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!

 

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Musings

I’m a sucker for striped shirts and empty white hair.

There’s something strangely human about opening the door of your home and knowing if someone else is there. You know before they speak, or turn the faucet, or close the underwear drawer. As if they left their presence on the threshold.

All of us have friends who are mad at us. They get mad the moment we start to do what we want and cease to do what they want. Ultimately, it’s a matter of possession. We want to own our loved ones the same way we own our favorite jeans. We confuse what ‘trustworthy’ is; i.e. it is the jeans that are always there for you.

There is a girl who stands taller than she really is. It’s because she talks about bigger things. She orders an Apricot Blonde and her voice gets loud when the conversation becomes about dreams. About ambitions. People are surprised to learn she isn’t six feet. She acts like it, though, and it reminds me of the word ‘monumental’.

“Everybody’s crazy.  Nobody makes sense,” she says.

I don’t know how they did it, but Zeppelin found the human spirit and plastered it on a vinyl saucer.

The reason I run so much is because of a lady at a race. She held up a sign that said ‘One day, you will not be able to do this.‘ I think the same goes for coloring your hair and going on dates and drinking liquor in swimming pools. I feel like there’s not enough time. It makes me think about the word ‘urgency’.

Plump, red grapes are Earth’s way of saying ‘you deserve this.’  They remind me of globes.

The reason everything is such a mess is because:

a) we think we are right, or
b) we are okay with being wrong.

My roommate and I scrubbed our shower before I left for the summer. He said “you can’t clean anything without getting something else dirty.” This thought has haunted me since.

Remember that nobody is ever impressed by how much you hate something.

Sometimes Monday morning feels like throwing a party when you’re hungover. I imagine this is what the first ten years of having kids is like.

There is a tangible energy abuzz in the air of a night when seemingly everyone else is doing something, together, and you are witnessing it from afar, alone. Fridays and New Year’s Eve are notorious for providing this nagging sensation.

Sometimes you can just think of someone’s gigantic laugh and turn yourself hysterical. I encourage you to try. This is especially fun in places where tension thrives, like a room in the library or the DMV. You start giggling and it draws the glances of the miserable, which only elevates the stress, wheeling the hilarity round and round like a hurricane.

I think all things melancholy are born on Saturday afternoons.

Few skills are more magnetic than knowing how to tell a good story. Along the same lines, saying someone’s first name, mid-sentence, when the conversation is thick with good thoughts, is wildly arousing.

One of the best ways to ease your mother’s mind is to take good care of yourself. When you are doing well, and you are healthy, and you are happy, it is the same as saying “I love you, too.”

The best part of taking photos is that in the moment, everything is unexciting, and routine, and nothing is special. Yet, when you look again, years later, when sprawled across the carpet, real magic appears. A photographer is like an angel from your future who paints a life your memory forgot.

I have all these photos of the people I love. I like looking at them, and I like looking at you.

I wanna look at you again.

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Cereal & Milk

Lately, I’ve been living by this mantra:

The mind is so strong!

“The mind is so strong.”

A big dream recently came true for me. Over the next six years, I will be pursuing higher academic endeavors, and be paid to do so, filling my little brain with bigger and bigger things. In response to such huge news, I’ve been thinking about my experience on this rock and all the little things I’ve learned so far. I’d like to share some.

The mind is so strong.

I’ve learned that your personal life is largely uninteresting unless it can be A) related to by means of past experiences or B) related to by means of future experiences. This is something that is widely misunderstood in the stuff we share on the web. I don’t mean to be a nihilist, but most of the things that we consider important are simply not. The sooner you recognize this, the more interesting you become. My rule of thumb: share what you make, including happiness, not what you do.

There is a difference.

I’ve learned that entropy is essentially the trajectory of existence. What I mean is: everything over time becomes completely more and more bonkers. I’m infatuated with this idea.

To understand it, think of a piano: keys, wood, paint, chords, the works. A piano possesses a low amount of entropy because it is highly specific in its order. In other words, there is only one combination of all those ingredients that make a piano.

If you put that piano through a wood chipper, the instrument effectively becomes a mess of splinters and ripped ivories. Its entropy is massive; the piano becomes chaos. And you cannot simply reverse this action: sending the pile of shit back through the wood chipper will not produce a piano, ever.

Our lives begin as baby grands. Our lives end as a million chunks of “what the fuck just happened?”

In between: the mind is so strong!

