The Republican tax bill is legitimately but expectedly evil. These two tidbits are surprisingly evil.

Two things happened yesterday that make it seem as if the Trump administration is trying hard to appear as evil as possible.

Almost as if they are auditioning for the role of the next Bond villain. 

And no, it's not the Republican's deeply unpopular tax bill that will cut taxes on the ultra wealthy, raise taxes on millions of middle class Americans, and increase the deficit by enormous amounts. That's admittedly evil but almost any standard, including and especially by the standards of Jesus Christ, who the Republicans constantly profess to love.

But we knew this was coming. It's straight out of the Republican playbook. 

And no, it's not the additional tax cuts that Republicans have added to the bill for (no joke) golf course and private jet owners. These cuts are also unbelievably evil, especially when you consider that more than one-quarter of all American children are food insecure on a daily basis.

But Republicans have been doing this kind of thing forever. 

No, yesterday the Trump administration decided to allow hunters to bring trophies of elephants they killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia back to the United States, reversing a ban put in place by the Obama administration in 2014. 

Trump has gone out of his way to take the side of elephant killers.

Can't imagine why they might decide to further threaten this already endangered species...

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Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and his wife Louise Linton, who is famous for being born into enormous wealth, marrying into enormous wealth, and insulting Americans for not being rich enough, visited the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in order to take one of the most tone deaf photos of all time:

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It's takes a special breed of narcissism and/or stupidity to look at this photo (and the photo of Donald Trump Jr.) and think, "Yes. Perfect. That's the one we want America to see."

Stupid, evil narcissists running the country and not even trying to hide it anymore. 

Take a cold shower every day.

One of my yearly goals was to select three behaviors that I am opposed to and adopt them for one week, then write about my experiences.

During the month of October, I took a cold shower every day in order to increase my productivity.

More accurately, I spent the last 30-60 seconds of my shower with the water switched over to cold. 

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The idea is actually backed by science. From a 2016 piece in Inc. magazine by Jessica Stillman:

A 2007 study published by a molecular biologist named Nikolai Shevchuk found evidence that cold showers can help treat depression symptoms, and, if used regularly, might even be more effective than prescription antidepressants,” he writes. How is that possible? In layperson’s terms “cold water can flood the mood-regulating areas of your brain with happy, sparkly neurotransmitters.”

The experience, disagreeable as it might be, thus tends to reduce tension, and improve mood and memory. And aside from these biological changes, a frigid dip in the morning also has powerful effects on your psychology, according to a New York Times piece praising morning cold showers by Carl Richards. Getting into a freezing shower is undeniably hard, he writes, but if you can make yourself do that, what else could possibly daunt you for the rest of the day?

After a month of standing in frigid water for a minute at a time, here is what I can say about this practice:

I think it works. 

I step out of every shower with more energy and alertness than ever before. Rather than feeling warm and relaxed, I feel alert and alive. I feel like I've accomplished something. I'm moving faster, and I feel more energized and excited about whatever is next. 

This feeling is echoed by Brian Tracy in his book on productivity, Eat that Frog

"Starting your morning by tackling challenges head-on will help encourage similar behavior throughout the day. And, it turns out, there's a wealth of research to back up this idea as well. People who do hard things first tend to procrastinate less and get more done."

It's unpleasant, to be sure, but over time, as it becomes a habit, the unpleasantness decreases significantly. By the end of the month, it was just a thing I did, 

If I'm being honest, I can't say if this practice is increasing my productivity throughout the day. There is no way for me to measure the lasting effects of this cold shower. And since I take some of my showers in the evening, I may not be enjoying the full benefit of the practice. But I know that after 60 seconds under the cold water, I exit the shower with a spring in my step and a sharpness of mind, and I like that a lot. 

For the last two years, one of my resolutions has been to adopt behaviors that I fundamentally oppose for a week or more at a time, and I think I've finally stumbled upon one that I will continue, as crazy as it may sound.  

When you think the awful cover is the original song

Have you ever discovered that a song you love by a particular band or singer is actually the cover of a much more famous (and better) version of the song?

I hate that. 

I'm not talking about the covers that few people know about. Like Joan Jett and the Blackheart's I Love Rock n' Roll, which is actually the cover of a song by The Arrows. Or Soft Cell's Tainted Love, which is the cover of a Gloria Jones song. Or The Clash's I Fought the Law, which is a cover of a Bobby Fuller Four song.

