Potato Chips, Penicillin, Post-It Notes, W-D 40 . . . 2014?

Potato Chips . . . 

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Penicillin . . . 

Post-it Notes . . . 

The Slinky . . . 

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Goodreads kick-started my 2014 with this quotation from author Neil Gaiman:

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes...you're Doing Something.”

That quotation haunt-taunted me through these last days of holiday and first days of this new year.

We celebrated the start of 2014 at a New Year’s brunch at friends, Joy & Michael’s new Kentucky home. Curtis and I were newcomers to the group. Lots of “news” at the launch of this year promising much change and challenge. Finding myself alone with one of the guests, I resisted the urge to withdraw into a dice-and-slice frenzy and instead tried to strike up a conversation by asking her if she’d made a resolution. It’s usual to make resolutions on New Year’s, isn’t it?

Big mistake! She doesn’t make resolutions. Doesn’t believe in them. Think’s they are stupid. A waste of time. Did I want to know why? Because we always break them, of course. Resolutions are made-to-be-BROKEN Blah, blah, blah blah-baaaaa. . .

I was feeling sorry for having tried starting that conversation when she added something that made me think maybe my resolution conversation starter wasn’t a mistake.

Turns out that morning on one of the “Morning Shows” (she watches several) the featured guest was some author who’d written some book about this very topic and he said (or so I deduced):

Along with making resolutions we need to “sweep away crumbs in our way” by resolving to stop doing whatever it is that is taking up the time during which we will do what we resolve to do.

Along with making resolutions we need to “sweep away crumbs in our way” by resolving to stop doing whatever it is that is taking up the time during which we will do what we resolve to do.

 A crumb. A take-away that bonded with Gaiman’s salutation the way 2 Hs bond with an O. Refreshing!

Spray W-D 40 on any surface & wipe. It will clear away even rusty crumbs.

W-D 40 will clean mineral build-up off glass shower doors, too. And kill cockroaches, remove gum from hair, keep squirrels from raiding bird feeders (spray W-D 40 on the top of the feeder and “The pesky squirrels will slide right off.”

W-D 40 will clean mineral build-up off glass shower doors, too. And kill cockroaches, remove gum from hair, keep squirrels from raiding bird feeders (spray W-D 40 on the top of the feeder and “The pesky squirrels will slide right off.”

But, what do W-D 40, Potato Chips, Penicillin, Post-it Notes or The Slinky have to do with New Years? Resolutions? Or Neil Gaiman’s quote? Why should we even give a crumb?

All of these things along with The Pacemaker, Chocolate Chip Cookies, plastic and who know what other inventions were created by MISTAKE. Failed tries. Miss takes

Take One! Take Two! 

"I'm Ready for my Close-up!"    Take 40 . . . 

"I'm Ready for my Close-up!"    Take 40 . . . 

In W-D 40’s case, 39 failed tries by chemist Norm Larsen to prevent corrosion by displacing water.

What sets W-D 40 apart from these others is that rather than the end invention being something different or unexpected or accidental, Norm Larsen did what he set out to do: prevent corrosion by displacing water. The name W-D 40 is a testament to his efforts; it stands for “Water-Displacement 40th Attempt.”

Maybe Norm and the folks at W-D 40 Company have mistake envy, because they can’t seem to stop trying to find more uses for their spray. Along the way they’ve made mistakes, and discoveries.

Some bad: W-D 40 is not edible.

Some questionable: Is a python coiled around the undercarriage of your bus?

SPRAY IT WITH W-D 40!

SPRAY IT WITH W-D 40!

Is a naked burglar trapped in your air conditioning vent? Dislodge him with WD-40.

2000+ dang useful! W-D 40 Company maintains a list of remarkable things this “corrosion prevention” in a can can do.

I went back to see if the squirrel repellant tip included a video (call me “cruel”, but I kinda wanted to watch slip-sliding squirrels) and was sucked into the 2000+ vortex. It took some time but I finally pulled myself free—But not before finding a helpful hint I’m itching to try: Last Christmas Curtis was gifted with blue ice cubes to cool spirits without diluting them. Sometime, someone tried using one. I don’t know who. Or when. All I know of the experiment is that one of my adorable, favorite juice glasses now has a blue glass ice cube lodged inside it.

