Joshua Wilner http://joshuawilner.com A Writer Writes Mon, 20 Oct 2014 22:08:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Problem With Straight Lines http://joshuawilner.com/2014/10/17/problem-straight-lines/ http://joshuawilner.com/2014/10/17/problem-straight-lines/#respond Fri, 17 Oct 2014 23:08:40 +0000 http://joshuawilner.com/?p=4058 Not too long ago the kids and I were waiting in line to buy some food at one of the big box stores when we heard/saw another parent discipline his child for misbehaving. When the man asked the boy to explain why he did what did the boy shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t […]

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Lombard Street (Crooked Street) - San Francisco, California

Not too long ago the kids and I were waiting in line to buy some food at one of the big box stores when we heard/saw another parent discipline his child for misbehaving.

When the man asked the boy to explain why he did what did the boy shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t know, I just did it.’

A short while later a conversation started in the car about whether the boy was honest in his response or if he was lying. We all agreed it was possible he might not have provided an honest answer because he feared getting into more trouble but were at a deadlock about whether it was possible he might have gotten into trouble for “acting without thinking.”

The hiccup in this theory came from my son who said people usually think about their actions and are aware of the consequences. I told him that I didn’t know if I agreed and based it upon my memories of childhood where sometimes I got myself into trouble because I did what looked fun or cool first and thought about what might happen later.

As the conversation progressed and the kids shared their thoughts and ideas it stimulated more memories from my school days, specifically of moments where I was told my answers were incorrect because I didn’t show my work.

Those moments frustrated me because I often had the correct answer but because the teacher couldn’t see how I arrived at it they marked it down. In concept I suppose it was because they weren’t sure if I had copied it off of another student or from the back of the book.

I remember trying to convince one of my Algebra teachers to at least give me partial credit because it was an even question and the back of the book only listed answers to the odds.

Decades later I hear an adult voice in my head talking about the importance of linear thinking and I want to scream at it. I understand the value and the reason but sometimes you need to trust your gut.

About Linear Thinking

“Linear Thinking” is defined as:

a process of thought following known cycles or step-by-step progression where a response to a step must be elicited before another step is taken.

It always bothered me when my teachers told me they couldn’t see how I moved from Point A to Point Q without stopping at the points in between because without a logical progression it seemed too large a leap to take.

Sometimes when we would discuss it I would mention Lombard Street (pictured above) or talk about the lines at amusement parks in which you didn’t have to move in a straight line to get to your destination. Sometimes you could move all sorts of different ways and get there.

Most of the time I would be told that learning to use a linear progression insured you would be able to solve other problems that could only be figured out in one way.

Those responses never satisfied me.

Maybe it was because sometimes I was the boy who did things without thinking about the consequences.

Sometimes it was because I just knew in my gut that I would be ok. I could jump off of the roof or out of the tree and be fine. I didn’t need a tape measure or yard stick to figure out how far it was.

I just knew.

The Problem With Linear Thinking

The problem with linear thinking is you can’t apply it to everything, people especially.

I relate that last line to the hiring methods some people use where they match the job requirements word-for-word against the experience of a candidate.

Instead of looking to see if they have transferable skills or experience that would enable them to be successful in a new position they automatically discard them and look for the squares that fit into the square hole.

Maybe they are protecting themselves. Maybe they are trying to avoid making a mistake but sometimes it is worth sticking the circle inside the square or the square inside the circle.

Sometimes people surprise you and they just see things.

Sometimes they solve problems or come up with inventions by accident and sometimes it is because their vision allowed them to reach three steps beyond where linear thinking might have taken them.

You can get to Q from A, all you need to do is try.

It hurts to fail but it hurts more to fail to try or maybe that is just my own philosophy.

What do you think?

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A Healthy Dad Denial http://joshuawilner.com/2014/10/14/healthy-dad-denial/ http://joshuawilner.com/2014/10/14/healthy-dad-denial/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 05:21:25 +0000 http://joshuawilner.com/?p=4043 You can call this opening line confession or disclosure. If you want you can say I am writing this post because I was compensated (are you listening FTC) or you can take the more noble approach and call it one father’s confession. That’s because the point of the post is to talk about the importance […]

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Reebok high tops, rolled jeans, fanny pack- Yep is 1989.
Reebok high tops, rolled jeans, fanny pack- Yep it is 1989.

You can call this opening line confession or disclosure. If you want you can say I am writing this post because I was compensated (are you listening FTC) or you can take the more noble approach and call it one father’s confession.

That’s because the point of the post is to talk about the importance of being a healthy dad and it is why I am using the picture above…again.

This time around it is to point out that the handsome devil on the far right would try to kill me for letting us get so…soft. I can make a ton of excuses, some of them almost reasonable for why 25 years later the hard body with the six pack abs is more like a soft body with a case of abs.

