Happy 2015: Defending Resolutions

New-Year-resolutions-30000Have you noticed that New Year’s resolutions are getting a REALLY bad rap?

Around this time last year, many media outlets reported on findings from University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology that only 8% of Americans achieve their resolutions.

Time.com contributor Jessica Lamb-Shapiro, a couple of days ago, while referencing the Journal of Clinical Psychology stats, went so far as to claim that New Year’s resolutions are actually bad for you!

When you tie your behavioral change to a specific date, you rob yourself of an opportunity to fail and recover, to “fail better.” If you believe that you can only change on the New Year — the inherent message of New Year’s resolutions — you will have to wait a whole year before you get another shot…

She also quotes Steve Salerno, author of Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless:

My concern is that the resolution takes the place of the action, as is also true with so many millions of people who sign up for an endless succession of self-help programs: They think some magic words, some avowed promise, will magically transform their lives, when we all know that the real transformational work is tough, grueling, and usually involves sacrifice and unpleasant choices.”

I’m sorry, I just don’t see the making of resolutions and “real transformational work” as being mutually exclusive, and yet Salerno and Lamb-Shapiro base their entire argument on this being the case.

Read carefully, it seems to me that Lamb-Shapiro’s piece doesn’t actually support the sensationalist claim that resolutions are bad for you, as much as it points out that it’s how you go after trying to achieve your resolutions that matters the most.

It’s self-serving — they both have written books criticizing the so-called self-help industry — and deeply cynical.

Ironically, Lamb-Shapiro concludes, sounding just like the self-help gurus she holds in such contempt:

Here’s a better idea. Instead of listing an abstract goal like “lose weight,” think of specific small steps you can take, every day, that will have the same result. If you fail at any of these small steps — which you inevitably will — brush it off, and realize that failure and recovery is part of any process.

I believe that it is an inherently good thing that people live intentionally, set goals, and work toward personal growth, and it’s even a deeply optimistic thing that people continue to make resolutions despite an 8% success rate.

So, great ideas, Jessica! Very helpful! Thanks for giving me a better chance of achieving my New Year’s resolutions!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Out Of Office: 2014-2015 Holiday Edition

Winter-Season-With-Happy-Holiday-I know, selfish, right?

I finally return to blogging after a year and a half break, and less than a month later I go on vacation?!

Sorry, folks.

I’ll be with the family, celebrating the holiday that isn’t Hanukkah, for the next few days, and I may not be able to post anything new until the 28th or 29th.

In the meantime, if you’re so inclined, please feel free to browse around here in any of the following ways:

  • Tags: In the sidebar, under Stuff About…, you can click on any of the Tags and see all the posts I’ve done that have at least something to do with those topics.
  • Recurring Series: At the top of the page, hover over the Recurring Series drop-down menu and select from options like Celebrating Progress, which applauds businesses adopting sustainable practices; Eyecatchers, a collection of photos, graphics, and videos that have, well, caught my eye; Video Fridays, my favorite video of the week pick; and more.
  • Archives: Towards the bottom of the sidebar, select a specific month to see everything I posted in that time period.

Cheers!

Video Fridays: Hanukkah Edition

Well, I’m barely keeping my head above the water right now, what with my interfaith family and I simultaneously partaking of both Hanukkah and Christmastime.

So, for today’s Video Fridays installment, I only really have time to post a video and run.

Without further ado, here it is, the best.Hanukkah.video.ever!

WARNING: The following contains profanity. Please DO NOT watch if you are easily offended.

Happy Hanukkah and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Hanukkah: The Festival of Oily Food

hanukkah-miracleSo, that right there, via NPR.org’s Sandwich Monday series, is Dan Pashman‘s contribution: the Hanukkah Miracle.

It seems appropriate to share this, as tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, the 8-day Jewish Festival of Lights, although I do so with the following disclaimer:

WARNING: This post, if the above photo hasn’t already done so, may induce the following side effects: learning, laughter, salivation, craving, hunger, or, depending on one’s personal dietary inclinations, disgust, nausea, projectile vomiting.

As Dan explains:

Hanukkah celebrates a miracle at the ancient Temple on a night when the Jews thought they had only enough oil to light the candles for that one evening. To their delight, the oil lasted eight miraculous nights, and that’s why foods cooked in oil are a common part of the Hanukkah observance…

American Jews eat fried potato pancakes (latkes), but in Israel, Jews celebrate with a different oily, fried food — doughnuts. I’ve brought these two customs together to create a new sandwich: the Hanukkah Miracle.

Here’s how you make it: Slice a glazed yeast doughnut in half and fry it in butter. Flip it inside out, spread sour cream on the bottom and applesauce on the top, and insert a potato pancake. (You want the sour cream closer to your tongue to accentuate its flavor.)

Now, I grew up in a latke household, and what Mr. Pashman doesn’t explain is that latkes are usually served with applesauce and sour cream. And, while I LOVE this, to some, bizarre combination of ingredients, the thought of stuffing those three elements between a glazed doughnut that has been fried in butter…

…yeah, here comes the nausea.

I do recommend you check out Dan’s piece at NPR.org, although with one more warning: it contains a graphic photo depicting his 4-year old daughter consuming the Hanukkah Miracle.

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Happy Old Decade

Originally Published: December 31, 2009


numbers
Listen, I’m not a Left Brain person. When I look at bank statements, Excel spreadsheets, those huge lighted signs at the airport showing flight numbers and departure and arrival times, my head goes all fuzzy, like it’s filled with cotton balls, my eyes cross, and the numbers seem float up from the surface and scramble. (I wouldn’t call it dyslexia, though, because I got an A in Statistics at Rutgers in 1988. Chuckle, chuckle.)