These are obscure and understandably missed. Also the covers are much better than the originals.  

I'm talking about the embarrassing mistakes. The glaring errors. The classic songs that you simply didn't know existed. 

For me, the most embarrassing song is The Drifter's Under the Boardwalk, which I once thought was a Bruce Willis original from his 1987 album The Return of Bruno. 

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Almost as bad was once thinking that Sitting on the Dock of the Bay was a Michael Bolton original. Forgive me, Otis Redding. I was young and foolish. 

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These are not the only two. The following examples are not quite as egregious but still fairly stupid. In some cases, one could argue that the covers of some of these songs are better than the originals, but the originals are certainly good enough to be known:

  • Mistaking Hazy Shade of Winter as a Bangles' original
  • Mistaking Killing Me Softly as a Fugees' original 
  • Mistaking Do You Want to Dance as a Ramones' original (it's actually a cover of a Beach Boys song, which itself is a cover of a Bobby Freeman song)
  • Mistaking Respect as an Aretha Franklin original 
  • Mistaking Twist and Shout as a Beatles original 

Here's one I just learned about:

Whitney Houston's I Will Always Love You is the cover of a Dolly Parton original.

Elysha knew this, but she is a legitimate musical savant when it comes to these things, so there's no telling if this is common knowledge or just Elysha being Elysha. 

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Just last week, ALL THIS happened...

Donald Trump tweeted that Kim Jong Un is short and fat in response Jong Un's claim that Trump was old and crazy. 

Trump also argued that at age 71, he is not old. He did not, however,  defend himself against Jung Un's insanity claim.   

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In response to questions from reporters about Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin's brief meeting during the Asian summit, Trump said that he believed Putin's claims that Russia did not interfere with the election, despite the fact that all 17 United States intelligence agencies agree that Russia interfered with out election and attacked our democracy. Putin then denied that Trump even asked him about election interference during their brief meeting. In response, Trump then lashed out at former US intelligence leaders as "political hacks" and did not refute Putin's assertion. 

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According to the latest poll, evangelicals in Alabama are now more likely to vote for Roy Moore after the disclosures that Moore had sexual relationships with several teenage girls when he was 32 years old and older, including a 14 year old girl.

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One Alabama lawmaker defended Moore by arguing that Mary and Joseph of The Bible had a similar age disparity in their relationship, failing to recall that Mary and Joseph were, at least according to The Bible, were not having sex. Mary was a virgin, at least according to the text. 

A 36-year-old attorney and Trump nominee who has never tried a case and who was unanimously deemed “not qualified” by the American Bar Association was approved for a lifetime federal district judgeship by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Details from the Republican tax bill emerged last week, including the surprise that 47 million middle class households - especially those with children - will get a tax hike while corporations and millionaires will be guaranteed the vast majority of the proposed tax breaks.

Other details from the tax plan include:

Students lose help paying off their loans. Teachers can no longer deduct the cost of buying classroom supplies. Grad students get taxed on their scholarships. Deductions on large out-of-pocket medical expenses will be eliminated. Massive cuts to Medicaid & Medicare. Massive cuts to the funding for Head Start and Pell Grants, while at the same time private school tuition will become fully deductible. Brand new tax breaks to the owners of (if you can believe it) golf courses.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who didn't know the Department of Energy regulated and protected nuclear power plants until he was given the job and actually campaigned on a platform to eliminate the Department of Energy, said that sexual assault could be prevented if we simply use more fossil fuels to keep the lights on.

Trump appointed a man to the Department of Agriculture whose previous job was cabana attendant at Westchester Country Club.

Trump appointed a man to the Energy Department whose previous job was manager at Meineke Auto Repair in New Hampshire.

A new appointee to the EPA Scientific Advisory Board stated that the air in the United States is "too clean for optimum health."

Trump's pick to lead a State Department office of female empowerment strongly criticized the movie "Frozen" for not having enough men in it.

All of this is not to make you despondent  or disillusioned. It is simply to remind you that if you oppose Donald Trump and his leadership, you cannot become complacent. You must act and continue to act until honest, ethical, capable leadership is restored for our country. 

Write to or call your Senator or Congressperson regularly. Download the 5 Calls app, which will make the five most strategic phone calls for you every day and tell you exactly what to say to be most effective. I don't use it every day, but I use it three or four times a week and vow here to do better. 

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Volunteer for a campaign or cause. Make a monetary donation. Run for office. Ensure that your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers are registered to vote. 

