This Food Is Not Yet Rated

The Surgeon General needs to institute a food rating system; macaroni and cheese would be rated G, as not only is it is bland, but-- even better-- the individual pieces of macaroni stick together because of the sauce, so it's easy for a kid to get it from the plate to mouth without making a mess . . . sushi would be R, as it is spicy and raw, and couscous would be PG-13 . . . there may be some parents who think that, with supervision, their children have the fine motor skills to scoop up those little grains without making an unholy mess, but as for my kids-- I'll let them watch Temple of Doom and Super-8-- but they're not getting another shot at couscous until middle school.

Sometimes You're Soft and Sometimes You're Hard

So everybody likes to say they are "hardcore," whether you claim to be a hardcore surfer, hardcore mountain climber, or hardcore shopper . . . but what if you're not hardcore? . . . what if you're just moderately into the thing you are talking about-- I purchased a new mountain bike the yesterday and I told the guy at the bike store that I used to mountain bike, but I didn't tell him I was a "hardcore" biker because that would have been exaggerating-- I certainly took my bike to a lot of difficult single-track and rode often, but I wasn't "extreme" or a "gear head" . . . so I suppose I was a "soft-core" mountain biker, but I'm not sure if you're allowed to say that in any context other than the pornographic-- telling someone you're a soft-core mountain biker makes it sound like you do niche films with lots of bikes, oil, and spandex-- so I didn't say this . . . but perhaps someone braver than me will try out the phrase . . . perhaps you can tell the guy at the camera shop that you're a "soft-core" photographer or tell the Boy Scout den leader that you're a "soft-core" camper . . . I think if we all cooperate we can make this phrase as permissible as it's more explicit companion.

Creepy Surveillance Contest: U.S. vs. Syria

Here is one of my favorite stories from my time in Syria, and it sounds like America is following suit: my friend Drew-- a Canadian-- was on the phone speaking to a friend from home, who was French-Canadian, and his friend switched from English to French, as French-Canadians often do, but after he spoke a few words in French to Drew, another voice-- a deep voice-- interrupted their conversation and said, "Please continue the conversation in English," and so they did, as no one wants to be "disappeared" like Dunbar . . . and though it was no surprise that our phone-calls were being monitored, as we had all been forewarned about the methods Syria's oppressive police-state infrastructure employed, it was still pretty damn creepy, but-- according to this Wired magazine article-- the United States is far beyond this in terms of surveillance (though there's nothing more effective than a creepy voice from nowhere as a scare tactic) and soon nearly everything we say over the phone and everything we do on-line will be stored in the NSA's massive Utah Data Center, an innocuous sounding place five times the size of the U.S. Capitol that will specialize in data storage and breaking encryption-- so watch what you say, as it will come back to haunt you, especially if you are one of the one million Americans on the terrorist watchlist . . . or if you know one of those people, or if you've ever been in the same room with one of those people . . . and while this is scary, intrusive, and certainly some violation of our First Amendment Rights, it's also kind of nice to know that someone will always be reading Sentence of Dave-- a built in fan base-- so here's a shout out to all those folks at the NSA that are saving these words for all of digital eternity . . . and if I'm not on the watchlist, then please sign me up, because I spent three years in Syria and I loved it! 

Anti-social Notworking Part II

Facebook has advanced one step closer to the idea I pitched to them in 2009 (and by "pitched" I mean wrote it on this blog and posted it on the internet, where anyone, including Mark Zuckerberg, could read it) because they have now added a feature where you can demote your not-so-close friends to the status of Acquaintance . . . but they still haven't gone whole-hog and added the "Enemy" status that I suggested . . . and, now that Facial Recognition software and language decoding filters actually work, this Enemy feature would be a lot of fun; you would only see Enemy updates on your News Feed if it were bad news-- only statements like my dog got hit by a cement truck today:( would activate the filter-- and the facial recognition software would ensure that you only saw ugly, asymmetrical pictures of your "Enemies," . . . perhaps a certain BMI could also activate the feature, so if one of your enemies put on some weight, you'd be alerted . . . and imagine if you could "Enemy" the celebrities you hate . . . Zuckerberg, you know this idea has legs, so thank me in the comments and I am still available for hire, although I only work a maximum of six hours a day and I require summers off.

