Category Archives: advice

There is no end zone

[This post is participating in Strange Culture's Dads In Media blog-a-thon.]

Some time ago I wrote,

The movie [...] teaches that worry is an inextricable part of parenthood, which is a comfort in a way. Thanks to Finding Nemo, when I encounter a worrying situation in my role as a father, I cope a little better. I know that it goes with the territory, that it’s universal, and that there’s a right way to deal with it.

An even more potent touchstone for teaching us to accept the worries of parenthood is Parenthood, the 1989 film by Ron Howard, and its central point is nicely summed up in a scene between Frank Buckman (Jason Robards) and his son Gil (Steve Martin). Frank has learned that his black-sheep son, Larry, is in deep trouble with the mob. While ostensibly asking Gil’s advice about whether to help Larry pay off his gambling debt, Frank’s really coming to terms with the hardest truth about having children: no matter how long you and your children live, if you love them, you never stop worrying about them.

Just earlier in the film, Gil had a fantasy in which his troubled young son Kevin grows up to be confident, successful, and happy, praising his dad in his valedictory address at college. Fantasy-Gil reveled in a job well done. Now here is Gil’s father with the dismal news that:

There is no end zone. You never cross the goal line, spike the ball and do your touchdown dance. Never.

And yet for all the worrying about children (of all ages) that occupies the film’s many parents, the message of the movie is a positive one: that lifelong worry is a small price to pay for the profound joys of parenthood. This too is summed up neatly in a scene where Grandma interrupts Gil’s obsessive fretting with a seemingly irrelevant story.

Vitamin C

Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash, a cult classic, was published in 1992 and set in a mildly dystopian not-too-distant-future. (One that reality grows increasingly to resemble bit by bit.) In the story, it becomes the goal of some characters to capture and analyze a sample of a new street narcotic called “Snow Crash.” But distribution of Snow Crash is so tightly controlled that when a user buys a hit from a dealer, it comes in a dispenser with a ten-second timer, already counting down. The user is obliged to inhale it on the spot, or watch it spray uselessly into the air when the timer reaches zero. Posing as a buyer, Y.T. receives her hit and, rather than inhale it, tosses it straight up into the air. A flying machine zips in overhead, catches it, flash-freezes it in liquid helium, and disappears with it. Other devices facilitate Y.T.’s escape from the dealer’s lair. The security expert behind the operation, Mr. Ng, later says, “We now have a sample of Snow Crash, something no one else has been able to get. It is the kind of success on which reputations such as mine are constructed.”

I know how he feels. On Monday I started my new job, as a software engineer for Google, a plum position for someone like me that (despite the vast size of Google’s engineering organization) is notoriously hard to get. It was the culmination of a job-hunt process in which I was fortunate enough to have more than one Silicon Valley technology giant vying for my services, and as a result, I’m riding a confidence high.

When you have successes like that under your belt, it’s easy to be confident. But there’s a chicken-and-egg problem: to succeed in the first place, you need confidence to try things worth succeeding at.

This is something that has been weighing on my mind and Andrea’s for a while, at least since our last meeting with Jonah’s kindergarten teacher. She told us that he has the capacity to be a class leader and lacks only the confidence to step up to some challenging tasks, to stop following the pack. This critique rang true; we’d observed in Jonah a tendency when trying new things to expect he’d be unable to do them. This despite our encouragement and his obvious competence.

Where can you get the confidence you need to achieve your first successes?

Understanding this catch-22, my dad sought to instill confidence in me and my sister from a very young age. He referred to it as “vitamin C” and frequently touted its magical power to make the difficult easy. The way to have confidence, he told us again and again, was to be sure ahead of time that you could do whatever it was you were trying to do — hit a softball, ride a bike, flip a pancake. Before trying something tricky, focus your mind. See yourself accomplishing it. Then do it. If you fail, it’s not because you can’t do it — obviously, since other people can do it, so why not you? It’s only because you didn’t use enough vitamin C. Try again, and focus harder on feeling confident.

This approach worked on me and my sister, after a fashion. We grew up feeling confident and we were therefore adequately bold in the choices we made (which is, after all, the very purpose of confidence). Much later in life, though — after I had developed real confidence — I recognized my childhood version of that feeling for what it really was: bravado, the insubstantial cousin of confidence, insubstantial because it’s unfounded.

