Blogging is harder than I remember

Now that I’m trying to wean myself from Facebook and get back to blogging, I’m noticing the big differences between publishing between those two platforms. For me, the most pronounced is immediacy.

As we all know, it’s ludicrously easy to publish to Facebook or Twitter. It takes only seconds and if you’ve got a connected smartphone, can be done from nearly anywhere.

With a blog, it’s different. Sure I can install the WordPress app on my phone, but even that can’t compare to the ease of publishing to social. When I have a thought I can summarize it in a few words, hit publish and read replies, all within minutes.

Writing to the blog is much more intentional. I’ve got to set time aside, which takes a little effort. Even harder is resisting the supreme ease of pushing something out to social and saving it for when I have time to sit with my computer.

As I said, this is a process that will take time. It’s more of an effort to blog but I hope it will be worth it.

6-year-old Vivian Lord prompts production of “plastic army women”

“Why don’t you make girl army men?”

That’s the question 6-year-old Vivian Lord had for manufacturers after playing with her brother’s “green army men,” those inexpensive little toys that became popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Not content to sit and wonder, Vivian wrote to several companies that produce the little figures, including BMC Toys, which is in my home town of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Since then, BMC launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund an initial run of figures depicting female soldiers, with a goal of $11,400. As of this writing $55,401 has been raised, and BMC says the figures will be available by Christmas, 2020.

Of course, Vivian wasn’t the only one to make this request. As NPR’s story outlines, adult female members of our military have written to manufacturers as well. You can listen to the story and hear Vivian herself via the player above.

What’s making me happy this week – Aug 10

A look at what’s making me happy this week, and how you can enjoy them, too. . You’ll find an archive of my “happy picks” here

Steve 1989’s YouTube channel

I really enjoy watching someone share that one thing they absolutely love. Steve, the man behind the channel, loves military rations.

As of this writing, he has produced 165 videos of himself exploring MREs and other military rations from various countries, battles, time periods and climates. While it is admittedly interesting to see what’s in an authentic 1943 WW2 British RAF Emergency Flying Ration, what’s even more appealing is Steve’s obvious, unbridled enthusiasm.

Every old chocolate bar he unwraps, every bouillon cube he dissolves in a tin, every dehydrated cheese bar he explores elicits a “Wow,” “Amazing,” “Nice,” or “This is incredible” and his enthusiasm is totally infectious.

Yes, a part of the appeal is watching him eat food that’s 74 years old (see above), but really I’m in it for the sheer pleasure of watching someone share something he loves.

The trouble with the Boy Scouts of America (and how to fix it)

The Boy Scouts of America (the BSA) are in an insurmountable position politically. Long targeted by the left for its refusal to admit gay boys and leaders, the group recently earned the ire of the right by agreeing to welcome transgender kids. “For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs,” the group said in a statement on its website. “However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state.”

Then, in October of 2017, the BSA announced its plan to welcome girls to participate in the program from its lowest Cub Scout ranks right up to Eagle Scout, the highest rank the program offers. “The values of Scouting—trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example—are important for both young men and women,” said Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh. “We strive to bring what our organization does best—developing character and leadership for young people—to as many families and youth as possible as we help shape the next generation of leaders.”

The divisive move angered, among others, Girls Scouts of America. “The need for female leadership has never been clearer or more urgent than it is today,” the group shared in a statement, “and only Girl Scouts has the expertise to give girls and young women the tools they need for success.”

Think of the general public’s perception of Boy Scouts of America:

  1. The boys help little old ladies cross the street.
  2. The don’t let gays in.
  3. They’re staffed by child molesters.
  4. They’re politically conservative.

While the first three points are patently false, number four is based in fact. The BSA has long been a bedrock of conservative American life; a stronghold of morality and traditional manliness. Its goal has always been to produce God-fearing male patriots, loyal to traditional values. It’s no surprise to me that the contemporary BSA still is a politically conservative organization.

That position alienates left-leaning families. Current changes do the same to the right, and the public’s perception is either archaic or flat-out wrong.

Oh boy.

The Boy Scouts of America needs a complete, top-to-bottom PR overhaul. I’d love to see a nation-wide campaign that hits everything: print, TV, online, social. The works. Here’s my proposal for exactly that.

The message is twofold: 1.) this is not your father’s Boy Scout Troop. 2.) the values you’ve always treasured are still in place.

One campaign would address the former. Imagine a TV spot like the following.

  • Video of uniformed boys on community service projects. Improving a park, working in a soup kitchen, building a sandbox for a preschool. One boy turns to the camera and says, “I am a Boy Scout.”
  • Boys and girls collaborating on an awesome STEM project as equals. A rocket launches into the air. One turns to the camera: “I am a Boy Scout.”
  • A teenage boy helps a younger kid light a campfire. He struggles and then gets it. They high-five and the younger kid obviously feels great. “I am a Boy Scout.”
  • A young girl sits in front of a display typing code. She executes the code; a robot on the desk does a dance. “I am a Scout.”
  • A busy film set. A middle-aged man is looking into a camera. People are walking back and forth. The man turns around. It’s Steven Spielberg. “I am a Boy Scout.” (Steve is an Eagle Scout).
  • An inflatable raft full of frantically paddling young men passes by on a river of rapids. They shout, “We are Boy Scouts!” before passing by, ushered along by the white water.