Crazy Asians

On Saturday mornings at the park by my house, a bunch of older Asian guys play something that vaguely resembles basketball-- they position themselves around the court more like they are playing soccer or hockey, and they tend to chuck long passes and dribble wildly and shoot on the move-- and this Saturday, as I rode by, my dog trucking along by my side, I kept hearing a weird tweeting sound-- and so I stopped to investigate, and I noticed a guy with a whistle, zealously refereeing the game, which looked ridiculous, of course, but in retrospect, it's not a bad idea and certainly some of the pick-up games I've played in could have used an Asian guy with a whistle.

The Kindness of an Old Lady in a House Robe

Unlike Blanche DuBois, it's not often that I've depended upon the kindness of strangers-- and we all know, from the murder of Kitty Genovese and the so-called "bystander effect," that if you are in trouble and there's a group of strangers nearby, you certainly can't rely on them to help you-- but all bets are off if there's only one person observing your predicament, there is a much greater chance that a single observer will come to your aid, and I got to experience this firsthand on Saturday morning: my dog escaped out the back gate and took off down the street, he made it a couple of blocks before I finally caught up with him, and he was scared shitless because he knew he had really screwed up and so he rolled onto his back and did his best imitation of Jello and when I pulled at his collar to get him up, this scared him even more and, of course, in my mad dash to catch him before he got hit by a car, I forgot to grab the leash so I was essentially going to have to drag him two blocks to my house or carry him, but luckily, an old lady in an old lady house-robe, walking her old dog, came to my aid-- she brought her dog over so Sirius could sniff him, which made him stand up and relax, and then she gave me the cloth belt of her robe to use as a leash and this worked wonderfully and I was able to walk Sirius home and then return her belt to her, and the only thing that would have made the story better is if she wasn't an old lady in an old lady house-robe, but instead the woman in the photo above . . . she is the first image that pops up on Google, if you type in "house robe," which is both an absurd and wonderful thing about the internet.

Take It Slow?

Patience is certainly a virtue-- but it is a virtue that can be expended-- and once your tank is empty, you don't sputter and roll to a stop . . . or at least I don't (for example: after several weeks of patiently reminding my son that running around with his shoes untied was dangerous, several weeks of patiently helping him tie his shoes, several weeks of patiently reminding him of the time he tripped over his untied shoelace and spent four hours in the emergency room-- there was the day that my tank was empty and I told him, "the next time I see you with your shoes untied, I'm going to kick you in the ass," and then five minutes later, when I saw him with his shoes untied, I followed through with my promise . . . but now I'm back to gently reminding him to tie his shoes and waiting patiently while he incompetently ties them . . . and when my wife was about to take him Cohl's to get new sneakers-- Velcro strap sneakers-- and he said to me, "Can I get tie sneakers?" I didn't have an aneurysm, I just reminded him of our past history with tie sneakers (minus the ass-kicking, which we don't ever mention) and when he said, "But Dad, I want to get better at tie sneakers and practice makes perfect," I didn't lose my temper or kick him in the ass or anything, and then I waited for some sort of divine omen, some provident sign for my good behavior, but nothing happened-- no manna fell from the heavens-- and so I think we are going to get caught in the same cycle of inept shoe-tying and ass-kicking and I doubt there is any exit from it.

I Should Be Doing Something Other Than Writing This Sentence (But I Forget What It Is)

So here is a question for married folks: if you and your spouse combined are equivalent to one brain, then do you play the role of the long-term memory, the short-term memory, both-- or as my colleague Krystina said about me when I had the audacity to wonder which one I was . . . "You're neither, obviously," but my wife does not agree; she is definitely the short term memory, keeping track of everything we need to do on a day to day basis and remembering just enough to make our household run smoothly, without experiencing the anxiety that I feel-- I either think about too many things, far into the future and freak out, or I forgot about everything I have to do and then suffer a sudden shock when I realize how busy I should have been . . . but she credits me with storing many of our long-term memories: movies we've seen, stories from our world travels, where to find old files on the computer, etc. and while her job is far more practical and important, I think my memories are an important aesthetic contribution to the relationship; like the arts, I could certainly be cut without ill-effect, but that doesn't mean I'm insignificant.

