USS Clueless - Feasibility

Stardate 20031016.1304

(Captain's log): Sports has always had its colorful characters, but I'm hard pressed to think of a sport which has had as many as Baseball. Surely any sport which boasts Casey Stengel and Yogi Berra can retire the trophy based on them alone.

Stengel and Berra were both players who became coaches, but they come down to us now, and are remembered when so many of their contemporaries have faded into obscurity, because of their way of expressing fundamental truths. Berra had an almost schizophrenic way of saying things which clearly communicated what he wanted to say, but by using constructions which seemed ludicrous. Sometimes they seemed oxymoronic; sometimes they were tautological. Sometimes they were just weird.

Stengel's commentary was less confused, distinguished by its frankness. If, as some have said, part of why we love watching Marx Brothers movies is because they actually do the kinds of things we all think of doing but don't, then Stengel attracts us because he said what a lot of us think but could never say. Neither man was well educated, but they were wise. It was folk-wisdom, street-smarts, life-experience. Some of what they say we remember because it was funny, but some of it we remember because it was sagacious (a word neither of them would ever have used, and perhaps would not even have understood).


All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. The only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you when you are looking for external reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration. You may succeed in making another feel guilty about something by blaming him, but you won't succeed in changing whatever it is about you that is making you unhappy.

All I ask is that you bust your heinie on that field.

Been in this game one-hundred years, but I see new ways to lose 'em I never knew existed before.

Don't cut my throat, I may want to do that later myself.

Good pitching will always stop good hitting and vice-versa.

I don't know if he throws a spitball but he sure spits on the ball.

I don't like them fellas who drive in two runs and let in three.

If we're going to win the pennant, we've got to start thinking we're not as good as we think we are.

Managing is getting paid for home runs someone else hits.

Most ball games are lost, not won.

Now there's three things that can happen in a ballgame: you can win, you can lose, or it can rain.

Son, we'd like to keep you around this season but we're going to try and win a pennant.

The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided.

The trick is growing up without growing old.

The Yankees don't pay me to win every day, just two out of three.

Well, that's baseball. Rags to riches one day and riches to rags the next. But I've been in it thirty-six years and I'm used to it.

When you are younger you get blamed for crimes you never committed and when you're older you begin to get credit for virtues you never possessed. It evens itself out.

You got to get twenty-seven outs to win.

You have to go broke three times to learn how to make a living.

Stengel knew that excellence didn't require perfection, and that even the excellent sometimes lose. You didn't need to win every game to win the pennant; you just needed to win a lot more than you lost.

Nonetheless, it is more often our faults than our virtues which make the difference: "most games are lost, not won" isn't oxymoronic, and it is similar to an aphorism from military history that says that in wars everyone makes mistakes, but the side which makes the fewest mistakes will usually win.

If you think you can make no mistakes, or if you refuse to take risks out of fear of failure, you will accomplish nothing. You have to go out and do your best, but at the same time you have to recognize and accept that sometimes it won't be enough.

But if you're too convinced that you're better than your competitors, you'll go down in flames. Sometimes you'll go down in flames anyway, because no one can guarantee to win, a game or a pennant. Even if you do your best, someone else's best may be even better. You may try to do your best, but end up screwing up big time. And you can never anticipate and prevent every possible way you could fail. There's always someone discovering a new way to lose.

Pursuit of perfection is futility; there are no guarantees in life. You do your best, and that's all you can do. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains.

That kind of wisdom appeals to me as an engineer. It is pragmatic and is firmly grounded in real-world experience. There are an infinite number of ways to fail in engineering, but a surprisingly large number of them involved pursuit of perfection.

Engineers say that it isn't possible to make a product foolproof because fools are so ingenious. Every time you make a pr

Captured by MemoWeb from on 9/16/2004