A Look Back at 2009

Here is my annual round up of the year. Not sure how it will measure up to the 2008 edition aptly titled:Not Quite a Recap- Let's Talk about Body Parts. But that is part of the joy of blogging, you never really know what can happen. Really, I just sit down and watch my fingers type, they have a mind of their own.

If you are a new reader this will serve as a sort of guide, a Phantom Tollbooth through hell or heaven, all depends if you like what you read. ;) Please note that this isn't based upon most popular or most commented on. It is merely a selection of posts that I think provide a little sense of what this place is about. Welcome to the department of redundancy department.

January

A Special Message To Hamas and Co.
True Love Can Last A Lifetime
Why My BlackBerry is In The Refrigerator
Social Media Can Be Too Social
The Slumber Party
Kissing
We Leave The Toilet Seat Up
Instant Messenger
My Parents and My Blog
The Condom
The Private School Dilemma Again
A Good Father
My Best Writing
Sex & Love- A Father Speaks

February

The Next Time I Visit Ikea
Blog Envy, Springsteen; The Superbowl
The Bill Collector
The Road Not Taken
How Much Would it Cost To Build The Death Star
Be a Better Blogger- Write More Frequently
Once Upon a Life
The Male Brain Versus The Female Brain
Songs Sung Badly
Life Is Too Short
Show Me Your Veins
Octuplets- An Abdication of Medical; Parental Responsibility
Valentine's Day- A Day That Should Live In Infamy
Vocabulary Words #10- Obscure but Interesting
The Butt Doctor
Israel On College Campuses

March

Third Annual Link to Jack Day
Take Your Toilet to Dinner
Dr. Seuss on Uncertain Times and Economic Unrest
Don't Die Dad
When Parents Die

April

A Telephone Bill Scam- Cramming
How Baseball Players Catch Fly Balls
Rules For Life
Dad, What Is a Gas Chamber?
How To Get More Readers For Your Blog


May 

Baptizing The Bear
Turning 40-The Pressure of Time
Rules For Dating My Daughter
100 Best Movie Lines in 200 Seconds
Facing My Fear

June

What Happens When You Die
Why Some Blogs Fail
Welcome to Tumbleweed Crossing
 
July

Dad Doesn't Always Have The Answers
Who Broke Your Heart- Things You Might Not Know

The End of a Marriage
You Can't Bully My Child
75 Years of Marriage
Riding the Mommy Blogger Gravy Train

August

Are We Poor?
Daughters Are Different
Do You Live Your Dreams?
Does Fear Prevent You From Living Your Life?
A Father's Responsibility
Save The Last Dance For Me- 75 Years of Marriage

September

As The Bodies Fell He Played
Vote for Me For Third Grade Student Council
What Is The Difference Between A Fool & A Dreamer

October

Sometimes Friends Let You Down
The Difference Between Blog Friends and Real Life Friends
My Daughter
The Beginning
My Best Posts
What Brings You Joy?
Johnny Was a Hero

November

Shoes
Failure
Sesame Street & The Origin of Om nom nom nom
A Love Song That Needs To Be Written
The Pressures of Parenthood
I Will Never Fall In Love Again
A Different Sort of Children's Book

December 

Streets of Philadelphia
The People We Miss
When is it Appropriate to Use Your iPhone
A Father's Obligation- Mistakes Happen
She Screamed &Screamed
Songs That You Have To Sing Along With
They Call Me Dad
How Do You Become a Father
Don't Worry About What You Can't Control
140 Characters- Teaching Boys To Be Men
Mistakes & Opportunities
Nine Years Ago I Became A Father

Well, this wasn't much fun, but sort of a necessary task. I'll probably come back to this and edit it a time or two. One more year is almost in the books.

Remember, 2010- The Year of Jack. You can bank on it.

Americans Are Terrible At Math

This is more than a little frightening:

According to the Department of Education’s National Assessment of Adult Literacy, U.S. adults are terrible at solving real-world math problems, like calculating tips or comparing prices in grocery stores.  Some dismal results:
*Only 42 percent were able to pick out two items on a menu, add them, and calculate a tip.
*Only 1 in 5 could reliably calculate mortgage interest.
*1 in 5 could not calculate weekly salary when told an hourly pay rate.
*Only 13 percent were deemed “proficient.”  Worse yet, only 1 in 10 women, 1 in 25 Hispanics and 1 in 50 African Americans made the grade.
*Americans are terrified of numbers when it counts most: 20 million Americans pay someone to file their 1040EZ, a one-page tax form with around 10 blanks to fill out.
Also, these numbers show up in U.S. student math scores, which are abysmal:
*The U.S. ranks 25th among 30 industrialized nations in math scores, down near Serbia and Uruguay. U.S. students thought they had the highest grades of any nation in the study, however.
*Half of 17 year olds couldn't do enough math to work in an auto plant, according to President's National Mathematics Advisory Panel.
*Study after study shows U.S. achievement falls off the cliff during middle school, when subjects like fractions and percentages are introduced -- exactly the skills you need as a consumer or, for that matter, to move on to algebra, calculus and advanced sciences.
But here’s another essential point. How can Johnny learn to add if Johnny’s teachers can’t?
*In 18 U.S. states, not even one elementary math class is required for certification.
*Some teaching colleges allow admittance as long as students have math skills equal to their future students -- that is, as long as they could pass a 5th grade math test.
*It's possible in some states to pass the teacher certification exam (Praxis) without answering a single math question correctly. 
*In Massachusetts, there's a special program to reacquaint teachers with math. The man who runs the program says half of teachers can't answer basic questions involving fractions and has concluded that many elementary teachers are "phobic" about math.
*Teachers seem to be math-averse from the start. College bound seniors headed for elementary education have math SAT scores significantly lower than the national average (483 vs. 515).

End Of The Year Round up

I have a bad habit of starting my end of the year round up really late, like right around the end of the year. Really I should be doing this throughout the year. You know, marking posts as being worthy of inclusion, or at least considered.

Instead I save it for the end and find myself doing it in a less organized and more herky-jerky type fashion. It is a mistake. Of course if I made millions of dollars from doing this I wouldn't put it off, but since it is a hobby it gets short shrift sometimes.

