11292014 To Offend None Is To Delight Few

Bull Abstract Silhouette

Almost every joke can offend someone. No matter how innocuous its content or noble your motive, it is possible that your humor or words can cause pain.

This isn’t an excuse to deliberately go forth and start spouting hurtful things.

But it is a reminder to use your internal filter to acknowledge that someone, somewhere, might take your words or jokes in a manner unintended. You can’t censor everything you say out of fear.

Doing so weakens your ability to communicate.

11292014 We Are All Children of a Lesser God

Lying Sheep(1)
http://goo.gl/6o5zXV  link to original image

Recently, someone got very angry at me because I posted a comment consisting entirely of a snopes.com link. Whether you want to argue about whether snopes is always legitimate or not, the larger issue is one of denial of any opposing or contradictory information. That’s a real problem in society and much of the reason why we have difficulty interacting.

(But, let’s be honest, isn’t it a fabulous feeling when someone posts something inflammatory and crazy on social media and you find the snopes article from 3 years ago, debunking it entirely?)

One of my goals as a person and as a liberal is to remember to be willing to change my opinion with new information. I need to strive to keep an open mind – but not all ideas and ideology are predicated on the precept of learning and adaption to information and circumstances. All too often people have a “one-answer-fits-all” solution – and it is invariably wrong. As I look back on my life, I know that I’ve been spectacularly wrong about some things. This means that I’m probably wrong about some things today and I’ll be wrong tomorrow.

I don’t always need to be right.

We are all in some ways children of a lesser god, even if it doesn’t seem obvious to others.

But first and foremost, we have to open to learning instead of using our ideology to beat the same old drum.

Let’s play a new song.

(“Children of a lesser god” refers to the original idea implied by Tennyson, rather than a religious concept per se. I only mention this to avoid some people from reading some bizarre connotations into it.)

11292014 Angry Bigots Have Us Surrounded

Tree In The Bulb(1)(http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=79916&picture=tree-in-the-bulb   Link to original…)


A couple of days ago, I was reminded again how angry some people can be. It doesn’t matter what you say, what you do, or how carefully you treat them. When they are confronted or think they are being questioned, out come the fangs of anger, accusation, and humorless righteousness.

If you think your words of encouragement or soft-handed attempts to push them toward the light are going to be rewarded, don’t be surprised when you pull back your hand and discover that you are missing a few fingers.

I’m sure it won’t be the last I hear from this person, even though there’s no legitimate reason to interact again. But that’s how those with prejudices work – they simmer and get angrier that they can’t spew their anger openly.

As always, I hope it doesn’t make me fail to give the next person a fair chance.

It’s Just a Scratch!

“Sometimes the delete key is your greatest friend.”   – Steve Martin, “Pure Drivel”

This certainly true for me. I’m constantly aware of my tendency to add too much extraneous detail. But in a quest to avoid perfectionism, it is a requirement to avoid over-editing, even when it might make the post or point much more interesting.

“Bonus level Jesus people.” I saw this phrase last week and it struck a chord with me immediately. I’m assuming you can imagine the inherent mockery in the context of the first time I read it? It’s one thing to meet a very personable person, someone with enthusiasm and charm, another to be kidnapped by a sudden verbal left turn into over-the-top religious nutjobbery.  I’m sorry, but no thanks, I don’t want to hear about how Noah’s ark is in modern day Iran. Please have pity on me!

“Just because someone blows smoke at me doesn’t mean I have to inhale it.” I apologize for not having the original source. In my defense, I saw it somewhere that I know for a fact wasn’t the source. I enjoyed the potential usefulness of this trite saying tremendously and can’t wait for the perfect opportunity to unwrap this zinger and mash it into someone’s nostrils.

“Life doesn’t make any sense, and we all pretend it does. Comedy’s job is to point out that it doesn’t make sense, and that it doesn’t make much difference anyway.”
― Eric Idle

111242014 Creative Wrapping and Decoration

Each of these packets is actually individually wrapped layers of envelopes, with each containing cash and pictures, bundled together into two separate packs.

I wish I had done a better of keeping pictures of all the hundreds of crazy wrapping and decoration jobs I’ve done over the years.

“The Dirty Sanchez.” My friend Chris got a surprise, using a funny picture I had drawn on the table at a mexican place where we had shared a meal. His wife asked me to quickly wrap it to conceal what it was, so naturally, I dragged out my picture of my on-the-fly artwork.

An example of a personalized letter envelope I made. I have made 100s of these over the years, usually in bright colors. For some reason, I liked this one in negative colors. When I was much younger, I once made weekly payments for a used car by making a different decorated envelope for each week’s payment. The lot manager had a display in his office with my payment envelopes on it.

A holding/storage box. Probably 2,000 strips of tape, a few hundred stickers, paper slivers, etc. The inside was completed decorated, too. One time, while working at Cargill, I had made one of these for someone’s son. As hard as it is to believe now, it took me about 60 hours of work, had several compartments, 2 of which weren’t visible and wouldn’t work if you didn’t know to press the inside corner to drop the extra compartments open. I don’t have pictures of it anymore.

Simple newspaper wrapping paper, shrouded in 4 8X11 color pictures of the recipient.

I wrapped this box with special photo art paper, then used a couple of dozen personalized pictures to cover the box on all 6 sides. Inside the top paper, there was an entire layer of about 60 wallet-size individual pictures, too.

From a few years ago. I used pictures after making them appear as pencil outline drawings. He loved the box!

This present is wrapped in special red paper, then covered with 200+ bandaids as a decoration. (She used to be a nurse, but the real reason I used them is because it’s cool and no matter how you apply the bandaids, it looks interesting.