Stay informed.  

Every week Trump and his supporters in Congress are attacking the very institutions that make our nation great. They are doing so quietly, strategically, and ruthlessly. We must stand as a bulwark to their efforts. We must resist at every turn. We must make it as difficult as possible for them to erode our democracy and damage our foundations until the 2018 and 2020 elections. 

Download that app. Do it right now. 

I prayed for a full month. Here is what happened.

One of my yearly goals was to select three behaviors that I am opposed to and adopt them for one week, then write about my experiences.

Back in May, I prayed twice a day, every day, for a month, to see what might happen.

Would my heart or mind experience a transformation of some kind?
Would my prayers be miraculously answered?
Would God talk back to me?

As a reluctant atheist, it had been a long, long time since I prayed. As a boy, I can remember a period of time when I prayed each night before going to sleep. Oftentimes this took the form of the Lord's Prayer, but at other times I would pray for things I needed or wanted and for the health and security of my family.

I as a teenager, I found myself feverishly praying to a God who I no longer believed in when my girlfriend was late for her period.

I was desperate and decided to hedge my bets.

I also found myself asking God for help in a broom closet in the basement of the Bourne, MA police station back in 1993, but that was not a prayer as much as a question in need of an answer. I still didn't believe in God, but alone and in the dark, facing a monumental decision, I asked a God I did not believe in for an answer, and I may have received one.  

Since those desperate days, I had not uttered a word of prayer in more than 20 years.

During the month of May, I prayed in the morning and evening. I thanked God for all the blessings in my life. Prayed for the good health of my family, the future of our country, and the wisdom and strength to accomplish all that needed to be done on that given day. I even repeated the Lord's Prayer on several occasions.  

The results:

Sadly, I felt nothing in terms of greater spirituality. No sudden awareness of an ethereal being. No connection to the unseen entity to whom I was speaking. Not a hint of additional faith. 

Frankly, I didn't enjoy the praying at all. I felt a little... infantile. Like I was praying to some parental figure who would supposedly, arbitrarily, possibly bestow upon me an infinitesimal bit of his (or her) supposedly infinite power. I felt like prayer was the act of relinquishing control of my life and passing it onto some unseen other, placing my faith and hope for the future in someone else's hands.

I didn't like that. 

As much as I might wish to have faith, perhaps only for the existence of Heaven and something beyond this mortal coil, I wouldn't want to place my future in the hands of a God would may or may not decide to help me. As much as want to believe in a kind and just God (who frankly would be very different from the God of The Bible), I think I prefer to have faith in myself, my friends, and my family over an arbitrary, seemingly disinterested, and maybe even cruel spiritual being. 

I believe in me. I believe in the love of my wife and children. The support of my friends and family. The goodness of my fellow man. 

God would be nice, too, but if his (or her) power is infinite and the world continues to disappoint in so many ways, I can't help but think that we might be better off placing our faith in each other.    

I didn't finish my month of prayer with any greater faith or belief in God, but I might have found an even greater faith in myself and the people around me. Or at least an appreciation of it.  

So not a waste of time after all. 

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Things I Do #10: I don't look at airline pilots

I don’t look at the pilot when boarding a plane. I'm terrified of looking into the cockpit and seeing a pilot who looks like an idiot or resembles someone who I think is an idiot. 

I don't mind shaking the pilot's hand at the end of the flight and looking him or her in the eye. I'm simply avoiding the danger of spotting the pilot prior to takeoff and thinking, "Oh no. The person responsible for flying this aluminum tube looks like that idiot from freshman algebra."

Self care, people. It's important. 

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I've been told that I'm going to hell. I'm not sure I agree.

About a month ago, I wrote a post that criticized Pastor Greg Locke, an outspoken, Trump supporter who opposes the rights of gay, transexual, and transgender Americans and has gone so far as to call them mentally ill and criminal. 

Specifically, I attacked the ridiculousness of Locke's ""Don't you dare lecture us" rhetoric in response to Eminem's freestyle rap video about Donald Trump after it was clear that Eminem had already lectured to him and he had already listened to it. 

It's a bit of verbal puffery that I cannot stand. 

In response to this piece, a man wrote to me (via Facebook), saying, "Your going to hell."

After pointing out to the gentleman that his response required the contraction "You're" instead of the possessive "Your," I found myself wondering how someone who is religious found his way to believing that this blog post was enough to send me to hell.