I am working on the round up now and I am less than pleased with it. It doesn't feel right, something is off. It might be that I hate half of the posts that I have written. That too is consistent.

Anyway, I will put something together. In the interim if you have any requests or suggestions feel free to include them in the comments.

I Want A Flying Car- Meet George Jetson

Posted via web from thejackb's posterous

Nine Years Ago I Became A Father

It is not really appropriate for this post, but I keep playing and replaying This Time by John Legend. First time hearing it and I love it. Or maybe it does, let's see.

He was due some time around the second week of January but he showed up on his schedule. I know, I should be able to tell you what his due date was, but I don't remember. Ask his mother, I am sure she'll remember.

I remember other things. I remember her waking me up at 1:30 A.M. to tell me that her water broke. I remember calling the hospital and being told to take a shower and then come in. All sorts of other memories are there too, the drive to the hospital and the waiting.

Moms don't understand how hard it is for the dads. I know, you're rolling your eyes because you are doing the actual work, but remember for men it is hard. We are not programmed to stand around and do nothing and yet that is all we can do. We can't deliver the baby ourselves, at least most of us can't. Although I had seen enough television to know that I needed a newspaper and boiled water.

************
The boy may have been early, but he took his sweet time in making an appearance. It was 3:30 and change, the afternoon of the 29th when he poked his head out. I know because I was there. I stood next to the doc and watched this bloody mess, and it was both bloody and messy.

I stared at the head trying to decipher the mystery of whether my first born would be male or female. I watched as he made his appearance and noticed the obvious and began thinking about his bris, baseball, Bar Mitzvahs, condoms, girls, college and marriage.

Ok, I can't say that I remember thinking about each of those things, but I know that I was overwhelmed. Amazed and humbled to think that this tiny creature, a boy, my son was finally here. As the nurse cleaned him up I talked to him, whispered secrets for his ears only. Promised eternal love and devotion, said that I would protect and educate him.

Nine years later the boy who was 7 pounds 16 ounces (the nurse told me that and I repeated it over and over until my father reminded me that he was 8 pounds) and 20 inches is over four feet tall and around 70 pounds. I can't carry him like a football anymore. I can't put him over my shoulder and walk with him for hours anymore.

He still can't beat me in a footrace or out muscle me, but the time is coming. My days as leader of the pack are limited in some ways and I am ok with it, most of the time.

The big guy has an insatiable curiosity about the world around him. He loves to read and play with Legos. He does Sudoku puzzles and plays soccer. In between it all he comes to me and asks me to play with him. I try to give him the time he wants and feel guilty when I can't.

We talk about everything. There are a million conversations that I don't list here. We know each other well enough that we can communicate by grunts and whistles, a look or a nod. He tells me that when I am angry I have a scary face. I laugh and tell him that he is talking about grandpa. He laughs and says that grandpa never gets angry.

He is nine. The baby is history and the toddler a memory. He is not quite a little boy anymore but still not a preteen. I see so much potential in him. I do what all parents do. I try to help him avoid making the stupid mistakes I made, steer him towards the smarter choice.

We talk about making smart decisions a lot. I tell him that I will always be there for him. I promise to be his rock and then I tell him that my job is to help him acquire the tools to be a mensch, his job is to use them.

And it works because I believe it and so does he. We understand our agreement. It works.

I often wonder what kind of person he is going to grow up to be. Will he be kind? Will he be wise? Will he be the clever man or something else.

Happy Birthday Little Jack, your old man (he loves to say that now) loves you.

Mistakes & Opportunities

On the eve of a new year it is time to engage in some sharing of Jack's wisdom. It is a practical tool kit of tips and advice garnered over a lifetime of learning. How is that for a boatload of Bullshit. I kind of like it, but why shouldn't I.

Bear with me for a moment and I'll tell you what I mean by mistakes and opportunities.

Golden Slumbers- The Beatles
"Once there was a way to get back homeward
Once there was a way to get back home
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby"

Golden slumbers fill your eyes
Smiles awake you when you rise
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby"
Once there was a way to get back homeward
Once there was a way to get back home
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby"
It has been a brutal year from start to finish. A time of learning and change. A time in which mistakes of the past haunted me. It was a grind and there were more than a few moments in which I found myself looking for Satan because I was certain I was in hell.

Those moments lasted a lifetime and though I knew I would survive it was painful. I never expected that my life would feel like the script for bad reality television or a failed sitcom.

But here we are at the verge of the new year. Almost standing on the precipice there is no doubt the 2010 will be the Year of Jack because I will accept nothing less.

2009 has been awful because it marks the culmination of a series of mistakes. I take responsibility for quite a few. I won't list them here but trust me I own them. I have punished myself for some of them and been punished for others.

It reminds me of my high school math teacher who would work out math problems and then finish with an exclamation, "so what!" It was his way of trying to prompt a discussion. A chance to ask what the significance of it all was.

This is my "So what." Shit happened. I accept responsibility for that which I did and I am pissed for that which I didn't do. But it doesn't fix the challenges I face. "So what" is the call to action. It is the time to remind myself that mistakes are opportunities.

I tell that to the kids all the time. Mistakes are opportunities. Step back, take a deep breath and figure out what you can do with it.

That is what I am trying to do. I am surveying the scene and trying to see what I can make of it. No one is going to save me. There is no cavalry coming to my rescue. It is my job, my obligation. Not because of anything other than I owe it to myself.

I worked too damn hard to let some of these things slip away.

Mistakes are opportunities. It is a conversation that occurs over Legos. Little Jack loves them, plays with them. Loves doing Sudoku and math. Finds all of that stimulating. I like playing with Legos, the others not so much.

But I love the opportunity to sit with him. I love working with my hands and helping him learn how to do it too. I love seeing him gain an appreciation and understanding of what it means to do this. My kids know what it means to get their hands dirty. I won't tolerate them thinking that they need servants.

Mistakes are opportunities. That Lego spaceship isn't working because we made a mistake. It is an opportunity to learn how to avoid making that mistake and a chance to see if we can figure out an alternative way to build it.

