Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for December 18th, 2019

I finished my “Veronica Mars” marathon

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I now know the correct sequence to watch them:

Seasons 1, 2, and 3; then Veronica Mars (the movie); then season 4, whose plot carries on from the movie.

Interesting series.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2019 at 6:53 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

The difference between a SNAFU, a shitshow, and a clusterfuck

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Corinne Purtill has an interesting article in Quartz. I would add to the list of words describing fuck-ups the word “mung”:

The term was coined in 1958 in the Tech Model Railroad Club at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1960 the backronym “Mash Until No Good” was created to describe Mung, and a while after it was revised to “Mung Until No Good”, making it one of the first recursive acronyms.  – Wikipedia

Purtill writes:

Let’s say the situation at work is not good. The project (or product, or re-org, or whatever) has launched, and the best you can say is that things aren’t going as planned. At all. It’s a disaster, though the best word for it is the one you drop over drinks with your team and when venting at home: it’s a clusterfuck.

Clusterfucks hold a special place in public life, one distinct from the complications, crises, and catastrophes that mar our personal and professional existences. The F-Wordformer Oxford English Dictionary editor Jesse Sheidlower’s comprehensive history of the term, defines a clusterfuck as “a bungled or confused undertaking or situation.” Stanford business professor Bob Sutton goes further, describing clusterfucks as “those debacles and disasters caused by a deadly brew of illusion, impatience, and incompetence that afflicts too many decision-makers, especially those in powerful, confident, and prestigious groups.”

The term dates at least as far back as the Vietnam War, as military slang for doomed decisions resulting from the toxic combination of too many high-ranking officers and too little on-the-ground information. (The “cluster” part of the word allegedly refers to officers’ oak leaf cluster insignia.)

“I have a weird obsession with clusterfucks,” Sutton tells Quartz At Work. He and Stanford Graduate School of Business colleague Huggy Rao took on the topic directly in their 2014 book Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less, though publishers demanded that the softer substitute “clusterfug” appear in the final text. (This was not Sutton’s choice: His other books include The No Asshole Rule and The Asshole Survival Guide.)

To appreciate what a clusterfuck is—and to understand how to avoid one—it is first helpful to clarify some of the things a clusterfuck is not:

A fuck-up. “A fuck-up is just something all of us do every day,” Sutton says. “I broke the egg I made for breakfast this morning. That was kind of a fuck-up.” Whereas clusterfucks are perfectly preventable, fuck-ups are an unavoidable feature of the human condition.

A SNAFU. While sometimes used as a synonym for minor malfunctions and hiccups, this slang military acronym—“Situation Normal, All Fucked Up”—actually refers to the functionally messy state that describes many otherwise healthy companies (and many of our personal lives). A SNAFU work environment is usually manageable; one that is FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Repair, another military legacy) probably isn’t. “When my students with little experience go to work at a famous company and it isn’t quite as they dreamed, I do ask them if it is FUBAR or SNAFU, and tell them SNAFU will describe most places they work,” Sutton said.

 A shitshow. No less an authority than the Oxford English Dictionary describes a shitshow as a “situation or state of affairs characterized by chaos, confusion, or incompetence.” A clusterfuck may come to possess all those characteristics, but is more properly identified by the decisions that produced it than its outcome.

The three main contributors to clusterfucks

Sutton and Rao analyzed countless cases of scaling and expansion, both successful ones and those that ended in disaster. In reviewing the most spectacular failures, they identified three key factors that resulted in the kind of expensive, embarrassing, late-stage collapse that is the hallmark of a clusterfuck. They were:

Illusion. A clusterfuck starts with the decision maker’s belief that a goal is much easier to attain than it actually is. The expectation that two car companies with different languages and different cultures would merge together flawlessly, as the architects of the doomed Daimler-Chrysler merger apparently believed? Clusterfuck. The Bush Administration’s estimate that the invasion and reconstruction of Iraq would take no more than a few months and $60 billion? A clusterfuck prelude of tragic proportions.

Impatience. A misguided idea alone does not produce a clusterfuck. The idea also needs a champion determined to shove it along, usually over the objections of more-knowledgeable underlings. Sergey Brin’s reported insistence (paywall) on introducing Google Glass to the public against its engineers’ wishes turned a potentially groundbreaking piece of technology into a stupid-looking joke.

Incompetence. When errors of information and timing meet blatantly stupid decisions by people who should know better, disaster tends to ensue. Bear Stearns wasn’t the sole cause of the global financial crisis, of course, but former CEO Jimmy Cayne’s decision to spend 10 days of the 2007 subprime mortgage loan meltdown playing at a bridge tournament without phone or email access contributed to the firm’s collapse—and to the worldwide disaster that followed.

