Monthly Archives: July 2011

50 Thoughts for 50 Years

{I’ve generated a few lists of 50 as I approached 50, and had fun doing so. The list below is actually the first one I drew up – back in April, I think). Now that the actual date is at hand, apart from some minor edits, I’m sticking with what I wrote then. You should be able to pick out some of the themes of my life.}

I wanted to put in writing some life lessons for my sons and anyone else who cares to read them.

  1. Never stop learning. School is only a starting point; some people never go beyond high school – in worldview or knowledge – and are much sadder for it.
  2. Enjoy the people you meet. Learn from them; listen to them; share with them – you may make a new friend.
  3. Enjoy the people you know. There are some friends you can go for months or even years without talking to, hook up again, and pick up right where you left off. Treasure them.
  4. Try different foods – you may be surprised. Tastes do change. Where spinach and squash or…cooked tomatoes…were “disgusting” to the child, they may well become quite good when that child becomes an adult. But that doesn’t apply to okra. It will always be “not good.”
  5. Read. That goes with never stop learning. At the least, it will keep the brain cells firing. At the best, you’ll see worlds you might never have seen otherwise.
  6. Always try to improve; raise the bar; push the envelope. If you’ve achieved everything you want to be, then you’ve sold yourself short.
  7. Set the bar high while recognizing your limits. But don’t let someone else set the limits. That’s not the same as someone else raising the bar. Coaches, mentors, loved ones can help you realize more, but you should never let someone tell you what you can’t do.
  8. Be generous with your knowledge (but not a know-it-all); sharing is good. And don’t mistake opinion for knowledge, for while sharing opinion is fun, it can also be not fun.
  9. Think outside the box. Don’t let a problem get the best of you.
  10. Remember that there is always a box.
  11. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is not a weakness.
  12. Love much.
  13. Accept love. This is one of the hardest, particularly for men.
  14. Holding puppies, kittens and babies makes #13 easier, and all worth it. And the order doesn’t matter.
  15. Laugh. Let it go.
  16. Tell jokes. Humor has wonderful side effects. And puns are only the lowest form of humor when they’re not yours.
  17. Question that which doesn’t make sense. Check the sources; if someone says or writes something that sounds wrong somehow, dig into it. Don’t accept something at face value; you may end up a human spam email. Skepticism is healthy…until it isn’t healthy. As with all things, moderation is the key. And don’t stop if the first thing you find agrees with your view – read both (or more than “both”) sides – that is truly difficult, and offers the most potential for growth.
  18. Think of how what you do today will affect the future for your children. Believe that it can affect the future. Know that it will affect the future.
  19. Mistakes are how we learn. Making the same ones more than once probably means you didn’t learn, but fear of making mistakes should never limit you from trying anything.
  20. Apologize when you need to; and sometimes when you don’t. Regardless, be sincere when you do so.
  21. Have a purpose, but don’t let it have you.
  22. Tolerance is not a good word in a social context. It implies superiority, whether intended or not. Promote, rather, acceptance. Accept others for what and who they are, regardless of differences. “Tolerating” others or others’ beliefs is a dark stain on one’s character.
  23. Take the time for your children; there will be a time when they won’t need you, but they’ll come around. Don’t be annoyed at an interruption (sometimes, that is hard not to do, but…)
  24. Look around; it’s an amazing world. If you find yourself looking down, look up. If you always look up, look left and right. Try to see things from another perspective.
  25. Resist peer pressure. Sometimes wisdom is clearest in retrospect, but remember that no one acts like high school after high school (or if they do, do you really want to hang out with them?)
  26. Things that don’t make sense aren’t generally worth wasting time on. Still, the things that no one can know for sure are fun to discuss and can help intellectual growth but are never worth losing friends over, never worth alienating others. Remember that religion and culture are products of geography as much as anything else…someone here born in another part of the world would likely have a different religion, a different culture, and to keep that in mind is to be a better human. Also remember that one person’s religion is another person’s myth, and vice versa.
  27. Travel. Get out of your tiny little world; recognize that other countries are equally deserving of “blessings”. Break the parochial chains. If you can’t do it physically, see #1 and #5.
  28. Be grateful. And show it.
  29. Angry people are not worth the time, even if their ugliness is directed at a loved one. You can’t change them and trying to will drive you nuts. You can be civil without sinking to their level. And while it doesn’t hurt you to not like someone, don’t dwell on it.
  30. Go see the lights (i.e, Christmas and fireworks). It will feel good.
  31. Dress up every now and then just for the fun of it. Delight in being overdressed. Or, delight in being the only one in a leprechaun costume – others will delight in it as well. Go trick-or-treating…it’s not just for kids.
  32. Enjoy flavors. See “#3, try different foods”, but also, try mixing things up – one of the most interesting combinations I’ve enjoyed recently was dark chocolate truffles with dehydrated bleu cheese crumbles and sea salt. Not your everyday Hershey’s, nor should it be.
  33. Not all jazz is bad. Nor, I’m given to understand, is all country music. But passing on it (country) won’t have a negative effect. However, a little Dixieland can put a jump in your day.
  34. Put yourself in the shoes of others. Pass no judgments that you are not willing to have passed on yourself. The differences that you think offend you are just differences, and offense goes both ways…unless the other person is more compassionate. Set aside your cultural arrogance, for it is an ugly mantle.
  35. Learn to relax. But if you can’t, don’t stress about that. Do something that makes you happy.
  36. Enjoy fine chocolate. Or just chocolate (but take it from me: fine chocolate is much more worth it….kind of gave that away in #32.)
  37. There are no disorders, only differences; make the best use of yours. My particular difference, undiagnosed as a child, is labeled “attention deficit disorder.” To me, it is neither a disorder, nor a deficit, but it sure does make for some interesting days!
  38. Embrace diversity. Some of our best friends have views very different from ours. Teach your children to accept everyone (who is not hurting them). Skin color, age, gender, sexual orientation may sometimes be used as descriptions, but NEVER as labels.
  39. Even if you don’t (or will never) understand opera, go see at least one. And a classical concert. Bask in the breadth of human compositions. Oh, and a Beatles tribute (I dare you not to sing along with “Hey, Jude”.)
  40. Value honesty and integrity. Strengthen the character that is you.
  41. Read the comics; there is often great wisdom in three panels. Or at least some things very funny. Note: comic books and graphic “novels” don’t count.
  42. Sarcasm is not welcome. I often struggle with that. See #41 above. Try to avoid it (counterexample: sarcasm – graphic novels are mostly okay.)
  43. Tolerate no cruelty, whether to people or animals. Silence is only golden when you’re on the top of a mountain. Or have spent two hours trying to calm a screaming child.
  44. Don’t try to do everything. Do what you can, enjoy what you do, and don’t fret about what you can’t do. (And don’t twist that into not trying to improve or set the bar higher – the concepts are not mutually exclusive.) Super-mom, super-dad, super-co-worker, super-whatever all lead to not enough time for yourself, and often not enough time for the others in your life (despite what “super-“implies.) Rest is important, and a lesson I need to pay more attention to.
  45. Take care of your health. Visit the doctors. Listen to the doctors. And question the doctors – they know much, but they don’t know everything, and can be wrong. And that sunburn of youth may come back to haunt you as much as the skipped cholesterol meds of post-youth.
  46. It’s never too late to re-invent yourself.
  47. There is no “I” in teamwork (but there are three in “pontificating platitude”.) I am a firm advocate for playing nice in the sand box – dictatorial methods might achieve similar results, but the costs are high. Working together toward common goals brings its own sense of accomplishment, regardless of the outcome.
  48. Think for yourself.
  49. Be comfortable with yourself. This is not in conflict with trying to improve.
  50. Life really is too short to worry about how short life is; enjoy the time you have. More to the point, enjoy the time you will have.