Glass ice cubes look like this, but they don't melt and this one is lodged in an adorable cherry juice glass--one of a matching set, now relegated to the back of the cupboard

Glass ice cubes look like this, but they don't melt and this one is lodged in an adorable cherry juice glass--one of a matching set, now relegated to the back of the cupboard

I’ve tried to remove the cube. Yes, I've tried knives. Scotch. Running cold water on it, hoping to chill the cube enough to shrink it so it would slide free. No such luck.

According to a Reader’s Digest article,  “Stuck glasses will separate with ease if you squirt some WD-40 on them, wait a few seconds for it to work its way between the glasses, and then gently pull the glasses apart.”

When next I’m in WHB, I could give it a try . . .  

Uh oh. . . hang on. That’s how mistakes happen. Breakage. Damage. Possible injury. 

Do I really want to try?

Try, doesn’t mean succeed. . .

Try could lead to fail. . . .

Try could turn out to be a MISTAKE. . .

Consider son Max, then college student’s, attempt to concoct a high-test frat bathroom cleaning product. He tried mixing bleach with ammonia. That experiment ended in a trip to the hospital emergency room and destruction of who knows how many brain cells. Max counts it as a “partial success” as his potentially fatal mistake did save him from more bathroom cleaning. . .

Mistakes. Misses. “F-2” “Missed my Battle Ship”  Frustrating, embarrassing, harmful, sometimes lethal “miss takes.” 

Mistakes. Misses. “F-2” “Missed my Battle Ship” 

Frustrating, embarrassing, harmful, sometimes lethal “miss takes.” 

Safer to stick with the known. If life is good, why rock the boat? Why tempt fate?

“ . . . if you’re making mistakes . . . you’re Doing Something.”

Gaiman went on to add a note to the quote:

"Happy New Year! What kind of mistakes are you looking forward to making in 2014?"

Gaiman’s writing is so varied: CORALINE, THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, CHU'S DAY, THE DANGEROUS ALPHABET, ANANSI WARS. . . It seems he’ll try anything.  

Was Coraline a mistake? If it was a mistake, it’s one that went horribly right for readers and reviewers. Reading it certainly was one of mine. It creeped me right out, then held me spellbound until I finished…

Was Coraline a mistake? If it was a mistake, it’s one that went horribly right for readers and reviewers. Reading it certainly was one of mine. It creeped me right out, then held me spellbound until I finished…

Paul Fleischman is another writer who likes to try new literary forms. He's recently adapted SEEDFOLK for the stage. 

SEEDFOLKS, a collection of linked short stories--one of my favorites for any age, read aloud to adults!

SEEDFOLKS, a collection of linked short stories--one of my favorites for any age, read aloud to adults!

At an SCBWI conference Fleischman admitted to attendees how his “tries” don’t always work. Mistakes maybe, but never a waste of time. For him, trying new things is what keeps writing interesting.

. . . INTERESTING . . .

In words from one of my fav songwriters, Mary Chapin Carpenter, from I Take My Chances:

In words from one of my fav songwriters, Mary Chapin Carpenter, from I Take My Chances:

Now some people say that you shouldn't tempt fate/And for them I would not disagree/But I never learned nothing from playing it safe/I say fate should not tempt me.

Today, soon after I click “post”, I’ll play that song again, for inspiration. Make that my battle cry of 2014

Then, I’ll get to work sweeping out some crumbs of my “play-safe days” to make room in this brand new shining year with New! New! New Attitude.  (And give a shout to the Patti LaBelle while I'm at it.)

I take my chances, I don't mind working without a net/
I take my chances, I take my chances every chance I get . . . 

Take one. Take Two. ACTION!                         

 . . . YES, IT MIGHT BE A MISTAKE . . .  

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It's a New Year!  

 "What kind of mistakes are you looking forward to making in 2014?"

(I’ll let you know if the blue glass cube rescue operation works, AND MORE!)