Entries Tagged as 'advice'

advicedrugs & alcohol

A Cautionary Tale

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I do not regularly visit Starbucks. Not because I’m a coffee snob; on the contrary, I have yet to meet a cup of coffee I didn’t like. But for me, Starbucks is reserved for those mornings when, due to lack of sleep or an especially early meeting, I know that I’m going to need heavier artillery than what my office’s machine can offer me. This morning was one of those mornings. Eyes barely open, desperately needing caffeine, I entered, expecting nothing out of the ordinary. I was wrong, and I feel the need to warn the masses. So here we go:

If you go into Starbucks and order a cup of coffee, the good people of Starbucks may ask you if you want that cup of coffee “on the Clover.” After you’ve stifled the urge to laugh, just say no. Repeat: Just. Say. NO.

Sure, sure, they will promise you that the Clover process is like the pour-over method and that it will result in a much bolder, more rounded cup of coffee. Do not listen to them, people! Because, in fact, the Clover is not the pour-over method at all. In fact, the Clover is a machine. IN FACT, the Clover is very much akin to a Keurig machine: They grind the beans in front of you, pour said ground beans into a little hole at the top of the Clover/Keurig, hit a button, and watch the machine spit out your coffee.

(Again, important to note that I’m not a coffee snob. I own a Keurig machine and I rock that baby like a hurricane. I’ve also had several carefully crafted cups of pour-over coffee in my day–I did used to live in Brooklyn, after all–and, while I admit they were tasty, I never really saw the big deal.)

“But Meg,” you may say, “Surely having the beans ground fresh two seconds before the coffee is brewed does, in fact, result in a stronger, tastier cup of coffee.” YOU WOULD THINK THAT, WOULDN’T YOU?? It’s ok, I thought that, too. But no. It results in a cup of coffee that tastes exactly the same as the drip coffee sitting in the urns.

What the Clover does produce is a cup of coffee that takes a shockingly long time to make and costs an entire dollar more, a fact that the good people of Starbucks will not tell you when they try to push the Clover on you like so much crack.

It was not a completely disappointing visit, however. One thing you will gain from the Clover experience is the deep personal connections you will make with the other patrons of Starbucks waiting patiently…patiently…not so patiently…fidgety…very fidgety…”Um, do you have something there for Pam? Cause I’ve been waiting fifteen minutes. For coffee.” There’s a very special connection formed among people who realize at the exact same time that they’ve been bamboozled. We’ll always have that.

adviceBob Sullivan's top ten everything

Top ten signs your house needs a spring cleaning

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10. Your dust bunnies are breeding like rabbits

9. The Health Department has you on speed dial

8. Your Christmas tree is left over from the President Bush years – the first President Bush

7. The “lace curtains” seem to be trapping an unusually large number of flies

6. You wipe your feet on the mat before stepping outside

5. All your rats have moved on to less disgusting environs

4. You’ve lost three pets and a nephew to indoor avalanches

3. Raccoons have gnawed through the hose, making it difficult to hose down the hallway

2. The producers of Hoarders weren’t able to film in your house, because no insurance company was willing to cover them

1. When somebody asks, “What died in here?” you give them a list
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

adviceBob Sullivan's top ten everything

Top ten driving tips

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10. DON’T KEEP SWITCHING LANES. Research has shown that changing lanes rarely gets you there faster in the long run, and so many accidents happen from changing lanes, especially if you’re all the way over to the left and want to move to the right, and there’s some guy to your right like half a car-length back, right in your blind spot.

9. WATCH OUT FOR THE OTHER GUY. if you’re that driver to the right of Driver #1, keep out of his blind spot as much as possible, but if you’re passing (and why are you passing on the left?) and are momentarily in his blind spot, be ready to tap on your brakes, swerve a little to the right, and maybe honk all at the same time!

8. LOOK AT THINGS HOLISTICALLY. If you’re to the right of Driver #2 while he’s passing Driver #1, be aware that he may suddenly swerve a little to the right.

7. CHECK THE WIDTH OF THE ROAD. If you’re to the right of Driver #3, please make sure you’re not driving on the shoulder!

6. KEEP DISTRACTIONS TO A MINIMUM. Hey, Driver #1, Driver #2, Driver #3, and Driver #4, if any of you are reading this Top Ten list while driving, pull over immediately, hitch a ride to the nearest town, turn in your driver’s license, and never drive again.

5. IF YOU DRIVE A SMART CAR, STAY OUT OF SAN FRANCISCO. Teams of vandals have been flipping the cars over onto their backs – so far with nobody still inside.