I’ve learned that you will suffer waiting for an apology,

that you can successfully live, seemingly eternally, in someone else’s past,

that some folks are simply uninterested in being nice to you,

and that all three of these things are out of your control.

I’ve learned that it’s much easier to whine loudly about the things you dislike than it is to be public about the things you love. In other words, it’s safer to tweet and talk shit about the people at your school, or bitch about finals, or generally complain about anything at all, because mutual lamentation is inevitable and celebrated (apparently). But remember: you always have a choice to share happiness and the power to make others smile. Why flood the aether with grunts and moans? Are you creating or destroying?

I’ve learned that a future relationship with my father is largely up to me and I don’t know how to handle that at all.

I’ve learned that creators never die and consumers never live.

I’ve learned that good sex takes shameless confidence and a childish sense of humor.

I’ve learned that loving somebody does not make them a good person. This is difficult to recognize and even harder to defend, but time always tells. In the end, it’s okay to love them anyway, but oftentimes should be done from afar.

And spring-boarding, I’ve learned that I’ll always love some folks regardless. Always.

The mind is so strong.

I’ve learned that running and reading are mostly the same: an exercise in imagination and endurance. A Vonnegut novel is a few mile jog and David Foster Wallace wrote a marathon. In the end, your mind decides how far you go.

I’ve learned that sweet peppers are marvelous snacks.

I’ve learned that you become who you listen to. This is an important lesson, since I think we’re quite innocently unconscious as to whom we choose as mentors. The Italian proverb “he who goes with the cripple learns to limp” pays testament to that. Who are you listening to? Who do you worship? You are their mirror.

I’ve learned that it takes a great deal of effort to be good at something you hate. Inversely, it’s easy to be good at something when you love it. So love it.

I’ve learned that I’m mostly wrong and too young to be wise, so take all this with a grain of salt. I don’t write to teach or preach or pretend to know anything. To quote the Dude: “that’s just like, your opinion, man.” I just write because I love it and I love it and I love it.

I’ve learned that everything is pushing you towards mediocrity; that nothing wants you to be great. Television sells comfort and shortcuts to instant gratification, but nobody is encouraging you to read a book or run for president. Your boss does not want you to be better than him. I’ve learned that the successful ones are the disciplined, and the rest are the distracted.

Finally, I’ve learned that the mind is so strong. What I mean is, you can learn anything you want, and there is so much to know. You’ll live your whole life learning things all the time. That is special, I think, and worth it. I like the ones that see knowledge as an infinite and insatiable frontier. I like the ones who recognize that you become your thoughts.

I’ll be moving soon, and I’m sure I’ll learn some more about cereal and milk and love and death and why we act the way we do. For now, though, I’ll be here, living out some tunes on this baby grand.

The mind is so strong.

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On Books (or: An Epitaph for the Immortally Dead Men)

One day, I will write a book.

I will write an entire book, from start to finish. I will bind it in a deep, forest green. It will look terribly simple on the front, the title written in a pale, yellow Times New Roman. The back will feature absolutely nothing. Inside of the book will be words, mostly, because that’s the fodder for imagination.

I’ve been reading quite a lot lately, which is something I typically can’t still still long enough to do. Like everything, I have no patience, but at least enough to almost finish something. That’s how it has been with books lately, except I really love finishing them.

One book I’ve read recently is called Slaughterhouse-Five. It is written by Kurt Vonnegut, whose name I have been mispronouncing my entire life. Here is one of my favorite lines, which I have highlighted with a cheap, yellow marker, in the copy that I’ve bought:

“I don’t think Trout has ever been out of the country,” Rosewater went on.  “My God – he writes about Earthlings all the time, and they’re all Americans. Practically nobody on Earth is an American.”

Ain’t that just something?

This book also features other fantastic literary nuggets; alphabetical orgasms, if you will, such as:

On the ninth day, the hobo died. So it goes. His last words were, “You think this is bad? This ain’t bad.”

“Valencia was snoring like a bandsaw.”

and

In went water and loaves of blackbread and sausage and cheese, and out came shit and piss and language.”

I’ve been reading these books and I’ve been feeling all sorts of things. I’ve been hallucinating vividly and I’ve been giggling to myself in the corner of the coffee shop. I’ve paused a hundred times to look up at all the passing people and wonder if they’re catching on to me, on to my secret, on to this feeling that all of my books have been giving me.

