Going Up?Mathematically and philosophically, a spiral is just a circle or a self-similar repeating process that is moving along a perpendicular axis in time or space, but that apparent simplicity obscures some complex symbolism.

A lot of things in life work like spirals. Some are on an upward spiral, like the way money is supposed to grow in an investment account when you reinvest the dividends, and some are on a downward spiral, like an engine that begins to overheat, then the heat causes the oil to break down, which increases the friction, which increases the heat, etc. A lot of these processes have been given spiffy names – my two examples are called ‘the magic of compound interest,’ and ‘thermal runaway,’ respectively.

People often allow themselves to get caught up in spirals, good or bad. A typical downward spiral is when you’re having a bad day and you start keeping a laundry list of all the things that are going wrong and each thing just makes you go, ‘well, there’s another thing.’ It also happens when systems fail catastrophically, like a stock that drops to half its value in one trading session because as soon as the value starts to plummet, everybody and his brother yell ‘SELL!’ to try to cut their losses. I refer to this as the lemming effect, and my personal investment strategy is to buy them up as soon as they hit a low, expecting other bargain-hunters to drive the price up sooner or later.

Upward spirals sound good, and often they are, like a couple who are truly in love, or a pair of friendly competitors who push each other to new heights of experience and acheivement, but they can also go sour, and turn from growing enthusiasm to mass hysteria or crowd mentality, especially as the number of participating individuals reaches a critical mass.

I'm getting D-i-z-z-y!

I do not like feeling powerless. A couple of quick examples?

Out of Control?
  • The stock market has been going down pretty much ever since I made my first investment back in the early ’90s, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
  • It looks like Dubya’s going to war whether we want to or not, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

I would like to be omnipotent. Is there something like Viagra for that?

Bottoms up! “Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.” –Dave Barry

So my brother read the post below and wrote back, “There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be. It’s easy. All you need is love.” and I’m finding that really helpful. It also helps that I’m kind of in limbo this weekend, writing this from a hotel room in Carson City, Nevada.

I’m at a Dataflex Developer’s conference for three days, and there’s really no reason to even think about how my back deck’s all torn up, or the leak in the hot tub, or the catalog merchandising list that was due last week. Ah, sweet freedom. All I have to do tonight is eat, drink a couple of beers, and sleep like a baby.

Pardon me, do you have the time? I’ve been spending way too much time thinking about time lately. How there’s never enough. How fast it goes (dang, it’s almost noon!). How to get more done, how to set priorities, how to schedule myself better, how I should watch less TV, how to be wherever I’m supposed to be at all times, doing whatever is the most important thing to do at that moment.

The bad news is, it’s driving me crazy – there is almost never a feeling inside that I actually am doing the most expedient thing. If I’m at home, I feel like I should be at work. If I’m at work, I feel like I should be at home. If I’m working in the yard, and I haven’t had a break for weeks, I feel like I should be relaxing. If I take a lazy Sunday morning to read the paper, have a leisurely breakfast, and play with Em for awhile before I get to work, I feel like I’ve wasted half the day. In other words, I won’t let myself win.

One thing is for sure: I want to do more than is humanly possible within the responsibilities I need to meet, and the physical constants of the universe. If there are 24 hours in a day, you can’t sleep 7 of them, work 8 of them, eat & clean up dishes two of them, spend an hour in the bathroom, exercise, practice an instrument, read books, watch TV, maintain and improve a house and two cars, take care of a kid, have a good relationship with your wife, learn a foreign language, learn to code html, keep your website and blog up to date, garden, and keep in touch with your friends.

It's Mine! All Mine!
Take it! It's Yours!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about intellectual property rights and copyright infringement.

On the one hand, I feel strongly that people who have enough talent to try to make a viable living by creating things like songs and stories really should be able to claim ownership of the things that they produce, and be able to sell said product on an open market at a price that will support a decent lifestyle.

