Archive for the 'Family' Category

Stay Hungry, Don’t Worry, Go Placidly, and Always Wear Sunscreen

The death of Steve Jobs yesterday was a chance for many to reflect on how the tech titan had directly impacted their everyday lives. Though I had not used an Apple product since my parents traded in our TI-99/4A for an Apple IIc in the mid-1980s, even an i-curmudgeon like myself felt a sense of loss.  For me the impact was from his famous inspirational speech to Stanford Graduates in 2005.

If you have not read it in its entirety, I highly recommend – read it here -. For me, among this particular category of inspiring, insightful, and downright useful advice, it is one of the best.

Certainly it fits in well with other inspiring messages including Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (“Do not worry”), Desiderata by MaxEhrmann (“Go Placidly among the noise and haste”), and the much more lighthearted, but no less useful, Wear Sunscreen by Mary Schmich.

Steve’s summation of his message to graduates? He admits in borrowing it from the Whole Earth Catalog: “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” but the speech is sprinkled with beauty and insightful nuggets throughout including one of my favorites:

Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away.*

Which to me sounded similar to the last page of Shel Silverstein’s posthumous, recently-released poems in Everything On It:

When I am gone what will you do? / Who will write and who will draw for you? / Someone smarter, someone new, someone better? / Maybe you?

I do hope the world produces more Steve Jobs and Shel Silversteins, I miss them both.

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* A great Steve Jobs quote that demonstrates this viewpoint is “When Apple first started out, people couldn’t type. We realized: Death would eventually take care of this.” (Walt Mossberg, All Things Digital, May 28, 2003)

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Say You Like Turkeys!

(Assume a haughty posture and say condescendingly) “Back when I went to school…”  the only piece of paper I remember ever getting sent back home to a parent was a report card. 

My, how times have changed.  The modern parent is subjected to a daily deluge of school papers that seems to imply a misguided belief that education can be achieved by mere dead tree sacrifice alone.  No Child Left Behind seemed to bring this educational fad to a fever pitch, but only exacerbated the existing problem.  My unscientific signal to noise ratio estimate of these papers would be about 1 marginally meaningful paper to 10 unuseful ones. 

But occasionally one does find a rare gem in the mineshaft.  As happened recently when I saw an assignment to make an “Acrostic (a related phrase for each letter)” out of the word “Thanksgiving.”  I should explain that “Thanksgiving” is a rather long word to a 2nd grader so some themes may get repeated.  For instance:  “I (heart) turkeys,” ” No vechtables,” and the rather authoritarian: “Say you like turkeys!”  But see for yourself:

Say You Like Turkeys

Say You Like Turkeys

Mystery Solved

I always wondered how the daughter was able to successfully put hats, glasses, and you-name-it on our pet dog, when the second I tried to touch or place any object on our dog’s head, she would thrash violently until the foreign object was dislodged and summarily disposed of. 

The secret, as it turns out, as in all endeavors, is persistence.  Just keep doing it again and again (say for fifteen very gleeful and entertaining minutes to a child) and resistence apparently gives way.  At that point, the dog resigns to her fate as a dress-up model and will submit to almost anything (well, OK, even at that point, the dresses apparently are still a challenge).

The Whatifs and Other Monsters Under the Bed

The other night while I was lying awake worrying about something that I can no longer even remember, I came to notice my daughter lying on the floor beside the bed (a frightening shadowy apparition in itself until you learn to expect such behavior).  Eventually she presumably found the uncarpeted floor less hospitable than her own bed and returned there.

The next day I asked her why she was there and I got the standard kid answer for such nighttime behaviors: because of “Monsters under the Bed.”

I then wondered what I in the heck I was doing up at that time myself and realized it was pretty much the same thing: going to some cold, hard, dark place and worrying about my own “Monsters under the Bed.”  Those both irrational and rational fears we have when the din of the outside world quiets and we are left alone with our own unique thoughts and concerns.

