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First, some definitions for the context of this post:

  • An Active Personality is one who has a clear idea of how they want the world to be and does not easily tolerate deviations from this ideal. When deviations occur, the active personality aggressively acts to remedy the situation.
  • A Passive Personality is one who is flexible in their concept of how the world should be. They adapt rapidly to changing circumstance and are not stressed when things do not go according to plan.

These two personalities sit at opposite ends of a spectrum, the primary measure of which is stress. Now, so far as I can tell, stress exists to prompt us to change our lives. Like the pain that tells you, please, to move your hand off that hot iron, stress tells you that something in your life is out of whack and needs to be corrected.

The two personalities I defined are extremes when it comes to stress. The active personality feels stress acutely. Everything is a big deal, and as such they are aggressive about changing things. The passive personality has a far below normal level of stress. Bad situations don’t stress them enough to prompt action.

Which is better off? Thats a tough question, and one that I wonder about a lot. They both have their strengths and weaknesses. The active personality is burdened by too much stress; quite possibly nothing will ever be good enough. However, they will, probably, effect substantial and largely positive change on their life. The passive personality is free of the burden of all that stress, but they are also lacking motivation to improve their life.

Probably, as if often the case, the best option falls somewhere in the middle. Allowing the imperfections of life to affect you two deeply is a path to depression and frustration. Some things, frankly, are not worth worrying about. But some things are worth getting upset over, so long as you channel that anger towards improving the situation. The key is to recognize what situations merit getting stressed and which can be allowed to slip under the radar.

Of course, everyone’s priority will be different. I can’t tell you where to draw the line. However, you can take a closer look at where you fall on the spectrum and decide whether or not it’s working for you.

On Advertising Humor

It pains me to no end how many commercials on TV try, try so very hard, to be funny, and fail utterly. I pay more attention to commercials then I should, and I think I have some advice for would-be advertising comedians.

You can’t be funny and pitch a product at the same time. That’s not to say you can’t do them both in the same commercial (all these ads try), but you can’t do them both simultaneously. Most commercials go for a comedy-ad-comedy approach. Since, as they say, comedy is all about timing. This doesn’t work. For example, which joke is funnier?

What did the snail say when he rode on the turtle’s back?
Weeeeeeee!

-or-

What did the snail say when he rode on the turtle’s back?
I just found this great website, where you can do all this cool stuff.
Oh, by the way, he said Weeeeeee!

Whether or not you think that’s funny (it is from a certain high school chem teacher), the former is clearly more funny. The mid-joke pitch does not work.

Awkward humor is hard. You know the sort of joke I mean, where a situation is so awkward that it is funny. When it’s done well, this can be really funny, but even among comedians its hard to do well. Among amateurish advertisers it’s near impossible. (Add in a pitch in the middle of the joke, and you have definitely ruined it) Awkward commercials don’t do much to sell me your product.

Homemade commercials aren’t funny. If you’re trying to be funny in a homemade commercial, STOP. You have already made one huge mistake – making a homemade commercial – and you are about to compound it further. We might laugh, but we will be laughing at you, not with you, and it will not attract our business.

Does this all mean that comedy must be entirely banished from advertising? No! I wish more people would put humor in their ads. However, it has to be done right. Doing it right goes back to the first rule: you can’t pitch and humor at the same time.

Do them separately.

I think Comcast (whether or not I like their company, which is another post altogether) has it right. Like this classic.

Stupid? Yes. Funny. I think so. And the pitch doesn’t get in the way, though the humor does get my attention. Right on.

Epic Garden Fail

I’m at a point where I’m about ready to surrender to the circumstances that be and leave my growing menagerie of houseplants to their fate (which is to say, to an aggressive white mold, swarming fungus gnats, and possibly some type of mite). If it were up to me, I might just scrap it, toss everything and maybe eventually think about getting something new. Of course, it really isn’t up to me, because they aren’t solely my plants, and people who care about me have been generous to support my habit to its current point. Which leaves me with the option of dealing with it.

I first decided I wanted a plant in my dorm room (or I think this is why I wanted the first one) because I had enjoyed growing things in an outdoor garden, I had heard that certain types of plants could purify the air, and I liked the idea of adding some life to my dorm room (beside my roommate).

While I was at school, I’d say this remained the general idea, and it was relatively healthy. When I came home for the summer, though, the space available to me exploded, and my mom provided just enough tentative encouragement to push me to doing it more.

Buying plants, though, has become a replacement for buying stuff, which is not such a healthy habit. I’ve been doing my best to ignore the occasional bouts of gadget envy in the hope of saving money. However, because I had a plausible excuse – plants are beneficial, after all, right? – I was okay with buying more plants. If there’s any doubt that I’ve switched into a consuming mode, I needed only stop and actually listen to my thoughts. “If I could just have this plant and this one, I’ll be happy with my little collection.” And after I bought those plants, “If I could just get that new plant, then I will be happy.”

