is Not Yelling At You, He's Just Saying...
For the record, and in response to reader queries: I'm not angry lately. I just happened to write a couple posts in a row about the subject of anger. Jeez, people, get a life!
Okay, sorry, scratch that. I was a bit on edge just now* but really, I'm not an angry person.
I'm not saying I'm never angry -- I am sometimes -- I think nearly all of us are once in a while.
But in spite of the fact that I'm currently going through a very high-stress time, and that many people in my position are quite angry and don't always recognize it, I really don't go around ready to pop an aneurysm or yell at somebody, or even silently fuming or frustrated or whatever. I like my life, believe it or not -- I love being alive, I have a million things to be grateful for, not least of which are two great kids and supportive family and friends. So in case you cared, relax -- tomorrow I'll post something funny, like how angry my daughter made me last night as I tried to help her with her math homework... ;-)
*10 points** to whoever can name the source of that quote
**Redeemable for airmiles or hotel stays. Also: in theory one might make a case that in the sentence above it should be "whomever", but many respected*** grammarians understand that that construction is impossibly unwieldy and accept the idea that "whoever can name that quote", while being the object of the sentence, should retain the form it would ordinarily take (ie, that it's better to retain the integrity of the compound "whoever" construction than shoehorn in the indirect object form "whomever" just to make ourselves feel better, because that makes it sound stupid.)
***They may be respected, but not by me, since I am a grammar apostate**** and now believe we have far too many pointless grammar rules and people who get all uptight about it are just fulfilling some inner need for order and structure in their lives.
****Betcha thought I didn't know that word, dincha?
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Saturday, January 28, 2006
anger anger everywhere
Okay, not really. But there's another thing I was thinking lately about anger.
No, wait, first a disclaimer:
I'm too lazy to search*, but I suspect there are many books on this subject written by people who are smarter, better educated, and more experienced than I am. However, I prefer to think that the conclusions I come to while driving home from work are the ones that are worth sharing with others. Plus, reading up on the subject would be way too much work...
So, the point. Two main things make us angry:
1) When we, or something important to us, is threatened. Our health & safety, our posessions, our family, our physical or emotional security. (See previous post about putting people in the Destroyer category.)
2) When our plans are thwarted. When we have an agenda or an expectation, and we are forced to change or abandon it. Typically, we are not harmed or threatened in any way, but we tend to feel the same emotion that we do when we are.
(Of course, sometimes both things are present: We intended to pay the heating bill, but our brother-in-law didn't pay back the money he said he would.)
Anyway, try this: the next time you feel angry, ask yourself if anyone is threatening or harming you. Chances are, they're not. Ask yourself if what you're angry about requires a great deal of time/effort/money to deal with. Lots of times the new plan isn't a serious hardship, it's just different -- you might be surprised how many times you have to admit that the main thing going on is simply "I had an agenda, and someone messed with it."
*I'd have to type the word "anger" into Google, plus there's all the clicking...
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
some people are bad
Why do some things that people do make us so angry/upset/agitated? I'm not talking about when someone shoots us with a gun -- I mean when they do something that doesn't really hurt us all that much but is still out of bounds (legally or socially), and ticks us off all out of proportion to how much it affects us.
Here is one answer:
I think at some core level we process things as Good and Bad. Or more accurately, Good For Me and Bad For Me. Things that feed/shelter/clothe us, taste good, feel good, make us secure, etc are Good. Things that threaten our safety or comfort or family/tribe or possessions are Bad.
To a lesser extent, we process people in the same way. Intellectually we recognize that people are complex, multi-faceted, etc, and that each person has a unique point of view, that life is complicated, etc. But life doesn't give us time to get to know and understand every person we come in contact with. Sometimes we feel called to make a quick judgement about people.
Our life and comfort depends on others. The kind of lifestyle we achieve through cooperation and specialization is utterly out of our reach if we're on our own. We need each other, and we need the societal and civil infrastructure to be in place and remain stable.
Tearing down is easy; building is hard. It takes continual effort by many people to fight the forces of entropy, ill will, and stupidity. Cars and houses and TVs and tractors and paintings and shoes and cans of soup and Hershey bars don't make themselves.
To grossly simplify -- which we're good at -- we can categorize activities (or people) as falling into two categories: Either
1) building, making, preserving, healing or
2) breaking, hurting, destroying.
