Wednesday, April 30, 2014

AirBnb Stories

I love Airbnb, the website that lets you turn your house into a bed and breakfast.  I use it when I travel, and I use it to host.  It makes me extra money.  I get to meet new people.  And it gives me the opportunity to walk around the neighborhood at 9:30 at night trying to find a Chinese couple honking their horn to let me know where they are.

"Turn on your lights so I can find you!" I said.

"OK" she replies, and started honking her horn.  

"No, please stop that," I asked, fearing my bored elderly neighbors who make up my Home Owner Association.

"OK, can you hear the car?"  She honked again, and I started running.  

That couple is in my room right now.  They're actually very friendly.  In fact, nearly every experience with Airbnb, whether hosting and staying has been awesome.

I've hosted about six people, though I've had a lot more requests.  As a general rule, I only accept requests from people with picture and verifications.  Verifications are what make Airbnb work.  When you travel or when you host, you rate the other party.  This provides incentive to be a great host, and a great guest.  Better yet, it screens out the spammers, scammers, and general weirdos.  

Doug, who emailed me yesterday, would fall into the weirdo category.  He needed a room for 3 nights so he could attend a local UFO festival.  Not necessarily a red flag, but at least a yellowish-orange one.  To his credit, he did explicitly say that he didn't totally believe in UFO's and wouldn't be bringing his tin hat.  But Doug didn't have a picture, or any verifications.  I told him I would need both before I accepted his request.  He replied, "Sure... Want anything else, picture of my WADL?"  

Denied on the spot.

I don't know what a WADL is, and neither does Google or Urban Dictionary.  I do know I don't want a picture of UFO Doug's WADL.

The worst experience I had staying was with a friendly man in Victoria, British Columbia.  My girlfriend and I rolled in late.  It was our first time using Airbnb and we didn't know what to expect.  The man, I'll call him B, opened the door and let us in.  His house was large and dark, with deep spooky shadows hiding things unknown.  On our way to our room, we passed a little chalk board set up on a tripod.  Written in a child's hand writing was "Help me."

This was also outside the house.
B saw us to our room, which was quiet comfortable.  He showed us the bathroom we would use, and then proceeded to take the largest dump the West Coast has ever experienced before we could use the bathroom.  We had to brush our teeth in his lingering stench.  At least he made us a delicious breakfast the next morning.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Persistence Pays

Try and try again.

The little things in life are what make life grand.  Triumphs must be celebrated, no matter how small.  Tonight I celebrate two.

First, my girlfriend has suddenly plunged headfirst into biking.  She always wants to go.  I made the mistake earlier of trying to encourage her to bike to this beautiful abbey nearby that sits atop a hill.  It's not easy for me to do, with my fancy bike and clip in shoes.  She's riding my cheap-o mountain bike I got when I was 15.  She made it that time, but she wasn't happy with me.

Tonight though, she said "Lets go to the Abbey."  So up and up we went.  It's a big hill.  She struggled, I struggled.  But up and up we went, to be rewarded with views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. St Helens and nearly 200 miles distant, Mt. Rainier.  The pain was worth it.

The second triumph occurred later tonight in a bar.  After over two years of futility, numerous second place finishes, and endless heartache and heartburn, I've finally won bar trivia.  It wasn't easy.  We had to endure a MC who talked way too much, and an odd dessert of potato chips, bananas and whip cream.  At the end of the final round, we finished tied, so it moved to a Family Feud style face off, best of 5.  Our team won 3-1.

None of these "triumphs" are life shattering, but I'll remember them.  And I think that's at the core of a good life, recognizing and savoring the little moments along the way.  So many great things happen to us that we sometimes don't even take the time to notice.  When life is good, drink it up.  

Monday, April 28, 2014

10 Years: Never Let Fear Dictate Anything

Now that I'm 30, I'm on a plan to guide the next 10 years of my life.  I've set out a number of principles I want to live by.  Number 4:  Never let fear dictate anything.

