Monday, July 25, 2016

The Laws of Fun



Last weekend, I attended a marvelous meet-up of folks from Radio Paradise that I have known for the better part of a dozen years.  I've attended a half dozen of these meet-ups over the years and they are always just an enormous amount of fun spent with some of the kindest, most talented people I have ever had the pleasure to know.  It's always an absolute kick when we get together.

However, after a long weekend of shenanigans and a red eye flight home, I ended up with the obligatory cold, no doubt picked up on the airplane either there or back.  A friend commented to me:  "Ah; it's the law of conservation of fun.  You had fun and now you have to pay for it."  I also noted this weekend that my having been gone last weekend meant that it took about three times as long as usual to clean house and weed the garden. 

I had another friend, who attended this year's ComicCon with four teenagers in tow, comment that he highly doubted that he would get to see a single thing on his agenda, as he was busy making sure that the kids got to do everything they wanted to do.  It made me think of many, many (MANY) afternoons spent with the Bug when she was young, going to places that I thought were fun, and spending pretty much all of my time watching HER have fun.  And that I was OK with that.  Which got me thinking about the Laws of Fun and what Fun invariably means to us as adults. 


So presented here for your review, debate and critical analysis are The Laws of Fun

Law 1:  Conservation of Fun:  The total amount of fun in the universe is a constant. Fun may be neither created nor destroyed.
  • Corollary of Inverse Rationality:  For each act of fun, an equal and opposite act of unfun is generated somewhere in the universe. 
  •  The TANSTTAFL Constant:  The amount of work that accumulates while you are having fun is equal to the the normal amount of accumulated work, times the square of the amount of fun you have while you are away from work.
  • Corollary:  Generation of fun with a deliberate target for the unfun can result in later rebounding of unfun upon the original perpetrator.  (“The Karmic Payback Theory”)
    •      Susan's Theory of Karmic Balance:  Just because it isn't nice, doesn't mean it isn't funny

Law 2:  Funtropy:  As the scope and scale of fun increases, the potential for degradation into unfun also increases
  • Corollary:  The more structured the fun, the more unstructured the unfun (the “National Championship Effect”)
  • Corollary:  The rate of degradation into unfun is inversely proportional to the cost of the alcohol being consumed (the “Bud Light Constant”)

Law 3:  The Parental Observer Effect:  Watching your kids have fun is, in fact, fun.
  • Disney's Corollary:  The likelihood your child will melt down and/or puke is a function of the product of the amount and duration of fun the child has.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

City of Cleveland throws temper tantrum; mayor claims "it’s been up way past its bedtime for the last three days"

CLEVELAND -- The entire City of Cleveland, Ohio threw a huge temper tantrum Wednesday evening, disrupting the Republican National Convention proceedings and eventually crying so hard that it threw up all over its recently-re-opened Public Square. 

“The city simply has been up way too late all week”, claims 2-term Mayor Frank Jackson, “its regular bedtime is around 10 pm, and so far it hasn’t gotten to sleep before 2am once this week.  This was bound to happen eventually.”  The mayor expressed concern that the city was due to have another late night on Thursday and there was no telling how bad things might get.

“It took sanitation workers almost three hours to clean up the mess it made in the fountain last night.  I swear, the city has stuffed so much damn confetti in the FREE stamp that now it just says ‘BBBB’. And have you seen East 4th street?” said Mr. Jackson, shaking his head in disgust and gesturing toward the entertainment district.  Reportedly, the street hadn’t managed to settle down for more than about 45 minutes all day, was still wearing last night’s outfit with a pair of underpants on its head and was just lying there, kicking its heels against Prospect Avenue.

The city's Director of Public Health complained that the city still hadn’t eaten a decent dinner from the night before, opting instead for a root beer Big Gulp and half a bag of Cheetos.  “At this rate, it’ll be constipated for a week. Have you ever tried to force a city to eat a nice salad if it wants chips?  It’s impossible.  And it's still recovering from the Cavs parade a couple weeks ago. I just don't know how we're going to get it back on a regular schedule.”

At press time, city officials expressed concern that if the city couldn’t manage to settle down, they would be forced to put the entire East Bank of the Flats in a serious time out.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Random Existential Question of the Day

None of us knows the day and time of our own death, so theoretically, I'm told, we should all live like we can't be certain of tomorrow.

