Salon XLIV


Salon XLIV
Sunday, May 4, 2014, 7:00-10:00
Anna’s House

  1. Share our "Creative Routines" using the graphic John will provide, as inspired by the Creative Routines Infographic brought to our attention by Kim. (John)

    • 8:00-9:00 Morning prep for work.

    • 9:00-6:00 Work

    • 6:00-7:00 Workout

    • 7:00-7:30 Dinner

    • 7:30-1:00 Information/Education/Entertainment on the web

  2. What things do you procrastinate about? (Sarah)

    • Cleaning my house.

    • Getting up in the morning (several snoozes, and back to bed for “5 more minutes” after I get up and go to the bathroom).

    • Getting my donations together for Bob's MICU yard sale each year, and for a year-end tax break.

    • Doing my taxes.

  3. What's your perspective on living in one place vs. moving to a new place? Has it changed? What do you value about the places you've lived? (Kim)

    • As a “military brat,” I moved a lot as a kid. I attended seven different schools between kindergarten and 6th grade. While I never liked moving as a kid, I do think it taught me a lot—how to say “goodbye,” how to make new friends, and gave me exposure to a lot of different people who were not like me.

    • As an adult, I hated moving, because I/we (when I had a wife) had so much “stuff.” I don’t think I’d mind moving nearly as much now, because I’ve gotten rid of a lot of things, especially over the last 5 years.

  4. How do you feel about your car turning a different color to let other drivers know you're distressed? Feeling glum, happy, aroused? New technology can detect your mood. (John)

    • Overall, I would classify this as “practical, helpful technology.” There are a couple of things that I wonder about though:

      • Is there an implication that we could be arrested if a certain “mood” is exhibited?

      • How distracting would this be to other drivers?

  5. A mother adds a sandbox to her son's grave so his older brother can play with him... thoughts? (John)

    • In general, I’m of the ilk that if it helps someone deal with grief, and it’s not hurting anyone else, then have at it. And I would assume at some point, when it’s “age appropriate” there’d be a talk about if it’s helping and when might be a good time to stop doing it.

  6. What do you think of the Periodic Table of Storytelling? Any elements you'd add that aren't represented? Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: "The universe is made of stories, not atoms" (Muriel Rukeyser). (Brad)

    • I admire the hell out of whoever had the passion for the idea to create.

    • At first glance, it seems harder to learn the the actual periodic table, as I don’t know what a lot of the tropes actually mean. (e.g., Ass pull (LOL!), squick, Five-man band ), although it is fanfuckingtastic that you can click on the element to be taken to its definition.

    • I would love to have the time to really learn it, and then have a blog in which every entry was this applied to something I’d recently read.

    • I couldn’t figure out what the “fade across” affordance was for.

    • I was trying to think what a description of our typical Salon meetings might look like. HIL (Hilarity ensues) → IVC (Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism) → SCW (mind screw) → a bit of ASS (Ass pull) → ROF (Rule of funny)?


It's really April now, and I'm writing this in retrospect about January 12, 2014.

So, it's ten years to the day that I committed to writing a blog entry every day of my life. And today's the day I'm ending that commitment.

What a ride it's been. And it's time to capture some observations of the experience...

About the writing

  • People have often asked me what inspired me to do this, and my response has evolved over the years—but at its core, it has to do with these three things:

    • I thought it would be neat to have a record of my life, so that when I got Alzheimer's (or that devastating brain cancer), I could look back, read, and think (while I could), "Wow, what a fun guy. Wish I'd've known him." (No shortage of ego in that.)

    • One is not a writer unless one writes, so what could be better than writing every day, or striving to, at least?

    • Since I've done technical writing—which is pretty dry writing for the most part—for most of my work life, I wanted a creative writing outlet, which I've definitely found in blogging.
  • For a long time, I said, "I've blogged every day of my life for the last x years," until one day a pedant challenged the accuracy of my claim. So, I changed my schtick to, "I have a blog entry for every day of my life for the last x years." This was to accommodate for the fact that sometimes I got a little behind, and I'd go back and write my blog entries for the days I missed. In spite of the means, I'm proud of the end.