Bravado does some of the work of true confidence, but it fails you when you need it most. Worse, whereas a surfeit of confidence makes a person calm, cool, and collected, an excess of bravado produces arrogance. For I had learned that “Vitamin C” meant being sure you could do anything, and if deep down you really aren’t, then how can you convince yourself that you are — other than to tell everyone how capable you are? Other than to brag, that is.

So how did I finally develop “real” confidence? By the passage of time, mainly, during which I racked up meaningful successes once in a while, developing my skills and developing my self to the point where I’m finally satsified with who I am and what I can do. Many years ago I would have claimed to be satisfied, but I would have been wrong, and here’s how I know: I no longer feel like I have something to prove all the time. When I was younger I did, boy howdy did I.

So now I’m in a serene confidence zone, which is great for me, but what about Jonah? He’s only six. He hasn’t had decades to develop his skills or his personality. We’re back to our main question: Where can you get the confidence you need to achieve your first successes?

Until this past Sunday, I had a gimmicky answer to that question: to get real confidence, act as if you have it to begin with. Just as pretending to laugh can lead to real laughter, pretending to be confident can get you through tricky situations, producing real confidence.

For example: when I started college, I didn’t know a soul in Pittsburgh. For the first several days I was desperately lonely until finally I’d had enough of that and decided to do something about it. Spying a group of fellow freshmen chatting together — complete strangers — I pretended confidence, strode over, broke into their conversation, and made them my friends. Lifelong friends in some cases, as it turned out.

So the pretend-confidence thing worked for me on that occasion, and on a number of others. With pretend confidence I was able to accumulate enough successes to form a foundation for real confidence. And until Sunday, that’s the advice I gave whenever the subject arose of how to become confident.

But then on Sunday I saw something that made me change my mind. I had decided it was time for Jonah finally to learn to ride a two-wheeled bike. (I wrote many months ago that he already had, but it turned out to be a false alarm.) Andrea and I took him and Archer to the empty schoolyard and began giving cycling instruction. Archer lost interest pretty quickly, but Jonah gamely tried several times to balance the bike, standing on one pedal while kicking off the ground with the other foot, as if riding a scooter. He was getting visibly better, his kicking foot staying off the ground for longer and longer intervals, when he declared he was tired and would do more next time. He unbuckled his helmet.

At this point, Andrea channeled her high school self and began cheerleading. She encouraged him so insistently and so, well, cheerily that he could not resist — he refastened his helmet and did another circuit of the schoolyard, this time a little better than before. Again he told us he was done and again Andrea cheered him on to another lap, and another, and another. Finally she persuaded him to try sitting down while pedaling and letting me let go of the bike — and away he went, a little wobbly but undeniably riding a two-wheeled bike entirely on his own!

Jonah lost all trace of tiredness. He rode around and around the schoolyard with the biggest possible smile on his face, so drunk with accomplishment that when he fell and scraped up his legs, or when he rode his bike straight into a wall, he wasn’t deterred even a little bit. He just wanted to keep riding. And that’s when something about the past few months clicked into place for me:

In the time since our parent-teacher conference, Jonah has learned to read ever-more challenging books and to write a paragraph-long “book report” each week; he has started taking piano and karate lessons; and he has cultivated a new and better group of friends than the ones he had before. Each of these developments was accompanied by more or less whining from Jonah about being unable to do this or that, but these protests fell on unsympathetic ears as Andrea and I insisted that he not only could, but he must. And because we compelled him, he saw again and again that his protests were false: with a little work he could figure out a sentence full of long words on his own, he could find the right notes in a tricky piano exercise, he could learn to ride a bike in a single afternoon. And now Jonah is visibly more confident than he was just a short time ago.

So now I think the premise with which I started this article is wrong. To succeed in the first place, you don’t necessarily need confidence to try things worth succeeding at. Just as good is having someone loving, persistent, and occasionally merciless driving you to discover for yourself the amazing things you can do.

Want what you want

For my freshman year at college, CMU‘s dorm-room allocation policy paired me with a music major named Joe.

We were not well-matched — or we were, depending on whether you thought Felix and Oscar were made for each other. I was a math/science/computer nerd who didn’t know a soul in Pittsburgh. He was a Pittsburgh native with movie-star looks, an athletic inclination, and several high-school buddies around. About the only thing we had in common other than our dorm room was that I wanted sex with lots of college girls and he had sex with lots of college girls.

We traveled in different circles and on different schedules. We saw each other only seldom, even in our room.

One day I ran into him in a student lounge on campus, playing the piano — beautifully, of course. Later, back in the dorm, I told him (not for the first time) about how envious I was of his ability, and about how long and desperately I’d been wanting to learn the piano myself.

