Puppy the dog

My language skill set consists of English. I hear evocative sounds in other languages but don’t comprehend their meaning. This is why I can’t remember the name of my neighbor’s dog, who is about four years old now.

I have known and liked him for that long, since he arrived next door in his owner’s arms, something akin to a squishy football with appendages. I asked his name not once but three times. It was clear to me it was a name of deep tribal significance in some culture somewhere; but what I heard sounded like “So What” or “Sack Cloth” or “Sea Wart.”

These didn’t suit him at all so I punted and called him ‘Puppy the Dog.”

I still do. He now is almost my height. He is fond of ballasting himself with his paws on my shoulders so we can greet each other eye to eye.

I could be wrong but when I call him “Puppy the Dog,” I detect in his expression that he is still waiting for me to smarten up.

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Learning curve balls

Preschool children get grownup attention for things they should be doing, according to grownups: grow at a certain rate, socialize or walk or use the potty at a certain age, go to bed at reasonable hours.

They receive less attention for things they choose to do, such as the following:

Laugh. They laugh at grownups when they are funny, when they are trying to be funny, when they are not funny at all.

Find things. As a grownup who gets lost looking for milk in the refrigerator, it’s humbling see a two-year-old locate a fuzzy cheerio abandoned under the sofa, press the volume phone button during library story time and commence screaming a good three blocks before arriving at the doctor’s office.

Emote. No language skills are deemed necessary to express fear, disdain, need, outrage, glee, approval, self-satisfaction, surprise, intent.


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LEGO Lesson

Sales at the 85-year-old Danish LEGO Company recently dipped 5%. Some folks conjecture children now prefer video-digital-electronic anything rather than  individual blocks that offer freedom to make whatever it is they wish to make.

It is possible the company now will re-evaluate their business approach to making LEGOs, which includes the following:

  1. Be inspired by the simple Danish phrase “Leg godt” (in English, “play well.”)
  2. Make it indestructible so buyers need not replace broken ones.
  3. Design it so each new set works very nicely with existing ones.
  4. Never disparage copycat blocks even if they are inferior.
  5. Include genius instructions so anybody can successfully build without needing to purchase how-to add ons.
  6. Do not link LEGO to any celebrity merely to cross-sell other stuff.
  7. Be a friend to little hands by making big blocks for early motor skills and adding smaller blocks later to let a child feel very smart indeed.
  8. Keep the price in the moderate range and offer enough sizes so most children can have some.
  9. Remain whimsical while adapting LEGO to developing trends (space shuttle, jungle expeditions, superheroes).
  10. Stick to the vision that…”it is not just about the products. it is about realising human possibility.”

I hope the company will not alter its business approach. I just wish they made LEGOs for grownups.


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Amazing grazing

A food store recently opened in our Chicago neighborhood. Happy news for those of us who like to eat. It is clean, well stocked and brightly lit.

And much much more. Every aspect of food consumption apparently has been analyzed and installed within its cavernous two floors, with the possible exception of slaying one’s own game or harvesting one’s own produce.

That may be coming. For now, food as art, as entertainment, as social enabler, as convenience, as status symbol, as sustenance, as pleasure, as fantasy, as family outing, as educator, is here. The sushi bar, burger bar, coffee bar, salad bar, seafood bar, wine bar and bakery bar elevate the notion of public consumption to the level of worship.

Customers respond accordingly. Speaking in hushed tones, navigating around each other politely, poking melons for ripeness with respect.

I look forward to joining the happy horde who shop here but left empty-handed on initial visit. I must prepare my pantry, appliances and family for the arrival of food that will expect to be adored.


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Small gains

The playground in our Chicago neighborhood is generally populated by three-year=olds whose primary similarity is height, about 27 inches.

Their names suggest imaginative growups to come. Lemon, Jersey, Atticus, Sparkle, Nimrod, Aspen sound like folks interesting to know.

Their colorful mix of complexions and accents suggest diversity that is real, not imagined.

Their determination to outrun their parents suggest the universal law that some things never change.

Their ability to find almost anything funny suggest that all of us are born hopeful, until we forget to play.

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Move-in ready

House hunting is more avaricious than it was during the times my husband and I bought and sold our homes, the last experience about a decade ago. Now uncluttered, neutral, staged houses define “move-in ready.”