Mike Rowe – Star of “Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe” on the Discovery Channel — emerges from some nasty situation, covered in who-knows-what, and stands along side smiling boys and girls. “You can be a Boy Scout, too.” (Mike is an Eagle Scout).

I see another campaign that addresses the notion that the values you’ve treasured as a Scout or or adult leader are still in place. This one uses the Scout Law: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”

A voiceover of several young voices begins: “A scout is loyal,”

The scene opens with a young teenage boy taking with an adult. They shake hands and apparently seal an agreement.


A boy and girl are walking home from school. They stop as a third kid calls out and then joins them. The group smiles and continues to walk…


A uniformed Scout helping a member of the community, or a friend or teacher,”


…camaraderie around a campfire…


…Scouts being kind to adults…

and so on with kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

I see kids having fun, laughing, doing activities. Camping, yes. Saluting the flag, of course. Participating in ceremonies, you bet. Also being pulled around a snowy pass by sled dogs, climbing a rock wall, cleaning a beach, handing out water to runners at a marathon, and cheering each other on in a variety of situations. All ages, all genders, all equal.

Each would make a nice 15-second spot for Instagram, too.

Finally, perhaps an obvious change to the uniform could also signify the changes in contemporary scouting: Girls welcome. Gay scouts welcome. All creeds welcome, and every one of them is “…physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”

It’s very much needed and I believe would lead to a huge jump in membership as well as a major shift in the perception of Boy Scouts.

An insurmountable situation? Yes. An impossible one? Not a chance.

JFK vs Trump

Recently I visited the JFK Museum in Hyannis, Massachusetts. As 2017 would have been President Kennedy’s 100th birthday, it seemed appropriate. It’s a great museum with many remarkable and moving artifacts, film reels and more.

At one point, you can watch the president’s inaugural address from January 20th, 1961. Most people remember its most famous line:

“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

It’s an iconic moment in American history and a call we all should answer. But the rest of the speech is just as remarkable, especially when compared to the words of our current leader.

President Donald Trump recently addressed the UN for the first time. Startled murmurs filled the hall as Trump said the following:

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” He continued, leveling a juvenile nickname at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un: “Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime.”

Compare that to these words from Kennedy’s first address to the nation as its President:

“Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.”

Back at the UN this week, Trump said, ”Major portions of the world are in conflict and some in fact are going to hell.” In a 40-minute speech, he attacked Iran’s nuclear ambitions, belittled Venezuela’s collapsing democracy, and fanned the threat of Islamist extremists.

Back in 1961, John Kennedy surveyed the politics of his time, and instead name-calling and threatening nuclear war, said the following:

“But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course–both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind’s final war.”

“So let us begin anew–remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”

“Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.”

“Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms–and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.”

“Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths and encourage the arts and commerce.”

“Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah–to ‘undo the heavy burdens . . . (and) let the oppressed go free.’”

How far we have fallen. How dire our lives have become, when America’s leader can stand before a world body of 193 leaders and threaten to “totally destroy” one of its members, including the women, children, elderly, disabled…heck the pets who call that country home.

“My fellow citizens of the world,” said President Kennedy, “ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
Donald Trump makes no such call. Instead, his is a call to war. To misery. To suffering. How long before we’re all gone?

Slosh flush swear

It’s one of those days where you’re in the bathroom at work because you need a private place to scroll through Indeed because dear God there has to be another job out there, I’ll clear tables, mop floors, sell angel dust door-to-door HELP ME.

There’s a knock and the voice on the other side asks if we are going to unclog that toilet in the next bathroom, and by “we” they mean “Come out of there and get the plunger because there’s no way in hell I’M going to do it.”

All of this is at 8:09 AM. Well before you’ve discovered the chipmunk that’s dying in the custodial closet.

You put Indeed away. It’s all line cooks and RNs anyway, neither of which you can do with out A.) giving someone food poisoning or B.) involuntary manslaughter. After searching for the “good” plunger — depressing because you have a favorite plunger — you initiate the ritual:

slosh, slosh, slosh, slosh, cross fingers, flush, swear audibly, slosh slosh, slosh.

Flush again. It works. A sense of victory soaks your whole being.

Then your phone beeps and after washing your hands so thoroughly it’s like you’re in Silkwood, your high school freshman daughter sends you this via Snapchat:

Bad day averted, that kid is amazing, for some reason she loves me, so give me that plunger and I’ll go to town every freaking day because she. is. awesome.

Would you like me to blog for you? I’ll write up to 500 words of well-written, original copy on your topic, starting at just five bucks. Click to hire me.

Make a super-simple daily schedule that works

When Aaron and I were doing the Home Work podcast, we preached about the importance and benefits of having — and sticking to — a daily routine, or schedule. At the risk of beating a dead horse I’ll reiterate here: it really is tremendously helpful to know what you’re doing and when. A predictable work/productivity schedule provides focus, direction, and eliminates the overwhem of “Where do I start?”

