Life in the Real-Lane

Continuous Learning

The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.  Robert Maynard Hutchins, dean of Yale Law School (1927–1929)

 I wish this truth was inscribed above the front door to every school in the United States.  We make the mistake, in this country, of thinking that there is end to the learning process.  This attitude is pervasive.  “I can’t wait until I’m finished with school!”   How many times have we all heard this statement from children? 

Adults are no better.  How many doctors actually stay up to date on the latest and greatest advances in medicine?  How many engineers participate in continuous education courses in their field?   If we want our children to have the best chance of success in a chosen professional career, we need to convince them to treat every job they ever have as a Profession

Wikipedia begins its article on Profession with the following: “A profession is a vocation founded upon specialized high educational training…”  The key is that the highly specialized training never ends.  Just ask anyone in the Information Technology/Computer Science fields.  If they stop learning new things – they are obsolete in two years.

Any thoughts?

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You ate what?

Racing to the emergency room with one of your kids is always a good time.  In our years as parents, we had done the ER several times:  broken arms, head contusions, and even a partially amputated finger.  This time, I was worried.   Our youngest was three and was already becoming the “smart, responsible one” among the kids. 

The reason we were in the emergency room, however, was neither smart nor responsible.  

“You ate what?”  

“A Micro Machine”, was the answer. 

I stared in disbelief as I tried to image swallowing a tiny car about the size of a peanut.  My instincts screamed, “No way, not possible”.  As an adult, I would have a hard time swallowing one – but a three-year old?  No way.

“Are you SURE you swallowed a Micro Machine?” I asked foolishly.   A nod was the only response.  

“Are you in any pain?” I asked.   She shook her head no, but the tears started coming to her little eyes.

The ER was hopping, as usual, on a Friday night.  I know the way it works – You claim LEFT ARM PAIN, and blammo – you’re through triage and being worked on immediately.  You claim BAD CUT – you’re dead last in line.  Surprisingly, a swallowed Micro Machine ranked pretty high on the Triage nurse’s list of maladies.  That scared me.

The ER doctor was serious when he came in to see us.  “Are you SURE you swallowed a Micro Machine?” he asked foolishly.  An affirmative nod was all he got for an answer.   He looked at me.  I shrugged the stupid-dad-shrug, which means: “How the hell should I know!”   His shoulders drooped a bit as he gave up the cross examination and ordered the X-rays.

“Hold still little girl”, said the X-ray technician, as if a three year old can hold still on an X-ray table.  Frustrated, the technician brings out the lead apron and slings it on me.  “You’ll have to hold her still so we can get a good look.” 

I’m thinking to myself – How good a look do you need to identify a TOY CAR in someone’s stomach?

After having my forearms irradiated three times, we finally got a “good-enough” look.

Back to the ER to wait for the Radiologist to “read” the X-rays.   Again, I’m thinking to myself – you need a specialist to identify a die-cast metal car in a child’s body?   Anyone with eyes should be able to do it!

We waited.  I paced.  My car-eating angel slept.   It was taking a long time, even by Friday night ER standards.  I started to get nervous.   Oh great, I thought, the doctors must be calling in a GI guy for emergency surgery to remove the car.  It must be lodged in her intestines!  The longer it took, the more nervous I got.

Just after 1am, the ER doctor came back to see us with a very serious (or very tired) expression.  “Little girl – Did you eat a toy car?”  He asked as he stared her into her little eyes.

“No.  Can we go home now, Daddy?”

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The Biggest threat to Peace

Mankind really hasn’t changed very much.  We fight over the same things we have always been fighting over.   Psychologist, Abraham Maslow,  in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”, created a hierarchy of needs.    Everything begins with the basics for life – food, clean water, and shelter.   I may sound like a liberal for saying this, but the security of our lifestyle in North America really does depend on how well folks in the rest of the world meet their own basic needs.

The US government has a program, called Feed the Future.  There is a lot of good information on this site.   Another fantastic organization that works directly on this issue close to home is Food for the Poor.   96.3% of all gifts go directly to programs for the poor.  They focus on both immediate needs and long-term goals to help folks become self-sustaining.

If you want to invest in your children and grandchildren’s future – try becoming a monthly donor to Food for the Poor.  Teach your kids to care about the poor, at home, and around the globe.   An easy way to start – for $25, your family can provide 20 chickens to help a poor family develop a sustainable food resource and income.

