Open House Tip for Elementary School Parents (Part II): How to Reduce the Odds Your Child Will Be Bullied in High School (and Middle School)

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The Secret Behind Silent Success

There’s a joke that folks like to tell at various self-help conferences. It’s usually in the inspirational key-note speech. Two guys are out camping. One guy brings his fastest running shoes. The other guy brings heavy rugged hiking boots.

The boot guy asks the sneaker guy why he’s wearing sneakers. The sneaker guy says, “In case we meet a bear.”

The boot guy looks perplexed. “You’ll never be able to run faster than a bear,” he says.

“Don’t have to,” says the sneaker guy matter-of-factly, “I just have to run faster than you.”

If you haven’t read Part I of this two-part series (“A Surprise Gambit Leads to Victory and Yet Another Surprise – This Time for the Victor,” Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, September 12, 2019), you should before continuing. In this Part II, I’ll break down some of Continue Reading “Open House Tip for Elementary School Parents (Part II): How to Reduce the Odds Your Child Will Be Bullied in High School (and Middle School)”

Cuomo’s Albany Red Flags New York

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Imagine a knock on your front door in the middle of the night amid urgent screams from the other side. Half-asleep, you stretch yourself out of your comfortable bed and stumble your way to your foyer.

More awake now, you’re curious as to where all that light is coming from through the small sidelight windows that sandwich the entrance to your home. The knock at the door suddenly turns into a rapid pounding as your hands fumble around the door knob. “I’m right here!” you shout back. The bellows on the other side get only louder, and deeper.

After a moment, you can feel the lock disengage. You twist the knob and slowly begin to open the door. Perhaps a crack to see what’s going on, you tell yourself.

Only you never get the chance. The moment the bolt is released, the door bursts open and Continue Reading “Cuomo’s Albany Red Flags New York”

There’s Something Pleasantly Relaxing About a Steady Summer Rain

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What is it about a steady summer rain that so soothes the soul?

It’s a lazy summer Saturday. Tiny droplets gently pitter-patter on the skylight in the family room. Too soft to be called a “drumbeat,” it’s a beat nonetheless. A stable beat. A mesmerizing beat.

A beat the has you closing your eyes and relaxing. You snuggle a bit as you sink into the comfortably cozy couch cushions. It’s a reclining couch, triggered by a small button strategically placed within easy reach of your left arm. An electric whir compliments the soft thud of the continuing wet beat overhead as you lean back into your leisurely morning.

What is it about a steady summer rain that so soothes the soul?

Continue Reading “There’s Something Pleasantly Relaxing About a Steady Summer Rain”

The Liberty of the Ad Lib

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Did you see what I did there?

“Liberty”…

“Ad Lib”…

Get it?

OK. I have to admit. It is a bit of a stretch. At least from a literal standpoint. The “lib” of “ad lib” doesn’t stand for “liberty.” It’s actually the short form of the Latin phrase ad libitum.

Ad libitum literally translates to “at one’s pleasure.” There’s no “liberty” in it at all. Our word “liberty” derives from the Latin word liber. In Latin, liber and libitum mean two different, albeit not wholly unrelated, things.

The Latin liber means “free” or “unrestricted.” You can easily see how we get “liberty” from Continue Reading “The Liberty of the Ad Lib”

Was This Written 50 Years Too Early or 50 Years Too Late?

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I‘ve always been puzzled by this thought: Was I born 50 years too early or 50 years too late? This thought resurfaced this week as I rode the train back and forth to Chicago while the rest of the world dazzled itself with remembering the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.

It reminds me of a skit I once did as Cubmaster for Peter’s pack. We had our meetings in the cavernous Mendon Firehall. It was always filled to capacity. Filled with boys, their parents, and their siblings.

That night I donned a pair of Buzz Lightyear “wings” (actually they were my young nephew’s and I don’t know how I fit them over my shoulders without overstretching them). After strutting a few steps with those wings, I added a Woody hat on top of my head.

Maybe one of the Toy Story movies was out that year.

In either case, I asked the pack to guess who I was. Some of the boys says “Buzz” and some said “Woody.” I said “Nope” to each guess. Then I looked up to the parents in Pack 105 and said – in a distinct John Wayne kind of voice – “Well, pilgrim, some people call me a ‘The Space Cowboy.’”

And so it has been in my life. Teetering on the precipice of “born too early” while simultaneously straddling the ledge of “born too late.” Some might view this as a Continue Reading “Was This Written 50 Years Too Early or 50 Years Too Late?”