  • When you make a commitment like this, it's got to be for you, or it isn't going to last. Don't get me wrong, I loved when someone commented about one of my entries—either electronically on my blog itself or talking to me in real life—but if I wrote only for only that, I'd've stopped a long time ago. At times, there were days, weeks, and even months—totally understandably—when no one commented at all.

  • It never ceased to amaze me that during the years when my entries were a blow-by-blow accounting of my day, several people found said accounting interesting enough to either read every day, or to "catch up" on when they had time. I always recognized—and appreciated—that as an affirmation of my writing.

  • In late 2011, I stopped publicly publishing my blog entries due to real life drama, but I continued to write them and publish them as private entries up until January 12, 2014.

  • My private entries became a lot less interesting to me in terms of my daily accounting, which is particularly interesting in the context of writing for oneself as opposed to writing for others, and it's probably what was the impetus for my eventual decision to stop writing daily entries. The fact that I stopped at exactly the 10-year mark, however, is attributable to my (un-debilitating, as of yet) OCD tendencies.

  • Even now, looking back on any entry, no matter how many years old it is, if I find a typo or grammar error in it, I correct it. That's what I do.

  • The day after my last entry, I was in orientation for a new job, and in introducing ourselves, we had the opportunity to "tell people something interesting about yourself," and I said, "I have a blog entry for every day of my life for the last 10 years. And yesterday was my last one—exactly 10 years to the day I started." One of the class facilitators asked, "Why'd you stop?" And the only answer I could come up with—trite as it is—was, "It was time."

About the challenges

  • With great openness, sometimes comes great scrutiny and concern:

    • When you make your thoughts and feelings public, they become eligible for public debate.

    • People got to know that if they were hanging out with me, they would probably end up in my blog, and sometimes their privacy concerns clashed with my lack thereof.

    • It's harder—or at least becomes more involved—to tell "little white lies" about what you did, when, and with whom when you're putting it all—or most of it—out there, right?
  • Sometimes I just didn't feel like blogging about my day. I mean, think about it—every single day for 10 years.

  • A couple of times over the years, it was—literally—difficult to post entries:

    • One example being back in October of 2008, when I was in China—and therefore blocked access to LiveJournal by the "Great Firewall of China"—and I had to rely on the kindness of a friend and fellow LiveJournal user, cpeel , to post entries on my behalf.

    • Another being those times when I was just not willing to pay for a wi-fi connection in a hotel or coffee shop.
  • Negotiating the ever-blurring lines between public space and private space as the Internet and social media evolved over the years was educational. A debate I particularly cherish was one with a BFF about whether pictures taken on public transportation are public or private.

About the joys

  • My "buscapdes" became a much-anticipated highlight of my blog for several years. I took public transportation to and from my job at NC State University for 5 years—at times on the "Wolfline" university buses, and at other times on the city buses, with the latter providing the best of blog fodder by far.

  • On a couple occasions over the years, someone told me that they were wondering where they were on a certain evening, so they checked my blog to see if they were in my blog entry for that day to help remember what they were doing.

  • After installing the "FEEDJIT" app that shows where people are accessing my blog from, I was often surprised—and always thrilled—at my limited, but worldwide, audience.

  • At one time, my blog was chosen as "Blog of the Week," which both tickled me and earned me a free t-shirt.

  • I like having a way to look back at all the movies I saw during those 10 years, with a link to the entry where I captured my thoughts and observations about the movies. Same with the theater.

  • Two of the most extraordinary things that happened in the ten years were described in these two blog entries:

    • How a complete stranger came up to me at the bus stop and asked me if I blogged about riding the bus. Read the entry...

    • You have to click on "Comments" link at the bottom of this entry after you read it to see the extraordinary part, which was a comment from a victim of a crime for which I was on the jury for. Read the entry...