Category 1 people are those who love and help us, plus anyone who holds down a respectable job and contibutes to society -- especially nurses, teachers, counselors, builders, etc.
People who engage in non-helpful activities -- even if they're relatively mild -- are processed as Category 2 People. And category 2 is the one that includes rapists, murderers, arsonists, thieves, muggers, warlords, etc. We rightly fear and resent these people, because they threaten our well-being.
So when someone commits an act of pointless destruction, or messes with social stability or threatens the social order, we feel angry and upset because we process them as Category 2 people, and we ascribe to them all the evil that is represented in Category 2.
Activities that can put you in Category 2 can be as non-dramatic as:
- breaking a window
- stealing some small item
- tagging (that's graffiti for you old folks)
- driving erratically, flipping me off in traffic
- sabotaging the million-dollar-homepage
- darting out into traffic for fun
So anyway, I'm not sure if this makes any sense to anyone but me. But the non-pleonastic version is this: If you're not building/creating/helping, you must be a Destroyer, and such activities threaten me and make me feel angry.
Now you know.
Quote for the day
Our friend can spill his dinner in our lap and we won't mind; our enemy annoys us by the way he holds his fork.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Not-very-interesting stuff from this week...
Austin was in the 70's and sunny most of the time. I notice Seattle is not.
The plane I got on to fly from Austin to Denver had hit a bird on final approach, so they had to do a special safety check. Then they had to fax paperwork to the Frontier office in Denver for signoff. This took 2.5 hours, causing everyone who had a connection in Denver to miss it.
The main flight attendant was apparently a frustrated stand-up comic, which eased the pain. He was actually very funny, and had a lot of new flight-attendant material I'd never heard.
After the standard "Cell phones off" announcement by one flight attendant, he got on and in a very soothing voice said, "What Danita was trying to say is: Sit down, strap in, and shut up, we're going to Denver now."
Also: "In the aisle my ex-wife and her new boyfriend will demonstrate a few of the safety features of our aircraft. Please take out the safety card and pretend to follow along..."
"In the unlikely event of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead compartments. If this happens, stop screaming like a little girl, pull the mask toward you, and..."
"Upon landing, an uninformed Frontier -- sorry, a UNIFORMED Frontier representative will be available..."
Okay, I guess it's not that funny, unless you were there. But if you were, it was. Delivery is everything, and he had great timing and a great voice.
He also asked us if we'd rather play the geography game again or do some illegal gambling. The vote was for gambling (he said "gambling always wins..."). So people wrote their seat # on a dollar bill and put it in a pot and the other flight attendant picked one out, and he looked at it and said happily "Flight attendants win AGAIN!"
But he was just kidding, a woman in 10A won $27...
At Denver, Frontier had an army of people waiting for us, with pre-made packets for each passenger containing a ticket for the next morning, food & lodging vouchers, etc. I thought the whole thing was handled very well.
When I checked into my hotel in Denver for my 6-hour bonus layover, I told the desk attendant I had an 8:25am flight, and asked him which shuttle I needed to be on to be at the airport by 7am. He said I needed the 6:35 shuttle. Apparently I was also supposed to ask the magic question "And what more must I do to get ON the 6:35 shuttle?"
But I failed to do this, and he did not volunteer the secret information that I needed to sign up for the shuttle, not just inquire about it. Maybe he thought that even tho I had arrived on a shuttle, the next morning I was planning to take a taxi and was merely curious about what shuttle I would have taken had I needed a shuttle. Or maybe he thought I was writing a book about shuttles and what time they come to the Red Roof Inn. I'm not sure.
Anyway, if I'd been unable to get a seat on the shuttle the next morning this would actually be a story. As it is, I was able to sneak in spite of not being signed up, so this is merely me making fun of a guy who was probably as tired as I was on a cold Denver midnight. But then even if he was tired, I fail to see how you don't end that conversation by saying something about the shuttle signup sheet, which was in front of him on his desk...
Anyway, I got back to Seattle today, picked up my kids, and all is well.
Next time I might even have something interesting to say...
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Gwen: Did you hear what happened? Vera confronted Mary because she'd heard Mary called her a "heifer". Vera called Mary a skinny, no-butt, no-boobs, anemic...
