Unacceptable platitude #7: “Fair does not mean equal.”

“Fair does not mean equal” is a convenient phrase that is overly used in situations in which inequality exists and the ability to mitigate that inequality either doesn’t exist for structural or financial reasons or is beyond the intellectual and creative abilities of the people in charge to eliminate altogether. 

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In other words, yes, “fair does not mean equal” is sometimes applicable.

More often, however, “fair does not mean equal” its supervisory nonsense spouted by a manager, teacher, or parent who is incapable or unwilling to reach an equitable solution for their subordinates. It’s a phrase that is often friendly to the budget and the people in charge and detrimental and demeaning to the people for whom it is being applied. 

Fair should mean equal whenever possible.

Fair should almost always mean equal.

Fair meaning equal should be the goal.

Don’t ever allow this management-friendly phrase to stand as truth.

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My Shortcomings and Flaws: 2014

A reader once accused me of being materialistic after I wrote about my lack of a favorite number, specifically criticizing me for saying that when it comes to my salary, my favorite number is the largest number possible.

You can read about that debate here if you would like.

After refuting the charges of materialism, I acknowledged that I had plenty of other shortcomings and offered to list them in order to appease my angry reader. I did. Then I added to the list when friends suggested that I had forgotten a few.

Nice friends. Huh?

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So began an annual tradition of posting my list of flaws and shortcomings. Here is the revised list for 2014. I’ve added 4 items (the last 4) and removed 3 items from the list, bringing my total to 30.

The items that I have removed include:

  • I forget my EpiPen far too often. – I have enough EpiPens to strategically place them so that I am rarely without one.
  • I cannot snap a onesie correctly. – My children no longer wear onesies, conveniently eliminating this shortcoming.
  • I have developed a tendency to express my displeasure or boredom with people through unconscious verbal exhalations and sighs. – Having been made aware of this two years ago, I worked hard and managed to eliminate this tendency.

If you have a suggestion for a flaw or shortcoming that you do not see on the list, please feel free to submit it for review.

Matthew Dicks’s List of Shortcomings and Flaws

1. I have difficulty being agreeable even when the outcome means nothing to me but means a great deal to someone else.

2. I have a limited palate (though I would like to stress that this is not by choice).

3. I often lack tact, particularly in circumstances in which tact is especially important.

4. I am a below average golfer.

5. It is hard for me to sympathize with adults with difficulties that I do not understand, do not think are worthy of sympathy and/or are suffering with difficulties that I would have avoided entirely.

6. I have difficulty putting myself in another person’s shoes. Rather than attempting understand the person, I envision myself within their context and point out what I would have done instead.

7. When it comes to argument and debate, I often lack restraint. I will use everything in my arsenal in order to win, even if this means hurting the other person’s feelings in the process.

8. I do many things for the sake of spite.

9. I have an unreasonable fear of needles.

10. I become angry and petulant when told what to wear.

11. Bees kill me dead.

12. I am incapable of carrying on small talk for any length of time and become extremely irritable and uncomfortable when forced to do so.

13. I become sullen and inconsolable when the New England Patriots lose a football game.

14. I lack adequate compassion and empathy for adults who are not very smart or resourceful or are easily overwhelmed.

15. I can form strong opinions about things that I possess a limited knowledge of and are inconsequential to me.

16. Field of Dreams makes me cry every time without fail.

17. I am unable to make the simplest of household or automobile repairs.

18. I would rarely change the sheets on my bed if not for my wife.

19. I eat ice cream too quickly.

20. I procrastinate when it comes to tasks that require the use of the telephone.

21. I am uncomfortable and ineffective at haggling for a better price.

22. I am exceptionally hard on myself when I fail to reach a goal or meet a deadline.

23. I take little pleasure in walking.

24. Sharing food in restaurants annoys me.

25. I drink too much Diet Coke.

26. My hatred for meetings of almost any kind cause me to be unproductive, inattentive, and obstructionist.

27. Disorganization and clutter negatively impacts my mood, particularly when I cannot control it.

28. I am overly critical of my fellow storytellers, applying my own rules and standards to their performances.

29. I cannot load a dishwasher effectively.

30. I think less of people who nap.

Posted in Autobiography | Tagged | 2 Comments

Stupid yoga may be turning my son into a dweeb. Or perhaps he’s trying to get the attention of women like his father once did.

