John Steinbeck was an unrealistically and obscenely mature man

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Posted in The Writing Process | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Mystery of Prince Rupert’s Drop: A small piece of glass made amazing

This is six of the most fascinating six minutes of video on the Internet today. Both in terms of subject and presentation.

Stop and watch.

The Prince Rupert Drop is named after Prince Rupert of the Rhine, who I recommend you don’t spend any time reading about lest you end up feeling terrible about your own accomplishments.

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The man was ridiculous.

For example, he was a soldier from a young age, fighting against Spain in the Netherlands during the Eighty Years’ War and against the Holy Roman Emperor in Germany during the Thirty Years’ War. At the age of 23, he was appointed commander of the Royalist cavalry during the English Civil War. He surrendered after the fall of Bristol and was banished from England. He served under Louis XIV of France against Spain, and then as a Royalist privateer in the Caribbean. Following the Restoration, Rupert returned to England, becoming a senior British naval commander during the Second and Third Anglo-Dutch wars.

That doesn’t even touch on his role as a colonial governor in Canada, founding member of the Royal Society of Science, and his work as a scientist, inventor, and artist. The man was also a cypher, a manufacturer of weaponry, and a metallurgist.

I’m all for over achieving, but Prince Rupert took it to an obscene level.

But he left us with, among other things, the Prince Rupert Drop.

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“I didn’t have enough time.”

Remember: When you say you didn’t have enough time, you are actually saying that there are other things more important to you.

On your list of priorities, other things were higher on the list than the thing you didn’t have time to complete.

“I didn’t have enough time” actually means it wasn’t important enough to me.

“I didn’t have enough time” means it wasn’t fun, distracting, profitable, or urgent enough to place it at the top of my list.

My friend, Bill, recently quoted something that I apparently say often enough to be quoted:

“You can sleep seven hours a night and not write a book, or you can sleep six hours a night and become an author.” 

I like this one better. It’s one of my favorites:

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But it’s true. If you wake up one hour earlier than you currently do and spend that time writing, you’ll have yourself a book in a year or two. But if you are looking for more time to accomplish your goals, there are things in your life that you can probably eliminate before sleep.

The average American watches five hours of television a day. So much of this is spent watching shows and (even worse) the reruns of shows that will be entirely forgotten six months later.     

The average American spends three hours per day on social media. Where did that time come from? What did we do before social media was born? Weren’t we just as busy ten years ago when Facebook and Twitter and Instagram didn’t exist for most of us?

It’s perfectly acceptable to say that you didn’t have enough time to do something, but remember that time is (for most of us) simply a matter of choice and allocation. Most of us are blessed with a certain amount of free time each day. This time should be viewed as the most precious commodity we possess. More important than the money in our bank accounts or the things we own.

Choose how you spend that leisure time for carefully than anything else in your life. It is the most important choice that you make every day. Don’t allow things like television and social media mindlessly fill the time for you as it does for so many.

“I didn’t have enough time” often means that you didn’t make thoughtful choices about how to spend your time and allowed your non-decisions to determine the course of your life.

Posted in Productivity Tip | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

“Guess what?” You sound like an idiot when you say “Guess what?”

Request:

No. Check that. Demand:

Remove the rhetorical “Guess what? from your lexicon immediately.

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Not every “Guess what?” is bad. “Guess what?” is perfectly acceptable much of the time.

But the rhetorical “Guess what?” is never acceptable. 

“My boss wants us to do so-and-so? Well, guess what? It will be a cold day in hell before that ever happens.”

No. Stop it. Almost all rhetorical questions are annoying, but the “Guess what?” rhetorical question is especially so, since the people who use it seem to use it all the time.

Remove the “Guess what?” from the previous example and the only thing that changes is the perceived intelligence of the speaker.

“My boss wants us to do so-and-so? Well, it will be a cold day in hell before that ever happens.”

See what I mean? It’s a cleaner sentence. It’s more economic. But most important, it eliminates the cloying, under confident, needy sentiment that “Guess what?” brings to an argument. “Guess what?” implies that the listener needs to be more actively engaged than he or she already is. “Guess what?” suggests a false sense of audience participation. “Guess what?” hints at a speaker who is concerned with his or her ability to garner your attention.

“Guess what?” screams of desperation.