It was a wild—and at times difficult—ride, but like all things involving discipline, challenges, and time, I feel a real sense of accomplishment having done it.

    ~Friday~ Tonight I attended opening night of Manbites Dog Theater's area premiere of The Best of Enemies, where we had honorary audience members—two of the "real" people who were being portrayed in the play, and two of whom were the children of one of the people being portrayed in the play.

    The Best of Enemies cast, playing Dec 5-21, 2013

    If you've lived in this area long enough to remember the attempt to integrate Durham schools in the early 70s, then you're likely to even recognize the events portrayed in this play. It's based on the true story described as:

    The friendship between Ann Atwater and Claiborne Paul (C. P.) Ellis is often cited as a quintessentially Durham story. In 1971 Atwater, an African-American community organizer, and Ellis, then head of Durham’s Ku Klux Klan, were picked to co-chair a committee to address community concerns about the integration of Durham’s public schools.

    They clashed at first, both defending their separate spheres. During the discussion sessions called charrettes, Atwater and Ellis found common ground. Both came from poverty, and both had children in public schools who faced ridicule because of their parents’ participation in the charrettes. They developed a lifelong friendship. When Ellis died in 2005, Atwater sat with his family at the funeral.

    Ann Atwater and Bill Riddick, themselves, were in tonight's audience, as were the son and daughter of C.P. Ellis. It was truly an honor to see all of them in person, and as a member of the board of directors of Manbites Dog Theater, I was proud to be a part of the kind of experience our theater company continually strives for —area premiers of compelling productions.

    Lakeisha Coffey was superb as Atwater, and she described the pressure of it as:

    *“This is the first time I’ve had to portray a character who is local and well-known and living,” Coffey said. “It’s a big responsibility to do it right.”

    Thaddaeus Edwards, who played the other living character, also in the audience felt similar pressure about which he said:

    *Meeting Riddick was “very illuminating” and “very freeing,” Edwards said. He was able to talk to Riddick about how he felt during those tense days of 1971. “I was able to separate him from the man on the page.”

    And about the other main character in the play:

    *To prepare for the role of [C.P.] Ellis, Derrick Ivey said he had to find a way to portray Ellis’ early hatred for Atwater and black people in a realistic way. He read an interview that writer Studs Terkel did with Ellis, and tried to understand how poverty drove much of Ellis’ hatred and resentment. “Thankfully, he has a turnaround,” Ivey said. “The hard part is going to the dark place so he can see the light.”

    *Quotes from the December 2, 2013 Durham Herald article entitled: Part of Durham’s history: Manbites Dog to present ‘Best of Enemies’

    At the end of the play, the Durham Mayor Pro Tempore, Cora Cole-McFadden, took the stage to announce that the honorable mayor of Durham, Bill Bell, had officially proclaimed December 6, 2013 as Ann Atwater Day in Durham, NC., and Ann was presented a bouquet of roses.

    This is such a remarkable story, and even more so being a local story, and it explores a number of themes, including:

    • Fear

    • Power

    • Racism

    • Equal education

    • Poverty

    • Shame and struggle around mental health

    • Believing what you're doing is right

    • Taking the first step

    • Negotiating ("See if you can just move an inch...")

    • Humanizing the "enemy"

    • Common ground

    • Our shared humanity

    • Redemption

    • Forgiveness

    There are several "audiences" to which this play will appeal:

    • If you're into history in general, and local history in particular, this show is for you.

    • If you've lived in Durham long enough, you may have been a part of this history.

    • If you're relatively new here, or a long-time "transplant" like I am, this is a wonderful way to be introduced to some of the local history.

    • If you're a student of diversity or race-relations or politics, this show will appeal to you as a case study.

    • If you like compelling theater that you're still thinking about days after the performance, then this show is for you.

    Obviously, tonight's show was "super-charged" with the honorable audiences, but I'm quite sure that you will find this play interesting, heartwarming, and hopeful if you go on one of the remaining nights of its run. More information about the performance and tickets...


