Friday, May 21, 2010


My frustration was rising. I knew I had put it where I would be able to find it easily. At least that was my intent. But now, I couldn’t remember where I put it.

I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths. I ask myself, “Where did I put that idea?”

I look around but there is so much clutter.

I take a few more deep breaths and begin to move some of the clutter. I make another mental note to myself that I need to deal with this stuff instead of just moving it around.

Still, I can’t find that idea.

I stumble around some more, rediscovering other ideas that I had forgotten about, covered with dust but not yet buried. I brush them off. But still, not the “one.”

I open my eyes but continue to breathe deeply. I tell myself I know where it is. I close my eyes again and head toward the upper right corner of my mind. I move the clutter of some straggling thoughts and, yes – there it is. Right where I left it.

I speak the idea out loud and head toward the computer.

(In case you’re wondering, this isn’t it.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I recently read in a self-named “scientific” magazine that the stereotypes assigned to boys and girls (and subsequently assigned to men and women), are “dangerous” and culturally determined. While not concluding that girls should necessarily begin to break things and play with trucks and boys should nurture Barbie dolls and wear dresses, that was clearly the bias.

I won’t bore you with the qualifiers and disqualifiers throughout the eight pages of the story, but suffice it to say, it was full of words like, may, might, suggests, possible, seem to, appear to and likely to.

Well. If that doesn’t clear things up for us, I don’t know what will.

Join me as we pop in to yet another research room where the differences between boys and girls are being studied.

Meet Mack, Shaq and Zac, the three boys being studied by Dr. Billi, (yes, with an “i”) the somewhat gender-ambiguous man with the clipboard.

Dr. Billi shows them a short video of himself playing tea time dress-up with his sisters when he was a young boy. At the conclusion of the video, Dr. Billi stands up tall and says, “See boys? Real men like the softer side of life too.”

Next he shows them a video of his wife, Dr. Billy, (yes, with a “y”) when she was a little girl. She was screaming and laughing while beating the snot out of her older brothers so that she could play with their plastic soldiers and Tonka trucks. At the conclusion of that video, Dr. Billi says, “See boys? Real women like to beat up guys too and make them pay for trying to put them into some sort of pink box for the rest of their lives.”

Dr. Billy walks into the room, thick smoke massaging her face and billowing out from her hair, carrying a heavy box of trucks and dolls. With a non-gender-specific but nonetheless manly grunt, she drops the box to the floor and kicks it over, splaying the trucks and dolls. She spits in the palm of her hand then puts out her cigar in it, crushing the butt into a muddy looking ball of brown leaves and ash. She takes a shop rag out of the pocket of her dress, wipes her hand clean with it, then with unerring accuracy, tosses it twenty feet into a tiny mesh wastebasket.

In a voice that sounds way too much like Marilyn Monroe’s, she rather quietly says, “Okay boys, which toys would you like to play with?”

Mack, Shaq and Zac scramble for the biggest, baddest trucks they can find, scooping them up and then running to a corner of the room. With metronome-like timing, they begin pounding them on the floor and in unison begin chanting, “We like trucks. We like trucks. We like trucks.”

Drs. Billi and Billy both shake their heads. Dr. Billi checks the box on the form on his clipboard that indicates, “Culturally spoiled. Considered armed and dangerous.”

Now meet Patty, Maddie and Hattie, three girls in a second research room.

Dr. Billy walks in, makes some small talk for about 45 minutes, then shows the girls the same two videos. After each, they engage in more conversation.

Finally, Dr. Billi walks in with the box of toys, and gently places it on the floor. With ballet-like grace he empties the contents.

Dr. Billy says to the girls, “Okay Patty, Maddie and Hattie, remember what we discussed about glass ceilings and mean people. Now which toys would you like to play with?”

The girls look at each other, whisper something that neither Dr. Billi nor Dr. Billy can hear, then pick up the prettiest dolls they can find, gently holding them to their hearts and walk over to the quiet corner of the room. They look up at the doctors, and with barely audible voices they say, “Shhhhhh. Don’t wake them up. But we like dolls. We like dolls. We like dolls.”

Again, Drs. Billy and Billi shake their heads. Dr. Billy checks the box on the form on her clipboard that indicates, “Societally tainted. Unarmed but dangerous.”

So here’s what I suggest. Instead of trying to get girls to play with trucks or guys to play with dolls, let’s encourage them both to play with ideas and possibilities.

Whether you put boys in blue boxes or pink boxes, they’re still boxes. And the same goes for girls. Because the boxes are someone else’s bias. The solution?

Get rid of the boxes. You might be surprised at the pleasant results.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I was sitting at the intersection, waiting for the long red light to turn green. The story I was thinking on for my next blog post was shining crystal clear when, BAM!, I was rear-ended.

My head snapped back shattering my thoughts with mind-numbing force. My eyes rolled upward as if in search for something behind my lids that might explain what just happened, then just as suddenly dropped back down, trying to focus on something familiar. There was the sound of something like a bone being crunched as my Toyota lurched forward.

And then it was over. A scant few seconds had passed.

The young mother came running up to my door. “Are you all right?” she said, the worry and fear as evident in her voice as it was in her eyes. “I’m so sorry. I just looked away for a second. Are you all right?”

“I think so,” I said, mentally running through my body to check. “Yeah. I’m okay. Just a little shook-up I guess.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked again.

