What Might Yet Be

I am  — right now – writing a character who is emotionally maimed because she FAILED to take crazy chances.  What I mean is, faced with a situation in which she could follow the rules and things would end badly or not follow them and have things end even worse, with a slim to non-existent chance of it all ending up well, she took the “follow the rules” and the lesser of two evils.  And she forever regrets the “what might have been.”

This has set me in a mode of thinking about it.  “What might have been” might be the toughest words in the English language, and I bet all of us over the age of twenty have an extensive collection of “what might have been.”  I do, you do, everyone does.

What might have been if we’d taken our meager savings and invested in Amazon, for instance.  (It’s not like I ever had any doubts they’d do well, either.  We just never got around to it.) What might have been if I’d ignored the agents and editors and continued writing space opera and throwing it at Baen, ten years before I did.  What might have been if I’d attended cons when we lived in the Southeast.

Now of my various regrets, most of them I can exonerate myself from.  To have done otherwise would have required either supernatural ability to see into the future – for instance, if I’d known twenty years ago what I know now about ebooks and indie selling, instead of spending my time writing short stories to submit to the small presses, etc, I’d just have done novels, some for Baen and some for the drawer.  But that would have required second sight or future-telling, or something, and though I have the occasional prophetic dreams and less occasional “feelings” (and yes, I’m still having the feeling that collectively we stand before the gates of hell and death is at our side, thank you so much for asking) I don’t actually have prophetic visions (what price the ability to call my younger self?  And besides, she’d ignore me, she’s a stubborn b*tch.)

Then there’s the fact that I look back and go “What was I doing?  Why did I think I could only write a book a year?  What was wrong with me?”  But that’s easy to say now, from where I stand, where I a) have a lot more practice, so book writing is faster, and b) don’t have toddlers around my ankles all day while rebuilding a house that we bought in a condition that needed rebuilding.  (And btw, I’m not saying that the 18 and 22 year old don’t get in the way but I – thank heavens – don’t need to bathe them or feed them with a spoon.)

But then there are other regrets, on the same order as my characters, and stuff like ‘Why didn’t I go to the cons in the Southeast’ fall under them.  I want to say “because I didn’t even know they existed” but that’s only part of the truth.  For one, one of my casual acquaintances back then was a published member of Horror Writers of America and I’m sure he HAD to have told me about the cons, right?  It’s more that I hated going out in public, was even more conscious of my accent than I’m now, and it was all too easy to convince myself not to do it and then ignore them.

Yet, at the time, taking the risk, meeting editors… Yes, maybe they’d hate me, but I have a feeling they wouldn’t.

And other stuff.  I still with that when we found ourselves profoundly unhappy with Dan’s job we had packed the car with cats and the few things we wanted to keep, sold everything else at a garage sale, announced the house for assuming with nothing done and driven to Denver.  People would have thought we were nuts, of course, but financially – not to mention emotionally – we’d have saved two years of h*ll, not to mention untold financial burdens.

Of course, that’s “what might have been” and what about that accident on the way to Colorado, where the escort (!) went off the street in snow and we all died, cats and all?  What accident?  Well, that too might have been, you know?  And it’s good to keep that in mind.

But on the other hand there is no reason not to… How do I explain this?

Pretend you’re a time traveler.  You just managed to come back to here now: your body, but a future mind.  Look around.  What aren’t you doing?  What are you failing to allow yourself to do: creative stuff, interesting stuff, learning stuff.

And then there’s the risks.  Last year Kevin J Anderson allowed to me audit his Superstars Writing Seminar, (which is happening again this year, and the early bird prices are about to go off.)  Listening to people tell the stories of how they broke in, how they had a massive breakthrough, how they got there, how they got attention, just about blew my mind.

I’ve never scaled the heights these people have been to, but I’ve also never taken the risks they have, the desperate all or nothing gambles.  Let’s just say that if I were in debt to my ears, and my lights were turned off, and there was no food in the fridge, I’d take whatever advance they gave me, instead of holding off for a big release.

And maybe that’s a mistake.  Ever since the seminar, I’ve been listening to other stories of great success (not just in writing) and almost every single time the gamble was enormous, far higher than everything I’ve done, than everything I’ve even considered.

And of course, part of this is my obligations.  I can gamble my money (could, if I had any) but not my family’s money and the kids’ educations.

Still, maybe a little more gambling is needed, a little more getting out of my comfort zone.  And not just in terms of “how can I advance my career” but – taking in account the feelings (not good) I have of what’s ahead (very not good) – how can I optimize my chances of surviving and of being able to support my family in the future.

This is where I am today.  My regrets unlike my character’s aren’t huge and irretrievable, but all the same, like Zen, I’m wondering “what’s the slightly crazy alternative I can take?  And how might it pay off?”

Saner blogging tomorrow – and a post at MGC in about half an hour or so.


131 thoughts on “What Might Yet Be

  1. I can gamble my money … but not my family’s money and the kids’ educations.

    No, the government’s already gambling that. But don’t worry, it’s a sure thing, can’t lose, nothing can go wrong.

    1. > No, the government’s already gambling that. But don’t worry, it’s a sure thing, can’t lose, nothing can go wrong.


  2. I owe my happiness today, and you know it is not unadulterated, but it is there, and I am alive, to taking a huge gamble. But it’s not something I could say to anyone else, this will work, do it! And going back to my younger self and warning her would lead to me not being, well, me. So here I am, still taking that gamble. I’ll get back to you in about 4 years about pay off.

  3. I know this is a Kipling bunch, but this is a Frost post.

    “I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.”

    1. Frost has his moments for the Huns & Hoydens. Take this section from “The Black Cottage” and consider its relationship to the gods of the copybook headings.

      “For, dear me, why abandon a belief
      Merely because it ceases to be true?
      Cling to it long enough, and not a doubt
      It will turn true again, for so it goes.
      Most of the change we think we see in life
      Is due to truths being in and out of favor.
      As I sit here, and often times, I wish
      I could be monarch of a desert land
      I could devote and dedicate forever
      To the truths we keep coming back and back to.”

  4. “(And btw, I’m not saying that the 18 and 22 year old don’t get in the way but I – thank heavens – don’t need to bathe them or feed them with a spoon.)”

    Ha! That’s where you broke my suspension of disbelief.

    1. The little ones stole my time and energy. The big ones steal my creativity and sanity.

      Which surprises me because I was so very certain that everyone complaining about how teenagers were *hard* was a big liar.

    2. It’s been my personal experience that at that age you bathe them with a fire hose if at all, and the proper tools for feeding lend more towards shovels and end loaders.

