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Boomers and their Kludges, part 1 Vol 39

February 21, 2014

If the color of your living room rug is ‘multiple’, you must be a Boomer !

As a Boomer, I tell my kids that they should not think of life as a straight line. Perhaps for planning purposes its ok, but life will throw everyone many curves along the way. To have your life seem like a disjointed broken finger, or a snakes and ladder game is probably more appropriate for most of us. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just the way life should be.

These snakes, or unexpected detours, keep life interesting, and allow us to grow in ways we would not otherwise have thought of, or dreamed of. Yes, it does make a retrospective view of our Boomer lives more interesting, but it does highlight some baggage we need to jettison. Our disjointed, sum of parts lives, are made up of some genetic material, some environmental circumstances, and a bunch of kludges.

A what ? In essence, a kludge is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “an ill-assorted collection of parts assembled to fulfill a particular purpose…a clumsy but temporarily effective solution to a particular fault or problem.” It’s a term most used in software programming, whereby a fault is found, say a security breach, and instead of rewriting the whole program to fix the problem, a piece of code is added to the existing program to hopefully fix the problem. Over time, you get a collection of patches that make the original intent seem hidden. Any user of Microsoft Windows will immediately understand my meaning.

Kludges take on a life of their own. They almost never fit together, as many hands had a part in their manufacture. They solve different problems, so their underlying structure is usually incompatible with the original programming. They are added at different times, so the overall organizing principle is lost. By definition, patches leak, as they are not perfect fixes, so the system still has some holes, to be fixed later, and the process replicates. A system crash can be a regular outcome if the kludge is imperfect.

So why bother ? Well, kludges are produced because going back to fix the original programming is too expensive and time consuming. They are more efficient than always starting over. Secondly, they actually make us more predictable. Their whole purpose is to ensure that the software works in ways we expect the it to perform, to make it safer, or to keep the cost down.

Many governmental programs are effectively kludges. They might have started out as pure programs, with easily understood priorities, and well thought out processes. Over the years though, other priorities have been added, other problems have surfaced that needed to be addressed, and the legal rules have changed as our society has evolved. Obamacare is the perfect example of a governmental kludge. “Clumsy but temporarily effective” also describes much of public policy today. To see policy kludges in action, one need look no further than the mind-numbing complexity of the health-care system (which even Obamacare’s champions must admit has only grown more unknowable ).

The US Marine term FUBAR comes to mind. FUBAR, “fucked up beyond all recognition” is an apt phrase that describes many Boomer lives. We started off original, but then real life struck. Perhaps your parents did not bring you up right. Perhaps you made some mistakes along the way, and had to change who you were to survive. You got married, and had to change to fit in with another person’s expectations. Work pushed you in different directions than you had originally planned. Friends, or people you considered role models, let you down, forcing a relook at your life plan.

You survived by finding ways to cope, producing your own personal kludges. Perhaps they are made up of a generic drug, like smoking or alcohol, or specific fix, like prescription medication. Obesity masks a few kludges, as does fanatical workouts. Divorce can seem like a fix, but it usually means we failed at an important relationship, failure again starting the kludge production machine.

Somehow, you survived all that life has thrown at you, a Boomer who, in a quiet moment of reflection, cannot see your original self. Looking deep within, it’s hard to separate the add-ons from the pure essence of who you were. This could be a time of great distress, a mid life crisis in the making unless you realize that what you are going through is normal. Self reflection is a necessary exercise for a Boomer, as we have reached the point in life whereby we have the ability to see the patches, and still have the energy and gumption to change who we are.

You are not chained to your past self. You can change who you are, how you react to situations, decide what your new goals should be, and when / how fast to start. You can look up from your current life, and see all the opportunities now available to you, if you so decide to take the leap and try new things.

Boomers understand that their kludges were necessary for their survival, and that most Boomers may decide that additional patches will suffice to fix their lives. Remember though, you now have the time to start from scratch, the wisdom to see all the patches, and the experience to fit the whole of you back together.

So, don’t be FUBAR, just push off the kludges that really affect you. Feel the weight loss.

Next on Boomers – wtf !, kludges are all around us !

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