What Do The Pontiff and My Dog Have in Common?

Like the pope, my dog prefers to shit in the woods (except when he has the runs . . . then he shits in the playroom . . . my dog, I mean . . . I'm not sure how the Pope handles the runs).

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Game of Thrones

I read George R.R. Martin's fantasy masterpiece Game of Thrones last year, and I was nervous about how it would translate to the small screen, but everyone is perfectly cast-- from Tyrion the dwarf to Daenerys to Ned Stark-- the characters met all my expectations and usually exceeded them (aside from Khal Drogo's impeccably waxed back) but here is the sad thing: after watching a few episodes, I no longer remember how I originally imagined the characters-- once I saw them rendered on my giant HDTV, all the previous images that I created, the unique vision of the novel that I held in my mind's eye-- this was instantly erased from my anemic brain; and we are used to this . . . it happens all the time: Billy Beane is Brad Pitt, John Adams is Paul Giamatti, and-- horror of horrors-- Hester Prynne is Demi Moore . . .we are no match for HD technology, and I suppose it's fine, in most cases, but there is some kid out there, who when you say "Johnny Cash," he imagines Joaquin Phoenix, and that is a travesty.

I Am A Big Hairy Clock

Last week, when I began my usual rant about Daylight Savings Time, my wife said, "It's like clockwork," and I said, "It's NOT like clockwork! It's the opposite of clockwork! It's anti-clockwork! Clocks don't just jump an hour ahead!" and she said, "Not Daylight Savings Time . . . your annual complaints about it."

Darth Vader vs. Sirius

Though my loyal readers expressed their disgust with some of the recent content on Sentence of Dave, I think the root cause of this story about my dog's anus needs clarification: my dog had good reason to tear apart the mitten and eat the stuffing, as my son's Darth Vader Alarm Clock went off in the middle of the day and the clock was screaming DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF THE FORCE! and THE EMPEROR HAS BEEN EXPECTING YOU! in a creepy Darth Vader voice, and Sirius was home alone and listening to this emanate from the top of the stairs for God knows how long, before I got home and unplugged the thing-- and I had to tell my son that we were going to have to get rid of the clock, as it's difficult to control the alarm, and impossible to shut off-- once it went off in the middle of the night and the dog knocked over the table it was on (and Alex was very good about parting with his beloved birthday gift . . . I told him he could sell it at a garage sale and use the money for whatever he desired . . . but I think he may have an inflated view of the value of the clock and be in for a rude awakening when he goes to sell it).

Miracles Happen to Me . . . Frequently

Lately, Dave has been blessed, as he has borne witness to myriad miracles, behold: I was teaching the start of Act IV of Hamlet, the section when Hamlet instructs the visiting players on how to act out the play he has written simulating the murder of his father . . . Hamlet tells the clowns not to "speak more than is set down for them," and he mentions some "villainous" players "that will themselves laugh," in order to get the audience to laugh along with them, but that in the meantime, necessary portions of the play are obscured and the actors do a poor job of imitating humanity . . . so before I read this section to my students, I do a bit of acting . . . first I complain of a sore throat-- sometimes I bum a throat lozenge from a student-- and then while I'm reading, I cough, clear my throat, and take a healthy swig from my water bottle and spill water all over my shirt, but I take Hamlet's advice and I don't acknowledge the mishap, I continue reading and-- though the students always laugh, I don't laugh with them-- instead I put the water bottle on my stool and continue the section and while I am questioning them about the meaning of Hamlet's advice, I stride past the stool and "accidentally" knock the water bottle off the stool, spilling water all over the carpet, and I after I pick up the bottle and place it on the stool a final time, then I trip and actually kick the stool over, water bottle and all-- and usually by this time some clever student figures out that I am illustrating the text . . . and to prove this, I show them that I have brought a spare shirt, so that I can do my performance in multiple classes (otherwise they would figure that I was just spastic, which is often true) and so this year, during second period, when I knocked the water bottle off the stool it landed upright . . . not a drop of water spilled, and since I was still in character, I simply picked it up, as if this miracle was an everyday occurrence, and put the bottle back on the stool, but then when I kicked the stool at the conclusion of my act, it slid out from beneath the water bottle, and once again, the water bottle dropped to the floor and landed perfectly upright, and by this time the class could have cared less about the textual demonstration and instead wanted to see more miracles, but I could not reproduce this feat for the rest of the day, which just goes to show that it was an occurrence of divine providence.