  5. Well, gambles are one thing, sometimes they pay off, usually they are disasters. Regrets? I don’t really have them. Yes there are painful memories and if I were there to make the choices I would probably have taken the other turn. Unless I knew everything I know now. You see, most of those alternative choices would not have lead to the woman I have now. I think my choices were all the right ones

    1. > Well, gambles are one thing, sometimes they pay off, usually they are disasters.

      This is an important thing to remember. I’ve taken some gambles. Big ones. Some pay out. Most don’t.

      When you listen to motivational speeches by people who bet it all and won, you have to remember that there’s selection bias at work: the people who bet it all and lost aren’t invited to give such speeches.

  6. Rip off Larry Correia’s idea that he ripped off of Howard Taylor – Broomer’s Lair Challenge Coins. I don’t know how well the idea would fly (pun not intended, but still amusing) with your fans, but this one would buy in.

    And since I’m breaking my silence…THANK YOU, SARAH!!! For getting it right – with a your books (at least the ones I’ve read). I purchased a book a couple months back that purported to be science fiction. I bounced it off the wall several times, it was so bad. I’ve read better Harlequin’s (it was my sister’s, she left it laying around, and I was reeeeally desperate for something to read at the time). I’m not sure which is worse – that I kept forcing myself to pick it up and read more (I paid good money for this, I’m going to finish it) or that it’s a series. 🙂

    1. “… I kept forcing myself to pick it up and read more…”

      Don’t worry. A lot of us are mental masochists that way. I’ve read some books multiple times, looking for what made other people like them, and still wanting to bounce them off the wall.

      1. As to forcing yourself to read something, I had a revelation in college. I was reading a required book and a paragraph didn’t make sense to me. My habit was to skip those. (I was a History major, so not just something that was hard to understand.) This time I decided I would go at this paragraph doggedly and finally understand it. When I did I realized that the introductory sentence was contradicted by the concluding sentence. I didn’t understand it because IT DID NOT MAKE SENSE, so I learned to trust myself more and realized that books are only potential repositories of wisdom, but can also be as stupid and meaningless as a conversation between two dopers munching Fritos.

      2. I’ve picked up books at the library because they were bestsellers — for research. It’s an invariable way to find rubbish. (Bestsellers picked up for other reasons are not invariable rubbish. Go figure.)

    2. “I paid good money for this, I’m going to finish it”

      Sunk cost fallacy. You’ve already spent the money, it’s gone and never coming back. Now that book is costing you time whenever you pick it up. There’s no reward, nothing to gain from finishing it. Cut your losses and move on.

  7. What if I had stayed a bit longer either in Canada or maybe even in the States after I spend that summer in Ontario, looked for work, and if I had found it stayed? I had serious trouble during the winters, had been having for several years and it was starting to look highly unlikely I would be able to finish my studies in Finland, my mother had died and my father had found himself another woman, and he was still healthy and not yet all that old. I didn’t have any pressing reasons to come back here. Not even a cat back then.

    That is maybe the biggest regret I have. I don’t know how much of a chance of being accepted as a legal immigrant I would have had, but I could have at least stayed and worked in Canada legally for several months, I did have a visa for the States as well although not a work permit, and maybe I could have gotten the necessary papers if I had found a decent job before my visa (either or both) ran out.

    I might have at least tried.

    But it seemed like a stupid risk at the time. I was supposed to leave after the summer so I did.

        1. Sigh. If we’re confessing regrets — I had a scholarship for college in the States, but I’d signed an agreement with the exchange student organization saying I wouldn’t say and also that I would not return for a year after. It wasn’t legally enforceable, but I’d signed it, so I thought I had to follow through. Eh.

          1. Heh. Feeling like you need to follow every single law and rule to the letter can be as bad as not following any. Each group could learn from the other. Now if somebody could then teach some reliable method for figuring out which alternative – obedience or disobedience – fits what situation better…

            1. And frankly, I think my own personal tendency towards that full obedience is mostly a combination of laziness and cowardice. Figuring out when it’s better, and/or more right, to obey and when to disobey is not always exactly easy. It’s quite a bit easier to just try to be a model citizen. And you can even feel good for doing it, with no reservations, as long as you don’t happen to live some place like Nazi Germany.

    1. If you ever change your mind, there’s a couch at the Oysterhaus for you on an hour’s notice. A room would take a week or so, but it’s not out of the question. 🙂

        1. Well, in our case, only if one of the boys moves out, and if you don’t mind two cats fighting ON you half the night, but we can probably provide crashing space for a few days!

        2. I would never make such an offer in jest. You’re one of Hoyt’s Hoydens, and a nice lady to boot – how could I do less? Only my God and my kin come before my kith and tribe. (I’m tired and thus a little melodramatic at the moment, but the sentiment stands.)

          1. Just teasing.

            But if my income would happen to build up to where I could become a legal immigrant (while still young enough to be in reasonably good shape – besides most countries tend to be a bit leery about wannabe immigrants who are already on a wheelchair and have to lug an oxygen bottle with them, unless they are millionaires so…) there actually is a good chance I will. I don’t have much to hold me here after my father goes, and he has started to get worse fast during the last year. So, who knows, although I suppose even if that will happen (books start to sell well enough, and of course it’s highly likely they never will) it will take years. So thank you. If I get to move it would certainly be easier if I could move close to people I already know at least some, instead of starting to build from scratch.

            But I’d need the money. Your country would not accept me as I am at present – late middle age, no money, no finished education and most of my work history being that of a menial worker (unless I maybe learn Spanish and sneak in across that southern border… ;)).

          2. There is this too: I would actually like to, but right now it seems highly unlikely I ever can. So the subject is something I prefer to joke about, not talk seriously. Less painful. Even with the way things seem to have been going there lately. But when one compares that to the way they have been going here, well, no matter how strongly I try to think in terms of what they say about grass and fences the field still sure does look better on that side. You too have places where the grass is starting to look rather sickly, but you also have more spots where it is still green and lush.

  8. We hear about the 1% who successfully bucked 100-1 odds, and good for them. About the 99% who failed, we don’t hear as much; they are understandably not eager to talk about it and they don’t make good copy.

    Yet it’s been justifiably said that the biggest long-run risk is to take no risks: during “normal” times, anyway.

    There is no surefire recipe for making decisions about risk.

    1. There is no surefire recipe for making decisions about risk.

      Especially when information is incomplete.

    2. I was telling someone yesterday that I like to work hard, but I don’t like to work hard at something that I don’t know is going to work. I’d rather someone else took the risk (owns the business) and just paid me for busting my butt.