I’m not sure what’s going on here.

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Maybe his yoga class is influencing the way that he sits now.

Maybe television isn’t exciting enough anymore, and he’s looking for ways to change it up.

Maybe this is his Dead Poets Society moment. Instead of standing on his desk to get a new perspective on the world, he’s trying something a little less dramatic.

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I walked into the living room and found my son sitting like this while watching Dora the Explorer. And not just for a moment. I came back 15 minutes later as the show was ending and found him in the same position.

When I was in middle school, I trained myself to read books upside down in an attempt to annoy my teachers and get the attention of girls.

One of those two things happened. I’ll let you guess which one.

Hopefully this new way of sitting is a temporary thing. As an expert in nonconformity, I am certain that his preschool teachers will not appreciate this one bit next year.

Posted in Family, Television | 1 Comment

Office space turned dance hall, yoga studio, lunch room hell. I bet they’re all organic, gluten-free, transcendentalist vegans, too.

We’ve come a long way since Mike Judge’s Office Space highlighted the drudgery and monotony of cubicle life.

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Some offices may have gone a little too far.

This German office may seem brilliant in terms of its use of space, but it strikes me as a little unrealistic and smug. A little cultish, even. No? 

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My five year-old daughter has discovered the BEST COMEBACK EVER

My five year-old daughter is a rhetorical genius.

When I attempt to convince Clara that a two minute living room clean up is not a long time, or that the last piece of grilled cheese can be eaten in seconds, or that it’s always a good idea to try to use the bathroom before going on a long trip, her response is the same:

“Not to me.”

And it’s brilliant.

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It’s true. Two minutes may seem like a long time to her.

It’s true. That last piece of grilled cheese might be incredibly difficult to eat.

And yes, just because I think something is a good idea does not mean that she will think the same.

“Not to me.”

Essentially, Clara is telling me that her reality and my reality are not the same, and that imposing my reality upon her will not work.

This is a reasonable and rationale position to take. Also rhetorically brilliant.

Annoyingly so. 

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September 26, 1983: The day a Soviet colonel and forgotten hero saved the world from nuclear destruction.

On this day, let us not forgot the man who may have saved the human race from possible extinction.

September 26, 1983. The Cold War is at its height. The United States and the Soviet Union have thousands of intercontinental ballistic missiles pointed at each other. The two countries exist under the doctrine of mutually assured destruction.  

Tensions between the two countries are especially high. Three weeks prior, the Soviet Union mistook Korean Air Flight 007 for a spy plane and shot it down, killing all 269 on board, including a United States congressman. 

In a bunker near Moscow, Soviet Colonel Stanislav Petrov is monitoring for signs of a United States nuclear attack when his system detects a launch.

His country is under attack. 

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In the case of a launch detection, Petrov’s orders are clear:

Report the launch immediately so that the Soviet Union can retaliate before being destroyed by United States and NATO missiles.

Petrov ignores this order. He does not report the launch to his superiors. Instead, he declares the system’s indication to be a false alarm.

With the threat of intercontinental ballistic missiles already in the air, poised to destroy his country, Petrov examines all the data and makes a decision that may have saved the human race.

Shortly thereafter, it’s determined that he is correct. The computer detection system was malfunctioning. It’s subsequently determined that the false alarm had been created by a rare alignment of sunlight on high-altitude clouds.

Would the report of a US missile launch prompted Soviet military leaders to launch their own missiles in retaliation?

Thanks to Stanislav Petrov, we will never know.

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Poop is here.

“I poop!” and “Poop is here!” are the two ways that my son signals the need for a diaper change.

I’m never a fan of a diaper change, but I have to say that his choice of words always make me smile.

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ESPN makes the same stupid mistake that they criticized NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for two months ago.

Bill Simmons is suspended by ESPN for three weeks after calling NFL commissioner Roger Goodell “a liar” after the commissioner claimed that he never saw the Ray Rice video in which the running back punches his then fiancée on a Las Vegas elevator and knocks her out.

Police report that the video of the incident was handed over to the NFL in April. 

Back in July, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith implies that Ray Rice’s fiancée had some culpability in her beating and advises women to be wary about provoking their spouses into domestic violence.