Fear and a lack of ability are the greatest culprits that limit the course of our life.  One we can't do anything about, but one we can.

Lets look at lack of ability.  Each of us has a certain level of natural talent in any given area, like singing, basketball, or art.  We can hone and improve these abilities, but will eventually run into the ceiling of what we can accomplish.

Example 1:  No matter how hard I put into my basketball game, I will never be able to touch LeBron James on the basketball court.  This is an assumption, because I never attempted to become a professional basketball player.

Example 2:  No matter how many singing lessons I take, I will remain a terrible singer.  This is a fact, because I have taken singing lessons, and was even the lead singer of Christian rock band(!) in college.  We were awful, and I am largely to blame.

These are God given limitations and I don't feel bad for them.  I am who I am.  I'm good at other things, like playing video games, or reading quickly.   And even though my Christian rock band sucked in nearly every way a band can suck, it was still a really awesome experience, one I would never trade.

Yes, the singing was terrible, the guitars hit more wrong notes than right notes, and our drummer was more into anime than being a drummer.  We still played shows in front of hundreds of people.  We made a demo CD that people actually bought.  Kids asked us for autographs.  Somewhere, some kid who is probably off to college now has a CD signed by me stuffed in some drawer.

I actually feel a little guilty that someone paid money for my CD, so if you happen to own an Again United CD, I will refund you $3.

Fear is a different beast.  Fear kills experiences before they ever happen.  Fear turns failure from a life enriching learning experience into an all-consuming boogie man.  Fear must be avoided.  Failure must be embraced.

Fear of failure can keep us from so many great things in life.  And worst of all, when you don't try something because you were afraid, for the rest of your life you'll never know what might have happened.  I don't want to be laying on my Death Bed wondering if I ever could have been a rock star.

I've applied this in other areas of my life.  I started a business at age 23.  It failed, but morphed into a non-profit that did a lot of good.  I plan on taking the lessons from my first business and hope to start another one at some point in my life.

And I've failed to do this in other areas of my life.  Take my wonderful girlfriend, who nannies at the school where I teach.  The first time I saw her she literally took my breath away, she was so beautiful.  I literally walked past her every day for a year, and never got the nerve up to say hi.   Day after day I walked by her, my courage wilting and words sticking in my throat.  Then summer came and I saw her no more.  I kicked myself for that, but luckily got a second chance when met by chance at a local festival.  But we don't always get second chances.

If you aren't failing, you aren't trying.  We all have dreams and aspirations that we're afraid to even say aloud because they seem so unlikely.  Say them.  Dream them.  Do them.  You might fail, you might succeed, but you will never know if you don't try.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

My Dog Hates the Vacuum and Loves the Lawn Mower

My dog proves the truth to many cliches.  Take the vacuum cleaner, he hates it.  It scares him senseless.  Ironically he's the reason it's out so much.  I've told him repeatedly that if he'd stop shedding, he'd almost never see the vacuum, yet my words go unheeded.

Winston is scared of most loud things.  My leaf blower for example.  But there is one he loves.  The lawnmower.  Yes, the one machine that can actually cause him harm he thinks is the greatest thing on earth.   When I roll the lawnmower out, he stops sniffing whatever he's sniffing and starts sprinting back and forth as fast as he can.  This is the kind of behavior he only exhibits around other dogs he likes, or when I or my girlfriend come home from work.

Surely, you exclaim, once you start the mower he runs away.  You're wrong!  He sprints back and forth the entire 15 minutes it takes me to mow the lawn.  Totally fearless, he zings past my lawn mower like Tom Cruise buzzing the tower in Top Gun.   

One one of my dog's many similarities to Tom Cruise.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dilated Eyes

A visit to the optometrist seems an unlikely place provide an ego boost, yet it never fails to do so. Whenever I go to the eye doctor, he acts me to do a lot of simple tasks, and then praises me for preforming them.   In a world of increasingly high expectations, the eye doctor has kept his standards refreshingly low.

