Saturday, May 31, 2014


I recently came across an article (primarily directed toward men rather than women, but for the most part it applies to all) listing 10 lies that we all hear (and say) on a daily basis…things you don't necessarily think of as lies.  These are usually considered as slight exaggerations, an attempt to be polite rather than confrontational, or merely being nice rather than hurt someone's feelings.  But no matter how you rationalize it, they are still lies.

1)  "Everything's great."
It's the usual response in a restaurant when your server asks how everything is, a brush-off even though the soup is too salty.  And the possible consequences of this insignificent little lie?  The chef never finds out he's heavy-handed with the seasonings, people stop coming to his restaurant, and you end up with the same too-salty soup everyone else was also reluctant to mention.  You might be doing the chef a favor if you tell your server—politely—that something is off.

2)  "I'm fine."
Reality check for men: No woman who says this to you is actually fine.  Something's wrong and you need a strategy to figure out how to fix it.  Most of the time it's as easy as asking her how she really feels.

3)  "I love your new haircut."
People usually compliment anything that catches their eye as new or different—no matter how ugly it may be or how much they don't like it.  If your significant other has a different opinion on your new hair style—or jacket, or shoes—than your chipper coworker, trust your significant other's take.  The I get so many compliments on this defense doesn't hold up.

4)  "No thanks, I've got it."
Guys, in particular, feel guilty accepting assistance from others, especially from a woman—even if they could really use it.  If you have to ask, "Can I give you a hand with that?" you should already be helping—not offering to lend a hand.

5)  "I couldn't find time to look at that today."
It doesn't matter if your boss said that, a client, or someone else, rest assured that you're being bluffed.  If you need the feedback right away but fear you might irritate your boss or client with repeated requests, you'll need to come up with a new way to present your need.

6)  "It's so great to see you."
Is it really great?  Your wife's or husband's friend from college looks to be in a huge hurry, and you don't really know the person that well.  This is a polite lie that really means, "I want to stop talking to you now."  Offer a quick smile then you can both get on with your day.

7)  "That's interesting."
People throw out this meaningless phrase so often it's become more of a clichĂ© or silence-filler than a lie.  Instead, consider what you actually think before speaking, and come up with a more insightful adjective (and "That's stupid!" doesn't count).

8)  "Your email ended up in my spam folder."
Of all the emails you've successfully sent this person and it's this one that mysteriously ended up in the spam folder?  No need to call this person out on it.  Recognize this deception for what it is and figure out a better way to grab this person's attention next time.

9)  "I just saw your text."
Your friends have no problem lying about being busy when they're actually looking at other things or surfing the net.  But when they actually have a lot on their plates, they become reluctant about admitting it (sometimes for fear that it sounds like a flimsy excuse).  This text message is their polite way of saying, "I was too busy to answer you right away."

10)  "Sorry."
Admit it: Even you toss out apologies as readily as you would a losing lottery ticket.  At least 95 percent of the time you tell someone you're sorry when you really mean, "That's too bad."  Don't apologize unless there's something you need to apologize for and you mean it.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Ten Things We Can't Do Without

I recently saw two lists, each claiming to be the top ten things we can't do without.  While the two lists had several items in common, they weren't identical.  That got me thinking.  There are some things that are very obvious and others that are so much a part of our day-to-day activity that we don't think about them as being essential to our daily lives.  Of course, when that item is suddenly not available, its impact becomes glaringly important.

In almost no particular order, here are ten items that we feel we can't do without.  Of course, without the first item most everything else becomes a non-issue.

1)  Electricity:  From that almost all else flows.  Without that wall plug-in receptacle that we totally take for granted, all our gadgets would be useless.  They would simply sit there collecting dust.  What's that you say?  Your laptop computer runs on battery?  Your cell phone runs on battery?  You have a battery operated television?  Well, unless they run on solar power, those rechargeable batteries need to be recharged on a regular basis.  Do you remember the last time a major storm knocked out all power for days?  I do.  And since I have an all electric kitchen, I couldn't even boil water for instant coffee.  That was a rude shock!  And, of course, the refrigerator and freezer were no longer functional.

2)  Plumbing/Flush Toilets:  No explanation necessary here.  :)

And now that the two primary overall items are out of the way, let's talk about specifics.

