Looking Forward

looking forwardDid you feel it? The Earth swung past a certain point in space; there was a little spacetime “bump” as we ran over the notch. Didn’t you feel it?

It’s kind of an important point in the cycle. Lots of people stay up to watch it happen. (Although, I grant you, the whole thing is about 10 days late. Problem is, back in the day it took them a while to recognize what had happened.)

To commemorate the occasion, some will look back and some will look forward. And some will riff on how this is an arbitrary moment in time that doesn’t mean anything at all, really.

Except that it isn’t entirely arbitrary. That’s kind of what this post is about.

forwardIt’s also a post to look forward. The backward-looking one was yesterday, of course, so I’m covering all the bets!

I may have mentioned that I’m the sort who likes looking forward more than looking backward. I’ve noticed this as a (software) coder. Some like to keep version points as they work. If they get into trouble—the code just isn’t working out—they can roll back to the last good version point and try again.

I hate trying again! A pet peeve of mine is having one of those little “Oops!” moments that result in lost work. Having to redo the last hour or so of work… It. Makes. Me. Nuts. For one thing, it can sometimes be hard to recapture exactly what you were doing. It’s frustrating to think you might have found a good way to do something, but may be unable to recapture it!

walking the dogThat dislike of repetition expresses itself in other ways. When I walked my dog, we always walked in a loop of some kind so as not to repeat any part of the path. (And we varied our path as much as possible.) I used to do the same thing going and coming from work, but recently construction forces me to go and come along the same path. (Disliking repetition is why I dislike cleaning. It’s the same thing every time, over and over.)

But I digress. The point is, as a coder, if I get into trouble I tend to bull my way forward trying to fix the situation rather than go backwards. As a traveler, I prefer new roads and paths. (As an eater, I prefer new restaurants.) I revel in The Road Not Taken, the unplowed field, the unknown path.

How about this: the first time I was arrested, part of me was fascinated by the whole (new!) process. Being hand-cuffed, finger-printed, questioned by detectives. Spending the night in jail. Scary, and yet… fascinating. A lot of it’s like on TV.

behind barsA lot of it isn’t.

In general I don’t have too many regrets. They’re about evenly divided between the ones involving not taking opportunities and those involving things that were bad for me or someone else. I’ve tried not to hurt others, but I’ve gone my own way, and those two goals aren’t always compatible.

But here’s the thing: the past can’t be changed anyway. Learn from it, resolve to do better—make amends where you can, where you need to—and move forward.

But once again, I digress. Set that aside; on to the heart of the matter!

As to the importance of the date, the bloggers who attack it for being arbitrary are mostly right. The Winter Solstice, of course, is a prominent astronomical event that marks the season, it hovers around December 21 or so.

As I mentioned above, part of it is that it simply took them a while to realize that the days were, in fact, getting longer. And it takes a while for a culture to first figure this out  and then erect large permanent structures that help them compare sunrise (or sunset) with the position of stars in the sky.

astronomyEventually the astronomers get sophisticated enough to start tracking the moon and to create lunar tables. Once that happens, the moon tables help to tell time, and using those with star charts help you navigate. About then is when you realize you screwed up on the whole “end of the year” thing, but it’s too late because you’ve gone and printed all those calendars.

Some cultures even celebrate their year from equinox to equinox, which makes a good bit of sense. The spring (vernal) equinox is when the world really feels like it’s waking up again (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), and there is a feeling of birth and renewal.

One difference is that there is only one Shortest (or Longest) Day day in the year, whereas both equinoxes are have equal-length days. That does make June and December stand out.

End of Chillaxmas

partyFinal day of Chillaxmas!! (8th day of Christmas; hang in there for four more! You’re going to end up with a lot of Drummers, Dancers, Leapers and Pipers, so put out extra towels and try to keep the noise down.)

So for this last day of Chillaxmas, and this first day of the new solar cycle, I’d like to offer you some forward-looking things from my own Life Toolkit™. Perhaps you will find them as useful as I have. And for fun, I’ll do it a little bit like the end of that song I’ve been referencing constantly.

