November Recap

In case you missed a post or two this month, here’s a quick recap of what I wrote about during the month of November:

Questions I Asked –

What Are Ramparts? – Pop quiz time…what was so gallantly streaming in the Star-Spangled Banner? Answer: the ramparts. Second question: what are ramparts?


Why is a Ping Pong Paddle Black on One Side and Red on the Other? – This post has it all — fun knowledge and jabs at my younger brother.

Things We Learned –

One Simple Way To Increase Our Brainpower – Does your brain feel fried? Can’t seem to pay attention or come up with any ideas? Here’s one simple thing you can to do increase your brainpower…

Laughter Can Make You Feel Invincible – Here’s how.

You Don’t Need A Cape – “Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!” Nowhere in that famous description of Superman does it say, “unstoppable due to his sleeveless outer garment.”

Full Proof Way To Avoid Hitting the Snooze Button – This is pretty smart. And risky.

How It Can Help To Burn The Ships – Take it from an explorer in the 1500s.

People Hated Electric Light At First – Sounds like fake news, but it is true.


Fun With Numbers –

One Thing I Am Thankful For Today – I had nothing to do with it.



People Hated Electric Light At First

March 31, 1880 was a dreary night in Wabash, Indiana. Rain poured on the dark city streets in the middle of town. The sixty-five gas lights that usually illuminated the town were nowhere to be found.

Instead, four brand new arc lamps were hung on poles near the courthouse. As soon as the courthouse stuck eight o’clock, Charles Brush switched on the lamps and the city was covered in a dazzling glow the likes of which had never been seen.

Brush had an amazing idea that brought electric light to this sleepy little town.

What happens when a cartoon character comes up with an amazing idea? A little light bulb pops up over his or her head.

Light bulbs are associated with good ideas. They indicate brilliant brainstorms and inspired inklings.

But oddly enough, early versions of electric light weren’t so highly regarded.

People did not know how to react to this new form of light. Picture a teenager who has slept in and is going to be late for school. His mother pulls back the curtains and lights up the room. The teenager fears the light.

Brush’s invention was greeted with apprehension. Women used umbrellas to shield themselves from the “rays of this mysterious sun.”

Upon Brush’s arc lamps in France, author Robert Louis Stevenson wrote:

A new sort of urban star now shines out nightly, horrible, unearthly, obnoxious to the human eye; a lamp for a nightmare! Such a light as this should shine only on murders and public crime, or along the corridors of lunatic asylums, a horror to heighten horror. To look at it only once is to fall in love with gas.”

Stevenson and others were frightened by the switch from gas to electric light. To someone in 2015, this idea sounds crazy.

Brush’s invention created a light source rivaled only by the sun. But it also created change. Major change. And like any change, it took some time for people to open up to it.

If electric light took time to gain widespread appeal, we shouldn’t feel bad when our ideas are slow to catch on.

One Thing I Am Thankful For Today

Think back to a time you experienced a hot afternoon.

The sun was scorching. Your skin was sizzling. Sweat was slithering down your face. You wanted nothing more than to have a bucket of ice cold water dumped on your head.  Unfortunately this wasn’t the Super Bowl, so the Gatorade shower was nowhere to be found.

When all else seemed lost, you noticed a huge, shaded saving grace. You ambled over to a giant oak tree and tumbled in joy at the earthy covering the tree provided.

Oh what a feeling!

What had just been sweltering heat instantly because a serene summer day (if only for a moment).

The tree that made you feel calm, cool and protected, did you ever stop to think about where that came from.

Probably not, and I don’t blame you. Trees are just kind of there, right?

Isn’t that an awesome thought?

The thing you needed most on that miserably boiling day was just kind of there. It was already there, just waiting for you.

Journalist, Walter Lippmann, once wrote that “men plant trees they will never sit under.”

Think about it…When was the last time you sat under a tree that you actually planted? One in your back yard, maybe?

Most of the time we enjoy shade from trees we had nothing to do with planting or growing.

I heard an interview with Warren Buffett and he pointed to the Lippmann quote as to why he is so generous with his fortune.

“We’ve had the shade and other people have planted those (trees),” Buffett said. “And so I think it behooves people in that position to plant a few trees themselves.”

Buffett recognizes that he profited greatly from the work of others. I think it is important that we all recognize the same.

We all benefit from something we had nothing to do with growing.

It could be an actual tree, or a business or even Facebook.

I had nothing to do with WordPress, the blogging platform used to publish this post, but I benefit from it. You likely had nothing to do with WordPress, but if you enjoy this blog or others, you too benefit.