Joe asked me whether I’d ever taken lessons. I told him I had, briefly, for just a few weeks once, and that occasionally since then I’d sit down at the keyboard and try to produce some nice sounds, but that I never seemed to get anywhere. Was there anything specifically stopping me from learning the piano? he wanted to know. Only having enough time, I answered.

Joe and I got along well. He was pleasant and easygoing. But on this occasion he uncharacteristically lost his patience with me. “You obviously didn’t want to learn piano enough,” he told me, “or you would have done more about it long before now. So either do something or admit you don’t want to learn piano as much as you say you do. Either way, stop complaining!”

I was stunned, but I grasped the rightness of his words at once.

Obviously, while I’d been busy with launching a computer dating service, having subway adventures, memorizing movie dialogue, staging a fantasy photo shoot, and generally trying in a hundred ways to have a very cosmopolitan high-school life, Joe had been somewhat more single-mindedly practicing and developing his talent. I’d made my choices and he’d made his. I’d prioritized my other activites above piano-learning; or, put another way that should have been obvious but wasn’t, I’d prioritized piano-learning below almost everything else.

I doubt Joe could have known the effect his righteous outburst would have on me. If he hadn’t spoken harshly to me — if he’d said in his laid-back way, “You really ought to do something about learning the piano” — it wouldn’t have registered at all. It took a verbal slap in the face to teach me the life-changing lesson that wanting something only enough to complain about it — and not enough to actually do anything — is the same as not wanting it.

Don’t waste time on the stuff you think you want but really don’t, and get crackin’ on the stuff you do.

Secure endcap OR DIE

Like all couples with a few extra bucks and some cooking ambition (from watching plenty of Jacques Pépin and Alton Brown), Andrea and I years ago purchased a KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer, the ne plus ultra of mixing appliances for the home. It is solidly built, and its sterling reputation is well-deserved.

The “head” of the mixer contains a powerful motor. For normal use, that motor drives a downward-facing shaft to which one of a few mixing blades can be attached. For some purposes, however, the output can be directed “straight ahead” instead by removing a cap at the end of the head and attaching an accessory such as the optional meat grinder. (Mmm, ground-up meat…)

One Saturday afternoon recently I was home alone with the kids while Andrea was putting in extra time at the office. We decided to bake a cake! I hauled the mixer out of its usual place on our seldom-used-appliance shelf (and I do mean hauled; as I said, it’s solidly built, and the thing is damn heavy) and set it up on the kitchen counter. The kids and I mixed up a batch of cake batter in the mixer’s bowl. They watched as I switched it on and for a few moments thereafter, then disappeared into the living room to play and await the completion of baking.

I remained, gazing into the bowl for the recipe-prescribed two minutes of high-speed mixing time, hypnotized as usual by the combination spinning and orbiting of the mixing blade (which KitchenAid calls — colorfully and rightly — “planetary” mixing) making a Spirograph pattern in the batter. What I didn’t notice until the very last second was the endcap on the head rattling loose from the vibrations of the motor. Normally the cap is secured by a screw tightened by a black knob. The kids may have fiddled with it and loosened it while the mixer sat unused on the appliance shelf. Now, as I watched helplessly, it worked itself free and dropped into the bowl.

Like every other part of this mixer, the endcap is a hefty chunk of metal. The massive steel mixing blade, all but invisible as it spun at top speed, batted it effortlessly out of the bowl and straight past my head about two inches from my right temple. I retrieved it from the far side of the room, locating it by following the thready trail of cake batter it flung up and across my shirt, over my shoulder, and along the floor and walls.

F.J. Raymond famously called “being shot at and missed” even more satisfying than an income tax refund, but there was nothing satisfying about this miss. I was seriously rattled. I counted the many ways in which I was one lucky bastard, beginning with not having brained or blinded myself or my kids and ending with not having even made a dent in the sturdy mixer blade, bowl, or endcap. I promptly gave Jonah a long-overdue lesson on how to use our cordless phone to call 911 if he should ever, you know, find Dad lying in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor, or something.

Ready to rumble

My coworker Kerry is a cofounder of The RumbleBox Coalition, a non-profit dedicated to supplying emergency kits to Bay Area residents for surviving the first 72 hours after a major earthquake (or other disaster). “RumbleBoxes” contain first aid supplies, food, water, a hand-cranked flashlight and radio, and more. The coolest part, and the thing that places me in awe of Kerry, is that RumbleBoxes are distributed free of charge to needy families; funding comes from donations and the sale of RumbleBoxes to the not-so-needy.