Turn the problem upside down, take it outside, find a new perspective. It is an opportunity.

Now if I can remember to heed my own advice....

2010- The Year of Jack

Star Wars / A-Team Mashup

Posted via web from thejackb's posterous

Silly Things Make Me Happy- These Speeches are one of them

I Seek Balance-

I just wrote a letter that was filled with venom and bile. It was an outstanding letter that eviscerated someone. And had I sent it there is no way that the recipient would have misunderstood me. They would have known that I feel betrayed. They would have known that I am beyond angry, hurt and confused.

At least I think that they would have. The person I thought that they were would have known these things. They would have recognized it for what it was. But you can't take the spoken or written word back. And once they escape you haven't any idea what will happen or where they will go.

So consider this my moment to catch my breath. I am still hurt. I am still angry and confused. None of this makes sense to me, but then again that describes much of this. Can't be more specific than that, or should I say that I won't.

Almost twenty five years ago a dear friend asked me for my advice on when to cut someone off. He wanted to know at what point do you decide that someone isn't worth keeping around. How do you determine that they take more than they give.

I can't tell you exactly what I said because I don't remember, too much time has passed. But it wasn't the last time that the topic has come up. I have had reason to think about it on more than one occasion. I'd like to say that it was always in reference to someone else, but that is not true.

That is the beauty of life. Many of the situations you see your friends go through are the same that you deal with. Sometimes you can advise them because you have been through it and sometimes you ask them for help because you are following them into the pit.

So here I am, not quite as upset as when I began writing this but still angry. Been trying to analyze this situation and figure out which way is up. It is entirely possible that this is nothing more than a misunderstanding.

I won't flip out over a misunderstanding. I'll take some time to consider this from all angles and try to decide what to do. I am torn by it. If this really happened then I have some serious thinking to do.

Sometimes life is far more complicated than it should be. Really, why can't it be simple. Yes, no, black, white etc.

It is well after 1 am and I think it is time to end this. I am wide awake, but I can't sit at the computer any longer. That first letter took the edge off and I think that I want to let this sit for a while. Let's see what the morning brings.

2010- The Year of Jack is coming soon.

Feeling Sad & Defeated

(originally posted here)
A new entry for Fragments of Fiction
"There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship's smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying.
When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now The child is grown,
The dream is gone.
but I have become comfortably numb."
Comfortably Numb- Pink Floyd

"I can't pay my bills. I can't find a job. I can't support my family, can't even support myself," he said. At least I think that is what he said. Slumped against the wall he stared off into space and began mumbling again.

"I feel sad and defeated. Whatever I touch crumbles into dust. Relationships, jobs, friends all they do is go away."

It wasn't the first time I had heard him speak this way. He was a man who lived and died every day. His own personal rollercoaster never stopped running, at least that is how he had once described it to me.

I understood. We have been friends for most of our lives so I have borne witness to it all. I have seen the triumphant moments. Walked with him through the fire and saw him emerge unscathed. We share a million memories and a million dreams and nightmares.

He is not the easiest guy to get along with. At times he is moody and temperamental.  He is a man who consumes life and that takes a certain toll upon oneself. I have often told him that if he could figure out how to take the middle road he'd be happier more frequently. The highs and lows can't be good for you.

It is a fruitless discussion. This sort of behavior is part of his core. It is who he is. It is why whenever he has dropped back down inside his personal hell I don't worry. Ok, I worry a little but I have never seen him not find a way to rise above it. Never seen him lose all hope, at least not until this moment.

Because now is the first time that I haven't seen that fire in his eyes and I wonder. I wonder if the flame has truly been extinguished. Has he lost that edge or is it my imagination. Sometimes it is hard for me to tell.

I can't walk along the razors edge the way that he can. It makes me far too nervous. But that is part of the friendship. We complement each other. There is a certain balance that we provide. So I stand there next to him and debate whether to yell or coddle.

He is a grown man. I don't need to do this. I shouldn't have to do this. But he is my friend and I have seen him do some incredible things in the name of our friendship. So I suppose that the question of whether I will help him is moot. The bigger and better question is what is the best way to help. How am I most likely to get through to him.

Slowly I slide down the wall until my butt hits bottom and I find myself just a hair shy of sitting in his lap. For the moment we sit in silence and then he tells me that if I think that this is our Brokeback Mountain moment I better be prepared to get punched in the mouth.

It is said with a hint of feeling and I almost believe that he is better than he is. But something feels off to me, so I am not quite prepared to accept that.

Instead I say nothing and wait for him to speak again. It is a noisy silence and it is disconcerting. But whether it is because I am really concerned or just confused is still up for debate.

Flying The Unfriendly Skies- What Type of Explosive Device & Why

I have flown a lot since 9/11 and I can't remember a flight where I didn't periodically look around at the other passengers and wonder. Very curious to find out what this was about. Could be someone who acting on their own, could be part of a group. Could be a joke, politically motivated or something done by someone who was mentally ill.
"(CNN) -- A passenger ignited a small explosive device on a Northwest flight Friday from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit, Michigan, according to a federal government bulletin.

The passenger was immediately subdued, according to Susan Elliott, spokeswoman for Delta, Northwest's parent company, Elliott said earlier that the suspect had ignited several small firecrackers. The incident resulted in some minor injuries, she said.

A passenger -- identified in the bulletin as a Nigerian national -- was later placed in custody, the Transportation Security Administration said in a statement.

He is being treated for burns he suffered in the explosion, said the bulletin, obtained by CNN from a source familiar with the investigation."

Flying The Friendlier Skies

I am happy to read that Boeing  is making an effort to make their planes more comfortable for passengers. Read the whole article and you'll see that they are increasing the size of overhead baggage compartments, working on noise reduction and more.
"Boeing wastes no time giving passengers a new experience. As soon as you board the Dreamliner, you're greeted by an open area just inside the door. The ceiling resembles a skylight, complete with blue LED lighting that mimics the sky.

"They've designed this kind of lounge area instead of coming in next to a galley," Hamilton says. "It really gives you a welcoming area instead of entering into somebody's kitchen."

