Planetary Possibilities


It’s Friday, so I’m keeping it light (and late). I was pretty excited to hear the announcement from NASA that a red dwarf solar system was discovered a hop, skip, and a few dozen light years away from here. While it’s highly improbable the planets host life, the question is there. It’s pretty fun to see scientists burst into a frenzy over investigating the possibilities.

There was a time when I felt programmed to think there was no possibility of life on other planets, but I’m ready to meet our intergalactic overlords.

Today(night)’s question: What’s the name of the star around which the seven newly discovered planets revolve?

Transphobia 

So. With the Trump administration’s latest reversal of the previous administration’s policy, we’re back to bathrooms, back to hurling transgender children outside the shield of federal protection while they’re in school. I know millions of parents, and the children they have so carefully taught, feel allowing transgender children into the bathrooms in which they feel naturally comfortable removes a certain protection from their so-called normal children. A few problems with that rationale:

  • Transgender children are not an actual threat or something from which anyone needs to be protected.
  • People who hate someone, or are afraid of someone, on the basis of the child’s gender identity pose a very real and well documented threat to children.
  • There is absolutely nothing normal about being afraid of a child based on whether they believe they are a boy or a girl.

Now, the main arguments I come across opposing any type of acknowledgment of transgender as a legitimate form of existence fall into two categories: those that argue the issue of gender is simple, and those that argue the issue of transgenderism is ridiculous. I want to address both of them rationally, despite the fact that both are obtuse and the latter is downright cruel. I still feel the argument deserves a calm, reasoned approach, because the people I know who hold to these arguments are not otherwise obtuse or cruel. I truly want to draw a line between what I feel about insensitivity and cruelty towards children and what I feel toward those who struggle to see things the way I do. 

I know it’s easy for the issue to seem simple—boys have a penis, girls have a vagina. But we didn’t learn everything we really need to know in kindergarten or watching Kindergarten Cop. While it may seem like an easy answer that any kid with a penis should use a boys bathroom, it’s not. It would possibly be an easy conclusion if gender were strictly a physical issue. But we know it’s not. If it were, if psychology and emotion weren’t an important (and perhaps more important) part of gender, no one would care about this discussion. Girls wouldn’t be concerned about boys peeing in the wrong room outside of their propensity to leave the seat up (or to splatter when they don’t bother to raise it). There would be no psychological or emotional threat or fear if there were nothing but a physical difference between boys and girls. It’s not the physical difference that concerns people, it’s the emotional and psychological side of things—boys’ and girls’ interest in or curiosity toward the opposite sex, their understanding of gender and sexuality, and their level of comfort in a vulnerable situation around people of the opposite sex. All of those things are legitimate aspects regarding gender . . . for everyone. The emotional and psychological aspects of gender are indeed important. So we can’t simultaneously act out of concern for the emotional and psychological well being of most children because it’s an important part of who they are as boys and girls and completely dismiss it for transgender kids simply by writing off their gender identity as something that is imaginary, contrived, or changeable. If you are of the opinion that there is something wrong with children who have the emotional and psychological makeup of the gender opposite to that of their physical one, something that can and should be changed, I beg of you to please open yourself to the possibility that you’re wrong rather than declaring your ill-informed assumptions as fact. If it’s not your experience, listen carefully to those who do know about it. 

I recently got into a pretty healthy discussion about this with someone who, while disagreeing with me, finally said in complete exasperation that he was just completely confused by it all. I loved that response. Expressing confusion is so much better than judgment. Confusion can be helped. Stubborn judgment is pretty immovable. 

The other category of argument against transgenderism is the realm of the ridiculous. And insulting. 

  • What if I identify as a Chinese person even though I’m Irish? 
  • What if I identify as a wolf?
  • What if I identify as a woman tomorrow?

These are intentionally obtuse false syllogisms. If you base your argument solely on a presupposition intentionally calculated to be false and easily dismissible, it makes for great humor (if by great you mean stripped of all humanity). But it also makes for a completely invalid argument. Because . . .

  • Gender differences are not at all like racial differences. 
  • Species differences are completely unlike gender differences. 
  • Transracialism is not, as far as I know, an observable occurrence in our society, certainly not one I have ever heard results in violence or hostility. 
  • Transspecies issues: see above. 
  • If you aren’t transgender, the notion that you might be tomorrow assumes that it’s a choice. It is intentionally dismissive. Stop confusing that for smart. 
  • Transphobia causes abuse, suicide, violence, murder, and hatred, and if you make a joke out of someone else’s very real suffering, you’re guilty of the logical fallacy of You’re an asshole. Sorry, I can’t be completely rational about attacks like that. 