4. IF YOU DRIVE A MAZDA AND HAVE ARACHNOPHOBIA, WEAR PLENTY OF PADDING. You never know when you suddenly may be jumping out of the car while it’s doing fifty.

3. IF YOU DRIVE A GENERAL MOTORS CAR, BE PREPARED FOR UNSCHEDULED SUDDEN STOPS – IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FREEWAY. Thirteen people have died so far due to a faulty GM ignition switch, though GM doesn’t owe their families a dime because the deaths all occurred before GM emerged from bankruptcy and had its liability slate wiped clean. Corporations aren’t people, they’re better than people; how many people do you know who can kill 13 real people and get away with it scot free?

2. KNOW THE LOCAL POLITICS. To avoid spiteful traffic delays, drive around New Jersey.

1. BE ALERT! We Need More Lerts!
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

adviceBob Sullivan's top ten everything

Top ten axioms to get your new year off on the right foot

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10. Time is the stuff that keeps everything from happening at once.

9. Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.

8. I’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.

7. All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.

6. Quantum mechanics: the dreams stuff is made of

5. The best things in life aren’t things.

4. It’s never too early to start beefing up your obituary.

3. Don’t sweat the petty stuff. Just pet the sweaty stuff.

2. (for anyone in a relationship) Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?

1. Time is an illusion, brought to you by the manufacturers of Space.
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

adviceBob Sullivan's top ten everything

Top ten spring cleaning tips for bachelors

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10. Strap a dust cloth to the dog’s tail, then show him a porterhouse steak

9. If you see a fuzzy ball in the corner, make sure it doesn’t need to be killed before you throw it away

8. You can skip those hard-to-reach places, because nobody looks there anyway

7. Dryer lint can be formed into a lovely snowman ornament and stored away for next Christmas

6. When you take a shower, be sure to wear clothes and carry some dishes, thus killing three birds with one stone

5. If you replace your couch and easy chair with plastic lawn furniture, cleaning them is just a hose away

4. If you remove the actual glass from your windows, they’ll always look crystal clean

3. Leave the attic and the basement as they are – out of sight, out of mind

2. When checking out the wearability of clothes, don’t just use the ‘sniff’ test, but also use the ‘stiff’ test

1. If you scrape up the caked-on toothpaste from the bottom of your sink, it can be formed into lovely after-dinner mints
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

advicedamned lies

Final Grades: Or, Jay’s Last Lecture

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It’s the end of the Spring semester, 2013. That means college undergraduates all over the country are freaking out over final grades. It’s odd how these grades become important to them at the end of the semester in a way that they weren’t at any other time during the semester, but I digress. What follows is a final email sent to my students this morning in response to a number of emails I received from them over the weekend: [Read more →]

advicefamily & parenting

Lessons of the heart from a secret policeman

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Iron Felix: a tender soul

When I lived in Moscow I regularly frequented an antique shop on Malaya Nikitskaya Street that had a small selection of English books. A lot of the stuff was awful, but they had a good selection of volumes from “Progress”, the USSR’s foreign language publishing house. Progress specialized in works by soviet authors and bad translations of the Russian classics. My favorite Progress book however (which I found in the shop) was Words from the Wise, a selection of Russian and Soviet quotations.

Some of the words within are wise, others are banal while many are flat-out lies. My favorite quotes however come from Felix Dzerzhinsky, the Polish Bolshevik who founded the Cheka, embraced Lenin’s policy of terror and established Russia’s first concentration camps. A bad man? Certainly. But he knew the human heart.

I discovered this while searching for quotes from Stalin on love. Nothing doing, but Felix, he had a lot to say. For instance:

“Love is the maker of all that is kind, exalted, strong, warm, and bright.” [Read more →]

adviceart & entertainment

Caveat Emptor: Pop Scholarship in a Mass Media World

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I recently picked up a non-fiction book called Generation Me. I wasn’t expecting a monumental work, but about fifty pages in I set it aside in boredom and disgust. Bamboozled again, by my old nemesis: pop scholarship.

What is pop scholarship? Let’s break it down.

The author proposes a vague, generic ‘thesis’: the twilight of American culture, the “tipping point” of trends and fads, the American dream meeting American medicine, and so on. It’s not really a thesis so much as a catchphrase.

The next step is for the author to gather data and evidence for his ahem, thesis. But that takes a lot of work, so what really happens is that the author reads a few books on a similar topic and calls that research. Toss in some Wikipedia and a few journal articles for good measure, and presto! A bibliography. As far as statistics in pop scholarship: well, as the joke goes, “I never meta-analysis I didn’t like.”