"Look left." he asks.  No problem.   "That's it, very nice."

"Look left and up."  I got this.  "Perfect."

"Look up."  Easiest one yet.  "That's great!"

While it's true that my eye control is magnificent, the guy is completely, 100% earnest in his praise.  And he doesn't stop.  "Your eyes are very stable.  Very stable.  I'm very happy to see that," he says, and I beam with pride.  All this makes the dilution eye drops bearable.

How I think my eyes look with pupils dilated.
How I actually look. 
My eyes aren't even very good.  I wear contacts that I'm practically blind without.  Still, this guy makes me feel good about myself for something every non-baby human can do.  I found the whole experience an interesting anecdote about the power sincere praise has to make someone else's day better.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What Would I Do

Been laid up sick the last few days, which has given me ample time for Netflix and napping.

Netflix does have a few gems.  Valkyrie is one of my all time favorite movies.  Not only is it about World War II, my all time favorite history subject, it's the only Tom Cruise movie out there that doesn't feature him running really fast.

"Watch me go zoooooooooooooooooom"

It's a true story about a German officer's plot to kill Adolf Hitler.  As the movie tells you, the Germans tried more than a dozen times to kill their Furher.  It's heartening that while so many millions hid behind the shield of "law" and "following orders," a few brave ones had the moral compass and the courage to stand up to evil.

Learning about the Holocaust, slavery, or even the segregated South in the 1950's always gets my blood boiling.  And I wonder, if I lived in one of these peculiar times in history when great injustice was the norm, would I have gone along with everyone else?  

Would I have actively participated in the wrong, telling myself I'm only following orders?  

Would I have known it was wrong but kept silent for fear of retribution?  

Would I have stood up for what's right?

What would you do?

I'd like to say I'd do what's right, but I don't know.  I'll probably never know until I'm in that situation.  Sometimes I'm surprisingly coward.  Other times I'm surprisingly brave.  I hope I'd be the kind of man like Colonel Stauffenberg, who Tom Cruise played in the movie.  

There is a lot of truth in the quote "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing."

Sometimes the cost of being a good man is quite high.  In Nazi Germany, it'd probably cost you your life.  In America, it will often cost you your freedom.  I've thought a lot about Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and the like.  Whether or not you agree with them, these men (one now a woman) risked a lot to shed light on things our own government was doing that most Americans didn't know about.  Some of the things, like the NSA mass surveillance of nearly all Americans, the government had even lied about under oath before Congress.  Their penalty for shedding light on our government's secrets?  One is sentenced to jail for 35 years, and the other probably would be if he hadn't stayed in Russia.

In my eyes, both are heroes. They stood up to evil when they saw it.  How many other employees at the NSA just went along with violating Americans' constitutional rights because they were "following orders?"  Manning and Snowden cared more about what was right, and cared more about their country than any of the others who did something wrong, or unethical under the guise of "doing their duty."  They are heroes, and America needs more like them.


Monday, April 14, 2014

An Ominous Bike Ride

I'll finish up my series on my 10 year life plan soon.

Oregon's had an amazing run of good weather lately.  There is nothing like spring in Oregon after months of rain.  Today I took advantage and road my bike to school, a 7 mile jaunt through hops fields and vineyards.  On a clear day, like today was, I can see three of the Cascades, Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams.

Unfortunately, the road has narrow shoulders and the traffic goes pretty fast, so I'm always a little anxious riding.  As a bicyclist you're at the mercy of drivers.  99.9% are fantastic, but it just takes one idiot and it's lights out.

I was sadly reminded of this when I rolled up to a busy intersection, one I usually drive through every day, to find a van flipped over, and two pick ups smashed.  One belonged to a co-worker of mine who I think, is alright.  Other people I saw wheeled off to ambulances.  Hopefully everyone is ok.

Nonetheless, after school I bravely got back on my bike.  As I started to pedal, I noticed a little piece of paper stuck to the bottom of the frame.  It almost wasn't visible.  Stopping to grab it, I found this:

Displaying 20140414_212037.jpg
"You Died, Go Back to Start"
That creepy yellow piece of paper, well... creeped me out.  I realized quickly it was from a student's game they had made, but still.  

