Friday, December 01, 2006

The Other Books

A couple people have asked me to post info about the other books I've written. Generally, I started out in magazine writing (music, travel, outdoor sports), moved to education writing, and Geek Logik is my first mass market book.

In addition to Geek Logik, another I'm especially proud of is my young adult nonfiction book, The Doggy Dung Disaster and Other True Stories of Regular Kids Doing Heroic Things Around the World (a mouthful of a title, to be sure...). This book took much, much research but I think for a thin book it packs a lot of heart. Bethany Hamilton—the one-armed surfer—was nice enough to write the lovely foreword. Included are fun profiles of inspiring kids ranging from Kruti Parekh (a young magician in India who uses her skill to promote environmental awareness), to Ryan Patterson (who invented a sign language translating glove), to Omar Castillo Gallegos (who walked 800 miles to save a section of Mexican rainforest), to Christopher Paolini (who lives only a couple miles away from me in Montana and wrote the best-selling Eragon series).

I have a couple, fun education books out with the company Teacher Created Materials, mostly in the areas of writing and social studies activities (you can search my name on Amazon to see more).

I hope you enjoy, and please comment if you'd like more information on a specific title.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Skier's Cough?

It's the last week of November, we've gotten about 10 inches of snow in the past four days and it's grammatically correct to spell the temperature rather than writing it in digits ("four"). To make it to the dog park, we bundle the babe until it's uncertain whether he is, in fact, actually in the front carrier or if it contains only a massive Patagonia garage sale. Yes, that's right—it's another Bozeman ski season! And with the opening of the lifts at Big Sky, with Bridger Bowl soon to follow, comes the first onslaught of skier's cough, which almost certainly is the cause of the dismal attendance of my freshman classes this week (you slackers).

However, the older students are slicker in their pursuit of powder days; they know that bigger snows are a comin' and they best bide their time until the rocks below D chutes and on the Apron are covered. Heck, the blue light atop the old Bozeman Hotel isn't even flashing its six-inches-or-more warning. So as a public service to the uninitiated freshmen of Montana State University, and any others needing a little assistance with their choice of ski days, I offer the following equation:

Should I call in sick to go skiing?

D= Do you have a doctor’s note? (Enter 1 for “no,” 10 for “yes,” and 5 for “yes, but it’s written in crayon.”)
S=How many inches of new snow fell at your ski area of choice overnight?
R= Degree of responsibility in your job (1-10 with 10 being “last time my sub caused nuclear winter—which is not as good for skiing as it sounds”)
M= How many days have you skipped in the last month? (double any days you then ended up on the A-Basin video clip of the day)
N= The daily amount you pay for a lift ticket
$= Your daily wage in dollars

If SkiersCough is greater than 1, you should hit the slopes, but consider a Groucho Marx moustache disguise in addition to your goggles and helmet.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Will you make it through Thanksgiving dinner without throttling Uncle Mort?

As everybody knows, the holidays are a time when families gather in the spirit of goodwill and togetherness to reaffirm connections that lapse in the course of a long year apart. Families leave the holidays re-energized and firm in their resolve to, this year, stay in touch. Somewhere along the line, we learn something ineffable about the spirit of family and the basic idea of love.

At least that's the moral of every Charlie Brown special I've ever seen.

In fact, Thanksgiving dinner brings with it a long history of rancor, deceit and petty jealousies, dating back to 1621 and the very first Thanksgiving at which Cooks-Like-Martha, wife of the Wampanoag Chief, one-upped the Pilgrim hostess with presentation of thrice-baked sweet potatoes, thus initiating many years of bloody conflict.

In more recent times, you know there's someone at Thanksgiving dinner you're dreading—be it an in-law, successful sibling, surly aunt, or little-too-cuddly relative of whom nobody really seems to remember the lineage. I wrote an actually-useful version of this post's equation that will likely see the light of print somewhere this week (if not, I'll post it), but thought I would blog this version—the slightly fiestier, more personally vindictive one. While this is firmly tongue-in-cheek, it also spits out a quite logical answer.

Will you make it through Thanksgiving dinner without throttling Uncle Mort?

P= How mad will your significant other be if a fight breaks out? (1-10 with 10 being “make you sleep on couch ‘till next Turkey Day”)
$= In dollars, how much is this person likely to spend on your holiday present?
T= Hours you need to spend in close contact with this person
D= His or her disapproval of you (0-10 with 0 being “quarterback/doctor/CEO” and 10 being “ski-bum/vegetarian/hippie”)
V= How vocal is he/she likely to be in this disapproval? (0-10 with 10 being “will refer to you only as him, her, or so-in-so’s husband, as in ‘can you please tell so-and-so’s husband to pass me the yams.’”)
S= How sensitive are you (0-10 with 10 being “seismograph”)

GobbleGobble is the percentage chance you WILL make it through Thanksgiving without exploring alternate placements for the meat thermometer.

