Here's Octavia stuffed into a Christmas stocking. This is the photo we used for our Christmas cards this year. I know we didn't get it sent to everyone, so if we happened to miss you, sorry! Consider this Christmas greetings from O, Linda, and Bret.
Pretty boring question, me thinks. But let's spice it up: Who's your favorite author that you've never read? Right now, mine would have to be Christa Faust. I mean, just take a look at her website. How could you not be a fan of Ms. Faust?
Currently, I have two of her books staring down at me from my "must read bookcase." But, honestly, I don't want to read her books. What if I don't like them? After all, sometimes things are better to admire from afar. I just fear that if I open Ms. Faust's books and take a look inside, I might not like what I find, and then where would I be?
The last time I loved an author before I actually read anything by them? The author's name: Carlton Mellick III. The book: Razor Wire Pubic Hair. What a great title, what an interesting book cover. He was supposed to be the "modern-day Kurt Vonnegut." Nope, he wasn't anything like Vonnegut, and the designa…
Doing a blog is fun, although I'm not able to post as often as I would wish. And, it would be more fun if it were set up more like an interactive discussion board. Sure, people can leave their comments, but they generally do so without leaving their name. That makes their comments seem somehow dirty to me. I don't like to live in the anonymous world of not even knowing the names of the people that I have intimate relations with.
I was on Amazon looking up Children's Books, and I ran across an interesting fact. Jenny McCarthy has apparently written (and published) four books -- Louder than Words being her latest release. She also wrote the script to the movie Dirty Love. Not bad for someone that got her start as the co-host of MTV's Singled Out.
Why do I mention all of this? Jenny and I are basically the same age, but I haven't published a thing. She's supposed to be a blond playmate airhead (which of course she's not), and she's publishing books and making movies.
This cannot stand. If Ms. McCarthy can write books, then darn it, why can't I?
Jenny, I accept your challenge. The score is 5-0, but I can catch up!
Ticket prices have gone up a lot since 1987. Back then, you could get a front row seat for $15. Saturday's show in Rochester was $50. And maybe Vince McMahon is overpricing his show, just a little... after all, the Mayo Civic Center was only 1/2 full. And on a sidenote, why do pro-wrestling fans have to bathe in sheep-dip before coming to the show? If you haven't been to a live, non-televised event, you probably should go. It's fun to watch the crowd, even if the action in the ring is terrible. When the cameras aren't on, wrestlers spend a lot of time standing around in the ring, rolling out the ring, yelling at the crowd, and basically just killing time. Is wrestling really that boring that they have to do all of these time-killing tricks? Probably not. More likely, wrestlers are on the road 200+ dates per year, and they're simply protecting their bodies. Anything more than 5 minutes of hard action would be too much to endure on a nightly basis. Here's a run dow…
Here's another book that I don't have time to read. :) How well do you keep a diary? I kept one for a couple of years, actually. 1993-1994. And since then, I'll take a stab at an entry every once in a great while. To a certain extent, this blog has taken the place of my diary, but after getting Michael's diary in the mail yesterday -- 600 pages for the 10 year period -- I'm feeling a bit inspired. It's time to dust off the notebook and start putting pen to paper once more!
There's a lot to see and do in most places, but when you live in a place, it loses it's ability to be "exotic." Often times, if the choice is: should we go out exploring, or should we stay home and sit on the couch, the couch wins.
As part of our Dubuque trip last weekend, and it took us hours to decide to actually go through with going to Dubuque, we decided to stop at Niagara Cave. http://www.niagaracave.com/default.asp
Some say this is one of the top caves in the country, and it well might be. But, even so, it's just 40 miles from home, and it took us 15 months to make the drive there. (slow car)
Let me rephrase that: Just forty miles, but 15 months to commit to going there.
Am I glad we went? Of course, because now I have a weekend full of memories that I wouldn't have had sitting on the couch at home. And generally speaking, I love to travel. So why was it such a struggle to decide to go?
Question: What is between Rochester, Minnesota and Dubuque, Iowa?
Answer: About 180 miles of corn fields and little else.