I made it home in one piece.  The worst thing that happened to me is I have a sore throat.  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dog Tired

You know its a good day when you and your dog both can barely keep your eyes open.

I have a blanket draped over a Laz-E-Boy, it hangs over the back of the chair and touches the floor, creating a space in between that a little boy might call a fortress.  For my dog, it's his tired place.  He crawls in there when he can do no more for the day.  Sometimes he sits up, all covered in blanket, and he looks like a Scooby Doo ghost.

Why would a ghost wear a sheet anyways?

It was a dog-in-the-fortress kind of day.  The best kind of day.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

10 Year Plan: The Most Important People in my Life are the Most Important Thing in My Life

I wrote out 6 core beliefs to plan the next 10 years of my life around.  Here they are:
  1. Anything worth doing will be hard.
  2. Do one thing at a time and one thing only.
  3. The most important people in my life are the most important thing in life.
  4. Never let fear dictate anything.
  5. Money is a tool.
  6. Billionaire moments are everywhere.
Third on my list: the most important people in my life are the most important thing in my life.

I used to believe that people are the most important thing in life.  That statement probably reflects my optimistic, non-confrontational nature.  I like to get along with everyone.  I want everyone to be my friend.

Now I qualify that statement to: The most important people in my life are the most important thing in life.  There's quite a big difference between those two statements.  Before, I included the whole of mankind.  Now, just my immediate circle of family and friends.

That's not to say that all people aren't important.  I strongly believe they are.  And let me be clear, I believe I should treat even people I don't like with respect and kindness.  But by placing family and friends in the position of most important, I prioritize my life in the right way.  If we were to all divide the world into three simple categories based on our relationships it might look like this:

  • Family and friends.
  • Acquaintances, people you pass on the street, random folks on the bus, people we haven't met yet.
  • People we don't get along with.

Now, how should we rank those groups in order of importance?  A pretty simple question for most of us.  Family and friends should be first, acquaintances second, and people we don't like third.

Maybe my past self would call this social hierarchy sad and cynical, but I know now I can't make everyone like me all the time.  Having beliefs, having principles, having to make decisions invariably will upset someone.  And frankly, there are some people out there who just might not like me.  And try as I might, there are some people who I just don't like either!

At the same time, I have been blessed to have amazing people in my life.  Some I inherited by birth, like my mother and father.  Others I've found traveling through life, and for whatever reason they decide to call me friend.  However they came into my life, I am convinced that the friendship, loyalty, and experiences I share with these people make them worth more than anything I own or could possibly own.

Yet, my own behavior seems to show I rank them otherwise.  Lets take this scenario: a friend invites you out to an event you both want to go to, but you know someone you don't want see (ex girlfriend, sworn enemy, Miley Cyrus, i.e) will be there.  We've all been in this position.

Logically, I should let the people I don't like influence my life the least, so I should go to the event with my friend.  Yet, many times I elect not to spend time with my friend for fear of running into the person I don't like.  I place the person who should be at the bottom of my priority list on the top.  It makes no sense!

Indeed, sometimes the ones we love the most we treat the worst.  I can spend all day forcing myself to smile and be friendly to strangers, then snap at my girlfriend when I come home.  We fear the opinions of strangers more than those we love.  Maybe this becuase people who really care for us are the ones who have seen our ugly sides and our faults and love us anyway.  Maybe we think, "they'll still love for me anyway," while we put on a happy face in public because they probably won't.

Whatever the rationale, it shouldn't be that way.  Again, we shouldn't be rude, mean, etc to anyone (even those we don't like!), but we should definitely give our loved ones our best.  Put them first.  They are the ones who will be for you through the thick and thin.  The rest of the world?  If they are there at all, they sure won't be there for you when things get tough.