As you may know, I'm a reluctant atheist, so the threat of hell is fairly meaningless to me. Even when I possessed faith in God as a child, I never believed in the existence of hell. But this man probably does, and he apparently believes that I am going to suffer eternal damnation as a result of my critique. 

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It seems like a bit of a stretch. One blog post and I'm forced to suffer the fires of hell for all time? 

I clicked on the parts of his Facebook page that are public, and he seems like a decent man. He lives in Hillsboro, Alabama and makes his living as a welder. He has a beautiful family. Smiling children. A seemingly loving wife. They are a family that seem to enjoy football and their faith.  

Yet he believes I'm going to hell.

Would he still believe this if he didn't know me via the Internet? Would he says these words to my face if we were eating a meal together? If our families were picnicking together? If we were watching a football game side by side?

I like to think not. 

Yes, I have my many flaws, and yes, as much as I wish I had faith in God, I don't.

But I want faith. I strive for faith. Does that count for anything?

I also have two cute-as-a-button kids with kind hearts and great minds who love me. I married a remarkable woman who still loves me eleven years after we were first married. I've dedicated the last 20 years of my life to teaching children in the public schools. I just spent a weekend in Kansas City, donating most of my time and expertise to help the poor, the homeless, and the underserved tell their stories. Last night I worked with the children of Holocaust survivors to tell their story. I've worked with ministers, priests, and rabbis to help them preach to their congregants. I have good friends who love me. Family who loves me. Neighbors who like me. I have a 16 year-old dog who my vet says is alive today only because I have given more time and money to her than any pet owner he has ever met. 

I have even been invited to lead a worship service at a local church in the spring. 

Am I really going to hell because I oppose the words of a pastor who calls my gay friends "criminal" and "mentally ill?" Am I going to hell because I support and love my transgender students? Am I going to hell because I stand against a pastor who supports a President who makes fun of the disabled, brags about sexual assault, attacks military veterans and Gold Star families, and lies with impunity?

Does this man really believe that the Jesus depicted in the New Testament would send someone like me to hell? I've read The Bible cover to cover three times, and I can't see the Jesus who I know from that book suggesting that I belong in hell.   

This is the problem with the Internet. People are emboldened to say things that they might never say in person. They type words that might never come from their mouths, feeling like digital distance protects them from judgment. They often become the worst versions of themselves.

Whenever I write something online, I ask myself, "Would I say this in real life?" Admittedly, I tend to say things that others might not, but I like to think that the thoughts, ideas, and opinions that i express online are the same as those I speak in real life.

I don't think enough people ask themselves this question. 

I'm not a bad person. Certainly not evil. If there is a hell, I am fairly confident that I will not be going there. 

I'm also fairly confident that if I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with this man, we would find more commonality than difference. More to like than to hate. More reason to be friends than to be enemies. 

I like to think that if he knew me, he might change his mind about my eternal damnation.

Vin Scully's boycott of the NFL is stupid

In response to football players kneeling during the national anthem, Vin Scully has announced tat he will not watch the NFL ever again. 

His comments:

"I have only one personal thought, really. And I am so disappointed. And I used to love, during the fall and winter, to watch the NFL on Sunday. And it's not that I'm some great patriot. I was in the Navy for a year -- didn't go anywhere, didn't do anything. But I have overwhelming respect and admiration for anyone who puts on a uniform and goes to war. So the only thing I can do in my little way is not to preach. I will never watch another NFL game."

Questions:

Does Scully not know that the players who are kneeling are protesting police brutality and racism in the criminal justice system and not the flag or our servicemen and women?

Has he not heard that thousands of military veterans have openly supported the players' First Amendment right to kneel, arguing that this is exactly what they fought and risked their lives for? Some have even taken a knee in solidarity with the players. 

Has no one told Scully that at least one Major League Baseball player also kneeled in protest this past season? Is he done with baseball, too? 

Has he forgotten that he is a wealthy, white man who grew up in a segregated America, attended a prep school, and has no clue about what it's like to be an African American in America today? He can't begin to imagine what it's like to be an African American man during a routine traffic stop or what it's like to be locked up for a crime while your white counterpart goes free. 

Could someone please clue this old, white guy into the stupidity of his boycott, please? I've always liked and admired Scully, but this nonsense is seriously tarnishing his image.

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Porn in a McDonald's line

I was standing in line at a McDonald's inside Bradley International Airport on Friday afternoon, minding my own business, hoping to grab a bite to eat before boarding my flight. 