Cynthia: Well, who told Vera that Mary had called her a heifer?
Gwen (brightly): Me!
Okay, I don't know if that's a word, but apparently "pleonasm" and "pleonastic" are. Pleonasm means: the use of more words than are required to express an idea.
Hannah has a hand-gesture -- an impatient circular motion -- that means: get on with it, get to the point.
My children occasionally used to interrupt me with "Too much explaining, Daddy."
Today I was informed by a colleague that if I were African and had a secret name that only God & my close friends knew, that name would be Pleonasm.
The only conclusion that makes sense to me is that everyone around me is delusional. That's what makes sense. They just don't see things clearly. That's all I can think of -- that they don't really know what's going on. They're confused. Why else would they say those things? I'm pretty sure that's it, that they aren't in touch with reality. You know what I mean?
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
You are so awesome
It took me a long time to realize that flattery works not because we believe it, but because we're tickled that someone would take the trouble.
Recently I noticed that some guy named Ralph Waldo Emerson already explained this to the world a long time ago, as quoted in AWAD:
We love flattery, even though we are not deceived by it, because it shows that we are of importance enough to be courted.
Friday, January 13, 2006
i'm not as dumb as some other people
Lots of people I like have quoted to me the thing that goes (paraphrased) Doing the same thing and expecting different results is a sign of insanity.
I will concede that some types of insanity involve psychosis or at least some level of misperception of the world.
And it's smart to change course when things aren't working and it seems appropriate to try something else.
But other than that, this is a really stupid quote.
Sometimes we try the same thing over and over again because it's the only thing we CAN do, and it's better do be doing than not doing.
Sometimes conditions change, and what didn't work yesterday works today. Sometimes other people change their minds, or other factors come into play.
I mean, if I call you and you don't answer, does that mean calling you again is a sign of insanity? How about teaching your dog to roll over, or telling your kid to empty the garbage, or asking your wife for sex? How about when you're learning to juggle, or play the guitar? Much of life involves perserverence, trying things until they work. Or they don't. But IMHO it doesn't have much to do with insanity...
Still raining. I guess it's actually 26 days now. Everything is wet and it's cold. Bleah.
Tomorrow is my 17th and last wedding anniversary. Also kind of bleah.
This wk I spent 4 days speaking in front of clients for about 7 hrs/day, which is actually more tiring than one might imagine. Plus two hrs of commuting. Nice to make money, but now I'm kinda tired. And the guy who picked the lettuce for my Wendy's Spicy Chicken Sandwich works a lot harder than I do for a lot less money.
Speaking of eating, one of my clients introduced me to a restaurant in his town that serves authentic-style Mexican food. Usually I only get that in Texas. I ate there three times this week. The girl who took my order was convinced I was Argentinian because of the combination of my accent (it's not really Argentinian, but to Mexicans it sounds similar) and my light skin. That happens a lot -- they know I'm not from their country, but they can't figure out where I *am* from. They sometimes seem mildly disappointed to find out I'm just an American.
We won our hockey game this week, 6-3. The other team couldn't buy a break, and everything we tried went in the net. One of our guys put the puck in by batting it out of the air, which is hard to do. At the end of the game we scored an empty-netter by accident when one of our defensemen was just trying to clear the puck up the boards.
Was going to take David snowboarding tomorrow, but he said he's tired and just wants to hang around home with me. We're invited to the neighbor's to watch the game tomorrow, so we might do that. Go Hawks!
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Okay, that's going well...
Remember how I said the kids were doing well? Some days not so much.
Tuesday David took it personally at school when a couple of the jocks (or as the principal called them, "sports kids") teased him about his hair and his clothes. (According to David, this one kid has hassled him for a long time.)
I remember how jocks can be -- in my day they had a way of interacting that was cocky, challenging, very physical and full of putdowns, etc. I really think they usually had little malice -- I doubt successful, popular kids understand how that plays to kids who don't have their self-esteem, etc.
Anyway, D apparently responded in an angry and inappropriate way (ie, he used the F-word), and it escalated until the kid started in on his Mom ("Your mom's fat, your mom does this/that, etc"). At that point, David's idea of how to solve the problem was to punch the kid in the face a couple of times. One of the other jocks pulled him off, and everyone thought it was great fun, with the possible expception of the kid who got punched and with the certain exception of the school principal. And David.
