November 29, 2006

My Nephew Owes Me Big Time

Category: Life — Cranky @

A couple of months ago I was at my parent’s home, along with my sister and her children. I was sitting on the couch in the living room, watching a movie. My nephew, Michael (age 10), was sitting on the floor, playing with something.

“What do you have there?” I asked.

“A vibrator.”

Well then… you just know I had to investigate. So I leaned forward until I could see what he had. It was my dad’s back massager.

“No, what you got there is a massager.”

“What’s the difference?”

“Ask your mother.”

Nothing further was said, but I waited in gleeful anticipation. I couldn’t concentrate on the movie. When he eventually went upstairs where his mom was sitting, I held my breath, waiting for the inevitable “What have you been telling my son?” I couldn’t wait. And what happened?

Nothing. He never brought it up.

I was crushed. I gave it a couple of days, and finally I called to ask my sister if the topic had come up, and it hadn’t. He completely robbed me of my due. I think maybe he hates his uncle or something. Otherwise he would have given me satisfaction.

In retrospect, when asked, “What’s the difference?” I should have replied, “Location!” I could have replied, “Ask your mother!” during the inevitable follow-up.


November 27, 2006

Second Place Isn't So Bad

Category: Life — Cranky @

This weekend I played in a poker tournament at a local casino, against about 70 other players. I utilized all of my vast poker skills, and made all the right decisions, acting with confidence and strength. I came in second.

Second last, that is. I lasted seven hands.

In poker, as in life, sometimes you make all the right decisions and circumstances beyond your control conspire to make sure that you lose. There’s often nothing you could have done to avoid the result, besides opting not to play in the first place. But choosing not to play just because you might lose is a bad way to live your life. Sometimes you’re going to lose… but sometimes you’ll win.

I’m certainly not suggesting that everybody should gamble on poker, but everybody should occasionally gamble in life. If you only wait for the sure thing, you’ll wait as your whole life passes you by. You can win neither love nor money by playing conservatively. Luck favours the brave.

If you try a new business and it fails, oh well… life goes on. Move on to the next idea. If you try for the love of a beautiful woman, and it never comes, don’t let that stop you from trying again. A ten percent chance of victory is much greater than the zero percent you are guaranteed if you don’t try.

And when you fail, don’t despair. Look at why you failed, and ask yourself what you can do differently next time. And if you did everything right, and you still failed, acknowledge that the result was beyond your power to influence, and don’t worry about it. Take a chance now and then.

But stay away from casinos. You can hear the vacuum running as the money is sucked out of the patrons. I’ll play poker in one, as it is the most skill-based game in a casino, but the only guaranteed winner at a poker table is the house, and if you play long enough, they get all of the money. And don’t get me started on the mindset of a slots jockey… nobody is more deluded than long-term slots players who think they’re “up overall”.


November 22, 2006

What Would You Die For?

Category: Life — Cranky @

What would it take for you to knowingly override your survival instinct, and give up your life? I wonder what it would take for me to give up mine?

Imagine this hypothetical scenario. You know with absolute certainty that three children are going to be in mortal danger half an hour from now. There is only one way to save them, and only you can do it. The problem is that the only way to help them will mean your death.

Now if there was no advance warning, and everything happened at once, I would like to think that a large number of people would make the decision to save the children. I’m pretty sure I would. But with thirty minutes to stew over the question, what would I do? Would I stick around, or go elsewhere to avoid the situation? I don’t know. Do you?

If by giving up my life I could make a very significant contribution to the world, I probably would choose to do so. Imagine that the first astronauts on Mars knew that they would have one year of oxygen and no hope of rescue, but they also knew that their sacrifices as pioneers would be invaluable. Even with my death a fixed date, I would go in a heartbeat. People give their lives for substantially less than that.

Where does the line lie for the average person? When faced with the ultimate decision, what would we find within ourselves, a hero… or a coward? If you have a family that depends on you, and consequently you let the three children die, have you done the right thing?

Some people have no qualms about doing nothing to prevent a tragedy. Others will carry guilt within themselves for the rest of their lives. Having never really been presented with such a situation, I don’t know which group I fall into.

Inscribed on the lintel at the entrance to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi was “Gnothi Seauton” (Know Thyself). Despite three and a half decades of introspection, I don’t really know myself. Until we are tested to our limits, we never do.