Then I noticed the phone in the hand of the woman standing in front of me, 

She was watching porn on her phone, earbuds jammed into her ears. I looked closer, thinking that perhaps this was simply a sex scene from a standard Hollywood film, but no.

This was pornography.

No question about it.

I found this both disturbing and impressive. 

Disturbing the carelessness way in which she was flashing her porn to the world, but also impressive in her brazen, unadulterated, dare I say courageous willingness to be herself regardless of the judgement of others. 

This was a woman who did what she wanted, regardless of societal norms and mores. 

My hope is that she at least scanned the area for children, nuns, and Mike Pence before turning her porn on, but once the coast was clear, I fully support her decision to watch whatever the hell she wants on her handheld device. 

It's not something I'd do, and it's not something I'd want a friend traveling with me to do, but as long as you're not harming anyone, be yourself. Do your thing. Be the person you want to be, even if the people around you would choose a decidedly different path.

That is the bravest and truest way to live.

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Daylight Saving should be celebrated (or eliminated)

Daylight saving time should be eliminated. It's one of those things that we continue to do because we've always done it, but it's an asinine policy

But as long as we're going to keep Daylight Saving Time intact, could we at least allow the time change to happen when it can be appreciated and enjoyed?

I was awake in a hotel room in Kansas City at 1:59 AM on Saturday night, so I watched the clock kick back to 1:00 AM, but most people were asleep and couldn't take advantage of the extra hour.

Why not turn the clock back at noon? Just imagine:

You've just finished Sunday brunch, and as the clock is about to strike noon, it kicks back to 11:00. 

Time for second breakfast!

When I was younger, my best friend, Bengi, and I would always host a party on the evening of Daylight Saving because it meant an extra hour to party. To reinforce this idea, we set our clocks back at 6:00 PM so when people entered the house, they were already operating on tomorrow's time.

We understood the value of celebrating the extra hour instead of allowing it to tick by unnoticed.  

But short of this workaround. Daylight Saving goes almost unnoticed unless you have babies or small children whose sleep schedules are now fouled up. 

Let's stupidly, archaically shift our clocks back at a time that would at least give rise to a little joy. In a world where everyone is constantly whining about never having enough time (but doing little or nothing to eliminate that problem), an extra hour every year would be cause for celebration. 

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Bill Murray was wrong. Groundhog Day is AMAZING.

I had a Groundhog-like Day dream last night. The same day repeated again and again.

It was a more precarious and intense day than Bill Murray's character experiences in the classic film, but the premise was otherwise the same:

The same day, in the same town, again and again. No matter what happened during that day, I started the day over every morning in the same place, in the same condition as when I started. 

Here is what I learned:

Bill Murray's character was crazy to want to escape this day. An eternal, consequence-free existence of endless possibilities was amazing.

Perhaps after a century or two, the novelty of this existence would begin to wear off, but a solid 100-200 years, the endless possibilities and consequence-free lifestyle is something I would take in a heartbeat.

Universe?     

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I accidentally assaulted my son in a public restroom

I took Charlie to the restroom in Bertucci's last night. 

Charlie is five years-old and has started using urinals when they are positioned low enough for him to reach. He's quite proud of himself.

He still drops his pants to his ankles when he uses one, so the pride is a little unfounded, but I'll eventually fix that. 

Since Charlie has become so self sufficient, my job when taking him to the restroom is to simply stand by and ensure that hands are washed when the job is done.

I was standing by last night when I heard Charlie flush. A second later, he cried out. I looked, and he was pressing his hands to his groin. I instantly understood what had happened. 

He has caught his penis in the zipper of his pants. 

I ran to him, dropped to my knees,  and began trying to undo the button and zipper on his pants. As I reach down, he pushed me away with his shoulder. Elbowed me. Turned his back. Yelled, "Stop it! Stop it! Leave my penis alone!"

Just imagine what might've happened had someone walked into the restroom at that moment.

"Charlie," I said, finally getting a hold of him. I unbuttoned his pants and yanked down the zipper. "Relax. I'm trying to help." 

"Then why are you pulling my pants down?" shoving me away again. "I pinched my finger on the flusher,"

"Oh."

He hadn't been grabbing his groin. He was simply holding his pinched finger close to this body in pain.

"Can I pull my pants up?" he asked. "This is not okay."

I apologized, but he still wasn't very happy with me. "I want to see Mommy," he said as he washed his hand. Then he walked out while I was still washing my hands.. Didn't say a word. 