By now, I knew everything had checked out okay. After all, it was only a bumper-thumper. And that sound that was something like a bone being crunched? Just the sound of her bumper smacking mine.

She said there were a few scratches on the bumper but no other damage. I asked her about her car and she said no damage on hers either, other than a few scratches.

She asked if I thought we should call the police and exchange appropriate information.

And then I did an old-school thing. I said, “No, that’s what bumpers are for.”

Her relief was palpable. “I’m so sorry,” she repeated yet once again. She headed back to her car as I slowly drove through the intersection. (It was after all a green light by then.)

I know, that’s not what insurance agents and lawyers, especially lawyers, advise you to do. But that’s what makes it an old-school thing. We call it, a judgment call.

No one was hurt. No damage was done to either vehicle. (Scratches on a bumper really don’t count.) Neither one of us wanted to call the police or our insurance agents, especially at the chance that even a simple bumper-thumper might raise our rates.

And so we made a judgment call. Trusting that neither one of us was going to make a mountain out of a mole hill.

And we were right in our judgment.

Sometimes you have to trust your instinct.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


“Oh-my-gosh-oh-my-gosh I’m gonna get Jillian Michaels’ book for free, for FREE, oh-my-gosh-oh-my-gosh I can’t believe it and all it’s gonna cost is $4.95 for shipping and handling you know that book normally sells for like $26 and I’m so excited I’m gonna get it free you know she’s that lady on the “Loser” show who is so mean but she really helps fat people lose weight and oh-my-gosh-oh-my-gosh I’m gonna get her book for free. Can you believe it?”

Well actually, no. At least, not without some strings attached.

So I checked it out and, of course there were strings.

Little, itty-bitty strings in the fine print box at the bottom of the credit card information section that you fill out for “shipping and handling,” but strings nonetheless.

So how much is her “free” book going to cost?

Well, you already know about the $4.95 “shipping and handling.”

Then there’s the $4 per week charge to become a member of her online membership program. Of course, they’ll bill you in quarterly installments which racks up $52 every three months. You do have the option to cancel and only be billed for the “shipping and handling” but you’ll have to be aware enough to do it within two weeks of having signed up for her “free” book.

Statistically speaking, most people aren’t aware enough. Marketers count on this. Even when many people will cancel after the see the $52 plus $4.95 show up on their credit card statement, marketers have more than paid for the promotion.

Meanwhile, most people will have actually paid $56.95, more than triple the price of the book, for something they thought they were getting for “free.”

Yes, I know, you are getting that fabulous membership in her online program, but why bury the cost and obligation in the fine print?

And let’s not forget the almost certain onslaught of advertising you’ll receive promoting her branded products. There’s her weight loss programs, vitamins, supplements, detoxifiers, and who knows what else you’ll be bombarded with. They will of course include the heart-tugging, emotion-bending, tear-dropping testimonials designed to get you to part with even more of your hard-earned money.

I don’t have a problem with Michaels or her desire to make a good living. A very good living. A very, very good living.

The problem I have is that the little, itty-bitty strings of obligation are buried in the fine print.

After all, $56.95 for a book you can buy for less than $15 online, is not what I would call “free.”

Monday, May 17, 2010


Okay. I get it. Some people really love their mothers. I mean, really love their mothers.

A local restaurant proudly proclaimed on their marquis, three days before Mothers Day, “To The Greatest People On The Earth. Happy Mothers Day.”

As I passed by the restaurant today, their proclamation was still on display. Fully twelve days of ensuring that every one knows that they believe mothers are “the greatest people on the earth.”

And maybe you’re thinking, what could Mr. E possible have against such a loving display?

Well actually, a number of things.

First, it’s Mothers Day. It’s not Mothers Week. It’s definitely not Mothers Day Week. Nor is it Mothers Day Week-and-a-half. Nor even Mothers Fortnight, which the sign is only days from being on display. It’s Mothers Day.

Something more appropriate would have been, “We Love Our Mothers.” That, they could keep on display forever, as far as I’m concerned. But if you’re going to use a “holiday” as a means of generating business, then use it properly. The three days before – okay. The day of – absolutely. The day after – maybe. But almost two weeks? No.

Second, the notion that mothers are “the greatest people on the earth,” is understandably arguable.

Of course, I don’t know if their intent in using the word, greatest, was for its superlative meaning, or its non-superlative meaning.

If they meant it more in its slang usage, then it was fine. Everyone is given to hyperbole and exaggeration. My neighborhood is the “best.” Our hotdogs are the “world’s finest.” My wife is the “most beautiful.” You get it.

The problem of course, is if they meant it in its superlative form. That is, that there is absolutely, positively, unequivocally no group of people anywhere on the earth, that is better than mothers.

With Fathers Day coming up next month, I can think of at least one group that might argue with that statement. Although they would argue very quietly, deep in the bowels of a distant cave somewhere, far, far away from the ears of a certain group of people.

I’m looking forward to see what the restaurant does with that “holiday.”

Will their marquis proclaim: “To The Second Greatest People On The Earth – Happy Fathers Day.” Perhaps they’ll say: “They can’t surpass mothers, but Happy Fathers Day Anyway.” Another possibility: “Last month we were kidding. We really meant to say, to the greatest people on the earth – Happy Fathers Day.” Or maybe just, “Fathers – Whatever.”

And will they keep their proclamation up for two weeks?

We’ll see.