I bought mine yesterday and now instead of fearing the next big earthquake I’m almost looking forward to it! If you’re in a disaster-prone area (e.g., Earth) where there’s a chance you’ll be cut off from infrastructure or emergency services for a while, you should get one too.

Bob the Dad knows his b’s and d’s

I’m pleased to report that after a brief plateau, Jonah’s reading skills are burgeoning beyond our best expectations. It’s amazing to see him power through his reading each week, mentally correlating (ever more quickly) the occasional unfamiliar printed word with its familiar spoken counterpart.

However, he still occasionally mixes up his lower-case b’s and d’s, and who can blame him? So to help him, I devised this little mnemonic.

I’m all set with a mnemonic for lower-case q’s and p’s if he should need it, though it doesn’t seem like he does:

Q and U are friends, so the stem on the q wants to be close to the u: qu. But P and U? Pee-yoo!

What brings you here, 2007 edition

Here are some of the top queries from various search engines that resulted in hits on my blog during the past year or so, reproduced verbatim from my server logs. (Last year’s results are here.) Each related family of queries is listed with a main variant in bold and selected other variants, plus the percentage of query-hits represented by that family.

I was at first surprised to see that hits for “James Bond villains” outnumbers hits for “vampire lesbian girl scouts” (etc.) and “sex” (etc.) combined, but then realized: the percentages are a function both of the popularity of that search and of the ranking of my site in the search results. In other words, if you’re looking for anything about vampires or lesbians or sex I regret to say there are a lot of likelier websites for you to visit before mine.

