MLK Day 2014

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It was a green Sabbath.

G made tomato soup to can while I picked more tomatoes. I had to get more PBR for the slug traps, since we’re growing everbearing strawberries this year. I found some squash bug eggs while spraying powdery mildew with a milk solution; I’ll take care of those tomorrow with duct tape. I’m going to move the cilantro under the kale, where I think it will grow better.

We need more stones for a retaining wall we’re building, and since it’s more fun to find them than to buy them, we took the Forester on a hike. Some of the stones we found have remnants of concrete from past use in a retaining wall, so we’re also reusing building materials. Our hike along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail was so nice that I figured there must be geocaches nearby. We found Everything But the Kitchen Sink as an impromptu hunt along the way.

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We’re not sure how many more stones we need, but we need some bigger rocks for the steps up to the garden and the pool. We may end up buying those, but I’d rather hike them out of the woods as part of a training montage.

After we got back home, I went to see a Dan about a horse, and he handed me enough PS3 games to last me several Christmases. Geek neighbors are the best, I’m telling you.

If you liked my last post, you’ll love reading it in print!

I just got my copies of the game show zine Come on Down, which includes a copy for you and one for you.

Come on Down - Game Show Zine

If I didn’t mention you, it’s because you’re not getting a free copy. Ironically, the reason I don’t like you as much as those other people may be because you haven’t bought any of the zines which have published my work. If you buy Come on Down or any of the I Love Bad Movies zines, I’ll consider it an investment in our friendship.

Do These Gloves Make Me Look Fad?

John Carman - Do These Gloves Make Me Look Fad - Single Page

If you’ve ever found a Wacky WallWalker in a box of cereal, we’re probably around the same age and you might remember The Dr. Fad Show. It’s not a prerequisite, but my brother wrote a very good description of the show in his zine Taken for a Ride: My Night in the Cash Cab. You can probably get that zine wherever you got this zine.

What you need to know is that Dr. Fad, the man Ken Hakuta, is the guy who put those Wacky WallWalkers in the cereal boxes. He did that, he did some other things, and then he did The Dr. Fad Show from 1988 to 1994. I was an early fan of the show. According to my brother’s essay, I watched it every day after school. I think this is a metaphor for how much I enjoyed watching it when it actually aired on Saturday mornings. [Ed. note: Give me a break, I was six years old. I barely knew what a day even was.]

In every episode, three contestants would pitch their inventions to the audience, with the winner chosen by applause meter. I was not a contestant. I was one of the kids in the audience who got to give their elevator pitch to Dr. Fad when he asked, “Who’s got a great invention?”

Notice that Dr. Fad did not ask, “Who’s got a great practice or interest followed for a time with exaggerated zeal?” Because kids don’t understand what a “fad” is. As far as they know, everything that is interesting now will always be interesting.

When the producers came to our school to announce that we would get a chance to audition for the show, I don’t remember if they explained what a fad is. Even if they did, I didn’t pay much attention in school, and was probably already busy drawing inventions in my notebook. Or fighter jets.

I was in fourth grade, and we used pencils to do classwork, or in my case, draw fighter jets. I obviously made a lot of mistakes, because my eraser would get all gunked up, and I would rub it on my jeans to clean it off. I imagine the idea struck while I was doing this, and I realized that my pants would get less pink dust on them if I had something else covered in denim.

So my first invention was an eraser cleaner: a piece of an old pair of jeans wrapped tightly around a wooden block. It was exactly as exciting as it looks on paper, but it worked very well. In fact, I took it to school and used it even after my teacher told me it needed something more if I wanted to be on Dr. Fad. I was probably trying to prove her wrong.

If I had been in a startup incubator and not grade school, I might have learned to iterate. I might not have gone bitterly back to the drawing board, and I might have used my teacher’s advice to apply my idea in more interesting ways. I might have learned what a fad is, and we all might have had loose-leaf binders with strips of denim on the inside flaps.

I remember another school project, for which I invented a series of mirrors that allowed a person to watch one television from any room in the house. It wasn’t as practical as the eraser cleaner, but the teacher gave me a similar critique, and I had a similar reaction. I rejected the original idea and drew a giant robot instead. I thought it was ridiculous, and would by comparison show my first invention to be practical and genius. I was wrong, and my teacher liked the giant robot. That was not my goal.