A-one, a-two, a one-two-three…

five starsFIVE Guiding Stars to find for yourself. Principles to follow; compass points in the darkness of the world. Seek them and keep them in your mind’s eye. Mine are:

  • Freedom
  • Responsibility
  • Honesty
  • Education
  • Humor

I want to live in a world brightened by the light of these stars, and I will devote myself to following them.

stoolFOUR Square Legs on which to base your work life. Upon this stable platform build your reputation and professionalism, for they will stand you in good stead throughout your career.  I have a plaque at work that reads:

  • Ownership
  • Excellence
  • Understanding
  • Precision

Own your work (be responsible), strive for excellence in everything you do, seek to understand all that you do, and use precision (it leads to excellence).

And actually this was a bad idea, because I got nothing for three and two.

So let me just jump to the last wish:

A Goal for Change: Expect from our politicians and sports figures the same standards of behavior and professional excellence as we do from our airline pilots and doctors. Expect from ourselves the same standards we would look for in our kids’ teachers or even our bank teller.

It’s funny that it all comes down to a silly line in a silly movie. And yet, in a way, that line really says it all:

“Be excellent to each other, people!”

be excellent to each other

Work kicks in again for me tomorrow, so I may not be around as much as I have been. It’s been fun! See y’all when I can!!  Have a most excellent 2013!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

27 responses to “Looking Forward

  • dianasschwenk

    Great now I’m trying to come up with something for 3 and 2! Happy New Year Smitty!

  • charmarie221

    The first time you got arrested part of you was fascinated by the process? The subsequent times just became old hat? I got nuttin’ for 3 and 2 but that stool is kinda cool… and yes, I realize it’s a metaphor….. 😉

    • Wyrd Smythe

      When I went looking for a four-legged stool (knowing that would be a trivially easy picture to find), the moment I saw that image, I knew which one to use! Gotta love it; a four-legged stool!

  • heysugarsugar

    Fabulous 🙂 so your back to work? Well I hope 2013 brings you everything you wish for and don’t stay away too long because we will miss you. 🙂 Happy New year

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I’ll try to post weekly, and I do try to keep up with comments during the week. Ah, well, 22 more weeks, and I can retire!

      • heysugarsugar

        nooo? 22 weeks? your too young! what will you do with your time?

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Anything I want to! Are you kidding? I’m one of those with so many personal interests, I’m chomping at the bit!! It’s early retirement, so I’ll take an goodly income hit, but I’m tired of being treated like crap. I’ve worked hard to reach a certain level in my career, and if it’s not appreciated, well,… FUCK’M! I’m out.

      • heysugarsugar

        lol you go for it babe:) you lucky thing..I reckon I am working till I get put into my box ! lol….well I expect lots of posts when your a free man then 🙂

      • Wyrd Smythe

        That’s one of the things I’m looking forward to; I enjoy being a full-time blogger.

      • heysugarsugar

        its quite addictive isn’t it? its my new cocaine !..oh shit now your readers will think I’m a coke addict! lmfao ..I can lose 2 to 4 hours maybe more writing a post, by the time I edit and fiddle and edit again and find right image or video or even change my mind! yep often a post will turn into something that wasn’t planned!..its a great form of cheap therapy 🙂

      • Wyrd Smythe

        You won’t touch Pepsi, so… aren’t you? 😛

      • heysugarsugar

        PMSL 🙂 <—– look another Sugar'ism word! ,,tis true I love full fat Coke so yep I admit Im a coke addict! :):)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Pepsi’s My Secret Love? 🙂
        Pepsi Makes Sugar Laugh?
        Perry Mason’s Sexy Life?
        PMS – Loveit?
        Pretty Much, Seeya Later?

