I never realized how truly disturbing the opening sequences to 1980’s TV shows were until now.

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Sometimes someone shows you something that you already knew but never realized how ridiculous and terrible it truly is or was.

Like Steak Ums. We thought they were amazing in the 1980s, but it turns out thin sheets of warm, processed meat isn’t so good after all.


This video, which is the funniest thing I have seen in a while, is one of those things.

That said, if you are under 30 years old, it might also make no sense to you.  

When it comes to social media, leave teachers out of it. They love your child too much.

This happens too often on social media, and it must stop:

Parents disparaging their child’s teacher. Almost never without the teacher’s name (thankfully), but the anonymity of the teacher is irrelevant.

The report card has been issued, and the parent disagrees with a teacher’s assessment of the child, so he jumps onto social media to publicly question the teacher’s judgment, ethics or ability to accurately assess a student’s skill level or mastery of a subject. 

The child has been victimized by another student at school, and the teacher’s response to the incident is lacking. After putting the child to bed, she blasts that teacher on social media for favoritism or an inability to discipline the class.

Homework has been assigned, and in the opinion of the parent, it is incongruous, confusing, too easy or too hard. The parent uses social media to criticize the homework and question the teacher’s ability to design an assignment.

I understand the instinct to vent your frustrations over social media. I understand the desire to solicit feedback from others via a social network. I know that oftentimes parents are simply looking to have their feelings and opinions validated by their social media compatriots.

But here’s the thing:

In my 15 years of teaching, I have met very, very few teachers who don’t genuinely love their students. Almost every teacher who I have ever known loves almost every student in his or her classroom.

Think about how amazing that is.

Someone who has been arbitrarily assigned to work with your child for 180 days has found the capacity to genuinely love your kid and every other kid in that classroom.

Teachers have given their lives to protect their students. There are very few teachers I know who wouldn’t risk their own lives to protect their students.

How many people in this world would place their life on the line to protect your child?

That is a gift.


When you take to social media and begin criticizing, insulting or even questioning your child’s teacher, you are attacking a person who loves your child.

Does it mean you can’t disagree with the teacher, question his or her judgment or even become angry at the teacher for a decision that he or she made?

Of course not.

But just like you wouldn’t take to social media to criticize your spouse or grandparent for the way he or she has cared for your child, you should not be using social media to do the same thing to a teacher.

Instead, call the teacher. Set up a meeting. Speak to him or her in person.

Remember: You both love your child. The love that you have for your child is admittedly deeper and wider than the teacher’s love, but love is still there, and it is precious.

Treat it with the respect that it deserves.

Teachers are attacked enough. Abused enough. Insulted and maligned too often already.

The last thing a teacher needs is the parent of a child who that teacher loves making snide, cutting, disrespectful, behind-the-back comments about him or her on social media.

And yes, it’s true that the teacher will almost certainly never see your post or tweets. This does not make it right. It doesn’t mean that other teachers won’t see these comments and wonder what parents might be saying about them. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t hurting that teacher by damaging the institution to which they have dedicated their life.

Criticizing a teacher through social media, in the words of my students, is a sucky thing to do.

How many male authors, after speaking brilliantly about writing and literature, have been asked publicly about their clothes?” I have an answer, but I suspect that some of you will want to chop my head off for it.

Author M. Molly Backes recently asked the following question on Twitter:

@mollybackes: How many male authors, after speaking brilliantly for an hour about writing and literature, have been asked publicly about their clothes?

It’s a fair question. Let me first go on the record as saying that I don’t support questions like this in any way.

Actually, that’s not true. I support these kinds of questions in full when they are asked of me. I specifically request that audiences to ask me challenging, odd and unique questions, related or unrelated to my books, and I reward them with prizes for doing so. I love questions that confound and confuse me me. They often lead to interesting exchanges and the opportunity for me to tell often untold stories.

The only clothing-related question I was ever asked was “Boxers or briefs?” But that lady wanted the prize badly. I don’t think she possessed any genuine curiosity about my underwear.


All that said, I’d like to suggest that the reason that male authors don’t receive questions about their clothing is rather simple:

While there are exceptions to this rule, fashion tends to be a conversational topic dominated by women.

Men rarely speak about their clothing, and women speak of it often.

Having spent the last fifteen years in an elementary school where more than 90% of my friends and colleagues are women, and having also attended an all women’s college prior to that, I’ve grown the understand the dichotomy in male and female communication well.

I’m actually writing a book about it with a sociologist.

What’s become exceptionally clear to me after all these years is that women (not all, but a great majority) speak about fashion and physical appearance a lot. They compliment one another on their clothing. They remark on new hair styles. They comment on shoes and jewelry. They admire boots and scarves. They ask about the origins of specific articles of clothing with incredible frequency. In fact, the typical response to a compliment like, “I love that sweater,” is “Thanks, I got it as such and such a place.”

