Book Art Of Learning Delivers

I thoroughly The Art of Learning, particularly the first half that explores the cerebral journey found in learning/discovering/troubleshooting. The backstory to this book is author Josh Waitzkin was thrown into fame as a child prodigy chess player. The book/movie Searching for Bobby Fischer is written by his dad (I just recently watched and also highly recommend). Around age 20 the author grew disenchanted with chess (likely due to the huge popularity of the movie) and made the abnormal shift from chess to martial arts. The book describes this journey, how there are similarities, and his approach to learning and mental tenacity.

Three points stuck out:

  • It’s wrong to tell children “it’s just a game,” when they’re experiencing a loss. This is typical behavior for parents with competitive kids that don’t perform well during big events. If it didn’t matter, then why did they train so much and travel far for something that doesn’t matter? Children know this and it’s disingenuous to tell them their efforts were meaningless. At the time of this writing, Jim Carrey has been making waves saying how “life doesn’t matter.” This is an incomplete statement as it’s not saying who/what is experiencing the matter. Life may not matter TO YOU or TO THE UNIVERSE. But certain things trigger pain and joy– thus some things do matter to people regardless of the significance to others (BTW, I semi agree with Mr. Carrey’s message besides this flaw, maybe I’ll chat about that some other time).
  • Sometimes the subconscious sees something before the conscious mind does. I’ve experienced this when looking at a coding, or logic problem at work. Sometimes there will be a small flicker that you can’t explain, but you get a hunch that there’s something there that should be continued to explore. I’ve had this sensation on many occasions and have grown to listen very carefully to my body whenever I “feel” like there might be a solution hiding right in front of me that I havent’ seen yet.
  • The book details an experiment between two types of learners — Entity and Incremental learners. It explores how some children who believe they are smart by innate ability (entity) are less resilient to problem-solving after they are stumped than incremental learners. The study consists of giving kids a problem beyond their capability to solve, so they all fail. Afterwards, they are tested on a problem within their skillset and, predictably, the incremental learners did better. This study was referenced in the book The Fighter’s Mind which inspired me in to read The Art of Learning. This illustrates the biggest conflict I feel as a parent — forcing your kids to struggle/suffer is the one of the most effective ways to make them resilient, confident and able to live a healthy life. At the same time… what parent wants to allow their kid to suffer?

Regardless, a good read.

Escaping Fire And YouTube Adventures!

Last night I had to evacuate my family in the middle of the night due to a fire. As a former resident of San Diego, where fires are common and specifically a product of the Scripps Ranch High School class whose families were greatly impacted by the historic Cedar Fire, I have always considered fires a real threat. Thus the evening events went semi-predictably for a chaotic event.

At about 8PM after putting the kids to bed, I noticed some incredibly strong winds. I went out to see if a tree might be in danger of falling on my house. I also noted the unusual fact that there wasn’t any clouds in the sky. This indicates dryness, which, when combined with the wind, is a practically a given that a fire is going to break out.

At about 9:30PM the wind continued to alarm me as unknown items fell outside and a few even smashed into the house. I secured a ladder that had been blowing around and brought in anything that could be blown in a dangerous manner. I distinctly remember trying to smell for any signs of a fire, and I did not.

At about 11PM I emailed my father noting the intense wind and lamented the potential danger of a fire or falling tree.

At about midnight, power became intermittently out. Again, no smell of smoke to me, even when I went outside.

I went to bed about 1AM but never feel asleep (a problem for me lately).

At about 2:30 I was alerted of a fire. Going outside, the smoke was unmistakable and a bright orange glow was off in the distance. Most disturbing was that the wind was blowing directly from the direction where the fire was, putting us right in its path. Other neighbors were out with everyone ensuring that everyone else was aware of the issue (nice to know people do that in times of crises!). I began to execute the “GO PLAN”, which really wasn’t too sophisticated, but I had a short list of immediate things to grab.

My kids wokeup before I intended to grab them due to the commotion. I showed them the fire and they behaved as one would expect a 4 year old and 6 year old. Excitement. Nervous. Small fits of panic. Fighting over who gets what color flashlight. However, by and large, they were cooperative and “calm enough.”

At about 3AM with kids in the car I left the house. No more than a minute into the drive, I filmed the below video and posted it on Youtube. I make quick videos like this pretty frequently mostly for the kids to review when they are older, but I rarely publish publicly. However, for this one, I’d gotten two funny replies from both of them, so I decided to share with the world. I didn’t realize it at the time, but of course filming children while escaping a wall of fire while they amusingly talk about “Freaking out!” and “Saving Kitty” is click bait if there ever was any! So it got some views pretty quick.