Midnight in Paris: Romantically Modern

Woody Allen's movie Midnight in Paris did the impossible-- it actually made me want to visit Paris-- he films the old architecture of the city so beautifully, in yellow saturated tones, that it would probably be impossible to find this Paris as a tourist . . . there is no urban sprawl or traffic or arrogant French people, but the theme of the film is paradoxical, as the moral of the story is that you should be happy in your own place and time, yet his portrayal of Paris in the 1920's is so romantic and magical . . . every scene is full of artistic celebrities-- Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Gertrude Stein, Man Ray, Toklas, Picasso, Dali, Eliot-- and they are all friendly and they speak as if they themselves are their own works of art (Dali asks the time traveling Owen Wilson-- an ersatz Woody Allen-- if he likes "the shape of the rhinoceros") and though the moral is an apt one, as we all think some past reality is more creative and golden than our own, the problem with the movie is that Woody Allen's version of the '20's in Paris really does seem more exciting and wonderful than the present . . . maybe he needed to include some of T.S. Eliot's anti-Semitism or a bit more of the intractably ugly and inaccessible art of the time, or the feeling that this was a "Lost Generation" . . . or maybe someone should have simply died of strep throat . . . and one last thought on the reason that Owen Wilson finally decides to embrace his present: are all the tour guides and shop-keepers in Paris really that hot?

One Tiny Step For Dave . . . and Zero Significance for Mankind.

I'm seriously thinking about thinking seriously about purchasing a mini-van . . . no that's not true: I am thinking seriously about seriously thinking about the purchase of a mini-van (but not in the near future-- I was going to try to buy a van before Spring Break, but since we're only headed to the Catskills, I've figured out a way to stall the purchase-- we're going to drive both the Subaru and the Jeep to the cabin so we can bring everything and the kitchen sink . . . I've been shopping for a new car for over five years, and so I don't want to rush the process at the end . . . and now I'm far more excited about buying a new bike, anyway . . . especially since I could buy thirty new bikes for the price of one used Toyota mini-van).

Let's Take A Moment and Think Logically

So now that all the uproar over Daylight Saving Time is over, let pitch my plan to you-- and I will admit that when I first explained this plan to my students and colleagues, they laughed at me-- but now I know how to approach the matter in the proper manner, so please bear with me . . . I will begin by asking a few simple questions:

1) is this the age of computers?

and (of course) the answer is "yes"

2) what is 2 times 30?

and (of course) the answer is 60

3) were the children tired the Monday morning after Daylight Savings Time?

and (of course) the answer is "yes"-- so when I propose this I want you to think about the children, all the tired, bleary eyed children . . . the children who don't get enough sleep because they want to watch the Super Bowl, the children who have to stay up late on a Monday night to watch the NCAA Championship, these aggrieved children . . . and so here is my plan, my plan for these children: instead of "springing ahead" an hour all at once, we "spring ahead" two minutes a day for a month . . . computers take care of the time-shift, and if you miss a few days on clocks that need to be set manually, there's no real problem . . . and so you can make a difference in the life of a child, for the low cost of two minutes a day, a mere two minutes a day and you can save a child, just two minutes a day . . . think about it.