Comments about fashion and physical appearance are a large part of female socialization. It’s a topic that is mentioned often.

This is a reason that fashion magazines are written primarily for women.

This is the reason that two of the most popular fashions in the country, Marie Claire and Elle, actually have women’s names.

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This is a reason that I am the only man I know who watches Project Runway. More than 80% of the show’s audience is female. And the percentage of women who watch the Academy Award’s red carpet fashion pre-show are even higher.


Women talk fashion. Not all of them, but in comparison to men, the number is huge. Clothing is a female topic of conversation.

This is simply not the case for men. We almost never discuss or ask about clothing. This is not meant to imply that men’s topics of conversation are more sophisticated or erudite than women. Just different.

So while it’s inappropriate, rude, and ridiculous to ask a female author about her clothing during the Q&A portion of her book talk, it also makes perfect  sense that if someone is going to be asked, it’s going to be a female author and not a male author.

No one, man or woman, ever asks me about my clothing, on or off the book circuit. I don’t ask anyone about their clothing. It’s just not a realm in which men frequently operate.

Before you chop my head off for making such assertions, consider this:

A female author spends an hour talking to her audience. She is engaging, informative, and amusing. The audience asks pertinent and insightful questions. Everyone is happy.

Ten minutes later, that same female author is sitting at a nearby table, signing books. A female reader approaches. She hands over a book for the author to sign, compliments the author on her work, describes her favorite part of the story, and then says, “By the way, I love your sweater? Did you knit it yourself?”

“No,” the author says. “I only wish I could knit something like this.”

“It’s beautiful,” the reader says. “Where did you get it?”

This exchange would seem perfectly normal to both the author and the reader. No one would think twice about it.

But now try to imagine the same exchange if either the author or the reader (or both) were male. It would almost never happen. But with two women, the conversation seems commonplace and unremarkable.

While it’s inappropriate to ask the same question about the sweater in the middle of the author’s presentation, it’s important to note that we’re not talking about an entirely inappropriate question.

We’re only talking about a matter of timing.

Asking the question during the presentation is not good. Asking it after the presentation is fine.

It should also be remembered that the reader who asks the clothing question during an author’s presentation does so for a reason, and it’s not necessarily meant to be demeaning. Perhaps the questioner simply wants to know something about the author’s wardrobe and is unable to delay gratification. Maybe she’s nervous about being in the presence of someone who she admires and isn’t thinking straight. Maybe she’s a person who doesn’t understand the societal norms and expectations attached to an author talk. Or perhaps she feels unjustifiably friendly and even intimate with the author after having read her book and listened to her speak.

This happens to me all the time. People who I don’t know feel like they know me well.

Regardless of the reason, asking the question during the talk a bad decision, but it’s not an example of sexism. It’s asked because it’s a woman speaking to a woman, and when women speak, fashion is often used as a conversational lubricant.

It has nothing to do with respecting a male author over a female author. It’s just poor timing.

How many male authors, after speaking brilliantly for an hour about writing and literature, have been asked publicly about their clothes?

Not many. Almost none, I suspect. But no one ever asks us about our clothing. I can’t remember the last time a person, make or female, commented on my fashion choices. It only makes sense that I wouldn’t be asked questions like this during an author talk. I never receive them in real life.

On the other hand, I’m frequently asked about my favorite sports teams, my golfing handicap, my wife, and the books that husbands and boyfriends might enjoy.


I know that I’m asked these questions because I am a man. It is assumed (rightfully so) that I enjoy watching sports. It’s assumed (and rightfully so) that I play sports. It’s assumed that I read books that the typical man would enjoy. I may have read the latest Jennifer Weiner or Ann Patchett novel, but no one gives a damn about my opinion on those books. No one ever asks me to recommend a good beach read, a romance novel or a tear jerker, either.

Can you guess why?

It’s because I’m a man. No one asks me these kinds of questions in my real life, so why would I expect them to start at a book talk?

I understand why a female author would be offended by a question related to her clothing, and she has a right to be annoyed. It’s not the time or place for such questions, but it’s probably not because the person asking the question is sexist or thinks any less of female writers.

She’s probably just a woman, and fashion is something that women speak about often. If the same question were asked five minutes after the talk, it would probably be greeted with a smile.

There’s no reason to feel belittled or insulted by such questions.

Annoyed? Sure.

Offended? If you must.

But not belittled. Yes, you’re being asked the question because you’re a woman (and the person asking is likely a woman), but it has nothing to do with your ability as an author.