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Team Sports

In business, everyone talks about teamwork.  You have to be a team player to get ahead.  Loners, no matter how talented, don’t do well in corporations.  The most successful person I know was always the captain of his teams in high school.  He is a natural people person.  If someone on the team performed poorly, he would always encourage and never complain or put the person down.   I was not surprised when I read that he became the CEO of a Warren Buffet owned company. 

I never learned those skills as a kid.   We were always moving – three different elementary schools in 4th grade alone.  There were some benefits, but the downside is that I never felt apart of anything so naturally I tend to rely only on myself.

This, unfortunately, has been a major disadvantage in a large corporate environment.  It’s taken me years to undo some of the reputation I earned in my early days.  People just didn’t enjoy having to work with me.

It is my hope that by participating in high school team sports, my kids will be better prepared for the business world than I was.   I hope they truly felt part of something bigger than themselves.

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Urban-Lite, Part 1

My wife would love to live in a small urban city with sidewalks, flower shops, book stores – all within walking distance.   We see this lifestyle in movies – like “You’ve got mail”.   It looks fun.   Personally, I don’t like big  cities, but a small city wouldn’t be bad.  

There is an organization, Congress for the new Urbanism, that advocates just this type of life style.   According to the CNU, one of the inhibitors to these fun Main Streets with mixed residential and commercial properties is the federal government itself – Go figure!   Read more

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Renters and Squatters – The Millennial Generation

” According to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, between 2006 and 2011, the homeownership rate among adults younger than 35 fell by 12 percent, and nearly 2 million more of them—the equivalent of Houston’s population—were living with their parents, as a result of the recession. The ownership society has been overrun by renters and squatters.

Nine out of 10 Millennials say they eventually want a place they own, according to a recent Fannie Mae survey. But this generation’s path to home­ownership is fraught with obstacles: low pay, low savings, tighter lending standards from banks. Student debt—some $1 trillion in total—stalks many potential buyers as they seek a mortgage (or a car loan). At a minimum, homeownership rates are highly unlikely to soon return to the peaks they hit during the housing bubble.”

The Cheapest Generation:  Why Millennials aren’t buying cars or houses, and what that means for the economy  (The Atlantic, Sept 2012)

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The thin line that separates laughter and pain….

“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”  – Erma Bombeck

Inside that perfectly manicured yew shrub on the edge of our patio, something sinister was lurking.   For the good of the neighborhood, my friend and I must do away with the menace.  Scott was exactly 366 days older that I was, so I naturally deferred to his wisdom and judgment.

 As a first grader, Scott knew everything.   His proposal was elegant in its simplicity.   A large stick, thrown like a javelin, should do the trick.   Better yet, a salvo of sticks!  The enemy will be decimated and lose the will to fight. 

Around the house we came, javelins in hand.   25 feet to target, we checked our grips.  20 feet, sweat dripped down our little foreheads.  15 feet, adrenalin kicking in.  10 feet – LAUNCH ALL WEAPONS!!!

In ecstasy, I watched both weapons fly through the air.  Time stopped as the javelins hit their target.  The Bald-faced Hornet nest erupted in pieces out the back of the yew shrub.

The plan was perfect in every respect, except for one thing.  Bald-faced Hornets, like most of the yellow jacket family, can fly in excess of 15 miles an hour.  The emergency room doctor was kind enough to point that out.

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With Kids: Keep it simple

Children are simple. They understand simple things very, very well.

  • Pizza, ice cream, popsicles: they get it, good stuff.
  • Skinned knees, bloody nose, accidentally farting in public: they get that too, bad stuff.

I cringe when I hear parents try to use sophisticated political tactics when attempting to change their kids behavior. Kids don’t get it, they don’t think that way.

Keep it simple. “Cause and effect” is the most simple behavior modification scheme around.

In my house we have three rules:

  1. Don’t embarrass Mom
  2. Don’t forget rule #1
  3. If you forget #1 and #2 – DUCK

The funny thing is – the system works. All I have to say is, “Rule #1” and the behavior changes immediately. I have never had to get to the “Duck” part.

For long-term behavior, such as failure to perform expected chores, simplicity works just as well. “If you continue to leave your room like that, I will take away the Wii.   The first time they lose the Wii for a week, they will understand that you mean business. Remind them, that they control the situation: You keep your room clean and you keep the Wii.

For tougher issues, you have to be willing to take away everything – Phones, license, laptop, etc.  If they know you mean it, you can compel any behavior you want.  Some kids are tough nuts, and they are willing to take the loss (I admire that, in a way) – just don’t give in.

Any thoughts?


Anoher great photo by Bob Madison

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The Flats – Cleveland, OH (by Bob Madison)

Cleveland, OH

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