A Good Walk Spoiled (By My Dog's Anus)

My son Alex asked me if I could bring our dog Sirius when I picked him up from school on Tuesday, and of course I obliged him, as nothing is better for an eight year old boy than to be greeted by his loyal companion after a long day at school, and then we decided to hike over to "the secret path" and the sun was shining and the weather was warm and the day seemed idyllic-- a father, a son, and the family dog out for a walk on a beautiful day-- and once we got into the woods, Sirius crouched in order to defecate, which pleased me because it meant I could bury the poop under sticks and leaves and instead of having to scoop it up in a bag, but after pushing out a few clumps, Sirius couldn't seem to bring his business to an end . . . an oblong chunk of poop wouldn't dislodge itself from beneath his stumpy tail, and Alex and I decided that we needed to help him-- so Alex held him still and I scraped at the offending piece with a stick, but no luck, this was one stubborn piece of poop . . . and Sirius was doing his best as well, occasionally crouching and shaking, but this didn't work either, so Alex pulled up his little tail and I went at the poop with some leaves, but that didn't work either, and at this point we certainly had poop on our hands and there were little specks of it on his coat, and then I spied a crumpled napkin on the forest floor and grabbed that (without thinking: for what was this napkin used before it was tossed on the ground?) but the napkin didn't dislodge the poop either, and so Alex and I gave up and decided we would take him to the dog park and let him run around, as we were certain the poop would come loose then, but after a couple laps around the dog park, the poop was still there, and so I decided to take matters into my own hands-- literally-- I took one of the bags from the gratis poop-bag dispenser and put my hand inside it, to use it like a glove, and then I got right up in there . . . and as I felt the consistency of the thing protruding from my dogs anus, I had an epiphany: two days before Sirius tore up a mitten and ate some of the stuffing inside it, stuffing that was long and stringy and white, and about an inch of this stuffing was sticking out of my dog's butt-hole-- covered in fecal matter-- and that's why it wasn't going any where, because the rest of the strand was inside my dog's colon, and I realized that it was my job, as the master of the dog, to pull out the remainder of the stuffing, which I did, and it came out rather easily, as it was lubricated by fecal matter: a six inch piece of stuffing, and-- as I'm sure you've guessed-- it was no longer white.

Don't Beat Yourself Up . . . Blame It On Daylight Saving Time

Note to self: coupons don't work unless you take them out of your pocket and actually hand them to the cashier (and, of course, I made this mistake on Monday, the day after we all "sprung ahead," and so I am suing Daylight Saving Time for my financial loss . . . as there is some evidence that the hour time shift is to blame for just about everything iniquitous in the universe).

An Unworthy Cause

I know there are worthier causes to devote my time to-- people around the world are starving and oppressed; the ice caps are melting; the rain forest is disappearing; and we haven't cured all the diseases that ail us-- but those things are too abstract for me to ponder . . . I prefer to protest things that affect me more directly, such as the ridiculous nuisance that we call Daylight Saving Time, which I consider further confirmation that we have no control over our modern lives . . . just as I'm getting a grip on my morning schedule (with the help of a chart made by my wife and the fact that there is finally some sunlight at 6:30 AM) I am thrust back into darkness, and for no logical reason-- simply because of a government dictum-- and so I am suggesting that we "take back our hour" and so, for the next Daylight Saving Time, in protest, I am advising you to NOT abide by the change-- show up at work at the correct time, don't set your clocks, don't lose an hour's sleep . . . TAKE BACK YOUR HOUR! TAKE BACK YOUR HOUR! . . . it's catchy to chant and it's a protest that probably won't involve tear gas, rubber bullets, or being hosed down by the authorities.