So, that’s the lowdown from where I sit. I know there’s more to say, but it’s a starting point. 

Here’s a trivia question:

What Pulitzer-prize-winning novel published in 2002 was inspired by the memory of Herculine Barbin?

Put your answers in the comments, and I’ll keep them hidden until midnight. 

The Return of Daily Trivia

Way back when, I used to send out a daily trivia email. It would typically feature some type of commentary on some bit of ridiculous news or something. People on the list would send me their answers, and I would reward the winners by… mentioning them in a follow-up email. Pretty high stakes.

Unfortunately it got too expensive to pay everyone in words, so I discontinued the daily trivia ritual. The trivitual, if you will. But I decided I would reintroduce it as part of my initiative to continue blogging close to every day. I’ll just include a bit of trivia with every post.  So here it is, the first trivia question of the new era:

What celebrity did Donald Trump sue in 2013 for $5 million for breach of contract?

49 Random Sales Tips

Prologue: “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” The Dread Pirate Roberts

So, assuming there’s more to life than pain, here are 49 random sales tips. 

49. Help. Always try to help. Be helpful, and generally everyone will be happy with the results. 

48. Breath mints. I recommend small Altoids, peppermint. 

47. Listen actively and presently. 

46. Think before you speak. Or at least make it look like you are. 

45. Don’t assume you know what the customer wants. If he/she hasn’t said it out loud, there’s a good chance neither of you know. 

44. Calm down. 

43. Anti-perspirant. 

42. Go easy on the cologne. 

41. Just general odor management is key. 

40. Remember: failure is fun. 

39. Learn to love the word No

38. Don’t take anything too personally. 

37. Believe Yes. 

36. Sell. 

35. Be creative. 

34. Be honest. 

32. Like yourself. 

31. Like your product. 

30. Like your job. 

29. Love your family. Remember who you’re working for and why. 

28. Be present. 

27. Pause. 

26. Don’t pay any attention to people who randomly give advice. 

25. Don’t eat from the McDonald’s Pick 2 for $3 menu without an exit strategy. 

24. Be a friend when you arrive and when you leave. 

23. Keep going. 

22. Doggedly pursue solutions. 

21. Shut up. 

20. Admit what you don’t know. 

19. Drive the scenic route. 

18. Look people in the eye. Not as an act. Do it to take a moment to recognize the humanity of whoever you’re with. 

17. Drink lots of water. 

16. Don’t drink too much without an exit strategy. 

15. Breathe. 

14. Ask questions. 

13. Take notes. 

12. Have fun. It’s not that hard to do. 

11. Be mindful of your energy. 

10. Keep good snacks in the car. 

9. Get organized. 

8. Stay organized. 

7. Get organized again. 

6. Remember that people love stories. Especially when they’re relevant, insightful, and help people understand who your company is and how you can help them. 

5. Keep your own stupid personal stories to yourself unless you’ve got a really good reason to tell them. 

4. Pay attention to the whiskey offerings to use in your Old Fashioned. 

3. If you’re making a list of randomness, keep it under 25. 

2. Don’t give anything away. 

1. Believe in yourself. No, seriously. You got this. 

10-minute Writer’s Workshop

One of my favorite new (to me) podcasts is the 10-minute Writer’s Workshop produced by New Hampshire Public Radio I wasn’t aware that NHPR was a thing, but my first experience with them has been delightful and inspiring. 

One thing I look for in a podcast is simplicity. Of the podcasts I’ve tried and moved on from, the single biggest turn-off has been a rambling host, which is the product of a lack of singular focus. That lack of focus is probably also the product of an ego-driven effort. One of the things that makes TMWW so great is the simplicity of their format and their strict dedication to focusing wholly on the featured guest. 

As the title would indicate, it’s just a 10 minute show. The format is quite similar to that of the closing portion of Inside the Actor’s Studio with James Lipton. But instead of the questions from Bernard Pivot’s Apostrophes, they use a standard questionnaire of their own. It’s remarkable how well it works and how much rich insight, perspective, and inspiration come from the answers to a few quite simple questions. 

A big part of the secret to TMWW’s success is the quality and variety of the writers interviewed—Judy Blume, Joe Hill (son of Stephen King), Salman Rushdie, Chuck Klosterman, and James McBride among them. Another is the joy the interviewer, host Virginia Prescott, finds in eliciting the responses, because it comes through in the voices of the authors in the form of great eagerness to speak candidly. That joy flows to the listener as well (at least this one). She really does an outstanding job of expressing deep interest in every guest, and it just works impossibly well. 