James Bond villains; The Villains of bond; deformed bond villains; “james bond” +villains +clothes 10.2%
William H. Macy; william h macy photos; face de William H. Macy 5.0%
Vampire lesbian girl scouts; lesbian vampires; naked lesbians; lesbian girl scouts; naked girl scouts; kissing lesbian girls; zombie girl scouts; evil girlscouts; girl scout decorated cake 4.5%
Sex etc.; horsey style sex; lesbian masturbation; “sex positions illustrated”; vampire sex; lesbians having hot lesbian sex; lesbian sex soundeffect; “San Francisco Masturbate-a-thon”; squat girl masturbate -cock -man -boy -blow; dildo attached to wall; sex positions kitty style; attach dildo to floor; How to convince my lady staf for sex?; sex positions in alphanumeric; “park and ride” “sex positions illustrated” 3.2%
Jaws ride; Jaws ride construction; jaws hitchcock 3.1%
e to the i pi plus one; pi relation to e; mathematical constant e Euler comic; relating pi, e, 1 and 0; “amazing relationship” e pi 2.3%
Don Fanucci; vito corleone fanucci 2.3%
Honeybee/Bees in chimney; humming sound when close glass fireplace doors; honeybees in chimney; bees in fireplace; bees chimney flying down 2.2%
Star Wars; 5th august 1977; star wars remake; hoth rebel base; “your tauntaun will freeze”; exegesis “empire strikes back”; star wars ben kenobi ghost; was obi wan strong enough to defeat palpatine; In Episode 5 what is the insult of Leia to Han Solo which Chewie laughed that Han called him “fuzzball” ?; lego star wars millennium falcon; star wars cassette tape 1977; “bob glickstein” “star wars”; mark hamill car crash empire strikes back monster; han solo slices open tauntaun quote; HOW DID THE FREAKIN EMPIRE BEGIN?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!; August+5th+1977; star wars novelization 1977; What does yoda say when luke comments that he is not afraid; why didn’t Luke kill the Wampa; “asteroid field”+”star wars”; star wars allegories; star wars 1970 nerd; “time magazine” 1977 “star wars” 2.1%
Pirates of the Caribbean; pirate medallion; does elizabeth swann love jack sparrow; elizabeth swann’s red dress; jack sparrow character motivation 2.1%
Widescreen viewing area; “what size tv to buy”; “square inches” diagonal widescreen chart; determine tv width given diagonal; 42″ 16:9 square inches; 16:9 4:3 screen equivalence OR correspondance; DIAGONAL ASPECT RATIO FORMULA; pythagoras 16:9 screen size 32″ 1.8%
Godfather; Godfather part II poster; Godfather Part 4: Fredo’s Revenge 1.8%
Susan Oliver/Orion Slave Girl; vina star trek; star trek green orion slave; nude Orion slave girl; orion slave girls makeup; orion slave girls color correction 1.7%
Cathy Lee Crosby/Wonder Woman; cathy lee crosby wonderwoman film download; cathy+lee+crosby+as+wonder+woman; wonder woman drag; WONDERWOMAN TV MOVIE 1.7%
Rogaine; scalp conditions; itchy scalp; rogaine results; scalp exercise; rogaine effectiveness 1.7%
Ursula sex; ursula undress; ursula dildo; ursula sex disney 1.6%
Comcast; comcast removes channels; comcast turn off service; comcast losing west coast feeds; complaints over comcast hbo; disable speed reduction comcast cable; compression artifacts comcast; how do i delete channels i do not watch in comcast; comcast crappy broadcast; comcast reduction in service; do i get a rate reduction when comcast removes channels; I want both west coast and east coast feeds 1.6%
Bob Glickstein; gee bobg; “bob glickstein” +yoga; bob glickstein andrea; bob glickstein imdb; growing up Glickstein 1.4%
Trophy; ugly trophy; dna trophy; bezos trophy 1.3%
Dog; how to draw dogs; “remington dog park”; dog pee drives away evil spirits; veterinary dogs and chocolate 1.3%
Lulav; lulav and etrog; big picture of a lulav and etrog; lulav by its self; lulav etrog chabad; sukkot lulav without etrog 1.3%
Star Trek/Enterprise/Kirk/etc.; spock uhura; Uhura uniform; 60 star trek uniform; bonk bonk on the head star trek; Captain Kirk’s Insignia; enterprise blueprints; happy birthday star trek; Klingons-Star Trek; Atheist Star Trek; 1.2%
Amy Linker; what happened to amy linker; amy linker and tv land awards 1.1%
Jodie Foster; jodie foster bugsy malone; YOUNG JODIE FOSTER; +”give a little love and it all comes back to you” +foster 1.1%
Joseph Costanzo; joe costanzo restaurant; Joseph costanzo primadonna 1.1%
The end of Superman; superman reverse time; superman in the end; superman earth spinning; can superman go the speed of light; how many times can superman fly around earth in 1 second; +”it is forbidden for you to interfere in human history”; superman rewind time; how many times does superman fly around the earth in order to reverse its rotation 1.0%
Frank Pentangeli; frank pentangeli hit; roth corleone Frank Pentangeli assassination; frank pentangeli johnny ola 1.0%
Thai gem scam; thailand scam; majestic export jewelry thailand scam; gems profit thailand; thai sapphire scam; thailand conman; buying gemstones, thailand, blog; thai Export Center scam; selling thai gems; what to do if conned in thailand; david maurer thailand 1.0%
Evil cats 0.8%
Food photography; food stylist; food styling “pasta”; food stylists cereal; food stylist burger; tricks of a food stylist 0.8%
Each daughter has the same number…; In a certain family each daughter has the same number of brothers and sisters. Each son has twice as many sisters as brothers. How many sons and daughters are there in the family? Now there are two ways to do this obviously, you can do it the hard way or the easy way. 0.8%
Fizzies; what ever happened to fizzies drink tablets; how do fizzies work; fizzies that are new; Fizzie tablet sex aid; truckload of fizzies; FIZZIES FOUNTAIN 0.7%
James Bond; vintage james bond girls; james bond toys; the bond men; Live and Let Die Band James Bond 0.7%
Pez museum; pez incredibles violet; batman pez dispensers; pez guns; why didnt violet parr become a pez machine; headless PEZ dispensers 0.7%
Vincent Price; old photos of Vincent Price; Vincent Price gay; “the saint” vincent price; 0.5%
Candy; old time candy; “dylan’s candy bar”; Candy of yesteryear 0.5%
Entenmann’s; golden cake; entenmanns’ chocolate chip filled crumb cake recipe; entenmann fudge golden cake 0.5%
