If I Gave a Commencement Speech

This previously published post is in honor of the 50th anniversary of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Graduation tassleI was thinking one day about someday. Someday.

It’s such a far-off and mystical day. Always some time in the future. Often filled with big dreams and plans.

Someday I’m going to learn a foreign language. Someday I’m going to read Alice in Wonderland in French. Someday I’m going to write an article about Lewis Carroll for The Paris Review.

And here’s a familiar one: Someday I’m going to graduate.

I have a note to pause here and allow you to whoop it up and throw your frisbees and caps. Which, of course, you did right on cue. And this proves once again George Bernard Shaw’s line about what is wasted on the young.

This has always bothered me — I see young people at graduations tossing their caps into the air. Your cap and gown are rentals, right? So what happens if you can’t find your cap after that act of reckless abandon? Won’t you have to pay a penalty for not returning it? Doesn’t this concern you? If I were you, I’d be on all fours right now desperately searching for my cap and beloved tassel throughout the rest of this dignified ceremony. But I digress.

I have news for all of you: There is no someday. You didn’t wake up today and yell, “My God, it’s someday! It’s finally here! Hallelujah!”

It’s easy to say you’re going to do something someday. There’s no pressure. No urgency.

When are you going to do that? Oh, someday. OK, so it’s probably not going to happen in my lifetime. No problem.

In MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech, he said, “I have a dream that one day…” He didn’t say, “I have a dream that someday…”

There’s no “someday” in that speech. He said “one day” eight times and “today” nine times. Why did he stress those particular words? And what does this mean to you on your graduation day?

I can tell you to live for today. I can tell you that you do not have all the time in the world. And I can tell you all about my life and those times when I didn’t notice that someday had turned into yesterday, and all that Holden Caulfield kind of crap. But I won’t because it’ll bore you and depress me.

So, by all means, go out and do great things. But don’t tell me you’re going to find a solution for global warming, someday. Because we need it today. And I do mean, today!

In the meantime, have fun, ignore the elderly, overuse exclamation points, and try to believe at least one impossible thing before lunch everyday.

And have a great someday!

Posted in Life.

Why Bane Wears a Mask

Bane in mask

Tom Hardy as Bane

The arch-villain Bane, in the movie The Dark Knight Rises, wears a menacing looking face mask with not much back-story about it.

It’s explained only with a brief line about how it keeps his pain at bay. But those who suffer from sleep apnea will have their own idea what it is: It’s a CPAP mask, the gold standard for treating this disorder.

Sleep apnea is a condition that interrupts your breathing during sleep. And it can trigger many other health problems if it goes untreated.

I’ve been struggling with this myself and trying to get used to a CPAP. It stands for Continuous Positive Air Pressure, although it feels more like Continuous Pain and Punishment. But they say when you finally can sleep with it, it’s a cure and a blessing.

cpap-maskAnyway, a CPAP consists of a machine that pushes out a constant flow of air through a tube and into a face or nasal mask that is worn whenever you sleep. The idea is to correct your breathing by keeping your airways open. But for those new to it, it can feel suffocating and claustrophobic.

I’ve been fighting with mine for months without much help from my sleep doctor. And he even rebuked me by saying, “It’s not a life support system; it’s not an oxygen tank!” Thanks, Doc. That’s so helpful.

In fact, a CPAP is a life support system if you want to keep extreme fatigue,  severe headaches, and other symptoms at bay. Without it, your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen during sleep.

I’m reminded of the Dormouse in the Mad Tea-party who says, “You might just as well say…that ‘I breathe when I sleep’ is the same thing as ‘I sleep when I breathe’!” With sleep apnea, breathing and sleeping don’t go together no matter what you do before treatment. And that’s probably why the Dormouse is so sleepy.

Here’s the catch-22: You have to sleep with the mask on to feel better, but when you put it on it’s hard to fall or stay asleep. So the choice is either sleep deprivation or bad sleep until you adjust to it. And apparently many people don’t adjust — about 50% of CPAP patients just stop using it.

This explains Bane. His sleep apnea is so bad he has to wear a super-villain model CPAP all the time, and he still isn’t used to it. (Mine was expensive, so I can’t imagine what his cost.) That’s what makes him so ferociously evil. I totally get it.

I’ve made some progress with my CPAP recently, so I’m hoping it will soon become — if not a blessing — at least tolerable.