We’ll Always Have Paris… How The Business of Sequels Destroyed America’s Youth

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They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. That may be true, but it is also the greatest impediment to progress.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a certain business sense to imitation – and I don’t mean outright theft of intellectual property. I’m referring to the “variation on a theme” that has become a successful marketing trope since well before Beethoven, Bach, and The Beatles.

Companies use the goodwill (and good publicity) generated by a top selling product, give it a tweak here and there, then come out with a “new” product that borrows heavily from the theme of the original. Rarely, however, does this sequel product ever reach the heights of its predecessor.

Here’s an example. Following the tremendous success of Continue Reading “We’ll Always Have Paris… How The Business of Sequels Destroyed America’s Youth”

The Fantastical (Real-Life) Time Machine

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I had the pleasure of being invited to perform for Living History Day at SUNY Fredonia a couple of weeks ago. The all-day event features dozens of “acts.” It’s offered to hundreds of 7th graders from throughout the Greater Western New York region. They’re bussed in early in the morning and attend live demonstrations of everything from Seneca Indian dances to artillery cannon fire.

These 12-year-olds watch as regiments from the Revolutionary War (both sides), the War of 1812 and the Civil War (both sides) conduct their drills. They see real-life colonial cooking, frontier gaming, and homespun crafts. The learn from medicine women, Suffragettes, and military historians. They discover 18th century artifacts, 19th century women’s fashions, and 20th century genealogical grave hunting.

All this is done in period dress. Not just generic period dress, but actors dress as actual historical characters. I walked in with Harriet Tubman. Later I saw her talking to Abraham Lincoln. I could have sworn I saw a British general drinking coffee with Susan B. Anthony.

And they were all in costume. Even the civilians wore clothing of the era they represented. You can see from the pictures from the event. Everyone donned the fashion of the time from which they spoke and lived.

All except me.Continue Reading “The Fantastical (Real-Life) Time Machine”

Should You Go Wide or Go Deep?

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Remember a couple months back when I said I discovered a way to add more hours to my day? (If you don’t, here it is: “That Time I Discovered ‘Idle Time’ Doesn’t Really Exist,” Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, March 14, 2019). With all that rediscovered time I was able to explore a dusty section of unread books in my expansive library. (And by expansive, I mean… Wait. Forget it. It only gets Betsy mad.)

I began this new venture by perusing an entire series of books from the pens of the greatest copywriters. These books defined the advertising industry as it emerged from the 19th century into the 20th. They represent the primordial tracks from which Madison Avenue men evolved. They spawned a persuasive style that combined art and science into an effective (sometimes too effective) tool.

By “art” I refer to the words that effectively captivate and motivate the reader. But how do the words work as intended?

That’s where the “science” comes in. Today we call it “market research.” Claude C. Hopkins, acknowledged as perhaps the greatest copywriter, called it “scientific advertising.” His book by the same name (published in 1923) shows how an ad means nothing unless it stimulates its audience to act. He not only wrote the ads, he studied how Continue Reading “Should You Go Wide or Go Deep?”

One-Upping Warren: This is the Right Way to Forgive Student Loans

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It was one of those silly socialist ideas that normally come from the mouth of Bernie Sanders. No one took it very seriously in 2016 when the then 74-year-old Vermont Senator tried to win the (we now know rigged) Democrat nomination from Hillary Clinton. He proudly declared “free college for everyone!” The kids loved it. The adults giggled.

The Clinton establishment knew this kind of talk wouldn’t fly in fly-over country (hint: that’s us). It was too radical. Too impractical. Too communist. So they laughed at Bernie and encouraged him to say what he said.

Little did we know.

Andrew Cuomo, with a watchful eye on his own 2020 political ambitions, decided to see Continue Reading “One-Upping Warren: This is the Right Way to Forgive Student Loans”

Mechanical or Intuitive: Which Approach Works Best for You? – A Real-World Lesson (Part II)

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The Conclusion of: “Style or Substance? A Real-World Lesson – A Real-World Lesson (Part I)

“Yes, you may hit the right notes more often than Chris,” she began, “but your intuitive desire to physically search for the perfect note interferes with the broader tempo of the entire piece. Chris is mechanical. To him, keeping that tempo is more important than finding the perfect pitch. The concertmaster’s job is to lead the entire orchestra in maintaining this tempo.”

The answer shocked me. I never thought of myself as a mere machine. But there it was. The teacher had just said so. I was mechanical, not intuitive.

This didn’t sound right. How could a machine find the joy in playing the way I did? Wasn’t a machine dispassionate? Doesn’t a machine work precisely because it has Continue Reading “Mechanical or Intuitive: Which Approach Works Best for You? – A Real-World Lesson (Part II)”