I can point to dozens of other trees that I did not grow that I use on a daily basis.

Where would I be if someone hadn’t taken the time to plant those? Luckily I don’t have to answer that question.

So today I am thankful for the trees I did not plant. I am thankful for their shade and I am thankful for their inspiration to plant a few trees of my own.

Why is a Ping Pong Paddle Black on One Side and Red on the Other?

My younger brother is good at many things. He has a great job, many friends and the unique ability to be able to take a nap anywhere.

But there is one thing he is just not very good at…ping pong.

He possesses many of the things that make for a good ping pong player — strength, hand-eye coordination and a ping pong paddle. But try as he might, he just can’t seem to win many ping pong matches.

Most of the time when he loses, he blames one thing. Not his strength. Not his hand-eye coordination.

He blames the paddle.

The other night, after yet another loss, he was once again admonishing the paddle for his loss when he posed an interesting question: why does a paddle have two colors?

Good question. Let’s find out in today’s edition of Wonder Why Wednesday…

Why is a Ping Pong Paddle Black on One Side and Red on the Other?

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) allows the two sides of a paddle to have different surfaces. This is used to create varying degrees of spin and speed. In order to allow each player to know what type of shot may be coming, regulations specify that one side of a paddle must be red while the other must be black.

So, what are the differences between the two sides on a standard paddle?

According to,

When you hit the ball with the red rubber, the ball jumps more (vertically) than the hit with the black side. Many players feel that red rubbers are usually a bit faster and less spinny than black rubbers, since slightly different materials (pigments and dyes) are used to give the rubbers their red and black colors.”

The same article stats that most professionals use the red side on their forehands and the black side on their backhands.

Maybe my brother should try that. Ah well, probably wouldn’t help him much. He just isn’t very good.


Burn The Ships

In 1519 a Spanish explorer by the name of Hernan Cortez led a fleet of ships to Veracruz, Mexico. In those days, it was common to leave a few crew members behind to stay with the ships. This served two purposes. First the crew would guard the ship and protect it from unwanted strangers and wild animals. Second, the crew would be there just in case a speedy escape was needed from an unknown enemy.

On this exploration, Cortez decided not to leave anyone with the ships. In fact, he even took things a step further.

He gave orders to burn the ships.

What? Why would he do something like this? Was he out of his mind?

Cortez did this because he wanted to send a message to his crew.

He knew the exploration was nerve-racking and his men were looking over their shoulder in fear. He didn’t want his crew’s to have any lingering doubt in their minds about their current mission. He wanted to show that he was fully committed to success by eliminating the option of running away.

That is a gutsy strategy. How many of us are bold enough to try it?

I don’t know about you, but I rarely burn the ships in my life. In fact, I often keep one too many guards back at the ship, just in case I need to retreat.

If you are like me, you often put things off because you know there is always another chance to do them. There is always tomorrow.

The only problem is that tomorrow becomes tomorrow again the next day, and then the one after that.

In Cortez’s case, there was no tomorrow. He was not turning back and he wanted to eliminate all excuses.

Next time we start to come up with a list of excuses it might just be in our best interest to stop, and burn the ships instead.

Full Proof Way To Avoid Hitting the Snooze Button

Do you constantly hit the snooze button before getting up in the morning?

If so, you are not along. According to one survey, more than 50% of respondents report to hitting the snooze button at least once each morning. 14% said they hit it three times a day.

We even have a special name for this attempt to try and squeeze in a few extra minutes of sleep, “drockling.” Not a very appealing word. Kinda sounds like the making of a book about a scary villain who just can’t get up in the morning. I’d call it “The Ugly Drockling.”

But I digress.

I recently heard about a genius way one woman has figured out how to avoid hitting the snooze button.

Each night she loads an embarrassing post or picture on her Facebook account. She schedules it to post at 6:35am. When her alarm goes off at 6:30, she has five minutes to jump out of bed and cancel the Facebook post. If she stays in bed and hits the snooze button, she takes the risk of not getting to Facebook in time and the embarrassing picture being released for her friends and family to see.

Given our love of Facebook, and our avoidance of being embarrassed, I’d say this is pretty good motivation each morning.

Might be something worth trying if you find yourself drockling each morning.

You Don’t Need A Cape

Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!”

Nowhere in that famous description of Superman does it say, “unstoppable due to his sleeveless outer garment.”

The cape does not make the man.

As the above clip from The Incredibles shows, a superhero does not become super simply because he or she wears a cape. In fact, there are times when all the cape does is get in the way.