I am an Idiot, My Wife is a Saint

Friday, as I was pulling into the school parking lot, I felt my cell phone buzz and I instantly remembered what I had neglected to do . . . and then my phone started ringing and I realized that I wasn't going to escape this transgression with a mere text . . . my wife was going to talk to me about this, and so I accepted my guilt, accepted the call, and braced myself for the oncoming tirade . . . "What is wrong with you?" she began and I immediately started apologizing, because there was no excuse-- for the third time in two weeks, I had driven the wrong car to work-- we were trying to take my Jeep to the shop to get the brake lights fixed, but every time she made an appointment (and you need an appointment because our mechanic is so good) I forgot to drive the Subaru to work and instead took the very car that my wife needed to drop off at the garage . . . forcing her to call our mechanic and report to him that her husband was a complete idiot and she would need to reschedule . . . so this time she wasn't going to do that, and so she devised a plan whereby I would drive the car to her school and we would swap cars and I would be able to do this because I had a half day of classes and my parent conference schedule was light in the afternoon-- but there was only one problem, which I explained to her: "The only problem is that I'm supposed to go to lunch with Terry . . . if I drive all the way over there then he won't have anyone to go out to lunch with," and right after I explained the "problem" I realized that it wasn't really a "problem," and more just my concern with eating, but it was too late and so I braced myself once again for a deserved angry rejoinder: "I think it's more important that you get the brake lights fixed on the car that you drive both your children around in, rather than get a slice of pizza with Terry!" and I couldn't agree more and told my wife that I would meet her, and then went into the school and while I was summarizing this book in the English office, and explaining how I was in a System 1 mood, because my wife made me a chart for what I had to accomplish in the mornings (the kids have a chart and I have a chart, and my wife is on the chart, but I don't actually think she needs the chart) and I was very happy that I completed my Friday morning duty (walk the dog) and so I blithely walked out the door and hopped into my car, not thinking that I wasn't supposed to drive my car, and went straight to work . . . and while I was summarizing System 1 and System 2 to a colleague, my phone rang again and my wife told me that she was driving to my school right then, to swap the cars, so that I wouldn't have to drive all over during my lunch, and while I was extraordinarily happy that I was going to be able to have lunch with Terry, I also realized that it might be my last meal on earth and immediately decided that I would send my wife some flowers or perhaps place them in her car at work . . . but then I couldn't even get credit for that, as while I was recounting this story to my first period class, I felt another text arrive on my phone and it was from my wife and it said, "You better send me flowers" and the text also included her school address and the name and phone number of our local flower place, so not only did I know she was serious, but also that she thought I was an incapable idiot . . . but I managed to successfully send the flowers and I have smoothed things over . . . for now.

If You're Going Shopping, It's Best To be Angry

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman shares a wealth of evidence that our intuition works better when we are in a good mood-- we are more creative but also more gullible . . . and he calls this System 1, but if you're going to do something analytic, and you have to consider several positions or the pros and cons of something, then this is called System 2, and to activate System 2, it is better if you are sad or vigilant or suspicious (or perhaps all three, although you might not be much fun to be around) and Kahneman summarizes this by explaining that "a happy mood loosens the control of System 2 over performance: when in a good mood, people become more intuitive and more creative but also less vigilant and more prone to logical errors," and this explains a lot to me; as now I can see why I was in such an ugly mood when I was doing all the shopping around for a new mortgage-- playing one broker off another, crunching numbers, comparing points versus rates, etc.-- and why I'm in such a good mood when I play soccer, which is all intuition, creativity, and spontaneous reaction.

Milestone (From An Outside Perspective)

The other day I went skiing with my two sons, who are six and eight, and it was the first time I took them without the help of my wife, and it was the first time that they didn't take a lesson or even warm-up on the bunny slope; instead, the three of us got on the quad lift, went to the top of the mountain, and all made our way down without incident-- and we did this over and over for four and half hours with only brief breaks for snacks-- and for all intents and purposes the day was a success . . . to an outsider on the mountain it must have appeared as an idyllic boy's day out (aside from one crash getting off the lift, Ian cut me off) and while I do think this was a banner day, I should still warn you people with younger kids who can't wait until they are old enough to keep up with you on the slopes that behind the scenes there is still a lot of grunt work . . . I was on my stomach in the lodge, underneath the table buckling ski boots because their little fingers weren't strong enough, and they still forgot to put on their hat and gloves and they couldn't carry their gear all the way across the parking yet and I had to pull them up hills because they don't give little kids ski poles, and dragging two kids while snowboarding is exhausting, so-- by the end of the day-- I was even more worn out than they were, but I had to drive home while they slept . . . some day it's going to be the other way around.