My wife and I made the journey to Dubuque last weekend to see Kip Winger in concert. If any of you recognize the name, you're probably about my age. Winger was a hair metal band that was popular for about three years (1988-1991). Not coincidentally, those were the years I was in high school, the time when my musical tastes formed.
Kip, now 46, is more than a hair metal memory, and when he plays live without the band, he plays an acoustic 12-string guitar. The guy can really play.
Anyway, Dubuque was having a free concert series, and Kip was the headlining act. I'd say about 250 people were there, but 220 were there just to drink, smoke, and socialize. Less than 30 of us were there for the music. Quite sad, really.
For Writers:My mother and her five siblings were raised in the Latter-day Saints religion. All told, I probably have about twenty-five cousins or so, and most of them have a few kids of their own. How many of my mother’s siblings, my cousins, or their children have left the faith of their parents? As far as I know, none of them have. In the “Up” documentary series, researchers follow the lives of British children from diverse backgrounds. This series started in 1964, and every seven years, the researchers come back to interview the participants. This series uses a motto based on a Jesuit saying, “Give me a child until he is seven, and I will show you the man.” Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of truth to that saying. Without getting into the whole “nature vs. nurture” debate, why is it so difficult for people to examine the values they were taught in childhood? Not to pick on the LDS faith, but why have none of my immediate family members found a different religion? What would happen t…
Linda and I have at least one friend that went to the bookstore at 12:01 a.m. this morning to buy her copy of the last Harry Potter book. And, I'm sure there are tens of thousands of people that did the same, giving up sleep tonight to feed their Potter need.
Me, I'm a bit behind. Just finished the third book tonight, and I fear that by the time I get to book 7, the secret of who dies at the end will have been revealed. I'm going to do my best not to find out, but since it will probably take me another couple of months to finish the next four books, it seems unlikely that I'll be able to avoid finding out.
My guess is that Snape and Voldemort will be the two that die... surely not Harry or Ron or Hermione?? That would be too sad...
Chris was a forty year old professional who pushed himself to perform to the best of his abilities at all times. He almost never allowed anyone inside, but from what people could see on the surface, everyone respected his passion and drive. They also considered him to be a loving family man with a caring wife and a well-mannered little boy.
Then one day he was traveling for his job and received a phone call from his wife. What she told him in that conversation made him cancel one of the most important work-related events of his life to immediately catch the next flight home. The matter was apparently that serious.
Outside of Chris and his wife, no one knows the why behind what happened once he arrived home. With his small son sleeping in the adjacent bedroom, Chris strangled his wife with an electrical cord, leaving her lifeless corpse to rot. The following morning, he put a bag over his son’s head, removing the last breath from his small body.
She and her kid sister took a road trip to Ohio one summer to catch three Def Leppard shows. This was 1987, and the band was at the height of its popularity.The kid sister was 16, and she was willing to do anything to meet the band. By the third show, the roadies had taken notice of the two young women, and one offered the girls backstage passes. When they went backstage after the show, the band was nowhere to be found, but the room was filled with assorted roadies and hopeful groupies. “Take your tops off,” one roadie said, “and you’ll get to meet the band.” This was the initiation price all prospective groupies had to pay for the chance to meet the heavy metal heartthrobs. The 16 year old was willing to strip down, as were most of the girls in the room. The older sister refused to take her top off, however, as the thought of a bunch of 40 year old roadies pawing at her chest repulsed her. In the end, the roadies failed to keep their end of the deal, selecting only the one…
I hadn’t seen or heard from her in over three years, and then one summer, she sent me a letter. The reasons for us losing touch are too complicated to note here, and may not matter anyway. In short: she had graduated from college and moved on with her life.Her letter was handwritten, which is a nice touch in the age of word processors and emails, and she briefly filled in the gaps of my knowledge. She was preparing to adjunct at a local college, and her wedding was set for that December. Interestingly enough, I was beginning my teaching career as an adjunct at the same college that fall. Seeing her a few weeks later at the teacher orientation session, I noticed that she hadn’t changed that much. On the surface, her look was more professional than it had been as a student, but otherwise, I found it difficult to acknowledge the passing of three years.And though we were friendly to one another that semester, we were by no means close friends. When she wasn’t teaching, she was…