      This is about as compatible with writing stories as it sounds. Unfortunately. But part of being older is knowing what’s going on and behaving contrary to what I’d “rather”.

  9. Pretty sane post, to me.

    I don’t think my younger self would have listened – it took major illness to knock some sense into my head, a many years of that.

    I’d just like to stay static NOW. No more deterioration, no more having to deal with more changes. Not likely.

    But going back would mean suffering through kids’ ear infections, wishing you could take their pain. Suffering with kids who do or do not have relationships. All the stuff I’m very glad is behind me.

    I know – and I love that song, btw – that death and taxes cometh next. But I don’t want to go back, even if I screwed it all up.

  10. It seems that when I take chances, I get bit in the butt. Granted, I have not taken any BIG chances, but my failures have made me reluctant to do so. Some of them have been due to an inherent laziness I had not yet mastered, some have been attempts at business where I exercised poor choice in business partners. Others, however, have suffered from coincidental bad conditions, and I simply wasn’t prepared for the type of difficulties encountered at the time, as they were (to me) off-the-wall enough that I didn’t know of any examples to work from.

    1. Similar here.

      …thinking back, there are “risks” I’ve taken which paid off were about things valuable to me (others liking me– or at least being willing to talk to me!) to counter risks. Comes to mind because one involved a lot of yelling, got us back on the ship five minutes before we’d have lost future liberty opportunities… and one of the guys I’d had to hound the whole way turned around and said “see? I TOLD you we didn’t need to hurry!”

  11. I’ve never regretted the wild gambles I took, just the ones that I didn’t take. Right now, I’m paying the professional price for a decision that probably saved my sanity. I knew at the time it could hurt me on the job hunt, and it is, big time, but given the choice I wouldn’t change that decision.

    Sarah, your post sounds remarkably sane to me, which probably should worry a bunch of folks. 😉

    1. And, just to catch up on other things, 4500+ words yesterday and today, 45 gym minutes yesterday, and I just got called to work all day tomorrow, so not much word countage there. But it will pay for a chunk of the next book’s cover. 😀

  12. I have a nice stack of “what might’ve beens.” Well, maybe it’s more of a pile. I tend to sort through them and they get a bit disorganized. Largely my obsessive brain has sifted through them enough times and pondered (in abysmal detail) the alternatives enough that I’m comfortable with them. (well, probably not comfortable, and not precisely accepting, and…let’s just say I don’t wake up sweating and tense about ’em, yeah?)

    From a writing perspective they are useful emotional resonators and story kernels. Their possibilities become character possibilities, things I can “do over differently.” Some of them are painful, some poignant, some wistful (ah, that lovely girl…), more than a few frustrating. But they’re useful touchstones. And I figure since my canted brain has picked over them in such loving detail, and likely will again, I might as well gets some use out of them.

    From a personal perspective? Well. Hm. They’re tripping me up, making me risk averse, and inducing some level of paralysis I’ve not felt before. So much of what I’m reading these days is screaming that it’s a lousy time to take a risk. But risk is the only thing that’s going to get me from here to somewhere else. So my “what might yet be” is kinda foggy with a chance of “ack!” Maybe I’ll find the little break that’ll get me past it.

  13. I have taken crazy chances about every seven years more or less. They have ended up being good changes too… for instance joining the US Navy at 27. Nowadays it is harder to take crazy chances. I have thrown my writings into the wind (internet) and so far not so good, but it is a crazy chance for me. 😉

    1. BTW the hubby is reading the second book in the Dark Thieves series. He reads a few chapters a night more or less. Anyway, he is still reading it. Usually if he doesn’t like a book, he quits reading and I find the book a year later with their spines cracked face down on the floor.

  14. oh absolutely yes. Sometimes you have to ignore the might have been or you’ll be paralyzed.

  15. There are many ways of taking risks. Foolish or rational or desperate.

    From what you’ve told us of your life, the only one you’ve not taken is the foolish. You risked your life to carry to term the baby you so desperately wanted. You moved overseas, to a foreign country, to marry a man who, with you, decided rationally that he would work for money and you would perfect your art.

    The biggest risk I ever took was a leap into the unknown. I accepted a transfer with my employer. Houston? Texas? I’d never been to either.

    Met a man the first day I was here, married him two years later. I’ve got lots of other little risks here and there, taken and not taken, some regrets, but mostly of the “Well, that was educational” variety. I’m not risk adverse, but I haven’t got to “desperate” yet. The rational kind we take regularly. But then, we’re both lacking in wild extravagant excesses, so the risks we take are not at really bad odds for possible short term gains.

    1. Mmmm … the only mistakes I think I would revise were the ones I took with my health. I would see a doctor sooner about the knee that ended up requiring reconstruction, and act more quickly to address the developing neuropathy in my feet that proved to be symptomatic of “Tom Hanks’ Disease.”

  16. Sometimes might-have-beens can free us from needless worry in the present. An example of this for me is that I rarely fuss over financial decisions. I try to do a good, sensible job of making them, but I don’t *worry* over them.

    You see, I long ago made the biggest financial mistake of my entire life. No subsequent mistake I could have (or could yet) make will match up to that one. In fact, the total sum of ALL my other financial mistakes past and future can’t measure up to that might-have-been. I’m not waiting for things to go bad, or worrying whether I’ll make a huge mistake this time, or whatever. That’s all in the past! It’s a wonderful sense of freedom.


    P.S. Oh yeah, the mistake! I turned down a job offer from Microsoft in 1983, when they had fewer than 50 employees. Every other financial screw-up in my entire life — all combined — is guaranteed to be smaller than that.

    1. “Oh yeah, the mistake! I turned down a job offer from Microsoft in 1983, when they had fewer than 50 employees. Every other financial screw-up in my entire life — all combined — is guaranteed to be smaller than that.”

      Guy I used to work with told me how the “mad scientist” sort that lived down the block from them approached his dad about investing in his new company. His dad had the money but thought it was too risky so he turned down Dr. Edwin Land’s offer of a 20% stake in Polaroid for an investment of $2000.


      1. I changed careers in 1985 and got a job offer from Boeing in WA. Since I was into hiking, they took me around and told me that raw land east of Seattle could be bought for a song.

        Between one thing and another, I didn’t feel up to pulling up stakes and moving cross-country, so I stayed in New England.

        Redmond, of course, is east of Seattle. Might the raw land I passed up the chance to acquire have proved a good investment? Just possibly?

        Oh, well.