That kid in the photo above had no responsibilities and could hit the gym daily without any regard for anyone else. He grew into a man who watched two grandfathers and  grandmother live into their nineties and figured that between genetics and the fact he exercises more than his own father or grandfather convince him that having to loosen a belt buckle or two was ok.

You can and should call it denial of a growing problem and you can even say that talking about myself in the third person is representative of some of that.

Ten years ago I stood in hospital room and looked at my father and promised that wouldn’t happen to me. I swore I wasn’t going to end up on a ventilator and started a healthier diet and increased the amount of exercise I got.

For a long while it worked well and then at some point I fell off of that wagon and the weight I lost found me. It didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t take me completely by surprise, hell I fought back and I dropped it again.

But that sneaky bastard denial lulled me to sleep again and I didn’t wake up until my son out ran me.  He didn’t beat me in a foot race but his endurance surpassed mine.

An Ongoing Battle

My old frenemie denial helped me write that race off because I went to the gym that night and beat a bunch of younger guys across the basketball court and after 90 minutes of running on the court with them we went to lift and I out worked most of them. Lifted more weight, did more reps and outlasted them or so I told myself.

It took three days to recover.

Three days of being sore and feeling like I had been worked over but my stubborn nature and my frenemie denial convinced me that if I powered through all would be well.

For a while it was and then I took a harder look at old pictures and new. Took a look at the guy in the mirror and in the video and decided it was time to make a significant effort to change.

Some of it came because I heard stories about people I knew dying young from a variety of terminal illnesses. One night I watched my kids sleep and decided that at 45 I simply can’t fool myself into believing I can just shrug it off any more so I made a promise to myself to find tools and resources I could use to help live a healthier life.

There Are Lots Of Resources Available Now

We live during a time when there are a ton of resources available for us. You can find help in a variety of places online.

Anthem Blue Cross wants to help you address your most basic health needs and questions through online initiatives such as Live Online Health and their new mobile app for Google and iOS phones.

If that doesn’t work for you do yourself and your family a favor and find one that does. Take the time to figure out how to make your health plan work for you.

Help Your Family With Extra Cash!!

XY Media is sponsoring a contest to celebrate dads living a healthy lifestyle. All you have to do is submit a family-friendly video to https://www.facebook.com/healthydads and you could win a $100 Amazon giftcard just in time for the holidays. Be a #HealthyDad . For the official rules, go here.

Don’t be shy about participating, get goofy like the knucklehead in the video below. It is for a good cause. Your health is worth it.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Disclosure: Thanks to WellPoint, Inc., which compensated me for this post, for including dads in this important discussion about family health care. My views are based solely on my experience as a parent, and not as a medical professional.

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Are Texting & Email Responsible For The Death Of Clear Communication? http://joshuawilner.com/2014/10/12/texting-email-responsible-death-clear-communication/ http://joshuawilner.com/2014/10/12/texting-email-responsible-death-clear-communication/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 03:44:29 +0000 http://joshuawilner.com/?p=4028 Ten thousand years ago when I was a just a lad I thought it would be cool to have been a knight. The idea of wearing armor, carrying a sword and jousting appealed to me. I mentioned this to a substitute history teacher and they tried to speak to me in Old English and told […]

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Would a person from the 21st century be able to communicate with a knight from medieval times?

Ten thousand years ago when I was a just a lad I thought it would be cool to have been a knight. The idea of wearing armor, carrying a sword and jousting appealed to me.

I mentioned this to a substitute history teacher and they tried to speak to me in Old English and told me that if I couldn’t understand the language I would have a hard time communicating and that I would probably make a poor knight.

Naturally I told him he couldn’t get away with insulting my honor so he challenged me to a duel. Armed with a steel trash can lid and a mop I wiped the floor with him and made him repent of his evil ways.

That Last Part Might Be An Exaggeration

It is possible the last part didn’t happen quite like that but none of that really matters because today we are talking about whether the proliferation of text message and email has seriously wounded and or killed clear communication.

Several recent personal experiences and stories from friends have begun to make me wonder if the wonder of technology is making everyone wonder what the hell she/he meant with that last remark.

Full disclosure: I am a heavy user of text messages and email.  I use both methods multiple times throughout the day to communicate with various people.

Sometimes if I am downstairs and family members are upstairs instead of walking up or calling out I’ll shoot them a text. I’ll let you decide whether that is convenient or lazy.

But that is not really what I am thinking of here.

Rather I am thinking about some of the misunderstandings I have had with people and or moments of confusion that were caused during these exchanges.

Are Texting & Email Responsible For The Death Of Clear Communication?

Sarcasm and attempts at humor don’t always play well with text. When you can’t see a person’s face or hear their voice it is easy to misunderstand what they were trying to say.

But arguments don’t start just because someone was trying to be funny or sarcastic. Sometimes they happen because the five words we used to

One of my favorite examples of how text/email can sometimes cause or add to confusion is tied into delayed delivery.