On the other hand, it seems odd that anybody could make millions or even hundreds of millions by selling a pattern of sounds in the air or marks on paper, and fairly absurd that copyright protection extends so far now, thanks to lobbying by corporations like Disney, that it’s hard not to outlive your creations’ eventual free use in the public domain. On a similar note, does anyone really deserve to make millions playing ball, or doing anything else, for that matter? Obviously, it all just comes down to business – and the music business is big business. So is the movie industry, so is television, so is publishing, and so is sports. If you can get enough hype going to get a million people to tune in to your show, line up at the box office, click over to Amazon, or pay for an ad slot, then I guess you ought to be able to collect whatever that market will bear for as long as you can. If P.T. Barnum’s suckers are still being born every minute, then let’s wean them on whatever pablum’s comin’ down the pipe and keep working at them until we bleed them dry.

At the other extreme, though, you’ve got someone like Seth Godin giving away Unleashing the Idea Virus as an e-book and generating enough of an idea virus about what he was up to that he had to go print some real books so he could sell them on Amazon. I saw him speak at the Audio Publishers Association convention at Book Expo America in New York last summer about how clever he was and what a great idea he had, but I can guarantee you that it was only a great idea because it was so unique – if everyone starts giving everything away, or if everyone just starts taking stuff that isn’t theirs, then ain’t nobody gonna be makin’ any money, folks.

I guess when you’re faced with what seems like an ethical dilemma, you have to go back to the basics, like the golden rule. If I was trying to make a living and support a family by publishing books or music, I’d expect to get what’s coming to me, so I try to make sure that if I’m enjoying someone else’s efforts, I pay for my ticket.

Night OwlI’ve thought of another personality category to add to the mix: morning people vs. night-owls.

I myself sit squarely in the latter camp, dear reader.

To extend my blatant and perhaps unfair stereotyping of the showering dog people, I think they mostly tend to be morning people as well. It just seems to me that the people who run the world are dog people who like to get up bright and early and take a shower. And by run the world, I mean simply that they set up these ridiculous situations where you need to get up at 4:00 a.m. to get to the airport, or you’re actually expected to do something constructive before noon on a day to day basis. Oh yeah, and the one that really bugs me – they get to say it’s an hour earlier when it’s already getting dark before six, just so it’s lighter earlier in the morning, but then it’s already dark when you get off work – what’s that all about?

Jack's Stats 

I know Jack.

I just ate my usual at Jack in the Box, and though I’ve never even pretended to be ‘on a diet’ or ‘eating healthy,’ I got to wondering just how bad I was treating myself. It ain’t pretty folks – in two tacos and a Jumbo Jack, I just took in 960 calories, 460 of them from the 51 grams of fat.

Darn tasty though – I mean, let’s face it, it’s hard to say anything bad about a deep-fried taco!

Barclay Stats
Did you ever see those episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation where Broccoli, I mean, Lieutenant Reginald Barclay, is addicted to the holodeck, preferring to spend time there to his real life aboard the Enterprise?

Well I think I’m having the same problem with the Internet. I also feel like that other episode (Nth Degree) where a benevolent patriarchal superbeing gives him super-intelligence so he can wire himself into the computer through the holodeck and bring the Enterprise round to his ‘hood at the center of the universe for a quick look-see. My mind is going a mile-a-minute, picking up clues and making connections, and fighting the urge to follow those curiosity threads out through Google is beginning to sap my superpowers.

Luckily, I just found out via e-mail this morning that I’ll be a rich, skinny, well-hung winner with no debt, a new house, a free car, 50 lbs. of lobster, killer steak-knives, and a hoard of cheap DVDs before you know it!

So I’m listening to the radio on the way in to work, and the guy says, ‘I’d sure like to buy my sweetheart a diamond for Valentines Day, but I don’t have any cash, and my credit isn’t any good,’ and the announcer says, ‘That’s OK – come on down to The Diamond Center, where no one gets refused.’ But I’m thinking, well, gosh, if you don’t have any money and your credit stinks, then maybe you shouldn’t be buying diamonds!

Of course, that’s basically the same thing Greenspan told congress yesterday too.