This is a time and mood captured perfectly by the Shel Silverstein poem Whatif:

Last night, while I lay thinking here,
some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
and pranced and partied all night long
and sang their same old Whatif song…

…Everything seems well, and then
the nighttime Whatifs strike again!

Shel and I just need to keep telling ourselves: those nighttime Whatifs and Monsters under the Bed aren’t real, they’re just illusions of our overactive imaginations and worst fears.  Even our most rational fears only very seldom come to pass and as wittily told in Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen):

The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday

So go back to your own bed.  Turn on a flashlight or shine some hope and optimism into your worried mind and let those Whatifs and Monsters under the Bed fade away and melt back into the shadows.  4PM on some idle Tuesday will no doubt come soon enough, so for now appreciate and be grateful for the day you just had and look forward to and be hopeful for those yet to come.

10 Years of WWILF’ing, Information Smog, and Distractions

First Computer ReceiptAlmost as if it was longing to be found and remembered on its tenth anniversary, I came across this receipt today for the first computer I ever purchased – 10 years ago today*. 

As I ponder this anniversary of sorts, it might be useful to reflect on what has changed in the 10 years since I first brought such an object (and many subsequent ones) into my house.

Firstly, computers have proliferated in my house like Tribbles, I have a basement full of relics (including this first one) and 3 of them within 10 feet of where I now sit (not even counting things like MP3 Players, GPS’s, etc.).

The wife’s irritation at their presence and the time I spend in front of them has oscillated back and forth between mild and serious annoyance.

I gained the freedom to do some work from home as well as the expectation from employers that I do work from home.  Home and work life have morphed into a single entity – but at least I now leave work on time and always make it home for supper.  Even if right after supper I am back to checking email.  

I have only read a handful of books and never again subscribed to a newspaper.  I haven’t been to a library or opened an encyclopedia in years.

I have spent probably no more than a single hour of continuous concentration on any one single thing.  A constant stream of emails, IMs, and many other digital distractions have all contributed to this attention deficit. 

More positively, as my treasured family photos have migrated to sites like Flickr, I no longer live in fear that a house fire would permanently destroy these precious items. 

Reflecting on all of this, it is useful to remember a time not so long ago when computers and the Internet were not an integral part of our daily lives.  And also perhaps worry just a bit, that the negative trends listed (the constant communications, interruptions, intrusions) will only multiply at an ever-increasing rate until we become little more than computer processors ourselves. 

Overall, looking at the past ten years, one can see that this new media age, like the TV-age that preceded it, holds the promise of even greater convenience and access to information, while taking away things like solitude and concentration.  How you feel about that I guess depends on which of those things you value more.  But enough concentration for one hour (and one decade) – time to get back to WWILF’ing** and another 10 years of digital distraction.

                                                                                                                  

* It is also interesting to recall the fact that by 1998 I had worked as a computer programmer for over 2 years before I could even get enough money together to afford one.  The first year of work, I didn’t even have a computer on my desk.

** WWILF = What Was I Looking For?

Hash House Harrying and Krispy Kreme Challenging

I heard of a few amusing new “sports” this week: 

I figure such events are only the natural progression of all those supposedly well-meaning matrons forcing junk food on their kids at those youth sporting events.  I can remember at my kids’ soccer league games, I was always a bit peeved by the parents who were compelled to organize the “halftime snack” of juice boxes and Little Debbies.  Especially since I figured that this was probably the only time half of those kids had gotten out of the house away from this junk all week; yet even here in the middle of the soccer pitch, junk food was thrust on them.

On the other hand to look at the positive side, if you figure folks are just going to eat donuts and drink beer anyway, they might as well get in some jogging (and puking).  But be careful, and I am not making this up, one of the few “rules” is “no puking on purpose.”

So move over bowling, darts, and pool, eating and drinking just found a new companion sport.  Krispy Kreme Pizza House Harrying Anyone?  Jog a 5K while eating a dozen donuts, a medium pizza, and drinking a 6-pack of beer. 

In Case You Didn’t Know It

Daddies will do anything for their little girls….

Daddies Do Anything For Little Girls