That is when technical issues keep your text/email from showing up on a timely basis leading the other person to wonder if you didn’t take their note seriously.

I can think of a few minor disagreements that turned into bigger issues because of this.

A friend of mine shared a story about how he and his wife had a major fight at home and tried to make up at work via email.  Since they worked in an open office they couldn’t talk it out on the phone and apparently it was important enough to them to not wait until they got home.

Anyway he told me about how his wife sent him a detailed email about why she was upset and how he had hurt her feelings. He sent her an apology but for some reason the email got hung up for several hours.

As time passed she felt like he was ignoring her and that made her even angrier. She called him at the office and chewed him out and every time he tried to tell her he had responded she felt like he was lying to cover his butt.

Eventually she got his email and the time stamp proved that he had been truthful yet it didn’t erase what had taken place before.

The Bigger Problem/Death Of The Telephone

Delayed delivery doesn’t concern me as much as the general misunderstanding that sometimes comes with text. The time stamp usually makes it easy to prove you responded/replied in a timely fashion.

It is the miscommunication that concerns me most and is tied into one of my own pet peeves.

It makes me crazy to exchange 27 text/emails when a two minute conversation will answer all questions and eliminate any misunderstanding.

Sometimes when I think about this I remember the conversation I had so long ago with the substitute teacher and am sorry I didn’t really appreciate what he was trying to teach me.

That medieval knight and I might have figured out how to communicate clearly in spite of the challenges we faced but only if we took a moment to open the visors on our helmets and made eye contact.

But if we didn’t there is a good chance we might not have understood each other and I would have been forced to unhorse him and make yield. (You didn’t really think I was going to be the one to yield now did ya, this is my fantasy. ;)

Anyhoo, some of my friends tell me they think the death of the telephone is imminent but I don’t think we are there yet. It is still too valuable and too many people will continue to use it for business and pleasure.

Facetiming, Skyping and Google Hangouts won’t replace it either because of simple vanity. Let’s face it some times you won’t be prepared or willing to speak on camera because of a bad hair day, pajamas or any number of other reasons.

How about you? What do you think? Do you agree/disagree?

Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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198,093 Reasons Why It is The Best Cellphone Ever http://joshuawilner.com/2014/10/10/198093-reasons-best-cellphone-ever/ http://joshuawilner.com/2014/10/10/198093-reasons-best-cellphone-ever/#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 19:47:30 +0000 http://joshuawilner.com/?p=4006 Some times I look at the guy juggling those chain saws and think, “what a pansy. I do that every day except I don’t wear a helmet and in addition to the saws and axe I include bowling balls, cobras, pythons and a flame thrower.” That last sentence might be an exaggeration. The cobras were […]

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chainsaw juggler
London Juggler by Leon Benjamin

Some times I look at the guy juggling those chain saws and think, “what a pansy. I do that every day except I don’t wear a helmet and in addition to the saws and axe I include bowling balls, cobras, pythons and a flame thrower.”

That last sentence might be an exaggeration. The cobras were eaten by the pythons and when they turned upon me I flexed my mighty anacondas and choked them out.

Initially I tried to make like Darth Vader and force choke them but Mercury is in retrograde and that jacked up my connection to the force so I had to get my hands dirty.

Not that I mind, I have the stomach to do a lot of things. Except eat dairy, but let’s not slide into the realm of TMI and talk about cellphones.

198,093 Reasons Why It is The Best Cellphone Ever

My Samsung Galaxy Note II is dying a slow and painful death so in between begging, pleading and screaming at it I have begun researching phones.

Sometimes I find myself cursing the need for smartphones because they don’t seem to last as long as the dumphones do/did. Did I mention moments like this make me wonder about the benefits of being part of Generation X.

Every generation has their challenges but when I was a kid my parents didn’t worry about the Internet, satellite/cable television or cellphones. They didn’t think about whether being the only without any of these things would have a positive or negative impact upon their children.

Ok, I haven’t really had to think about that because my kids haven’t been deprived that way. We held out on cellphones until my oldest hit middle school and the youngest probably won’t get one before then either.

But they don’t iPads or their own computers and until recently I didn’t think this was a problem.

Except now I wonder because technology has not rendered homework obsolete and the ridiculous amounts they receive is creating time management  issues. Issues that are exacerbated by having to share computers.

It won’t be long before I’ll have to find a way to come up with some cash for at least one more laptop because their education requires it. I am not being snarky or sarcastic when I say I don’t know how families that can’t afford computers deal with not having one.

There don’t see to be many options.

******

We have also reached a point where I can’t see not having a smartphone with unlimited minutes, texting and a big honking data plan. I want to say otherwise.

I want to say I am exaggerating but I can’t say that so I am reading reviews about the 198,093 reasons why the Talkatmemister phone is the best.