I really don't blame him. 

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Peruvian beauty pageant contestants steal a moment

Contestants competing in the Miss Peru 2018 beauty pageant were supposed to take the stage and recite their body measurements for the judges and the audience.

Why this still happens is beyond me. 

Beauty pageants of all kinds are sad, disgusting vestiges of a sexist, patriarchal world that saw women as objects of beauty rather than people of equal or better worth. They are the kind of thing that a man like Donald Trump would own.

But just imagine having to parade in front of judges and an audience and announce your measurements like you're a piece of meat. It's as if they are trying to make the beauty pageant as disgusting as possible.  

However, in this instance, these women ignored this ridiculous, demeaning requirement and instead took the opportunity to highlight a statistic related to violence against women in Peru.

"My name is Karen Cueto, and I represent Lima, and my figures are: 82 femicides and 156 attempted femicides this year."

"My name is Juana Acevedo, and my figures are: More than 70 percent of women in our country are the victims of street harassment." 

Watch the video. It's an inspiring moment. 

I wish that the Miss Peru contest didn't exist. I wish the female contestants would boycott the pageant altogether. I wish advertisers would refuse to support the pageant and audiences would refuse to watch. I yearn for the day when we look upon beauty pageants in the same way we look at a time in American when women weren't allowed to vote:

Archaic, ridiculous, sexist, and demeaning to women.  

But if these pageants must exist, I can't imagine a better way for women to take back a small part of it for their own purposes. 

Resolution Update: October 2017

PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

Still breathing. 

2. Lose 20 pounds.

Two more ponds lost in October, bringing total weight loss to 11 pounds. Another nine pounds in two months during the holidays will be tough.  

3. Do at least 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups five days a week.

Done.   

Someone recently doubted that I am still doing these exercises as often as this goal requires, but that person is obviously a jackass with self-esteem issues. 

4. Practice yoga at least three days a week for at least 15 minutes each day.

I participated in a full week of yoga while teaching at Kripalu back in August. It was incredibly boring.

I have done nothing since.  

5. Take the stairs whenever I am ascending or descending five flights or less.

Done. 

WRITING CAREER

6. Complete my sixth novel before the end of 2017.

Work continues in earnest. The book was due last month month. I'm closing in on the finish line.   

7. Complete my first middle grade/YA novel.

Work continues in earnest. Due date is December.  

8. Write at least three new picture books, including one with a female, non-white protagonist. 

I'm still working on a non-fiction picture book about the great Idaho beaver airlift of 1948.

I also pitched a series of picture books to my agent. She liked them. Eventually.

I've also begun a picture book about primitive life before cellphones.

9. Complete a book on storytelling.

DONE! We have entered the copyediting portion of the process.  

10. Write a new screenplay.

No progress. This is looking unlikely. 

11. Write a musical.

DONE!

I was not able to watch the debut performance of "Back in the Day" but I hear it went really well. 

12. Submit at least five Op-Ed pieces to The New York Times for consideration.

I have submitted one piece to the Times so far in 2017. No luck. Also, I suck in terms of this goal.  

13. Write a proposal for a nonfiction book related to education.

Note-taking completed. My proposal will need to include some sample chapters, so that process has begun. Slowly.  

14. Submit one or more short stories to at least three publishing outlets.

No progress.

15. Select three behaviors that I am opposed to and adopt them for one week, then write about my experiences on the blog.

On the suggestion of a reader:

I spent April praying to God at least once a day. Quite often three or more times per day. As you may know, I'm a reluctant atheist, so I hadn't prayed in a very long time. 

I'll be writing about the experience on my blog this month, which I've been saying every month. 

In October, I followed James Altucher's suggestion about turning the water ice cold for the last few seconds of your shower. It sounds crazy, but science suggests it really might make you more productive for the rest of the day. 

I'll be writing about the results of this experiment later this month.

One to go... Suggestions?

16. Increase my author newsletter subscriber base to 1,600.

I grew my list by just 14 subscribers (my second lowest monthly increase so far) in October (and 256 overall this year). Total subscribers now stands at 1540.

I'm cutting this one close. I need to find 60 subscribers in two months. 

If you would like to subscribe to my newsletter and receive writing and storytelling tips, Internet recommendations, recordings of new stories, and more, you can do so here:

17. Write at least six letters to my father.

Five written so far. 

