blog, editorial

Bugs & Features

I’ve been thinking about bugs and features for four straight months.

Software devs have hated the metaphor since the birth of the internet. It’s too extreme; often bug reports are mislabeled as feature requests that need tweaking, or vice versa, and engineers don’t like prioritizing one over the other when needing to fix a program. I want to play with the concept regardless.

The simplest way to describe the difference is this: a bug is when a program is not working as intended, and a feature is when a user wants something from the program that does not exist within it.

In other words, a bug is ordering a beer and getting coffee. A feature request is ordering a beer at Starbucks.

“We don’t serve beer, sir. This is Starbucks.”

The customer understands he is in a coffee shop, but wants the coffee shop to also serve beer.

Another example: you upload a color photograph to Instagram, but it renders in black and white on your profile. That’s a bug. Wanting to upload a photograph to Instagram from your computer, however, is a feature that does not exist: the program is designed to only work through your phone.

For some of us, this is frustrating. We see features as bugs: we want to order coffee at the bar, like the Italians, because a place designed to serve beverages should also serve coffee. Coffee is a beverage, for Pete’s sake!  We want to upload to Instagram straight from our computers instead of emailing ourselves the image, saving it on our phone, then going through the app. To some of us, the features we want out of our programs (digital or not) seem like bugs.

I think this mentality extends into our personal lives and blockades our happiness.

This year was tough on everyone. We lost a lot of beloved artists. We lost a lot of political momentum. Apart from the Cubbies taking the Series and the Queen turning 90, this year was a tough pill to swallow. But I’m here to tell you that, although it feels like a bug, all of this is just a feature.

It’s how it goes. History tells us that. Art tells us that even better.

Ants (literal bugs) at a picnic is part of the picnic experience: it’s a feature of picnics. It comes with the brie and baguette, wicker-basket package.

I hear a lot of complaining. I’ve said many times that it brings me down. I don’t think that we have any room to bicker, even when it feels like we do. Even when your roommate eats all of your cracker jacks. Even when your bus blows a flat tire. I see a lot of my friends succumbing to cyclical nervous breakdowns and self-destructive routines because they are convinced the world’s dominos are stacked against them. I don’t think this is true.

I think it’s a matter of recognizing bugs versus features.

Athletes are very good at this.  Your three-hundred pound nose tackle, “The Fridge”, knows how to manage bugs and features.  The Fridge doesn’t go back to the huddle every down yelling about #53’s fingers in his eyeballs.  The Fridge just wants to eat the quarterback’s knees. He knows that it’s the center’s job to keep him hungry, that the offensive line is a feature, that, in his own words, “it’s just football, coach.”

Similarly, marathoners don’t quit running because of the hills after mile 15. Even if they didn’t look at the course map, they knew it was going to get tough. You won’t hear marathoners complaining about the hills, calling them bugs.

It’s a simple principal when it comes to the physical stuff, but I think we could all be a little better by keeping the perspective in tact with the intangible things. Fights with your lover aren’t bugs in your relationship. Working late hours during midterms aren’t bugs of your career. Going to your grandfather’s funeral isn’t a detour in the trajectory of your life: it’s as much a feature as dying itself. Your professors, your parents, your higher-ups, this year: these things aren’t out to get you. These are features of existing in this world.

Maybe the most charming post I read about bugs and features from a software developer concludes with the idea that it’s all a matter of little details. That the issues, be them bugs or features, are still just issues. It’s hardly worth distinguishing between them because you have to fix them anyway.

I like this idea, but it’s only useful once you understand the difference. The past four months have been a lesson in working with bugs and features, and in either case, I’ve had a problem to solve: How do I manage this challenge? I’ve learned this: bugs don’t deserve any of your energy, while feature requests demand all of it.

In other words, if you want to eat better, do not complain that ice cream exists, because Klondikes are bugs! If you want to eat better, you must spend every waking minute fantasizing about baby carrots. You must build your castle around the beet. You must salivate at the thought of a pea.