Of course, it's up to the airlines buying the planes to decide what you see, and some of them way well modify the boarding area and other features of the plane. But even if they muck it up completely, there's still a lot of "wow" in the 787 cabin.

The onboard lighting is one of the coolest features.

Anyone who has flown across more than a couple of time zones knows how difficult it is to sleep, and to be awakened with the flick of a switch that floods the cabin in fluorescent white light. Boeing's LEDs allow the crew to adjust the lighting to match different phases of the flight.

The light is fairly standard during boarding and while cruising. During meals it is adjusted to warmer tones. Once you're done eating and want to tilt the seat back and relax, the cabin can be bathed in a relaxing lavender hue. When it's time to sleep, the lights are turned way down.

But it's how the crew wakes you that's the best part of the Dreamliner's lighting.

Instead of flicking the lights on and flooding the cabin in light, the cabin will brighten slowly, with the light transitioning from the purples and oranges of a sunrise to yellows, and eventually white against a blue sky. Boeing's thought is mimicking the light schedule of your destination, some of the dreaded jet lag can be alleviated."
It all sounds good to me, but I have to admit to retaining some serious doubt and skepticism about whether the peons in coach will benefit. We shall see.

Colonel Klink on Batman

Posted via web from thejackb's posterous

Women Don't Want Weak Men

This is the follow up post to this one, the latest in the Fragment of Fiction story.

Women say that they want men who able to share their emotions. They like the idea of a man who can cry, but that has limits. They want men who emotionally open, but at the same time they don't want weak men. Lord help you if they think you are weak, it is the kiss of death.

Or so some people would perceive. Perception may not be the truth, but sometimes it is reality.

Relationships are such a funny thing. They can come at you from a million different angles. The great ones are the most unexpected. They come from out of nowhere. The man or woman that turns your life upside down isn't always the one that you expect it to be.

In my experience they usually are the last person you expect them to be. I know, that sounds trite and it is. It is a cliche for any number of reasons but it is because it is real. Maybe some of the power is derived from it having been so unexpected, I don't really know.

I am at a crossroads now, a transitional period of time that is inadvertently wreaking havoc upon me. If life were a movie the music would start to change now setting up the coming scenes. It would be subtle designed so that the audience didn't notice that they were starting to sit up a bit straighter in their seats.

In my overactive imagination you might even really see me standing in front of a forest, peering into the looming darkness. Darkness doesn't always have to signify danger, but it does wonders for building anticipation.

A million years ago you told me that you wanted to me to love you the way that I loved a few others. If I had a top five break up list  you would have wanted to be number one. But who could blame you, because I would say the same thing. I'd tell you that I wanted you to be happy, but in my heart I'd want you to pine away for me forever. It might not be my greatest trait, but it is honest.

Mr. Brightside  - The Killers

Pieces of that song have always made me think of you. I suppose that one could look at it as being bitter, but I like to see it from an optimistic light. That whole destiny is calling me thing is what grabs me. Call it youthful optimism.

When things changed I mulled over whether it was really goodbye or just a necessary break. You know that I hate saying goodbye, always have. But then again so do you. It is one of the many things that we have in common. It makes me chuckle, saying that.

I smile because as the queen of low expectations I know how you approach all of this. You call a general retreat and hide behind the castle walls. I call out and ask you to reconsider. I push, pull, hammer and holler. It is not necessarily the smartest or most effective way, but it is how I do things.

That gut instinct that I follow hasn't failed me with you, not completely. You make up lists of reasons why it can't work and stay busy. I make up lists of things that I miss about you  and stare at pictures of us. Sometimes the pain is significant, but it helps.

It is like jumping into an icy pool. At first it takes your breath away and then you become accustomed to it. And that is what I have striven to do, become accustomed to not having you around.

But here is the thing, I know how life works. I know that sometimes things seem impossible or far too difficult to work out and it is easier to let go. And I suppose that I could do that, I could let go and in time it would be just one more memory. But I am that dreamer, the big sap who wants to see the happy ending  to the crazy and at times chaotic story.

From where I stand this attempt to make that happen is the sign of strength, whereas letting go would be the sign of the weaker man. If it really is true that women don't want weaker men then this will serve me well.

No matter the outcome the ultimate question will be answered by me and me alone. And that question is can I go to sleep at night comfortably. Can I shut my eyes and feel like I did my best, mistakes and all. If I can do that, then there isn't much more to say.......

It is The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year- Maybe




Sometimes I think that I sound like Yosemite Sam.

Chinese Food On Christmas

Posted via web from thejackb's posterous

A Quick Note

The Jewish kid isn't supposed to be this busy on Erev X-Mas but no one told my family so we're out running around town. I'll try to put up a new post or two later.

In the interim there are 7,000 others to check out. Scroll down the side and you'll see a list of recent posts as well as some drop down menus. The drop down menus contain an incomplete list of some of my personal favorites on a variety of topics.

See you later.

Open a Banana Like A Monkey

Posted via web from thejackb's posterous

Recent Posts

I may not have time to update this before tonight. In the interim here is a brief list of some recent posts:
Time to Say Goodbye to 2009
All I Want Is You
Celebrities Lost in 2009
This Week in Unnecessary Censorship Best of the Decade
140 Characters- Teaching Boys To Be Men
Three Tips For Gaining New Readers & Driving Traffic To Your Blog
Don't Worry About What You Can't Control
Be A Better Blogger- My Favorite Piece of Advice
Songs That You Have To Sing Along With
2010 Will Be The Year of Jack 


And from the archives:
A Little Digestive Distress- Chicken Vindaloo
Things That Irritate Me About Bloggers

Christmas Tree takes Out Mom's Ashes


EMBED-Dad Ruins Christmas Tree Setup - Watch more free videos

Time to Say Goodbye to 2009

I want to do a year end roundup of the best posts of 2009 but I am not sure if I am going to get around to it. I am a bit schizophrenic about this in that I have this love/hate thing going on with my writing.

I am a competent writer who sometimes produces some excellent content. Sometimes I read a post and a smile breaks across my face because I know that I have created something special that I can be proud of. But it is not uncommon for me to read a post over and cringe. Because some of it is crap, just horrible stuff.