All three of these failings share a common root: people in power who don’t (or won’t) acknowledge the realities of their environment, and who don’t push themselves to confront what they don’t know. Nobody likes to spoil the heady euphoria of an exciting new project by discussing the possibility of failure. The problem is, if potentially bad outcomes aren’t addressed pre-launch, they are more likely to surface afterward, when the reckoning is public and expensive.

The antidote to clusterfuckery, Sutton argues, is  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2019 at 9:40 am

Pre-cut vegetables not such a good idea

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Better just to become more efficient in food prep before the meal, as explained in this brief video (which provides another (slightly gross) reason to avoid eating meat and poultry:

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2019 at 9:13 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

How to stay sane if Trump is driving you insane: Advice from a therapist.

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Robin Chancer writes in Politics Means Politics:

“I feel like I’ve lost faith in humanity, in our country, in myself,” a client told me recently. “Is this depression, or is this the election?”

“Good question,” I replied. The truth is, individual psychology is hugely influenced by political realities. Many of us feel insane right now because our world is not sane. Current events are very much at odds with our natural optimism, and our belief in human goodness and progress.

What made us so optimistic in the first place? Our nation was founded on idealistic, positive principles: human worth and dignity, the inevitability of progress, and the goodness of the human collective. Alex de Tocqueville in the early 19th century described Americans’ remarkable optimism with interest. As an article in the Atlantic described in 2015, Americans have maintained our unusually sunny outlook even through our darkest hours. If we have a national ideology, it could be encapsulated in Obama’s farewell address, with the assertion, “I truly believe we are going to be okay.”

From such elevated hope has come a long, hard fall. We find ourselves in a darkening political climate in which corruption, hatred, exclusion, and paranoia are prominent. Many are experiencing despair and anxiety like never before, judging by the increase in calls to suicide and crisis hotlines, and anecdotal reports from therapists. A national trauma, just like a personal one, is as disorienting as it is terrifying. It makes us question everything we thought we knew. Two questions must be answered in order to heal:

  1. How can we integrate this crisis into our understanding of the world?
  2. What do we do now?

Our anxious minds are caught in the dissonance between our belief in progress and our current political hellscape. We must understand that the belief in human progress is a myth, with historical and religious context, and it is no longer serving usIts roots trace back to Enlightenment philosophy, whose major thinkers believed civilization would progress toward perfection if humans were free to use their reason.

Optimism is also a coping mechanism. It can buoy us from the dark waters of suffering. When harsh reality is too much to take, clinging to a better future can help us carry on.

Our American brand of Christianity has adopted this narrative as well. Many grow up hearing statements like, “People are inherently good.” “Everything happens for a reason.” “Do the right thing, and everything will work out.” “God has a plan. I can leave everything in God’s hands.”

Such statements are offered as a salve for life’s inevitable pain, but they have downsides. How many of us have wanted to punch a wall after a statement like, “He’s in a better place”? Positive thinking, when misplaced, is infuriating and unhelpful. Believing that “everything will be okay” sets us up for despair, because each new time things are not okay, we feel beaten down again. Optimism is not always healthy. It can make us complacent, fatigued, and detached from whole of our psyches.

There are times when optimism is not appropriate or possible, and this is one of those times. Our President is delusional, lying, or ignorant; disastrous climate change and war with North Korea loom; marginalized people in our society are suffering. Faced with these calamities, catastrophic thinking is a rational response. History teaches us that many arcs of history did not “bend toward justice.” The 65 million people currently displaced worldwide are tragic examples. We need only speak to a Native American to understand that collapse is entirely possible.

Instead of blind faith in progress, I offer a specific, practical system useful for maintaining mental health in a paranoid, post-positive world.

STEP 1: RADICAL ACCEPTANCE AND DIALECTICAL THINKING

“The path out of hell is through misery. By refusing to accept the misery that is part of climbing out of hell, you fall back into hell.” — Marsha Linehan, founder of Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

Radical acceptance, as understood in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), distinguishes between pain and suffering. Pain cannot be avoided. Fighting against pain, however, is what drives the majority of our suffering. Painful reality can be fully (i.e. “radically”), non-judgmentally accepted. When something terrible happens, our natural reaction is to fight against it: “This should not have happened! I can’t believe it! I would do anything to go back in time.” Fighting our agony won’t change it, however. We are better served by accepting what happened, allowing it to change us, and working with what is left.

In response to our current nightmare, we can wish it were different and stay miserable, or we can accept our new world. To be clear, this does not mean condoning what happened. It simply means coming to terms with what is, and with what we cannot control.