18. Convert Greetings Little One into a book.

No progress. I am willing to hire someone to take the content of the blog and convert it to book format, but I have yet to find that person. 

Recommendations?

19. Record one thing learned every day in 2017.

DONE!

My favorite thing learned in August is this:

The German word kummerspeck means excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, grief bacon.

STORYTELLING

20. Produce a total of 12 Speak Up storytelling events.

DONE!

We produced a show at Infinity Hall in Hartford, bringing our total number of Speak Up events in 2017 to 15. 

21. Deliver a TED Talk.

DONE!

I spoke about the important things that teachers do at The Pomfret School in April.

I've pitched talks to two other TED events. One has rejected my pitch. I still await the other.  

22. Attend at least 15 Moth events with the intention of telling a story.

DONE!

I attended Moth StorySLAMs in October at Housing Works in NYC and Oberon in Cambridge, MA, bringing my yearly total of Moth events to 17. My name was not drawn at Housing Works, and I placed second at Oberon. 

23. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

DONE!

I won two Moth StorySLAMs in Boston and two in New York in 2017. My win total now stands at 32.

24. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

I was unavailable to compete in the Moth GrandSLAM in my three chances in 2017.

Hoping for one more shot before the end of the year.

25. Produce at least 50 episodes of my new podcast Live Better.

I pulled down my first episode after receiving feedback from a friend who works in radio. I'm currently re-recording with a slightly different format.

That same friend has agreed to build me a template for the show. Obviously 50 episodes will be impossible this year, but if I successfully re-launch the podcast, I will be satisfied. 

26. Perform stand up at least once in 2017. 

I attended the open mic at Sea Tea Comedy Theater in August, not realizing how many comics regularly perform during these open mic nights. Elysha and I arrived about an hour late, and there were 19 comics already on the list. I will return on November 20 and perform to complete this goal. 

27. Write a one-person show.

DONE!

The "writing" for this show is complete. I performed the show at Kripalu, altered slightly so I could teach lessons between stories. 

I'll begin the process of booking a theater for a formal performance now.  

NEW PROJECTS

28. Explore the option of teaching a college class.

I met with a professor from a local college and described my proposed class. She approved of my idea and promised to pass the information onto her department head.    

This isn't enough, of course. I need to speak to a department head or higher myself. 

29. Cook at least 12 good meals (averaging one per month) in 2017.

A friend has passed on ideas and recipes for meals that I plan to make. So far I have done nothing.

30. Plan a 25 year reunion of the Heavy Metal Playhouse.

The search for a location continues, though I am getting frustrated by the lack of forward momentum. 

MISCELLANEOUS

31. I will stand in vocal opposition to every negative comment made about age disparities between male and female romantic couplings because I choose to respect a woman’s choices of romantic partner regardless of their age or the age of their partner.

Nothing to stand against in October. 

32. I will report on the content of speech during every locker room experience via social media in 2017.   

DONE! 

Over the course of the month, I heard no man bragging about sexually assaulting women in any locker rooms (or anywhere else for that matter). This included the locker room at my gym and a locker room at a golf club.  

33. I will stop presenting the heteronormative mother-and-father paradigm as the default parental paradigm when speaking to my children and my students.

DONE!

Not as hard as I thought. I switched over to "parents" in January and haven't slipped yet.     

34. I will not comment, positively or negatively, about physical appearance of any person save my wife and children, in 2017 in an effort to reduce the focus on physical appearance in our culture overall. 

DONE. 

I've also learned that at least seven other people have adopted this policy, which thrills me.    

35. Surprise Elysha at least six times in 2017.

I "surprised" Elysha with a new washing machine in October, which is to say I was in the process of buying us a new washing machine when she decided to start the process herself. So I told her, "Surprise! I'm already doing it." Then she promptly took over the process. 

Five surprises so far in 2017. 

36. Replace the 12 ancient, energy-inefficient windows in our home with new windows that will keep the cold out and actually open in the warmer months.

Our windows were cleaned by professionals, but this does not count. 

37. Optimize our television for a streaming service. 

DONE!

Apple TV is alive and well in our home, thanks to Elysha. 

38. Set a new personal best in golf.

Not even close in September, even though I am definitely getting better.

39. Play poker at least six times in 2016.

THREE poker games in October, bringing this goal into reach! 

40. Spend at least six days with my best friend of more than 25 years.

Four days spent working as DJ's at weddings in total.