Humans will almost always take the path of least resistance, and that applies to forming new habits. I want to make this as easy as possible. Here’s a bare-bones way to get a “beginner’s routine” in place and, more importantly, into practice.* Follow these very simple steps:

  1. Write down your do-or-die tasks. These are the things you simply may not skip, ignore other otherwise fail to complete. Exclude the items that can slide for a day or two.
  2. Consider deadlines. What is due when? Make a note of each.
  3. Consider the time and effort each task requires. Again, make a note.

When that’s done, it’s time to sort. On a new piece of paper, write Monday through Friday. Now, using the annoted list you just created, plug in those tasks. Pay attention as you write: If something is due on Wednesday, for example, and it takes a lot of time and effort, schedule work to begin on Monday or Sunday. If a task requires little mental muscle, add it to a day with a few other similar tasks to take advantage of chunking. Have you assigned each task to a certain day? Great. Now on to the very last step.

Write it down where you know you’ll see it, every day. For me, that’s Google Keep. I don’t care what service or product you use, as long as you know for a fact that you’ll look at your new schedule daily.

I’ve been doing this for months now (yes, that’s my actual schedule pictured above) and it has been great. I’m weeks ahead on all of those tasks and I feel completley on top of it. Again, you can go much deeper into managing your time, but if  you’re currently struggling or working without such a plan, the steps outlined here will help you foster a very helpful and lasting habit of productivity.

*For a much deeper dive into this, check out Mike Vardy over at Productivityist.

Would you like me to blog for you? I’ll write up to 500 words of well-written, original copy on your topic, starting at just five bucks. Click to hire me.

Unpair Apple Watch before handing down an iPhone

On September 12 Apple will hold a press event to, most likely, introduce the next iteration of the iPhone. Shortly thereafter, people will ponder giving their current phone to a friend or family member, to make room for Cuptertino’s newest and shiniest.

What about Apple Watch?

A quick Google search will bring you to countless articles on prepping an iPhone for transfer to a new owner, but I want to focus on an oft-overlooked step: unpairing an Apple Watch. It’s pretty easy to do. Just get the two devices together and then follow these steps:

  1. Open the Watch app.
  2. Hit the My Watch tab.
  3. Tap the information icon next to your Watch.
  4. A new screen appears. Tap “Unpair Watch”.

That’s it. You might be asked to enter your Apple ID password, so have that on hand.

No iPhone? No problem.

Oops, you’ve already gotten rid of the iPhone and there’s your Watch, very confused about where its companion is. You can eliminate the little guy’s anxiety by wiping its mind. On the Watch, go to Settings > General > Reset > Erase all Content and Settings. It’s now fresh as a daisy.

Would you like me to blog for you? I’ll write up to 500 words of well-written, original copy on your topic, starting at just five bucks. Click to hire me.

What’s making me happy this week Sept 1

A look at what’s making me happy this week, and how you can enjoy them, too. You’ll find an archive of my “happy picks” here.

Paper minis for RPGs

Tabletop gaming is my hobby. I’ve been getting together with the same group of people to drink beer and play games twice per week for years. It’s tremendously fun and a fantastic way to socialize, unwind, think and have a great time.

I really enjoy role-playing games like D&D, Fiasco and so many more. I was thrilled when I found Printable Heroes and Stuart Robertson on Patreon. They’re both making gorgeous, printable paper minis for games like Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder or any other game that uses fantasy minis. Their work is beautiful and I’m very happy to back them.

Plastic and metal minis can be expensive and time-consuming to paint. While I enjoy those more substantial figures very much, there’s something utterly charming about these paper characters.

Here’s a pro tip. Paper is kind of flimsy, so follow these steps for more rugged paper minis:

  1. Cut the image out of paper and use some rubber cement to glue it to a piece of black poster board.
  2. Cut the figure out of the poster board as best you can.
  3. Use a black Sharpie to go over the edges of the cut pasteboard to hide any white.
  4. Use an X-Acto knife to insert the mini’s base into some black foam core board.

Presto! Instant hero (or monster) ready for adventuring.

LeVar Burton Reads

If you haven’t subscribed to this podcast, let me know. I’ll drive to your house, pick up your phone and do it for you.

Every week, LeVar Burton reads a piece of short fiction complete with sound effects and beautiful story-telling skill. Each week I think, “He can’t possibly top last week’s tale,” and then that’s exactly what he does.

The most recent story (as of this writing) is “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu. It’s beautiful and absolutely devastating. If you aren’t crying at the end, you weren’t paying attention.

LeVar brings his acting talent and obvious love of fiction to the show and the result is a podcast you really ought to hear. Goodness, I love it.

La Voz by Delinquent Habits

This should make you want to dance instantly. Pure hip-hop, infectious bass and drums, plus horns! I’ve been listening to this nonstop for a week.

Would you like me to blog for you? I’ll write up to 500 words of well-written, original copy on your topic, starting at just five bucks. Click to hire me.