My teacher’s goal, I understand now and maybe even understood a little then, was to get me to think creatively and with both sides of my brain. I don’t know if she was also trying to teach me to challenge my assumptions, but teachers teach us even when we don’t appreciate it, and sometimes even when they don’t know it.

I had assumed that the best way to get on Dr. Fad was to build a useful invention. A little bit of market research would have helped, but in fourth grade you don’t challenge assumptions with a competitor analysis. You get mad, you go back to the drawing board, and you reluctantly learn what your teacher is trying to teach you. You invent snowball-making gloves.

I like to think that I thought of snowball-making gloves as a silly, giant robot of an idea that I later realized might actually be good. It was, in either case, a simple idea: Attached to each glove was half of a hollow plastic ball, which would be pressed together to scoop up a perfectly round snowball. I tested using a foam ball, since it doesn’t snow much in New York in spring. It was difficult to actually throw the foam snowball with the scoop sewn onto your palm, so one hand had the scoop sewn onto the wrist, “depending on if you’re a leftie or a rightie” as I explained to Dr. Fad.

However well (or not) they might have worked in winter, the snowball-making gloves were good enough to get me on television. I wasn’t a contestant because either my invention or my personality were not big enough, but they sat me on the aisle so I would be picked first to demonstrate my design. Considering that I was probably too shy to really want to be a contestant, this was my goal.

Years later, in a startup incubator for much older students, I would learn again to challenge my assumptions. I would learn from other entrepreneurs who had struggled and sometimes failed because they didn’t, and others who had found great success when they did. While The Dr. Fad Show doesn’t come up much in business casual conversation, the lessons do, and I now wonder how many other entrepreneurs gave their first elevator pitch to a guy in a pink sweater covered in Wacky WallWalkers.

This is not very interesting unless you’re looking for a recommendation on sport headphones. I also bottled wine.

I was looking at sport headphones recently, but I hadn’t made a decision. A day or two later, I got an email from Google Offers for $24 for Sport-Fi S6 In-Ear Headphones ($60 value). The colors are perfect for G, so I decided to try out the offer and give them to him if I liked them. I would then order a similar pair for myself.

I was most interested in the armband and smaller cable, so I could listen to music without getting my headphones snagged on a barbell. They arrived today, and I tried them out during a chest workout. I positioned the armband on my lower bicep while flexing, and turned it inward as far as I could without restricting elbow flexibility. This position allowed me to flex my arm comfortably and access my phone easily. Think Win-Win.

After choosing from six sets of eartips, the headphones stayed in without a problem, and the short cable gave just enough slack to use my phone comfortably. My only feature request is the ability to use my phone while it’s strapped in, especially for the timer function — since I’m wearing noise-isolating headphones, it doesn’t make much sense to use a watch. I’ll probably buy another armband separately and give the S6 to G, then buy the MEElectronics M6P Sports Earphones w/Microphone (Black) for myself.

Symmetrical AWD is a good idea in the city that invented the word “slippy.”

The best part of my day was playing in the snow with Janet. I had promised her that we would have a snowball fight the next time it snowed, and I kept my word. She’s learned not to chase snowballs into the snow, so I just throw them at her, or up in the air. She catches them and eats them. I hope she never tires of this game, even though I do.

After I had made snowballs of the snow on the Forester, I finally got a chance to really experience Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. We’ve enjoyed having the Forester on camping trips, but I’ve been waiting for a good snowstorm since we bought it almost two years ago. Today’s fluffy snowfall was no Snowmageddon, but the streets were enough of a mess for me to enjoy not worrying about it.

Let’s pretend I post every day.

It was already too late last night when I got back from SCIT, and I still had to stabilize and clear my pinot grigio. Since I had a 7:30 a.m. meeting downtown, you’ll forgive me for not posting about any of that.

Tonight after a fraternity alumni event, I went to PHI with Uncle Nick and Fastboy. I might sleep through studio tomorrow.

MLK Day 2013

I hope that my more conservative friends who disagree with President Obama will allow yourselves to feel proud of our country today.

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