The Fool-Proof Guide to Failing with Flair

Everything you need to know about getting it wrong.

Category Archives: Bad habits

Sweet Promises

My very own chocolate bar. Photographed by lil' ol' me.

My very own chocolate bar. Photographed by lil’ ol’ me.

 

“They” say that chocolate is good for you. The darker the better, and in moderation of course. I have no idea if this is actually true. I’m not a medical researcher. I don’t even know if medical researchers constitute any part of “they”, but I LOVE dark chocolate so I don’t care one whit who “they” is, as long as “they” keep saying it. The idea that chocolate is good for me fits into my personal paradigm quite nicely. I have no wish to go poking around medical journals, or to take up reading scientific data that may tell me otherwise. My attitude may constitute willful blindness, but I am happy to suspend my chocolate-sight as long as someone can hand me that 70% cacao bar with caramel and sea salt.

I am choosing to believe “them” that chocolate contains the same nutritional goodies as berries, and in abundance. Whether “they” is a panel of biologists, a gang of botanists, a South American drug cartel, or Paris Hilton and friends makes no never-mind to me. Chocolate comes from a plant, right? Plants are good for me, aren’t they? So what if the plant gets processed and then mixed up with those nutritional thugs, sugar and cream? Still. A. Plant.

Broccoli is still green underneath a nice blanket of cheddar, isn’t it?. Does blue cheese dressing corrupt a salad? I vote yes on the first referendum and no on the second.

Yea plants!

Yea chocolate!

Yay “them”!

Now where’s my seeing eye dog?

The Back End

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Some of you probably already understand that the learning curve for blogging is pretty steep. It’s not just about having something to say or promote. There’s a whole lot to the technical back-end. I know that if I ever want this blog to help me, career-wise, I must market, market and market some more. Marketing requires using tools to optimize site visibility. Using tools first requires knowing they exist, finding them, figuring out which ones are appropriate, and then understanding how they work. When I started doing this, I didn’t even know there were tools for increasing visibility. SEO? What’s that? I just wanted to write a little blog to get my creative juices flowing and build an audience. I was aware that I couldn’t just start blogging and be an overnight internet sensation. I knew that there was a lot of stuff that I didn’t even know that I didn’t know, if you know what I mean. In the month since I started doing this though, I have discovered that audience-building requires a PhD in something. I don’t even know enough to know what that degree would be called.

I’m not going to try to explain what I’ve done thus far to try to promote my site or review and explain any of the tools I’ve been using. Mostly because I still don’t understand any of them terribly well, but also because I’m not entirely sure what all I have done or how it has affected my site’s visibility. Oh, I know how to check my site stats and it shows where my views originate from, by search engine, site referral, and geographic location and I think I’ve written down the pertinent information for the tools I have selected, but I’m still a neophyte at the rest. I would only be doing a disservice to you–and be displaying my ignorance more fully–if I pretended to be qualified, even as a newbie user, to explain any of these tools. However, if you didn’t know there were things like that available, now you do.

I am also embarrassed to say that I haven’t been paying much attention to copyright issues. Former lawyer? It’s probably not an acceptable excuse that I never did anything copyright-related and know nothing about it. No, it definitely is not an excuse. It is something that has been tickling the back of my brain every time I posted a picture or meme with my articles though. I believe using quotes, properly attributed, is OK. A couple of the photos are my own, so no issue there. But the memes, e-cards and other pictures pulled from the internet probably pose some problems. I came to this realization while I was reading tips about making it onto the WordPress Freshly Pressed page. (great free exposure if you can get there) The people who review sites for publication there want to make sure they are not complicit in allowing anyone to plagiarize or engage in copyright infringement. Very prudent of them. (The picture at the top of this post is one of my own. It’s a view of the grounds at a Chesapeake Bay area hotel where I stayed once.)

Now, of course, I have to go back through all my posts, try to remember where I got each picture and attempt to get retroactive permission to use them. I think I set up a way for my site to reflect these permissions, once I get them, but it remains to be seen if I did that correctly. Some photos may have to come down but I will replace them with properly credited photos.

The other thing all this copyright stuff brought to my attention was the need to copyright the stuff I post here, on this blog. There are plugins available for that and I think I’ve figured out how to use one of those as well. I’m not entirely sure why anyone would want to claim my failures as their own, but now I think I have established legal recourse if someone is crazy enough to do that. That also remains to be seen. I doubt it will be an issue unless or until I actually have some otherwise-published work to my name but better safe that sorry I suppose. I still have to figure out how the whole pseudonym thing figures into it all as well.

