Skip to main content


Showing posts from January 11, 2009

Snatching a Desperate Hour -- Writer's Poke #155

For Writers:

I needed to write my dissertation to finish, but the thought of writing something 200 pages long (and 200 pages would be on the short side) kept me from writing for five years.

Meanwhile, I was paying my tuition each semester so that I could stay active in the program. I pretended that I was just making an "alumni donation" to the university, and this was supposed to make me somehow feel better about paying out thousands of dollars just to keep the hope of finishing alive.

Then that May, I received my annual progress letter. There was a new graduate program director, and his letter indicated that they planned to deactivate me from the doctoral program. I wrote back and asked for one more chance, to which he responded: "You have until August 15."

In other words, I basically had three months to write and defend my dissertation. And guess what I did that summer? I wrote my dissertation. Something that I couldn't do in 5 years I was able to do in under 3 m…

We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off -- Writer's Poke #154

For Writers:

Back in the stone ages, I suppose people took naked pictures of themselves with Polaroid Instamatic cameras. But now we live in the digital age, and even most cell phones have built-in cameras. Technology has made it much easier to share ourselves with others. And some of us bear more than our souls.

Over the past year, there have been stories of teenage girls who have taken risqué, shall we say, photos of themselves. Some cheerleaders in the Pacific Northwest, for example, were kicked off the team when high school administrators discovered their inappropriate pictures posted online. The girls' lawyers cried foul, wondering why the girls were punished and not the boys that had apparently posted the pictures.

In Pennsylvania it was the boys and not the girls who were punished. The girls sent the pictures to the boys' cell phones (amusingly dubbed in one article as "sexting"), but the boys were the ones who found themselves in trouble. Somewhat amazingly, the…

Transformations -- Writer's Poke #153

For Writers:

I have a friend, let's call him Bandhu (which is Hindu for friend). A few of us took at trip to New Orleans one year, and Bandhu totally amazed me.

We were at a bar, and Chumbawumba's "I Get Knocked Down" was a very popular song at the time. Bandu just let it all loose on the dance floor. I can't say that he was or wasn't the smoothest cat out there, but what I will always remember is how uninhibited he was. And since the drinks in that bar were so watered down, I can't just attribute his moves to the booze. This young man was sober, and he was out there shaking it for the world to see.

On the other hand, he was still uncomfortable drinking a jelly shot off the stomach of a hired drink seller, but maybe he was simply concerned about her hygiene. It was the funniest thing watching him slurp the shot off her stomach, being careful not to touch her body in any way with his tongue.

And since he hadn't developed the nerve to lick her clean, he ten…

What Is a Friend? -- Writer's Poke #152

Inspired by

For Writers:

Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams is also a writer, and he is the most famous person that I know of who keeps a regularly-updated blog. He has even published his blog entries in the form of a book, lovingly titled: Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain!
Lucky for us, he doesn't just stick to comics. The man has a brain, and I like the cut of his jib, if you'll excuse me for using that expression. In a recent blog post, he gave his definition of a friend. According to Adams' definition, to qualify as a friend, two conditions must be met:1. You must have told that person a secret.2. That person must have accepted a favor from you.Personally, I thought Adams' conditions made quite a bit of sense; and although I had never really thought of friendship in those terms, it certainly seems to pass the smell test.Provide your own definition for the term "friend." Using Adams' definition explore how man…

Heavy Metal Band Names: Chart

Deferred and Delayed -- Writer's Poke #151

What happens to a dream deferred?Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.Or does it explode? -- Langston Hughes

For Writers:

Delayed gratification is supposed to be a sign of maturity. That's what we're told, right? And I don't doubt that there's a lot of truth to the idea.

If you can't afford a $5000 vacation to Europe, then you probably shouldn't just put it on the credit card and go, right? Save you money for ten years and pay cash for the trip. (Just assume that you'll be around in ten years, and that you'll still have both the health and desire to want to go to Europe.)

Take this classic example from psychology: the marshmallow test. If told that they can eat one marshmallow now or two marshmallows when…

Mensa Invitational: Not Real Words (But they should be)

Here are the winners of the Washington Post's Mensa Invitational, which once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

3. Intaxicaton : Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation : Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone ( n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little signs of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy : Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

7. Giraffiti : Vandalism spray-painted very, very high

8. Sarchasm : The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

9. Inoculatte : To take coffee intravenously when you are r…

Bunny Research -- Writer's Poke #150

For Writers:

The kid was no doubt intelligent, but he admitted that he never did well when boxed inside the structure of a college class. By semester's end, he had only produced three of the seven required essay assignments, claiming he just couldn't get into the assigned topics.

Although the topics I assigned gave students a lot of flexibility, I told him that I was open to foregoing the regular classroom assignments all-together, as long as he had some good ideas ready to present. Since he needed to write the equivilent of four 2-page essays, I suggested that he do an eight-page research paper. We should meet during office hours, I said, so that we could hammer out the details.

The following day, he came to my office carrying a box of Playboy magazines. My dad is a collector, he said, and he has Playboys all the way back to the 1950s. Great, I thought, as I watched him starting to remove Playboys from the box.

Take a look at this one, he said, as he pulled out three more from th…

My Personal Alfred -- Writer's Poke #149

For Writers:

Alfred, Bruce Wayne's butler, has always been one of my favorite characters in the Batman universe. He's obviously so much more than a butler. He is Bruce's base manager and confidant; but more than that, he's family -- the only family Bruce has, and probably the one person that helped him stay sane after watching as his parents were brutally murdered.

On our last cruise, we upgraded to a penthouse suite, and with the penthouse came a butler. How would we use a butler, we wondered? Sure, he fixed our fancy coffeemaker, he brought our evening snacks, and he kept our mini-fridge stocked with cokes, but it's hard to develop a meaningful relationship with anyone when the cycle lasts only seven days.

As I said, he was more the butler to the penthouse than he was our personal Alfred.

What function would a butler (or any kind of personal assistant) serve in your life? Would having your own personal Alfred change your life?


Would you rather serve or be served?