We hold these truths to be self-evident:
One of our greatest skills as human beings is the ability to hold both of these views at the same time, often within the same conversation, sometimes within the same sentence. If mental gymnastics was an Olympic event, we’d qualify for Team USA.
In reality, though, each of us is a sample size of one. That makes each of us unique, but it also means none of us is an average Jane. We’re all empowered by and trapped in the circumstances of our lives and our journeys, so we all see things a bit differently.
In my corner of the world, the Coronavirus is real, the state is woefully behind in managing the vaccination rollout, local businesses are suffering along with their landlords, and very few people are arguing about masks. When I’m writing these posts, that state of the world is part of my foundation, even though it might not be a match for a good number of readers.
Many of you live in areas where the economies have stayed open almost nonstop or in places where wearing a mask, or not, is cause for a confrontation. For all of us, our sense of how the pandemic is unfolding will draw more from what we see in our personal lives than from the news. Yes, we’ll read the stories and check out the videos, but the sources we pick and the way we interpret the news will depend heavily on what we, individually, think is the reality.
If we know people who have battled Covid, or lost the war, we’re more likely to take the whole thing very seriously. If we don’t know anyone who has had to deal with the situation, it’s more remote and less threatening. There are tons of exceptions, because each of us brings unique combinations of experience to the conversation, but all of us tend to focus more on our own friends, our own communities, our own challenges.
That’s the crazy part about all our interactions with other people. We think we’re talking to someone else who is like us, but we might be mis-communicating about almost everything. We’re usually aware of it when we’re talking to a doctor or a lawyer or some other specialist whose language is clearly different from our own. The gaps are less obvious when we’re engaged with someone who looks and sounds like us, but brings a whole different set of baggage to the journey.
Sometimes the differences are small enough that they don’t get in the way. Other times, you and your conversation partner are both fluent in English, but you’re speaking a totally different language. We can’t find a way to make our points effectively, because we don’t see the other person’s filters.
Before we can understand someone else, and be understood by them, we need to know a bit about what makes them unique. Otherwise, we’re just talking to ourselves.
As we enter our fourth year of the Dad Writes experiment, we hope you’ll sign up as a subscriber and that you’ll join in the conversation. We know we’ll benefit from your unique perspective.
I know a woman who always thinks she has inside information. We’ve been connected for about two decades and I can’t recall a time when she wasn’t ready to set me straight about whatever misconception I had about the world and its workings. No matter the topic, it seems, she has recently spoken with someone who knows better, a real insider who enlightened her about the truth that’s being hidden from the rest of us.
Almost invariably, her special source seems to be just another Joe; maybe someone in a relevant industry, but not a person we’d expect to have their own hotline to the truth. It might be someone in the financial industry who’s explaining what’s really behind a market move, or it might be a government worker who claims that published data are skewed. Rumors abound in large organizations, so there are undoubtedly conflicting stories floating around at any given time, but she thinks she has an unerring ability to identify the truth that’s hidden in the static.
Usually, she’s wrong, or at least I think she’s wrong because pretty much everyone tells a different story than she’s getting from her “inside source.” The preponderance of evidence against her view doesn’t dissuade her, though. Once a person decides she has found a hidden truth, every contradiction makes it more hidden and, therefore, more truthful.
The strangest thing, to me, is the contrast between her acceptance of unproven claims and the sharp reasoning skills and fact-driven approach she brings to her career and finances. In her career, she is strategic and discerning, but outside of her business she is the easiest of marks.
She’s also more than a bit smug about the whole thing, as if her “inside information” makes her better connected or smarter or more Chosen than I am. Maybe she’s just proud of herself for her ability to follow the rabbit trail back and forth until she reaches the conclusion she was going to reach either way.
I’m a pretty lazy guy, so I don’t have the energy to jump through a dozen hoops to get from one fact to a global conspiracy. My acquaintance, on the other hand, is much more agile and energetic, jumping through multiple hoops on the way to whatever conclusion supports the view she had when she started.