It would be easier if I wasn’t locked into a contract until November because until that sucker is up my cell provider doesn’t consider me worthy of a price break on my phone and I haven’t got the cash to pay full price.

The Choices We Make

We all make choices and then do our best to live with them.

Could I do things differently? Could I make different choices about lifestyle and find an easier way to live?

Sure and so can you.

It is easy to turn things upside down and inside out and to swim against the stream. It is not an exaggeration to say I have lived large chunks of my life that way and that I have spent moments fighting the tide.

How do you think I got to be so adept at juggling chainsaws.

There is a certain amount of snark and sarcasm there because many of the people who have made suggestions about change are the same who have never done it.

I have a harder time taking them seriously, especially when I have and they haven’t.

Doesn’t matter either way because my choices lead me to the same places and that includes the need for the fancy smartphone.

It is a professional as well as a personal requirement. Privacy is a big part of why I want my own phone. If you use a company phone anything you do on it is their business.

I don’t have anything to hide but that doesn’t mean I want the company involved in my business.

So here I am looking at reviews and thinking again about finally moving over to the iPhone. I hear good things about it and it looks like that 6 Plus might make a good replacement for my Note.

The Cost Of Making A Change

If I move over to the iPhone I’ll probably go with the 64GB because unlike the Droids you can’t just swap memory cards in and out. Since apps seem to be getting larger and I want to take more photos I expect the extra GB should help.

I’ll have to get a new car charger and a case so add those to the overall cost. Rumor has it the battery life is good but until I use it I can’t say if it meets my needs or if I’ll need to consider getting a portable charger to along with it too.

Friends who have used iPhones for years tell me I should expect an iPhone to last longer than my Droids have. If it does the cost of making the change goes down.

That should help.

I have to be honest, moments like this one make me wish I really was able to live my dream of playing for the Dodgers or the Lakers because I’d be a multimillionaire who didn’t have to worry about all this cellphone narishkeit or so I like to think.

What about you? What do you think?

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Are Parents Giving Their Children Good Career Advice? http://joshuawilner.com/2014/10/07/parents-giving-children-good-career-advice/ http://joshuawilner.com/2014/10/07/parents-giving-children-good-career-advice/#comments Wed, 08 Oct 2014 03:23:09 +0000 http://joshuawilner.com/?p=3991 My son is entering high school next year. Not long ago he asked me if that was when he should start thinking about a career and it led to a long and interesting discussion. We talked about what sort of work he might find interesting and discussed how interests sometimes change over time. He asked […]

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Steam Shovel
My son is entering high school next year. Not long ago he asked me if that was when he should start thinking about a career and it led to a long and interesting discussion.

We talked about what sort of work he might find interesting and discussed how interests sometimes change over time. He asked a few questions about how I figured out what I wanted to do and segued into his mom and grandparents and then he fell asleep.

One of the things he asked me about was whether the job you get is one you like and if it pays enough to make it worthwhile.

It got me thinking about a letter Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs posted on his Facebook page regarding work and passion and how it applies to parenting.  I copied a section for you to see, any section in bold was added by me.

“Like all bad advice, “Follow Your Passion” is routinely dispensed as though it’s wisdom were both incontrovertible and equally applicable to all. It’s not. Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it. And just because you’re determined to improve doesn’t mean that you will. Does that mean you shouldn’t pursue a thing you’re passionate about?” Of course not. The question is, for how long, and to what end?

When it comes to earning a living and being a productive member of society – I don’t think people should limit their options to those vocations they feel passionate towards. I met a lot of people on Dirty Jobs who really loved their work. But very few of them dreamed of having the career they ultimately chose. I remember a very successful septic tank cleaner who told me his secret of success. “I looked around to see where everyone else was headed, and then I went the opposite way,” he said. “Then I got good at my work. Then I found a way to love it. Then I got rich.”

Every time I watch The Oscars, I cringe when some famous movie star – trophy in hand – starts to deconstruct the secret to happiness. It’s always the same thing, and I can never hit “mute” fast enough to escape the inevitable cliches. “Don’t give up on your dreams kids, no matter what.” “Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t have what it takes.” And of course, “Always follow your passion!”

Today, we have millions looking for work, and millions of good jobs unfilled because people are simply not passionate about pursuing those particular opportunities. Do we really need Lady GaGa telling our kids that happiness and success can be theirs if only they follow their passion?

There are many examples – including those you mention – of passionate people with big dreams who stayed the course, worked hard, overcame adversity, and changed the world though sheer pluck and determination. We love stories that begin with a dream, and culminate when that dream comes true. And to your question, we would surely be worse off without the likes of Bill Gates and Thomas Edison and all the other innovators and Captains of Industry. But from my perspective, I don’t see a shortage of people who are willing to dream big. I see people struggling because their reach has exceeded their grasp.”