Bottom line, D got suspended from school for a day (yesterday).
So today, D & I have a re-entry interview with the principal, during which we all agree that punching people in the face is not appropriate behaviour, etc etc.
So all's well that ends well.
Except that today David decides to see what happens when you stick a copper wire into the electrical outlet in science class. He was smart enough to insulate his hand by embedding the wire in a whiteboard eraser first, but failed to predict the ensuing shock and catching-on-fire of the eraser.
So I get another call today from the school, and David's suspended again. He appears to be embarking on a path that will ultimately lead to a life of crime and destruction. I never dreamed Samantha would be the easy one...
PS. I thanked Sam for her behaviour lately -- don't want her to see David getting all the attention for being a problem and her getting ignored for doing well. Her response was "Does this mean you're going to buy me things?"
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
In WA, people pass on the right or the left, as the mood strikes them. I believe this is because
a) passing on the right makes you stand out less, so you're less likely to get a ticket
b) drivers in WA don't understand the concept of a fast lane and a slow lane. They drive at random speeds in any lane that seems convenient to them.
Talking to an elderly woman I know, I express my mild exasperation with this. I say that if everyone would just obey the "If you're not passing someone, move right" guideline, the traffic flow would be much smoother and the roads less congested.
She looks at me and says admiringly, "My, sounds like you've got it all figured out." The sad part is she wasn't being sarcastic. She sincerely meant that my idea sounded interesting and possibly had potential. Kind of a "Well, it's radical, but I guess we should be willing to try anything..." It made me want to cry to realize she's not alone either -- there are probably thousands of drivers who don't get this concept -- so many that having them all killed would be prohibitively expensive...
One time a few months later I saw what looked like her little red pickup truck poking along in the fast lane, a long line of cars stacked behind it unable to pass. Eventually the guy in the slow lane pulled ahead far enough that we could all go around her on the right. I glanced over and saw that it was indeed her in the car, but someone else was driving. I guess all her friends belong to the club where they teach you that all lanes are created equal and patterned driving is Of The Devil.
On my way to a meeting with Hannah and the lawyers. They each charge $250/hr, so a 4-way mtg costs just over eight bucks a minute. I'm late, and speeding, and get caught by the state patrol. Ticket costs me $109. In the time it takes me to get pulled over and receive the ticket the lawyers charge me $125.
Other thing: It has rained for 24 days straight here. The record is apparently 33. I'm willing to stop trying for the record if you are.
Sunday, January 08, 2006
Not exactly what I meant to say...
Me: Samantha, I asked you to be in bed by now.
Sam: I know, just a sec!
Me: Well, you've already had a lot of sec's...
Hook 'em, Horns!
Note: Do not confuse this blog entry with one that is interesting.
What I did in Austin, TX last week:
Saw Ramon Ayala in concert. Well, it was at a club, but it had a stage and stuff. And about a thousand Latino Austinites (and me) listening. No one was crushed to death by the crowd, but I'm not sure why that didn't happen.
In a blatant attempt to curry favor with my client, I bought a Longhorns T-shirt which I wore to work Wednesday. I cannot believe how huge football is in Texas -- the entire worksite was full of people wearing burnt orange. Leaving work I saw one woman all dolled up and wearing a black formal dress... with the longhorns symbol in fake diamonds on the chest.
Wednesday I got off work about 6:55pm and walked down Sixth Street where I met a guy named Ricky from New Orleans who was taking polaroids of people for five bucks a pop. We hung out and watched the first half of the game together.
At halftime I went back to my hotel room and fell asleep, and didn't wake up until the 4th quarter. But at least I got to see Vince Young scamper into the endzone to win the game. I tried to order food from PF Chang's across the street from my hotel, but the guy informed me they'd closed the restaurant early because with the game on they'd been empty for hours.
The next day the entire city was smiling -- it was like I imagine VJ-day was like, or something -- incredible. I saw one guy wearing a USC Trojans T-shirt which impressed me by its sheer gutsiness. That guy clanks when he walks, man.
I also ate a LOT of good food, and basked in the warm sunshine. Most of the time it was in the 70's, with clear blue skies. After two weeks of chilly Seattle rain, it was really nice.
(See, I told you.)