I’ve been amazed at how disparate these writers’ experiences and opinions have been (“I always write in coffee shops” vs. “I don’t understand how anyone can write in a coffee shop” is my favorite). The diversity of advice refreshes the spirit of a listening writer, because it helps to know there is no one way to write or one formula for success. The one common theme echoed in every episode, though, is the essential importance of just writing, and that mantra is bolstered with the encouragement that the writers who succeed are people just like you or me . . . or completely different from you or me. It’s a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it. It has helped me to commit to writing and reading regularly. The above links are to the Spotify version, but it’s also available for free on iTunes. 

Coffee Quibble

I don’t care what Merriam-Webster’s defines addiction as, I’m not addicted to coffee. I love it. There are mornings I go without it, and they’re crappy mornings.  So I do my best not to go without a really good cup of coffee. I’m not a coffee snob, but if the coffee isn’t good, it doesn’t count. But good coffee is equal parts strength and sexiness, and drinking it makes me feel in touch with my soul. You can’t water that down.

Mostly it’s Starbucks. I love Starbucks. I don’t care that there’s hipper, better, whateverer coffee elsewhere. I love Starbucks, we have a relationship, and that’s the way it’s going to be. K-Cups, Americanos, and the occasional $7.50 drink when I’ve got a free reward coming my way. (Starbucks Rewards are wonderful. I get free drinks just for using fake Starbucks money to buy the normal stuff. What could be better?)

 

I do have a complaint, though, SB, but it’s not about your cups (awesome) or your political stance that people be treated like human beings (if that’s anti-American, then . . . I’m sorry, I can’t complete that thought, it’s totally American). It’s your lids. Maybe it’s in my head, but it seems as though Starbucks altered the design of their lids ever so slightly so that the indentation is slightly smaller than it used to be, which means it’s slightly smaller than the bottom of the cup, which means it’s slightly impossible to balance one cup on top of the other.

For those of us who don’t always drink coffee alone (we’re in a club, it’s called everyone), this makes my otherwise facile existence slightly difficult. You see, I don’t believe in setting down a cup of coffee to open a door, but if I can’t stack my blazing, potentially crotch-burning coffee on top of an equally fiery cup without fearing I will sear the memory of that dreadful moment into my flesh, well . . . I’ll have to compromise my beliefs and set one of the cups down. On the ground? On the floor? On the top of the car?

And I hate to complain that your sparkling new mobile order function requires me to actually open a door twice, the second time while occasionally holding two or more cups of coffee, but . . . yeah. That happens, which I appreciate the convenience of, but life is always going to be hard. Especially when our cup bottoms and lids don’t get along. It’s even more difficult when I have to consider the possibility that I may have to set. My coffee. On the ground.

At that moment, it doesn’t feel like love. It feels like abandonment. And regret. And a waste of my pretend Starbucks money. So . . . this is awkward. I don’t know what we’re supposed to do at this moment, but I hope we can figure something out. You changed your lids once. You can do it again, right?

Not that I need you to change for me to love you. I do need you to change for me to carry you without spilling you.

A post shared by Adam Kellogg (@adamwritten) on

Who is your person?

If you spend as much time as I do in the car, you probably have a best friend named Spotify or iTunes. I know I do. But recently I have found myself listening, or perhaps forcing myself to listen, to less music and more podcasts, audiobooks, and motivational CDs on those venues. I am committing myself to continually learn and train and receive coaching throughout the day. It has been, contrary to my initial outlook, a very easy and enjoyable habit to maintain. 

One of the first CDs I listened through was about conquering self-doubt. And one of the most important ideas in it was the concept of developing your ideal self image. Basically, it’s this: whatever you picture as the ideal person, every character trait you admire, none of the flaws you don’t, with all of the lifestyle, health habits, attitudes, skills, everything you could  want a person to be. If we have a strong, clear concept of what that person would be like, our subconscious will constantly work toward developing those traits within ourselves.

I love that idea, and hearing it inspired me in a way I really needed to experience. I tend to latch onto different personalities and admire them almost beyond recognition, if that makes sense. I don’t think that’s a problem on its own, but it can be dangerous if you choose to make an actual person the model of your ideal person. You run the risk of either adopting or glossing over that person’s weaknesses (or both). But you also risk becoming a macaw. 
Some of the most important character traits I admire and hope to embody are individuality, originality, creativity, and genuineness. If you make another person the mold into which you want yourself to fit, you can’t be any of those things.