For Writers: When I graduated from college, it was a hot August day in Illinois. The gym didn’t have air conditioning, and my silk shirt was completely soaked after the first ten minutes. The ceremony lasted for over two hours, and then I went out to eat spaghetti with a couple of friends. Yawn.Graduating is one of those events that people would instinctively put on a personal highlight reel. But at least in my case, the event – the ritual – was an uncomfortable and mundane experience. Symbolically, it represented three years of my life, but it’s hard to capture three years by walking across the stage, shaking a few hands, and having a few pictures taken of you. In life, we often try to capture the culmination of experience through ritual – whether it be a baptism, a wedding, or a graduation. Human beings need rituals, but are ritualized events really the highlights of our lives?Today, consider your own personal highlight reel. What would you include on it? Would ritualized or ceremoni…
For Writers: It’s a hip thing to do, to get a tattoo. The idea of joining the inked masses has crossed my mind on a number of occasions, but at this point I’m still ink free. The main reason for that: I haven’t found anything so soaked full of meaning that I wanted to leave an indelible mark on my body with it. Over the past decade, however, many people have started getting tattooed as a kind of fashion accessory. Statistics indicate that over one-third of people in the 18-29 age range now have at least one tattoo. Why? One of the main reasons given is to feel “sexier.” The non-tattooed majority still hold prejudicial thoughts against folks with tattoos, though, with opinion polls indicating that those without tattoos find those with tattoos to be less intelligent, less sexy, and overall, less attractive. Nevertheless, fully one-third of the 100 sexiest women, as determined by FHM magazine, have tattoos. At the moment, tribal tattoos are the most en vogue, followed by crosses, stars, and …
For Writers: When my wife and I visited Hawaii for the first time a few years ago, we both thought that this might be the place. Stepping out of the airport, the first thing to greet us was a rainbow, and the temperature stayed at a constant 80 degrees for our entire visit.I have an aunt that claims it takes an artist’s eye to see the many variations in the shades of green in nature, but then she’s never been to Hawaii. Hundreds of shades of green were growing everywhere. Paradise is easier to imagine than to experience, just as anticipation often times trumps attainment. I would assume that it is hard-wired into each of us to be difficult to please, but how can a place like Hawaii start to get old after just a few days? But it did, and we were ready to go home. Home might not be paradise, but the paradox is, it doesn’t need to be.What is your idea of paradise? Try to describe it in physical terms. Is it a place you’d want to live, or is it a place just best to visit? Can you make a ho…
People are busy, and acknowledging that fact, I hate asking anyone for favors that will eat away their precious time. As I know from personal experience, writing a reference letter can be a chore, and needless to say, the person doing the requesting always needs it written and sent out immediately. The sense of urgency is probably a good thing, though, because if given an ample amount of time – two or three weeks would certainly seem helpful – it would just be far too easy for the reference writer to procrastinate and forget.
When I first started asking people for references, usually professors to support my applications to graduate schools, I would often write the letters myself. Sometimes my professors would look at me like I was crazy to hand them a completed reference letter that I had written for them to sign; but I’m sure that some of them simply signed their names at the bottom, secretly glad that they didn’t have to take the time to write anything themselves.
Over the years, I’ve been asked to write reference letters for a number of students and faculty. The secret to writing a good reference letter is to add specific key words that pop off the page. To help them “pop,” I think it’s even okay to put such words in bold – words such as innovative or leader. No one really reads references with the intent of savoring every word. After all, the reference letter has a certain form and follows specific, mutually-agreed upon criteria. Actually, most readers of reference letters are simply looking for what you don’t say. Death by omission.
I’ve found that the hardest references to write are the ones for people I don’t know that well. A surprising number of students ask instructors for a reference letter after just a semester (and sometimes not even that long). And, as a direct supervisor of faculty, I sometimes need to write a reference letter for someone that I haven’t observed teach. How can I tell someone that Dr. X is a good teacher …
My friend Patrick called me up and asked me to jump out of an airplane with him. He and two other friends had decided it would be fun to hurdle toward the ground at great speed, and they wanted to include me in the fun. I asked him where they planned to go to do the jumping, and he named a local parachute club.