I haven’t done any research so I can’t tell you if is accurate to say millions of jobs are unfilled or how much those jobs pay.

Are Parents Giving Their Children Good Career Advice?

Most of my friends come from middle or upper middle class backgrounds and had parents who were in your typical white collar jobs. My guess is quite a few of us were told to study hard so we would get into good colleges and graduate to get good jobs.

My parents didn’t speak poorly or teach me to look down at blue collar workers but I do remember my father suggesting I might prefer to strive for a position where strong hands and a strong back weren’t requirements.

We worked on enough projects around the house for me to believe it was good advice and with relatively few exceptions the work I have done since has fallen into the white collar province and not blue.

However in the years that have passed since I graduated college I have wondered from time to time if maybe I should have become a plumber or electrician because from the outside looking in it seemed like they offered better job security.

People seem less likely to hire the cheapest plumber/electrician. Again, I don’t have any stats so my perspective may be flawed.

Anyhoo, when I think about what sort of advice to give my children I am torn between wanting to push them to chase their dreams and follow their passion versus going after jobs that are less likely to be downsized not to mention lend themselves to putting them in the position to be their own boss.

It is also fair to say I have seen some of those that Rowe says have over reached and that some of that can be attributed to parents who didn’t allow themselves or their children to recognize their limitations.

Is It Fair?

Is it fair for me to say these things?

Maybe yes and maybe no.

Ultimately it doesn’t matter because my children are free to ignore any advice I choose to dispense as is anyone else who reads this.  It is up to people to determine whether it makes sense or not.

If Rowe’s assertion that millions of positions go unfilled is accurate it definitely makes sense to take a harder look at them. It might make far more sense for people to avoid taking out thousands of dollars in school loans and start making some cash sooner than later. Invest it well and you might find yourself living a nicer life and or retiring sooner than the people who chase after passion.

But then again how much does regret cost?

There is no single right answer, just the joy of the journey.

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A Hard Lesson Learned http://joshuawilner.com/2014/10/05/hard-lesson-learned/ http://joshuawilner.com/2014/10/05/hard-lesson-learned/#comments Sun, 05 Oct 2014 23:24:47 +0000 http://joshuawilner.com/?p=3973 There is no substitute for life experience but having it doesn’t always prevent you from enjoying a hard lesson learned. Ask my kids and they’ll tell you they both got to experience that hard lesson but don’t expect them to smile and talk about the value in the lesson they learned yet. I am ok […]

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Blacksmith at Work - Colonial Williamsburg
There is no substitute for life experience but having it doesn’t always prevent you from enjoying a hard lesson learned.

Ask my kids and they’ll tell you they both got to experience that hard lesson but don’t expect them to smile and talk about the value in the lesson they learned yet.

I am ok with their not being enlightened yet because they are only kids and because even at my soon to be approaching middle aged moment of life experience it would bother me too.

What Happened?

Thursday night my son decided to upgrade his iPhone but didn’t think to back up his phone before he did it.

Had he talked to me about it I would have told him I had read about numerous issues other users had when upgrading to iOS 8 and asked him about the backup but he didn’t ask so I couldn’t tell.

I wasn’t upset with him because he didn’t ask because I am not raising him to look to his parents to take care of every little thing. We want him to be his own man and to be self sufficient and to learn when to ask for help.

Things don’t always work out as expected or as wanted and the net effect of his not backing up turned into a great teaching moment.

That is because some bug with iOS 8 grabbed his phone and turned it into a brick.  When he came to me asking for help I told him I could fix it but explained I would have to restore it to the factory settings.

He didn’t like that idea very much but at 10 PM on a Thursday night his choices were limited. I took the phone and used Old Doc Google to see if there were any alternatives but didn’t find any so I wiped it clean and did my best to recover a few items I knew I had.

We talked about it the next day and I told my kid the digital native that being a part of Generation X has its advantages not the least of which is we have a different sort of appreciation for when smart phones were dumb.

I won’t lie and say he automatically nodded his head in agreement because he didn’t but I made a point to share some of my frustration and experiences with technology so now when I tell him sometimes technology makes us dumberer he understands.

A Question of Honesty

My daughter now has her own negative experience with electronics. She made the mistake of taking her iPod to Hebrew school with her and it disappeared.

I can’t tell you how many times we have advised against doing so. Can’t tell you how often I have checked with her before she left because she is only 10 going on 30 but this time it didn’t happen.

This time she didn’t think to take it out or forgot to take it out of her pocket and so it ended up at school with her. She realized she had it early on and was conscious of it but at some point it slipped out of her pocket and ended up somewhere.

Forty minutes of searching didn’t lead to it being discovered so she left messages with the security and custodial staffs about it and now it turns into a question of honesty.

I am confident that someone picked it up and took it. Maybe it fell out in class and her teacher locked it up, I don’t know. We’ll have to see what happens.