Clearly, we need to implement the One Hoop Rule to bring some sanity back to our conversations. If all you need is a single leap to get to your conclusion, maybe it’s worth considering. If you need to play hopscotch, expect to be ignored. In fact, my new mantra is going to be, “Two hoops. You’re out.” I expect to be repeating it frequently.
Fox Mulder said, “The truth is out there,” which was clearly a coded directive to subscribe to Dad Writes by clicking Out There right here.
I rolled up on a cop in the forest preserve parking lot the other day. He might have been running a little speed trap or maybe he was just secluded for a bit of “me time.” Who am I to judge?
Anyway, I needed a favor.
Bald eagles nest along the rivers near Chicago around this time of year, heading south from their normal haunts to find open water where they can spot and snag their RDAs of fish. I knew they were supposed to be trawling along the Fox River, but there’s 200 miles of river and I was hoping he could narrow my search.
I’d asked a few locals for directions to the eagles’ hunting preserves, but local insights ain’t what they used to be and nobody seemed to have a clue. I was on my way home when I spotted the cop car and decided to give it one more try.
I got lucky. Like me, he’s a photographer and, like most people, he’s a better photog than I am. In fact, it turns out he shoots weddings as a side gig and his work looks pretty sharp. He gave me his card, just in case I knew anyone about to take the plunge, and then we compared notes about our cameras and lenses, how many crappy photos you have to take before you get one great one, landscape versus wildlife photography, and, finally, our feathered tourists. Over the years, he’d seen our national symbols on the prowl near a dam just north of the government center, so he gave me detailed directions and I went off to scratch one more item off my bucket list.
As I drove away, it occurred to me that it’s not that hard to find common ground for a friendly conversation with a stranger, any stranger, even one who’s strapped. I lucked out on the first question, because he was also a photographer, but there were probably at least ten other topics we could have discussed amicably, and we never touched on the third rail known as politics.
I have no idea what he thinks about impeachment, Antifa, Proud Boys, deficit spending or pandemics, and both of us can live our lives just fine without that conversation. Maybe we’ll live our lives even better if we have fewer of those conversations along the way. I can’t imagine that the cop saw me pull away and wondered, “Wait, I wonder what he thinks about the Second Amendment,” or “Gee, I wish we had a chance to talk about fake news.”
I didn’t wish for a return conversation about those topics, either. In fact, I was reminded how much I’m on edge in my conversations these days, hoping to avoid doom in the tar pits of politics, flailing at each other on the way down. I recognized that I’m more likely to avoid the traps when I’m talking with strangers than when I’m engaged with family and friends, possibly because there are fewer boundaries when we’re with our closer contacts. Maybe I need to talk more with strangers and less with my inner circle.
If I ever get my eagle shot, I’ll be sure to share it with all our subscribers, including you if you click here and subscribe now.
In the Hunger Games of American medicine, I’ve made it into Zone Two. My group of feeble oldsters won eligibility for The Reaping and I snagged a first dose. I’m halfway home, but I have some very mixed emotions about the whole thing.
I’m a believer in vaccinations, even if they get rushed through the approval process, because I have great faith in the lawyers at Big Pharma to keep their companies from doing anything so incredibly stupid and venal that they end up in bankruptcy court. Yes, I trust the researchers to some extent, but it’s the lawyers who will keep the whole thing within the guard rails. It’s not because they are altruistic, I know, but you take your protection where you can.
I’m also a believer because I’ve taken dozens of vaccines over the years without incident and I haven’t caught the diseases I was trying to prevent. Yes, it’s the same belief system I apply when I untie my left shoe so the plane doesn’t crash, but so far, so good.
I had to think about it much more carefully this time, though, especially after I learned that the new vaccines include nano-devices to make me a worker drone for Bill Gates, or maybe George Soros. Or Chairman Mao. I forget which. On the other hand, that’s the only way a guy with my skill set is going to find a job anyway, so it might be a win in disguise. At least that was less risky, and gross, than the cow urine cure they’ve been raving about in India.