I don't know if I am going to get around to doing it. This is one of those moments where being so prolific is problematic. There are more than 1,000 posts to review. Sure some of them are videos, audio posts or recycled material, but they all take time.

So I am asking myself how serious do I want to be. Do I want to be thorough about this? Do I want to dig in and find the gold nuggets from every month, or do I want to kind of half-ass my way through it. There aren't any prizes to be won, no awards to be had.

Really, I am just doing this for myself. Anyway, that raises a few more questions and comments that I ask myself this time of year.

1) How much longer do I want to keep going? Started in May 2004. Do I have more to say?
2) Is it time to purchase a domain and move over to Wordpress?
3) Do I want to change my focus or keep on doing what I am doing?
4) Should I serenade you all with the ballad I wrote for The Shmata Queen.

The good news for you is that unlike your math book you will not have to turn to the back of the book to get the answers to your questions.

1) The question is not whether I have more to say but am I interested in continuing. And the answer is yes, for now.
2) I might have already done so. You'll find out.
3) In spite of appearances I don't really have ADD. I can focus on specific topics. But I do this for fun, so I'll keep writing about whatever the hell I want.
4) No. I will not serenade you all with that particular ballad, at least not until it is released on iTunes. Rumor has it that it is coming out late next year. I don't mention burning rivers or cleveland in it.

And now I am off to bed. Got a conference call scheduled for ohmylorditistoodamnearlytobeawake.

All I Want Is You

This next post is a sequel to this one.




Twenty years ago you never would have seen a note like this. I never would have allowed you inside my head or my heart. Twenty years ago you would have screamed at me in frustration and asked why I couldn't tell you what I was thinking, wondered why I wouldn't share my thoughts with you. And then you would have looked at me expecting an answer and received a smile and silence.

It would have tested your patience. For a while you would have hung around believing that if you gave me enough time I would learn to trust you enough to let you in. Chances are there would have been a few moments where hints of that which I held back came out. Little glimmers of hope would have made you think that it would happen.

But it wouldn't have. Not for lack of effort or desire but because I didn't know how to say those things you wanted to hear. They lay inside locked up in places I had trouble accessing. And truthfully I didn't want to find the keys to those doors. It was fine to keep that untouched.

Eventually you would have given up and left. I would miss you but never say a word. It was easier that way.

Time would pass and we'd connect. We'd find each other and learn that timing really is everything. Unexpected and unsought for love would sweep us away. Under the craziest of conditions we'd fall harder and faster than ever before.

Alone at the keyboard I type and retype that last paragraph trying hard to avoid trite expressions. Unhappy with the thought that someone would read it and think of cliches and bad sitcoms. Because it was none of those things. It was real. It was the most real thing we ever experienced in a relationship.

*****************
I remember a day not so long ago. All I Want is You was playing and you were telling me about your day. We were talking about the future and you said that until I got my head out of my ass there wouldn't be one. I laughed and told you to relax.

I didn't have to see your face to know that you didn't like it. But I knew that if I pulled you into my arms and kissed your lips you'd give in to the feeling. I told you that you couldn't stay angry with me and you smiled. Dark, dark eyes looked up at me and gave me a smile that no one else gets.

*****************

That was then. A lifetime has passed since those crazy days. A million years and a million experiences spent both together and apart. I didn't have to speak with you to know what you were doing or how you occupied yourself. Didn't need the telephone, email or a psychic to know that you kept busy with family matters. Supermom had always been there, but you put extra work into wearing that cape and playing that role.

I know how you think and that you figured that every day without contact it would become easier. In time you might have even convinced yourself that it wasn't real, that what happened was something other than it was. Then it was my turn to tell you that if you pulled your head out of your ass it would be all too evident that you were fooling yourself.


*****************


Maybe. That is a funny word, maybe. If you are a glass half full kind of person it is a word that offers potential and hope. If you are the half empty type it is more symbolic of something that isn't real. A word that you can use to say no without actually saying no.

I told you a thousand years ago that storms follow me, that I radiate intensity. I said that I would scare you with it. You laughed and told me that it could never happen, but it did, sort of. You didn't fear me because you worried about harm. You feared being close because that fire that burns inside me could so easily light the one that still simmers in you.

Were you standing here reading this, I'd pretend to be Fabio on the cover of some trashy romance novel. I'd strike a pose and make you laugh. It is not bragging if you can do it, how many times did I say that.

Well, it is not. Popeye was right, I yam what I yam. Just a boy telling a girl "All I want is you."

Celebrities Lost in 2009

2009 was a bad year for me but for many celebrities it was far worse.
"Among those who passed: Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Natasha Richardson, Bea Arthur, Dom DeLuise, Karl Malden, David Carradine, Patrick Swayze, John Hughes, Ed McMahon, Walter Cronkite and Don Hewitt.

Authors John Updike, Frank McCourt and Dominick Dunne died, as did blues legend Koko Taylor, Ventures guitarist Bob Bogle, Mary Travers of Peter, Paul & Mary, guitar innovator Les Paul and Adam "DJ AM" Goldstein.

In sports, NFL players Steve McNair and Chris Henry died as did veteran basketball coach Chuck Daly.The politcal world mourned the loss of Sen. Edward Kennedy, and former U.S. Housing Secretary Jack Kemp.

Even celebrity pitch personalities weren't immune as 2009 also saw the passing of Oxiclean pitchman Billy Mays and Gidget, the chihuahua best known for hawking Taco Bell."

140 Characters- Teaching Boys To Be Men

(Hey Jeff Pulver, if you are ever in need of a character at a 140 Conference I can convert this post into a short presentation. Just saying. )

It is after midnight and the room is dark.  I am wearing an old headset, a sweatshirt and the shiny shorts that shone for the Shmata Queen. Don't ask, it just kind of worked.

I am listening to Desperado and imagining that the song was written about me. Hmm..., maybe I should be listening to Carly Simon sing You're So Vain. Anyway, the song catches my eye and my ears because of the combination of lyrics and music.
"Now it seems to me, some fine things
Have been laid upon your table.
But you only want the ones
That you can't get."
It makes a lot of sense, the idea of being happy with what you have. It is not always easy to do and not because of social or cultural messages. Sure those things have an impact upon our thoughts so it would be foolish not to acknowledge them.