  17. Most of us are more risk averse than the entrepreneurs are.I have a friend who, years ago, came up with a winning business idea. He didn’t want to risk everything to implement it though, and one of his friends asked if he could try it instead. His friend is now very rich, but he had to spend almost all of his time running things for years, and took out a double mortgage on his house as well as risking everything he had and living on the edge of bankruptcy for years. My friend has instead made a comfortable living and raised a happy family. He has no regrets.

    Most successful entrepreneurs I know have failed and lost it all multiple times before hitting it big. Reflection serves a purpose in helping us make better decisions going forward. Regret on the other hand is only useful as a brief indulgence.

  18. OT: But of interest
    ‘Sir, You Are Recreating’
    By Mark Steyn

    Sterling, re that Eagle-Tribune story about the National Park Service expanding its role as the paramilitary wing of the DNC, this passage is worth quoting in full:

    The bus stopped along a road when a large herd of bison passed nearby, and seniors filed out to take photos. Almost immediately, an armed ranger came by and ordered them to get back in, saying they couldn’t “recreate.” The tour guide, who had paid a $300 fee the day before to bring the group into the park, argued that the seniors weren’t “recreating,” just taking photos.

    “She responded and said, ‘Sir, you are recreating,’ and her tone became very aggressive,” Vaillancourt said.

    The seniors quickly filed back onboard and the bus went to the Old Faithful Inn, the park’s premier lodge located adjacent to the park’s most famous site, Old Faithful geyser. That was as close as they could get to the famous site — barricades were erected around Old Faithful, and the seniors were locked inside the hotel, where armed rangers stayed at the door.

    There is a sickness in the regulatory bureaucracy that Americans should be ashamed of. The NPS, like the IRS, is corrupt and should be abolished — and the government’s parks (they’re clearly not the people’s) returned to the states.

  19. NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE http://www.nationalreview.com PRINT
    October 9, 2013 9:30 AM
    America, Your Vacation Wonderland!
    By Mark Steyn

    On his radio show yesterday, our pal Michael Graham spoke to one of the tourists held under house arrest (or hotel arrest) by the National Park Service geyser stasi at Yellowstone Park. Here’s part of the interview:

    There was a large group of Asians there. Not many spoke English… They said, ‘Are we under arrest?’ I mean, they were fearful. I mean, it looked like we were inside a prison. There were two large guards doing a walk up and down in front of the doors, so people felt like they were in prison. And the Australians said that would never happen in their country. Never never never.

    Oh, get over yourself. Consider yourself lucky Obama didn’t just drone your tour bus.

    These Australians, Europeans and Asians paid huge amounts of money to fly thousands of miles to see America’s natural wonders. What do you think they’ll be telling their friends back home about “the land of the free”?

    Make sure you listen to the entire audio. The choicest detail is when the lady explains that, during the hours they were stuck in the hotel and prevented by armed guards from walking next door to see Old Faithful, every hour-and-a-half throughout the day, just before the geyser was due to blow, your supposedly “closed” government dispatched a fleet of NPS SUVs to ring the site just in case any of those Japanese or Canadian tourists had managed to break out and was minded to take a non-commissar-approved look at it.

    Oh, and stay tuned to the end when she recounts how the Park Service, on the two-and-a-half hour bus journey out of the park to Checkpoint Charlie at the Yellowstone Wall, forbade the seniors from using any of the bathroom facilities en route. If you did that to foreigners you’d captured on the battlefield, it would be in breach of the Geneva Conventions. But, if you seize them in an American park, you can do what you want.

    David French is right. This is bigger than the boring process stuff – will Boehner get a deal? (yawn) – that so obsesses the cable yakfests. This pseudo-”shutdown” is about the convergence of the party and the state. For the moment, it’s mostly petty despotism. But despotism rarely stays petty for long.

    I’ll be speaking on this and other stuff at that bastion of liberty, the Ashbrook Center in Ohio, tomorrow evening. (Details here.) If you’re in the neighborhood, we promise to give you the full National Park Service experience by locking you in the theatre overnight and closing all the toilets.

    1. By some measures, the USA has the highest incarceration rate in the world. (I understand that the crime rate drops when crooks are in jail, but the highest rate in the world…)

      Did we think the government would stop there?

      1. Looking at the the source for that stat, I notice that one in five are waiting to be tried. Wonder how normal that is?

        I also notice we’re at 99% capacity, while nosing around at random other countries shows that being 20 or 100% over official capacity is more normal.

        Suggests to me– especially knowing how people are often given suspended sentences for lack of space– that the US just happens to build more in keeping with demand than other countries, and is unwilling to keep people when there is no room for them.

        (I’d also bet dollars to doughnuts that illegals are counted as “jailed”— and that’s the cheap doughnuts, not the ones that go for over a buck each!)

        1. Foxie,

          1. Whether serving a sentence or waiting to be tried, you’re still imprisoned.

          2. Most US prisoners are held in state prisons. The states do not have authority to enforce federal immigration laws (which is a cynical scam, but that’s another topic).

          3. Rand Paul is not happy.

          1. #2-
            They’re not enforcing it, they’re waiting for ICE to get off its tail and show up. Often they’re holding ’em waiting for ICE to bother to respond so they’re able to charge for lesser crimes.

            #2 don’t care, especially.

          2. On #3, Rand Paul is either uniformed or a moron.

            “Drug crimes” are often cherry-picked out of a much longer list of other crimes as the one which will be charged, and then bargained down in exchange for a guilty plea. As I’ve mentioned before, the gang that broke into at least twenty cars to steal radios, valuables and identities (that’s how many they had on them when they were busted— mine wasn’t among them, either) also ran a drug dealing ring. They were charged with possession in excess of whatever (nothing else) and given suspended community service.

            THAT is what’s behind the statistics they love to pull out about how the “war on drugs” is horrible.

            The disproportionate impact thing is BS, as well– from memory, in those few cases that someone actually bothered to check, when you correct for things like family formation, did they finish school, prior violent crimes, growing up in the city…the “disparate impact” vanishes.

          1. Unfortunately the federal websites containing prison statistics are closed due to the Obamic tantrum.

            I’m stealing that phrase…..

          2. Not because of sabotage?

            I have run across today the claim that the reason the federal exchanges do not run is Republican state government sabotage.

            1. That would explain how the California and Maryland exchanges have succeeded while others have not. If ’twere true.

              Any excuse to avoid the truth. Republicans are “The Jooz” of contemporary politics.