Anyway, if it weren’t frustrating enough to do things like payroll at work or balancing a checkbook, there’s the whole numbers and time and calendars thing, which Wikipedia attempts to make clear:

The Julian calendar was used in Europe at the beginning of the millennium, and all countries that once used the Julian calendar had adopted the Gregorian calendar by the end of it. So the end date is always calculated according to the Gregorian calendar, but the beginning date is usually according to the Julian calendar (or occasionally the Proleptic Gregorian calendar).

Crystal clear, huh?

As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, I’ve been reading all these Best Of lists, not just for 2009, but also lists of what folks consider the Best Of the first decade of the 21st Century.

And as I think about this, my Right Brain orientation doesn’t want to trust my subordinate Left Brain when it screams out that it’s a bit premature to declare an end to the first decade of the 21st Century.

I’m reminded of similar brain hemisphere confusion in the run-up to January 1, 2000. The Y2K Bug hype was in the air and much of the world seemed determined to celebrate the coming of 2000 as the beginning of the Second Millennium. After all, 2000 is such a nice round number, isn’t it? It’s just so Second Millennium-ish!

And yet, if you ask an astrophysicist at NASA, well, it’s not.

Question: I’m 17 years old. I’d like to know when the new millennium starts. Isn’t it Jan 1st, 2001? Why do people get excited about 2000 then? How can I explain this to my friends? Please help.

Answer: You are right that the millennium starts on Jan 1st 2001. There is no year zero, so the first millennium started on January 1, 1 C.E., the day after December 31, 1 B.C.E. The first millennium ended 1000 years later, on the night of Dec 31, 1000/morning of Jan 1, 1001, and the second millennium ends 1000 years after that, on Dec 31 2000/Jan 1 2001.

The main reason people will celebrate the millennium on the night of Dec. 31 1999 is to hold big parties, and to hold them a year sooner than they would otherwise. I expect that, around February, 2000, people will start coming around to the belief that the millennium does indeed start with 2001, and plan their next party accordingly.

By the same highly educated reasoning, this would mean that the first decade of the 21st Century doesn’t end until January 1, 2011.

And so, while I’m happy to have evidence that I can still manage to utilize both sides of my brain, I still intend to party tonight like it’s 2011.

Happy New Year!
Happy Old Decade!

Out of Office: 2012-2013 Happy Holidays Edition

happyholidaysSo, I was about to start off this post with, “Well, it’s that time of year again…,” but then I took a look at what I wrote on this occasion last year — namely the last post before I mostly disappear into family holiday celebrations for a bunch of days — only to find that a year ago I started my post with, “Well, it’s that time of year again…”

While today is not Christmas Eve, with a weekend gloriously placed between now and the holiday, a whole lot of fun is lined up, fun that will largely keep me away from the computer and therefore away from Fish & Bicycles, for as long as a week.

But dear readers, do not despair! I will be reviving an Out of Office idea from this past summer, the Best of Fish & Bicycles series, whereby, while I’m gone, a favorite post of mine from the archives will be reposted each day.

Oh, I might sneak in a new post here and there, but it’s fun digging through the archives, so I hope you don’t mind indulging me.

And so, I wish everyone who comes across this post very Happy Holidays, a retroactive shout out to my Jewish homies for Chanukah, Solstice today, Christmas on Tuesday, Kwanzaa all next week, the New Year, Mawlid an-Nabi later in January, and any other holidays I’ve left out!

Video Fridays: It’s A Wonderful Life

It's a Wonderful LifeSo, the family and I watched It’s A Wonderful Life last weekend, and I continue to be amazed at how much this film has stuck with me over the years, how meaningful it is to me, and how it never fails, no matter how many times I watch it, to move me to tears.

And I really think you have to be horribly cynical to write the movie off as overly sentimental Norman Rockwell-ish kitsch Americana, as some unfortunately do.

Sure, there’s a thread of post-WWII triumphalism, but focusing on that is missing the forest for the trees.

I LOVE the unapologetic romanticism in It’s A Wonderful Life, from kiddie Mary Hatch’s secret declaration that she’ll love George Bailey until the day she dies and George’s offer to lasso the moon so that Mary can swallow it, and it would all dissolve, and the moonbeams would shoot out of her fingers and toes and the ends of her hair, to George’s plea on that snowy bridge, that he didn’t care what happened to him, if only he could get back to his wife and kids.

In a way, you could say that the country needed this giant expression of the power of love after having been through the nightmare of war.

On a more personal level, I actually didn’t see the movie until I was in college, and I related strongly to George’s central challenge: wanting since he was a kid to escape the confines of a small town, to see the world and do big, important things with his life, while one obstacle after another thwarted his dreams.

I remember being rather lost at the time, not enjoying school, not sure what I wanted to major in or do with my life, fairly common young adult angst, but it was somehow isolating. And so, George’s story broke through that isolation, helping me feel ok about wanting those things and justifying my struggle with not being able to manifest them.

Choosing just one scene for this Video Fridays installment, was difficult, but ultimately I chose the ending, because one of the only things that has ever gotten me through difficult times was experiencing the truth of the note to George that Clarence the angel wrote in the copy of The Adventures of Tom
Sawyer
that he left behind, and I paraphrase: no man is a failure who has family and friends.

Happy Weekend, everyone!