Archive for the 'Peeves' Category

How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb

I am so mad at you. My anger runs deep because it was born first in the hell fires of empathy — not for you — and second in the flames of defense — against you — and lastly in the smoldering fear of what I am capable of in the midst of knowledge without wisdom. Because of you, I am forced to carry my armor and I don’t want to. I am forced to wear this burden, this reminder of humanity weighing down my striving for more than what humanity could ever offer. Because of you, I am forced to realize what we all have the potential to become, especially when we are left in isolation.

I don’t hate you. But right now, I don’t like you either. In some ways I thank you pointing out so clearly what not to do. Please do not talk to me. Please do not come near me. I might not remember that I don’t hate you if you do. I’m sorry you have become what you are, or rather, my heart breaks for you that you did not yet become what you were meant to be. My heart breaks for me because you did not yet become what you are meant to be. There is a gap now. A hole in the way things should be.

Where is wisdom in all this? Where is mercy? When does grace kick in? Carrying this burden and this frustration and the anger means that my hands are preoccupied. It means that my fists are incapable of forming and the weight of all this knocks the wind out of me, making it hard to speak which means I am safe from destructive words that cannot be undone. I am afraid to put down these things, to free my hands, to catch my breath. I am afraid of myself in the midst of all this brokenness; afraid of losing myself in the riptides of unforgiveness. Wisdom is knowing when grace is needed, mercy is using grace instead of a fist.

Maybe I’ll find mercy up here. Maybe I’ll find acceptance. Maybe I’ll find that space where forgiveness transforms into lifegiveness. Maybe I’ll find the ability to see you how He sees you. I have a hunch it happens somewhere in the universe between the nucleus and the electron shell in every atom in the fibers of my being. I am trying to get there. For now, I’m clinging to the default mercy of stasis; of inaction. For now, I’m clinging to the default wisdom intrinsically existent in the distances in the combinations of space and time. For now, I’m clinging to the grace buried deep inside the carrying of all this, expecting mercy lives somewhere in here.

Amusement, Parked.

Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Life goes through cycles, just like the trip-hop I’m currently streaming. Repetitious. Revolutions with no sense of revolution. Loops and aural vertigo. And each new spin brings subtle changes which build upon the previous one or discontinue something else, fading it out. My current iteration brings something new for me. I think. It seems ghostly familiar, but it dissipates like a dream when I try to pin it down. Déjà vu. I feel like I’m stuck at a high RPM in a minimalist trance composition. A broken record. The droning, endless BPM is killing me from the inside out. Where is the piano kissing me with the words my soul longs to hear?

This all started a few weeks ago. Maybe it was a couple months ago. I don’t know. Maybe it was always there and I’ve just been in denial about it. Anyway, not too long ago, I casually asked a friend: Do you ever have days where you’re just not amused… by anything? “Hmph… yep, everyday.” she replied. Genuine. Smart Ass. Empathy laced with a twist of sarcasm, and a boat-load of cynicism. Somehow that seemingly insignificant question, an escaped convict of my mind now out running rampant through my soul, has not left me.

I cannot stop thinking about why my amusement is broken… I’ve no clear answers, only broad-strokes, superfluous themes and dusty stage props which, individually, don’t seem to matter; but added up they somehow account for this rift I’m falling into, or climbing out of.

I keep trying to either “fix”, or ignore this feeling. But it rapidly became the giant elephant in the middle of my room and I’m walking around pretending it’s not there while also being very well aware of its presence so as to be careful to not disturb it.

Sometimes to fix something, you have to rip it completely apart and rebuild it. I think this is one of those times. It’s messy and exhausting. I feel like I’m breaking and I need to get back to the opposite of breaking.

So for now, I’ll try leaving my amusement parked, over there, in that space on the side of this road while I step aside and try to catch my breath. A little time looking in from the outside might help. I hope so. Losing my amusement feels like burying hope under six feet of realism. Feels like dying… hmm… maybe that’s what seems familiar. Vague, I know. Melodramatic, yeah, I know.

Ghosts From Shadows

Leave her alone.

Disturbia

The other night we took our kids out on a date. Kai had a rough evening, we were all hungry, and the “neighborhood grill” seemed to suit our fancies.

As parents of young children, Jen and I try hard to cultivate in them the things we value; the things we’ve learned (usually the hard way). I pray my daughters will know their worth. That they will stand up for themselves and others and not put up with being treated as objects. That they realize who their mother is and wish most to be like her. That they will seek and crave kindness and gentleness in boys and will spot the punk-ass ones a mile away and steer clear. That they compare every guy they meet to me and the way they are treated by me. That they will be empowered to fly without the chains of oppression so many women get trapped in. I want my son to grow into a man that honors people, respects them, fights for justice and knows grace — both how to extend it and receive it. That he will have respect for the world around him. That he won’t make my same mistakes. I pray he treats girls with a protective, virtuous heart, and that he will be an example of goodness for the guys he’ll spend his time with. He and I have this ongoing debate over what the most important thing is in the universe. “People are.” I tell him, “Everything you can think of will always break down either to the benefit or to the distress of people. Otherwise, nothing in this universe matters.” It’s fun to see him propose alternatives to hold that #1 Most Important spot, and then watch his eyes both sink and gleam in the same instant as he answers my questions about that thing when he realizes I’m right.