Although his offer was tempting, I begged poverty as an excuse. I simply didn’t have the extra money to join them, I said. While it was true that I didn’t have the money, any fear I might have of jumping out of an airplane I kept to myself.
None of them plummeted to their deaths that day, and all of them came back telling heroic stories of daring. Once they had returned safely, I felt bad not going. The experience had bonded them in such a way that I would forever be excluded from the “Three Flying Musketeers.” I promised to jump with them the next time they went, but they never jumped again. My opportunity to become the fourth Musketeer never came.
We all have those “what should I do?” moments in our lives. When I have one, I like to consider all of my options in minute detail. Sometimes I become so overwhelmed in looking at the pros and cons of each option that I find it impossible to decide what to do.
For weeks I might go over the options again and again in my mind, only to find that the problem has resolved itself over time. Either the options that I once had are no longer options, or the problem has changed so much that I have to start the thinking process of “what should I do?” all over again.
I often find myself feeling guilty for having a mind. Why can’t I be more impulsive? Why can’t I act and live life without so much planning? Isn’t it worse being a prisoner, locked behind my own personal mind field?
Write about a time in your life that required you to make an important decision. What emotions did you feel as you thought about what you needed to do? Were you able to act and make the decision, or did you let t…
Hanging on the wall over my computer desk is a print of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” The emotions Munch captures in that simple painting often match the way I feel when I sit down at the computer to write. If I’m not feeling any creative juices flowing in my veins, I want nothing more than to go to the nearest bridge and scream.
Sometimes screaming actually helps. It releases tension and bad energy, offering writers the chance to purge the emotions that keep them from producing quality work. While a certain level of stress might be necessary to write, feeling too much stress cripples writers into becoming non-writers.
True writers know they were born to write. Screaming has the ability to unlock the creative energy necessary to write, to tell the story that needs to be told. Writers were born to scream.
Today, think about what story you’re dying to scream to the world. What has kept you from telling that story? Have you tried to tell it before, but somehow refused to infuse t…
When we were in the market to buy a house, our Realtor didn’t plan to show us the small ranch-style house we eventually ended up buying. My wife saw a picture of it on the office’s bulletin board, and we had to convince Sam to take us out there.
After driving way out into the middle of nowhere, past graveyards and the local garbage dump, we finally arrived. The house was only six years old, but it hadn’t been lived in for three years. Layers of dust and animal droppings covered everything. What we were to find in the back bedrooms, though, was what certainly caught our attention the most.
The woman who had lived there before like to paint, and she had made the walls of the bedrooms her canvas. One mural was of the sword Excalabur rising out of the lake. In the room that would become our bedroom, she had painted a magical forest, with a huge unicorn as the central focus. It almost looked like it was running straight out of the wall.
I find it difficult to change. For years I have told myself to stop biting my fingernails, but unless I wrap all of my fingers in bandages, nothing stops me from gnawing away. Although I know better, I seem helpless to stop.
From time to time, I convince myself to exercise and eat a healthier selection of foods, but it never lasts. Soon enough, I fall back into the habit of eating powdered donuts and watching TV all evening. The exercise equipment in the back room remains silent from disuse, and the apples in the refrigerator rot.
Human beings are slaves to routine. The daily grind of life wears us down after a while, and the way we cope is to fall into the security of habit and routine. Habit and routine don’t necessarily need to be bad things, but it’s a lot harder to break a bad habit than it is to break a good one.
Today, think about one of your bad habits. Can you pinpoint why you fell into that habit? Is there any way you could quit? Change your routine? Outline an acti…
You might have noticed that for the past few days I've been posting "Invitation to Write" posts. My belief is that some people would like to write, but the blank page can be more scary than a dentist's chair. The idea behind my invitations is to help people prime the pumps of their imaginations.
So, take me up on my invitation. Read my "opening remarks," and join the conversation.
Who are the shadow people? One well-known radio talk show host who specializes in the paranormal describes them as the ghost-like images of people we might catch glimpses of in our peripheral vision. To me, though, shadow people have little to do with anything we might consider paranormal. Shadow people are quite normal, quite real.
Whatever happened, for example, to the people you knew in high school? What happens to people we were once close to but no longer see? These are the people who live only in memory. They are the real shadow people.
