You Will Never Be Innovative

An 11-year-old Helen Keller wrote a short story The Frost King. She was later accused of plagiarizing the book from the story Frost Fairies by Margaret Canby. Given the details, it’s likely that Keller’s story was, at worst, fan fiction — certainly not deliberate plagiarism. It’s more likely that Keller had the story read to her as a young child and it subconsciously influenced her story.

Ten years later, Mark Twain heard of the debacle and had this to say:

Oh, dear me, how unspeakably funny and owlishly idiotic and grotesque was that “plagiarism” farce! As if there was much of anything in any human utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism! The kernal, the soul — let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances — is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily used by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them;

He goes on — which you can read here — but you get the idea.

You will never have an original idea. You will never have a creative thought that in some way isn’t plagiarized from something else.

What we should instead understand is that innovation is relative.

When I’ve told people what I do, it will sometimes come across as this mind-blowing, cutting edge thing. In reality, not only have I been doing it for years — diminishing its innovative-ness — but the principles have existed for centuries.

I’m not saying don’t try to be innovative. I’m saying that if you’ve been tasked with being innovative, you can usually just go with what you know, with what works, and it’ll blow their tiny minds.

Well, not their tiny minds, that’s not fair.

You Said “Tomorrow” Yesterday

You can lean on others for support,

and you can look to others for advice.

But when you have to rely on others for even the most simple of tasks,

you lose your independence,

your identity,

your drive.

You tell yourself you’ll change tomorrow,

and you can keep doing that

until you either run out of tomorrows,

or finally remember that you said “tomorrow” yesterday.

And then, everything changes.

Once you find the spark you need,

you’re the one providing support,

you’re the one giving advice,

and you’re working,


and living more freely than you ever have before.

The Day I Remember

When my high school classmates and I heard about the two planes hitting the twin towers on September 11th 2001, we started talking about how this would be a JFK moment for us. You hear stories growing up, from older people, who remembered exactly where they were when they heard President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.

For us, that Tuesday morning, we were in the hallway bouncing tennis balls.

It was a music theory class, and we were using this tennis ball exercise to illustrate the difference between duple meter and triple meter.

Of course, at that point, it was still too early to know the full impact of what was going on, especially because the only official word we had received from the principal over the intercom was that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center, and that we were to go about our day as usual. So we kept bouncing our tennis balls.

Some students were more shaken by the news than others. Those whose parents worked in New York City were the most distraught. About half the students had cell phones, so there was lots of borrowing and anxious phone calls.

As I went from class to class that day, it was interesting how differently teachers decided to handle the situation. My Anatomy teacher, Mr. Shevalier, started the class by saying how he was planning to give his lesson as usual, in the hopes that it could temporarily take our minds off what was going on. My English teacher, Mr. Dodge, said we wouldn’t be doing anything during the class period, and said it would be free time as long as we didn’t get out of hand.

Dodge had been in the Air Force. I’m sure that impacted how he was processing the news of the day.

It’s odd what your mind decides to remember from a day like that.

You’ve got to keep your dignity intact

I used to see a therapist — each week for a few months. Over the course of our sessions, we agreed I most likely suffered from something called Dysthymia. The purpose of the meetings wasn’t a diagnosis, but it was a good way to summarize what I was dealing with.

If depression is a freight train from out of nowhere, that visits occasionally to level you for days or weeks at a time, dysthymia is The Little Engine That Says You Can’t. Not powerful, but persistent.

When I read that Robin Williams had committed suicide, I got it. Instantly. I’m not saying he had dysthymia — his history shows it was much more severe than that — but dealing with dysthymia personally was why I wasn’t surprised that someone who was so funny, who made so many others laugh, could be so depressed.

Just because someone is funny, doesn’t mean they’re happy. The opposite of depressed isn’t happy. The opposite of depressed is not depressed. Even words like fulfilled or complete are more accurate antonyms than happy. Funny depressed people don’t try to make others laugh in order to cheer themselves up; they want others to laugh so they can escape being depressed — sometimes just for that moment. For the depressed person, that may be the only time they get to smile.

I know it’s been referenced enough in the past few days, but this “joke” told in (but not invented for) the 2009 film Watchmen is sharply accurate:

Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor, I am Pagliacci.” Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains.

I don’t bring all this up for sympathy. As Rainbow Randolph said, you’ve got to keep your dignity intact. But I do bring it all up for awareness. Depression — from melancholy to crippling — is among us, even in the last places we’d think. There are lots of resources out there for those who suffer and for friends of those who suffer, so I won’t repeat them here; but be aware of the people around you.

Things aren’t always as they seem.

For instance, that old woman may actually be your ex-husband pretending to be a nanny so he can stay close to his kids.

A Competent Dad? I Don’t Understand

General Mills recently released a video promoting their new Peanut Butter Cheerios.

Here’s what I like about it:

  1. Dad is portrayed as something other than a bumbling buffoon.
  2. It shows dad playing a role in the morning routine.
  3. Without saying it, General Mills acknowledges dads are making more and more of the buying decisions in the household.