I recognize this line of thinking; it’s the reason I have an iPod I don’t use.

Now, the problem has been compounded (since otherwise, I could simply reign in my new habit and do my best to enjoy the plants I have) by the health problems of the plants themselves. The mold is, I’m fairly sure, not healthy for us to be around any more then it can be healthy for the plants. But there it is, on the surface of all the soil and now even on the terracotta pots after every watering.

So, fungicides are used, and I try to get the plants on some sort of watering schedule that lets them dry out more between waterings.

The fungus gnats, wherever they came from, buzz around our house, never in a swarm, but gnats will be gnats, and they are annoying as hell. Not to mention the list of potential damage they (or their larva) can do to the plants themselves (including, but not limited to, eating new roots or delaying the creation of roots in young plants).

Pesticide naturally follows, in increasing doses that correlate to just how frustrated I am feeling (and how many gnats I saw) the day I apply it.

Which leaves me, where, exactly? With a number of moldy, bug infested, and now also highly toxic plants (did I mention one of our oldest plants is a trusty basil plant, now soundly rendered inedible) and still the nagging feeling that a Fisiulera would make it all better.

You can see why I am frustrated.

However, as I said, surrender is no option. So what is? Well, for the time being, more fungicide and pesticide, plus any and all other semi-mythical cures we can concoct. Also, accepting the abandonment of any side projects (like our silent avocado pits), and the salvage of any of those project’s materials as possible (meaning, if the pots, but probably not the soil, can be considered anything but hazardous waste), all on the premise that less dirt should mean less problems.

I think the plants can probably pull through. I hope they can, because I am starting to get back to my original mindset, plants as pets, and (when I’m done feeling bad for myself) I feel awful for what I’ve let happen to them. Make no mistake, there is a decent chance still that we’ll lose more plants. I’ll have to hope thats not the case and look forward to the day (say in about three or four months) when the various toxic chemicals have been sufficiently flushed from the soil that I can once again play in the dirt, which was the whole point in the first place.

“You Walk Wrong”

A while back I came across an article from New York Magazine called You Walk Wrong. It’s an interesting piece about the many ways that shoes (perhaps especially those that promise not to) mess up our feet. Not only painful shoes, either, but all shoes, inherently, because they are shoes.

I was thinking about the article one day while on a walk, and I decided to slip off my sandals and try out the barefoot option. It was an interesting experience, occasionally interrupted, of course, by painful pebbles and such. It’s a completely different experience walking when you can feel details of the ground underneath you. The asphalt was surprisingly smooth, the sand very fine and slightly cool, and the grass soft, with big clumps of cold. In short, it’s like walking on your hands.

The most interesting thing, though, was something the article warned me about. Walking in shoes immobilizes the foot, forcing the leg to do more work. We typically aren’t aware of how bad this is for us because all the padding in our shoes masks the discomfort. I noticed, while barefoot, that my feet and toes were tired. Not sore, tired. They were actually doing work, instead of serving as big blocks of flesh.

I ordered a pair of Vibram Five Fingers after this little experiment, hopeful of a positive (if unusual) solution. When they arrived, my feelings were mixed. They looked cool (at least to me) and did feel a lot like going barefoot. However, my feet are an odd shape (do many people with perfectly normal feet go searching for a shoe solution?) and my longish toes vary too much in length for the folks at Vibram. As it was, some of my toes were a little cramped, while others didn’t reach the end of the shoe. Since a size larger or smaller would have solved one problem by exacerbating the other, a trade-in was out of the question. I returned them (and can tell you that Vibram is a fine company to deal with in this regard).

What’s the perfect solution? I don’t know. I am still looking for a new pair of shoes. My inclination is to go to a reputable store where I can ask a knowledgeable person to find shoes which fit my feet and leave it at that. In the meantime, my same old sandals and bargain bin sneakers do the trick when I am not comfortable walking au natural.

Introducing Coup De Quill

It’s with great pleasure that I introduce you to Coup De Quill, a new book review blog.

It’s still pretty young, but Quinn is hard at work building up an archive. She doesn’t pull punches, but by and large you can expect her not to waste your time with a book unless she would recommend it. She wont settle for new releases either – if there’s a book you need to read, she will tell you about it, be it five days old or five decades.

Speaking of which, her newest review, The After-Dinner Gardener, was suggested by yours truly. So if you take her advice and pick it up, tell her I sent you!

On Graphic Design

Having done graphic design, even for a company which respected my opinion far beyond my experience, I have to say that this video is spot on.

I know you can’t please all the people all the time, but thats what you have to try to do. It usually falls short of it’s potential.

A Little Giggle For You

For those who aren’t familiar with it, 4chan is an English language image board. In short, a bunch of anonymous people posting pictures of anything and everything.

Yeah, it gets a little nasty, and a little rude, but mostly it just lolz.

Here’s a pretty good taste of it.

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