      • heysugarsugar

        you are as crazy as me 🙂 a random fact for you..Pepsi was Elvis’s faveourite drink! just saying! see ya laters…toodle pip 🙂

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Did you notice the little party picture? When I went looking for a picture that said, “party” and found that, I thought of you and knew I’d found the ideal pic! 🙂

      • heysugarsugar

        Oh yes got my Givency dress ready. Can I bring my cat?

      • Wyrd Smythe

        It’s a cool party; all hep cats invited!

  • It's only P!

    Had me roaring with laughter, you had. Thanks (again). Flashing the mirror here and there. However, I’m on the tall side. 😉

    There’s no doubt about it: sameishness is boring. Refusing to drive the same way back is wonderful and can be full of good surprises. I used to pick up my son in Maine (from near Montreal) following a CAA triptik (6 hr drive). One lovely Sunday afternoon after having dropped him off I spread out the map over the hood, guessing a different way back. Actually, the whole two hours or so to the border post I feared that it might be closed because it would be a small one. I hardly saw a car the last hour, either way. But it was open. Gotto live a little dangerously, eh? It was an easy, partially scenic route past the Chain of Ponds. The trip now lasted 5 hours in total.

    Moral of the story? Don’t take an expert’s word for it! 🙂

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Absolutely! I love maps, so I’ve always loved going over them seeking new routes. When I was a field tech in Los Angeles, I did a lot of driving, of course. I knew that city like my tongue knows the roof of my mouth! I could get around quickly at any time during the day, rush hour or not.

      All because I explored the maps and tried new routes! But then I’ve always been a, “Hmm… wonder where this road goes…” kind of guy.

  • Cafe

    Alright, ‘fess up. What was it for? Possession? Espionage? Something computer-related. You’re a hacker, aren’t you?

    I love that silly line. Let’s be excellent to each other! I love that you’re spreading the positive vibes in our blogosphere, Chris 🙂

    • Wyrd Smythe

      My lips are sealed! Let’s just say it’s possible to have differing opinions regarding the matter of so-called property and ownership laws. I mean, really, does anybody really own anything? 😕

      All kidding aside, the more I think about it, the more I think it really is a most excellent line! My mantra for 2013. Be excellent to each other!!

  • bronxboy55

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about those astronomers of long ago who managed to notice the slightest changes in the motions of planets, stars, the Moon, and Sun. And without electric lights to wash out the view, the sky must have been filled with those tiny white dots, in a way that we’ve never had the pleasure to see. How did they do it?

    Happy New Year, WS.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Likewise, BB!

      If you’ve ever camped out in true wilderness and gotten up at 3 AM to take a piss you’ve seen what they saw. Your eyes are very dark-adapted at that point, and the clarity of the stars is literally (and I don’t mean “literally” in that hyperbolic way it’s often used) takes your breath away. I’ve just stood and stared.

      When that night sky is your usual night sky, it becomes your friend. Even a serious interest in astronomy causes the sky to start to look familiar to you. And it doesn’t take long to notice that those points in the sky never, ever change across the years. The stories of your tribe will tell you they’ve never changed in known (oral) history.

      But there are these brighter ones… just a few of them… that do move. And they move fast enough (over days, weeks months) that their motion is very apparent. I’ve tracked Mars and Jupiter as they crawl across the night sky. I’ve even noted Mars’ retrograde motion while it was in Leo last year.

      We’ve kind of lost the sky in our modern culture. In part because, as you say, the city lights wash it out. It’s worth taking the time to get to know. It’s spectacular!!

    • Wyrd Smythe

      You know the part that blows me away is that they were able to determine the orbits of the planets back then. That is some serious geometrical thinking!

      • bronxboy55

        They even knew that the orbits of comets were elliptical. I can barely tell that an ellipse is elliptical.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        😆 Yeah, isn’t that amazing! I guess it comes from paying careful attention to how the rate of change changes. Kepler’s Law and all.

        But, yeah, that they worked all that stuff out, without really good telescopes, while sitting down on this ball of rock…. we are clever little Monkeys!!

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