We told her if she has to replace it she will do so out of her own money. Part of me feels badly about this because I understand it was an accident and it is clear that she is upset.

But I won’t be the parent that automatically replaces items just to keep my kid from crying. It is a hard lesson learned but she’ll figure it out.

One Last Comment

My son has is participating in a couple of group projects for school. His phone has played a key role in his ability to do as has the computer.

I don’t know what families who don’t have access to electronics do because so much work comes through electronics, Google Docs, Hangouts,Skype and so much more are being used.

My daughter doesn’t make many phone calls but she Facetimes and texts with her friends, especially those who she no longer goes to school with.

Could the kids live without technology?

Of course they can, we did and so can they but should I fight society to make that happen?

My answer is no in large part because we have reached a moment where we are stuck between the  hammer and anvil of modernity.

Technology and electronics are a part of everything and while I work to teach the kids how to do things so they don’t have to rely upon tech I am not going to hamstring their ability to get along by not allowing them to have it.

The hard part is finding the right balance and sometimes that leads to a hard lesson learned.

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44 Apps You Can Use To Become More Productive http://joshuawilner.com/2014/10/02/44-apps-can-use-become-productive/ http://joshuawilner.com/2014/10/02/44-apps-can-use-become-productive/#respond Thu, 02 Oct 2014 23:04:19 +0000 http://joshuawilner.com/?p=3957 44 Apps You Can Use To Become More Productive Confession: Whenever I see a headline or infographic that talks about tools people can use to become more productive the following question and answer jump into my head. Q: What is the best tool/app you can use to improve your productivity? A: The one you commit […]

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These 44 Apps Will Make You More Productive

44 Apps You Can Use To Become More Productive

Confession: Whenever I see a headline or infographic that talks about tools people can use to become more productive the following question and answer jump into my head.

Q: What is the best tool/app you can use to improve your productivity?

A: The one you commit to using.

It is the same thought process as trying to identify the best gym to belong to or what sort of home gym equipment to buy. Pick the one you’ll go to or use.

I used to work with a guy who would buy the most expensive gym shoes he could find. He believed they were of better quality and would help him get a better work out and they might have had he actually chosen to exercise.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

I am an advocate of finding ways to work smarter and not harder. It is part of why when I’ll bookmark stories about ways to improve productivity but I pay close attention to whatever solutions they offer because the only solution that is useful is the one I am willing to use.

What do you think?

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Remember When All Phones Were ‘Dumb?’ http://joshuawilner.com/2014/09/30/remember-phones-dumb/ http://joshuawilner.com/2014/09/30/remember-phones-dumb/#comments Wed, 01 Oct 2014 01:24:50 +0000 http://joshuawilner.com/?p=3939 Some pictures are worth more than a thousand words but I have yet to see a cellphone I considered to be worth a thousand dollars. I’d like to say that is tongue-in-cheek but I have been a part of several recent discussions in which people said they put down a grand to pick up a […]

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Winter Morning Sunrise Tunnel View Yosemite Valley - Yosemite Na
Winter Morning Sunrise Tunnel View Yosemite Valley

Some pictures are worth more than a thousand words but I have yet to see a cellphone I considered to be worth a thousand dollars.

I’d like to say that is tongue-in-cheek but I have been a part of several recent discussions in which people said they put down a grand to pick up a new phone.

Can’t say it was limited to iPhones or Android phones because both were a part of these discussions but it doesn’t matter because that number jumped out and bit me on the lip.

Part of me wonders if I should be surprised by that number because it is all relative and our perspective drives that. I know people who would never spend more than $10,000 on a car and others who can’t imagine finding a decent one for less than $60,000.

Why should phones be any different.

What Should A Phone Cost?

It is a question I pondered while stuck in traffic. What should a phone cost? What do I consider a reasonable price to be and where would I cut things off.

When I got home I had a few minutes to kill so I decided to do some research and headed over to Verizon to see what the most current pricing for their phones was.

I didn’t want to confuse things by looking at subsidized pricing so I looked at the ‘No contract required phones‘ and this is what I saw:

iPhone 6 Full retail: $649.99

iPhone 6 Plus Full retail: $749.99

Moto X™ (2nd Gen.) Full retail: $499.99

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Full retail: $599.99

You should note the price on the iPhone 6 Plus is for the 16GB version. It increases as you add memory. I didn’t take the time to figure out if the $1,000 I heard was accurate because the $749 was close enough.

But I did consider that for the majority of the past 8 years I have worked from a remote office and my cellphone served as my office line.

It meant that my cell was of paramount importance. It enabled me not to be chained to a desk but to do that it had to do more than just serve as a device that carried conversation between people.

If you really want to dig in you can start playing with the numbers. There are 52 weeks in a year. If you work a 40 hour week that means in concept you’ll put in 2,080 hours of work per year.