              1. An even better explanation comes from that harsh anti -Obama, -puppies and -butterflies site, Salon:

                Err Engine Down
                What really went wrong with healthcare.gov?
                By David Auerbach
                Of all the terrible websites I’ve seen, healthcare.gov ranks somewhere in the middle. It has been difficult if not impossible to sign up, and customer service has been inadequate. But it’s certainly better than the NYC Department of Education site that I attempted to help a friend navigate two years ago, in hopes of her getting paid her actual salary instead of a default salary; the blatantly inept Web code got the best of us. And it’s better than the evanescent Web encyclopedia Cpedia, which rolled out with pages that literally consisted of nonsense (such as “Clickbooth Cuil but not avail due to flooding traffics and making their servers ‘too hot’ to handle”). The problems plaguing healthcare.gov aren’t due to a unique coding failure or a unique government failure—plenty of products have had similar early deficits, such as the Electronic Arts server bugs that rendered SimCity unplayable by most for more than a week after it was released this March. So healthcare.gov’s failures are not uncommon—they’re just exceptionally high-profile.

                The Redditors picking apart the client code have found some genuine issues with it, but healthcare.gov’s biggest problems are most likely not in the front-end code of the site’s Web pages, but in the back-end, server-side code that handles—or doesn’t handle—the registration process, which no one can see. Consequently, I would be skeptical of any outside claim to have identified the problem with the site. Bugs rarely manifest in obvious forms, often cascading and metamorphizing into seemingly different issues entirely, and one visible bug usually masks others.


                This failure points to the fundamental cause of the larger failure, which is the end-to-end process. That is, the front-end static website and the back-end servers (and possibly some dynamic components of the Web pages) were developed by two different contractors. Coordination between them appears to have been nonexistent, or else front-end architect Development Seed never would have given this interview to the Atlantic a few months back, in which they embrace open-source and envision a new world of government agencies sharing code with one another. (It didn’t work out, apparently.) Development Seed now seems to be struggling to distance themselves from the site’s problems, having realized that however good their work was, the site will be judged in its totality, not piecemeal. Back-end developers CGI Federal, who were awarded a much larger contract in 2010 for federal health care tech, have made themselves rather scarce, providing no spokespeople at all to reporters. Their source code isn’t available anywhere, though I would dearly love to take a gander (and so would Reddit). I fear the worst, given that CGI is also being accused of screwing up Vermont’s health care website.

                So we had (at least) two sets of contracted developers, apparently in isolation from each other, working on two pieces of a system that had to run together perfectly. Anyone in software engineering will tell you that cross-group coordination is one of the hardest things to get right, and also one of the most crucial, because while programmers are great at testing their own code, testing that their code works with everybody else’s code is much more difficult.

                Look at it another way: Even if scale testing is done, that involves seeing what happens when a site is overrun. The poor, confusing error handling indicates that there was no ownership of the end-to-end experience—no one tasked with making sure everything worked together and at full capacity, not just in isolated tests. (I can’t even figure out who was supposed to own it.

  20. Published on The Weekly Standard (http://www.weeklystandard.com)

    The Park Police
    Advance Editorial From Our Forthcoming 10/21-10/28 Issue
    Jonathan V. Last
    October 21 – October 28, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 07

    “We are a nation that has a government—not the other way around.”
    —Ronald Reagan

    The conduct of the National Park Service over the last week might be the biggest scandal of the Obama administration. This is an expansive claim, of course. Benghazi, Fast and Furious, the IRS, the NSA, the HHS mandate​—​this is an administration that has not lacked for appalling abuses of power. And we still have three years to go.

    Even so, consider the actions of the National Park Service since the government shutdown began. People first noticed what the NPS was up to when the World War II Memorial on the National Mall was “closed.” Just to be clear, the memorial is an open plaza. There is nothing to operate. Sometimes there might be a ranger standing around. But he’s not collecting tickets or opening gates. Putting up barricades and posting guards to “close” the World War II Memorial takes more resources and manpower than “keeping it open.”

    The closure of the World War II Memorial was just the start of the Park Service’s partisan assault on the citizenry. There’s a cute little historic site just outside of the capital in McLean, Virginia, called the Claude Moore Colonial Farm. They do historical reenactments, and once upon a time the National Park Service helped run the place. But in 1980, the NPS cut the farm out of its budget. A group of private citizens set up an endowment to take care of the farm’s expenses. Ever since, the site has operated independently through a combination of private donations and volunteer workers.

    The Park Service told Claude Moore Colonial Farm to shut down.

    The farm’s administrators appealed this directive​—​they explained that the Park Service doesn’t actually do anything for the historic site. The folks at the NPS were unmoved. And so, last week, the National Park Service found the scratch to send officers to the park to forcibly remove both volunteer workers and visitors.

    Think about that for a minute. The Park Service, which is supposed to serve the public by administering parks, is now in the business of forcing parks they don’t administer to close. As Homer Simpson famously asked, did we lose a war?

    We’re not done yet. The parking lot at Mount Vernon was closed by the NPS, too, even though the Park Service does not own Mount Vernon; it just controls access to the parking lots from the George Washington Parkway. At the Vietnam Memorial​—​which is just a wall you walk past​—​the NPS called in police to block access. But the pièce de résistance occurred in South Dakota. The Park Service wasn’t content just to close Mount Rushmore. No, they went the extra mile and put out orange cones to block the little scenic overlook areas on the roads near Mount Rushmore. You know, just to make sure no taxpayers could catch a glimpse of it.

    It’s one thing for politicians to play shutdown theater. It’s another thing entirely for a civil bureaucracy entrusted with the privilege of caring for our national heritage to wage war against the citizenry on behalf of a political party.

    This is how deep the politicization of Barack Obama’s administration goes. The Park Service falls under the Department of the Interior, and its director is a political appointee. Historically, the directorship has been nonpartisan and the service has functioned as a civil, not a political, unit. Before the current director, Jonathan Jarvis, was nominated by President Obama, he’d spent 30 years as a civil servant. But he has taken to his political duties with all the fervor of a third-tier hack from the DNC, marrying the disinterested contempt of a meter maid with the zeal of an ambitious party apparatchik.

    It’s worth recalling that the Park Service has always been deeply ambivalent about the public which they’re charged with serving. In a 2005 Weekly Standard piece about the NPS’s plan to reconfigure the National Mall, Andrew Ferguson reported:

    The Park Service’s ultimate desire was made public, indiscreetly, by John Parsons, associate regional park director for the mall. In 2000 Parsons told the Washington Post he hoped that eventually all unauthorized traffic, whether by foot or private car, would be moved off the mall. Visitors could park in distant satellite lots and be bused to nodal points, where they would be watered and fed, allowed to tour a monument, and then reboard a bus and head for another monument. “Just like at Disneyland,” Parsons told the Post. “Nobody drives through Disneyland. They’re not allowed. And we’ve got the better theme park.”

