Calculating the Distance to California

Something like 90% of the nations fruit and vegetables are grown in California’s Central Valley. Here is a simple calculator to determine how far you are from this fertile land:

  1. Buy a 1/2 pint of raspberries from your local supermarket
  2. Count how many raspberries are moldy
  3. Multiply the number of moldy raspberries by 250. This is your distance in miles from California.

For example, I am in Northern Michigan this week. I counted at least 9 moldy raspberries in the pack. 9 x 250 = 2,500. This is the approximate distance from my location to California’s Central Valley.

Q.E.D.

If You’re Alive…

Look, I really don’t want to wax philosophic, but I will say that if you’re alive, you’ve got to flap your arms and legs, you got to jump around a lot, you got to make a lot of noise, because life is the very opposite of death. And therefore, as I see it, if you’re quiet, you’re not living. You’ve got to be noisy, or at least your thoughts should be noisy, colorful and lively.

— Mel Brooks

We just decided to go

From now on, we live in a world where man has walked on the moon. And it’s not a miracle, we just decided to go.

— Jim Lovell

There is a scene in the movie Apollo 13 in which astronaut Jim Lovell is hosting a dinner party at his house. At some point in the evening he escapes the hubbub of his guests and takes a seat in a lawn chair in the back yard. When someone comes out to join him he utters the phrase above.

The moon landings were the culmination of a gargantuan series of tasks. Thousands of people invested hundreds of thousands of hours coordinating and delivering on thousands of tasks. It wasn’t a miracle that we landed on the moon. We just set our minds to it and decided to go.

Theme of the week: Just decide to go.

Impulse Control

My dad was always trying to make people laugh, often with corny jokes and bad puns. His standard farewell when departing a social gathering was always, “We’ll see you in the spring if we get through the mattress.” Ba-dump, bump! He often proclaimed that he was on a “see food” diet. Reaching for whatever food was in sight, he would explain simply, “Whenever I see food, I eat it!” Ba-dump, bump! Always there would be the slight pause and the nascent grin as he waited — and hoped — that you would get the pun. My dad passed away this…

Just Be

Sometimes the best thing we can do is to stop “doing” and just be. You don’t have to “be” anything. We don’t have to “be” quiet, or productive, or useful, or nice. Just be.

In his brilliant album that gave music and lyrics to Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Neil Diamond wrote:

Be, as a page that aches for a word that speaks on a theme that is timeless.

Listen with Intensity

In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg’s classic collection of meditations on finding the writer within, she has an essay on talking and listening with friends as a means of bringing stories to life. She says, …

Don’t Hand Me A Yellow Volkswagen

The Writers Almanac tells a story about Frank Conroy today. 

Once, while directing the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Conroy scolded a student for using irrelevant details in her short story. He said…

The author makes a tacit deal with the reader. You hand them a backpack. You ask them to place certain things in it — to remember, to keep in mind — as they make their way up the hill. If you hand them a yellow Volkswagen and they have to haul this to the top of the mountain…

Elevated Metabolism

I am struck by the word “metabolism.” It’s such a great word. It denotes a process in which an organic system transforms inputs and raw materials into energy. Our bodies take proteins, carbohydrates, and fats and transform them into tissue and stored energy. An “increased metabolism” is one in which this transformation process is occurring at an elevated rate. My work life has a metabolism as well. I take the raw materials of ideas, knowledge, experience, responsibilities, and expectations and transform them into service, relationships and results. An “increased metabolism” in this realm would be to produce more energy and…