I’m looking forward to the next 50….

Cool numbers from real life

Our van is a 1999 Chevrolet Express custom. We bought it in November 1999; three months later, we learned we were going to Korea. Given that it was oversized, we had to pay extra to get it there (“extra” meaning over what the military allowance was), and of course, extra to bring it back. Very worth it, despite that extra $1,660.

While in Korea, it was an occasional attention getter, because some Korea celebrities like to use custom vans instead of limos. It made the trips to Seoul and back (only 270 miles one way, but usually five to six hours) much more bearable. We were there seven years, and brought back a seven year old van with only 60,000 miles on it.

Our latest road trip was to Cincinnati, Ohio, 950 miles from Dallas. On the way back, the odometer “rolled” (it’s digital, as you’ll see) through this:

Now, number geek that I am, I like this one because it had rotational symmetry. Turn it upside down and it reads the same.

I watched for the next milestone, which was pretty cool:

But not as cool as:

which, while cool in itself, and one that most people mark, it was was nowhere near as cool as this was for me:


  • It has symmetry about the vertical axis,
  • It has symmetry about the horizontal axis,
  • It has rotational symmetry, AND……
  • It is palindromic!

There. Geek out, if you are so inclined. I (obviously) was.

50 Movies or TV Shows You Really Should See

Well, there are only a handful that you really should see (#1, #20, #26, maybe #7, and #4, of course)  but the rest are strong recommendations. I churned out 40 pretty quick and then set the list aside about a month ago. Deciding on the full 50 was fun.

