Ode to a Fallen Tree

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I remember buying it. It was, maybe, eight inches tall. Despite its size, it formed the perfect shape of a tiny Christmas tree. It didn’t look like a Bonsai Tree. Its needles were full size, out of scale and too big for a Bonsai Tree.

The little blue spruce wasn’t the only tree I bought that day. It was the fall of 1986 and my house was brand new. I had no furniture of my own. I had no family of my own. I had no lawn, no landscaping, no home, really.

I was in the process of making my house a home. The first thing I needed to address had Continue Reading “Ode to a Fallen Tree”

The Problem with Ambition: Sometimes You Don’t Need It to Succeed

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We often think of ancient Rome as a patriarchal society. That may have been true then, but from what I’ve seen, in Italian culture it’s been the women who run things. Whether its grandmothers, mothers, or wives, they represent the backbone of the family and the community. Sure, it seems like the men are in charge, but that’s exactly what the women want them to think. In reality, if the men are the pillars, it’s only because the women are the solid foundation.

Do you recall one-word themes of your youth that have forever shaped you?

Growing up, my grandmother regularly imparted to me and my brother her formula for success. It wasn’t enough to possess talent, you had to possessContinue Reading “The Problem with Ambition: Sometimes You Don’t Need It to Succeed”

Say “Yes!” to Life

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As any good soul of the space generation would, I leapt at the chance when the Kodak Center offered tickets to see William Shatner host a screening of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. As with 2001: A Space Odyssey’s Keir Dullea last year, (see “Exclusive Interview: 2001: A Space Odyssey actor Keir Dullea one-on-one with Sentinel Publisher Chris Carosa,” Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, January 26, 2017), I had hoped to score an interview with the man who first portrayed Captain Kirk. Alas, our schedules didn’t allow it.

Catarina, perhaps feeling slightly sorry for her Continue Reading “Say “Yes!” to Life”

The Power of Losing Positively

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“Into each life some rain must fall.” Do you recall when you first heard this time-honored adage? Recording artists from Ella Fitzgerald to the Ink Spots to Queen have crooned serenades featuring this famous phrase. It was referenced in Steve Martin’s movie “My Blue Heaven.” But the true source of this inspired wisdom harks back to the early America of the nineteenth century. For it was, in 1842 – undoubtedly on a dark and dreary day – that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow sat down at his desk and penned his classic poem “The Rainy Day.”

What might have moved Longfellow to write these words? Perhaps he still mourned the loss of his first wife Mary, who died in 1831. Maybe he had become despondent over his near decade long courtship of Frances, the woman who would eventually become his second wife. What ever the source, the expression packs power. It’s the kind of power the Continue Reading “The Power of Losing Positively”

How to Convince Everyone You’re Really Smart (Without Actually Doing Anything Really Smart)

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Confirmation bias is a terrible thing to waste. So don’t.

If you’re the least bit curious about what I just said, then this column is written just for you.

Dilbert creator Scott Adams’ recent book Win Bigly defines confirmation bias as “the human tendency to see all evidence as supporting your beliefs, even if the evidence is nothing more than coincidence.”

Have you heard the expression “First impressions are lasting impressions?” A simple explanation shows the truth of this adage. It goes like this:Continue Reading “How to Convince Everyone You’re Really Smart (Without Actually Doing Anything Really Smart)”

Did Shirley M. Collado March in the Women’s March?

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While last year’s Women’s March reflected a strictly partisan nature, organizers purposely tried to broaden its appeal by focusing on the current #MeToo campaign against sexual assault. Granted, some continued to view it as strictly an anti-Trump event, but others did not. You no doubt saw in your FaceBook feed a picture of a local resident marching in Washington DC’s march carrying a pro-life sign. If that isn’t a sign of inclusiveness, I don’t know what is.

All across America and Canada (at least), the #MeToo movement permeated the event. Speeches referenced the proliferation of sexual harassment stories coming from Hollywood, Washington, and high-profile media personalities. It’s a theme that unifies across the political spectrum, from conservative to liberal. Perhaps that’s why so many participated in the Women’s March this weekend.

One person, however, who should not dare include herself among the participants in any Continue Reading “Did Shirley M. Collado March in the Women’s March?”

2017 in Review: The (non) Story of the Year

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There’s a common adage among skeptics the world over: “Who watches the watchdog?”

Decades ago I had the honor of serving on the HFL School District’s newly formed “Technology Committee.” This group was tasked with the job of trying to determine the best way to integrate the then new technology of personal computers (and related software) into the learning environment. We quickly saw one of the greatest advantages as the enhanced ability to conduct research from direct sources. Librarians saw this as an opportunity to free up rare shelf space by replacing printed (and quickly outdated) encyclopedias with their digital (and instantly undated) equivalent.

For every upside, however, there’s a glaring downside. In this case, it was the credibility of Continue Reading “2017 in Review: The (non) Story of the Year”

‘tis the Season

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If the forecast is correct, there may be snow on the ground by the time you read this. Still, even if the dullish green grass and crumpled brown leaves remain, there’s no denying we’ve entered that special time of the year – the Christmas Season.

There. I said it. I said “Christmas” instead of “Xmas,” instead of “Holiday,” instead of “Winter.” instead of “Xmas.” I don’t say “Christmas” to ignore practicing Jews, who celebrate Hanukkah beginning on the Hebrew calendar date of 25 Kislev (which falls on Tuesday, December 12th this year) and lasts for 8 days (December 20th this year). I say “Merry Christmas” because that’s what my family celebrates (and has celebrated for generations). If my family had celebrated Hanukkah instead, I would be wishing everyone a “Happy Hanukkah” rather than a “Merry Christmas.”

Well, maybe I’d still say “Merry Christmas.”

Why? Because, despite efforts by Christian groups to deny this and by anti-religious Continue Reading “‘tis the Season”

Are You an Instigator, a Skeptic, or Merely Somebody Else’s Tool?

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They say the world is made up of two types of people. They’re wrong. The world consists of three types of people, but two of those types get all the press.

Journalists like to frame issues in a binary fashion – one side against another. That’s simple. It’s black and white. It’s A versus B. Reporters don’t do this because they can’t handle the complexity of multiple opposing points of view. They structure their stories as a duel between competing interests because readers find those stories easiest to digest. The audience finds such pairings quite familiar. Literature is replete with examples: Ahab vs. Moby Dick, Sherlock Holmes vs. Professor Moriarty, and Bambi vs. Godzilla, to name a few.

It’s not just drama. Philosophy often has an attraction to complimentary combinations. We see this most markedly in the Taoist notion of “dualistic-monism” as expressed in the Continue Reading “Are You an Instigator, a Skeptic, or Merely Somebody Else’s Tool?”

A Bully Tactic: Give Them Something to Deny

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If you knew me in high school, you’d know I engaged in a never-ending battle against AP English. It’s ironic, then, that my most thoughtful memories of high school come from those very classes I disdained. This story begins with one of those memories.

I don’t remember the context, but I do remember the lesson. It may have been during our review and analysis of The Scarlett Letter, where guilt is a major theme. The teacher, Mr. Polito, wrote on the board the following phrase: “Give them something to deny.”

This bewildered most of the class. He then mentioned it as an allusion to a made-for-TV movie thinly disguised to mimic the events surrounding Watergate. With Washington DC as its political backdrop, the movie’s antagonist was asked repeatedly how to defeat an Continue Reading “A Bully Tactic: Give Them Something to Deny”