    Thanksgiving, 2013...

    Thanksgiving Thursday As is our family tradition by now, my sister Vivian and her husband Jeff opened their home and their hearts to a number of us for Thanksgiving this year. Bob and Joe came along with me, and we joined, in addition to Vivian and Jeff, my parents, Jeff's sister and brother-in-law, and a family friend of Vivian and Jeff.

    It's always fun determining what Vivian's decorating theme is, at both Thanksgiving and Christmas, and this holiday was no exception:

    A hint as early as in the driveway.
    Pirate scarecrow

    Followed by a wall hanging.
    Scarecrow wall hanging

    Reinforced over the fireplace.
    Scarecrow in a wreath over the fireplace

    And one standing nearby on the hearth.
    Standing scarecrow on the hearth

    By george, I think you've got it!

    More decorations and shots of the tables:

    Full mantel shot.
    Wreath above fireplace, lantern, flowers on mantel, fireplace itself and scarecrow on the hearth.

    A horn of plenty.
    A horn of plenty wall hanging

    A fall flower basket.
    A fall flower basket hanging

    Dining room side table.
    Small, wooden, round table decorated with flowers

    Dining room table from the hallway.

    Dining room table from the kitchen.
    Dining room table from the ktichen

    Kitchen table (sorry about the bleed out)
    Dining room table settings

    And now what we've all been waiting for... the food!

    First let me say that I missed (at least) the green beans and the mashed potatoes on the stove. There may have been one more dish on the stove, as well.

    I also didn't get any pictures of the appetizers, which consisted of a pumpkin cream cheese dip with ginger snaps and wheat thins, cheese straws, a pepper jelly cream cheese dip, some Saltine-cracker-caramel-chocolate bars, among various nuts and such.

    Turkey and chourico (Portuguese sausage), stuffing, and sweet potato casserole.
    Turkey and chourico (Portuguese sausage), stuffing, and sweet potato casserole

    Corn pudding.
    Corn pudding

    Ham, cranberry sauce, broccoli salad, rolls, and deviled eggs.
    (That's bright light coming in that kitchen window!)
    Ham, cranberry sauce, broccoli salad, rolls, and deviled eggs

    I didn't get any pictures of dessert of which there was a choice of pumpkin pie or pecan pie.

    A family portrait
    (l-f): John, mom, dad, Jeff, Vivian

    I officially regret not getting a picture of the other people there: Bob, Joe, JoAnne, Larry, and Richard.

    See the results of my sustainer donor challenge for Love Wins! Spoiler alert: Love won!

    ~Monday~ You may (or not) remember my blog entry from Tuesday, October 29, 2013, in which I talked about being a "sustainer donor" to Love Wins Ministries, and then issued this challenge:

    If 10 people become sustainer donors to Love Wins Ministries, in the amount of $10, $20, or $25 (or more!) a month, between now and Thanksgiving 2013, I will increase my monthly donation to this fine organization by 50%!

    However you choose to do it, write "#JohnsChallenge"somewhere on the check, or wherever you can on whatever vehicle you're using to donate, so LWM will know you're accepting the challenge. If there's nowhere to indicate it, please send a quick email to or and let them know your donation is part of the challenge. And thank you!

    I am thrilled to report that the requisite number of people did accept my challenge, and to that end, Love Wins Ministries is getting a 50% raise from me starting with my December 1st donation! I'd like to personally thank each and every one of you who accepted the challenge! I know Love Wins appreciates it!

    If you are still interested in becoming a sustainer donor, or you were not in a position to sign on for regular monthly donations, but would like to make a one-time charitable donation in the 2013 tax year, you can do either from the Love Wins Ministries donate page.

    Salon XXXIX...

