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winner 2016

Winners & Losers 2016.

By Chris Warren

Wow, so much happened in 2016! It was like the year that had three years’ worth of stuff happening. There’s a lot of recollections of the year gone by going around the internet, so I thought I’d put out my own list of winners and losers for 2016. In no particular order, here we go. Because this is the Thoughtful, Positive, Relevant  blog, I’ll do the 2016 winner first…

2016 WINNER: Twenty First Summer blogJanuary 1, 2017 is the third anniversary of TFS, and I’m very grateful to all the loyal readers who have pulled me this far. Some of you have been here since the beginning; others jumped on since then. I take all comers. While there have been some minor tweaks in the format and I no longer post every week because of a commitment to writing technical/engineering articles for another website, Twenty First Summer will be around for the foreseeable future. I’m truly flattered that my thoughts mean something to someone, and for me that can’t be anything other than a huge win. Thank you all so very much for being there for the last 156 posts.

2016 WINNER: Social media. While I have a low opinion of social media and have often mocked it on this blog, there is no denying that in 2016 social media asserted itself and for better or worse influenced the world in a way like nothing else did. Not long ago one would need to be a major newspaper mogul or own a broadcast network to speak to millions. Not anymore. Any average schmuck with an internet connection has a megaphone equal to anyone else’s. That’s not always good, but it’s how we roll in the Land of the Free and the Home of The Brave. Social media is the ultimate form of free speech, and freedom is always a winner.

2016 LOSER: The Democratic party. Wow, how can they not be losers? After the Democrats ended up on the wrong end of Presidential election flameout for the ages, they proceeded to blame pretty much everyone and everything except their preordained candidate, Hillary Clinton. In addition to screwing up what should have been an easy ride against a man that many members of his own party threw under the bus as an incompetent, obnoxious boob, during the last eight years Democrats took a net loss of over a thousand federal and state offices and numerous governorships to Republicans. The liberal analyst wizards are certainly free to offer convoluted excuses if that’s what makes them feel good, but there is no talking point logical enough to get around the ugly reality that Democrats go into 2017 with less than they’ve had in decades, and the jaw-dropping path of destruction leads directly back to Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama.

2016 LOSER: Fans of art/music/entertainment/sports. Every year we lose a few celebrities, but 2016 seems to have been especially harsh. David Bowie, Gene Wilder, Muhammed Ali, Prince, and most recently Carrie Fisher, George Michael, and Debbie Reynolds (in the same week!). And there are many more. It’s regrettable that these legends pass with no up-and-coming generation to replace them. I can’t identify a single entertainer or artist under the age of 35 that is likely to be relevant three or four decades from now. It’s true that all legends start as nobodies, so maybe I’m assuming too much, but I’m not hopeful that the next David Bowie is out there somewhere playing in a bar. I fear we are entering what will be a long era of soulless, overproduced noise, with movies that are more memorable for computer-generated special effects than actual acting talent.

2016 WINNER: Consumers of technology. There’s so much technology available that it’s hard to take it all in. Tablet computers, smart phones, smart watches, the Amazon Echo, Google Home, internet connected lights, appliances, thermostats, and yes, even pets. It seems there isn’t anything that can’t be adapted to technology. Most of these things have been around for a while, but in 2016 they became mainstream as the technology improved and the prices came down. I admit I’ve been sucked into the vortex myself: I have a home automation system, a smartwatch, Apple TV, and a host of other technogoodies. I had my doubts about the “need” for a smartwatch until I got one. Now I’m a true believer. There is some frivolous crap, like the refrigerator with a camera on the inside, presumably so you can check to see if you have pickles without having to open the door and look. Tech for tech’s sake is pointless, but it’s now possible for anyone to afford technology that really works and makes life easy and fun. For us techno geeks, 2016 was an awesome win!

This list could be a lot longer, but these are my top choices for 2016 winner and losers. Every year brings something new. My hope is that we can learn from the good, discard the bad, and all become better for it.

Happy New Year from Twenty First Summer. May your 2017 be a big winner! 

New Year’s Resolutions: As Useful As Last Year’s Calendar.

Editor’s note: January 1, 2015 is the first anniversary of Twenty First Summer! To celebrate, I am reposting my very first article, with a few small edits and changes. Thanks to everyone who has visited my blog and given me a reason to keep doing this. I’m very grateful for the support and look forward to another year of sharing my thoughts and insights. Happy New Year…and thank you sooooo much! 

by: Chris Warren

I sometimes wonder how long ago New Year resolutions came into being. I’m sure some sociologist has done the research. The backstory may be hard to trace but it’s not hard to figure out why anyone would make a resolution.

A little digging around produces anecdotal evidence of one glaring point: Those who make New Year resolutions have no sincere intention of keeping them. And those who are motivated to improve their lives for real don’t need to make dramatic declarations because they are already taking positive action, quietly, every day, without vainly calling attention to their goals.

New Year resolutions usually start getting tossed around at Thanksgiving, when the end of the year is near and self deprecation is trendy. After all, no one ever stood up at a Memorial Day picnic and said, “This year I resolve to ____.”  Resolutions are as much about renewing vows that were never honest in the first place as they are about whitewashing a year of wasted opportunities.

Making promises for what will be accomplished later makes it easier to feel better about the failures of the past. It’s an adult variation on the gung-ho attitude a poor student has on the first day of school after returning from Christmas break: “Yeh, I know I really sucked last semester,” they will sheepishly admit. The hollow pledge immediately follows: “But now I’m going to step it up and pull good grades!”  For them, the scoreboard is reset to zero. Past screw ups don’t count, at least not for the short term. Yes, I’ve been “that student”. More than once. Those making New Year’s resolutions, like born-again scholars, are more likely to be concerned about feeling better than doing better.

It appears that feeling good has become the the goal rather than the reward for achieving a goal. Society schmoozes underperformers so their precious self esteem is not hurt. Everyone gets a trophy. In cultures where an expectation of success is rigorously enforced, failure is a huge embarrassment. The student and the CEO are both motivated to do better because the last thing they want is to be humiliated before others.

Shame is a strong incentive to excel, unless of course you live in a world where being protected from every little disappointment is almost a religion. One of the big differences between a high achiever and a low achiever is that the high achiever knows they will be called out for their screw ups; self esteem is an aside. Our takeaway: The good deed should come before the good feeling. Too many want to get all warm ‘n’ fuzzy on the installment plan. And they almost never pay off the bill.

That circles us back to why New Year resolutions are ridiculous: If someone is sincere about making a big change in their life, why do they need a special day of the year to do it? Isn’t just as easy (or hard) to lose weight, go back to school, quit smoking, take that dream vacation, whatever, on any other day as it is on January 1? For the truly resolved, no calendar is needed. For the pretenders, a lazy excuse is never more than twelve months away.