It’s simply a common topic of conversation amongst women.

Shortcomings and Flaws: 2013

A reader once accused me of being materialistic after I wrote about my lack of a favorite number, specifically criticizing me for saying that when it comes to my salary, my favorite number is the largest number possible. You can read about that debate here if you would like.

After refuting the charges of materialism, I acknowledged that I had plenty of other shortcomings and offered to list them in order to appease my angry reader. I did. Then I added to the list when friends suggested that I had forgotten a few.

Nice friends. Huh?

So began an annual tradition of posting my list of flaws and shortcomings. Here is the revised list for 2013. I’ve added 7 items to the list, bringing my total to 29. In all honesty, most of the new items on the list have existed for a long time. Only the last two items have become pronounced enough over the previous year to warrant inclusion on the list.

Sadly, no item was removed from the list this year.

If you have a suggestion for a flaw or shortcoming that you do not see on the list, please feel free to submit it for review.

Matthew Dicks’s List of Shortcomings and Flaws

1. I have difficulty being agreeable even when the outcome means nothing to me but means a great deal to someone else.

2. I have a limited palate (though I would like to stress that this is not by choice).

3. I often lack tact, particularly in circumstances in which tact is especially important.

4. I am a below average golfer.

5. It is hard for me to sympathize with adults with difficulties that I do not understand, do not think are worthy of sympathy and/or are suffering with difficulties that I would have avoided entirely.

6. I have difficulty putting myself in another person’s shoes. Rather than attempting understand the person, I envision myself within their context and point out what I would have done instead.

7. When it comes to argument and debate, I often lack restraint. I will use everything in my arsenal in order to win, even if this means hurting the other person’s feelings in the process.

8. I do many things for the sake of spite.

9. I have an unreasonable fear of needles.

10. I become angry and petulant when told what to wear.

11. Bees kill me dead.

12. I am incapable of carrying on small talk for any length of time and become extremely irritable and uncomfortable when forced to do so.

13. I become sullen and inconsolable when the New England Patriots lose a football game.

14. I lack adequate compassion and empathy for adults who are not very smart or resourceful.

15. I can form strong opinions about things that I possess a limited knowledge of and are inconsequential to me.

16. Field of Dreams makes me cry every time without fail.

17. I am unable to make the simplest of household or automobile repairs.

18. I would rarely change the sheets on my bed if not for my wife.

19. I eat ice cream too quickly.

20. I procrastinate when it comes to tasks that require the use of the telephone.

21. I am uncomfortable and ineffective at haggling for a better price.

22. I am exceptionally hard on myself when I fail to reach a goal or meet a deadline, thus impacting my performance and creating a negative feedback loop that further hinders progress.

23. I take little pleasure in walking.

24. I cannot snap a onesie correctly.

25. Sharing food in restaurants annoys me.

26. I drink too much Diet Coke.

27. I forget my EpiPen far too often.

28. My hatred for meetings of almost any kind cause me to be unproductive, inattentive and obstructionist.

29. I have developed a tendency to express my displeasure or boredom with people through unconscious verbal exhalations and sighs.

Chessboxing is an actual thing. If only it had been a thing in 1988.

I am a founding member of the Blackstone Millville Regional Junior Senior High School chess club.

Quite an accomplishment.

I checked with my alma mater. The chess club no longer exists. Honestly, I’m not sure if it even continued to exist during my time at the school. But for a brief period of time, possibly a couple months, there was a chess club at my high school, and I played a role in its establishment.

As you can imagine, my membership in this esteemed organization did little by way of helping me get girls.

I also played chess with my unorthodox high school French teacher, Mr. Maroney, who I have written about before. I played more chess with Mr. Maroney than any other human being on the planet.

I also taught my wife to play chess while on our honeymoon in Bermuda.

We’re wild and crazy that way.

I teach my students to play chess today. They love the game. Many contact me long after they have left my classroom to inform me that they continue to play today.

Chess has been a game that I have enjoyed for a long time, but I would’ve loved it more, and perhaps done better with the ladies, had chessboxing existed when I was younger.

Yes. You heard it right.


From a New York Times piece on chessboxing:

Opponents alternate rounds between chess and boxing, between a cerebral pursuit and a savage one. They will win by checkmate or knockout, or the judges’ scorecards.

Just imagine:

Advance a pawn or two. Capture a knight. Punch your opponent in the head. Advance another pawn. Protect a rook with a bishop. Punch your opponent in the head again.

This is a sport made for me.

It’s not often that I feel like I was born at the wrong time in history, but this might be one of those rare times.

Should I try to be wrong?