Every once in a while, we run into one of these individuals in the flesh. Sometimes seeing someone we haven’t seen in years can be shocking. We might know they are still alive, but as far as their place in our every day lives goes, they might as well have passed on to the other side. Encountering shadow people can feel like making contact with the dead.
Today write about shadow people. Think about someone you’ve lost touch with, and allo…
Writers must believe in the power of words, but where does the power come from? What gives words strung into sentences the force to change reality? Of course, some might choose to argue that words don’t change reality. Some might say that words can describe changes in reality, but reality itself simply “is.”
In an age inundated with constant visual images, some have claimed that the power of the written word is a thing of the past. Authors of the postmodern age believed that language itself was “exhausted.” And yet, without words to communicate their philosophy, how would we have ever known what they were thinking?
Words, of course, work on various levels. They can be spoken or written, saved or forgotten, true or false. Human beings have a natural ability to learn words at a very early age, and anyone who has ever spent any time with small toddlers must be impressed every time they hear them add a new word to their vocabularies.
We’ve all seen and joked about the tags on pillows that warn us not to remove them under penalty of federal law. When I was young and ornery, I would tear the tags off every pillow I would run across. Secretly, I thought about federal agents kicking down my door, catching me with tags in hand. These “pillow police” would throw me in a cell with only a pallet for a bed – and no pillow.
No one on pillow patrol ever came knocking on my door, but my mom was never happy when I would tear the tags off her favorite pillows. She knew the practical reason for leaving the tags alone: tear off the tag and risk tearing the lining of the pillow. It never stopped me, though, and soon enough I had graduated from pillow tags to tags on T-shirts. More than one shirt developed a peep-hole that allowed others to see the back of my neck.
Unlike pillow or shirt tags, other things cannot be so easily ripped off without serious consequences. These are the things that really need warning tags.
On lazy summer afternoons in the park, I like to look skyward at the friendly, puffy-white clouds. Something about cloud gazing centers me, making me feel as though the world and I are one. Sometimes the imagination wanders, and clouds take the shape of animals, faces, or other objects. Sometimes clouds are not puffy white at all. These other kinds of clouds are black, mean, and menacing.
What I remember most about my first airplane ride as a child is the unique experience of looking down on the clouds. Clouds, as I found out, are not the top of anything at all. They simply rest between the earth and eternity.
Write about clouds today. What is the most unusual cloud you have ever seen? Why does the image stay with you? Do you tend to remember the “friendly” clouds or the “mean” clouds more? Explore why that is.
“Is there no pity sitting in the clouds, That sees into the bottom of my grief?” William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Do you remember 1977? I was 4 years old, and the one event that stands out in my memory is my family's nightly watching of the miniseries "Roots." It must have been on every night for a year -- at least that's what it felt like to me back then.
It's 30 years later, and it's now being released on DVD. To tell you the truth, I'm excited about it. I never really watched it when it was first aired, but I can't wait to watch it now.
In a related note, I just finished watching Carl Sagan's 13 part "Cosmos." Awesome stuff. Just awesome.
Don't call it frisbee golf. That's the first thing to learn.
Now that you know that, anyone care to play a round? On my way home from work Friday, I ran into a couple of the pyschology instructors, just back from a game. Well, this raised my interest, and I went out this weekend and bought a few discs.
This could be fun. Let me know when you're free to play, and we'll head out. If you don't have any discs of your own, I'll even let you borrow mine. :)
It took me a while to figure it all out, but I now know why my wife decided to get herself pregnant. She hates with a passion having to clean out the kitty litter box. Now that she's pregnant, guess who gets to do that for at least the next six months?
What is the next generation called? Some call it Generation Y, but other names include: Gamer Generation, Net Generation, Millennials... But the name isn't so important as the characteristics. Here are a couple of good articles to skim if you have the chance.
We made a trip to Illinois this weekend, and we helped a friend of ours unload about 150 of her books. It seems that she had so many books that her house was literally collapsing. Anyway, she was getting rid of most of her collection so that she wouldn't have to deal with the hassle of putting everything in storage while her house gets repaired.
