Rendered Fat Content


Coloured etching by J. Collier after himself:
A sadistic tooth-drawer frightening his patient with a hot coal causing him to pull away violently and extract a tooth. (1810)
"Not all Workarounds are created equal."

Anything retained long enough becomes the sum of its sustaining Workarounds. Older cars have lost several of their factory-installed features, replaced by alternative parts, some of which might have even been designed to serve the purpose for which they're employed. Exact replacements cannot always be located, so an inventive or desperate mechanic or DIY owner jury-rigs something and calls it good enough. These fixes proliferate as something ages. Houses accumulate a variety of sins to their original design, often under the aegis of "home improvement." Some actually improve something, though many more likely simply prolong a desired utility without much regard for aesthetics. Remodeling, in addition to adding a few new ones, inevitably becomes a revisiting of many prior sins, many of them, I've always suspected, concocted late some Sunday evening when something critical failed. Few come back Monday morning to improve any quick fix. A remodeler repeatedly wonders, "What were they thinking?"

The chances seem good that they were not thinking at all, but reacting.
Workarounds emerge as apparent necessities, and often more accurately represent some feeling—often anger or frustration—more than any rational thought. Facebook, for instance, when newly launched, lacked many of its later features. It didn't always perform perfectly, but there were many fewer features to fail. It exhibited a simple congruity. Now, a few technical generations later, it appears to be approaching majority failure, thumb tacks and bailing wire prominent in a majority of its features. What it once did well or not at all, it now does exclusively eccentrically, intermittently, hardly very believably. Recently, techies have been demeaning us older users for not appreciating the emerging wizardry of the app because we complain that it's rapidly becoming primarily crap. It seems that we cannot appreciate the subtle improvements ten thousand clever Workarounds have wrought. They're not wrong on that.

One mostly had to be there when the Workaround emerged to fully appreciate just how clever it was at the time. Later, it just seems lame and its author, demented. I'm considering repainting every interior wall in The Villa over the upcoming winter, this at The Muse's subtle urging and my own guilt's encouraging, a potentially parody-producing combination. I've been planning the effort, but I know I cannot plan the Workarounds coming, for these must be emergent divergences from any plan. I hesitate before beginning, knowing that maintaining my emotional stability might prove most critical if I hope by well-intended efforts to make anything better. Roads to Hell were mostly paved with good intentions. If a recalcitrant ceiling or malevolent backsplash goads my ire, I might well tire of trying hard enough to make an adequate difference. If so, we would have been better off just leaving those walls and ceilings as we found them, even retaining intact the more offending previous Workarounds. I vacillate between planning and just calming myself down. I smell some ugly Workarounds coming.

We will hire a professional painter to advise the effort. I can certainly provide the dumb muscle to complete most of the work, but I know I lack an adequate internal encyclopedia of Workarounds. I'm most likely to invent some solutions well-understood by the more experienced as serious mistakes. Expertise seems mostly rooted in understanding what seems most prudent, but never, ever, actually works, or inevitably ages poorly. In that moment of extremis, when the presenting damns far outnumber the blessings, someone as naive as I might embrace anything just to resolve a transitory tension. A wiser eye might more objectively consider alternatives and select one that won't all that badly embarrass future generations. Not all Workarounds are created equal and everything—every damned thing—eventually becomes the sum of its Workarounds.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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