I feel like I just found infinity.

And I don’t wanna share it!

You know, there’s a voice inside your head when you read. Except it’s not your voice. It doesn’t really have a sound at all, actually, and that’s something I can’t stop thinking about. Who is that voice? What is it, in all of its androgyne and colorful monotone? Who’s reading to you all these little words right now? It ain’t me. I promise.

I read a book called The Little Prince two weeks ago, and that’s because of some wonderful human in California who told me I should. It only took me an hour to read, but I’ll think about it forever and ever. Ain’t that just something? Here are a couple of things I highlighted from that book in my cheap, yellow marker:

“It is such a mysterious place, the land of tears.”***

A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”***

and

“When someone blushes, doesn’t that mean ‘yes’?”***

***It must be emphasized that The Little Prince was originally written in French, and these are simply the closest versions of those thoughts, replicated in our silly bastard of a tongue.

I am experiencing a spiritual awakening, and it is simply because of all these books I’ve read.

It’s funny to think about hearing the thoughts of dead men. Nowadays, we get about 80 years, give or take, and Orwell got 46. And 64 years dead, he talked to me, in that little monotonous voice inside my skull, and he made my blood pump through my heart, and he carved a few new valleys in the gelatin that is my brain. Orwell isn’t dead. Orwell is conquering at the imperishable age of 112.

You know, I think everyone has forgotten how to be sexy. I think we all forgot, because our whole life is an image. It’s a filtered photograph on the screen of some horny teenager, masturbating in spouts of 6 seconds at a time to a scanty-clad pale, naked body on the other side of the state. The image disappears and he’s feasting for the follow-up.

There’s a 25 year-old woman somewhere who is drinking water for dinner. In the morning, an IV of morphine will push her into a sugar-filled fantasy-land while silicone inflates a pair of plump, throbbing nipples. In three weeks, she will throw out all of her used brassieres in the advent of the Semi-Annual Sale. Also, she’s still drinking water for dinner.

The internet rages on about fat-shaming, skinny-shaming, big assess and the thesis statement of All About that Bass. They will make flipbooks of the “ideal” woman from the 50’s and empower themselves with the words of Kennedy’s closet fucktoy. They will blame photoshop for Justin’s dick and stylishly worship the winged heroines of the apocalypse.

Sexy, my loves, has nothing to do with your body. You will learn this only when you read more books.

Sexy is a vocabulary. Sexy is confidence and radiance and a magnetic laugh. Sexy is knowing what makes Venus spin backwards and the taste of red wine. Sexy is a glowing bead of sweat on the brow of a 6:00am run. My god, sexy is the way you move, the way you think, the commentary of your dancing hips bathed in the lanterns of a summer patio party. Sexy is the imagination and the expression of the soul. Sexy is what you don’t show. Sexy knows when to fuck and when to make moonlight love, when to wear a black dress and when to wear nothing at all. Sexy is the elegant antithesis of that stupid, minuscule image you have in your head of the ideal ass. Sexy is why the book is always better than the movie. Always.

I’ve been reading these books and they’ve been turning me on. And you think that lacy underwear is the trick.

It’s funny, to hold faith to one book. I’ve read ten books at least that brought me some sort of enlightenment, and have pushed me farther away from worshipping the crucifix. But a lover of jesus isn’t looking for that at all. I could throw a believer in a sea of literature, in an ocean of knowledge that puts a bible to shame. They’ll drown in martyrdom, willingly, stubbornly, holding the failing raft that is the new testament.

I bring that up only because a 52 year-old man is sitting behind me with a group of three, 15 year-old girls. Collectively, they’re not even his age. They’re as desperately impressionable as a wet sponge, and all I can hear from his flabby mouth is “Christ is the answer.” Their eyes are glassed over as they nod like puppets. He smiles plastically.

Just as easily, I could lean over and whisper “Don’t eat your breakfast and you’ll lose 5 pounds a week!” And they would listen. And they would skip breakfast. And that is because they’re 15 year-old girls.

Ain’t that just something?

I read this book recently called The Alchemist. Some people say it saved their lives. Personally, it makes me want to go to the desert. In that book, Paulo Coelho writes:

The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.”***

***Similarly, this book was originally written in Portuguese, which they speak in Brazil.

I guess I’m just clinging on to all these words, the stories and hearts of dead poets. And it made me want to write, to dream, to breathe,

to touch infinity.

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