As a result, my library has just jumped past the 1400 book mark. In the past, I've always tried my best to keep it at a maximum of 1000. But what's a booklover to do? Remember that you can go through my personal library, if you're at all curious... and if I know you and you live close by, you can even borrow a book from me. :)
Okay, let's see if I can type this. The due date is October 6.
Here's a brief background for what led up to this:
Blissful Ignorance, March -- Linda feels tired and nauseous all the time, but she never stops to consider that she might be pregnant. She's a nurse, but the fact never crosses her mind. In fact, she goes to the doctor to check on the possibility of ulcers...
D-Day, April 6 -- We had talked about driving home to Illinois for the weekend, but in the end, we opt not to. That evening, Linda discovers the truth of her new reality. She estimates that she's probably 8 weeks along.
Denial, April 6-12 -- I choose not to believe that my life is about to change.
Acceptance, April 13 -- We go in for the first ultrasound. Is this an elaborate hoax? There's something on the screen. Maybe it's just a big tapeworm? Nope, that's a future baby alright, and 15 weeks along.
Change, April 15 -- Cancel the cruise plans for October, and see how non-refundable, non-refunabl…
One of the books I'm reading right now is Families and How to Survive Them by Robin Skynner and John Cleese. Pretty interesting stuff. The line that stands out thus far is: "happiness needs a lot of practice."
Why must we work so hard to be happy? Is happiness something that must be earned?
I'm reading BarackObama'sThe Audacity of Hope, and it's a compelling read. He has apparently pulled in 20 million dollars for his presidential campaign, which is just a few million behind Hillary...
Last week Rev. Jesse Jackson endorsed Obama, and I thought, hmm... the endorsement solidifies Obama's Democratic credentials, of course, but in his book he discusses the importance of being above politics, and not falling victim to the "right vs. left" dichotomy. Jackson's a pretty polarizing figure, but what's Obama to do? Could he refuse the endorsement, and if he did, would that show that he's rising above politics or surrendering to the very dichotomy he claims to oppose?
Obama is for real, and I humbly predict that he will be the next president.
We went to the Farmer’s Market in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, and the place was amazing. If you ever have a chance to visit San Francisco, I would highly recommend that you add it to your agenda.
All big cities have a problem with homeless people, but San Francisco seemed to have a bigger problem than most. On the plus side, all of the homeless people we met on the street were very nice, and it was interesting to see the relationships some had developed with businesses. For example, I just happened to be standing on the street corner outside of our hotel for a few minutes one night, and I noticed a sack of take-out food just sitting there… right outside a Thai restaurant. How weird is that? I thought. Shortly thereafter, a younger black man came walking down the street, picked up the sack in one swift movement, crossed the street, and went along his merry way. By the way he moved, I understood this to be a nightly event.
More sad was the sight I witnessed at the Farmer’s Market…
Get up 15 minutes earlier Prepare for the morning the night before Avoid tight fitting clothes Avoid relying on chemical aids Set appointments ahead Don't rely on your memory ... write it down Practice preventive maintenance Make duplicate keys Say "no" more often Set priorities in your life Avoid negative people Use time wisely Simplify meal times Always make copies of important papers Anticipate your needs Repair anything that doesn't work properly Ask for help with the jobs you dislike Break large tasks into bi…
My wife and I are leaving for Hawaii on Monday, if the weather cooperates. When my wife and I go on cruises, which is what we're doing on this trip, we often times invite family or friends to go with us. To this point, no one has ever taken us up on the invitation. We went through the motions of inviting my parents, and to our pleasant surprise, they decided to go. :0)
And, they've already spent a week in Hawaii thus far. Cross your fingers that we are able to join up with them on Monday as scheduled.
On the way back, we'll be stopping in San Francisco for a few days. This is my first time, and quite honestly, I'm starting to get more excited about San Fran than Hawaii. After all, I've been to Hawaii once *yawn*
I'm crazy enough to keep the blog going on vacation, so check back in, and I promise to provide regular updates. Taking time off is important, and it's amazing how many people don't take the time (or save the money) to go on a much-needed vacation.…
I promised my top ten, and here it is. This is my Top 10 in the fiction category.