I invited him to attend another Moth StorySLAM and a Patriots game in October. 

He declined.   

41. Post my progress in terms of these resolutions on this blog on the first day of every month.

DONE!

Is God now here, or is God nowhere?

This church sign in Newton, MA is fascinating. What did you see when you saw it? 

Presumably the intent was, "God is now here."

But if you're me, I saw "God is nowhere."

Spacing is everything. 

But maybe I'm being too presumptuous. Perhaps the minister or sign attendant or even the congregation took a long, hard look across the American landscape and thought, "What has happened to our country?"

  • A serial adulterer who bragged about sexual assault, attacked Gold Star families, publicly disgraced veterans, failed to keep his promise to release his tax returns, operated a fake university that stole millions from American citizens, and has spent more than 25% of his days in office on a golf course is now President of the United States.  
  • A billionaire's wife who never set foot in a public school is Secretary of Education.
  • A billionaire who spent his career suing the Environmental Protection Agency is now running (and dismantling) the EPA.
  • A millionaire who campaigned on the desire to eliminate the Department of Energy (and did not know it regulated the nuclear power industry) is now running the Department of Energy. 

Maybe whoever is responsible for this sign assessed the state of our country and decided that God is nowhere to be seen. 

Or perhaps this is a signal of an existential crisis. The minister or groundkeeper is doubting God's existence. Maybe the person responsible for the sign is like me:

 A non-believer who wishes he could believe in a higher power.

Maybe not the vengeful, wrathful, violent God of The Bible who sent 42 boys to death at the hands of two bears after they insulted a Hebrew prophet's hairline (2 Kings 2:23-25), but a kinder, gentler God who is less prone to pointing large, angry mammals at disrespectful children.  

I would like that kinder, gentler version God to be somewhere. 

spacing is important.jpg

The 14 women who have accused Trump of sexual harassment or assault

Donald Trump and his Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, claim that all 14 of the women who have accused Trump of sexual harassment and/or assault are lying.

At the same time, Trump admitted to sexual assault while aboard an Access Hollywood bus back in September of 2005, and his description of this assault is strikingly similar to some of these women's accusations.

Trump also famously tweeted this:

trump tweet sexual assault.jpeg

In summary:

  • According to Donald Trump, 14 women are liars, but he is not, even though both he and the women are speaking  about the same same thing in the same terms. 
  • Trump seems to believe that women and men cannot work together without sexual assault taking place.

I have worked almost exclusively in the company of women for 20 years. It is not uncommon for me to be the only man in the room at any number of meetings or professional development. Prior to that, I attended an all women's college and was always the only man in class. 

Despite my proximity to women for almost a quarter century, I am quite confident that no woman would claim that I sexually harassed or assaulted her.

Trump is no different than Harvey Weinstein except that he has a Republican Congress and a Press Secretary standing behind him. History will judge these people poorly. 

The women who have come forward so far include:

Ninni Laaksonen, former Miss Finland.
 “Trump stood right next to me and suddenly he squeezed my butt” in July 2006.

Jessica Drake.
Said Trump grabbed and kissed her without consent, then offered her $10,000 for sex in 2006.

Karena Virginia.
Says she was groped by Trump at the U.S. Open in 1998.

Cathy Heller.
Says Trump grabbed her and attempted to kiss her at Mar-a-lago in 1997.

Summer Zervos.
Apprentice contestant says Trump started kissing her and grabbing her breasts, began "thrusting his genitals" in 2007.

Kristin Anderson.
Said Trump reached under her skirt and grabbed her vagina through her underwear in the early 1990s.

Jessica Leeds.
Said Trump lifted up the armrest, grabbed her breasts and reached his hand up her skirt in the early 1980s.

Rachel Crooks.
Says she was assaulted by Trump in an elevator in Trump Tower in 2005.

Mindy McGillivray.
Says Trump groped her while she was attending a concert at Mar-a-lago in 2003.

Natasha Stoynoff.
Says Trump pushed her against a wall and jammed his tongue down her throat at Mar-a-lago in 2005.

Jennifer Murphy.
Apprentice contestant says Trump kissed her on the lips after a job interview in 2005.

Cassandra Searles.
Says Trump grabbed her ass and invited her to his hotel room in 2013.

Temple Taggart McDowell.
Former Miss Utah says Trump kissed her directly on the lips the first time she met him in 1997.

Jill Harth.
Says Trump repeatedly sexually harassed her and groped her underneath a table in 1993.