Notes: Generally, this equation measures how grating this person is and decreases your chances of remaining civil over time. These chances are adjusted upward (but not heavily) by how much your significant other can keep you in check and by the desirability of the holiday gift you would lose by getting in a brawl.

Monday, November 13, 2006

How many hours of sports can I watch without her getting overly pissed?

Thanks to all the geeks who searched me out in Seattle, Portland, Phoenix and Denver this past week! I have to admit that after this whirlwind week of touring I was quite excited to plunk on my couch with the dog and watch many, many hours of pro sports. Maybe football, ski videos would be nice, but really what I was looking for was a good cricket match—completely incomprehensible and hopefully extending across multiple days. Contract bridge and international chess competed for close-second.

Enter the babe. Let me first say the babe is wonderful, charming, cute, smart etc. etc. (just give me an excuse to post pictures). But at seven months old, his pro sports attention span is not yet developed. And with my wife having spent the last 24x6=144 hours with him, my ability to sink into a vegetative stupor was tempered by relationship politics. This, I think, is not an issue relevant to me alone.

One of these "not me alone-s" turns out to be Cameron Phillips of the CBC Radio program Freestyle. We had a great chat today, but didn't have time to actually run his numbers on air. So, included below is the equation that answers this post's title question as well as Cameron's numbers and his answer. Thanks for being a sport, Cameron—and good luck!

How many hours of sports can you watch today without her getting overly pissed?

L= hours spent (or will spend) with her today watching Sleepless in Seattle, strolling hand in hand, or similar
V= Generally, how volatile is she? (1-10 with 10 being “Vesuvius”)
Sy= In the past week, how many hours have you spent watching sporting events?
Sh= For how many of these hours did she enjoy watching sports with you?
I= Importance of today’s sporting event (1-10 with one being “first round Hi-Li qualifiers” and 10 being “Super Bowl”)
R= Your current standing in the relationship (1-10 with 10 being “at last night’s candle-lit dinner, you gave her a diamond necklace” and one being “over last night’s TV dinner, you gave her a Red Sox beer opener”)

Playball is the hours of sports you can watch today without ending up exiled to the couch for good.

Cameron at the CBC had the following numbers:

L=2, V=3, Sy=0, Sh=0, R=7, I=6

These numbers say he's in decent standing in a relationship with an only-lightly vindictive girlfriend, he hasn't spent the last week glued to the tube, and today's sporting event is mildly important (curling?).

According to the equation, Cameron can spend 4.48 hours watching sports today!

Equation note: The only complex variable in this equation is your standing in the relationship—good standing allows more sports (obviously), but as your standing gets into the basement, you might as well watch sports 'cause you're already sleeping on the couch, anyway.

Equation note II: Yes, this is chauvenistic. Feel free to flip the genders or mix and match as you see fit.

Monday, October 23, 2006

How many cups of coffee do you need to be functional this morning?

I'm off the wagon. And when I fall, I fall hard.

It's not just the regular this time—I'm into the hard stuff, like cappuccino and those Starbucks drinks with the nifty, pseudo-European names (ah, my soul for one sip of sweet, sweet Moccachino!). I would like to blame my current baby-induced insomnia and resulting massive accumulated sleep debt, or my wife's concurrent addiction to Arnold Palmers (half lemonade, half iced-tea) from the new coffee shop down the street, but really these are just lame excuses for my own weakness. And so I'm back to living life by the drop, or more precisely, by the shot of Cafe Estima Blend (fair trade, of course).

So for those of you who, like me, only find their groove after ingesting enough bean-o-genic stimulants to put Whitney Houston in a coma, here is the definitive equation that will help you at least put a cap on your daily consumption.

C= In shots of espresso, the amount of caffeine you consume in an average morning
St= The hours of sleep you got last night (subtract one for every time you woke up in a cold sweat, thinking about the things you need to do today)
Su= The hours of sleep you need to remain civil with telemarketers
K= How many kids do you have? Kids in diapers are worth two; kids over age 18 are worth half
Bt= How busy are you today? (1-15 with 1 being “easy like Sunday morning” and 15 being “presently birthing triplets”)
Bu= How many hours per day do you usually spend in non-recreational activities?
N= Hours of naptime you can squeeze in this afternoon

Cups is the number of cups of coffee you should consume before operating heavy machinery

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Who Should You Vote For?