A recent debate with a friend came to an end when she said to me, “It’s impossible to talk to you. You always have to be right.” My response went something like this:

“Would you prefer that I go through life trying to be wrong? Is there some super-secret merit in spending one’s life spouting inaccuracies? Or would my attempts to avoid the truth simply be more convenient for you? My apologies for being a seeker of the truth. A defender of fact. A champion of the righteous. I stand in the light. The Force is with me!”

That’s actually pretty close to what I said, except I said more and was certainly less eloquent. But I’m certain that I ended with that last sentence about the Force because I’m always looking for a solid closing sentence for every one of my rants, and that was it.

I was also shouting these words from atop a chair as she stormed from the room, so although I don’t discount the truth in my statement, I admit that sounded like a self-righteous jerk in the process.

But it was worth it.

Don't hate debate

Two things about this encounter:

1. This is not the first time that someone has told me (often in frustration) that I “have to be right.”

It still makes no sense to me.

I like to think that I have an open mind about most things and am willing to listen to both sides. A friend of mine is fond of saying that intelligent, rationale people can disagree, and I think she’s right.

I actually play Devil's Advocate quite often and am fond of reminding people that everyone has a justification for their action, as stupid as it may seem to you.

But in the end, I want to find the truth. My goal is to assume positions that I believe are right and just. When confronted by something other than the truth, I will argue vociferously in its defense.

I find nothing wrong with this. There will be people who will argue that a position of introspection, doubt and intellectual curiosity is better one of absolute certainty, and while I agree in principle, there are moments when one must make a decision and take a side. There are moments when the truth becomes evident and must be defended.

My approach can oftentimes be less than subtle and lacking nuance, so perhaps this is what my friend is actually complaining about, but I find nothing wrong with the desire to be right.

2. Please note the strategy that I used in this encounter, because I believe it is an effective one. When your opponent storms out of the room in the midst of a debate, do not mistake this as surrender. It is an aggressive means of defending one’s position. Oftentimes at a loss for words, opponents will turn to physicality in order to continue the fight. When I was younger, this might mean a fist to the face. In a more civilized context, this means turning one’s back and rendering your words meaningless.

It might also be an attempt to rearm for a future encounter.

Either way, it’s a sign that you are winning. Any cessation of hostilities will only serve to strengthen your opponent if the debate continues at a later time.

In these cases, I always launch into the most ostentatious monologue possible, shouting my words (and in this case mounting a chair) so that my opponent is forced to endure my attack as long as possible. It’s an opportunity for a closing argument. A parting shot. An uninterrupted, indefensible barrage of words that you should take advantage of whenever possible.

My hope is that it is demoralizing for my opponent. Perhaps it’s making a rearmament less likely.

At worst, it’s incredibly fun.

I have not mastered disdain, and I hate myself for it.

One of my greatest regrets is that I have not mastered a look of disdain powerful enough to break through the hubris and blind momentum of so many of the people assigned to lead meetings, conferences or training seminars.

I try like hell to let them know how pedantic, ineffective, offensive, condescending or downright stupid they are being, but try as I might, they continue on, unaffected by my attempts to exude disdain in their general direction. 

I’ll keep working on it, but I’m starting to give up hope.

The $199.99 Wheelbarrow Sundae: Who is with me?

Mortensen’s is a restaurant and ice cream shop located on the Berlin Turnpike in Newington, CT.

Years ago, I stopped at Mortensen’s for dinner with a friend and hadn’t been back since. A couple weeks ago Elysha and I brought the kids to Mortensen’s for ice cream, and since that fateful night, Elysha has complained that we have wasted far too many years not frequenting this establishment.

She loves the place and insists that we visit often in order to make up for lost time.

It’s a quirky place. It originally began as a dairy farm that delivered milk to homes by horse and cart. The restaurant opened in 1976 and has been going strong ever since.

Their dessert case was manufactured in 1941 (a fact to which they proudly attest) and several antique items from their dairy farm days are on display within the restaurant.

They accept cash only.

But my favorite part of the place is the last item listed on their dessert menu. It’s real, though it hasn’t been ordered in “a few years.”

There will come a day, sooner than later, I hope, when I order this item. Who is with me?

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Ann Coulter is racing me to the finish line. I hope she gets there first.

There are days when I don’t feel like going to the gym.

On those days, I think of Ann Coulter.

Ann is a decade older than me (even with all that plastic surgery), which means that if I take care of myself, I have a reasonable chance of outliving her.

I have never existed in a world in which Ann Coulter did not also exist. But if I exercise regularly, get routine checkups, and eat a healthy diet, the day could come when I exist and Ann Coulter does not.

That is my dream.

Thank you, Ann. Your continued existence gets me back on that treadmill everyday, working hard in an effort to outlive you.