Oh, so many things I hope and pray for my kids.

So, back to the other night at the restaurant… This is a difficult story to tell. I’m still disturbed by what happened, yet so torn about feeling the way I do. Trying to work it out… So here goes:

I needed to take a detour on the way to our table. I had some “stuff” to “work out” and needed a quiet place to “sit”. Shortly thereafter, this guy walks into the restroom and chooses the urinal directly in front of the stall occupied by myself. Now, time out: I don’t make a habit of paying much, if not any, attention to people when they are indisposed, just as I was. Ok, time in: This guy’s behavior was so odd to me I couldn’t help but rack my brain trying to figure out what was going on. Lifting his head up like he was inspecting the ceiling, he kept holding his non-occupied hand up to his nose as if to either cram something way in there, or dig deep to get something out. But there were sounds. Like sharp sniffing sounds, but more like a reverse sniff, like a burst of air going out. I was baffled. I didn’t want to believe any of the options I suggested to myself for what that could be. And a facet to the disturbing-ness of this whole experience is my own predisposed acceptance of what might be happening if only he looked the part. This whole post would be naught if he looked like someone who might be inclined to perform cowboy blows in public. I hate that I think that. I hate that I was so shocked by this guy’s behavior. A stocky, tall man, older, clean-shaven with steely, short hair and semi-modern squared-off glasses. On sheer stereotypical appearances, I’d say this guy was a mid-40-something, white, Republican banker/respectable white-collar business man. Yet there was this odd disconnect. At one point during his stay, he turned around and tried to look into my stall as if it had just occurred to him that someone just saw what he did. A few minutes and a handful of those bursting noises later, he left. There was no washing of hands. So anyway, about half a minute later I realized those sounds were from him spitting loogies on the wall. I could see them dripping down! Dripping off the plexiglass covered advertisements onto the urinal’s plumbing and then onto the urinal itself. Nasty, phlegm-infected, upper-middle-class slimy spit.

One of the things we try to teach our kids is respect. Respect for other people’s property and respect for their time and work. I know there are people in the world who couldn’t care less about anyone but themselves. I know that. Read some earlier stories here if you need to be assured that I know people can be horrible. I know there are people who go out of their way to cause trouble. But seeing it happen right in front of me in such blatant display by someone who under just about any other circumstance I might actually try (or think I need) to look up to just shook me at my core.

When I got back to the table with my family I saw this guy sitting at his table with his guests, smiling and ordering food and getting served by the very establishment he completely disrespected, as if he did nothing wrong; sitting next to his wife or girlfriend or co-worker or sister, who knows. The point is that he looked so… so not like someone who would hock loogies in a restaurant bathroom like some mid-pubescent teenage boy with a drunk step dad from a broken home all angry about nothin’ and confused as all hell about everything, or like some deep southern trailer dweller in a NASCAR muscle shirt and some green Crocs, wearing a “#3” ball cap sponsored by some trashy beer brand who couldn’t give a shit about the poor sap who has to clean the bathrooms cause that would actually be a better job than the one he’s got. And, yes, I did just write that. Because I’m so pissed at myself for thinking if he were like that, then I would have expected it and I could move on with my life boxing people up for the stereotypes they dress like, or sound like. Then I’d be able to keep my safe, clean distance from people and pretend that goodness is abundant and things will be so easy for my kids cause they’d just have to remember to avoid “people like that.”

This is where the music changes and you’re not sure if something good or bad is about to happen. If I had super-powers, one of which being telepathy, I so would have beamed my thoughts to this guy in migraine proportions. To what end though? For what reason? What good would it have done? Why was I so upset by that whole ordeal? What. Because there was no justice? Because someone will have to clean up after this pig? I think I’m so disturbed by this because I unwillingly let people shock me. Because I’m a salesman’s dream. Because I’ll almost always seek out the good in people and pretend the bad is not so bad, and if the good is not so good, I’ll pretend for that too, despite how clear the Bible is when I read these words:

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.*

You see, if I accept that… If I truly and whole-heartedly buy into the fact that us humans are pretty much doomed and our only chance at redemption is God’s grace, then my world changes. I grew up believing in God and Jesus; believing the Bible and “trying to be good” but this is different for me. This is the real life application that youth group night couldn’t touch. Accepting those words in context of this guy and my own prejudices and self-righteous judgements mean that I fall under those words too and have no place to think in my mind those thoughts I wrote just then. Then I am forced to extend grace to this guy and I have no other choice than to see him as human in need of that grace. And it forces me to consider that same grace extended to me. It forces me to put my own self under my own microscope. And it frees me up completely to be able to look my son in the eye with rectitude when I tell him “People are the most important things in the universe.”

* emphasis added.

Yuck, It’s Cold! (And Obama’s Website is Better than McCain’s)

My coffee—I get focused on the task at hand and forget it’s sitting right there and it gets cold. I wonder how much energy goes untapped, wasted from all the coffee cups in the world that get cold in a given day from heat transference loss? Could probably power a small country. Who cares about the global energy crisis… what’s McPalin Obamiden gonna do with my tax dollars about the “my coffee’s always cold” crisis?

Side note: From purely a design, UI, IA perspective and not at all indicative of my own views on the race, Obama’s website kicks McCain’s website right in the ass.

Okay, this is turning into more than a side note. Candidates: feel free to pass this along to your web designers.

Rating criterion and definitions:

  • Look-n-Feel—user interface; the visual impression and quality of the site driving my emotional and intellectual response and ability to gauge the mood and/or tone; the resistance (or lack thereof) of my ability to traverse the site; does the site’s presentation get in the way of its information; does it have continuity with itself.
  • Nuts & Bolts—information architecture; what’s behind what you see in the browser; the source code structure; organization of content; technology being used to serve the site.
  • Destination Hints—user interaction; the site’s link cues and triggers which allude to where you will go, or what you can expect to see behind a link (either text or graphic); the URL scheme of the site.

Dear John,

johnmccain.com | screen grab, September 27, 2008

johnmccain.com | screen grab, September 27, 2008

  1. Look-n-Feel: Your head shots are not using the same scale (it looks creepy). The disproportionate scaling makes you look feeble and makes her look disturbingly not right. Quality counts, sir. Don’t you have other pictures that don’t make you look like you’re on staff at my kids’ school?
  2. Nuts & Bolts: Your home page has 1 HTML error and 213 warnings, which means you have severely poorly-formed code driving your site’s template. Please fix what’s wrong with the details and that kind of craftsmanship will trickle up the line to the impression you leave with people. Your site sits on an ASP based platform. Forget it man. Your site was built for Internet Explorer with no regard to the rest of the browser world. Thanks for perpetuating broken systems.
  3. Destination Hints: The links in your site to your own pages are not made for people. I’m glad machines are happy with your URL Scheme. What the crap is this: http://www.johnmccain.com/mccainnation/EventDetails.aspx?guid=64cdf0bf-6932-4116-8b34-3dbad974ea15&party=64cdf0bf-6932-4116-8b34-3dbad974ea15&zip=63368&dist=10&ptype=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000 I have no idea where this link will drop me off. I can see it is related to an event (or the details for an event?) and, yeah, that’s not going to break when Mrs. Robinson tries to email it to the bridge club.

Summary: Frankly, in my initial visit to your site I was confused. I wasn’t sure what was real and what was an ad, or what was behind my browser’s finger. Please make me think with your pledges, promises, and your ideas for leading our country, not with how to get around your site, which is reminiscent of the late nineties. Don’t worry, I will not stoop so low as to make comments in context of your age which include terms like: the Cenozoic Era, or Arpanet. This is strictly an evaluation of your digital presence. Rating: 3.57

Dear Barack,

barackobama.com | screen grab, September 27, 2008

barackobama.com | screen grab, September 27, 2008

  1. Look-n-Feel: Your design is strong, well laid-out, and not cumbersome to navigate. Good choice on your head shot angle and the fact that it breaks the lines a bit. That tells me you are not bound to the box you are in, yet you are comfortable with it. Your content grid could use a little TLC, but for the most part, things are legible and visually accessible.
  2. Nuts & Bolts: Your home page has 0 HTML errors and 92 warnings, which means you have poorly-formed code driving your site’s template. Please fix what’s wrong with the details and that kind of craftsmanship will trickle up the line to the impression you leave with people. If you are not using Open Source technologies to power your site, then good job making it look like you do. How fitting would that be?
  3. Destination Hints: Not terrible, in fact. But you do have a little bit of crypticity going on: http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/post/jennprosser/gGgd3M …but it is not overwhelming. From this link I can tell I’ll land on a page with a post by someone, BUT I have no idea what post it will be. This tells me you are aware that real people visit your site and may in fact try to pass on links to others.

Summary: Your designer needs a raise. The attention to quality is evident. It’s so nice to see good design getting the attention your site gets. Thanks for not being afraid of technology and congratulations on being one of the first (if not thee first) presidential candidate to have a Twitter outlet. Rating: 8.91

Disclaimer: at the time of this writing, I really am undecided on who to vote for or even to vote at all. If it were as simple as basing my vote on something as trivial as “design” then I guess it would be that simple. But it’s not, so I stand undecided and possibly uninvolved. Let’s hope the forthcoming debates clean the crap out of the circus ring.