And no, you can’t just say, my ideal person is Jesus. I mean, obviously you can say that, but doing so would fall short of completing this exercise in a meaningful way.

So I am trying to assemble my ideal human being. I’ll just make a running list:

  • Loving
  • Thoughtful
  • Understanding 
  • Hilarious 
  • Creative
  • Compassionate 
  • Insightful
  • Wise
  • Teachable 
  • Organized
  • Athletic 
  • Sensitive 
  • Emotional
  • Passionate
  • Sensible 
  • Generous 
  • Fun
  • Good cook 
  • Industrious 
  • Strong
  • Good with kids
  • Musical
  • Bartender 
  • Smart
  • Responsible 
  • Trustworthy
  • Genuine
  • Independent 
  • Confident 
  • Original 
  • Brave 
  • Honest
  • Loyal
  • Tenacious 

I don’t know. It’s a lot of things to be, but I want to be all of those, in my own way. And maybe the happiest people are the ones who become exactly what they picture in their minds. 

What about you? Who is your ideal person?

Trump executive disorder places ban on comfort zones

A man who says leaks are both illegally obtained and falsely fabricated is lost in panicked insanity. No one feels comfortable with that man leading the country, and that’s a great thing.

If necessity is the mother of  invention, then comfort is its birth control. Whatever level of greatness we can boast, America has enjoyed a great deal of comfort over the last few decades (at least the prevailing majority of us have). Lethargy, complacency, and, at worst, relatively quiet dissatisfaction have sprung from our collective comfort. Unlimited wifi, mobile everything (including coffee), limitless entertainment options, and mentally stable leaders have appointed our spacious, cozy bubbles quite conveniently. All of this is good, nice, and awful. 

When we’re feeling so comfortable, there isn’t always an irrepressible desire combusting within the engines of our souls’ most productive chambers. We’ve needed very little to keep us comfortable, so we’ve cared very little about changing the minor imperfections in our world. 

And then Trump happened. It’s hard to feel comfortable when the leader of the free world comes unhinged every day at dawn. He puts us all on edge. It doesn’t really matter where you stand politically, you really can’t feel comfortable. Maybe he compels you to protest. Maybe he gives you nightmares. Maybe he merely turns up the volume on the voices you find most irritating/frightening. But the constant unrest, drama, lies, and buffoonery surrounding Trump and everyone associated with him leaves absolutely no one feeling comfortable. 

And that’s the only redeeming quality of this presidency. Because people care about politics again. People care about news again. People care about truth and discussion and true apolitical justice again. 

Some people care enough to protest. Some care enough to speak up, call their congresspeople, even listen better to what others are saying. Others are just motivated to change things themselves. 

What I’m seeing, though, is a major drop in apathy. No matter how crazy, argumentative, disheartening, and scary things have gotten, people care. Trump has robbed us of our cultural comfort, and it’s waking us up to our personal responsibilities to play a role in progress. 

Thanks, Donald. Bigly.  

Happy Tuesday

Tuesday is the most boring day. It is the day of the week when reality sets in. Reality may smack you in the head on Monday, but by Tuesday the initial shock and stupor have worn off, and that’s when you really feel it. 

So it’s always a little off-putting when a Tuesday tries to pass itself off as a special day. Today is Valentine’s Day, but who are we kidding? It’s still damn Tuesday. Who out there is hitting the town for a wild and crazy Tuesday night? Nobody. I’ll end my anti-Tuesday rant here, because that’s really not my point of this post. 

What I really want to say is: happy Valentine’s Day. Here’s a poem. It’s not brand-new, but it is part of a book that will be this year. For the past year, I’ve been working on a book of poetry for children. Children maybe on the mature side of childhood. Children of this era. The poems are sometimes weighty, sometimes completely fun and frivolous, but always genuine.

Basically, I wanted my kids, all kids for that matter, to have a book of poetry that helps them laugh, helps them feel good about who they are, and helps them approach other people with kind hearts and understanding… all with a healthy dose of humor. When the Kickstarter campaign is ready to launch, I’ll be sure to post about it here (and everywhere). 

For now, I give you You. This poem is one of my favorites, and I think it’s fitting for Valentine’s Day. And Tuesday. 

YOU
You are brown. You are taupe. You are opal.

You are good.

You are nice. You are mean. You are hopeful.

You are good.

You believe in God. You believe in love. You believe you fell from the stars above. You believe Mohammed, Buddha, Christ.

You are good.

You have messed up. You have done well. You will find heaven. You’ll feel like hell. You are, from all that I can tell,

Quite good.