Family and true friends are treasure.  For the next 10 years of my life, it's my goal to treat them that way.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

10 Year Plan: Do One Thing At A Time

Sunday, I wrote out the 6 core beliefs that I'm trying to focus the next 10 years of my life around.  Here they are:
  1. Anything worth doing will be hard.
  2. Do one thing at a time and one thing only.
  3. Where you spend your time is who you are.
  4. The most important people in my life are the most important thing in my life.
  5. Never let fear dictate anything.
  6. Money is a tool.
  7. Billionaire moments are everywhere.
Second on my list: Do one thing at a time.

Humans are not capable of multi-tasking.  I know this because I've read it before.  Yet still I persist in trying to do more than one thing at a time, as if I've taken some evolutionary leap and the rules don't apply to me.

My experience fits what I've read.  When I try to do more than one thing at a time, I end up doing nothing.  The biggest culprit for me is my phone.  Literally, as I type these words, I want to grab it and read my Twitter feed.  Basically anything that glows attracts me like a moth.  Phone, TV, computer, all irresistible.  Perhaps I'm a product of my generation, but I feel  can only devote about 5 minutes to something before I seek distraction elsewhere.

To be more productive and achieve my lofty goals (which I'll post at the end of this series), I am trying to simply Do One Thing at a Time.  It sounds simple, and it is.  The benefits of focusing entirely on the task at hand are enormous.  First of all, the task gets done . Second, living in the moment is the only logical way to live.  We only get each moment, each minute, each day once.  Why live it distracted?

When I look at all the things I wish I had more time for, writing and working out mainly, I sometimes wonder how much I could get done if I devoted all my phone time to one of those tasks instead.  If I am normal for the millennial generation, it's arguable that I spend more time on my phone than doing any other particular thing throughout my day.  That's sad.  No one wants to look back at a life lived through a 2 inch by 5 inch screen.

It's hard to make new habits, and this has been my hardest habit to break.  I'm trying to leave my phone in my pocket more, and better yet at home.  I try to not mindlessly surf the web when I have work to do, or when I'm writing.  I try to live entirely in the moment.  It's not going to be easy, but more than anything else I attempt to do in the next 10 years of my life, doing one thing at a time will do the most to help me achieve my goals. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

10 Year Plan: Anything Worth Doing Will Be Hard

Yesterday I wrote out the 6 core beliefs that I'm trying to focus the next 10 years of my life around.  Here they are:
  1. Anything worth doing will be hard.
  2. Do one thing at a time and one thing only.
  3. The most important people in my life are the most important thing in my life.
  4. Never let fear dictate anything.
  5. Money is a tool.
  6. Billionaire moments are everywhere.
The first on my list: Anything worth doing is hard.

You do only live once, and I want that life to count  I've always aspired to live an exceptional life and do exceptional things.  That's why I started this blog way-back-when in the first place.

The problem with being exceptional is this: it's hard.  Even my mundane, New Years Eve-like, goals take work.  Getting in shape, blogging regularly, and saving more money aren't particularly exceptional, and those aren't easy!

Then I think about some of the bigger ambitions I've aspired to over the years: Starting a non-profit or social enterprise that changes the world.  Being a life changing teacher.  Writing a book.  Those are extremely difficult to do. 

It makes sense, if it were easy to do exceptional things, everyone would do them.  We'd all be Mark Zuckerburgs running around starting social media empires.  By it's definition, an exceptional life is different than normal.  Everyone wants to be great, famous, recognized, etc.  But the majority of us, myself foremost, don't want to put in the amount of work necessary to achieve exceptionality.  We take the path of least resistance.  Why work hard to be a great writer, artist, athlete, what-have-you when something as easy as a sex tape can get you your 15 minutes of fame.  Or in my case, why work hard when you can watch Family Guy on Netflix when you get tired.