3)  Air Conditioning (and heating):  Office buildings, hotels, restaurants, stores, private residences, even our vehicles…we can't imagine them without air conditioning with the exception of only a few places.  And for those of us who live with a cold winter climate, we definitely need that heating system.

4)  Computers:  Needless to say, our computers are an integral part of life.  Whether you're always on the go with your laptop, tablet and/or smart phone or stay at home with your desktop, computers are a major factor in our lives.  And not only our personal computing gadgets.  Look around you…everywhere you go and almost everything you do is somehow computer controlled or computer generated…even the monthly bill for item #1's electricity.

5)  High Speed Internet:  Closely aligned with number three is the need to be able to access and use the internet as quickly as possible.  Waiting for a large download that seems to be moving at a snail's pace is way too frustrating.

6)  Cell Phone (smart phone):  Unlike some people I know, I am not addicted to my cell phone.  I don't need to have it in my hand at all times in order to instantly access text messages, tweets, or updates from various places.

I recently saw a news segment (CNN or network news, I don't recall) about a test to evaluate teenagers and texting while driving to see just how addicted they were to that connection.  The teens all stated that texting did not pose a hazard while driving because they could still give their attention to the road.  One at a time, the teens were instructed to sit at a driving simulator without their cell phone and were put through a program including children running into the road in front of them, cars running red lights and stop signs, cars backing out of driveways, and other hazards of daily driving.  Then the cell phone was returned and they were to go through the program again while texting.  The teens all thought it would be easy, after all they had just seen all the obstacles the program threw at them.  Well, surprise…it was a different program.  Not one of the test subjects was able to successfully complete the program without at least two potentially life-threatening incidents when they hit a car or a person.  Now, the point of this tale—one girl refused to set her cell phone aside as if she would actually stop breathing if it wasn't in her hand.  The instructor finally talked her into placing it on the dashboard in front of her.  As soon as she took her hand away, he quickly took the phone and placed it on a table outside the simulator.  This girl literally went into panic mode and had a full-blown anxiety attack on camera because that phone was now 5 feet away from her and she couldn't reach it.

However, even on the most basic level a cell phone has become a necessity.  The pay phone seems to be rapidly disappearing from the American landscape.  Even at airports where you used to be able to find an entire bank of pay phones as soon as you got off a plane, that's no longer the reality.  Maybe a couple of pay phones, but even those usually require phone cards rather than actual money.

7)  Television:  Yep, whether we use it for entertainment or news and other informational areas, we all have them and can't seem to do without them.  There's something both sad and funny about surfing through one hundred channels and complaining that there's nothing on.  And if the cable goes out…well, enough said.

8)  Automatic garage door opener:  One of those many things you take for granted because it's always there.  Hmmm…I think we just segued back to electricity.  There you are, in your car with the rain pouring down and 60mph winds.  You're wearing your best clothes because you've just come from the society event of the decade.  And you need to get out of your car to unlock and manually open the garage door.  Or, everything is covered in ice and snow and you're thanking the deity of your choice that you made it home safely…but now you need to walk on that ice and through that snow to get your garage door open.

9)  Automobiles:  In some places more than others.  There are certainly places where one can live without the need for a car because the public transportation is excellent.  Some places where owning a car is a disadvantage due to the expense of needing a place to park it.  Certainly New York City (or more specifically, Manhattan) comes to mind.  But for most of us, an automobile is an absolute necessity in order to get to and from our job, go to the grocery store, and other required chores.

10)  I think I'm going to declare this slot as a tie between remote controls and coffee:  We definitely have become a society too lazy to get out of the chair to change the channel on the television.  And that's only one of many remote controls.  Even on our key ring we have the remote door lock/unlock and trunk open for our car.  And coffee…it's obviously big business when there are establishments that can truly be called coffee shops because coffee is the only thing they serve.  I can't speak for anyone else, but I have a small four cup coffee maker in my office so that I don't need to go to the kitchen to make coffee first thing in the morning when I turn on my computer and access my high speed internet while reaching for the remote control to turn on television to watch the morning news…well, as you can see, I'm back at electricity again. :)

Honorable Mention:  I felt compelled to include chocolate and wine. 