If you want to be a better lover, a better friend, an air pilot, a librarian, an early bird, a night owl, a city slicker, or a new resident in the next state over: squash the bugs. Put your shoes on and jump on the crunchy cockroaches.

Heading into the new year, consider your resolutions through the lens of the software developers, through the yin yang of bugs and features. Go forth and eat peas and eat hills and eat knees.

The Fridge believes in you!



Whose Life Is It Anyway?

There are no pessimistic runners.

Yes, there are angry runners. There are sad runners, too. There are gleeful and voracious and brooding and quiet runners. There are runners who fly in planes just to run somewhere else, just to stay up all night running. These runners just run and run and run.

They’re out there scooting their rubber soles across dirt paths and looking up into the trees at the squirrels, thinking about what the little critters do come December. They are thinking “well, if that little creature can fight off hawks and buzzards and the gripping midnight winter, then I can finish this mile.”

That’s what a runner thinks about. Here’s a list of seven other things that runners think about:

1) Toenails painted with someone’s birthday in mind
2) Gandhi sitting down enjoying a glass of water
3) Their first crush Veronica whose last name reminds them of a large fish
4) And, subsequently, the day they learned what the word “crush” meant
5) The people who program traffic lights
6) The gentle scratch of a fifth grader’s violin bow
7) Just how odd it is that odd numbers make for more even lists

But never, ever will you find a runner who thinks:

1) Why bother?

Because the moment a runner entertains the poison thoughts like “why bother?” and “my feet hurt” and “I wish I had a lover” and “ten miles is impossible” and “I hate _____” and “you don’t deserve _____”, a runner becomes a walker.

And eventually a sitter.

But this isn’t about running. This is about living with intention.

In looking at the past ten years of my life, I see heaviness I’ve suffered brought on by living passively, by living without intention. Some of these events are as trivial as letting a friend decide dinner. Others: sharing my emotional wealth with girls who fumble in managing it. Even wearing clothing that a lover buys has subtle ramifications in becoming a person that hands the reins of their future over to anyone itching to steer.

All of these pivotal moments share one thing in common: a justification born out of embarrassment.

I wasn’t craving anything in particular, so I just told David to pick up a pizza.”

I’m needy. I don’t blame her for not giving me the attention.”

I love the color! You really know my style, don’t you?”

Paradoxically, we are swift to defend our lethargic choices. Our indifference. We are passive until we are challenged, and then we actively fortify the reasons for which we choose to sit.

Linguistically, the active voice is always stronger in writing. The passive is weak, accidental, weightless. Reflected grammatically in its form, the original subject of the verb becomes replaced by its direct object:

“Newton discovered calculus.” vs
“Calculus was discovered by Newton.”

Calculus wasn’t just found lying in a meadow offhand by a dude on an afternoon stroll. Einstein isn’t guessing, picking values from a hat until E has its sexy, balanced counterpart. Miyazaki doesn’t haphazardly make Totoro fly, a cute afterthought added just for kicks, right before post-production. Nobody accidentally runs a marathon (except the poor bastard who ran the first one).

Meanwhile, everyone is telling you shit like:

“You have to go with the flow, Sam  // Whatever happens is meant to happen // Come what may // Who knows?” etcetera.

These are lazy philosophies. Too often have I told myself to “snap out of it!” because I find myself floating along in a daze, without any trajectory, like a buoy in the deep. I start begrudging the success of everyone else out there running marathons and kissing the women of their wildest dreams and reinventing the wheel. I’m caught defending my dishonest choices and folding up the pair of jeans I thought I’d “try out” just to “see if I like them.” I sit around.

Stop it.

You know what you like. I promise. You know exactly who you want to be. You know who you want to wake up next to on a chilly Sunday morning. You know her name, the funny way she laughs too hard all at once, the color of her toenails at your surprise party. You know what you want to wear, even if its too androgynous or shows too much leg. You know all of these things. Stop sitting around at parties pretending to enjoy yourself. Be intentional: even when you’re ready to try something new. Be spontaneous on purpose. Don’t let it all just happen to you. Stop sitting around.

Stand up. Run.


