failandaise

I was walking around my neighborhood today, unseasonably warm at 78 degrees, when I suddenly stopped. I looked around and saw a ton of people wearing sunglasses, eating ice cream, and generally being happy just to be outdoors. And then it occurred to me: I still needed a 1099 form from a job to file my taxes this year.

Before that, I followed a recipe from TV’s Bobby Flay. In it he wrote to poach chicken. My friend suggested that poached chicken was gross, and I should grill it instead. If you know Bobby Flay at all through his shows, cookbooks, or restaurants, you’d know that if he had one heating element to cook with for the rest of his life, it’d be a grill. If he had twelve heating elements, they’d all be grills. For him to say a recipe called for poached chicken was to say it through gritted teeth. If there’s one person who wouldn’t want to recommend poaching, it’s Flay. So when he tells me not to grill something, I’m going to listen.

Not about jackets

I don’t think I know many risk takers. That’s through no fault of the people I know, though. If you went to college or educated yourself in other ways, if you’re ambitious, if you’re clever and can pull off most anything you try, then you’re not really ever taking risks. To me, riskiness involves uncertain, (to a degree)¬†uncontrollable and potentially unfavorable outcomes with permanent, even life-changing consequences. Sounds bad, right? That’s because it IS. A risk isn’t:

“Will I give up a $200k a year job to potentially make $500k, but if I don’t do it, I’ll go back to 200, or, at worst, 150?”

No, it’s:

“I’m going to Hollywood to wait tables for twenty years in hopes and go on auditions whenever I can in hopes of making it.”

Most of the people I know would never do that. Even the ones who are talented enough to not be ridiculous. It’s because they chances of it working out are terrible, and if it doesn’t, they’ve lost substantial chunks of their lives. Terrible, right?

Not really. When you think about it, it’s actually liberating. If you’re worried about being risky, stop and think: will whatever choice you make in a given situation potentially result in something life-changingly awful? Are you unable to rebound? Is there any significant chance you won’t be able to make it work to your satisfaction?

Chances are the answers to all of these questions are no. You’ll be fine. Once you realize “risk” is an illusion, you get to relax and just have fun.

Ugh, these are too serious. I need to get funnier again.

Not about carpet patterns

I love rules of writing. Advice like, “Any time you start out by saying _____, stop” is the best. I could (and have) spend(t) hours reading long lists of well-meaning nuggets of wisdom.¬†Unfortunately, I can’t tell if I ever remember any of them. Does anyone keep rules like these accessible when writing? Are they actually useful? I once wrote a paper about how Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” was a crock because it couldn’t explain why good political language works; only why bad language is bad, and how to avoid it. I’m going to be as arrogant as I’ll probably ever let myself get here for a minute, or at least until I feel like I’ve earned it: I already know how not to write badly. I don’t always practice that ability, but I always know when it’s not working. Unfortunately, it’s not something I can exercise much control over. I can usually write decently, but great is rare. (Probably like it should be.) I don’t want to know how not to be a crappy writer. That part’s taken care of. I want to know how I can write amazingly on demand. I’ve yet to find rules to help with that.

please, kindly

Because I don’t have the same kinds of social constraints normal people seem to have, I just read an article in the NY Times that interested me enough to look up and contact one of the subjects. Wasn’t too hard, because she’s a professor at a big university, but when I emailed her, I immediately got a response that read:

Please note that Professor ____ does not use e-mail.
Kindly contact her at the office address below:

And then it told me her physical address. I will kindly contact her at the office address below, because I feel that it will do me well, but I can’t decide why she doesn’t do email. Does she simply not like computers? Or does this ensure she only gets communication that really needs her to see it? Either way, there’s no chance I’m giving her the satisfaction of asking.

In which I discover I might be playing too much Scrabble

I hesitated to say “she’s” in an online conversation today because I thought it used too many Ss. Ss I should be conserving. And even after I realized it, I still felt nervous about spelling some words.

oh, right.

I found over a dozen Super Nintendo games in my building’s trash. (Technically the recycling bin for plastic.) At first I was kind of shocked, but then I realized there wasn’t anything else that could be done with them. Who really cares about Super Nintendo games these days? There’s no market for them. Should one hold on to them for another 20 or 30 years in hopes they’ll increase in value? They’re not Monets. At least the person who threw them out at least tried to be responsible. (I think that they probably needed to be taken to some special electronics disposal site, due to the circuit boards, but we can probably assume the owner’s heart was in the right place.) Kind of hard to imagine that perfectly functional items are perfectly useless after a mere 10 or 15 years. It’s called progress, baby.

I think this is good for me. I’ll see how it goes.

Naming the Waves

I went on a cruise last week with my parents, sisters, and their boyfriends. On the second to last day, I was standing on the balcony of my cabin, taking pictures of the ocean. As I was looking at the water, I had the idea of a character in a story who would be known for “naming the waves.” It seemed like a poetic, artsy kind of quality, and I thought I could use it in a future piece.

The other day, I googled the phrase “naming the waves.” Right now, I’d like you to go to google, copy/paste that in, and click “I’m feeling lucky.”

ocean-8c5nam.jpg

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