    Salon XXXIX
    November 10, 2013
    Salon Headquarters

    1. How do you feel when you read sociobiological evolutionary theories of contemporary social patterns (e.g.,Monogamy evolved as a mating strategy)? I tend to react negatively but wondered if others feel a sort of Ah-Ha moment when they read these sorts of research accounts. (Brad)

    In general, any of these type studies that start off with “...the male and the female...,” I think, “Oh this doesn't apply to me,” and I stop reading it. And ever since I decided that I was no longer going to be guilted into the piety of monogamy, which was circa 2003 and after being in monogamous relationships for a total of 22.5 years, I can't hear the word without thinking, “My god, how unnatural is that?” What could possibly be natural about eating the same meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the rest of your time here on the planet? It just seems bizarre to me.

    2. I've watched numerous videos capturing human development across the years, high speed, time-lapsed, musically-augmented, and wondered how they make others feel when they watch them (e.g.,,, I also wonder how the people who share the lapses expect others to feel when they watch them. (Brad)

    I almost always exclusively look at them from a technical production perspective. If I were to do one, I could see me marking an outline of my head on a background and making sure I used that every time. I would also have Google calendar entries to remind me when to take the pictures. In the three examples you've cited, I dismissed the first one as “careless,” and liked the other two more in the order you've listed them. Again, if I were to do one, mine would probably be more like the second one, while ideally, if I had the time, patience, and skills it would look like the last one. And whenever I see one that goes from youth to old age, I always think about The Riddle of the Sphinx.

    3. I knew Anna would want me to post this LinkedIn post for discussion: Say Goodbye to MBTI, the Fad That Won't Die. (Brad)

    There are at least two huge red flags to me in this article. First and foremost, anyone who writes about the MBTI and referring to it as a “test,” has already lost their ethos on the subject. Next ethos issue, anyone who writes an entire article about the MBTI without mentioning that it is based on C.G. Jung's Theory of Psychological Type has either not educated him- or herself or is writing with a bias. Also, this writer clearly doesn't get that your MBTI indicator is a preference indicator, not a “this is the only way you can be” predictor. This writer claims: “In social science, we use four standards: are the categories reliable, valid, independent, and comprehensive? For the MBTI, the evidence says not very, no, no, and not really.“ What are his sources cited to back up these claims? Anyone is welcome to borrow my “Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator,” which contains citations about Jung's type theory, as well an entire chapter on reliability and validity studies and results. I'm willing to bet that the author of this article did not shell out $195 to buy this book, much less read it. That's all.

    4. Is Google Wrecking Our Memory? Nope. It’s much, much weirder than that. I found this article comforting. Are you, or someone close to you, "obsessed" with a topic that gives you/them great retaining power on that topic? (John)

    I love this notion of “transactive memory”: the art of storing information in the people around us. With regards to great retaining power on a particular subject or topic, Bob has an absolutely phenomenal memory around songs and singers (e.g., who had a hit with them, what other artists might have done them, what year it was a hit, if it won a Grammy), as well as around movies (e.g., who was in them, what Oscars for what years were garnered by them) and movie stars (e.g., what movies they were in, what they got Oscars for in what years and films).

    5. Dances. Middle school, Jr High, High School--did you go to dances? Formal? Informal? Did you like them? Why or why not? (Sarah)

    I liked them from a liking to dance perspective, but not from a social perspective, as I already knew I was gay then, and those things just reminded me that I was, which was not a good thing. The last dance I went to was my Junior Prom. I went to the State Bowling Tournament instead of my Senior Prom.

    6. Possible dramatic reading of my favorite fall rant: IT’S DECORATIVE GOURD SEASON, MOTHERFUCKERS... (Sarah)

    What an absolute hoot. This makes me want to write something similar about some pet peeve of my own. Perhaps a future blog entry.