Of course, some circumstances can be changed with the right tools. There is much we cannot change, however. We cannot change that Donald Trump was elected. We cannot change that he is (very likely) pathologically narcissistic. We cannot change that many Americans are loyal to him in spite of his hatred, or even because of it. We see more clearly the greed rampant in the GOP establishment. We do well to accept these truths so that we can move forward, rather than paralyzing ourselves with shock and outrage.

You might be wondering, “How can I just accept these things? They are not okay!” Remember that acceptance is not condoning. To accept is not to say, “This is okay.” It is to say, “This is what is.” Notably, radical acceptance often drops us into a state of grief, as we come to terms with hard realities. We may find ourselves in a place of deep sadness. If so, allow time to feel and honor it.

We do well to accept that Trump is as bad as we think. He consistently demonstrates mental instability, greed, and aggression. I continue to hear responses to his policies such as, “How could he do this? I can’t believe it.” Interviewers continue their efforts to get him to say rational things. His Tweets are re-Tweeted with rebuttals and indignation. This is energy wasted.

Don’t allow his Tweets to play over and over in your mind. If you read them, register them as insane, and move on to the next moment. Even better, pay little attention to his stunts. Don’t waste your energy getting riled up. Once we fully accept that Trump does evil, unhinged things (strategic lying, degrading/exploiting people) because he is evil and unhinged, we can get beyond his antics, anticipate them, and have a clear mind to plan our next move.

Acknowledge that greed and racism are part of our nation’s fabric. We cannot wish them away. We cannot choose blindness disguised as positive bias; giving Republican politicians the “benefit of the doubt” has allowed them to get away with murder. Expect to find white rage in any discussion about immigration or discrimination, for example. Anticipating it will help us stay calm and focused. Once we accept that, we sharpen our focus to guard against their insidious infections. We focus on the work of fighting for human rights and accountability.

How do we do this, practically? The “dialectic” piece of DBT can help us get there.

Three truths of dialectical thinking:

  1. People are complex webs of goodness, love, selfishness, and aggression. Allowing the co-existence of opposites is the essence of dialectic. Individuals are not selfless or selfish; they are selfless and selfish. Our political terrain includes progression and regression. DBT maintains that mental health requires a paradox of acceptance and change. We accept what is and we work toward change, in a dynamic, continually evolving process. Embracing ambivalence, paradox, and shades of gray promotes a sense of wholeness and flexibility. We become less outraged when circumstances don’t fit within our rigid expectations.
  2. We do good things because they are good, but results are not guaranteed. Sometimes circumstances work out as we hope, sometimes they do not; most often they are too complicated to understand fully. This mindset lets go of cause-effect thinking: “If I do x, then y should happen,” which sets us up for frustration when results don’t turn out as planned.
  3. We are responsible for our world. Believing in some mysterious force called “progress” absolves individuals of responsibility. Similarly, faith that “God has a plan” can promote complacency. Compassion, love, and affirming values exist because people intentionally work toward them. Claiming responsibility focuses our attention on what we can do to improve our world.

STEP 2: ATTENTION IS EVERYTHING

Mindfulness —essentially, the art of shifting attention — is revolutionizing mental health care. Current research in mental health demonstrates enormous benefits to mindfulness practice. In order to promote well being, we can learn to practice mindful attention both to the present moment and to the good as we understand it. Faced with a frequently depressing, maddening world, this can mean focusing intently on the inspiring work going on around us in a multitude of spheres. Each time you feel hopelessness creep in, focus your attention on the kindness, generosity, and good will around you. We are witnessing an unprecedented blossoming of activism. If our eyes are tuned to the light, we will find the light — in the surge of donations to ACLU, in churches offering sanctuary to immigrants, in town hall meetings packed with civically engaged citizens — everywhere.

Each time the tapes of despair and anger play in your mind, doggedly shift your focus. The mind will wander, again and again. Each time it happens, we notice the anxious thoughts, and shift our focus back. The anxious mind will scream, “How could our President cut Meals on Wheels? What a monster! Those poor people!” Then, shift focus back to the good, “The program has seen a 500% increase in volunteers since the cuts were proposed. Maybe I could get involved!”

You may object, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2019 at 8:57 am

Yaqi and D.R. Harris Arlington

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Yaqui brush with the silvertip knot and Yaqi DOC razor with the camouflage finish — both excellent — plus D.R. Harris Arlington shaving soap added up to a very fine shave. A splash of Arlington aftershave finished another in the wooden-tub series.

For literalists:

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2019 at 8:47 am

Posted in Shaving

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