No more. Rid yourself of this verbal tick. This rhetorical blunder. This wasteful, purposeless, annoying turn of phrase.

Posted in Critic, Words | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Learning to be a grandfather from the best

I feel so blessed to be able to watch the way that my father-in-law interacts with my children. Whenever possible, he is on the ground, crawling around, playing with their toys, giving of his time and self in order to occupy an important and meaningful space in their world.

The world seems to stop spinning when Clara and Charlie are with their grandfather. He is present entirely for them.

Both of my kids love their Gramps a great deal. It’s no surprise.

If and when I am a grandfather someday, I hope to be as present and giving and loved as he is with his grandchildren.  

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Posted in Family | 2 Comments

Funnier than some big budget comedies

It’s a GE commercial designed to sell light bulbs.

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Nevertheless, it’s honestly funnier than a lot of movies that I’ve seen.

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How I establish the rules of my classroom

A teacher recently asked me if my students and I collaborate on the rules of my classroom at the beginning of the year.

Actually, the teacher used the word “norms” instead of rules, because norms is quite the buzzword these days. One of these words that filters into education for a while, only to be replaced at some point by the next big thing.

My students and I do not collaborate on the rules of the classroom. The notion of teachers and students collaborating on rules is a popular one. Some teachers spend days establishing the rules (or norms) of their classroom through a collaborative process with their students. Such a process reportedly produces a greater level of ownership and buy-in from students.

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I don’t do this.

Unless students are allowed to establish rules such as “Homework is optional” and “Candy will be made available upon request,” the rules that these classes decide upon always look conspicuously like the rules in every other classroom in every school in America.

My system is simple:

I establish the rules of the classroom. Then I encourage students to find ways to dodge, circumvent, or alter these rules without getting caught and punished.

It’s much more fun this way.

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I hope they remember this moment when they want to kill each other.

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Posted in Family | 1 Comment

Saturday morning cartoons are no more. A sad day for someone whose 27 year friendship may have been predicated on a Saturday morning cartoon theme song.

For the first time in 50-plus years, you won’t find a block of animation on broadcast this morning. Saturday morning cartoons are over. It’s the end of an era.

I’m a little sad.

Saturday morning cartoons were a staple for me growing up. Shows like  Super Friends and The Smurfs kept me entertained for hours.

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It was also one of my only opportunities to see commercials for products like sugary cereals and new toy lines. With parents hell bent on store brand Cheerios and hand-me-down Gobots, just watching commercials for Sugar Smacks and Transformers was thrilling. 

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Just as important, Saturday morning cartoons taught me patience.

If I wanted to watch a new cartoon, I had to wait one full week. Immediate gratification was not possible to children of my generation like it is for my own children today. 

My favorite Saturday morning cartoon of all time was Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears. It’s a little odd since the show first aired in 1985, when I was fourteen years old, but I was apparently still watching Saturday morning cartoons at the time. And I fell in love with this show.

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The Gummi Bears became an even more important part of my life two years later when I went to work for McDonald’s. I met my best friend of the last 27 years while working the drive-thru, handing Egg McMuffins and coffee to customers through the window. It was on a Saturday morning shift that Bengi and I admitted our mutual love for the show and discovered that we both knew the theme song to the show by heart. 

We were likely to eventually become friends anyway. Though he and I see each other as very different people today, a person who has known Bengi for a long time and recently got to know me said that she has never met two people more alike.

It makes sense. After 27 years, we tend to see our differences more clearly than the similarities which probably drew us together in the first place. 

Still, for a couple of teenage boys, discovering that we had something in common as odd and eclectic as Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears probably helped cement the friendship quite a bit.

I can still remember singing that song together in the drive-thru like it was yesterday. 

I can still sing the song by heart today.

Posted in Autobiography, Television | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

There can only be one explanation for a Republican campaign ad as sexist and stupid as this.

I suspect that the Republican Party has been infiltrated by some undercover Democratic strategists who have convinced them that stupid, sexist political ads are effective. 

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There can be no other explanation for the existence of this political ad (and others  like it, which are exactly the same except with different Republican candidate’s names). No right minded (or right leaning) person could watch this commercial and not see it as offensive and inane.

Right?    

Posted in History/Politics, Television | Leave a comment