From a few years ago. You can see that I used both color photos and outline pictures on colored paper to wrap many of the presents.

11232014 Ancestry Is Serendipitous

Ancestry has taught me some strange lessons – in math, history, genetics and personal stories. It has defined the word “serendipity” for me. I’ve learned so many things that have nothing to do with who my great-grandparents might have been.

An example: 80% of all marriages in history have been between 2nd cousins or closer. This is because of the lack of suitable mates outside the 5-mile zone of a typical person’s reach for most of history. Without war or some similar disaster, people stayed put in their little worlds.

This results in pedigree collapse, a reduction in the number of ancestors due to duplication along bloodlines. 1200 AD is the widest point for our family trees; before that, the number of ancestors above us was drastically smaller to geographical limitations. (Today, you would have 128 5th Great-grandparents, spanning back an average of only around 200 years ago.) Think about it. Without pedigree collapse, going back a few thousand years would result in a # of ancestors greater than the entire world population by many factors.In a given group or ethnicity, it’s a certainty that we all are 15th cousins or less – and probably much less, without knowing it. We are much more connected that you probably realize. You have over a million 8th cousins.

I’ve found a lot of fascinating things along the way, including people’s missing birth fathers, birth certificates, and even ties to royalty. (For what it is worth, you are connected to royalty. It’s a certainty. Wealth contributed greatly to lineage and it also afforded people’s connections to be recorded, unlike most commoners.)

11232014 Grief Porn, Mourning Sickness

http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=9652&picture=crying&large=1  Link to original picture by Peter Griffin

Glossophilia Link to “Mourning Sickness” and “Grief Porn”

Gawker Article About Grief Porn

I’ve had a working draft about “grief porn” sitting in my queue to finish for about a year. No matter how I approached it, I couldn’t finish it. Anything I said came off as unintentionally harsh or dismissive. It’s not a trend that I fully understand. It certainly affects me. Some of the content is very well done and is virtually impossible to avoid getting a visceral reaction to it.

I deleted it and instead decided to go with a couple of links about the idea. I like the term “mourning sickness” better, as the cliché of adding the suffix ‘porn’ to everything has accelerated a bit too much in the last couple of years.

Following social media, you can see that the mourning sickness trend is much more prevalent than it used to be. Technology has made it much more difficult to create and distribute, in real-time. People have become more accustomed to it and this has loosened people’s tolerance of it. Much of the coverage about it seems to focus on the minority of those who thrive on consuming it.

It’s difficult to know how to process much of it, as I don’t have a personal connection to much of it. Some critics say that it’s a way to socially demonstrate that we are compassionate and identify with human emotion. Others say that it’s a variation on “elation porn,” the drive toward saturating everything with “feel good” stories and content. (Surprising someone with a new house, a returning soldier appears by magic at a sporting event…) The ice bucket challenge earlier this year was an example of the overall tendency, although it doesn’t fit neatly into any of the categories.

10252014 First And Always: What Will It Be Used For?

As a wanna-be minimalist, it bothers me that we generally don’t stop to think closely about what we need an item for. Secondly, if we need an item, what exactly do we need it to do?

If I “need” another cellphone, the only things I require are texting and calls. Almost all other features are a waste of time, space and consideration, as well adding the needless complexity in life.

If you are buying a computer, the worst thing to do is to decide which brand you want first. The primary consideration should be what you expect to do with the device. Secondary considerations would include size, portability, interoperability, etc. How much of our tech burnout results from doing the process backwards? We run out and buy the latest tablet without consideration of its limitations and drawbacks, focusing solely on price or how stylish it might be. Or we buy a Mac thinking that it will be more reliable, forgetting that we don’t have the tech knowledge or interest to learn how to do everything all over again with another OS.

What do you need a new item to do? Always narrow that option first and be true to your decision. Half the battle is fought by how you define it.

Minimalism aside, if the item is something that you find appealing or beautiful, the practicality of it isn’t the major priority. But you can’t clutter your house with a million items that you find appealing.

12232014 Your Keys Say It All

Having read a lot over the last few weeks, another thing I’ve always believed is a common belief among many minimalists: Keys.

The more you have or the bigger your keychain, the less likely you are to have a simple life. Keys basically demand that your life have a multilayer worry factor stressing you out.

Why in the world would you carry a dozen keys in your pocket? I carry 1. I can easily fold mine into the little coin pocket of my pants where they don’t press against my leg, fall out, etc.If I need others, they are in the appropriate place. Carrying the ‘just in case’ mentality too far means you can’t feel comfortable leaving keys in the glovebox, even though you always go to the mail in your vehicle. But the ‘what if’ insists that you carry them on you, ‘just in case’ some unimaginable scenario were to arise.

People with extra keys also tend to have mailboxes they don’t need, storage units, keys to the in-laws, keys to  god-knows-what lying around. I’ve noted that these people also are the ones who can’t find a specific key when an emergency arises, or they rely so much on “having everything” that they overlook a key and assume they have it when the actually don’t.

One of everyone’s projects should be to look at their keys and minimize the number they “must have.” Otherwise, I’ve found that you can take all identifying information off your extra keys and put them somewhere mostly hidden. (Having said that, I’ve also observed that those people carrying too many keys seem to have the their name, phone number, car model, and address on their keys. Not a good idea.)

There are some great things online to help you cleverly hide your keys without resorting to the cliché of using a pot or rock to conceal your keys.

When I had the doors in my house redone, I finally got one of my biggest wishes fulfilled. I had a keypad door lock installed on the door I use most often. I can go outside without fear of being locked out and can set a guest access code for a one-time entry for things such as pet care, emergency access and so forth. One less key!