Now if I could just get Bane to pay my sleep doctor a visit…

Posted in Life.

And the Moral of That Is

alice-duchessIn Wonderland, the Duchess annoys Alice by finding morals in everything: “And the moral of that is…”

While the idea of moralizing may sound stuffy and old-fashioned, I think we should all find morals in our own life. But in this digital age, who has time to look for morals? Besides, most people I see out there are too absorbed in their smartphones and the latest apps to bother.

Of course, Lewis Carroll was making fun of the moralistic tone of children’s literature in his time. But he also believed that “Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it,” which the Duchess says to Alice.

So it occurred to me that this is a good time to bring back “the moral of that is…” After all, morals are perfect for tweets – short, pithy sayings that point up some lesson to be taken from a story, current event, or life experience.

For instance, here’s a modern trend that we could use a moral for: Too many people seem lost in their smartphones and other mobile devices.

But there must be a way to remind ourselves to look around and connect with real people. There must be something to alert us that our devices don’t need to fill every need and occupy our every free moment. There must be a start of a new consciousness in which we just talk and listen to each other more.

There must be an app for that.

And I’m sure the Duchess will give us the moral as soon as she learns to tweet.

Posted in Life.


tweedle-dee-dumContrariness is not a trait we’re encouraged to develop while growing up.  Those who are habitually contrary tend to standout. As a kid, you’re called precocious (or bratty); as an adult, you’re called unemployed.

It’s too bad because so much can be discovered in turning claims, ideas, and opinions on their head and looking at them with fresh eyes. This is what critical and creative thinking is really about.

In his book Impro, Keith Johnstone, a renowned drama teacher, describes how he came to have a contrary outlook:

At about the age of nine I decided never to believe anything because it was convenient. I began reversing every statement to see if the opposite was also true… As soon as you put a ‘not’ into an assertion, a whole range of other possibilities opens out.

I like this idea. It opens up other points of view, even if it doesn’t change your mind. For example, consider the sage advise: Regular exercise is essential to good health.

Now reverse it: Regular exercise is not essential to good health. Can that possibly be true? (Please let me know because I’m looking for as many excuses as I can get.)

Being contrary, at least to yourself, is about questioning what you hear, what you read, and what you assume. And if it makes your head hurt to try this, you’re doing it right.

As Tweedledum says in Through the Looking Glass, “I know what you’re thinking about, but it isn’t so, nohow.” I like to keep that quote above my desk to remind me.

It’s good to consider the opposite. Or contrariwise, it’s not good. What do you think?

Posted in Life.

Etiquette Tips for Words with Friends

Word with Friends icon

Most people who enjoy playing Words with Friends, the popular social word game, know that it requires both luck and skill.

But many players forget about the social aspect and make as many errors in etiquette as they do in strategy.

Fortunately, you can become a better all-around player by following these simple tips.

Don’t Be a Slow Player

Players can be quite slow to take their turn. Days can go by before they make a move. It’s aggravating, and I often think the game should be called Waiting for Friends.

In fact, I’ve had games go on for so long that the board doesn’t even look familiar anymore. And then there’s the slow players who never return.

So make as many plays a day as you can, at least one or two.

Don’t Whine or Complain

It’s tempting to vent your frustration in the chat area when you’re getting bad letters or getting outplayed.

While some friendly banter is fine, complaining will only reveal your inexperience or poor sportsmanship. And not to mention, it’s really annoying.

On the flip side, it’s nice to send the occasional “Good play!” or “Nice one.”

Ask to Rematch

The rematch option in Words with Friends is convenient, but the other player may not want to play another game and yet feel obligated to accept.

My advice: Send a message asking if it’s okay to rematch. “Ready for another game?” works well.

Also, if you consistently lose to someone, it’s best to move on to a new opponent or at least to wait awhile before asking for a rematch again.

Play Fair

Playing Words with Friends online requires the honor system. So don’t look up words in other sources or use cheat or “helper” apps during a game.

And although the game allows you to try invalid words without penalty, avoid using trial and error to make a play.

On the other hand, don’t worry about players who are possibly cheating; consider it a challenge.

Finish the Game

Don’t be like Sarah Palin and resign. Play it all the way out.

And for those ready to show off their best game etiquette, check out this unofficial Words with Friends tournament site.

Good luck!

Posted in Wordplay.