    7. Did you ever go to a house party with hundreds of attendees? Anna and I were just discussing this! Check out this story about a party gone out of control and the response from the homeowner. Read This Amazing Letter Addressed To Parents Wanting to Sue Ex-NFL Player After Their Kids Wrecked His House (Video)... The corresponding website, helpmesave300 is interesting but so poorly written and designed, that I am not even going to include the link to it. John will lose his mind if he reads it. (Sarah)

    LOL! Re: losing my mind. I don't recall ever having attended such a party. And if I did, I don't remember it, so it couldn't have been that big of a deal.

    8. Reactions to this statement, which I saw on promotional materials for a mind-mapping software package: Creative learning does not involve adapting to new information, it involves adapting new information to your mindset. (Anna)

    At first I dismissed it as, what some might call <sarcasm>MBTI-like psychobabble</sarcasm>, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought it had potential, with one modification. I would change the word “adapting” to “integrating” or “incorporating,” to augment your current mindset or worldview. I do think that a big element of learning involves forgoing preconceived notions that you were either taught or just picked up of your own volition over the years.

    9. We probably have enough to talk about already, but I can't stop myself from sharing this article on the NFL's ongoing battle with its own culture . I know none of us really follows football, but this is some seriously compelling writing and I know we can talk about that! This is a writer who gets his audience, for damn sure.

    The most interesting part of this to me was the discussion about how everyone recognizes (or empathizes with) a physical problem, but as soon as it's a mental problem, a whole new set of criteria kicks in. Fear. It seems all fear-based to me.


    ~Saturday~ My friend, Gregor, started his own theater cooperative—Common Wealth Endeavors—recently, and tonight I had the pleasure of attending my first performance of said company.

    The Set of Many Moons
    Easy chair, windows, bookcase/cabinet, desk and chair

    Synopsis: In Many Moons, Juniper is looking for love, Robert is trying to avoid it, Ollie doesn't know what it is, and Meg has resigned herself to never having it. As these four people move through a July day in London, they orbit each other, unaware that they are hurtling towards one moment that could devastate them all.

    Alice Birch's full length debut work was a finalist in the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

    In spite of running 100 minutes with no intermission, this play just flew by to me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it in spite of an ending, [Minor spoiler alert—skip to the next paragraph if you don't want to see it!] the likes of whose ambiguity has not been seen since Out in the Dark, which I saw at the 2013 NC Gay & Lesbian Film Festival in August.

    My observations of the play:

    • I tried to rank the characters in the order of "likability" to me, and came up with two different rankings—one for the characters as I met them at the beginning of the play, and a quite different one as I left them at the end.

    • This is the first play I've seen that throughly integrated social media, with two of the characters referring to being on, and checking, Facebook on several occasions. It reminded me of the first time I saw a cell phone in a movie, and the first time I saw and heard URLs referred to in TV and radio ads.

    • I really liked how each of these characters unfolded their narratives separately, but were often standing right beside each other and/or talking about each other, and only on the briefest of occasion talking to each other.

    • I thought the actor, J Evarts, playing Meg did a very good job of being 8 months (or so, let's just say very) pregnant, in terms of the way she got up out of her seat, moved around, and sat back down.

    • I found all four of the actors being consistently true to their characters—each a joy and an annoyance at various points in the play as their "good" and "bad" qualities surfaced respectively.

    • The more the characters talked—revealing more and more about themselves—the more my feelings changed for them, often in a disturbing way that I moved to reluctantly.
    • There was some "heavy shit" explored in this play.

    Themes that I remember being explored in the play:

    • The "inherent" good that is in (or not in) every person

    • What love is

    • Caring for the infirmed and the demented

    • Everyone is pretty much always dealing (or not dealing) with something going on in their lives

    • Child abuse

    • Society's beliefs and perceptions about child abusers, and the pressure to not empathize or humanize them

    • Sunshine, lollipops, and rainbow people

    • Socially awkward people

    • People in loveless marriages

    • The interconnectedness of our lives

    Okay, that's enough. One of my measures of success for plays is whether or not I'll still be thinking about them days after I've seen them. This one definitely meets that criteria. Good stuff.