Exceptional people are weird,in a good way.   They have the discipline to do what is necessary to achieve their goals.  Without a doubt, I have not been exceptional in anyway at anything in the first 30 years of my life.  I have an assorted set of skills ranging from the decent (Being able to teach 7th graders about Ancient Rome), to the awful (golf).  There is nothing that I have devoted myself to being exceptional at, with the possible exception of Halo back in college.  

In the next 10 years of my life, I plan to change that.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

10 Year Life Plan: The Long Term vs Short Term View of Life

The age of 30 has given me a little longer view of life.  Until recently, the "future" seemed distant and hazy.  The age 30 itself seemed old and scary.  I felt an urgency to do things now, and lived my life accordingly.

In some ways that's good, as I've certainly experienced a wide variety of things.  Between the ages of 19 and 23 I started a band, started a business, and lived overseas.  None lasted longer than a year, though

As a member of the instant gratification generation has brought some predictably bad results too.  Take financially, where rather than taking the slow and steady route, I've bounced around some get rich quick ideas ranging from the idiotic (I'll count cards in blackjack just like the MIT guys), to the arrogant (I can play the stock market like Bradley Cooper in Limitless!).  All have been expensive.

Recently a 70 year old relative came to visit.  You never have guessed he was 70.  He is mobile, active, and strong.  He just retired, and talks about all of his life's ambitions.  I had him pegged in the early 60's, until I found out otherwise.  He got me thinking, if all goes well, I have at least 40 good years left!  Then I asked myself this question: 

Knowing what I know now, and starting from where I am now, what do I want to do in 40 years?

*Now of course "if all goes well" is a pretty major caveat. I just watched Titanic, so I won't tempt fate and presume anything past today.  
"Unsinkable, eh? Mwahaha"
As I tried to answer that question, I was surprised that I couldn't.  At all.  The only answers I had were incredibly generic:  "Have kids" and "Be a billionaire!" 

Looking at my life more closely though, that doesn't surprise me.  I don't have direction or a plan, and instead have momentum from living day to day.  At age 23 I became a teacher, and have kept with it because I love it.  At age 26 I moved into a house, because I could.  At age 29, I found my wonderful girlfriend because I finally got the courage to talk to her after chickening out for over a year (true story).

Frankly, I think it is and was OK for me to not know everything I want out of life.  I don't want to live off some script.  Many of the best friends and experiences I have in life have come from unplanned and unexpected circumstances.  And especially when I was younger it was important to find my place in the world, so to speak. 

Now that I'm 30, I've figured out a lot more about what I believe in and who I want to be.  I've laid out at 10 year plan for myself, organized on the following six beliefs about life:
  1. Anything worth doing will be hard.
  2. Do one thing at a time and one thing only.
  3. The most important people in my life are the most important thing in life.
  4. Never let fear dictate anything.
  5. Money is a tool.
  6. Billionaire moments are everywhere.
Over the next week I'll be explaining each, then I'll share my 10 year plan at the end.  

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Fight Fate

Life is like a box of chocolates.  I will concede that.  It's also like a roller coaster.

Sometimes all the dominoes fall your way.  Your mortgage company mails you a substantial check.  Work is going great and you get recognition from your boss.  You find an amazing group of friends, and spend your nights and weekends happy and laughing.  Sometimes it feels like you just can't miss, and can do no wrong.

That was my week last week.  It got me thinking about my life.

I've had good spells that seemed to last months.  It can make you believe that the blue skies and sunshine will last forever. But like all good things, they came to an end.

Sometimes it all goes wrong.  Nothing goes right at work.  Great relationships blow up.  Your friends move away and you get lonely.  Expensive things break.  You stub your toe. Worse, more serious things happen.  When you're in a funk, it's hard to see an end to that dark tunnel as well.

The reality?  It all passes.  The good times and the bad times come and go, and often you'll have little say in the matter.  If life is dealing you a great hand, count your blessings and enjoy it.  Don't get arrogant or complacent.  It won't last forever.  If life has been rough, know that it will eventually pass.  Don't get depressed or despondent.  You'll start catching some breaks.