    Yes, yes. They must protect America’s treasures from the ugly Americans. No surprise then that one park ranger explained to the Washington Times last week, “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can.”

    “To make life as difficult for people as we can”​—​that would be an apt motto for the Obama worldview. And now even the misanthropes at the National Park Service have been yoked to his project. This is the clearest example yet of how the president understands the relationship between his government and the citizenry.

    Subscribe now to The Weekly Standard!

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    Copyright 2013 Weekly Standard LLC.
    Source URL: http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/park-police_762277.html

    1. Additional links embedded at article as indicated by bold-faced items. National Review Online gangblog, The Corner:

      2,200 Employees Stuck in Grand Canyon, Running Low on Food
      By Andrew Johnson
      October 9, 2013 1:19 PM
      More than 2,000 government employees are running low on food after being stranded in the Grand Canyon National Park due to the government shutdown. An Arizona food bank already delivered 600 boxes of food this week, and plans to do so again on Friday, but concerns are mounting as to how much longer they can provide the deliveries if the shutdown continues.

      “We’re having to tell them we don’t know how long this thing will last,” said the vice president for the company that runs a resort in the park where many of the employees work. He said the company was “trying to help them as much as we can,” but the shutdown has impacted their resources as well. The resort is reportedly losing $250,000 per day, and was not supposed to close for another two weeks. Many of the employees live on the premises, and the resort has already waived its lodging fee in an effort to help workers.

      A pastor of a church inside the park reached out to St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix for help last week. On Tuesday, the food bank dropped off food in a nearby town dependent on Grand Canyon tourism before driving into a spot in the park to distribute more food. It will continue to provide donations as long as the shutdown continues and is accepting donations.

      “[The shutdown] had a devastating impact up there right away,” said a spokesperson for the bank. Other local residents have offered services to furloughed employees.

      Last week, Arizona governor Jan Brewer requested that the federal government allow the state to reopen the park and offered to use state funds, but her request was denied by the National Park Service.

      1. Last week, Arizona governor Jan Brewer requested that the federal government allow the state to reopen the park and offered to use state funds, but her request was denied by the National Park Service.

        Time to exercise a little Eminent Domain.

  21. It’s one thing for politicians to play shutdown theater. It’s another thing entirely for a civil bureaucracy entrusted with the privilege of caring for our national heritage to wage war against the citizenry on behalf of a political party.

    1. I’ve never been a fan of the National Park Service – few organizations so clearly hate their customers/constituents as NPS.

      But they have done immense and permanent damage to their reputation for being a part of this.

      1. Bryan Preston at PJMedia said the same, “forever tarnished.” And not just for their complicity in all of this shutdown theater, but for their complicity in the contempt of the American people.

        Many Americans have little tolerance for ‘just doing what I’m told.’ The lack of visible push-back, or passive resistance, of obeying the letter but not the spirit of asinine instructions, this has harmed them. And between Joe Biden calling up and being proud of the Ranger who said “I’m not ashamed” for doing her job blocking a memorial and Chris Matthews trying to paint her as a hero for bravely standing up to a congressman (*snort*), not to mention lauding her for ‘wearing a uniform’ for her country (tin-ear, eh?) they’ve found themselves aligned with petulance and spite in opposition to the people they serve. Oops.

  22. I’ve already said numerous times, both in public and among friends, what I plan to do with the first time machine that falls into my hands. (Go back to Ypsilanti, Michigan in 1988 and convince Kim Jones — proprietor of “Ye Olde Computer Shoppe”, and no I’m not kidding about that name — to contrive some way that those two 13 year-old kids he wishes he could hire for his store might meet one another. The kids in question, of course, are myself and the extraordinary girl who’s now my wife. And who I didn’t meet in actuality until we were both out of college and her father was dead and our lives were both in shambles and half a dozen other friends-in-common had ALSO neglected to introduce us and I was fighting my way through the nightmare that would eventually push me toward what I typically describe as the “worst mistake of my life”, which by the way I would _not_ use that same time machine to try and avoid by any more-direct means. And there, I went and told the story _again_…)

    Why wouldn’t I make a discreet phone call, to prevent what I describe as the “worst mistake of my life”? Because that description, as often as I use it, is almost certainly wrong.

    The choice in question is most emphatically one which led to consequences that, all things being equal, I’d much prefer to have avoided. But here in reality, “all things” are never equal. And with due consideration to context, I have to say that of the choices I had at the time, it might nevertheless have been the least bad. Certainly it was preferable, even in hindsight, to the alternatives that I could perceive at the time.

    I’ve made some big gambles in my life. Most often, they don’t pay off as well as one would hope. One in particular led to me being unemployed for three years…and if it had gone on more than a couple of additional weeks, I’d have been homeless, and would probably be dead by now. On the other hand, if I hadn’t made that choice, I might not have been able to get married to my wife. And even though the business didn’t work out, I wouldn’t give up my marriage for anything. So I still count the gamble as a win.

    It really is all in how you look at it.

  23. It’s A Wonderful Life is a powerful theme. I recall a ST:NG episode where Picard went back in time (via the Q character) an avoided getting stabbed in the heart. From that point his career took a no-risk path, ending with him serving as a lowly leiutenant on the Enterprise-D.

    Risk takers deserve all they get, good or bad. They made the decision. May it profit them.

  24. I would have skipped college and used the money I’d saved to spend a year going to all the places I wanted to. I would have moved out the day I turned 18. I would have kept writing, dammit, instead of giving up for years.

    But… I have 2 kids who mean the world to me, a best friend I never would have met outside of a college classroom and a lot of life to draw on for what I’m doing now. So, I have regrets but…

    1. yep. The best would be to be able to go back in mind, to the body, oh, 20 years ago, knowing how the ebook thing would shake out. Then write like a demon and feed the drawer. But hey, I can write like a demon now. it probably won’t kill me.

      1. Well, life is after all a terminal illness, but it is not and never has been about the destination. It’s all about your experiences on the journey there.

  25. I’m still having the feeling that collectively we stand before the gates of hell and death is at our side, thank you so much for asking

    Misread this as “Death is on our side.”

    Considering that I’m starting to get really worried because I’m starting to think things are turning around, that doesn’t help. (…it makes sense in context; it’s when I’m sure things are fine that they go all to heck)

  26. I have a few might-have-beens here and there, but I have to admit that they only trouble me occasionally, largely because I am very well aware of what the statisticians and psychologists call “success bias”. In other words, whenever I hear a story of Person X who took Crazy Chance Y and accomplished Amazing Result Z, I reflexively find myself thinking, “And how many people are there, for every Person X, who *also* took Crazy Chance Y and wound up in Appalling Wreckage @#%!@#!? [cameronpoe]Mah first guess ud be… a lot.[/poe]”

    Of course, when you listen closer to the stories of these Persons X, it very often transpires that their Crazy Chance Y was actually (a) just the most recent of many attempts which was simply finally lucky enough to succeed (viz. Edison’s 10,000 ways not to build a lightbulb) and (b) taken with more care and preparation than one might think, so whatever fallout from failure could be mitigated. In other words, not so Crazy or Out Of Nowhere as it looks; it just makes a better story if it’s told that way.

