Thursday, July 22, 2010

No problem? Big problem.

OK, just put it down as an "old guy's" rant or, more accurately, lament. And, yes, I know it's a "generational thing." But for someone who cares about words and what they mean, I’ve got a big problem with “no problem.”

When someone says "Thank you," the appropriate response is "You're welcome."

Not today.

Someone opens the door for the old guy. “Thank you,” I say. “No problem,” the response.

A store clerk hands back the receipt after I fork over hard-earned cash. “Thank you,” I say. “No problem,” the response.

At a restaurant, the server brings the meal. "Thank you,” I say. "No problem," the response.

What's the problem? The problem is what the words mean and the messages they transmit.

"You're welcome" says "I'm happy to have served you."

"No problem" says "You didn't inconvenience me."

Wait! You're serving ME, and you tell me that I didn't inconvenience YOU!
And you expect a tip.

Now you've got a problem.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Why blog?

Why do a blog? I have no reasonable or rational answer for that -- at least not yet. Stay tuned.

It is my second attempt. The first (which vanished after a server crash wiped out all evidence) came at the suggestion of a student at the University of Kansas School of Journalism, where I teach and help direct the well-recognized student-run daily newspaper. At her suggestion, it was called WWMD for "What would Malcolm do?" It's a question the reporters and editors would ask of themselves when faced with vexing issues. I took it as a compliment, and I think they meant it as one. That blog addressed issues affecting the student daily and the work of the student journalists...sometimes with praise, but more often with how things could have been done more effectively.

That blog had a specific purpose; the purpose of this one will likely be Darwinian -- a process of evolution. For now, I will use it for simple (though, I hope, insightful) musings that might hold meaning for people other than myself. If just me, no matter. It will be helpful in keeping my life centered in trying to do good, whenever possible, for others, especially my students, while living life to its fullest.

No religious intents here, but I do feel blessed with this life I’ve been given. I've tried to live a life that made those around me proud. I've not always succeeded because I, as with everyone, am a wonderfully fallible human being. I have stumbled. But I have tried to be quick to atone for any "sins," as well as trying to correct the course from which I may have wandered too far astray.

Despite those occasional stumbles, my life has been filled with joy and serendipity, perhaps because I've embraced both so enthusiastically.

Key to this are two sets of words that provide guidance to who I am and what I do. One was written by me, the second by Goethe. The first -- "Good words, good spirits, good friends make for a good life" -- embodies my love of the written and spoken word, as well as my love of journalism, my effort to embrace optimism (and to savor good beers), and, finally, the immense value of friendship, something I take most seriously. The second is from Goethe: “One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”

I do. Or at least I try.