Through out it all, the good and the bad, the secret is to control what you can control.  Fight fate.  Determine who you want to be, and what you want out of life, and determine the best way to get there.  You'll still go through ups and downs, but you'll be heading in an upward direction.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Random Acts of Kindess

One of the awesome things about being a human being is our ability to absolutely make someone's day.  Many of us don't utilize this power we have, we very naturally tend to focus on ourselves for most of our waking hours.  My daily thought pattern from waking to sleeping is often something like this:

"I'm tired."
"I'm hungry."
"I'm late."
"I'm busy."
"I'm tired."
"I'm hungry."
"I want to watch the Walking Dead."
"I'm tired."
Essentially, other than struggling to get to work on time and wanting to watch a TV show, I have the same impulses of my dog.  There is a lot of "I" in my life.

To combat my natural selfishness, I decided recently to go out of my way to perpetrate Random Acts of Kindness as I went about my school day.  A list of my deeds would be boring, and a little self serving.  I can tell you though, there is great joy in brightening in someone's day, and ample opportunity in the school setting.  Sometimes all it takes is a smile or a compliment.  Sometimes it takes more.

So far my tale is nothing special (my blog rarely is), but there is a cool twist.  Randomly in discussion with a few 8th graders, they liked the idea, and it led to the formation of the R.A.K. (Random Act of Kindness) Club.  We established the criteria for a Random Act of Kindness as this.  The act must be:

  • Genuine
  • Meaningful
  • Unexpected
Members got points for each R.A.K. that met the criteria.  Soon we started holding meetings, scheming of grand R.A.K's while eating cookies and drinking tea.  The club ballooned into two thirds of my eighth grade class and we are holding a mass "Random Act of Kindness" this Saturday.

I have to say, appealing to our better sides is refreshing.  Human beings do have a unique capacity for altruism that is mind boggling  Kids come up to me every period of every day telling about their R.A.K's.  8th graders have done the dishes randomly for their parents, they've carried books for other students, played volleyball at recess with the younger kids and more.   I feel like this "club" has changed the whole demeanor of the entire class for the better. 

The moral of the story?  Awesomeness is in us all.  And the potential to do amazing things is all around us, we just have to look for it.  

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Netflix Comes Through: Titanic the Movie Edition

Unless this is a cruel April Fool's joke, Netflix has returned Titanic to its line up.  The time couldn't be better.  As I wrote two days ago, I recently attended a lavish recreation of the last first class dinner on the Titanic.

The night before the dinner, we had all sat down to watch Titanic the movie,  If you are my age (30) you probably remember it coming out in middle school.  You probably saw it once, or twice, or if you're like my dad, 12 times (no joke).  For all the "I'm the king of the world!" silliness, it's actually a pretty good movie.  Like I said earlier, the juxtaposition of all those leaders of industry, luxuriously sailing on their unsinkable ship, sinking into the ocean is very compelling.

I noticed another thing watching the movie: the Part.  Worn by the insufferable aristocrat Billy Zane:

"Isn't it beautiful Rose?  It's as if Moses himself parted it."

And the charming rapscallion Leonardo Dicaprio:

"I'm too free spirited cut my hair"

The Part definitely was in style in the late 90's.  I wore it myself, though I never remember any girls like Kate Winslet being attracted to it.

My favorite scene, without a doubt, is when the guy sees the iceberg that will doom the ship and yells, "Iceberg!  Right ahead!" in this awesome British accent.  I've tried recreating that accent thousands of times without success.  To get to that scene, you have to suffer through most of the Jack and Rose romance.  And our DVD froze right after the infamous "Let me take off my clothes so you can draw me" scene, and right before the "Lets fog up the windows in the backseat of a car" scene.  Both of those scenes, incidentally, had a profound impact on my understanding of human sexuality in middle school.

Alas, the DVD froze.  I never got to hear the guy yell "Iceberg!  Right ahead!" so I had to say it out loud a half dozen times and then Youtube it a half dozen more.  So thanks Netflix, for putting Titanic back online.