    And whatever my might-have-beens, if they lead to a life where I don’t have my wife and my son, I can’t be too upset about not getting them.

    1. When the “survivor bias” recently got a lot of press and news, I found it fundamentally irritated me – and it took a while to figure out why. It’s not because it isn’t true within some parameters; it’s because a lot of people I read were basically using it as an excuse to be self-righteous about not taking chances – some were going so far as to praise cowardice by any other name.

      The inherent flaw in the survivor bias argument is the assumption that Person X, Y, and me are limited to one (1) Crazy Chance, which will either succeed or fail, after which it’s official and no further attempts may be made. If someone opens a restaurant and it goes under, they are not barred from opening any other restaurant, ever again – in fact, many of them will take the lessons they learned the hard way, and open another small business, often a restaurant, later on with more success. Most small children fall quite a few times when learning to walk – so if you tally attempts by 8 month old children to walk, you’d see the statistics say it’s an extremely risky and unsuccessful proposition. However, if you take the longer view, and look at how many people succeed after several attempts, you’ll find that Crazy Chances usually aren’t – they’re just calculated gambles based on the experience and resources available at the time.

      (In fact, a restaurant being a relatively low-investment business, it’s particularly easy to open, close, and re-open later. Did the cafe that closed because the owner was going back to Bosnia fail, or the restaurant that used to do awesome crepes that closed because the owner wanted to take a two-year tour of France – did it fail? If you look at the statistic of closures, they both “failed” within three years. But Sevala opened another restaurant after she got back, and it’s been going on for five, six years now. When Pete gets back, he’ll probably open another restaurant, too.)

      So, too, with many chances – looking back, some of them seem crazy and risky because either I now more fully understand potential risks, or because I now have more to lose and therefore look at the risks i took then with the trepidation borne of how those risks would affect me now. But at the time, they made perfect sense to try.

      1. Another source of bias just occurred to me, which I guess you could call “survivor anti-bias”. With many tasks, you attempt them over and over until you succeed — but once you succeed, you stop attempting them. So that guy who opened seven failed restaurants, then succeeded wildly on his eighth attempt (which made him a millionaire)? He has a lifetime success rate of 12.5% — not very good, right?

        Or the guy who has nineteen women turn him down for a date, or go on one or two dates with him before saying “Well, you’re a nice guy, but you’re not the one for me”… but refuses to give up, and on the twentieth attempt he finds the girl of his dreams and they’re married for the next fifty years. His lifetime success rate at getting married was only 5%. You don’t want to emulate that guy, do you?

        Don’t just sit at home. Take chances. Open that restaurant. Ask her out. You never know. As my grandfather liked to say about how he courted my grandmother, faint heart never won fair lady.

        1. This is a perfectly sensible counterpoint, and I applaud it; I will, however, point out that it does rely on the assumption that the failed attempts don’t incur an unacceptable or irreplaceable cost, either individually or accumulatively. The possibility that your eighth restaurant may succeed where your previous seven failed may be non-zero in theory, but can amount to zero in practice if the banks won’t give you another loan. The girl who wants desperately to be both a CEO and a Great Mom does *not* have unlimited time available to chase both simultaneously. And so on.

          There is a difference between cowardice and picking your gambles, and while I agree with Dorothy above that the latter can be used to disguise the former, it’s also unfair to accuse someone of the former when they are only doing the latter.

          1. also, acceptable risk depends on who you are and where you are in life. Again, since I have kids and love them, I can’t risk their future or even comfort. If it were only me “acceptable risk” would be much higher.

            1. THIS. There are several things I would have attempted over the past several years if I were on my own, but I can’t find it in me to risk taking them to living on the street with me.

          2. Oh, failed attempts do incur a cost – However, failing to attempt also incurs a cost to the individual, and indirectly to society. Neither is always easily measurable, or direct, but there’s no such thing as a consequence-free decision.

            Small businesses are a major driver of employment in the US. If people decide the regulatory environment is too extreme to risk opening or expanding a small business, that contributes directly and immediately to the unemployment on a local and national scale. Also, many large businesses started small, once – where would the publishing world be today if Jeff Bezos hadn’t started an online bookstore out of his garage? What would world politics looked like if people who are not from military families didn’t volunteer to serve in the US armed forces? For that matter, what would the face of the world look like if people weren’t willing to leave everything they knew behind them and emigrate to other countries in search of work and freedom?

            Just as asking a girl out contains the inherent risk of rejection, deciding not to ask a girl out contains the certainty of failure to find your perfect partner in her. Deciding to avoid the heartache of rejection guarantees the heartache of loneliness. The loss of money, house, and job by a business going under can all be recovered from. The uncertainty, hesitation, and blighted dreams of wanting to open a business but never having committed and gone for it – that’s much, much harder to recover from, as it haunts for years, and colors all future decisions. On a smaller scale – I moved to Alaska on a whim, because in the ashes of a spectacular failure of dreams, a huge chance had the same risks as any small one to me. Year later, my mother found herself talking one of my classmates from high school, with a local tree-trimming service. When she related that I was in Alaska, flying small planes, he got the most haunted look in his eyes, and said, “She’s living my dream.”

            Where I agree with you absolutely, good sir, is that this is not an either/or, of cowardice or picking your gambles, nor is it always one or the other. Like many things in life, it’s always a range of “it depends” except in a few outlying cases.

        2. With many tasks, you attempt them over and over until you succeed — but once you succeed, you stop attempting them.

          I read something once saying that the reason people say, “When you’re looking for something, it’s always in the last place you look,” is because when you find it, you quit looking. However, for me, things happen like when I was trying to find the bad light in a string of Christmas lights, I got tired of trying them in the direction I was going, and started at the other end, only to find that the bad one was the one that would have been next, before I switched ends.

          1. Heh. You just reminded me of a buddy of mine from college. When he was looking for something and finally found it, he’d always look in one more place after that, “just to show them”.

            Though in fact, I believe the “in the last place you look” saying is a misquote, and the original was “in the last place you’d think to look”. E.g., if you’ve lost your keys, they’re not going to be in the pocket of the jeans you wore yesterday, or fallen off your bedside table and on the floor next to it — they’re going to turn up in the dish-drying rack in the kitchen. And how they got there, you’ll never know.