1. Don Quixote – Cervantes 2. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck 3. The Canterbury Tales – Chaucer 4. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy 5. Crime and Punishment – Dostoyevsky 6. Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain 7. Catch-22 – Joseph Heller 8. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole 9. 1984 – George Orwell 10. Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
Honorable Mention: Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert Cathedral – Raymond Carver Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
I don't fear much, but I do fear the dentist. The last time I visited one was in 1998, and I like to tell myself that I have good teeth and don't need regular maintenance.
Well, one of my teeth chipped yesterday. Just a little, but it was quite unexpected. It didn't chip to the nerve, but now my tongue won't leave it alone. Will it chip again? What happens if I go on vacation next week and I don't have easy access to a dentist?
Be sure to take care of yourself. My wife finally convinced me that we needed to take our cars in every 5,000 miles for preventative maintenance, so why have I been so loathe to taking myself in for my own 5,000 mile check-ups?
This is a line that really stood out to me in Jacob Needleman's Time and the Soul. Why do we allow ourselves to get so stressed out? Often times, perhaps we spend more time worrying than we do actually thinking. Worrying focuses on the negative of what might happen. Thinking, however, can lead to an action which will avoid a negative outcome. This isn't necessarily what Needleman's point is in his book, but that's the "truth" I took from it.
The book also suggested one "trick" to try. Assume that the event has already occured. Whatever it is you're worried about, just assume it has already happened. As you go through a stressful time, don't worry about it. Just tell yourself that it is happening as it must, and work your way through it.
Everyone loves lists, don't they? What if you had to come up with a list of the top ten books that have affected you the most? How would you develop such a list?
Peder Zane edited a book called The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books. Actually, I just started thinking about the top ten concept, and then while at Barnes and Noble, I stumbled across this book. As far as I can tell, and I only had a chance to flip through it, this is a book of fiction writers listing fiction, though.
As an English major, all I cared about was fiction. But these days, I find myself reading everything. My list would be more inclusive than just fiction, and I would also be more concerned with how the book affected my life rather than just how "good" the book was, if you catch my meaning.
Anyway, if you care to share your top ten, I'd love to see it. Post a comment here, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if anyone is interested, I'll post my Top 10 list next week.
Why do we get so caught up in our day-to-day lives? Why are we so concerned about our ego?
On Friday, I had the opportunity to listen to former RCTC President Charles Hill (1953-1982) share his experiences. He's 92 years old now, and it was interesting to hear him talk from the perspective of wisdom.
What does he remember? It's not the stupid little day-to-day things that stress so many of us out. Instead, he remembers people. He remembers the fun he had along the way. At no time, though, did he merely list his life's accomplishments. Ego wasn't involved in his stories at all. And that, I think, is how it should be. How many of us remember and acknowledge that on a regular basis?
There's a big difference between making a difference and being self-important.
I've been using Netflix since 2003, and the service is great. Every so often, I ask my friends and colleagues if they use it, and over the years, only a handful have indicated that they have.
If you like movies, this is one of the best ways I know to keep up with everything that gets released on DVD. Keeping track of all the new releases can feel like a full-time job, and it's easy to let that movie you were meaning to watch on DVD slip though to the dark pit of your memory.
Anyway, if you don't watch that many movies, Netflix still has a plan that would fit your needs. At one point, I was on the eight movies out at a time plan, and that was a lot. Right now I'm at four out at a time, and that's about right for me.
If any of you are Netflix members, I'd love to add you to my Friends list. Just let me know. :)
How absurd is this? I heard on the radio this week that politicians in the Cities are interested in banning replica guns. They can, after all, be used to "intimidate" people. Real guns, on the other hand, are just fine I guess.
I did some more digging, and apparently these toy guns do fire bullets, just plastic little pellets -- non-lethal. So, we're banning non-lethal "toys" and allowing the lethal weapons to remain legal? I wish I was a stand-up comic, because here would be the place for the punch line.
I have worn a size 12 shoe since high school. No matter how snug the shoe was, if I liked it, and if it was a size 12, that's what I bought.
Then, about a year ago, I had my first experience with gout. Boy is that painful. Even then, it never dawned on me that moving up in shoe size might be a good idea.
Last week I went to a shoe store that still uses salespeople -- ones that still measure your feet. And I learned sometime. In length, my foot is indeed a 12. But other parts of my foot measure out to 13.