Few of us do; me included.

But most of us believe we have some reasonable number of years ahead of us and that most of us will have some advanced warning of declining health, so we plan around that. Some of us make better use of that time than others, and some of us leave the Earth with more regrets than others. Certainly nobody wishes they'd spent more time on paperwork or at the office, or wishes they'd hugged their kids fewer times, or gone on fewer adventures.

But what if you knew that your death would not be preceded by a herald?  If you knew that, when you died, it would be sudden, swift and would arrive completely without warning? And you had no idea when that would happen?

What would you do differently?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Yeah, you're still in the right place


I just decided to update the theme.  It was looking dated.  Same stupid crap content is still here.  :)


Friday, June 24, 2016

America's midlife crisis



I’ve been talking with an old friend from school recently.  He is struggling with a job he hates and a marriage that has left him thoroughly disillusioned with the whole concept of relationships, and just a lot of dissatisfaction with hobbies and life in general. Spends a lot of time talking about how much fun it was to be in our 20’s and not having a lot of cares beyond passing Biochemistry and whether we had enough quarters to get our laundry done this week. When I ask him what he’s looking for, he can’t answer. “I don’t know.  Just not this.” I’ve been quietly hinting that he’s in the middle of a midlife crisis.  I don’t think he appreciates it much. (I also don’t think he reads this blog but I guess I am about to find out ;-)

To my absolute surprise, he’s also thinking about voting for Donald Trump.  “I just hate this government.  It’s corrupt.  It’s dysfunctional. I sort of want to implode the whole thing and start over.” When I countered, “OK, so you implode it.  What really good thing happens after that?  What do you replace it with?” I again got no real response. “Just not this.” 

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to America’s midlife crisis.

Yes; I’ve been dancing around this theme for a while. Not surprising, I guess, given that all of my contemporaries are in their late 40s and early 50s, stuck in that decade-long Thesis Year I alluded to a couple posts ago.  We’re all feeling a bit uncomfortable in our own skin right now.

America is in much the same place. We are nearly 240 years old. The average lifespan of a civilization, from 3000 BC until now, is roughly 425 years, so do that math. We’re in that phase of our development where all the straightforward problems have largely been solved and we’re stuck with the really sticky ones that are seriously tough to work out.  Our infrastructure needs a serious overhaul. Our population is aging and getting more expensive to take care of.  We’ve run up an overwhelming and frankly insurmountable debt. We have had to put a lot of rules in place to curtail the bad behavior of a small minority of greedy or irresponsible citizens, and the sheer weight of regulation is starting to strangle all of us.  We have a lot of “family members” who have serious entitlement issues, and an equal number who are struggling to get basic needs met.  Both of these groups are “acting out”, like children in desperate need of balance in their lives.

America is not alone.  The western world is stuck in a bit of a post-industrial existential ennui (Edit:  I've been told that the word I really want here is Weltschmerz), as evidenced by last night’s decision by Britain to leave the European Union.  As another friend pointed out to me, this is the latest in a long line of western populist revolts, their own midlife crises of sorts, that have plagued Europe in the last 15 years, largely led by charismatic authoritarians and largely voted in by people who don’t understand what they’re voting for.

These nations are longing for something, someone, who will make this all seem simpler, easier, more straightforward. For a problem that has a solution. As I pointed out a few months ago, Donald Trump is claiming to have those easy answers for America. He blames immigrants, the intelligensia, Democrats, Republicans, the media, social service programs, the poor, the rich (except for him) – anyone on whom he can pin some quick blame and onto which he can hang a quick, radical program that will have the appearance of a solution for the short term and make everyone feel better. In short, he’s suggesting that the sports car and the skinny girlfriend are a JUST FINE idea, and further that someone else will pay the bills and put the kids through college and fix that hole in the roof.  It’s certainly an option; no question.  But not unlike in our personal lives, the aftermath of tossing out simplistic solutions to really complicated problems can have far-reaching consequences not just now, but well into the future.  Long-term recession, war, increased wealth disparity, civil unrest.  None of it is particularly appetizing.