We bought places that had been lived in and we marketed our lived-in homes. We bought one house blanketed in avocado shag, wallpaper salvaged from a circus fun house, and panelled walls the hue of wet mud. It didn’t suit our taste but it suited us. We were ready to move in.

I suspect our buyers had similar head-scratching reactions to the homes we sold. In one instance, I will concede that pink wall–to-wall, indoor pond and basement mural of a giant ocean wave might not be for everyone. But they were ready and moved right in.

A house that looks like it was never lived in offers refreshed space, suggests new beginnings, but doesn’t answer the more important buyer question : Are THEY move-in ready?




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Reason # 33 Why Folks Don’t Write

There are many reasons folks don’t write. Lack of talent isn’t one of them. UN-writing is.

Writers share lessons about PRE-writing, RE-writing, FREE-writing and those are interesting; but UN-writing is tedious, a bit like unraveling a sweater. It is boring to describe and boring to do but it’s essential so that the next writing is free to be original.

It is an emptying that happens after a writing is finished, whether is’s a novel, doctoral dissertation, letter, investigative report, presentation, speech or any other format. Whilst it is happening, it’s good to do something else. Here are three possibilities:

  1. Write lists. This isn’t creating much content but it’s writing-ish, is easy, looks substantial and quiets the fingers.
  2. Do something  easy but different. Walk if you usually drive. Drive if you usually walk.
  3.  Do something easy you are good at doing. Watching TV. Running marathons (one at a time). Lip-syncing extremely cool music.

UN-writing will happen and you can’t force it. But, you can allow it.



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Open concept

The 1950s ranch home that witnessed the growing up of my two brothers and I was an open concept design decades before the term defined what a house should be.

The living room was for playing the piano or listening to Mom play the piano. It was for watching television. It was for playing the stereo. It was for sitting on a sofa. It was for looking out of two large picture windows to see who might be looking in at us while we did our living.

The dining room was open, too. Picture windows ran the full length of one wall. Its table-china-cabinet-buffet were big and left only a narrow walkway of space so we pretty much moved through it rather than occupy it, to get to the kitchen, where we looked out more windows as we walked to the back door. One of our three bedrooms had a door at each end so we walked through it, too.

Thus, we generally kept meeting up with each other and kept watching people outside watch us inside. I think each one of us would occasionally have liked less open concept and more private space but at least it can be noted we were ahead of our time.

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Power of people

It would be good if we made three distinctions so we don’t get mixed up when we create, receive, critique, share and respond to information.

Media is a collective word to describe tools that deliver information to people.

Format is a collective word to describe in what form information is delivered.

Ethics is a collective word to describe values that direct how people act and react.

Some examples of media are tweets, text, television, radio, blog, newpaper, cinema, books, ads, broadcasts, pamplets, theater, magazines, Webcast, presentarion, report, letter, facebook, Web sites, marketing material, press conference, sermon, speech, debate, among others.

Some examples of format are newscast, opinion, critique, observation, rebuttal, feature, alert, analysis, satire, monologue, commentary, rant, synthesis, elegy, travelogue, review, essay, song, poem, novel, memo, propoganda, ode, argument, screenplay, myth, epic, investigation, comedy, sitcom, announcement, among others.

Some examples of values are integrity, duty, fairness, responsibility, courtesy, honesty, kindness, loyalty, respect, generosity, courage, strength, humility, acceptance, discretion, dignity, justice, discernment, self-control, open-mindedness, ambition, perseverance, competition, prosperity, among others.

No media, no form of expression and no ethical value can be an enemy. Only we the people can do that.



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Observing Observation

Mark Twain  was onto something when he distinguished in an essay between travelers who observe and travelers who absorb. He didn’t have much patience with observers because their minds stayed where they were before their trip and their subsequent opinions about a new place, culture or atmosphere were boring, and just generally dumb.

He liked absorbers, though, because those folks allowed a new place, culture or atmosphere to shake them up and reveal something about themselves they didn’t know before their trip.

This presidential election seems dominated by observers who decided what to think long before the race unfolded, before the debates were held, before the voting began.

As a journalist, this makes me sad because it means my profession isn’t doing its job of providing the impartial context that welcomes readers to absorb what they observe, to consider the outcome of their choice, to travel to that new country our votes will take us.



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