Adam Stoller; why i owe adam stoller an apology; fish adam stoller 0.5%
MoveOn; moveon.org bad; moveon.org founder; move away from moveon.org; moveon endorsements nov 2007 election 0.5%
Vertical speed indicator/Altimeter; static port; instrument dial Concorde speed; how does an altimeter work; pitot static instruments; ram air pressure pitot; how does the vsi work? flying 0.5%
Cigarettes/Camels/Still Life With Woodpecker; Joe Camel; tom robbins woodpecker; camel tom robbins 0.5%
Baron Munchausen; was baron munchausen an atheist 0.5%
Sharon Stone; sharon stone naked; sharon stone’ pictures, 1970; sharon stone en lingerie fine 0.5%
Computer; computers internet blog; “apple II home computer” 0.4%
xkcd; xkcd complex numbers; calculus xkcd; math xkcd 0.4%
Bob Falfa/Martin Stett; big bob falfa; purchase a bob falfa hat; falfa and milner 0.4%
Adrift/Open Water 2; “open water 2″ true story tried everything; understand explain open water 2:adrift ending?; FORGOT TO LOWER LADDER ON YACHT 0.4%
Honda Fit; finding a honda fit; pre order “honda fit” bay area; vw rabbit or honda fit? 0.4%
Carl Sagan; “carl sagan” +billions; cosmos carl sagan vangelis heaven hell; “circumference of the earth” carl sagan; eratosthenes carl sagan; Carl Sagan and Star Trek 0.4%
Splashdown; splashdown lyrics meaning; i feel so elated would you please bring me joy lyrics; free splashdown downloads karma slave; lyrics so if your past approaches you pulled into a war you’ll lose; karma slave splashdown video; i feel so elated i do i do splashdown 0.4%
The Incredibles; Life Lessons The Incredibles; incredibles analogy of family togetherness 0.3%
Legobiggest lego city ever made; Cool lego creations; LEGO WORLD RECORD FOR MILLENIUM FALCON 0.3%
Birthday invitation; neverland invitation 0.3%
Mill Valley Pediatrics; what new rule causes pediatrician to close office; dr. Harris pediatrics mill valley 0.3%
BDSM; BDSM and rodent; hellium balloons bdsm; bdsm “trembling with fear”; professional bdsm pittsburgh; bdsm vanity plates 0.3%
Richard S. Castellano 0.3%
Bugsy Malone/Scott Baio; coca cola jingle+you give a little love and all comes back to you 0.3%
Games magazine/Calculatrivia marathon; ken jennings calculatrivia; “games magazine” contest t-shirt 0.3%
Penis; Jonah Falcon penis; christmas penis drawing; penis peeing pictures; penis doodles; “draw a penis” 0.3%
Drawing/scribbling/doodling; kids scribbles 0.3%
Raiders of the Lost Ark; indiana jones medallion + raiders of the lost ark; indiana jones finds millenium falcon; indiana jones harrison ford sean connery 0.3%
I know it was you Fredo.; Johnny Ola Fredo; HOW DOES MICHAEL KNOW ABOUT FREDO; +”why” +michael +kill +fredo 0.3%
Federation Trading Post 0.2%
Funny epitaph; headstone humor; headstone for mom 0.2%
Batman; shark repellent spray; batman and the shark; batman robin “more toyetic” 0.2%
Handshadow; Hand-Shadow play 0.2%
Peter and the Starcatchers 0.2%
Watch neighbor undress; neighbor undress photo 0.2%
Lemon Ice King of Corona; queens ices 0.2%
Weight; weight graph; college freshman weight graph; jewish weight loss 0.2%
Marty Goldstein/Black Book; ‘marty goldstein’ ‘creative black book’; i remember going to the black book office zanetti 0.2%
Kinds of meat; meatballs three kinds of meat 0.2%
Fligth to Mars 0.2%
Supertanker; how much does a supertanker cost?; how many barrels of oil does a supertanker carry; how much money does a supertanker captain make; running costs for a supertanker; becoming a supertanker captain; supertankers are curved 0.2%
Jewish; jew obnoxious; jewish products; mormon jew; mountain jew; val kilmer sephardic jewish 0.2%
Cartelligent; Leigh Taylor, Cartelligent; cartelligent price for honda fit 0.2%
Sweetener; hooray sweetener; cyclamates popularity sodas; Is Cyclamates good for you; sodium bicarbonate sweetener cancer 0.2%
Captain Morgan rum 0.2%
Gerald Zanetti 0.2%
Bush smile 0.2%
Salt Lake flats; nevada open salt lake 0.2%
Disney; disney+AND+fingerprint; disney park hopper fingerprint; thumper disney 0.2%
Koyaanisqatsi 0.2%
Katharine Hepburn 0.2%
Incremental backup; jungledisk incremental backups; s3 backup incremental mirror linux; simple linux incremental backups; infinite backup 0.2%
Rhymes with Bethany; bethany accident utah; something that rhymes with bethany; poem for bethany 0.1%
Sci-fi spaceships; cool Scifi Spaceships; most beautiful spaceships 0.1%
I Dream of Jeannie; healey irresistible to when i dream of jeannie episode; i dream of jeanie colorization 0.1%
Laundry; how to get quarters laundry; cold undissolved laundry soap; monopolize laundry machines; laundry pile 0.1%
Anakin/Padme; How much do Anakin’s talent, pride and ambitions affect his decisions to turn to ‘the dark side’? 0.1%
Making Mr. Right; malkovich “making mr right” 0.1%
Pop-culture grid; “the pop culture grid”+last concert you saw 0.1%
Adventurer’s Inn; toboggan adventurer’s inn 0.1%
Clemenza; young clemenza; who killed clemenza 0.1%
Glenne Headley 0.1%
1776/“Yours Yours Yours” 0.1%
Nature of reality; 10 dimensions of reality; how to understand ten dimensional reality; three-dimensional pants 0.1%
Dunk tank; “spring carnival” dunk 0.1%
Misconstruction 0.1%
Sarah Jessica Parker; sarah jessica parker in square pegs 0.1%
Mr. Arrigo; Robert arrigo teacher 0.1%
Eli Attie 0.1%
Hog-calling time in Nebraska; What tune is hog calling time in nebraska sung to?; ORIGINS OF HOG CALLING; hog calling songs 0.1%
Eulogy for a friend 0.1%
Indiana University; indiana university hofstadter 0.1%
Cynthia Nixon; Cynthia Nixon manhattan project 0.1%
Pine Knoll Bungalow Colony; bungalow colonies in monticello 0.1%
Prison Break; prisoner 94941; michael scofield myer briggs; “prisoner number” scofield 0.1%
Winnemucca, NV; Winnemucca weekly pet friendly motels; reasons to love Winnemucca, NV 0.1%
Steve Volan 0.1%
P.S. 196; all teachers from p.s.196 0.1%
Knish Nosh; knish nosh health department 0.1%
Mucoshave 0.1%
Laser/Theodore Maiman; 1966 national geographic “the laser’s bright magic”; what kind of food does theodore maiman likes; did theodore maiman get alot of money for making the laser 0.1%
Jeff Bezos; BEZOS THE GREATEST 0.1%
Universal Hall Pass 0.1%