    Treat yourself to this play. It's being staged through Saturday, November 16, 2013 at Common Ground Theater in Durham. For box office and ticket information, visit the Common Wealth website.

    I sustain love, monthly...

    If you listen to public radio — particularly to WUNC in Chapel Hill — then you've undoubtedly heard several people over the course of the last couple of weeks of the station's fall fundraiser talk about how they are sustainer donors to public radio through that local NPR affiliate of ours.

    I am not a sustainer donor for WUNC, but I am a sustainer donor for Love Wins Ministries (LWM).

    I'm a sustainer for all of the usual reasons touted by organizations to be one, the main ones probably being:

    • You don't have to think about it or do anything; it happens every month automatically.

    • It helps the organization to count on regular, monthly income.

    • You get the satisfaction that the work being done by the organization is partly because of your ongoing support.

    That's all true for me, but I'm going to be brutally honest about why I donate religiously—and by religiously, I mean monthly—to this incredible organization, whose mission is described on their website as:

    Our mission is to demonstrate and promote God’s love for the marginalized through personal relationships, education and support. Love Wins Ministries shares unconditional love and friendship with the homeless and poor population of Raleigh, North Carolina. We focus on relationships, not outcomes— just like you do with your friendships.

    My own, selfish reasons for donating to Love Wins Ministries, though, include:

    • This organization is approaching the problem of people being without homes as a relationship problem, which not only is a different approach, but is an infinitely more labor-intensive, time-consuming, and heart-wrenching approach, that I'm frankly not willing to commit my own time to — at least not at this point in my life.

    • Writing a monthly check is a hell of a lot easier than doing all that, and it has the bonus of assuaging the guilt that I'm not willing to invest my own time, which isn't flattering, but is at least honest.

    • Being a part of a historically "marginalized community" myself, I have empathy for the community served by this organization, some of whom are <sarcasm>"twice-blessed"</sarcasm>—being a member of both the homeless and the LGBT communities.

    • Even though LWM challenges me with the question, "Why are you so concerned about what happens with the money that you give a homeless person on the street," I still am concerned about that. While I work through that, I just feel better about giving it to Love Win Ministries as my steward to give it unconditionally on my behalf.

    So, in the spirit of sustainer donor fundraising, I'm going to issue a challenge:

    If 10 people become sustainer donors to Love Wins Ministries, in the amount of $10, $20, or $25 (or more!) a month, between now and Thanksgiving 2013, I will increase my monthly donation to this fine organization by 50%!

    However you choose to do it, write "#JohnsChallenge"somewhere on the check, or wherever you can on whatever vehicle you're using to donate, so LWM will know you're accepting the challenge. If there's nowhere to indicate it, please send a quick email to or and let them know your donation is part of the challenge. And thank you!

    Ready? Set? Donate!


    Haikus for the boss...

    Two weeks before National Boss Day (NBD), which was Wednesday, October 16th, I sent an email to our department of (mostly) writers, asking them if they were interested in doing a little something for our boss, Laura, on NBD.

    In the email, I suggested we each write a haiku about Laura, if they'd be interested in that, and then we could make her guess who wrote which one. To my surprise, and utter delight, they jumped all over the idea.

    "I've got the denim duster," one replied, alluding to something Laura had shared with them about wearing such a garment many years ago.

    Because Laura is known for wearing very high-heeled shoes, another replied, "Dibs on her shoes for my topic. It'll be a haishu," she added.

    Someone else wrote back saying, "If one was about sneezing, it would be a haichoo!"

    After reading those responses, this feeling came over me about my new job: "These are my people. Two of my favorite things: word lovers and witty repartee."

    On the day, Laura was in an all-day meeting, and we blew up 75 red balloons and after situating some moveable whiteboards to block off her workstation area, we filled it up with them.