Since I do not have the expertise to advise anyone on any aspect of the whole back-end to blogging, or about what may or may not be helpful for expanding visibility or avoiding legal action, I have included a couple of links that may be helpful below for those who are interested. Good luck!

Free Beer Tomorrow

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I have a disease. It’s called procrastination-itis. It’s chronic and incurable. That’s not to say that there aren’t treatments to help kick its lazy ass into remission but, like alcoholism, it’s something that involves a daily struggle in order not to succumb to its insidious nature.

I have managed to be fairly productive for the past few days but last night I made a dangerous mistake. I made a list. Lists are a procrastination sufferer’s greatest enemy, closest friend, and the ultimate tool. Look at me go! I did something! I made a list! Now I can sit down, have some coffee and contemplate my bellybutton!

It seems I haven’t learned yet that making lists is a surefire way for me to fail at productivity. I don’t make short lists. I make very long lists. I feel like a pathetic underachiever if my list is too short and excusably overwhelmed if it it’s too long.  If I make my list long enough, it’s always a reasonable result if I can’t cross off every last thing. At the end of the day I can just make a fresh list and shred the old one, making it appear as if I always intended to do those things the next day anyway. Which I didn’t. There are certain tasks I don’t have any intention of ever doing (if I can help it) that inevitably end up on every new list I make. They are “filler tasks” to help make my list look impressive, as if I made it for some imaginary “boss”. [Scene: Knock at office door. “Come in.” Boss walks in. “Hey Effie, can you help me with these TPS reports?” “No, Sir. I already have a full agenda. Here, look at this long list of difficult and time-consuming projects I have to complete. I’m just too busy.” Office door closes. Effie goes back to playing Candy Crush.]

When I make my lists I really do make them with all the best intentions. I usually make them at night–for the next day–when I am drunk with ambition and optimism about a fresh start. (And it’s conveniently too late to start anything new.) In the morning though, I avoid eye-contact with my list in the hope that it will get dressed and see itself out, realizing that I brought it home the night before while in an inebriated stupor and can’t even recall its name. In all the years I have been making these lists, I have probably only made one where every last thing got done. If I could find it, I would have it framed. I’ll put “looking for old to-do-list” on tomorrow’s list. If I find it, I can add “get to-do list framed” to the next one.

Beer-goggle ambition and “fat, ugly” lists aside, I also have an ADD-type procrastination disorder. I don’t need a list to procrastinate. Even on good days I imbibe in delay, dilly-dallying, loafing, and frittering my time away. This puttering usually consists of starting one task, getting frustrated, bored, or panicked about what I’m not getting done, taking a cigarette/Candy Crush break before the task is complete, and then moving on to something completely different. It’s a vicious cycle. At the end of the day, I have gotten maybe one or two things completely taken care of, started and abandoned several other projects, and turned myself into a nervous wreck about all the stuff I didn’t work on at all. There’s always more in the last category than the other two combined. Enter the list. Again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I am currently administering my own CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) and experiencing some improvement in my condition. Obviously I still have some obstacles to overcome, but I have set myself a schedule and have managed to mostly stick with it for a while now. (No, I didn’t write it down.) I schedule my lollygagging into my day. For instance, my morning schedule includes time to drink coffee, screw around on Facebook, smoke a cigarette, and play a round or two of Candy Crush. I have been waking up at around 5 recently, so if I am doing something productive by 6:30 or 7, I’ve still gotten an early jump on my day. Some mornings I even wake up and get straight to writing, researching, or job hunting.

Today I woke up with my list. It had stolen the covers and kept me awake most of the night with its snoring. I gave it a cup of coffee before I shoved it out the door, but instead of going on a walk of shame to the nearest bar or trash can, it sat on my front stoop, waiting for me to invite it back in for a shower and some lunch. “Writing a new blog article” was on my list, so now it’s sitting here with me again, throwing me dirty looks and tapping it’s foot with impatience. It wants me to help it get the dishes done and the laundry sorted.

I think I’m going to have a cigarette and read this first:

 

 

Taboos

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I think I said to someone, somewhere, at some time, that I wasn’t going to get political or discuss my views on religion here. I also once said I would never get married or have kids. For the most part, I will stick with the no politics/no religion rule. I do have one marriage and one childbirth experience under my belt though, so I may as well keep up the tradition of breaking resolutions. Once.