Crunch and massage those numbers a bit and you’ll figure out that even if you spent $1000 on a phone it cost you less than a $1 buck a day to make sure you were covered.

Of course you can play with the numbers some more and find a way to justify the expenditure because you earn much more than a $1000 per year and if you didn’t have that phone to take care of work you’d potentially be less productive, less effective and might even lose your job.

Suddenly $1,000 sounds cheap.

That is assuming you think there is no substitute for that $1,000 phone.

A Pile of Dead Cell Phones

There is a drawer in my room that is filled with a pile of dead cell phones. Palms, BlackBerrys, Droids and a couple old Motorolas have been laid to rest there.

Some of them have been used for play by my children and others have been offered and rejected by trade-in programs.

Whenever my current phone gives a little hiccup and I think perhaps it is giving the first indication that it is thinking about heading off to electronic dreamland I think about the phones in the drawer and wonder if one of them might be in good enough condition to be called back to service.

My best guess is one of the dumb phones is the most likely suspect. Those suckers lived and worked forever.

Did I mention every time I look at them now I think of them as being a burner? Maybe I have watched too much television. Blame it on Sons of Anarchy and Breaking Bad.

There is a certain amount of attraction in the dumb phones too. They weren’t tiny, portable computers that could do all that our laptops can do. Sometimes I miss that.

Remember When All Phones Were ‘Dumb?’

It is really not that long ago that you had virtually one choice–a dumb phone.

We didn’t worry about apps, battery life or spend time telling the kids to hold still while we took a picture. Hell it is not that long ago that being able to say you had a camera phone meant you had cutting edge technology.

If I am being honest it is just long enough for me to look at pictures and see a guy who had a full head of hair. But if I am really being honest that guy didn’t have the same amount of worries about and concerns about life as I do.

Hell, since I am being so honest let me thank my father for making sure I was born into a family where I have to work for a living. Would it have been so hard to let your poor son grow up to be a rich man.

Couldn’t you have left me an empire.

Did I mention dear reader that if you ask my dad to account for this terrible injustice he’ll blame my grandfather and my grandfather will blame his father.

Come to think about it none of those three men had jobs were they got to work with smartphones. Maybe that is the trick.

Maybe my smartphone will enable me to break the cycle and my son won’t sing the same song as we have.

Sorry sonny boy, I still can’t see spending a grand on a phone. Keep studying, you are going to have to work for a living. :)

photo by:

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Some Pictures Are Worth More Than 1,000 Words http://joshuawilner.com/2014/09/28/pictures-worth-1000-words/ http://joshuawilner.com/2014/09/28/pictures-worth-1000-words/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 01:57:05 +0000 http://joshuawilner.com/?p=3858 Three things happen every time I look at pictures like those you see in this post: I want to jump in the car and go back to see all of these places. I remember the importance of not sitting at the computer all day long. There is no substitute for sunshine on our backs. I […]

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Half Dome and Yosemite Valley Taken in Yosemite National Park, USA on Half Dome and Yosemite Valley 27 September 2009 by Jimmy Harris.
Half Dome and Yosemite Valley
Taken in Yosemite National Park, USA on 27 September 2009 by Jimmy Harris.

Three things happen every time I look at pictures like those you see in this post:

  1. I want to jump in the car and go back to see all of these places.
  2. I remember the importance of not sitting at the computer all day long. There is no substitute for sunshine on our backs.
  3. I think about how to really incorporate multimedia into my stories. I have spent countless hours working with words and learning how to use them to paint a picture, but sometimes all you really need is that photo.
Shot by  CheWei Chang Tunnel View
Shot by CheWei Chang Yosemite Valley Tunnel View

Some Pictures Are Worth More Than 1,000 Words

I am embarrassed to say I haven’t taken my kids to Yosemite yet. I have shown them pictures and talked about it but it is not the same. These pictures and others help to illustrate what I am talking about but there are some things that you really need to see to appreciate.

Taken by  Gabriel Rodríguez.
Taken by Gabriel Rodríguez.

The General Sherman in Sequoia National Park is stunning. They say it is the largest tree in the world by volume. But that doesn’t have meaning for everyone.

Look at these numbers for a moment and maybe you’ll gain a greater understanding/appreciation for why this tree captures our attention.

Feet
Meters
Height above Base 274.9 83.8
Circumference at Ground 102.6 31.1
Maximum Diameter at Base 36.5 11.1
Diameter 60′ (18.3 m) above base 17.5 5.3
Diameter 180′ (54.9 m) above base 14.0 4.3
Diameter of Largest Branch 6.8 2.1
Height of First Large Branch above the Base 130.0 39.6
Average Crown Spread 106.5 32.5

What Kind Of Writer Are You?

Last week I shared a story about what happened when I was asked what kind of writer I am.  Let me sum it up for those who missed it and don’t have time to go back.