The problem, of course, is that the alternative – looking hard at the tough problems that face our country, our government, and our society, and making the hard decisions necessary to change them – is kind of a drag. Unlike our personal crises, this isn’t going to be solved by deciding to work out more often and take a pottery class on Saturdays. Because our problems are so diverse and so multi-dimensional, no matter what you do, no matter how you make things better for a majority, there’s always going to be someone who ends up worse off, and angry and vocal. It’s not too tasty either, and frankly it can feel Sisyphean. In fact, it can feel so overwhelming that it’s hard to imagine the “blow it up and start over” option could be worse.

Change needs to happen, no doubt. The issues that spark any midlife crisis are very real ones and we can’t afford to ignore them. It’s just a question of whether this country is going to go out for a pack of cigarettes at lunch time and end up at a strip club three states away, have a protracted divorce a la Brexit, or change careers, fix the roof, cut back on dinners out, get into marriage counseling for the next eight years and grind through it. 

For my own part, I decided to buy a bikini and take belly dancing for now; we’ll see how that works out. 

For the rest of us, I’m hoping that watching the collective buyer’s remorse of the Brexit vote will be a good object lesson and this nation will think carefully about its next move. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

BelieveLand, indeed



“Fezzig, you did something right.”


“Don’t worry; I won’t let it go to my head.”
            
   --The Princess Bride (1987)

You may have heard that the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA championship the other night.

I’ll start off by saying I’m not a basketball fan, except for sometimes enjoying the purity of a good high school game, where I care about the kids playing, or the occasional bracket-busting NCAA Cinderella story.  I greeted the return of King James to Cleveland with a yawn.  I’m sure that all makes me un-American at some level but there you go.

I’m a fan, though, of the City of Cleveland and the surrounding area that has been my home, on and off, throughout my life.

A lot (a LOTTTTT) has been written about the sports championship drought in this city, the “ya gotta be tough to live here” mentality of the residents, and the hardscrabble, “you’ll get nothing and like it” history of economic disappointment in this region. One more voice isn’t going to make much of a difference there.

Instead, I want to write about the power of a winning attitude and what it can do for a person, a family, a town. 

This town isn’t used to winning. We expect to lose. Even when everything points to success, we anticipate failure, and way more often than not, we get it. Sports, business…hell, even our weather is crummy.  We live on the coast of the largest single body of fresh water on Earth, and we can’t develop a waterfront entertainment area. We are the second-poorest big city in the nation. Our malls are closing down, our population is moving out of the area.  The city, is literally, three times as big as it should be for the number of people living here. 

And yet, there is a fierce pride in the people who live here. A sense that we are truly a community. A willingness to give one another a hand up. A sense of perseverance, of shared purpose. We don't give up easily, and we're proud of that. That pride has had a chance to show itself off a bit this year.  We are hosting a national political convention next month. Our downtown is growing and the population is moving back to the city. Our restaurant scene has been named one of the ten best in the nation. Our art museum (a true hidden gem) is celebrating its 100th anniversary this summer.  Our biotech investment environment has grown faster this year than just about any other in the country.

And today, we are celebrating a sports championship win. A hard-won victory that was borne out of that sense of perseverance and pride. It may not seem like a big deal to those of you who live in New York, or San Francisco, or Denver or Chicago. You’re used to winning.  You expect it. You’re cynical about it at this point.  But to a region that has become so accustomed to losing, this feels magical. It feels like the type of event that can take a region beyond the tipping point, to help it get juuust over that peak and make the next win come more easily. 

It’s the type of event that lets the people who live here say “We are winners.  Look at us.”  And that feeling, that momentum, is contagious. I know it’s just a game, but this win is important for this city in a way that most people can’t possibly appreciate.

LeBron James appreciated it.  I gained a new respect for the man the other night, after watching him, I swear, break his wrist with 10 seconds left in the game, still take a couple of foul shots, and then break down, sobbing, on the floor of that arena when the buzzer went off and he and the rest of the nation realized the Cavs had won that game.  Doris Burke, the ESPN analyst (off-topic: does that woman ever smile?) asked him if this win was more important than his previous two championship wins. 

He answered “Of course it is.  This...this is about my home. These people deserve this.”

He’s right.  They do.  And I’m looking forward to see what the combination of perseverance and a winning attitude will do for us here.

They're calling it BelieveLand today.