As my dad used to say, I’m playing the percentages. There’s more likelihood that the vaccines will help, or do nothing, than that they will do damage. Compared to the suffering of Covid long-haulers and, of course, the people who died, a vaccine is NBD.
Still, I felt conflicted about signing up when so many more deserving people hadn’t gotten the jab yet. I had figured front-line workers and people in elder care facilities would be fully dosed by the time my turn came around, but the roll-out has been so much spottier than even I would have imagined. My mom, who is 92 and lives in a group facility, is much more frail than I am and she hasn’t gotten the shot yet, along with tens of thousands of her peers and thousands of front-line workers, while I was able to sign up and get pricked at my local drug store within days of my group being activated.
It’s crazy, really, because we have a ton of companies that could be doing a better job than we’re seeing now from the retailers and hospitals. Ticketmaster could distribute all the vaccine in minutes, although we’d be paying huge “convenience fees,” while Amazon, Fedex and UPS could be delivering the shots to your door with a tech to inject them. It should be easy to add a side of vaccine with your Happy Meal at the drive-thru, and for the homebound, Jehovah’s Witnesses would be delighted to bring your immunity door to door. That hasn’t happened, though, because Yankee ingenuity ain’t what it used to be.
Instead, most providers have put together clunky scheduling systems that make us click through one store at a time, one time slot at a time, one day at a time. By the time I got to my first appointment, I had clicked more than 2,000 times through the Walgreens stores in my area, cycling through twice on the way to a single open slot. After the first shot, it took more than a week to get the second one on the schedule, with all kinds of computer glitches and contacts with customer service. I tried to schedule with other providers in the meantime, but I had even worse results on those sites, so Walgreens might just be the thinnest kid at fat camp.
Overall, I’m encouraged that we're on the way back from this mess. Our response to this virus and our treatment of each other has exposed every failing in our government, our businesses, our society and ourselves. It hasn’t been pretty. Maybe we can reconsider our perspectives while we’re waiting for immunity and maybe, just maybe, we can emerge from this just a bit more decent.
While we’re all waiting for our second dose, or our first, let’s all take a moment to subscribe to Dad Writes and journey forward together. Or something like that. Just click here.
Omigod!! Wake Up, MEN!!!! It’s Valentine’s Day and you didn’t get anything!!! What are you going to do to survive this disaster?????????
JK, guys. VD is next week, so you can hit the snooze alarm. Still, we could be posting this alert two months from now and it wouldn’t matter. For most guys, Valentine’s Day is a lose-lose proposition that adds anxiety and risk, but doesn’t exactly spur a ton of strategic thinking.
Yeah, there are a few traitors to the YChrom Movement who book spa days and hire private chefs and learn how to, um, scintillate via foot massage, but most men are going to claim they “think best under pressure” and grab whatever they can get delivered in an hour or less next Sunday morning.
Yours truly will probably get up around 7 a.m. on the 14th, steal the neighbor’s Sunday papers, and cut out letters for a VD card that just might be incredibly endearing—if I was six years old. Since I’m several times that tenure, it will look more like a ransom note and it will be received almost as warmly.
Let’s face facts here. For most men, Valentine’s Day is not the most alluring of holidays. Thanksgiving has food and football. New Year’s has food and football. Super-you-know-what Sunday (today!!) has food and football. Valentine’s Day? Well, there’s food, usually, but not the incredible array of nachos/pizza/wings we get when there’s football.
More than the food/football gap, Valentine’s Day is designed for failure. Seriously, there is no way to buy the exact right thing, say the exact right thing, and massage all those toes the exact right way. The only thing that comes in the right size is a Roomba and, trust me, guys, this gift is not as romantic as those Home Depot ads would suggest.