He is suspended for two weeks.

Are companies like the NFL and ESPN trying to make us hate them?

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My annual plea to the girls in my fifth grade class: Maintain your advantage over the boys. Rule the world.

On Friday, Hillary Clinton  pledged to work to get all the female Democratic candidates on the ballot elected in November.

“I can’t think of a better way to make the House work again than electing every woman on the ballot,” Clinton told the Democratic Women’s Leadership Forum. “There are ten women running for the Senate, six women running for governor and I wish I could vote for all of them.”

I’d like to take it one step further:

I would be willing to replace every male member of Congress with a female lawmaker.

With apologies to my own sex, I have often felt that our country would be better positioned for the future if it were run by women. 

Frankly, it’s shocking that women aren’t in charge already. As a fifth grade teacher, I bear witness to the striking differences between boys and girls at the ages of ten and eleven. It’s well known that girls mature faster than boys, and nowhere is this disparity more evident than in fifth grade.

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Every year, I have girls in my class who could already be employed as effective office managers. A few could probably run small companies with the right advisors.

At the same time, I have boys in my class who can’t get food from their plate to their mouth without some disaster occurring in between. I have boys who would scrape sticks in dirt all day if given the chance.  

How these boys ever manage to span this intellectual chasm and in many cases overtake the girls is beyond me. I can only assume that somewhere in middle school or high school, girls turn on one another, stunting their sex’s overall progress, while boys continue to follow a more cooperative, live-and-let-live approach.

Whatever the cause, I gather the girls in my class every spring and implore them to band together and continue their dominance as they move forward to middle school. I tell them with all sincerity that the world would be a better place if it were run by women, and that it’s up to their generation to make this happen.

“Don’t be mean to one another,” I tell them. “Stick together. Support one another. And by all means, don’t fight over boys. We’re not worth it.”

My dream is to send a generation of girls forward who maintain their advantage of boys and eventually take over the world.

Perhaps I’m wrong.  Maybe the world wouldn’t be any better if it were run by women. But after more than two centuries of male domination in the halls of Congress and the boardrooms of corporate America, I’m willing to give the ladies a turn and see what they can do.

It couldn’t be any worse than what my sex has accomplished so far.

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My daughter received her first library card. Her father might be more excited about it than she is, and for good reason.

My daughter received her first library card last weekend. She was thrilled.

I think my wife and I were even more excited than she was.

She also checked out her first book with it: If You Give a Moose a Muffin.

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I didn’t receive my first library card until I was ten years-old. There were very few books in my home when I was growing up, so my library card represented access to a world never before seen by me. I loved my public library, despite it’s miniscule size (a single room of books) and placement in the basement of our town hall. I would walk the aisles, staring at the spines of the books, unable to fathom how many stories were now available to me.

Today my hometown library is a beautiful building located in what used to be my middle school. It’s enormous, illuminated by natural light, filled with more books than my childhood mind could have ever imagined, and equipped with all the amenities of a modern-day library.

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I’ve had the pleasure of speaking there on a few occasions, and while I adore the space, I still hold a special place in my heart for that small, basement room in the town hall where so many doors opened for me for the first time.

After some sleuthing by a clever reader, I even managed to identify and locate the first library book that I ever checked out, and a copy sits on my bookshelf today.

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I have yet to reread it, fearful that it won’t be as spellbinding as I remember it to be, but I’ll crack it open soon.

Today copies of all three of my novels can be found in the same library where my daughter received her first library card All three can also be found on the shelves of my hometown library.

This astounds me. My heart still flutters every time I see one of my novels on a bookstore shelf, but seeing them on the shelves of these two libraries means more to me than I can describe.

I have wanted to be an author for as long as I can remember, but in my wildest boyhood dreams, I never imagined that my books would someday find their way onto the shelves of the library where the world of books and reading first opened to me.

And as a parent, the idea that my books are sitting on the shelves of the same library where my daughter received her first library card is equally indescribable.

My daughter was decidedly less impressed, and she is never terribly  excited about seeing her father’s books on library or bookstore shelves. That’s okay. My novels don’t have any pictures, and the endings aren’t always happy.

As long as she’s reading something, I don’t care.

Posted in Books, Family | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments