02 Jan. 2007
SETI League
PriUPS Project

Old Year's Resolutions

I'm not a major resolver.  I've always felt that the making New Year's resolutions is pretty goofy.  (Not that I have anything against Goofy!)  I'm fortunate in that I'm not in need of the typical, extremely difficult ones.  I don't need to quit smoking. I get about as much exercise as is recommended and often eat veggies with my chocolate.  A real toughie that many people face is excessive drink; my problem seems to be that I don't drink enough, but I'm reluctant to resolve to start.

So what's left?  Could I be more productive?  Go for an advanced academic degree?  Be a "better person"?  I suppose so, and I hereby resolve to think about these and others in the coming year.  I might even clean up my room.  But this blogitem is about past resolutions.  A mini and a macro.  I actually don't recall exactly when I made either, but I know it's been a minimum of a full year, and I am now prepared to admit success.  We'll start, of course, with the mini.

Ignore Junk Faxes

Just as I am a fan of email, I harbor dire thoughts about the evil fax machine.  Must I explain?  OK: I'll keep it short.  I pay for paper and I pay for toner.  Fax calls are much too cheap, and the listmongers willy-nilly arrange to have me sent offers from disreputable organizations for things I don't want.

I used to scrutinize these faxes carefully to find out whence they originated and do my best to irritate the sender.  My biggest triumph was extracting almost two dollars from some insurance salesman who represented something that called itself "The Prudential" with the threat of accusations to the mother ship and, for all I remember, the sender's biological mother as well.  My semi-triumph was collecting the bizarre collection of faxes from a Certified Public Accountant attempting to obtain our custom and forwarding them with an official complaint to the New Jersey attorney general, whom I believe regulates such scum.  This was just a semi-triumph; I had hope for disbarment proceedings, or at least forced recitation of the Accountancy Shanty a few hundred times.  What I got was a letter from the AG saying that the accountant would stop.  Of unknown efficacy, but possibly the best was shopping one of the miscreants who used Mickey Mouse in his heading to the Disney lawyers.

Now, in the year (or more) since my resolution, I pick up a junk fax and drop it in the garbage can.  I just read enough of it to make sure it's not an order for products or services disguised as an offer for a Disney cruise.  No palpitations, no thoughts of mayhem, no agony over wasted toner.  Just a quick trip, aided by gravity, to the garbage.  This worked so well that my macro resolution became this:

Don't Get Upset

This is a resolution of spectacular utility.  I don't need to point to the continually-appearing references about how stress is bad for you, do I?  (I keep in reserve a few incidents, including the famous "gas can on the porch" story.)  This resolution was almost as short as the paragraph heading introducing it, and I'd like to acknowledge with thanks one of my favorite authors, Larry Niven, for the following phrase:

"You have to get over it eventually, why not now?"

The vast majority of things one gets upset about are either chronologically obsolete or ineluctable.  In either case the above wisdom (or bromide) is almost certainly appropriate.  You did something you shouldn't have?  You didn't do something you should?  Your faux pas generator was working overtime?  You shoveled snow when the Wall Street Journal subsequently characterized you as too old?  You left a light on all weekend and you'll never get that electricity back?  Dig beal!  Don't agonize.  It will do no good, and it's too late anyway.

I'm the first to admit that this has been easier for me to say than it might be for many.  I'm not possessed of such stringent mental discipline that I can ignore or laugh off calamities.  But calamities don't occur every year, and I've been lucky. 

Enjoy Every Sandwich

This great line from Warren Zevon was uttered after he discovered he was likely to die within the year.  Although in a way it's orthogonal to "Don't Get Upset," I commend it to you if you're looking for a resolution to adopt, and you like bread.  This one isn't for me, but the attitude is great, and you could do worse.

NP:  "Rattlesnakes" - Lloyd Cole and the Commotions

Richard Factor

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