I used to think my work needed to be flashy if I wanted it to be noticed. That was discouraging because I am not a flashy person.

I am starting to learn that fit is more important than flash.

How does my work fit my personality? How can it fit into the lives of others? Does it fit the principles I want to portray?

To stick with the comparison to The Incredibles, Edna builds each superhero costume based on the individual who will wear it. She creates a flexible material for Elastigirl. She designs a suit able to withstand enormous friction for Dash. She even makes each suit machine washable, because what mom wouldn’t want that.

In addition, each suit has something else in common…no capes!

There once was a time where you weren’t considered super unless you had a cape. Things have changed.

Find you fit and forget the flash.

How Laughter Can Make You Feel Invincible

How long do you think you could keep your hand in a bucket of freezing water? Consider this a new ice bucket challenge.

10 seconds? A minute?

The length of time you can endure the freezing cold tells a little about your pain tolerance. The longer you are able to withstand a frozen hand, the higher your tolerance.

What if I told you that you could improve this tolerance and all you had to do was laugh?

In his book, Ha! The Science of When We Laugh And Why, author Scott Weems tells the story of scientist who performed a cold pressor test. They asked participants to hold one hand in water chilled to 35 degrees Fahrenheit. They recorded their scores and then asked the participants to do the test again, only this time they performed the test while watching a recording of humorous stand-up comedy.

While watching the comedy, the patients were able to increase the amount of time they kept their hand in the ice water from 36-100 seconds. Weems calls this the Bill Cosby Effect (which unfortunately has a different connotation these days).

But laughing isn’t exactly the same as taking aspirin. Rather, it is more like a jog on a treadmill. Our minds need emotional engagement just like our bodies need exercise.

“The reason comedies and tragedies lead to greater pain tolerance is that our minds are exercised by each,” Weems says. “When we laugh, just as when we cry, our bodies experience emotional arousal. This effect is both engaging and distracting, strengthening our bodies—and our minds—for what is to come, much like a boxer lifts weights before a bout.”

Weems goes into great detail to show the benefits of laughing, but he also acknowledges that is it not a wonder drug. Humor may increase our pain tolerance but man cannot live on humor alone.

“Laughter is the best medicine, so long as it’s mixed with exercise, a healthy diet, and an occasional dose of penicillin,” says Weems.

Humor is a lot like changing a baby’s diaper—it doesn’t necessarily solve all our problems, but it sure does make things more pleasant for a while.”

So next time you are want to alleviate some hurt (physically or emotionally), you might just want to turn on Chris Rock’s Bring the Pain.

What Are Ramparts?

Pop quiz time…what was so gallantly streaming in the Star-Spangled Banner?

Answer: the ramparts.

Second question: what are ramparts?

Let’s find out in today’s edition of Wonder Why Wednesday…

What Are Ramparts?

Here’s the definition according to

[ram-pahrt, -pert]



  1. a broad elevation or mound of earth raised as a fortification around a place and usually capped with a stone or earth parapet.
  2. such an elevation together with the parapet.

anything serving as a bulwark or defense.

My first thought is now I want to know what a parapet or a bulwark are. Sounds like animals from whatever weird land a Teletubbies came from.

But back to the topic at hand…

The Star-Spangled Banner was written by Francis Scott Key after the US victory at the Battle of Baltimore, during the War of 1812. Scott Key was reflecting on the patriotic feeling he had when he saw the enormous US flag flying over the US fort in Baltimore.

So, basically, a rampart is the protective protective barrier Scott Key saw when he witnessed the flag flying over Fort Henry. If you sprinkle in a little poetic license you get the following:

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?”

One Simple Way To Increase Our Brainpower

Does your brain feel fried? Can’t seem to pay attention or come up with any ideas?

Here’s one simple thing you can to do increase your brainpower…

Stand up.

Yes, it is that easy. Get out of your chair and on to your feet.

A new study from Texas A&M University found that students with standing desks were more attentive and showed 12 percent greater on-task engagement than students who had seated desks. This 12 percent equates to an extra seven minutes per hour of engaged instruction time.

These results lead researches to believe we think better on our feet.

Mark Benden, Ph.D., CPE, associate professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, said that previous research has shown that physical activity, even at low levels, may have beneficial effects on cognitive ability.

“Standing workstations reduce disruptive behavior problems and increase students’ attention or academic behavioral engagement by providing students with a different method for completing academic tasks (like standing) that breaks up the monotony of seated work,” Benden said.

Is your work starting to feel monotonous? Maybe it is time to push the chair aside and let your feet do the thinking.