Later in the day a guy from ABC Media messaged me asking for permission to use the video, which I granted. He also put me in touch with some guy from Good Morning America. The GMA rep was nice enough, but when he heard I didn’t have the kids with me for an interview, I was written off as boring (EVALUATION = TRUE!).  I was also pretty nonchalant about my escape to (“no our shoes were not melting or anything interesting…”), so he looked for a more interesting story — which, tragically, there were plenty of.

Anyway, what was interesting about the YouTube post is that I got a bunch of dislikes early on. Strangely a video I made about a year ago equating Donald Trump to “Mr Punish And Enslave” and Hillary Clinton to “Mrs. Corrupt” has NO dislikes! The nature of the video is politically neutral and addresses the inoffensive topic of Instant Runoff Voting, but not a single dislike a year later, while my children evacuation video has 6!?? I’m guessing it’s because I said I’d “cut some people off” and mocked the “Texting and driving laws” although I intended to point out that I wasn’t sure if filming and driving was illegal (I keep meaning to check if writing a letter while driving is against the law!)

The final curious observation with Youtube was the comments I received. About 80% were very nice and wished well. However, there was a noticeable number of individuals who made the creative assertion that the peril I was facing was a direct result of me failing to attend their church, an evil conspiracy from a GMO corporation, or because the government was using Chemicals to poison people. Youtube intelligently filtered most of these and requested I grant permission before posting (I approved the anti-government one… I figured his heart was in the right place!).

Anyway, it’s now about 36 hours later: While I haven’t returned, I’ve heard several reliable confirmations that my house/street survived.

However about a mile away there appears to have been some pretty heavy devastation. Specifically, a trailer park got decimated and 10 people died which is only about 1.25 miles from me (I run by it, hence the accuracy).

In general, this is looking like it’s a pretty serious event for my small town. Lots of damage. Looting apparently has been an issue too, which is sad, but predictable given the nature of some people.

I’m in no rush to return to a city with a spike in crime, bad air, and not a lot of immediate resources like food and water.

Tragic that some people lost their lives. Unimaginable to think about the victims or what the people that knew them are going through.

Thanks for the kind wishes for all that sent them. Thinking back, I don’t think I did anything special. From a numbers standpoint, I’m guessing about 99.99% of grownups that were in my situation with children would have gotten away unscathed. I did remember to bring a couple key travel items, but overall just another day of #DadLife!

 

 

Good Kids Book: “How Much Is 20 Trillion” err excuse me “A Million”

As the US National Debt zooms passed the $20 trillion milestone this month, I thought it would be a good to recommend a book that I enjoyed when I was little, How Much Is A Million? This is a great book for little kids to illustrate how big some numbers are. Frankly, it’s a good book for grownups to read too.

Quick… without cheating, take a guess at how big these figures are:

  • How far would 1 billion US sized dollar extend if they were lined up like a road?
  • How long is 20 trillion seconds?

Answers are at the end, but suffice to say these big numbers are hard for grownups to fathom, and little kids don’t do much better.

In 2008 Hillary Clinton tried to backtrack on her claim of being under sniper fire by saying. “I say a lot of things — millions of words a day — so if I misspoke, that was just a misstatement.”  

Ignoring my favorable or unfavorable opinion of the former first lady, this really bugged me. Here she is talking about misstatements, and then says something, from a numbers perspective, that is completely absurd! Taken literally, this would mean that she speaks more 23 words per second all day long. Even if you don’t know exactly how many seconds there are in a day (86,400), I would hope that you know there’s less than a million!! And the fact that she said millionS. Somebody get her this book!!!

Anyway…

Answers to the questions…

1 billion dollar bills would stretch around the world — 4 times (97 thousand miles).

20 trillion seconds is a really really long time… 634 thousand years.

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters Details How to Raise Pioneers, Not Princesses

I had mixed opinions on Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters. As a father with a daughter, and growing up without sister, this book had a vast amount of insightful information. I think all dads subconsciously know there’s a lot to protect your daughter from, and I’m pretty sure this book covered all of them.