The salesperson said I might be binding my feet. That image stuck with me, and I decided to buy a size 13 as a test.
So far, so good. I'm now in the process of throwing out all of my "snug" size 12's. Don't ever get too attached to a number.
Below are notes from the Student Motivation Workshop I facilitated today. I can't post the Powerpoints, but if you're interested in them, just send me an email, and I'll be happy to shoot them your way.
10. Limit/Manage Stress
This is the topic of the 2/22 workshop. Please attend! :)
9. Promote Active Learning
• Use in-class activities to reinforce newly presented material. After a new concept or subject has been presented via text reading, lecture, or class discussion, allow the students to put the concept into action by completing an in-class assignment. These assignments can be short, but they must be developed to ensure that the students understand the critical concepts underlying the new material. • Typically, the most learning takes place when the students are permitted to work in small groups, to refer to their text and notes, and to ask questions of the instructor while completing the assignment. If these in-class assignments are part of the course grading scheme, class…
Not all of my blog will be work-related, unless you believe in the philosophy of Tao Te Ching, which states that all things are related (I kind of like that).
I finished off the 3rd series of "Arrested Development" last night. If you've never seen the show, you're not alone. Only 4-6 million people tuned in each week when it was on.
Let me tell you, though, it was simply too good for a mass audience. I believe MSN is starting to show the series for free on the Internet, but I would encourage you to go out and buy the DVD sets. You're going to want them, I promise. :)
To follow up from Friday's posting, I did watch 49-Up over the weekend, and it might be the best in the series. Actually, I think each one is better than the last, and it's probably just because each one provides more information.
Following the lives of these people is addictive. This is, in essence, real "reality TV." My wife said, "I feel like such a voyeur when I watch," but she can't help herself. She wants to watch, and you will, too.
The tone in this one is different, too. Most of the people are happy and content with their lots in life. This wasn't the case in 35-Up, for example. Now, some of their children are grown -- and some have grandchildren, and their lives, for better or worse, are established.
Attention Psychology Instructors and "Nature vs. Nurture" Lovers
Have your heard of the 7-Up documentary series? About 42 years ago, some British psychologists began to follow the lives of a group of children -- male, female, rich, poor, black, white. Every seven years, then, they do a follow-up interview to see what's going on in their lives.
This, year, the 5th follow-up documentary was released, entitled 49-Up. I'll be watching it over the weekend, but I have previously viewed the other documentaries in the series -- 7-Up, 14-Up, 21-Up, 28-Up, and 35-Up. Good stuff. Do you need to watch all of them? Probably not. They repeat some of the same footage in each of the follow-up documentaries, so I wouldn't recommend watching them all at once... However, it's good to watch the earlier ones to see how the documentary style has changed over the past 40 years. Also, some of the people in the study have dropped out, and you need to watch the early ones to see who the…
Attention: Philosophy Instructors and Armchair Philosophers
I don't know if you've heard of this book -- The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten: 100 Experiments for the Armchair Philosopher -- but I'm currently reading it, and it's pretty darn good. I'm thinking it might be a cool way to introduce students to some of the most important philosophical and ethical questions ever analyzed by Western philosophical minds.
There are 100 questions, if you will, and the book is only 300 pages. So it's good for those with ADHD, but it would also be a cool way to start a class discussion on a topic. Each "question" or section is also cross-listed, so you can easily refer to related questions/sections.
(Note: CATs that require more time and/or energy for 1) faculty to prepare, 2) students to respond to the assessment, or 3) faculty to analyze the data collected are in red italics.)
Techniques for Assessing Course-Related Knowledge and Skills Assessing Prior Knowledge, Recall, and Understanding
Minute Paper - Instructor asks students to respond in two or three minutes to either of the following questions: "What was the most important thing you learned during this class?" or "What important questions remains unanswered?" Used to provide a quick and extremely simple way to collect written feedback on student learning.
Muddiest Point - Technique consists of asking students to jot down a quick response to one question: "What was the muddiest point in (fill in the blank)?" with the focus on the lecture, a discussion, a homework assignment, a play, or a film. Used to provide information on what students find least clear or most confusing abo…