What would Kermit do?

Kermit The Frog

It’s not easy being green means recognizing that life is sometimes hard for everyone, but how do you weigh your needs against the needs of others?

Back in the old days (aka: the 1990s) there was a public meme that grew out of the evangelical Christian community. This meme manifested in a lot of paraphernalia that read “WWJD?” (What would Jesus do?). It was, theoretically, a reminder to folks who wore the wristbands, t-shirts, hats, sweatshirts, and what have you to act in a way that would demonstrate their love of Jesus and his beliefs. Human nature being what it is sometimes this reminder worked better than others. But that’s not the point of this essay.

The point of this essay is to try to embrace the idea that many memes you may not agree with entirely may still have something of value embedded in them, for what is American culture but a series of rapidly changing memes some of which stick (democracy, meritocracy (even though we don’t really have that)) and some of which don’t (slavery).

The “What would Jesus do?” meme carried embedded a couple of concepts key to American thinking: leading by example and hero worship. These are things Americans say we value. Unfortunately, these values and behaviors when not supported by other key concepts like equality, compassion, and patience tend to lead to the impatient, resentful, harried, fragmented, fractious culture currently on vivid display to the rest of the world.

I feel I should inject at this point that I’ve recently spent a week in Canada, Montreal and Toronto to be specific. Some things I took away from my time in Canada:

  • Yes, Canadians really are that polite, even the native French speakers.
  • Mostly plastic currency is never going to feel natural to someone who grew up handling currency that is made of cotton and linen.
  • If you extrapolate from Montreal and Toronto, Canadians must take a lot of photographs (3 camera stores in Montreal and 6 in Toronto that I saw (that’s 8 more than we have in DC)).

One thing that I found interesting about being in public in Canada has to do with public politeness. Politeness requires one of two things to be in play: social opprobrium or social security. [Continue reading]

It’s never the heat

It's only quiet if your hearing is already near zero capacity.

It’s only quiet if your hearing is already near zero capacity.

I had a little spat with a co-worker last week. It was 68degF with 60% humidity, which is low for where I live, and he had the air conditioning on. Mind you, the industrial A/C, the big unit that sits outside the building and makes little to no noise in our office when it’s on hasn’t been functioning for a week. Our landlord’s solution to this while he prices out the cheapest possible replacement, which won’t actually be adequate for our space because he will choose by price rather than capacity, was to provide a LG portable A/C unit which is advertised as being “So Quiet, You’ll Barely Notice It.”

This unit is loud as all living hell, and right in that frequency range that has for my entire life been supremely irritating.

My response to seeing the A/C on after I returned from an errand was to remark in a fairly sarcastic tone “It’s 73 degrees in here and we have the A/C on? Really?” His response to my comment was to tell me I was being passive-aggressive and that maybe I shouldn’t assume malice when I don’t know all the facts and sometimes the way someone acts could just be forgetfulness. And while I accepted this and apologized, after due consideration I’m not entirely sure he was right.

I am a firm believer in Hanlon’s Razor which is briefly defined as “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.” I’m also a firm believer in the corollary principle to Hanlon’s razor: “Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.” Rational Wiki more completely defines Hanlon’s Razor thusly:

  • Never assume malice when stupidity will suffice.
  • Never assume stupidity when ignorance will suffice.
  • Never assume ignorance when forgivable error will suffice
  • Never assume error when information you hadn’t adequately accounted for will suffice.

I have a couple of little problems with the complete Hanlon’s Razor, one of them being the implication that people are by definition good natured. Rational Wiki cite’s Wikipedia’s doctrine of “Assume good faith,” which means assuming that most people are trying to help Wikipedia and unless there is specific evidence of malice in the editing of a Wikipedia entry other editors are to assume something erroneous inserted by another editor is an innocent mistake that can be sorted out in a civil, polite manner. [Continue reading]

Better than The Gap

One of the bon mots of the positive thinking movement goes something like "The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with other people's highlight reels." As sayings go and as a product of the positive … [Continue reading]

One ring to rule them all

Yes, this is still hot.

The last three weeks at SmallAgency have been brutal. Not because the management style has changed, and not because we have a client who is being a righteous pain in the ass. The last three weeks have been brutal because I have a co-worker who … [Continue reading]

The Sacred and the Functional

Assassins Guild Diary

I had to redo the binding on my favorite dictionary today. It's a Webster's Seventh Collegiate. I stole it from my step-father when I was in 12th grade. The binding holding the covers onto the inner pages had disintegrated well before I graduated … [Continue reading]

I’m keeping my green crayon

Universe help me but I disagree with Stephen Fry about language. I don't wholly and completely disagree with him so I suppose I'm not damned to linguistic hell where everything is in Textlish or Twitterlish and nothing sings, dances, or rolls off … [Continue reading]

I gave at the office

At SmallAgency we specialize in working with progressive non-profits. Since I've spent the bulk of my professional web communications career working for various progressive non-profit organizations it's a pretty good fit in terms of knowing the … [Continue reading]

War and Remembrance

We do not think enough in the U.S. about the meaning behind our holidays. We also don't think enough about the larger cultural implications of how we mark or celebrate those holidays. Christmas, as a Christian holy day, is problematic for a … [Continue reading]

Moral Hazard and Obligation

Hummel Christmas Delivery

Imagine you are at a flea market with a friend. As you wander the aisles you come upon a stall selling what your friend tells you very quietly so as not to alert the other customers is a mint condition version of the 5.75 inch tall "Christmas … [Continue reading]

Life at Ground Zero…which is now everywhere

There's something special and strange about living in Washington, DC, something until recently most Americans never understood: living under constant threat of violence. I'm not talking about the threat of violence inherent in any urban living … [Continue reading]