But what I think is a bigger issue is the challenge of understanding ourselves well enough to know what it is we need versus what it is we want. If you are one of the 17 long time readers of this blog you have seen the posts that tie into this in which I ask you to tell me what brings you joy, what makes you happy.

I ask those questions because I am truly interested but also because I have spent a lot of time searching my own soul for my answers. Some people grow up and know that they want to be doctors or astronauts. They have a dream and they follow it from the time in which they are little until they are so called grown ups.

I have had a lot of dreams. The first was to play outfield for the Dodgers. I still think about it, but at 40 I am slowly coming to accept that it is not very likely. Neither is playing for the Lakers. Both of those would have made me very happy and brought me great joy, but they aren't part of my reality.

Blogging is a pleasure and an outlet because it provides an easy way for me to vent and gain a greater understanding of myself. This is where I learned that I really am interested in writing a book. This is where I learned that I want to write a screenplay.

Twitter ties into this because of the restriction on characters. 140 characters, that is all you have to work with. It forces you to take your message and to simplify it. Trim the excess fat off that puppy and make it easy to understand.

Brevity isn't my strong suit so it is a great exercise for me.

It also ties in well with the lessons that I am trying to teach my children. The goal isn't to try and have more toys than the other kids. It is not to have better toys, but to be happy with what you have.

But when I think of this I am thinking about this from a long term perspective. What can I do to help the kids figure out what makes them happy. How can I help them find their passion because isn't that what we talk about. Don't get a job, find a career.

Figure out what you love and then figure out how to make money doing that. Now some of this might sound like goofy, feel good crap, but it is significant.

To be clear, I don't expect my kids to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives. I expect that their dreams will change and evolve the way that most of ours do. If they happen to be the exception I'll be happy for them, but really it doesn't matter that much now.

The important thing is to give them the tools to use to figure it out and then get out of the way. At least that is the general idea. I get to spend the next 100 years watching them to see how well they learned the lessons or conversely how well I taught them.

Either way it is an interesting ride.

Three Tips For Gaining New Readers & Driving Traffic To Your Blog

Here are three tips that you can use to make an immediate impact upon your blog and gain new readers.

  1. Write lists that provide tips/strategies for gaining new readers/traffic to your blog.
  2. Write a best of list, preferably in a category. For example Best News Blog, Best Mommy blog etc.
  3. Run giveaways- As in give stuff away for free.

 A couple of quick comments.

I am very cynical about best of lists. Too tired to explain all the reasons why or debate about what metrics should be used to determine who/what really is the best.

But what I can tell you is that they can be a very effective way of making an immediate impact upon traffic to your blog. Here is what you do:

  1. Create a catchy title for your list or award and a cool blog badge to go with it.
  2. Email bloggers to let them know that they are on the list and request that they help publicize it.

As long as your list isn't titled "Biggest Douchebags of the Blogosphere" or "Most likely to be arrested for Pedophilia" you will find that many bloggers are happy to write a post about the award/list and then provide a link back to you.

In fact some bloggers are so eager for good press they will dress up the list/award. No one wants to publicize being part of something average.

The bigger trick is to turn that bump in traffic into something more meaningful and significant, new readers. That is the rub, how do you retain the new readers. An occasional bump is nice. A lot of my political posts have been linked to by Yahoo! but very few of those readers stick around for any real length in time.

Don't get me wrong, I am appreciative of those links, but they aren't enough on their own to keep people coming back. It takes something more.

A quick comment about review blogs. I take issue with bloggers who don't really blog. They spend a couple of bucks on a nice template and write nice letters of introduction to PR agencies in which they sing praises of their blog and the mighty purchasing power of the men/women that frequent them.

My issue is that quite a number of them don't write much of anything. They stick 300 words about diapers, breastfeeding or being a stay at home dad in between posts about contests. That is not a blog. That is a front for trying to get free crap for your family.

You can do reviews, contests and giveaways and be authentic. There are plenty who do. It is the others that irk me. I have done reviews in the past and will do them again in the future, but I like authentic blogs. And lately it feels like I keep stumbling upon fewer of the authentic variety.

But then again I am the first person to say that there is no right way to blog or tweet. However there are a lot of wrong ways.

Anyhoo, lunch time is over so it is back to work. One more tip before you go, Take a look at 51 Blogging and Online Marketing Tips for the New Year. There are some solid pieces of advice contained in that.

Don't Worry About What You Can't Control

About 38 minutes ago I heard my grandfather calling my name. In theory that sounds innocuous, grandpa was a night owl and so am I. But the thing is, he is gone. Grandpa passed away, he died, he left this place 3.5 years ago.

And yet I heard him calling my name. It came from somewhere in the dark recesses of the house or perhaps my mind. I suppose that he heard me talking about him last night. Last night I smoked a cigar. I smoked a cigar and drank some scotch.

I smoke a cigar, drank some scotch and talked about women.

I smoked a cigar, drank some scotch and talked about women while sitting outside. It was on the balcony of my friend's condo. He is single, my friend. Never been married, childless and happy about both conditions.

We sat outside and caught up on life. As we talked he handed me the cigar and a lighter.I said no thanks and he suggested that I reconsider. So I smelled that cigar and it took me back decades. I smelled grandpa and for the first time in 11 years I smoked a cigar.

Out there on the patio I smoked a cigar and thought about grandpa, drank some scotch and talked about women. And then we got serious and talked about life. The old man is going to turn 40 in a short time. He and my son share the same birthday.

The old man looked at me and asked the same question that so many of us have been asking. We're 40 years old and what do we have to show for it. He is an attorney with his own practice and I am a father. And while I admit to having struggled this year with a variety of things, I do have my children. Among all other things I have very happy, well adjusted children.

And that is priceless.

But still we trudged through the mud and the muck of the roads not taken and the missed opportunities. We talked about things that could have been and what should have been. We toasted each other and agreed that 2010- The Year of Jack will be better because we are taking control.

It was a fine evening.