    When she eventually returned from her meeting, we yelled surprise, and I read the haikus to her, while she tried to guess who wrote each one. Here they are for your reading pleasure:

    From Brandon (on the team that overseas oversees our documentation getting translated into a multitude of languages):

    I don't write haikus
    En ingles ni esponol
    Thanks for being you

    From Matt (Zimbra is our email system):

    Always on the move
    She meets so we don't have to
    Zimbra pings again

    From Bascha:

    umbrella o'er us
    foundation beneath our feet
    thus we stand as one

    From Amy (alluding to Laura's running):

    Sneakers hit the road
    Stretching to the finish line
    Victory is here

    From Zach (who accidentally bent the little card he had on which to write his haiku, so just incorporated that in):

    The card may be bent
    But our thanks are true as -- beer
    Happy Boss' Day

    From me (alluding to Laura's habit of twirling her hair with two fingers while she's reading or thinking; RHEL is one of Red Hat's products):

    Laura sits nearby
    Fingers twirling hair about
    Contemplating RHEL

    From Jared (who is not a writer by trade; we had to adjust his 5-6-6 to make it 5-7-5):

    Tree leaves are falling
    Gamecock football is here. Be-
    cause of the Clowney

    From Ashleigh: (who debated as to whether "acid washed" should be "acid-washed"):

    O denim duster
    Trimmed with Billy Squier buttons
    Were you acid washed?

    From Leigh:

    Making shit happen
    With most meaningful f-bombs
    All day, every day

    From Arrie (who wrote the "haishoe"):

    towering platforms
    steady on her feet she runs
    at break-ankle speed

    A fun time was had by all, and Laura just loved the surprise!


    The [car] games people play...

    ~Friday~ Imagine a road near to you that has a 25 MPH speed limit, and think about how slow that is. Now slow that down by 5 more mile per hour. Got it?

    On our return trip from DC today, Bob and I traveled in traffic for an hour-and-a-half at an average speed of 20 miles per hour. Can you imagine how excruciating that was?

    In an effort to take my mind off the situation, or perhaps in an attempt to keep me from saying, "This is ridiculous," or This is crazy," one more time, Bob suggested a game.

    He started off by saying, "I'm going on a trip, and I'm taking an apple."

    Not being familiar with this game, but using my powers of deduction, I replied, "I'm going on a trip, and I'm bringing a banana."

    He then said, "I'm going on a trip and I'm bringing an apple, a banana, and carrots."

    Then, I "got" how the game worked, although I was at first reluctant to repeat the previous list items, but eventually started doing so.

    This is what our final list ended up being:

    1. Apple
    2. Banana
    3. Carrots
    4. Doggies
    5. Egg
    6. Fruitcake
    7. Gerbil
    8. Hampster
    9. Iguana
    10. Jack O'Lantern
    11. Kool-Aid®
    12. Lard
    13. Muff (No comment!)
    14. Nasturtium
    15. Oprah (We had room in the back seat.)
    16. Petunia
    17. Quilt
    18. Raisins
    19. Sweater
    20. T-shirt
    21. Umbrella
    22. Vivaldi
    23. Watch
    24. X-ray
    25. Yarn
    26. Zebra (Right beside Oprah.)

    After we'd been going 70 MPH for quite a while, I said to Bob, "When did the traffic break, somewhere between lard and muff?"

    After that we played a game where the first person says the name of a famous person, and the next person has to name someone whose first name begins with the last letter of the last name of the previous person named.

    We started off with famous real people, but ended up including fictitious people, such as characters in TV shows and in books.

    Last names ending in y became particular problematic for the next person the longer the game went on.

    I had never played either of these games in the car as a kid, at least I don't remember them if I did.

    I did play a game based on license plates that I think was finding a license plate beginning with the letters in the order of the alphabet — so first finding a license plate number that began with A, then one that began with B, and so on.

    It might have been that, or it might have been that we tried to find a license plate from all 50 states, although I don't remember how we kept track of which ones we'd already seen, although we did have pencils and pads back then.

    If my sister is reading this, perhaps she can confirm or deny these musings.

    What games did you play in the car as a kid?




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