What I don’t like about it:

  1. The blatant product placement (about 1:45 in the video). I already knew it was a Cheerios commercial. Their iconic box had been shown a few times without it having to be explicitly mentioned. The callout wasn’t necessary.
  2. “The Official Cereal of Dadhood”; inventing nouns just so you can be the official sponsor of them isn’t endearing*.

Overall, though, decent ad.

*Brought to you by the Official Blog of Scotthood.

12 Language Lessons from “Weird Al” Yankovic

I dabbled in the fandom of “Weird Al” Yankovic as a child. I even had one of his cassette tapes. But I don’t think at the time I fully appreciated his genius.

Then he released this video:

And it’s beautiful.

So here’s a summary of the language, grammar, and orthology lessons from Mr. Yankovic:

  1. Less vs. Fewer You have less time, but fewer hours. You have less money, but fewer coins. You have less water, but fewer bottles. If you can count it (3 hours, 5 coins, 7 bottles) it’s fewer. If you can’t count it (2 times? 4 monies? 6 waters?) then it’s less — unless you were talking about the number of times you did something, in which case you would say I’ve been there two fewer times.
  2. I could care less This means you care a little bit because you could care less. The proper phrase is I couldn’t care less — unless you were talking about the number of times you were caring, in which case you would say I couldn’t care fewer.
  3. It’s vs. Its It’s is always, always, always a conjunction for it is. Its is a possessive, meaning something belongs to something else. To check if you got it right, reread the sentence, un-contracting it’s, to see if it still makes sense. If it does, you’re good to go. Also, don’t make up words like un-contracting.
  4. Espresso Not eXpresso.
  5. Oxford Comma Sometimes referred to as the serial comma, is the comma that immediately precedes the word and in a list of three or more. There is no definitively right or wrong answer for whether to use the Oxford Comma. This is a style choice; and different style guides (AP Style, Chicago Style, Gangnam Style) decide their own usage rules. The only real rule is to make sure including or excluding the comma doesn’t result in confusion.
  6. Spelling B, C, R, and are letters; they are not words. They are also not acceptable abbreviations for Be, See, Are, and You. Also, there are 26 letters in the English alphabet — not 36 just because you like using numbers in your words. e.g. b4, h8
  7. Homonyms Lightening and lightning are two different words that mean two different things, even though they sound the same. The same is true for accept and except.
  8. Who vs. Whom If you can’t figure out which to use, don’t default to whom just to sound smarter. Replace the word in the sentence with either he or him. If the sentence makes sense with he, then use who. If it makes sense with him, use whom.
  9. Quotation Marks Never use quotation marks for emphasis. Use them to quote someone or something.
  10. Good vs. Well Good is an adjective. Well is an adverb. Someone who swims well is a good swimmer.
  11. Irony If you aren’t absolutely sure what you’re writing or saying is ironic, don’t claim or think it is — because you’re probably wrong.
  12. Literally vs. Figuratively I was talking to a friend once about a popular TV series. She said she literally crapped her pants during a certain scene. I asked her if she meant she figuratively crapped her pants. She assured me it was figurative.

There you have it. If, for whatever reason, you can’t or don’t want to follow these rules, that’s fine; it’s job security for me.

The Joys of Netflixhood

The first Facebook post below comes from an old high school friend of mine. The second comes from an old college friend. They don’t know each other, but they’re similar people. They’re about the same age. Both are from the east coast. Both are passionate about music (more so, maybe, than any other two people I know). And, as you’ll see below, both were excited about some new content on Netflix.

But I want you to guess the main difference between these two gentlemen:


Can you guess the difference?

Friend #2 has children.

You see, friend #1 is a child at heart and loves the visuals, the stories, and the characters of anime — and is excited to get into a new series.

Friend #2 has a child at home who, I imagine, has been watching the same 10 episodes of Daniel the Tiger* and his child refuses to watch any other show — and he’s excited at the reprieve (if it can even be called that) of some new episodes.

And I honestly don’t know if friend #1 or friend #2 is more excited. Sure, it’s great to binge on a new TV series, especially in a genre you’re passionate about, but to be stuck watching the same stupid episodes of the same stupid show every stupid day — anything is a victory.

*The show is actually called Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood and it's the bastard creation of Fred Rogers' intellectual property.

A Sluice, Obviously

Here’s the gist of this article I came across.

There was a news report that used the word clyse. The question that obviously comes to mind is: what’s a clyse?

Well, the author explains:

… it is a local/regional word that means the same as clow.

Um. Okay. What’s a clow? Luckily, the author explains:

… would appear to be just a regional Somerset word for a sluice, basically.

A sluice. Obviously.

In summary: if you think you have a robust vocabulary, you probably don’t.

Grand Teton Relay Race 2014

What’s the point in pushing through the blisters,

the shin splints,

and the fatigue,

if all you get to see is your neighbor’s front yard

or your home town’s main street?

Why bother running on city roads and on level ground, by yourself?

The Grand Teton Relay is for those who would rather run through the rain than a sprinkler,

who would rather be in the shadows of mountains than of buildings.

From Targhee Road, to Teton Pass,

to the green grass and pretty girls of Paradise City.

You don’t just want a race.

You want an adventure.