Nine Ladies Dancing

Yo. I’m in a good mood. I want to play and make shit and write it out.

I recently got out of another relationship. I was dating a pretty cool chick that I liked quite a bit, and things didn’t work out. It’s all good. I have nothing but accolades to give and appreciation to show for the entire experience. Out of respect to her, we will leave it at that.

I’m now in that stage of reflecting on it all, almost from an objective standpoint. Some time passes and you get a chance to see it for what it was. In doing that, I’ve learned quite a bit, I’ve grown quite a bit, I’ve smiled quite a bit. I suppose it’s always up to you to learn things from stuff that happens to you.

In dating this girl, and breaking up, I’ve been looking back on the past 10 years of going steady. Today, I want to share some nuggets of wisdom that I’ve looted along the way. I hope you can relate.

Here are nine things, in no particular order, that nine anonymous girls have taught me through the mess that is The Game:

The Rebound Will Brick
Always. There is no replacing something that you just shared with another person. You can’t fill that void. I dated a girl right after my longest relationship to date, and it hit me pretty quick. Ain’t it a sick feeling, kissing someone and thinking of another? Fucking hell, that one tore me up. If you think you’re over it, you’re probably not. It’ll catch up to you.

They say the best way to get over someone is to get under someone. If they’re telling you that, I think you should ask yourself who you’re listening to. Rebounding is like eating junk food: it’s fun while it’s happening, but it’ll soon make you sick to your stomach. Eat healthy. Give it time.

Beauty Matters (for the First Date)
And after that, it’s mostly irrelevant. I dated a girl a few years back that was stupid gorgeous. Just stunning. This chick was just radiant. I was a dorky college kid who had never seen someone that pretty before. So when she told me she was interested, I did a backflip. I didn’t believe it. Then we went out to coffee.

I can’t remember a single damn thing we talked about. I was mostly shitting bricks because of how pretty this girl’s eyes were. Yet, that’s all there was. Sure, she was attractive, but you can only talk about her smile for so long. After that, when the crickets start chirping, and she’s twiddling her thumbs, the silence between you becomes a chainsaw. Attraction is the first step, absolutely. I just learned that day that it’s about 13% of the deal. You can adorn a cardboard canoe like the Taj Mahal. But will it float?

Talk the Talk, Walk the Talk
I once dated a chick that loved to talk about me. She told all her friends about me, she told her family, she told social media. She told me about me. Her words were abundant; an endless source of reassurance and praise. It was enchanting.

But the spell eventually wore off. I snapped out of it and realized that it was all talk. This chick could talk about me all day, but she couldn’t prove any of her praise. When the going got tough, her words thinned. She was quiet. The proof was in the pudding. Truly caring is tangible. Even the deaf are loud. If I’m falling off a bridge, last week’s text won’t be the arm that saves me. And this chick was last week’s text.

Sex is a Mirror
I’m such an advocate of having sex, making love, doing the nookie. I think it shows you so much about your relationship. It’s a physical pop quiz that reveals the emotional woodwork between two people.

I’m not going to kiss and tell. All I want to say is this: being naked with another reveals more than boobs and butts. If she’s a giver in bed, she’s probably one to surprise you with hockey tickets after work. If she’s a taker in bed, the odds are you’re doing most of the legwork in the relationship. If she cares about your pleasure, she cares about you. If you’re insecure about your naked body, you probably don’t trust the one who sees it. Sex, man. Sex is real.

You May Not Be Ready
I dated this girl that was 10000000% wifey material. This girl had it all: brains, beauty, a heart to give. She laughed at my jokes. She took me to dinner. She looked at me with love in her eyes. Before I met her, I would rant and rave about dating a good girl. I went to bed every night wishing I could meet a lady to take home to momma. Then she appeared, and I suddenly realized that I wasn’t even close to ready.

To quote Kanye: “see I could have me a good girl, and still be addicted to them hood rats.” I wasn’t done with the bad ones. I wasn’t actually ready to be treated right. To be loved. That shit is hard to accept when you’re still checking out tits at parties. I hadn’t yet satisfied that disgusting curiosity that is college-aged hormones. The truth is: you probably don’t want to meet the love of your life until you’ve fucked up and fucked around a little bit. Get it out of your system ASAP. Then you can think about something real. Shoutout to the good girl. I appreciate you to death.