Quick overview of my political position (turn your head pretty far towards left of center and cough): large corporations are–largely–the devil’s playground (why not throw some religion in too for good measure?); social programs are problematic but not THE problem; any consenting adult human should be allowed to get married to any other consenting adult human (sanity optional); prayer should be allowed, but not required in public places; critical thinking skills and scientific knowledge should never be banned from schools (or we end up with politicians that have neither); healthcare for everyone is a good thing; all politicians are liars and owned by interests other than individual civilian interests but some are more palatable than others; poor people are not, overwhelmingly, lazy “takers”; guns should be regulated and no crazy people or violent felons should ever be able to buy even a single one; Fox “News” is more of a comedy show than The Daily Show; women should be allowed to chose whether and when to have children, and birth control should qualify for insurance coverage the same as ED drugs (more so, if you really think about it); no one should be paid more or less than anyone else based on gender; the minimum wage should not be so minimal. It goes on. You get the picture.

Why politics now? Well, duh. Government been gone and shut down over taxpayer-funded pap-smears and prostate exams, or ain’t you aheard?

I don’t believe the shut-down is President Obama’s fault for not caving into the economic terrorist tactics of the right-wing loonies. That’s like saying it’s a woman’s fault for getting raped. Oh. Wait. Those loonies do say that. They also say that the raped woman should be made to carry any rape-progeny to term and give the rapist visitation rights. No food, housing or healthcare for rape-momma and rape-baby though, if rapist-papa can’t/won’t pay, and rape-momma wasn’t financially prepared to raise a rape-baby. That’s taking things just a little too far. (Read last sentence in a judgmental tone of voice with a snippy emphasis on the last 3 words please.) Rapist-papa is probably in jail on unrelated charges anyway so he’s all set with taxpayer-funded food, housing, and rectal exams. Pro-life politics seem to extend only from conception to birth. Anti-woman politics extend from penis to grave. I wish the ride was more fun.

Enough of that.

Anyway, these buffoons went and had themselves a hissy-fit over health care. They don’t want their corporate cronies to suffer the terrible fate of having to *gasp* pay to insure the slave labor, or their pharmaceutical friends to get screwed out of the $300 more per pill they charge US citizens as opposed to, say, British citizens.

What does this all mean, you ask? More than I am willing to get into here and, no doubt, more than any of us can guess. What do I know? I know you are paying for this shut-down. I am paying for this shut-down. Veterans and veterans families are paying. Grandma, Grandpa and the kids are paying. People who just wanted a peek at Old Faithful on a lovely October day are paying. Government employees are paying, or rather not getting paid. (At least that means the IRS is not coming after me today.) We are ALL paying for this shut down and will all be paying for it for a long time to come.

Hey. Hold on. We are not all paying. Congress isn’t paying. They are getting paid to screw us. Well, politics and prostitution are the oldest professions. It’s no wonder they have the same basic economic pathology. Oh, and Congress also all still has health care you are paying for.

Let me take a moment to summarize. The right side of the aisle on Capitol Hill hates taxpayer-funded health care (except their own), women, veterans, the elderly and babies. They love rapists, fetuses, CEO’s and drugs. Yup. Sounds about right to me. At least today, instead of looking for a job, I can just pretend I work for the government and am on a forced vacation.

Not Your Cup of Tea

Found at Happy Hour Art on pinterest.com  by Anita Vasquez-Centeno

Found at Happy Hour Art on pinterest.com by Anita Vasquez-Centeno

Earlier today I ran into an old flame. He is still a friend of mine on Facebook and, in theory at least, he is still a friend. I knew this blog would not necessarily be his literary “cup of tea” and that I risked criticism from him by posting in a place he could see but I was unprepared for my delayed anger over his response to my new venture.

Our overall exchange was pleasant enough. I don’t see him all that frequently any more. We don’t text or talk much and I have cut back on evenings spent at the local bar where we both hang out. I ran into him by chance and, as we were saying “hello”, another friend of ours drove by and called me Effie. My former flame was confused. I told him I had started a blog and was using a pseudonym. He still seemed confused. I was ready to dismiss it since he is not on Facebook frequently and could very easily have missed the promotional posts I made on my personal page. But then he “remembered” that he had seen the posts and had actually read some of my blog articles. There were no compliments about my writing or congratulations that I was finally doing something constructive but I really hadn’t expected any from him. Non-backhanded compliments are not his style. He did, however, say that he had noticed a very small spelling or grammatical error on one of the posts and had taken pleasure in that fact. At the time I just let the comment go.

There is a degree of intellectual competitiveness to our relationship that has always gotten under my skin even though I am equally responsible. I beat him at Words With Friends about 70% of the time–I know, I paid for the add-on that tells me this–and he will no longer play me in Scramble. He maintains that I may have some marginally greater ability with language but that he is superior in all other areas. It drives me bonkers. To be fair, he used to be a high school history teacher and his knowledge of history, both past and present, far exceeds mine. He also knows more about sports and maybe science (as long as it’s not human health and biology) but I could hardly care less about sports, and a man who doesn’t know what his own prostate is or does has a long way to go before I give him greater scientific props. His absurd and infuriating claims extend from telling me he has read more books than I have (how the heck could he possibly know that?) to informing me that he has more developed interpersonal skills. WTF? My opinion of the latter insult is that anyone running around telling one of their friends that they are the better friend has negated that statement simply by making it.

