Damnit! (Or, we are all just little factories….)

[I almost never publicly publish any of my own work here, preferring to post a variety of work by other aspiring authors.  Today, I will make an exception.]

Over on Roberta Pimentel‘s blog where she has an entry titled “Get More Readers with Your Gravatar”  it was a pretty day and started innocently enough, a bit like a sunny day in Texas or Oklahoma before the tornado flattens your home.  It was just another day when she wrote wrote that article, but that was before she encountered grumpy old me.  (I was going to describe myself as a “grumpy old bastard” except, of course, my parents are married and have been since the Dawn of Time.)

I wrote the following comment:

In a way, we are all like little factories.  If it is part of our “assembly line,” then we can blast it.  But, just a little out of the norm, and it/we “fall off the cliff.”  I think this gets worse as you get older and your literal and metaphorical skeletal system becomes more rigid and brittle and less flexible.  You really *DO* have a good idea with that, but I just do not know how I can carve out a window to do it.  AND, at least in theory, I am “off” this summer.  Yet there does not seem to be a minute to spare.  (Maybe I should write a blog entry on this.)  In fact, I think I WILL do just that, over on my blog at “Still Another Writer’s Blog.”  (Or is it “Still Another Writers’ Blog”?  Damnit, I am not sure myself!)

Yep.  There I was on Yet Another Rant ™.

Must be time to actually write something.

In all fairness, this is something with which I struggle. (“Something” meaning allocating time, not ranting.  Though I suppose I do struggle with the rants also.)  Do I work on the next “Great American Novel,” or do I scrub the toilet?  The toilet REALLY needs scrubbing, and that is so vastly overdue as to be a “bad mental image” for even the most hardened healthcare professional routinely exposed to the most foul blood and body fluids.  In a word, it is “bad.”

But, HOW DO we handle those decisions?  Though I prefer to remain anonymous, among other things I have advanced graduate training in “optimization” (such as “linear programming,” commonly called “LP”) and seriously study such issues.

(At least I do things like that when I am not blogging about astrology which, of course, the serious graduate students completely reject in the most fundamental way imaginable. Something tells me they probably would not like the sexy bikini and pinup blog, either.)

As an aside, let me tell you a short story about LP.  Ever seen a movie called “Good Will Hunting“?  Remember the “math problem” at the beginning?  Well, that version of the story is not quite the true version. (Actually, it is almost so removed as to be unrecognizable.) The true version became an “urban legend” that floated around for decades.

The true version is that a graduate student (not a janitor) was late for class one day.  Apparently he was a bit rough around the edges in some ways (maybe a little like the “janitor” in the movie), and when he was late he wrote down the two “homework problems” on the board.  He went home and solved one but could not solve the other.

He turned in his “homework” and apologized for not solving the second math problem “yet.” (“It was a little harder.”) Turns out that the two problems were “unsolvable” (or “open”) math problems that the teacher had put on the board as examples of difficult problems.  The one that the student solved was supposed to “end world hunger.”  (In fact, LP is still used to managed food distribution.)

The military IMMEDIATELY appropriated it as a military secret (and making publication of it high treason and punishable by death).  They used it to solve logistics problems (and won World War II with superior logistics to the Nazis).  (But the bit about the military has been sanitized and eradicated over time.  Dig deep enough, and you will find it.  These days it is probably categorized as “tinfoil hat” to discredit anyone who wants to pass on the truth about what REALLY went on… …at least someone had the testicular fortitude to make the Imitation Game to tell us about Turing and what happened to him.)

The student was George Dantzig.  And the method he developed, now released to the public, is called Linear Programming.  (Technically, it was the Simplex Algorithm.  But most of us just call it LP.)  I like the way this guy tells the story.  Personally, I think Dantzig’s life should be made into a movie, and as penance for taking Dantzig’s story Matt Damon should play Dantzig’s professor.

Back to the main story: how do you decide?  What do you pick?  If it will take you eight hours to produce a suitable gravatar, is it worth it?  Or should you be writing?  Or should you be scrubbing the toilet?  And if you don’t scrub the toilet today, when do you do it?

We all wrestle with this, but that is not the end of the story.  The fact is we become superior at certain kinds of skills and processes.  In the bestseller “Now, Discover Your Strengths,” these superior skills and processes are described as “strengths.”  The main thing, according to the book, is to discover your strengths, build little “assembly lines” in your life that put them to work, stick to those assembly lines and avoid time wasters that suck the life out of you, and make enough money to hire someone to scrub the toilet (unless that is your strength).

But, the fact of the matter is, sometimes, you still have to scrub the toilet.