Indifference Kills
I’ve endured love, I’ve endured heartbreak. It’s nice to see yourself on the other side, able to laugh it off and smile that it happened. This chick destroyed me, though, and she taught me the hardest lesson I’ve yet to learn: some people just don’t care much about you.

This was a huge shocker to me at the time. I was loved by so many, and this chick didn’t seem to notice. She didn’t make me feel like anything special. I was just another stranger in passing, a pebble lodged in the rubber sole of a boot. I suppose that dating the girl that didn’t care about me at all was the best and worst thing to happen to my ego: I thought I was strong, and she proved me feeble. I thought I knew my worth, and she dwindled me down to a penny. But being razed to the ground by someone who gives absolutely no fucks was enlightening. It allowed me to reinvent myself. It gave me space to weld the kinks in my armor. Fuck, that was a hurricane. But I’m the captain of a new vessel.

You Are My World,
And I am yours. I fell so deep in love with a girl, once upon a time. I made this girl my everything. She had her own ringtone in my phone. She was my confidant, my lover, my best friend, my Player Two, my pillow, my food, my air. This girl was the center of my universe.

Very quickly, this girl was my life. I stopped talking to friends. I stopped talking to my mother. I stopped doing anything alone. This love was my pulse. It was obsessive and over-the-top, a daily roller coaster of emotional extremes. I call this my Romeo and Juliet relationship. I thought it would never end, that I had found the one. But she moved away. And my world was empty. I felt annihilated. But hell, I love to look back on it. I learned that you can’t do that. People are fleeting. Life is always changing. When you put all your eggs in one basket, what happens when it’s unwoven? Keep your friends. Keep your hobbies. Keep your alone time. It’s so fucking important to keep you alive, too.

“Friend” is Half of Girlfriend
And she needs to be exactly half friend. This is everything. I once dated a girl that was too much of a friend. She talked to me from a distance. She encouraged me to check out other people. Our sexual energy was extinguished because she couldn’t see herself as a lover in my eyes. This came from a lack of confidence in her person.

On the flip side, I went out with a chick that couldn’t give me any advice at all. She wasn’t a rock. She wasn’t a friend. She was around for the gifts, for the sex, for the attention, but she vanished when I needed her most. See, I learned that we must wear a few different hats in a relationship. Sometimes you just need a friend, in the most innocent and pure sense of the word. I think it’s about half the time, give or take. I think I like that balance. This play on words does not apply with fiancé. Nobody is one half fian. I am being facetious.

It All Applies To Me, Too
I’ve been talking about these girls, these experiences I’ve had in dating people. I’ve been a little harsh, and maybe a little rude. But I want to hold myself to the same standard. Everything I’ve written, I want to apply to myself, too. It’s a duet, after all. There’s no doubt that I deserve what has happened to me, heartwarming and devastating and the in-between. These girls are so important to me. There’s so much to learn, to do, to live, to share, to experience with another. I’m infinitely grateful for everything that’s happened.

In the end, I just want to keep going. To keep dating. To keep skylarking. You can’t take it too seriously. If they break your heart, just be happy. I know it’s been said a billion times. But after all is said and done, you always have a choice. You can loathe your time with a person that you once loved. You can burn bridges and fuck around. You can keep a bitter lemon on your tongue inscribed with the initials of the devil herself. You can talk shit and drown her portrait in booze and blood.

You can do all these things. I guess I just don’t want to do them. I want to keep loving and keep giving as much as I can. I don’t want to hide or hate or belittle anyone. I just want to say thank you. I just want to keep learning and keep saying thank you. And keep saying “I love you” and keep hugging people goodbye. I think that dating, in a way, is just flirting with the future. We’re just people looking for a future. So if it’s not jiving, you gotta be cool. You gotta be happy it happened. You just gotta remember that it’s all good.

Cheers. I love you.