Ill-Suited Adjective

The marketing department at Herr's needs to have a stern word with the advertising genius who decided to add the adjective Creamy-- written in florid script-- in front of their "Dill Pickle" flavored chips; there are literal problems, of course, as pickles can be "zesty" or "crunchy," but they should never be the consistency of cream . . . and I'd love to analyze the connotations of the phrase "creamy dill pickle," but this is a family friendly blog, so I'll leave the symbolic interpretations to your collectively perverse imaginations . . . the only possible explanation for this filthy and unappetizing moniker is that Herr's is trying to acquire market dominance in the pregnant demographic.

A Bad Choice Followed By A Good Choice

I made a bad when choice when I ate the entire bag of All Natural Kettle Style Sweet Potato Chips in a fit of gluttony after work on Tuesday, not thinking that might my wife might have wanted some of these chips, but when my wife was chastising me for eating all the aforementioned chips, I made a good choice and did not complain to her about my stomachache (which was caused by eating all the chips) because I knew she would not have had any sympathy for me, and in fact, might have gotten even angrier when she realized that, though I was full, I kept eating the chips just because they were there.

Dead Letter Etiquette

What is the requisite length of time you should keep a card? . . . birthday, Christmas, or otherwise . . . and does it matter who gave you the card? does it matter that you're not going to read it again? does it matter if it has a picture of someone's family on it? . . . I believe that this story makes a case for keeping personal correspondence for a great length of time and for destroying it immediately . . . but I feel like I stash holiday cards in a basket for what I consider to be some arbitrarily polite length of time, and then I finally toss them, because some part of me feels like it would be rude to just read them, look at the picture, and then immediately chuck them in the trash . . . stupid card industry causing me more grief.

More Stuff High School Kids Wouldn't Like

Every three years the teachers at my school put on a "Faculty Follies," and though I participated my first year teaching (I played the harmonica and begged for money in a faculty room skit) this made me realize that the theater isn't for me-- I get too nervous and I don't enjoy being on stage-- but last faculty follies I did submit a brilliant idea for a comedy sketch, knowing full well it would be rejected . . . here is the sequence of events:

1) I begin by juggling three balls (I can juggle)
2) I do several basic juggling tricks-- under the leg, over the shoulder, etc.
3) my two beautiful assistants walk out on stage, one wheeling a unicycle and the other with three long-handled axes,
4) I take the axes and heft one of them, testing the weight,
5) I motion for my beautiful assistant to wheel over the unicycle
6) I lean two of the axes against the unicycle and hold the other by the handle
7) the tension builds as I prepare to mount the unicycle
8) instead I smash the unicycle to bits with the axe, take a deep bow, and walk off the stage

and I submitted the form with this description, but never heard back from the organizers, so this year, though I have another brilliant sketch idea, I'm not even going to submit the form: this was a collaborative effort inspired by my colleague Rachel, who was having a very hard time peeling an orange, and it goes like this:

1) Rachel, dressed in black, sits at a table and struggles to peel an orange . . .
2) meanwhile, the PA is blasting Wagner's Flight of the Valkyries . . .
3) Rachel finally peels the orange and then tosses the fruit over her shoulder,
4) she takes a large bite of the peel, makes a disgusted face, and walks off the stage,
5) the orange remains on stage for several skits,
6) Rachel reappears, having trouble peeling a banana . . .
7) she finally succeeds and this time eats the fruit,
8) she tosses the banana peel near the orange and exits,
9)  several minutes later, Eric comes on stage
10) instead of slipping on the banana peel, he slips on the orange,
11) Rachel and Eric bow . . .

this would be a magnificent piece of theater, but I am afraid the humor might be lost on the students.

Sometimes You Need to State the Obvious

I went to a Wizards game Saturday night and Gheorghe Muresan made an appearance in our suite: he is tall, very tall.