What modern convenience is an absolute must have for you?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Are You A Right-Brain Or Left-Brain Thinker?

The two sides of the human brain have distinct abilities unique to either the right side or left side.  An individual's strengths and weaknesses are often based on which side of the brain is dominant.  It's always been presented to me as left-brained being the logical, methodical, and pragmatic side and right-brained is the creative side.  There have been books written on this phenomenon.

At least that's the way I've always understood left vs. right brain.

The first thought is that writers must be right-brained since writing is a creative effort.  And many writers are also involved in other creative endeavors such as various forms of the arts and music.  But it seems to me that's only partly true.

As a writer, I certainly deal with my right brain creative side.  But as a writer, I also need my left brain methodical, logical, pragmatic side as part of my creative effort.  I would consider doing research as being methodical left-brained.  And then there's the switch over from right brain creative to left brain logical when writers go into edit mode.  And that edit mode is necessary in order to take a creative effort and hone it into a marketable effort.

I recently came across a ten question quiz to test whether someone is a right brain thinker or a left brain thinker.  Not sure I agree with all the conclusions, but I found it interesting.

Are you ready?

1)  Are you better at math and science than art and literature?
If your answer is YES:  People who are left-brained thinkers (logic) are often better at math and science over art and literature.
If your answer is NO:  People who are right-brained thinkers (creative) are usually better at art and literature than math and science.

2)  Do you love playing sports outdoors over reading indoors?
If your answer is YES:  Right-brain thinkers (creative) enjoy the great outdoors and athletics.
If your answer is NO:  People who are left-brained (logic) usually prefer staying indoors and reading.

3)  Do you prefer verbal communication over physical communication?
If your answer is YES:  Left-brain thinkers (logic) love to work things out by talking.
If your answer is NO:  Right-brain thinkers (creative) believe actions speak louder than words.

4)  Would you rather draw pictures freehand instead of putting together a model airplane?
If your answer is YES:  Those who are right-brained (creative) are not fans of tremendous structure and prefer having some creativity at work.
If your answer is NO:  Those who are left-brained (logic) are in need of structure and prefer having specific guidelines at work.

5)  Do you like being in groups more than being alone?
If your answer is YES:  Group oriented people are usually right-brained (creative).
If your answer is NO:  Loners are usually left-brained (logic).

6)  When given instructions, are lots of pictures easier to understand than text?
If your answer is YES:  Right-brained (creative) people love picture explanations.
If your answer is NO:  Left-brained (logic) people much prefer text explanations.

7)  Have you noticed that you're better at providing the details and necessary information for a project than coming up with the initial idea?
If your answer is YES:  Left-brained (logic) are more into processing information and details than being involved in the creative process.
If your answer is NO:  Right-brained (creative) are more interested in the initial creative process rather than the information gathering.

8)  Do you need a quiet environment when you are working?
If your answer is YES:  Left-brain (logic) people usually need quiet environments.
If your answer is NO:  Right-brain (creative) people don't mind a bustling background as they work.

9)  Would you enjoy helping someone solve a relationship problem more than a math problem?
If your answer is YES:  Solving relationship problems is a natural for right-brain thinkers (creative).
If your answer is NO:  Solving math and technical problems is right up the alley of the left-brained (logic).

10)  If you were a writer, would you prefer to write non-fiction books instead of fiction?
If your answer is YES:  The left-brained (logic) are obsessed with details and truth.
If your answer is NO:  The right-brained (creative) are more imaginative.

As I said, there are some conclusions that I disagree with.  How about you?

Saturday, May 10, 2014


What Is It?
Speed dating has been around for about fifteen years.  It's a dating system whose purpose is to allow singles to meet as many other singles one-on-one as possible in a short specified amount of time.  Its origins have been credited to a Rabbi who devised it as a way to help Jewish singles meet prospective mates.  It has since shown up as a plot device in several movies and television shows.

The first speed dating event took place at Pete's CafĂ© in Beverly Hills in late 1998.  By the year 2000, speed dating had become very popular.  Supporters of the phenomenon claim it saves time since most people quickly decide if they are romantically compatible and first impressions are often permanent.