Now here's a loaded equation...

After using the previous equation to pair parenting styles with a method book, I thought it might be possible to use a similar format to pair political ideas with a candidate. Also, here in Montana, we're staring down the barrel of a tight election, and I thought I might be able to use math to gently skew voters toward the candidate of my choice (insert evil laugh).

Just kidding. The following equation is as non-partisan as I could possible make it, and does more to measure and define your personal opinion than to choose candidates in the abstract. The crux, of course, is nailing down politicians' beliefs enough to accurately chart their numbers (though letting your bias, beliefs and opinions peek through this equation is as telling as the eventual result, itself).

Who Should You Vote For?
(first find your score and then compare it to candidates' scores)

Order the following traits or political issues according to how important they are to you or how central they are to the candidate’s message (1-7 with 1 being most important).
___ II=Iraq ___ EI= Economy ___DI= Education ___ CI= Character
___ SI= Smarts ___ MI= Immigration ___ GI=Globalization

I=Your score on the following scale:
-10=Bring the troops home; 10= Stay the course

E=Your score on the following scale:
-10=Tax and spend; 10= Trickle down

D=Your score on the following scale:
-10=Support public education; 10=Parents should choose the best schools for their children

C=Your score on the following scale:
-10=Candidates’ private lives should be private; 10= Candidates should model family values

A=Your score on the following scale:
-10=Brains make the candidate; 10=The candidate is but a faceplate

M=Your score on the following scale:
-10=Bring us your huddled masses; 10=Protect our borders

G=Your score on the following scale:
-10=Buy local; 10=Free trade

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Which Parenting Method Book is Right for You?

Currently, the babe is going through a rather focused amber-alert stage, which involves screaming bloody murder if handed even briefly to someone other than mommy, daddy, or the dog (because, of course, anyone but the aforementioned trio is trying to sell him to the circus). Advice we've received to combat this includes letting him scream, waiting patiently for the natural end of this developmental stage, passing him gradually and only for short periods of time, and using string to attach his feet to a mobile (we're not sure how, exactly, this last one would help, but our friend is sure this would solve all our problems).

Making this and every other parenting decision more difficult is the fact that each recommender backs their advice with expert opinion. For every kooky technique, there is an MD/PhD looking to ride it to status as the next Dr. Spock.

The other side of this (and what makes parents vulnerable to advice-book smoke and mirrors), is the fact that we really have no idea what we're doing. Most days, if the babe eats, sleeps and poops without falling down the basement stairs or joining his dog in the hands-on experience of rotting fish at the K9 beach, we chalk it up in the Good Day column. For the nuts and bolts, we need advice. This is why our bookshelf sags under the weight of every 734-page encyclopedia of baby knowledge ever published.

Unfortunately, cross referencing these produces more contradictions than a politician on November 9th.

Dear reader, please heed this humble blogger's advice and choose but one method book on which to hang your child's Harvard dreams. And which one depends not on some absolute measurement, but on your own predisposition as parents. Solve this equation to simplify your choice:

First, rank these parenting issues in terms of their importance to you (1-6 with 1 being “this is the key to a socially adept, super intelligent, self actualized baby”):
___ SI= Spoiling a baby ___ TI= Ceasing thumb sucking and/or pacifier use
___ ZI= Sleep training ___ PI= Potty training ___ EI= Eating
___ FI= Discipline during tantrums

S= Do you think it is possible to spoil a baby? (1-10 with 1 being “anything you want, my little prince” and 10 being “the prince should learn to enjoy playing alone with cardboard”)

T= Do you believe in breaking children of thumb sucking and pacifier use, or letting this habit fade naturally? (1-10 with 10 being “at age two, out comes the hot pepper sauce”)

Z= Enter the number of the phrase that best completes this sentence: Babies, ages 8-12 months, should sleep…
• 1= In your bed and on their own schedule
• 3= In a co-sleeper and with soothing before they cry
• 6= In a crib with soothing only after they have cried a reasonable amount of time
• 10= In a crib placed in another room, without soothing even if they cry

P= Enter the number of the phrase that best completes this sentence: A 30-month-old who is not yet potty trained should…
• 1= Be left to discover toilet training when he or she is ready—hopefully before college
• 3= Be given gentle encouragement with any sign of interest
• 6= Be rewarded for using the toilet
• 10= Spend ten minutes on the toilet, every hour