If You Like Pina Coladas and Making Love to Yourself

In my creative class, we listened to Allen Ginsberg read a poem called "Personals Ad," and many of the students had never heard of a "personal ad," as they are of the generation, and this led to me summarizing the plot of "Escape," by Rupert Holmes-- you might refer to this as "The Pina Colada Song" and you know the story: a guy who is "tired of his lady" reads a personal ad in the newspaper that describes his perfect match-- a woman who loves "Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain"-- and so he organizes a rendezvous with this lady at a "bar called O'Malley's" where they can plan their escape; so I set all this up and lead them to the dramatic moment in the song and then I asked them: "Guess who he finds in the bar?" and a student who was either only half listening or only had "half a brain" yelled out "Himself"-- an answer which made us laugh, but also an answer that does make sense in a weird way-- and this led to us creating a revision of the song, where instead of reuniting with his lady, the narrator of the song instead meets a cloned version of himself-- perhaps a mad scientist stole his DNA when he was an infant-- and this is what the narrator yearned for all his life: to date himself . . . and then his lady eventually runs into him, and he is hooking up with a cloned version of himself and he is very happy about it, and she is completely disgusted with his vanity and rather bizarre and incestuous behavior . . . Rupert Holmes hasn't had a hit in a while, so perhaps he can record this version.

High School Kids Don't Care About This

Daniel Kahneman's new book Thinking, Fast and Slow, describes and contrasts two "systems" in our brains-- fast thinking and intuitive System 1 and deliberate, tedious, and often lazy System 2-- and he describes his comprehensive research and experimentation observing how System 1 (though brilliant at detecting emotions, recognizing objects, and jumping to fairly accurate conclusions) often screws up our System 2 thinking . . . and I found this example at the start of "Chapter 10: The Law of Small Numbers" both fascinating and indicative: Kahneman explains that the lowest incidence of kidney cancer in the United States is found in counties that are "mostly rural, sparsely populated, and located in traditionally Republican states in the Midwest, the South, and the West" and then he asks you what you make of this information . . . perhaps you speculate that people are exposed to less pollution in these places or lead healthier lifestyles or do more physical work . . . but then he reveals something paradoxical: the highest incidence of kidney cancer in the United States is found in "mostly rural, sparsely populated, traditionally Republican states in the Midwest, the South, and the West" and he asks you to make sense of this conflicting data . . . and perhaps your mind can resolve this-- maybe it has to do with poverty, or tobacco use, or access to poor medical care-- and so both these populations exist in the same regions, but the fact of the matter is that there is no causal reason why this is so-- the reason is purely statistical, and the important part of the statement is "sparsely populated"-- when you have smaller numbers there is a greater chance for statistical anomaly . . . I have a better chance of picking two students at random that both have blue eyes then I do having an entire class of thirty that all have blue eyes-- the two person sample is too small to indicate anything-- and so the only reason that the highest and lowest incidence of cancer occurs in the same type of county, demographically, is that these counties tend to have less people than other regions; this logical fallacy is common, the Gates Foundation determined that smaller schools are often more successful and invested substantial funds in creating small schools, sometimes even breaking large schools into smaller units, but what they neglected to realize is that small schools are often the most successful and they are also often the least successful . . . because their smaller populations are more likely to vary statistically; I found this idea compelling enough to explain to several of my classes, and I made a discovery of my own: high school kids DO NOT find this interesting at all . . . they don't want to guess why the incidence of kidney cancer is low, they don't want to guess why it is high, they don't want to speculate on the nature of the paradox, and they are certainly not excited to find out that there is NO causal reason for it.

A Number of Universal Significance

Today is the day,
I turn forty-two--
the meaning of life
but according to who?
and if you know,
I'm willing to bet
that you have read
all the books in the set--
you know that the dolphins
had such simple wishes,
they just wanted to say
thanks for the fishes.

Glad I'm a Dad

Dads talk about what they did with their kids, while moms talk about what they neglected to do.
A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.