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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Monday, March 26 2001

A job worth doing...

Thanks for Lisa and Suzanne for their thoughts on work ethics. You've seen Lisa's in your own email (or, you can check it here). Suzanne's input was this: "We've all probably heard it. 'Anything worth doing at all is worth doing well.' So if you aren't going to do a good job, don't bother to undertake it."

It's a truism that generally applies. But as an absolute, I'm afraid it's often wanting. I'd put it a little higher than my dad's frequently used bromide when one of us criticized the work of a public figure, like a singer: "Can you do a better job?" If not, that implied, keep your opinions to yourself (put up or shut up).

Years ago I decided many jobs are worth doing part way but not all the way. My best example is washing the car. I used to spend at least two hours washing my cars in my teens. One day I realized that life is too short to spend so much of it washing a hunk of junk. Ever since, I've used the coin-operated washes that make the car presentable in five minutes, or the drive through car washes you can still get for $5 in about 10 minutes. Blow drying, also (meaning driving 50 mph for a few miles from wet to dry), is adequate; you don't need to spend a half hour hand drying the precious chrome, or paying a tip to someone outside the conveyor belt to spend five minutes doing it for you.

Sorry if I'm losing some of you here; based on what I see, many probably disagree with this.

As an author, I'd say that if you approach a book project this way you'll never finish one. You have to give it your best shot, on one hand, but you have to know when you've done that, too, and send it to the editor or printer. I knew a seminary professor who worked all his life on the definitive textbook on Old Testament scholarship. It never got published. It never got finished. He should have said "a pretty good book on Old Testament scholarship is better than none," and wrapped up his life's work. Now it's too late.

If you're on the superintendent of schools' substitute list and he calls to ask you to fill in for today's sick seventh-grade math teacher and you've only taught high school English, do you tell him you're unqualified? No; this is the time when better than nothing is probably good enough.

And my dad's bromides had a way of making me argumentative. But I couldn't argue with him mano a mano; it wasn't what he wanted (though I would wish that from my children). So I internalized his barbs. When he told me I'd never make front page news until it was my obituary, I became editor of the paper and put my column on the front page every week. In response to his opposition of my critical attitudes, I became a movie critic...and I still think a lot of my best writing ever is in my film reviews. I've yet to make a better movie...unless my footage of Johnstown from atop the Inclined Plane counts (often, come to think of it, it does).

On the other hand, of course, Suzanne and everyone else who says that (and who doesn't say it now and then?) is right. When we're talking about approaching what our lives are about, half-hearted isn't enough. You owe it to yourself, and your "customers," to give it your best—as they love to say here in Silicon Valley, 110 percent. And, to turn Dad's challenge on its head, I've never met a filmmaker (and I have met more than a few) who could have written a better review! Furthermore, despite how the film community loves to rag on the critics, film reviewers do make movies better, even if they don't make better movies.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Humor is cruel

An elderly couple was on a cruise and it was really stormy. They were standing on the back of the boat watching the moon when a wave came up and washed the old woman overboard.

Rescue boats searched for days and couldn't find her, so the captain sent the old man back to shore with the promise that he would notify him as soon as they found anything.

Three weeks went by and finally the old man got a wire from the cruise line. It read: "Sir, sorry to inform you, we found your wife dead at the bottom of the ocean. We hauled her up to the deck and attached to her bottom was an oyster. Inside the oyster was a pearl worth $50,000. Please advise what you want done.

The old man responded: "Send me the pearl. Rebait the trap."

Sent by Trudy Myers

Lenten thought

The meaning of earthly existence lies, not as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering, but in the development of the soul.

—Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Sent by John Stamps

Lenten thoughts (i.e., pertaining to repentance and spiritual growth, from any faith-community perspective) are solicited from readers.

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