And now it is a bit after 1 A.M. and I am wide awake. Wide awake and at the computer wondering about how I am going to keep making it all happen. The house requires my attention. A number of issues have crept up as they do for all homeowners and decisions must be made.

I am a man. I am handy. And at times I combine the two and become the handy man. I like working with my hands, but some tasks are better left to professionals. They can do it better and faster than I can. So I look at these projects and try to figure out is it worth my time and if not, can I afford to hire someone to do it. And if I can't, can I afford to let it sit for a while.

And as I sit here thinking about these things my mind starts to race and I think that I have to begin figuring out what the kids will do for summer camp. I have to figure out whether I can keep them at their private school for another year. I have to figure out how to do 1,298,893 things and they all cost money. And while my brain is processing all that I have to figure out what I am going to do if there is some sort of emergency, how will I pay for that.

Maybe I imagined it, but I heard my grandfather tell me not to worry about what I can't control. I heard him clear his throat, felt his blue eyes staring out at me. The room is dark, but I stared out into the darkness anyway. Could he be there, somehow.

Nah, it doesn't make sense. I don't believe in ghosts but if I had to be haunted by one than grandpa is a good choice.

I am probably just over tired and a bit stressed out. Maybe that is all it was or is, I don't know.

Last night I smoke a cigar, drank some scotch and talked about women.

This Truck Is The Size of a House

Posted via web from thejackb's posterous

Be A Better Blogger- My Favorite Piece of Advice

Have I mentioned that you need to prepare for 2010- The Year of Jack? Just in case I haven't let repeat myself and tell you that in a few weeks you can celebrate 2010- The Year of Jack. That isn't authentic frontier gibberish but it is authentic.

And that my friends is my favorite piece of advice for bloggers, be authentic. Write in your own voice and tell stories the way that you would normally tell them. Blogging is a different sort of animal. It doesn't have the same sort of rules and restrictions that we we were taught in school. Be yourself and write as you would speak and you will find that people are attracted to you because you are real, you are authentic.

Take a chance and share a piece of yourself with your readers. Step out from behind the curtain and tell an embarrassing story or two. Share your favorite recipe, talk about what you love, what you hate, what makes you laugh and what makes you cry.

Reveal and release.

It is not always easy to do. But it feels good.

Authenticity is part of what creates great content. Authenticity is part of what helps you bond with your readers and that my friends is important. Blogging is about building relationships and interacting with others. Blogging is about telling stories, receiving feedback and then responding to that feedback.

Tell your tales. Share your stories. Reveal and Release. It sounds goofy, like some kind of screwy new age mantra, but it works.

Try it.

Songs That You Have To Sing Along With

It is no secret that I love music. Every couple of weeks I write another post in which I refer to song lyrics or list the last dozen songs that graced my stereo. Music is passion. Music is feeling. Music is emotion. Music touches you in places that are hard to reach. Music is a snapshot in time. Turn on certain songs and the memory parade makes an immediate appearance.

It is a universal experience. One of the most popular posts I have written is: What Are Your Favorite Song Lyrics? Not a day goes by in which it doesn't receive traffic. Music has that kind of power and influence. To me it is not a surprise that there are some songs that you just have to sing along with.

Initially when I was writing this post I thought that I would share five or six songs with you and that these would represent the songs that I have to sing along with. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that I cannot limit it to so few. There are too many good songs that catch my ear and hold me.

Instead I am going to try and come up with a slightly different angle. Here is an incomplete list of songs that are virtually guaranteed to make an appearance at campfires, parties and random gathering of people.

Hmm... I wonder if this is going to date me.

Your Song- Elton John
Rocket Man- Elton John
You Have Got a Friend- James Taylor or Carole King
Great Balls of Fire- Jerry Lee Lewis (If there is a piano this is a gimme)
Pinball Wizard- The Who
Cat's In the Cradle- Harry Chapin
You've Lost That Loving Feeling- The Righteous Brothers (Thanks Top Gun for killing this tune)
The End- The Doors (Obviously this is an end of the night, slightly inebriated tune)
Brown Eyed Girl- Van Morrison
Wonderful Tonight- Clapton (How many times have you seen some guy try to sing this to his date. It can be painful to watch.)
Piano Man- Billy Joel
Forever Young- Alphaville (I included this because of one of my little sisters. How many times did she and her friends cry listening to this song. Oy.)
In My Life- The Beatles
Down On The Corner- CCR
Bridge Over Troubled Water- Simon and Garfunkel
Do Wah Diddy- Manfred Mann
Thank God I am A Country Boy- John Denver
Annie's Song- John Denver
Hotel California- The Eagles
My Way- Frank Sinatra
American Pie- Don Mclean

As I said this is incomplete. What am I missing?

Horror Movies- No Sound Equals No Fear

Typically I am ambivalent about watching horror movies. I don’t find them all that exciting or interesting.

Oftentimes the acting is poor and many rely upon blood, guts and gore to make them fly. I can take them or leave them.

Truth be told the only time I really remember paying attention to them was during my single years. I found them to be a useful tool as they did a good job of encouraging handholding and the like. There, that is my big confession of the evening.

Here is one more. Silence of the Lambs did wonders for my dating life, I'll save the full story for a different night. And now on to the meat of the post.

If you are the kind of person who watches horror movies from between the fingers you use to cover your eyes you might want to consider turning off the sound. Ok, turning off the sound would make it awfully dull, but it would work. There is something else that can be done. Get rid of the soundtrack. Strip it from the movie and leave the dialogue.



Ok, I don't know how you would or could do this, but without the scary soundtrack the movie loses some of its edge. The monsters aren't quite so scary and the anticipation is dramatically reduced. 

Think about it.

My Love/Hate Relationship With Technology

How Do You Become a Father

How do you become a father? It sounds like a ridiculous question. Way back in prehistoric times when Jack was a wee lad the question was asked by the older brother of a friend. He answered with a cackle, "stick it in and bounce up and down."

I think I was about seven or eight. Can't say that I remember for certain. But I know that I didn't have a clue what to stick where or how you were supposed to bounce while doing that. I didn't ask either. Funny to think of it, but by then I already knew that sometimes you nodded your head and pretended that you understood whatever was being discussed.