How It Works
Organizers of these events usually require advance registration with the total number of participants limited to a specific number.  Small events have twenty to thirty participants while others are very large such as the recent one in New Jersey with three hundred and fifty participants.  Needless to say, there is usually a registration fee which covers the cost of putting on the event and a profit for the organizers.

Each participant is assigned an identification of some sort, usually a number.  They are not allowed to exchange personal information such as names, phone numbers, email addresses, etc., during the dating process of the event.

Men and women rotate so that they each have the opportunity to meet the other in a series of short dates that each last a set amount of time, usually somewhere between three and eight minutes depending on the rules set down by the organizer.  This could be something as simple as small tables with the women sitting on one side and the men on the other side opposite.  At the end of each time period, a signal is given and the participants move on to the next date which might be achieved by the men getting up and moving to the next table to begin his date with a different woman.  This continues until each man has had a date with each woman.

At the end of the event, each of the participants submit a list to the organizers showing which of their dates they are interested in seeing again.  The organizers then compare all the lists and when a match occurs, they forward the personal information to that specific man and woman and they are on their own at that point.

Events can have a theme or specific requirements of the participants.  Older men and younger women or older women and younger men with age ranges pre-determined.  Gays.  Lesbians.  Ethnic groups.  Religious affiliation.  Maybe groups that share an interest in a certain hobby such as SCUBA diving.

Proponents of speed dating claim it's time efficient and the structure of the event eliminates the need of trying to figure out how to introduce yourself or needing to create a situation where you can start a conversation with someone.  The circumstances allow participants to come alone without feeling awkward or out of place.

A 2005 study at the University of Pennsylvania found that most people make their decision to accept or reject a potential partner within the first three seconds of meeting and issues such as religion, previous marriages, and smoking habits weren't as important as expected.

A 2006 study in Edinburgh, Scotland, found that conversation about travel resulted in more matches than conversation about films.

Various studies of speed dating events came to the general conclusion that women were more selective than men.  The above mentioned University of Pennsylvania study reported that the average man was chosen by 34% of the women and the average woman was chosen by 49% of the men.

Several television shows have used speed dating as an episode plot point—usually a prelude to murder. The murder victim had just participated in a speed dating event which provides a bunch of suspects with whom the victim had no previous connection thus making solving the crime more difficult…especially when the speed dating ended up having nothing to do with the crime.  :)

Now, with all this said about speed dating being a relatively recent phenomenon…

Many years ago (many, many, many years ago) when I was a freshman in college and pledging a sorority, the same process now referred to as speed dating was the method used by one of the sororities during rush week for the members to meet and interview the prospective pledges.  Each member had five minutes with each potential pledge then the member moved on to the next candidate for membership.

I have to admit that it all had a very assembly line feel to it, but was definitely a more efficient use of time than a room full of people standing around not knowing who to talk to or what to do.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Mother's Day—A Brief History

Mother's Day is a holiday honoring motherhood. It's observed in different forms in many countries, the date traditionally falling on the second Sunday in May in the United States (Sunday, May 11 this year). The American version of the holiday was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 and became an official holiday in 1914. Some time later, Anna Jarvis denounced the holiday for being too commercial and spent the latter years of her life trying to get it removed.

The celebration of mothers and motherhood goes back to the ancient Greeks and Romans who held festivals honoring the mother goddesses. However, the clearest precedent for Mother's Day is the early Christian festival known as Mothering Sunday. This was once a major tradition in the UK and parts of Europe, falling on the fourth Sunday in Lent. It was a time when the faithful would return to their mother church (the main church in the vicinity of their home) for a special service. Over time the tradition shifted into a secular holiday with children bringing flowers to their mothers as tokens of appreciation. The roots of the modern American Mother's Day go back to the years prior to our Civil Way (1861-1865)

Even though versions of Mother's Day are celebrated throughout the world, traditions vary from country to country. For example, in Thailand Mother's Day is always celebrated in August on the birthday of the current queen. And in Ethiopia families gather each fall to sing songs and eat a large feast as part of a multi-day celebration honoring motherhood.

In the US, Mother's Day has become one of the biggest holidays for consumer spending…definitely a biggie for Hallmark's greeting cards.