  1. The Shawshank Redemption – maybe the best movie I’ve ever seen (and the Oscar goes to…Forrest Gump??); there’s a reason it’s ranked #1 on IMDB’s user vote list
  2. The Big Lebowski – because that rug really tied the room together
  3. Across the Universe – great music, great interpretation
  4. Bugs Bunny, many several, but I’ll choose “Rabbit of Seville”, “What’s Opera, Doc?” (spear and magic helmet), “Hare Raising Hare” (with such eentresting monsters!) and of course, “Rabbit Seasoning” (pronoun trouble!) by Chuck Jones; “Knighty Knight Bugs” by Friz Freleng; “A-Lad-In His Lamp” (one of my favorites) by Bob McKimson ; and “A Wild Hare” by Tex Avery – not my fav, but it was the one that birthed a phenomena.  But don’t stop there! So many more…
  5. Lars and the Real Girl – a wonderful story of acceptance and understanding
  6. The Goonies – the first movie I saw with Andrea; she doesn’t like it, but I do
  7. Firefly – the entire series (just 14 episodes); absolute BEST science fiction television show ever (and I do like Star Trek)
  8. The Dinner Game – the French (“Le dîner de cons “) original, please
  9. Secretariat – even though you know the ending, it’s a thrilling story
  10. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – almost any Frank Capra should be on this list, but Mr. Smith will show that things today aren’t new at all
  11. Cast Away
  12. Chitty Chitty Bang Bangthe Thanksgiving annual
  13. The Court Jester – a pestle in the vessel
  14. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – fun
  15. The Sixth Sense – the only “didn’t see that coming movie” that I got into enough that I didn’t see it coming
  16. Elf – Will Ferrell is very funny in this
  17. Phantom of the Opera (live) – Sir Webber’s powerful score drives it; I haven’t seen the movie, so can’t recommend. Family wants The Lion King play included with this one…so it is
  18. Everybody Loves Raymond, Season 7 Episode 7, “The Sigh”; when you see the bathroom fight, you’ll know why
  19. A Day at the Races or A Night at the Opera – both Marx Brothers classics
  20. An Inconvenient Truth – because even with a little sensationalism, it’s still the truth and when it’s too late, even Fox News will finally see it
  21. Silverado – all the epic scenery, music, really good guys and really bad guys of a western, and despite that it’s a western (not a fan of westerns at all), it’s still good
  22. Seven Pounds – a great, if painful story
  23. A Beautiful Mind
  24. Multiplicity – I like pizza. I like it!
  25. The Princess Bride – Inigo Montoya, Fezzik, Dread Pirate Roberts, Vizzini…inconceivable!
  26. Schindler’s List
  27. Paint Your Wagon – if only to hear Lee Marvin growl out “I was born under a wandering star” (but fast forward through Eastwood’s romantic ballad)
  28. Mary Poppins – Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke? A must
  29. Finding Nimmo” episode of Boston Legal (Season 2, Episode 3)– Denny and Alan fishing? Denny’s solution to rookie Alan showing him up was priceless
  30. My Cousin Vinny – blending and yutes and shooting at owls
  31. Step Brothers – stupid funny, but still funny
  32. Hotel Rwanda
  33. Everybody Loves Raymond, Season 8 Episode 23, “Golf For It” – the van scene is one of the funniest in the entire series
  34. Avatar – because my family thinks it should be on this list; and it’s a three hour movie I didn’t fall asleep I the middle of
  35. Apollo 13 – if only to see how the engineers solved incredible problems
  36. The “Atomic Shakespeare” episode (season 3 episode 7) of Moonlighting – fun watching Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd taking off Taming of the Shrew, and Willis sings “Good Lovin’”
  37. Full Metal Jacket – but only the first part (basic training)
  38. The Sting – I fibbed a little about The Sixth Sense being the only one, but then, I saw this one before I started critiquing movies as I watched them
  39.  The Wizard of Oz – the Lollipop Guild is represented
  40. Beauty and the Beast – Silence of the Lambs was good, but this should have won the Oscar
  41. The Ten Commandments – you need to see a DeMille epic and this is one of his better ones
  42. 2001: A Space Odyssey – because even though I didn’t think it particularly “mind-blowing”, many people do; besides, Kubrick got the science right
  43. Gone With the Wind – en epic
  44. Under the Tuscan Sun – beautiful scenery and a wholesome story
  45. Some Like It Hot – a list like this isn’t complete without Billy Wilder, and this was one of his best
  46. Road to Morocco (Road to Utopia is a close second) – the chemistry of Hope and Crosby, with Hope’s timing is top notch
  47. It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World – what a cast!
  48. Singin’ in the Rain – Gene Kelly! Debbie Reynolds! Donald O’Conner!
  49. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – Disney’s landmark 1937 classic is amazing in its quality, especially considering it was the first feature length animated film in color and sound
  50. The Gold Rush(1925), Metropolis (1927) or The General (1926) – one must really see a silent film, and any of these three are great; I’m partial to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, but The Gold Rush is a classic classic (written, directed and starring Charlie Chaplin) while The General is on many lists as the best of the silents (Buster Keaton co-wrote, co-directed and has a role). Oh, I recommend the fully restored version of Metropolis – closest thing to what Herr Lang created (most of the lost scenes restored from the copy found in Argentina in 2008)

There. Happy watching. Let me know if there are any of these you haven’t seen, then watched, and whether my recommendation was on or off.