World widescreen web

Thinking of upgrading your conventional picture-tube TV to a fancy new flat-panel widescreen? But you’re on a budget and don’t want to go overboard? Confused about what size TV to buy? You’ve come to the right place.

The main criterion for choosing a screen size is one that I have not seen described in other TV buying guides: viewing area. The viewing area of a 32″ conventional TV is 492 square inches, whereas the viewing area of a 32″ widescreen TV is a mere 438 square inches! If you’re upgrading from a 32″ conventional TV you’ll want at least a 34″ widescreen to get the same viewing area.

Here’s how I arrived at those figures.

The advertised size of a TV display is the length of the diagonal. If from the diagonal we can determine the height of the display, h, and the width, w, then the viewing area is h×w. Thanks to Pythagoras we know that h2+w2 = 322. But this isn’t enough information to determine the viewing area: we also need the fact that the aspect ratio of most conventional TV displays is 4:3, which means the width of the display is four-thirds the height.

Substituting 4h/3 for w and then simplifying gives us:

h2+(4h/3)2 = 322
h2+16h2/9 = 322
25h2/9 = 322
h = √(9×322/25)
h = 3×32/5 = 19.2

Plugging that into the formula for viewing area (h×w) and recalling that w = 4h/3,

h×4h/3 = 19.2×4×19.2/3 = 491.52 square inches

Knowing that the aspect ratio of widescreen displays is 16:9 and using similar arithmetic gives a result of 438 square inches for a 32″ diagonal.

In fact, the math shows that for a given diagonal, the viewing area of a 16:9 display will always be about 11% less than the viewing area of a 4:3 display.

But wait! It’s not as simple as finding the widescreen TV that has at least the same viewing area as your conventional TV. You should also take into account the kinds of programming you watch.

Do you watch a lot of wide-format movies on your 4:3 TV? If so, you’ve certainly noticed the “letterboxing” needed to fit the wide aspect ratio of the film into the narrow one of the display. You’re not using the entire viewing area; some of it is wasted, as much as 32% of it for very wide format formats such as “CinemaScope.” With a 16:9 TV the need for letterboxing wide-format movies is decreased or eliminated.

Similarly, if you watch a lot of conventional TV programming (sitcoms, newscasts, etc.) on a widescreen TV, you’ll get “reverse letterboxing,” also called pillar boxing, where the black bars appear not on the top and bottom but on the left and right of the image to make the taller aspect ratio fit into a shorter one. Here again you’re wasting some of your viewing area.

