Amoeba’s Lorica: And You Make It Hard

Back when elephants had fur, and Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba was still learning that, if you wished to go this direction, you had to point your pseudopods that direction, he was constantly being asked, by parental units and others:

Why do you always do things the hard way?

As if there was any easy way to control pseudopods …

Of course, at that age, YFNA didn’t have any sophisticated answers. The best he could do was:

Because it works?

Or simply:


Which usually got him sent to his room. If he could avoid tripping over his pseudopods long enough to get there.

Staples Easy ButtonNowadays, it seems, folk, at least in the Untied States of America, worship ‘easy’ even more than YFNA’s parental units that however long time ago. ‘Easy’ features in just about every advertising campaign, for goods, services, or politicians. Sometimes directly in your face. “Buy our stuff. Now. See? That was easy®.” And one doesn’t even have to be from New Orleans to experience this, though nobody seems to know just how easy got to be big there.

Then, the same folk who worship ‘easy’ will quote YFNA the proverb, ‘A shortcut is the longest distance between two points’. One of them must be wrong …

YFNA’s not taking that shortcut. Here’s how he reckons things. He can do something the ‘hard’ way, once, get it right, get it over with. Or he can try it the ‘easy’ way somebody thinks is cool, and have to do it over. And over and over, if he persists in trying the ‘easy’ way, or delays doing it the hard way for so long, that he has to do do-overs because he hasn’t yet learned how to do it the way that will actually work. To YFNA, spending three times more effort to do a job than it should have, because he was trying to find some damned shortcut, just doesn’t sound ‘easy’ to him.

hammernailA little while ago, YFNA got it into his head to hang pictures in his office. “Try this easy way”, he was told. “Quick, doesn’t need tools, and doesn’t damage the walls.” So he tried it. Quick, didn’t need tools, didn’t put any nailholes in the wall, and when he had to take one of the hooks down because the picture didn’t fit where he had put the hook, it didn’t scratch or peel off the paint.

Two weeks later, he was picking his pictures up off the floor.

Three weeks later, he was standing on a chair with a hammer and nails, hanging the pictures the way he should have done in the first place.

Some time ago, a supervisor was looking over YFNA’s shoulder at a particular lab procedure that he was conducting. It was the hard way of collecting samples for that procedure, and the supervisor assigned to YFNA ‘the patience of Job’ for doing the collecting that way. (Job wasn’t, in fact, very patient, not in the Biblical story anyway, but … moving on.) But YFNA had tried several of the ‘easy’ methods that various people had described, and the one he was now using was the only one that worked.

Thirty years later, and people are still citing the publications that resulted from the work done on those samples.

For sure, the manuscripts for those publications were written on a typewriter, and the images were captured on film, printed on paper, and the paper manually composed into composite figures by means of rubber cement, straightedges, and razor blades. Now, the manuscripts are banged out in Word or Publisher, and the images captured in pixels and manipulated in Photoshop. YFNA is grateful that ‘easy’ in these things has made 19-hour darkroom sessions a thing of the past for him. So not all ‘easy’ is bad.

But still.

YFNA sees two musicians from a local band in a room, dissing the new conductor. “He actually makes us practice!” The dissing is easy. Keeping a low standard of musical performance is easy. So is labeling the officials who pay the band ‘corrupt’ because they don’t pay what the musicians think they’re worth. Fine. Those officials answer to citizens, most of whom do not wish to pay for noise. How are those musicians going to keep the officials from doing the will of the majority of the people who voted for them, and toss these musicians – and the rest of the band, some of whom do practice – out on their ears? Not easy. Especially without practice. But not going away, either.

YFNA sees a Facebook post. “Sign the petition! Save the whales!!” Done. Easy. But … the whales in question eat salmon. The reason they’re in danger is that there aren’t any salmon to eat. How many of the few remaining salmon fishermen are you going to put out of business to save the whales? How are you going to provide for them and their families until they get new (and almost certainly less lucrative) work, in a state with a lousy tax infrastructure and a citizenry that consistently votes down new taxes or other changes? Aaand, what price are you willing to pay for the salmon that somehow do get caught and brought to market? Not easy. But not going away, either.

mainesucksYFNA sees a meme. “Politicians suck.” Not my circus, not my monkeys. Done with the lot of them. Easy. So who voted for them? On what basis? Campaign pronouncements? Twitter feeds from the candidate’s superPAC? Or your own buddies? Don’t like any of the current candidates? Where were you when the decisions on which ones to present to the electorate were being made – in 2013 for the 2016 slate? Not easy. But not going away, either.

We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; …

                               – John F. Kennedy, 12 September 1962.

No wonder they shot him.

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