I am the kind who is constantly looking to improve his craft and searching for more effective tools to do so. It is why there is a new theme here and why during the next week or so you might see more changes to how things look around here.

One of the ways I want to improve my craft is by becoming more adept and more polished at using pictures in my posts. This theme lends itself to that.

It is clean and built so that larger pictures work well with it.  Those pictures are a big part of How To Tell A Great Story.

People who are good with numbers and visualizing things in their minds might find the table with the information about how large the General Sherman is to be enough to appreciate its size, but some still wouldn’t get it.

I am not trying to produce a blog that is all things to all people but that doesn’t mean I am going to ignore tools and resources that will enable more to understand and appreciate what is going on here.

Words in combination with pictures/videos are much more effective at telling the backstory than just one or the other.

In my world it would be a mistake not to look for opportunities to become a better and more effective storyteller.  Michael Jordan isn’t my favorite basketball player (he is in the t0p 10) but one of the things I respected most about him was he never stopped trying to improve his game.

The lesson I took from that is the best can always get better and that is what I am trying to do, get better.

What about you?

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Has Technology Rendered Homework Obsolete? http://joshuawilner.com/2014/09/23/technology-rendered-homework-obsolete/ http://joshuawilner.com/2014/09/23/technology-rendered-homework-obsolete/#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2014 06:24:39 +0000 http://joshuawilner.com/?p=3828 Sometimes my ten year-old asks me to tell her about the olden days and how we did things. “Daddy, what did you do a long, long time ago, like the ’80s when you had to do research for school?” “I rode my horse to town and parked it outside the library and asked Ms. Kitty […]

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Card Catalog 2
How we Googled Things In My Day.

Sometimes my ten year-old asks me to tell her about the olden days and how we did things.

“Daddy, what did you do a long, long time ago, like the ’80s when you had to do research for school?”

“I rode my horse to town and parked it outside the library and asked Ms. Kitty to pour me a drink and direct me to the card catalog so I could use the magical Dewey Decimal System to find the books I needed.”

That is the kind of reply that never fails to generate the sort of response that one day may mean death for a boyfriend or spouse but just gets dad an eye roll.

The last time she asked I pulled up a picture of a card catalog and told her it was our Google. When she asked me how we used it I gave her a brief description of the Dewey Decimal system and mentioned it is much easier to look up information now than when I was a kid.

Has Technology Rendered Homework Obsolete?

Her big brother wanders into the room during the discussion and frowns at me. He is in the middle of another homework marathon and I don’t have to ask to know two hours in means he still has another hour to go.

“Dad, hasn’t technology rendered homework obsolete. Why do I need to know all this crap when I can just look it up?”

I don’t want to tell him I think the system is broken and that they receive too much homework. That would  make motivating them to continue working hard at it more challenging than necessary so I keep my opinion to myself.

But I still make a point to talk to him about the value of a good education and how it is something that can never be taken away.  I may believe what I say but it bothers me to try and support something I see limited value in.

Homework that helps teach children critical reasoning and logical analysis makes sense me. It doesn’t always have to have an immediate practical application but relatively little should be forcing them to regurgitate information.

Never memorize something that you can look up.” ― Albert Einstein

I’d like to sit down with the educator(s) who developed the current standards and have them explain their rationale to me. I want to hear that I am a lay person who is misinformed about the value of how much work they are receiving.

I want them to explain to me in irrefutable terms that staying up to 11 each night is going to provide them with a foundation that will lead them to be successful but I don’t see how that is going to happen.

How will they explain that pushing them to exhaustion is beneficial. How will they tell me that having no virtually no free time is a good thing.

Sure, some of them will tell me that their teachers are supposed to give the kids instructions for how long they should work on their projects. They’ll say that once they hit X amount of time they should put their pencils down and go on to something else.

It is a nice concept but in practice it is hard to see how it plays out because they are overloaded in multiple classes and they receive grades for homework.

Every now and then my kids will echo Einstein and tell me it is dumb to do their homework because they can just look it up or use their phones/computers to solve their math problems.

They know I’ll respond by telling them they need to know how to do things without a computer. They know I want them to know how to figure out if they received proper change, how to figure a tip, percentages and how to read a map.

They have heard me talk about the importance of keeping their minds active but I come back to the same places.

Are They Learning How To Think?

Are they learning how to think or being taught what to think? Are they being given skills and knowledge that have practical applications.

Don’t get me wrong, some of the regurgitation makes sense. Some of the repetition makes sense. Doing things multiple times has some practical application and helps make sure you don’t forget how to do certain things unless you didn’t understand the lesson in class in which case 50 problems is 50 too many.

I suppose technology hasn’t rendered homework obsolete but the amount our kids receive is sure making it hard to see the value, especially when measured against practical advice like the advice below.

Click here to view the embedded video.

photo by:

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