Almost to a fault, author Meg Meeker overwhelmed the reader with a variety of risks facing girls today. So much so, that it become hard to understand what to focus on. In short, the book advocates to be that stereotypical dad who cleans his shotgun when boys come over, and gets all in his daughter’s business. The risks presented with regards to STD’s, eating disorders, depression and a slew of other issues offer a compelling case to be that dad.

At the same time, a good portion of this book was stories of parenting, and I got the feeling the author was cherry-picking the most egregious examples to drive home points.

I could also tell there was a not so-subtle Judeo-Christian agenda, which was confirmed in the later chapters when the author encourages everyone to practice some form or Christianity or Judaism. She justifies this with statistics illustrating church attending families raise less at-risk kids, but I might question the cause and effect nature of these statistics (i.e. does Church make daughter’s strong, or does the family that spends time together on Sundays seeking deep meaning in life make strong daughters?).

At one point I became pretty annoyed with this agenda during an example where the author details some high school girls going out partying in Mexico, and “shamefully”, one of the girls danced and drank with an older man who was married! Nevermind she didn’t know he was married, or why that’s objectionable behavior to dance with someone.

At the same time, there was a lot of good advice and it was refreshing hearing a book, performed well by Coleen Marlo, that idolized the role of a father. Here are a couple key points I logged:

  • There are two types of girls: Princesses and Pioneers. We ultimately want our daughters to be pioneers so that when things get rough, they dig into their own soul to solve problems and don’t look for someone to save them. Sons too for that matter!
  • We also don’t want their happiness attached to their appearance, which they’ll already be subconscious of. Thus comments that continually say, “you’re so pretty” may incorrectly give the message that our approval of them is stapled to their looks. I call my daughter “pretty girl” a lot, so I guess I need to cool off on that.
  • Have firm rules on what’s okay and not okay. My Pretty Girl Pioneer is pretty strong willed so there will be battles to come. And…
  • The fights will come! When they do, remember women like to test men’s resolve by throwing them off balance. Daughters will do the same. This was also discussed extensively in The Way of the Superior Man where women want to see if men really are committed to fulfilling their deepest purpose in life. So while she may slam the door at you grounding her, her respect for you holding to your guns improves.
  • Don’t spoil your kids with two much stuff. I personally need to work on this. My son is all about toys and “stuff”.
  • Have her back, and don’t throw the, “You should have known better” comment out when things go bad for her. You never want her to regret calling you in times of despair.
  • Be present. This one was tough to read about since I’m on the road a lot, but spending time is key. It doesn’t always matter what you’re doing, or even if it’s that much fun. Just being around, talking and listening helps her.

Anyway, as I said, I felt the majority of this book was worthwhile, but definitely found myself at odds with about a third of it. It’s probably a book every father with daughters should read just to arm yourself with events to come.

Indoor Excercise & Kids’ First Impression of Michael Jackson

For me the biggest parenting challenge on rainy days is getting the kids to get some activity to burn up some energy. If they don’t they get hyper, don’t sleep as well etc. Thus today, while it poured outside, I tried to get my kids to have a “dance party.” I have some go-to songs listed below, but I thought it was time to introduce them to Michael Jackson. I turned on one my favorite videos of his, Smooth Criminal. I explained to my kids that this was one of the best singer/dancers of my generation.

When The King of Pop first shows his face, my three year old daughter immediately yells, “is that a girl?!?”

My five year old son eventually said, “I can dance better than him,” then managed to simultaneously prove this statement completely false as well as being of my genetic lineage.

Good songs I’ve found for getting my kids to burn energy while dancing or staying indoors:

Other indoor entertainment songs for more specific scenarios like fighting off Communist invaders or just waking up.

What am I missing?

The Way of the Superior Man Review

I heard The Way of the Superior Man was a “must read” from several sources. After finishing it, I did think it was good, but fell a little short of the pedestal it had been placed upon.

It did a good job of articulating a lot of things that men know, but we aren’t exactly sure why. An example would be, “don’t be incredibly needy around or offer too much flattery. Have a purpose, be confident, etc.” Most of my generation probably only learned this when watching Vince Vaughn deliver invaluable man advice in the film Swingers!

My biggest takeaway was the author’s perception of the masculine and feminine roles in a relationship. I agreed with his belief that men are at their best when fulfilling their deepest purpose of consciousness — working out, solving a problem, developing a business, getting things done! Ironically he identified a common purpose as “spreading freedom” which I of course felt a special appreciation for.