            1. The dish rack is easy. It’s explaining how they ended up in the freezer, in the back, behind the frozen food you not only didn’t buy _recently_ but don’t actually remember buying _at all_, that’s tough. 🙂

              (You should feel totally free to assume that this is a hyperbolic joke rather than a true story, if it pleases you to do so.)

            2. I’ve started having a problem where things are in places that not only did I already look, but that other people have looked after I told them I couldn’t find it.

              So third time around, it’s found. Usually in plain sight.

                    1. That’s one of the defaults that gets assigned when there is not one available. Strangely, if you hover over the default icon, it shows the correct, full-version one.

                    2. *laughs* Hey, we few, we few, we geeky few– I don’t need to announce the other, but I’m rather pleased to be killing ten pigs or whatever with my guy again! Hit the stride where the kids will let you do something for an hour.

              1. There’s a species of Gremlins responsible for that. Unfortunately I haven’t found a way of ridding my cave of that type of Gremlins (or any other type of Gremlins). [Dragon Frown]

              2. I’ve had that problem for a long time. Likewise, I’ve had another problem that I can look right past the thing I’m looking for, multiple times. I’ve started asking my sons to look for things in the store that are not the things I pick up in the normal course of the day, because I’ll spend 5 minutes looking past it and still not see it.

          2. Dear Husband got so sick of folks using that knee-jerk response that he started responding: “No, I don’t.”

            We both have very low tolerance for “clever” things that are an excuse to stop thinking.

  27. This is usually inflicted on kids in high school, if ever, Sarah. Since you did most of your high school elsewhere, you may not have seen it: http://www.poetry-archive.com/w/maud_muller.html

    Go ahead; it’s actually pretty good.

    It occurs to me that my personal and particular comfort zone is most everyone else’s _dis_comfort zone, and I – conversely, perversely, or both – would be most uncomfortable in their comfort zone.

    1. That reminds me of a James Branch Cabell novel featuring star-crossed lovers. He a gallant Knight, captured and released at her giving herself as hostage for him; she a fair Lady, freedom earned by the knight’s sword — always separated by life’s indignities, always faithful to their plighted love, forever sacrificing each for the other. When at last they are both free to meet after twenty, thirty years of magnificent yet thwarted love, each finds the other a little the worse for wear, a bit changed from what they remembered, a touch thicker about the waist, somewhat grayer in the hair … neither the dream that they had so ardently pursued.

      1. Yeah, well, that’s another of copybook headings.

        C. S. Lewis started a novel about Helen of Troy. It started when Menelaus first found her in Troy and realized: It’s been ten years. She’s not so young any more.

        Then, in Egypt, he’s told another legend about her (a genuine legend, one Lewis didn’t make up) that when Paris stopped in Egypt, Helen was replaced by an eidolon and stayed put while everyone fought over the eidolon in Troy. When Menelaus came by, the eidolon vanished and Helen came back.

        Whereupon they produce a woman as lovely as Menelaus remembered. Alas, the novel ends there, but the point was to be that Menelaus had to learn the Egyptian woman was the fake and the aged Helen the real one.

  28. Speaking from personal experience: Rubbish.

    Yes, I have “what might have been”s — AND NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM WAS MY CHOICE. Every last one of them was forced upon me by others — my parents; their parents; complete strangers in positions of power (teachers, politicians, etc.); hell, even “luck of the draw”.

    Did I ask to have poor eyesight? Did I ask to have an allergy to mustard seed which only grows in the deserts of south California? Was I ever consulted about living someplace where I wouldn’t be drowning in my own sinus-drainage three months of every year? Did I ask to have skin problems the likes of which made other nerds point and laugh? Should I have known turning on a TV was going to have such… unpleasant… repercussions (and how would I have known if I never did it)? Did I ask to have a “glitch” in my shoulder which meant I couldn’t throw overhand if I wanted to (between that and the nearsightedness, guaranteeing I would then be locked out of the sporting events which were where social bonding formed)? Was I ever consulted on where I wanted to go to school — like maybe someplace which *could* hire a math or science teacher who knew more of the subject than I did? Was it my choice to close down all the race tracks within driving distance of my house, thus ensuring I could never get involved in auto racing save by running away from home? Did I ask for my 18th year to be the same year the “youth movement” in motorsport took off, guaranteeing no one would ever look at an 18-year-old who didn’t already have ten years’ experience under his belt? (Sidebar: Did I ask for parents who were unwilling to offer even the slightest support for, and in fact actively sabotaged, my efforts to go racing?) Was it my call to fuck up the space program the way it was, or to have the outbreak of private space concerns come about twenty years *after* I graduated?

    And that’s just the short list.

    This notion of “for want of a nail” is a load of nonsense — where you are right now was dictated to you long ago; only if you hit the pick-six on the life-lottery do you get to change what you are going to be in this life.

    The problem is: Too many people — esp. those on the Left, but not a few on the Right — try to cover their incompetence and stupidity by claiming “everything was working against me”, when five minutes’ research shows it actually *was* their faults; and that poisons the well for those of us who *actually have been* screwed over by fate, karma, or some god or other.

    And I’m not sure which pisses me off more — that the universe has seen fit to screw me over; that thanks to the irresponsibility of others, any attempt to complain about it is dismissed as “oh it’s just another Failure whining about his own failings”; or people who’ve been far luckier trying to tell me what I know to be patently false.

  29. I have the opposite issue. We took lots of risks when we were young. Most of them paid off, and paid off well. Now, looking back, I’m appalled at the chances we took, and relieved they mostly worked. Is that old age, or maturity, or senility? Now I watch my boys, and I’m appalled at the risks they want to take!

  30. To quote the philosopher Mike Ness:
    I got friends who are in prison
    Friends who are dead
    I’m gonna tell you something
    That I’ve often said

    You know these things that happen
    That’s just the way it’s supposed to be
    And I can’t help but wonder
    Don’t you know it could have been me

    Not to get all panglosian, mostly because it’s boloney, but really, I barely squeaked by. I’ve had people I know fall off cliffs, get shot in the back of the head, a couple car accidents–and those are just the ones who died. Broken backs, drug overdoses. Shit, my brother worked for Microsoft. Doesn’t get much worse than that.

    Seriously though, any different set of choices wouldn’t be me, now would it?

  31. OK. Obviously the Great Author is using this as a further hint (not unlike tossing me a note wrapped around a large brick). I’ll get serious about the web site and setting up a business identity.

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