Thursday, January 28, 2016


Back in the pre-Internet 1970s, when memes were spread by the Reader's Digest and Paul Harvey, we had this clever saying: Keep it Simple, Stupid. K-I-S-S. The urban myth was this was an unfailable mantra for engineers. Because the more complex a machine is, the more things can go wrong and it can break down.

I have always found that life is the perfect place to apply KISS. Take shoes. My wife has a closet full of shoes. I own about six pairs, ranging from sneakers to work boots, and including my beloved "Universal Shoes"--dressy 3/4 boots that could at a glance pass for work shoes. I can run in them, wear them with slacks, they keep my feet dry and warm, and if they get muddy are easy to clean off. They embody Keeping it Simple, because I don't have to decide what shoes to wear in the morning, I can just grab my dark brown universal boot-shoes and go. 

I also enjoy KISS when it comes to food. Meat and potatoes--'nuff said. I don't need a garden shredded and poured into a bowl. My steak doesn't need to be sprinkled with every spice known to man. Complicated is gross, as far as I'm concerned. Burgers have only one acceptable topping--cheese. Everything else drowns out the flavor of the beef. 

And for breakfast, I like bacon and eggs. Or maybe donuts... Donuts are these round things with a hole in the middle. They have a sugar glaze, or maybe chocolate, and sometimes sprinkles. A twisted piece of cinnamon-covered bread pretending to be a strand of DNA isn't a donut. A tube made of donut material covered in chocolate isn't a donut. No, none of the hundred-different offerings of bakers aren't donuts, they're pastries. As I said, donuts are round with a hole in the middle. Keep it simple.

In the past, when people didn't have a cow to butcher and eat, they scrounged for food. They rounded up a bit of carrot here, a slice of potato there, a handful of grass, maybe some leaves from their favorite shade tree... it all got shredded and mixed together and topped with a tiny sliver of fish. Because they didn't have anything. Trust me, those folks would have loved a huge steak, gleefully pushing the bowl of leftovers away. But today the more crap is on your plate, the fancier it is. Fancy sucks.

When McDonald's first opened, they had a menu of less than ten things. Ordering was easy. The chain grew to enormous size, conquering the world and becoming a staple in most nations. Today, they have dozens of items to chose from--and specialty, seasonal or test market items as well. Sales are lagging. Maybe they should have kept it simple?

Don't get me wrong, choice is great. I like to turn on the TV and flip through Netflix's options. I just wish there weren't hundreds of shows (that all seem the same), or that they could at least group them better in categories and sub-categories. It's like trying to pick one guppy at the petstore from a tank filled with hundreds. Choice has gotten out of control. 

How many remote controls do you own? Wouldn't one with maybe ten buttons be better? How many apps are on your smart phone? How many colors are at the paint store, forcing you to stand there deciding for hours on end? 

Video games are awesome. As are portable gaming systems, but give a kid a ball and take them outside on a nice sunny day, with a gentle breeze and shirt-sleeve temperatures and they'll have more fun than you could imagine. No worrying if the ball is charged, has a good wifi signal or if the cartridge is inserted properly. 

Vacations should be simple--they're when we momentarily escape the hectic struggle of everyday life. I'm sure Disney World is swell, with its smelly crowds, long lines, and product-placement rides, but a day at the beach is much better. With or without a picnic basket. 

Complexity has even swallowed politics. Anyone remember the "Affordable" Healthcare Act? Legislation so voluminous that many a politician admitted to not having even read it in it's entirety. Then there's the daily pork added onto proposed legislation--career politicians sneaking in funding or rules they want. C'mon guys--keep it simple. All legislation should read like the Bill of Rights, not like a medical journal. 

I dunno, maybe it's Baskin-Robbins' fault. Their 31 flavors may have started it all. 31 flavors... more like 31 choices but we know you're really only going to choose from 8... It sure seems like all I do now is have to spend time deciding--whether I'm shopping on or walking down the potato chip aisle at my local grocery store. It's all just too much. Do I need five flavors of Doritos or thirteen of Pringles? 

Simplicity rules. 

I pledge to keep simplicity in my life, from my meat and potatoes all the way to my internet presence. Cascading style sheets? Pfffft. HTML is simpler and easier to understand. 

Anything simple you miss or doggedly refuse to abandon? Tell me about it in the comments below...

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