E= Enter the number of the phrase that best completes this sentence: A picky eater should…
• 1= Not eat if he or she does not want to—they will develop more sophisticated tastes over time
• 3= Continue to be presented with many food options and encouraged to try them
• 6= Be rewarded for finishing their food with desert or other appropriate incentives
• 10= Be presented with the same food until it is eaten

F= Enter the number of the phrase that best completes this sentence: A child who is throwing a tantrum should…
• 1= Be cuddled and comforted
• 3= Be carried gently to a quiet area where they can work through their problem
• 6= Be left completely alone until the tantrum subsides
• 10= Be spanked

If Book is less than 5, go with The Baby Book, by Dr. Sears
If Book is between 5 and 9, use Touchpoints, by Barry Brazelton
If Book is between 9 and 13, use the standby: Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care
If Book is between 13 and 18, try New Parent Power, by John Rosemond
If Book is over 18, consider Dr. James Dobson on Parenting

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

To scoop the poop? (musings on running with baby and dog)

So, I went for a run yesterday. This might not seem like a big deal, but believe me, with a five-month-old and a high-energy labrador retriever, running takes on a whole new dimension. Especially when said labrador is intent on touring local parks in hope of consuming goose poop, but otherwise ranks running on pavement on par with the intestinal bacteria, giardia, to which he is unusually prone. Which is why, lately, I've been really trying to focus on the other side of running, which is, of course, NOT running. I'm down to about seven miles a week and working hard to cut out this last little bit. Wish me luck.

But alas, every so often I fall off the wagon and find myself chugging along behind the running stroller in fits and starts as the dog alternates between pulling manically toward the nearest park (the location of each he has committed to olfactory memory) and pooping himself silly.

This would be merely sad if it weren't for my other running conspirator, who demands perpetual motion. Woe be unto ye who stops the running stroller, lest the voice of the babe ring forth from every mountain top. So doing my platic-bag duty every time the dog squats and grimaces entails a one-handed scoop, with the other hand continuing to rock the stroller, while trying to keep the labrador from pulling the entire rig into traffic in hopes of expediting the park experience.

Thus, quick decision-making is a must and I found myself in need of an equation:

P= The number of people who caught your dog in flagrante defecato
L= If left, how many people would encounter this poop in the course of an average day (add those who would smell it, see it, and then double any that are likely to touch it)?
R= How many times are you likely to return to this same spot in the next month?
F= In dollars, the fine your city poses on unrepentant poop-ignorers
I= The inconvenience of scooping the poop, which can be augmented by lack of near garbage cans, an unusual number of holes in the plastic bag, especially foul and/or runny poop, and, of course, the potential for the world to spin off its axis, prompted by the screams of innocent youth (1-10 with 10 being "easier to build small kiln on the spot, cook poop to crisp, then shatter it into miniscule shards")

If ScoopIt is greater than one, you should get up and personal with your dog's solid waste

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Geek Logik

Dear geeks and those who tend them,

Let’s face it: The world is a confusing place and though your finely honed geek mind might do backflips through molecular biology, life outside a petri dish can be daunting. Wouldn’t it be great if there were clear-cut, numerical answers to life’s important questions? Such as, do you and your significant other have the potential to become soccer parents? Should I do it myself, or call an expert? Is it time to see a therapist? Fortunately, scientists have recently found that everything that counts can be counted—and also that most things can be counted on for a good laugh. The book Geek Logik enables you to take the confusing and often conflicting data in your life, plug it in to algebraic equations, and come up with simple, definite answers.

For example:
Should you apologize?

D=How big of a deal was the issue? (1-10 with 1 being "forgot to take out the trash before work" and 10 being "forgot to turn off the gas before leaving for vacation)
Ra=Actual responsibility (on a scale of 1-10, how responsible are you in reality for this blunder?)
Rp=Perceived responsibility (on a scale of 1-10, how responsible does your significant other perceive you to be in this matter?)
P=How pissed off is he or she? (1-10 with 10 being "mail-order thumb screws have already arrived")

If A is less than 1, you do not need to apologize.
If A is between 1 and 5, you should at least offer a perfunctory "Sorry."
If A is between 5 and 10, you should prepare a few remarks and deliver them with sincerity.
If A is greater than 10, contact your nearest florist immediately.

Check back for equations not seen in the book, and let me know the questions you'd like answered using the incontravertible truthiness of math. Do away with the outdated decision-making model known as "thinking about it" and get with the Geek Logik revolution!