So think about the kinds of programming you watch and consult this handy table that shows the true image size (in square inches) for various combinations of TV diagonal size, TV aspect ratio, and programming aspect ratio. Choose a TV that gives you the best image size you can afford for the types of programming you typically watch.

Program aspect ratio
1.33
(4:3)
very common
1.66
(5:3)
some movies
1.77
(16:9)
“widescreen”
1.85
(13:7)
VistaVision
2.35
(33:14)
CinemaScope
4:3
screens
20″ 192 154 144 138 109
27″ 350 280 262 252 199
32″ 492 393 369 354 279
36″ 622 498 467 448 353
42″ 847 677 635 610 480
46″ 1016 813 762 732 576
50″ 1200 960 900 865 681
16:9
screens
20″ 128 160 171 164 129
27″ 234 292 312 299 236
32″ 328 410 438 420 331
36″ 415 519 554 532 419
42″ 565 707 754 724 570
46″ 678 848 904 869 684
50″ 801 1001 1068 1027 808

Prescription from the happy hippie family

As a fundraising gimmick, Jonah’s preschool sells bricks that you can have inscribed with a brief sentiment, your family’s name, etc., and that are then set into the pavement in front of the school. Like good soldiers we bought a brick a couple of weeks ago with the names of both kids (Archer will be attending this preschool in the fall), but as the deadline for buying bricks drew near, we realized, why not be great soldiers and buy an additional brick?

Having dispensed with our need for familial self-memorialization (say that ten times fast!) we were free to consider witty or inspirational inscriptions. I liked Andrea’s first suggestion: “SMILE,” which had the virtues of extreme simplicity and near-infallibility (i.e., it would make people smile). She liked my suggestion that we use our family motto, “Always do everything” (Latin: Semper fac omnia — thanks, Vicky). We also considered the phrase, “Know the what / Understand the why,” which popped into my head the other day as a kind of update of Benjamin Franklin’s saying, “What signifies knowing the names if you know not the nature of things?”

In the end we chose “Make someone smile” as a more broadly prescriptive variant of Andrea’s original idea — it should make the reader smile and make the reader make someone else smile too.

Take the time, do it right

I used the following story at work the other day to illustrate why some of us should avoid some ill-advised shortcuts and choose instead to stand up to critics of how long our project is taking:

In 1995, when my primary flight training was complete, it was time for my checkride to see whether I’d become a licensed pilot or not. For the checkride I had to fly from my home airport, Petaluma, to the FAA examiner’s airport, Santa Rosa (er, the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport — yes, that Charles Schulz). That flight was uneventful. When I arrived I shut down and secured the plane as usual, then went in to talk to the examiner for a while before we began the “practical” (flying) portion of the examination.

Unlike Petaluma, Santa Rosa has a control tower, which means you must radio for permission to taxi. So after preflighting the plane, climbing aboard, strapping in, putting on my headset, starting the engine, and performing the pre-taxi checklist, I radioed the tower. “Santa Rosa ground, Cessna 24498 on the main ramp, taxi to the active with Foxtrot.” The tower did not respond, which is not too unusual as control towers sometimes get busy and taxi clearances get low priority. So after a few seconds I radioed again. “Santa Rosa ground, Cessna 24498 on the main ramp, taxi to the active with Foxtrot.” Still nothing. I double-checked the frequency to which the radio was tuned, waited a few seconds and tried again. Then again. Finally after several long minutes, with the instructor waiting patiently beside me (and was that a bemused smile on his face the whole time?), I noticed that I’d forgotten to plug the headsets into the radio stack! The instructor and I were able to talk to each other but not to the tower.

Flustered, I explained to the instructor that this was my first time using a two-person intercom with the radio stack. (In small planes, very often the intercom is a separate little box that the pilot owns. Two headsets plug into it, then the box — which usually ends up wedged between the front seats or knocking around loose on the floor of the cabin — plugs into the radio. Before the checkride, I flew solo with no need for an intercom — my headset plugged right into the radio — and before flying solo, my instructor would always set up his intercom for us to use.) The examiner put me at ease, saying, “Anyone could have forgotten to plug in the intercom. It’s not on the checklist. A poor student would have given up and started taxiing without clearance. You did what you were supposed to do, even if it took a little longer.”

About an hour later I was a licensed pilot.

Moral of the story: if it takes a little longer to do things right because you haven’t thought of everything, it’s still better than the alternative.