Flash forward a few decades. I am 30 years old and in the process of trying to get the wife pregnant. For years this has been verboten. Much effort has been expended in trying to practice the bouncing up and down and a few prayers have been uttered in the hope that the miracle of life doesn't happen this time.

It is a strange feeling, this trying to get pregnant thing. I have heard stories from friends who are unable to get to pregnant that I need to relax. One of them tells me that he hates having sex. I look at him with wide eyes and ask why. He tells me that they have been trying forever and the wife is losing her mind.

She has implemented a regimented schedule for sex and is having trouble sleeping because that thing that we didn't want to happen in college won't happen now. I look at him and ask if he is serious. He tells me that when they first started trying it was like manna from heaven. He couldn't provide enough servicing and that somehow heaven has turned into hell.

I hear other stories that are similar and a bunch in which I am told that all he had to do was look at her and nine months later a baby would pop out.

It is all a bit disconcerting, but I am excited about it. I figure that everyone is different and I will just have to see what happens. As it works out it doesn't take all that long. In fact, we get the news one day before we leave on a trip.

The airport makes me think that I am starring in a movie. Kids are screaming and parents are scrambling. Wives are yelling at their husbands to help or get something out some bag. I am not scared. Grew up in a house full of kids with parents who seemed to know what they were doing.

Still, I am wound up. I know that this time I have jumped off the cliff for real and am trying to learn how to fly before I hit the bottom.

Days later I am standing in the middle of Manhattan holding my oldest nephew. He is little, just an infant. I hold him in front of me and stare at him. He stares back.I ask him to tell me a story and he burps. I ask him if that is the best that he's got and he gurgles.

I put him in his stroller and we cross the street. A car comes perilously close and I yell at the driver. My sister screams at me about being in New York and that people are crazy. I stare at her and ask when L.A. turned into podunk.

I am streetwise. I am 5'10 two hundred something pounds and I will not let anyone hurt my nephew. At that moment it occurs to me that if I feel this strongly about protecting my nephew it is only going to get more interesting when my kid arrives.

On a side note I look at my sister and tell her to push the damn stroller. They don't build them with men in mind, at least not normal sized men. Later on I find out that my friend who is 6'2 has an extension put on his stroller so that it is more comfortable to push around.

Flash forward a bit and my son has arrived. He is small enough to fit in my arms like a football. The two of us are alone in the condo we live in. I am telling him stories about anything and everything. I ask him how long I have to wait for him to talk so that I understand what he wants, tell him that it is true that the world can be his.

He takes a nap in my arms and I think about how crazy this is. Not so long before one of his great grandfathers tells me that you never stop worrying about your children. I say something like "really" and he starts laughing, tells me that even though my father is in his fifties he worries about him.

My son and I sit on the couch, or should I say that I sit on the couch and listen to him snore in my ear. I stare off into space and wonder what the future is going to be like. Who will he grow up to be and how will I help him get there.

It feels like a lifetime since those days and yet he is still young and there is so much left to do and to learn. And that is the underlying lesson and message of this post, I am a father. I am a good father, but I am still learning how to do it.

Jericho

Originally run here.

I met Jericho in a time and place that no longer exist. The people we were are long since gone. Now they drift through time and space in a place that I call memory or perhaps it is just my imagination. If you ask Jericho she'd probably push for imagination. She'd want to say that what I remember has been obscured by my own desire for the future. She'd tell you that it was never as good as I remember it.

But if you took her aside and caught her in one of those moments she'd admit that it was exactly the way I remember. She'd admit that as the queen of low expectations it is easier to think of things that way. She'd tell you that to really remember is too painful, too tragic. So old Jericho set up those walls, long and tall, deep and wide.

She lies in wait behind those walls waiting for the future to come. She lies behind those walls and watches the days pass in front of her. There are some really happy times, some good moments that make her think that she can do this for a while. Good things come and she smiles and thinks that life might not be exactly what she wants it to be, but for now this will work.

And me, well I stand outside and stare at the wall. I stand and look and wonder how they grew to be so tall. Too stubborn or too dumb to give up I continue my assault upon them. Every day I look for a way to breach them. Every day I search for a nook or cranny that I can use to start weakening more sections.

Sometimes I see Jericho looking out at me. Sometimes I see her staring at me, a wistful smile on her face. Sometimes I catch her shaking her head. She wonders if I am going to continue to live in denial about the circumstances that placed us here. But I think that she knows that I am not the sort to give up. I...keep....moving...forward....

I have a mental diary of the tactics I have used to try and breach Jericho's walls. There was a frontal assault that was used to try and gauge the strength of the defenses. Some progress was made by eventually the defense asserted itself and we withdrew. There were flanking movements that had minor success, but still didn't amount to much. An attempt to climb over failed as did the tunnel beneath.

In between the attempts I have continued to pepper Jericho with reminders of what could be and paintings of the dream. It has been slow going, but I am ultimately a patient man. Those walls will come down, of that I am certain. What I had to remind myself was that Jericho erected those walls for a reason. I may disagree with the reason, but the smart move is to bide my time.

A well planned siege can work. There is no need to plan my own D-Day.

So I remind myself that the current situation is just a moment in time. A moment in time that can become nothing more than a memory or it can become reality. With this in mind I have made a point of mixing up my tactics. Sometimes I withdraw all of my forces and take some R&R. Inevitably Jericho's natural curiosity drives her out of the tower and she engages in her own reconnaisance. She always finds me.

Life may be a series of random acts but some things seem to be more than coincidence. It is a discussion that Jericho and I have had more than once. One day I suppose I'll have the chance to look back upon this life and determine whether I was right or wrong about that belief.

In the meantime you can find me at my post watching and waiting. One day, one way or another those walls are going to come tumbling down.

Pieces of My Heart & Mind- Collection of Fiction

Here are most if not all of the Fragments of Fiction entries. It may not be in order, but in theory this contains most of the entries

Words On A Page

 Added a few words on a page, some well written, some less so but all with purpose in mind. Can't win the Pulitzer every time, for certa...