He took it a step further by noting that the underlying theme of these objectives is men seek to clear things ultimately enjoying moments of true emptiness. He gives all kinds of examples from football to sex. I’d never considered my instincts that way, but I think there is some truth to it.watch The Wolf of Wall Street film online now

His perception of the feminine role which he equated to “light” was more abstract (shocking). He describes how women go around and doing unpredictable things that men shouldn’t even try to understand. He gives good examples of how women may test their men’s deepest purpose and how in reality they do not truly want to be their partner’s “everything”.

Another good takeaway for me was his analysis of the the disconnect in communication. Of course there’s lots of books on this topic, but he did a good job using perception of time as a good constant that often results in improper messaging.

My biggest complaint was that a lot of the writing was not sourced or just listed as fact with no reference. Example (I’m paraphrasing), “You should call your woman vile names in bed… she’ll like it if you mean it in a loving way!” Seems like this statement, which isn’t even some of the more controversial ideas he proposes on intimacy, should have a little more data to support it besides the author just saying so.

However by and large I would recommend it to married men, men about to get married, or even men who are thinking of leaving a marriage.

Selecting A Music Program for Your Family

I felt it was time to synchronize my house with one music app so I did some research on what made the most sense for us. My objective was to find solid music app I could listen to regularly, as well as use with the kids. Seems easy enough. I decided to sample the big three options for a week at a time, and here’s my observations:watch full film Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 2011 online

Apple Music:

  • $10 per individual or $15 for family plan of 6 per month.
  • 30 million songs.
  • Some radio stations.
  • Saving locally seemed inconsistent.
  • Works nicely with iTunes, but not everyone in my family has that.
  • Interface was a little difficult.
  • Supposedly lower audio quality (256kbps), but I couldn’t tell the difference between the higher 320 KBPS.

Spotify

  • $10 per individual or $15 for family plan of 6 per month.
  • 30 million songs.
  • Definitely the best interface. Clean and intuitive.
  • Great job of making playlists I thought were pretty awesome.
  • Improved sound quality of 320KBPS.
  • It had a weekly 30 recommended songs that was always a success.
  • Never had any playing problems. Google and Apple would occasionally stall (but not frequently).
  • It’s the only option for Linux, not that you care.

Google Play:

  • $10 per individual or $15 for family plan of 6 per month. A BIG limitation on the family plan is that the signup account must be a DROID phone user. It didn’t work for me when I tried a Nexus.
  • 50 million songs.  Don’t be deceived by this figure as a lot of the songs are performed by unknown artists “inspired by” the real artists. An example was Memories By David Guetta that is performed by someone else. This essentially just clogs up my search trying to find the real song.
  • Easy to save locally to your Google Play app, but can’t copy like a regular Mp3.
  • Reasonably good interface and easy to make playlists, but not as good as Spotify.
  • They do allow you to upload 50,000 of your own MP3 songs which will probably be mixes you’ve stolen off of youtube (up to 90 minutes in length). However Google is one step ahead of you because they have intelligently brought YouTube into the equation, see next point.
  • YouTube Red is included (not to be confused with RedTube…). This gives a user:
    • Ad-Free Youtube. Let me tell you that this may not seem like much, but once you have it, it’s painful to return to the land of waiting five seconds, then click “skip” every time you want to watch a video.
    • Ability to listen to youtube on your phone, with the Youtube App minimized. Again, this may not seem like much, but once you get used to it, it’s tough to forget.
    • Download videos locally to your phone. This is quite useful for me as a traveler, if I want to scramble to find 4 hours worth of content to watch on a flight, it’s easy to catch up on my “watch later” playlist..
    • Original YouTube content that’s trying to compete with Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. I haven’t seen any of these, but they look professional.

Between the big three, the Google Family Plan proved the most optimal choice and I had to beg my Droid-using brother to sign us all up under his account. Spotify was the clear victor based exclusively on Music, but the Youtube element was too enticing.

I really would have preferred to go with Apple this year as they stood up the US government on Privacy contrasted to Google’s Eric Schmidt infamous dismissal of privacy . But I can’t say I’ve regretted my choice.  I don’t get cable, as my kids fulfill all their “TV viewing” on YouTube, so the removal of adds, sometimes ones that were not okay for kids to see, is a big win.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon, Netflix or Hulu purchased Spotify just to form a package that can compete. As it now stands, it seems like a pretty obvious choice for Google Play and I would predict others reach the same conclusion as me.