Never fear, though, for the passionate devils at Dad Writes have devised the perfect manly measures for VD excellence. No matter what your situation, here are the perfect gifts for that special other humanoid in your life:
If you have children, buy them a pizza and eat it in the car, leaving your significant other alone at home with no interruptions. They get a bit of me-time and you get a pizza. Win and win.
If you’re quarantined together, buy a Peloton. There’s no better way to say, “I think you’re hip and hot and fit,” than a $3,000 hamster-wheel/TV combo. And, yes, we’d still think it’s the perfect gift even if we hadn’t bought options on 30,000 shares of Peloton stock.
If you’re both working from home, nothing says “You’re a star,” like a bath towel they can use as a Zoom background. Pro tip: Buy a gray towel so the lint and soap suds are less obvious.
If you won’t be in the same place, order a romantic dinner to be delivered to each of your locations and enjoy it together on a video call. We suggest a heart-shaped pizza as the main course, although we forget what wine goes with anchovies.
If your relationship is brand new, send flowers. It’s the most polite way to say, “I’m excited now, but I know this might fizzle in a week or two.” Plants and candy might still be hanging around as painful reminders after the passion fades, but flowers know how to leave before it all goes south.
If your relationship is decades old, buy a bottle of cheap champagne. It’s not very creative, or romantic, but both of you will be too tired to argue about it once the bottle is empty.
Best of all, every one of these special, meaningful, truly romantic gifts can be arranged today, while we’re all watching the matchup of, um, you know, uh, those teams from those cities that we don’t live in or near or come from. And enjoy your nachos. After all your Valentine’s planning, you’ve earned a break.
Dad Writes subscribers are prepared for all the holidays, from Valentine’s Day to Alban Arthan, and you can be an expert, too, if you just click here.
Now that all of us are living through Groundhog Day—the movie, not the tourist trap—it’s time we update our myths to acknowledge our new reality.
As we all know, we're supposedly in for another six weeks of winter weather if the groundhog sees his shadow on February 2, but the weather will be mild if, like Peter Pan, our pudgy marmot cannot find his shadow. Either way, spring is seven weeks away.
I've always been confused by this rule. There would only be a shadow if the sun is shining, but a sunny day predicts rough weather and a gloomy day is good news? It’s not the goofiest idea in the world, but it’s not terribly logical. On the other hand, we’re taking our weather forecast from a rodent, so who are we to judge?
We’ve all been living our own version of Groundhog Day over the past year, beginning around GDay 2020, when millions of us saw our news feeds and retreated into our dens for six more weeks. And then another six weeks. And another six. And another. And another. And another. And another. And another, until here we are on the eve of GDay 2021, the sequel.
Along the way, we’ve had the opportunity to come up with much more relevant traditions than shadows and weather. Let’s update our mythology to reflect our own lives as burrowing mammals, including:
If I get on the scale and I cannot see my feet, I’m due for six more weeks of pretending to diet.
If I take my kid to school and none of the teachers is there, I’m in for six more weeks of sharing my computer.
If I can’t fit into my slacks and my my feet are too fat for my shoes, I’m headed for another six weeks of working from home.
If I call my barber and he’s still closed, I can expect six more weeks with a mullet.
If I check out the state’s website and our positivity rate is above 8%, I’ll be drinking alone, at home, for another six weeks.
Even if I yell "AGENT!!!" enough times to finally reach a human being at the airline, it will still be six more weeks before I get my refund. Maybe.
If I leave the apartment and I see my shadow—or if I don’t--we’re in for six more weeks of polarized politics across America. And six more weeks after that. And after that…
Now that I think about it, we can learn a lot from our friendly rodents. Maybe the best plan for my sanity is a return to my burrow for the next six weeks, emerging from my lair in time for the equinox. Things can’t possibly get worse in the meantime, could they?
While we’re sleeping our way to springtime, why not sign up to subscribe to our weekly dreamscapes? Just click here and you’ll have a chance to read our posts over and over and over and over and…
Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.