As you can tell, I am still quite riled up about our recent exchange and it has stirred up a lot of old peeves as well.

Given the fact that, at this point, it’s likely that at least a few of the people who know about and read my blog also know both me and the man I am speaking about (he may even read this as well, hunting for more evidence that I am less-than), I should probably feel some shame at airing this dirty laundry here. I don’t. What I feel ashamed about is the fact that I went home a few hours after our run-in and obsessively re-read all of my posts. I didn’t see any glaring mistakes. I didn’t even see any small mistakes. I could have missed something and I may well make spelling or grammatical mistakes now or in the future but I check what I write pretty thoroughly before I post because even the smallest error makes me cringe. I have always been like that but now I have his voice in my head, gloating over even my tiniest missteps. It makes me angry with him but mostly it makes me angry with myself for allowing him to sap a little joy out of my day, and inject a little more insecurity, for doing something that makes me feel like I won’t always be a failure. Shame on him and shame on me.

Bacon

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I’m a perfectionist. As in: if I can’t get it perfect the first time, I become upset and give up. This is a very bad attitude for anyone who wants to be a writer because first drafts are never perfect. Final drafts are never perfect either. I am working to tame this “all or nothing” character flaw but it flares up at the most inconvenient times, such as right after I start my first blog. Seriously? I’ve got lots of stuff to choose from and a gazillion failures for inspiration but I hate the current incarnation of everything I have already written and my hatred is blocking my failure-flow. So today’s post will be about bacon. Sorry, that’s all I could come up with.

Bacon is delicious. That deliciousness makes up for the fact that bacon is bad for you in every way except emotionally. Unless you’re a vegetarian or vegan. Then it’s bad all the way around and I feel sorry for you in your bacon-less existence.

It would seem like failing at bacon should be virtually impossible. It’s not. Right now I have no bacon. Total failure. I have no bacon mostly because I haven’t been grocery shopping recently. Consequently I have been reduced to eating raisins, carrots and almond butter out of the jar (I also have no bread). I was supposed to go grocery shopping on Saturday. It’s now Tuesday and I would be at risk of not going shopping again today except I woke up thinking about bacon. The other reason I have no bacon is because I have discovered the best bacon ever at my local Whole Foods store and I’m pretty sure I cannot resist eating the whole package once it has been cooked. That’s what I did last time. I did make 2 fantastic BLTs with some of the bacon but I just gobbled down the rest of it standing at my kitchen counter after eating those BLTs right in a row. While that might not be a bacon failure it is undoubtedly a precursor to heart failure. I also fail to recall the name of said best bacon ever because I threw the package away. I am, however, confident I can find it again. That doesn’t help anyone reading this who now wants some of that particular brand of bacon but I swear I will post the brand name in the comments as soon as I get some more. Later today.

That’s it. I have nothing more on bacon failure because those are the only ways I have ever failed at bacon. I have included a link about chocolate covered bacon for your enjoyment and in case you, like me, think that’s a stellar combination. Eat bacon. Be happy.

Smoking

So here it is, the little smoking vignette that jump-started this whole thing for me:

I would like to fail at smoking. Right now I am a smashing success. It has been pathetically unusual for me to have many successes these days but smoking seems to be my greatest daily accomplishment. I have some mid-range success at drinking (booze, that is) but I’m not sure I will ever reach the pinnacle (or pit) required to motivate me to fail at it. I never forget to have a cigarette with my coffee or after breakfast, lunch and dinner however. I always remember to smoke at the bar and in my car (feeling a little Dr. Seuss here) and before I go to bed. Who knew I could be so good at something? I forget my vitamins on a regular basis. Dishes are always piling up in the sink and the recycling has been sitting by my trash can for weeks, but I remember to smoke every single day. I’m kind of a savant at it. That and word games. Everybody’s gotta have something they’re good at, right? Well I have decided I would rather be an accomplished breather. Stunning, I know. I mean everyone breathes! You’d think I might want to be good at something a little more unique, like cliff diving or toenail art. Truth be told, when it comes to cigarettes, I’ve already smoked the competition. It’s getting old but the field of breathers offers a whole new range of possibilities. Maybe I can be the best. In the end I will surely fail but everyone does.

P.S. Currently I’m still a successful smoker. I’ll get around to failing one of these days . . .

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