While doing research, I did consider a couple less well known music options. My comments on them:

Rdio.com:

Tidal:

  • $20 for Lossless compression (wave files). I doubt that makes a difference, but again some people who live and breathe music may think so.
  • 35 million songs.

Pandora:

  • $5 a month or free with ads. Actually most of the above ad-supported free versions. I couldn’t stand them though.
  • Can’t pick your own songs, only rate them, so it’s effectively like the radio.
  • Low quality sound of 192 KBPS.
  • Amazingly only 2 million songs… ouch.

Target Red Card is Better Than You Think

Everyone knows Target as a reliable source for reasonable prices, without going to the ultra-cheap Walmart status.

Most people are also reasonably familiar with Target’s Red Card. A quick recap from their site lists the benefits of:

  • 5% off everything.
  • Free delivery of most items.
  • Extended return times.

To me, this alone was convincing enough to signup. Target served as a good one-stop shop for a lot of family stuff, plus the delivery was enticing. I also use Amazon, but Target’s return policy is favorable of having to repack and ship something back to a vendor in hopes of getting a refund.

However, another advantage emerged, that I strangely discovered while researching tips for taking my kids to Disneyland.  The 5% also applies to… Gift Cards. This really shocked me, as I’ve used gift cards before as a vehicle to wrack up points or cash in on rebates, and it seems like these are always guarded by the store manager as cash only sales, and no discounts, or anything. Yet Target seems quite comfortable giving you a 5% gift cards, no limits.

The gift cards vary by store and there are quite a few, but in addition to Disney the ones that interest me are: Southwest, Chipotle, Subway, Ebay, Starbucks, Flemings and Netflix.

I fly Southwest pretty frequently so that savings is most rewarding. Southwest does have a pretty decent return on their Chase Credit card, but by my calculation it’s about 3.4% when booking travel with them. That’s not bad, but compare that to immediate cash savings, and I’d prefer the gift cards.

The only Red Card limitation is that the 5% can’t be applied towards a Visa or credit card prepaid card, nor can it be applied to a Target Gift card. Additionally, if you try to outmaneuver Target by paying for part of it with your credit card (hoping to get points), and part red card, the discount only applies to the Red Card amount (I only tested this out of technical curiosity as it was a hassle to actually execute).

So keep that in mind if you’re considering taking a Southwest flight Disneyland, with eating plans including Subway, Chipotle, Starbucks and Olive Garden…

Fun Video I Made With Just A Little Editing

There’s a restaurant in San Diego called 94th Aero Squadron. It’s got some cool World War I items on the premises. While waiting for our food, I went out with my two boys and got the idea to make the following 30 second video. I filmed with my phone, did a quick search for sounds, ultimately weaving them together.

If you enjoy, give it a “like”, as it’s on his channel.

Technical Considerations When Naming Your Kids

I’m closing in on having another child and haven’t determined a name yet. A couple considerations that I think people should consider, particularly if your children ever up working in I.T.

1) Don’t do a name which is frequently abbreviated. Examples are Steven, David, Kimberly etc.

This has been a recurring headache in my life, particularly working in I.T. Email addresses, logins, account names are difficult when the legal first name is ambigious. This extends beyond IT, such as memberships. Every time I go to the zoo, I seem to forget my pass, so I have to have them lookup my membership based on my ID. They can never find me because my first name is entered differently than my driver’s license.

2) Don’t do a name which is commonly spelled two ways. Sarah/Sara. 

Same as problem as 1. When people want to email, or when looking up your records, user error is frequent. Sarah.Connor@YourCompany.com oh wait… sorry it’s Sara.Conner@yourcompany…

3) Don’t have spaces, hyphens, or apostrophe names. 

Obvious reasons, plus I think unusual punctuation might create some employment roadblocks. I’m guessing most Americans might have either conscious or unconscious preference to a resume with the name “Susan Smith” instead of “Osama bin Smith”.

4) Don’t pick a name that ends with an “S” Glynnis, James, Francis

Creates a punctuation issue that confuses people. Glynnis’s house is grammatically correct, but often people will incorrectly type Glynnis’ house. It makes life difficult and potentially confusing for foreigners or translation tools.

5) If your last name is Rider, don’t name your kid, Colt, Porsche, or Dick.

One of these names is my father, and if you think that’s bad, imagine going through middle school with his name posted all over town encouraging people to vote for him in a coming election. Yeah, my brother and I have been in a fight or two…