Browsing "opinion"
Jul 22, 2008 - opinion, philosophy    1 Comment

Zen and the Art of the Reply

In this day of multi-channel communications overload, it has become insanely easy to fire off an email (or SMS, Twitter, Tumblr, Jaiku, Plurk, Pownce, Jott, …), post to your blog (or Facebook, Classmates, Friendster, LinkedIn, Plaxo, LiveJournal, WordPress, Blogger, MySpace, Utterz, Orkutz, an online forum or your choice, …), or leave a post on someone else’s blog (or … well, you get the picture) … all without really thinking about what we have to say.  Couple that with a general air of intolerance in some online circles (where any reply brings on a “flamewar” as though people were just itching for a fight) and spam shrinks to a trivial (and, for the most part, ignorable) online issue.

In a nutshell:  Just because someone else publicly said something (either to/about you or about a topic which you’re passionate about) doesn’t mean you must engage in what may appear to you as witty repartee but which, in fact, is mindless “oh, yeah?  Well, so there!” prattle.  To say nothing of the stress created as your blood pressure rises and you focus all your energy on visualizing your online foe being squished between your thumb and forefinger (like the heads of victims of Mr. Tyzik from The Kids in the Hall) .  It may feel good, but only for awhile … and it usually keeps things escalating for no good reason.

I had lunch with my parents this weekend, during which our discussion wandered (as it is want to do) onto the topic of conflict resolution.  More specifically, is it really necessary to confront someone who has either said something or sent something (email, etc.) to you, especially if their statement pisses you off?

The simple answer:  Not necessarily.  If you’re having an open and honest dialog, perhaps (but it requires that both parties be willing to both listen and understand the other).  However, if you’re pretty certain that the speaker will neither understand nor appreciate your response, sometimes it’s best not to reply.

But how to know when and when not to continue a dialog?  A very good question, and I can answer that by giving you 3 questions to ask yourself when you’re in such a situation.

Before you react (or reply, or email, or whatever), ask yourself the following:

  1. Does [what they said] require a response?
  2. Does [what they said] require a response from me?
  3. Does [what they said] require a response from me now?

If you cannot answer “yes” to all three questions, don’t respond (if “yes” to just the first 2, then wait a bit).  Pretty simple, cuts to the heart of the matter … but not the way we’re programmed to think normally.  Think of these as a more detailed interpretation of the old adage:

If you have nothing constructive to say, say nothing.”

I can’t take credit for these 3 questions.  Kudos here goes to a coworker who uses them to get her through meetings where she finds herself itching to dive into a debate, only to find (after applying the questions) that any input she would have provided would have been misinterpreted and not produced the desired outcome.

I also make no claims about how easy it is to simply let things go when you first try.  It’s not (believe me, I know), but it does get easier with time.  And, with time, you’ll find that you become less and less riled up about things you have no interest in discussing.  Life gets better, stress goes down.

Try it!

Jun 16, 2008 - observations, opinion, science    No Comments

(Don’t) Sleep on It!

According to a study conducted by the University of Minnesota, if you don’t have a consistent, regular sleep habit (i.e. same number of hours, same level of relaxation, same time of night, etc.) you’re more likely to have “aging issues” (i.e. you’ll die).

There’s a part of me that went “duh!?!” when I heard this (it seems intuitively obvious), but then I had to take a step back and rethink things.  Is it really your screwed up sleeping habits that adversely affect your health (and, potentially, lead to your death) …

OR … is it the waking early and staying up late that affect your health … or the driving while drunk (because you’re out later) and driving hung over (because you were out later the night before) that kills you?

OR … it that (according to another survey) too little sleep leads to snacking … which leads to weight gain … and fat gain, and cholesterol gain … which leads to health issues?

OR … is it because we’re all getting fatter, and being overweight (which apparently ups the changes of shortened sleeping) has it’s own mortality issues?

Bottom line:  You can’t draw significant conclusions from a study unless the study addresses all possible variables and variations that may affect the outcome.

Oh, and don’t go thinking that all you have to do is get a lot of sleep.  Too much sleep can also lead to restless nights … which puts you right back in the same leaking boat.

As for what this all really means, I’ll have to get back to you … after I take a nap.

Feb 15, 2008 - current events, opinion    No Comments

It seems like we’re focusing on the wrong problem

In his book “When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?”, George Carlin explains that “suicide bombers” aren’t really committing suicide: suicide is the result of someone believing their life is worthless, while these bombers believe the act of ending their lives matters especially if they can take someone with them (preferably an infidel or two). In reality, they’re more “homicide bombers” that get caught up in their own act of mass murder. (If you have an Audible account, get the audiobook version, as it’s read by Carlin himself and his delivery, as always, is hilarious).

Maybe we’re all looking in the wrong place, or in the wrong direction. In the past week, we’ve have 5 different incidents of “suicide shootings” within our borders … in our own schools. Ohio, Louisiana, Tennessee, California, and just yesterday in Illinois. The latest trend in school shootings is to shoot a video, go kill a bunch of people, then kill yourself. If that isn’t “suicide terrorism” I don’t know what is.

We’re so preoccupied with keeping people outside the country from coming in … are we completely losing perspective on what’s happening at home?

May 8, 2006 - opinion    No Comments

Patents are meaningless

Either that, or the people in the US Patent Office bottomed out in the ennui department. John C. Dvorak caught this little ditty this morning demonstrating the breadth and depth of intelligence of our federal “intellectual property protection system”. The patent owner’s a fellow Minnesotan … though I’m not certain what that means (if anything).

I’m in the wrong line of work. To heck with trying to win the lottery, I’m gonna file patents for:

  • Dangling the legs in the water creating sinusoidal ripples
  • Riding a bicycle
  • Walking a dog … wait … too obvious … walking a cat
  • Holding a pencil to apply graphite to a paper surface

Then I’ll sit back, relax, and sue everyone for … living

Jul 14, 2005 - observations, opinion    No Comments

Yeah! Home Delivery … Wait … I have to be home when?

Came home from work to find a flyer (junk mail as a door mat … somehow it seems appropriate).  Wait … it looks like SimonDelivers is finally getting over to this side of the Twin Cities. Excellent!  This is a fantastic concept for the time-constrained:

  • Call them or surf their site
  • Place your order
  • Have it delivered right to your door

Sweet!  Hold it … hmmm … lessee …

  • Delivery times are on a weekday between 2 and 4 pm
  • No need to be home

Ok, I live in an apartment building.  You mean to tell me that my orders gonna be sitting out by the elevator in the public area until I get back?  Wait … there’s more …

  • Groceries are packed with dry/blue ice, items stay fresh for up to 8 hours

Up to“?  It’s July in Minnesota … one of only two months of the year where the temperature gets above freezing (I may be exaggerating, but it doesn’t seem by flippin’ much).  So … if they’re efficient in the delivery, and the clock starts close to 2, I’ll be down to 2 hours of “fresh time” if I make it back by 6 (which ain’t easy with my current commute).  Note to self, do not order ice cream, mayonnaise, eggs, or anything else that’s hyper-bacterial velcro.

I’m still a little intrigued by the “don’t have to be home” and the “we’ll leave it by the elevator”.  I’ve seen how people handle the phone books (delivered by the stack and parked next to the mailboxes) … you’d swear some folks have a call center in their bathroom with the number of books they cart off.  I wonder how they’re gonna handle something packed in dry ice in a clearly distinguishable SimonDelivers tote bag.

Gonna sit this one out for a bit … see what happens.