By the way, when you read pop scholarship, take note that while there is a “Notes” section at the back of the back, there are no footnotes or endnotes actually in the text. Why not? Well, for one, the author and/or publisher is afraid that a potential reader will be turned off by seeing superscript numbers that correspond with the source of information. Second, when your research is shallow and shoddy and your sources reflect that, it makes sense to make it difficult for readers to keep tabs.

Anyway, once the research is gathered, it’s time to write. Actually, many of these works aren’t written at all: they’re dictated, which is why the prose of pop scholarship often sounds so colloquial or dumbed-down. Still, the authors are wily, and if they sense they’ve gone too far, even for pop scholarship, out come the academic buzzwords or jargon (anything containing “paradigm” or “gender roles” are especially handy).

But finally the drafting is done. Whew. Unfortunately, the manuscript is barely long enough for a good, in-depth magazine article, let alone a book. And this is another point about pop scholarship books. Most of them aren’t books at all. They’re simply bloated articles or blog entries sold as books. Of course, readers don’t realize this until long after the credit card is approved.

Back to the writing process, though. How can the author pump their flimsy essay into a book? Bring on the filler.

And this filler is the most offensive aspect of these “lite” non-fiction works. The pages sag with miniature book reviews, movie synopses, factoids, annoying repetition, newly-minted useless acronyms, and personal anecdotes, rather than primary-source data, investigative reporting, apt analogies and genuine insight. Generation Me is especially shameless with its never-ending TV and movie recaps, which make for delicious irony given the author’s griping about modern-day attention spans. In fact, an Amazon customer review from “Sam B” – and these reviews are usually the only honest ones of pop scholarship – points this out trenchantly:

While the beginning of the book is made up of one insight after another backed up by some quality and unique research,  the rest of the book is one point of hearsay after another backed up by quotes from Dawson’s Creek and Teen magazines. Seriously! I was shocked that a supposed academic would use dialogue from a television show as insight into a generation, and then have the audacity to call it “research”. She would actually use fictional television dialogue to lend support to her analysis. If she hoped to define a generation, a lot more is needed than pop culture references.

[Read more →]

advicepolitics & government

A common-sense approach to restoring economic prosperity

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People have proposed any number of solutions to our current financial problems, from “the fiscal cliff,” to “increased government spending.” But one problem with these ideas is that they do not take into account a common-sense approach. It’s only by using common sense ideas that we can hope to solve all our problems. To do so with compassion must also be given top priority.

One reason why compassion and common sense ideas are so rarely employed is that so few people actually have those virtues. I am not plagued by such deficiencies. That’s why I often come up with ideas that are compassionate and common-sensible. These ideas seem completely obvious to me, and yet, these ideas have never been implemented before, anywhere, because, if they had been implemented, then they would be unnecessary, because the world would be perfect and wouldn’t need compassionate common sense ideas. [Read more →]

adviceanimals

Vegan Reason (Part II)

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Without further ado, the writer behind the passage I posted last week:

Yep, Gandhi. It’s a wonderful passage in his autobiography and a fascinating peek into what made a young lawyer from India into a global icon for peace and justice. Let’s leave that for now though.

A few years ago, I started keeping a vegetarian diet. Factory farming is an obvious target, but what really tipped it for me are shrimp-trawling nets that catch other marine life in them, including endangered species of sea turtles. Fortunately, companies have invented different types of nets that catch the shrimp but allow creatures like sea turtles to go free. Fantastic, right? Except when the nets were pitched to the shrimping industry, you know what the response was? “We’ve always done it this way. Go hug a tree.” (Read about it here.)

That was it for me. [Read more →]

adviceanimals

Vegan Reason (Part I)

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I’ve been keeping a strict vegan diet for nearly a year now, after being vegetarian for almost three years. I’m often asked about my decision: Is it for health reasons? Ethical reasons? Environmental reasons? Yes, yes, and also yes. (Tyler’s entry on WFTC is a great recap of those issues.)

But there’s more to veganism than that. After finding the shift from omnivore to vegetarian to be fairly inconsequential, I realized that continuing on to a vegan lifestyle was a much more profound experience, and one that I’d like to discuss a little bit.

Let’s start with a little vegan trivia. Below is a passage from an autobiography of a very famous person—no doubt you’ve heard of him. The incident in the passage occurred in the late 19th-century, in England, although the person is not British. See if you can guess who wrote it (without Googling)—and in my next entry I’ll reveal the answer and begin my discussion in earnest. (If you can’t see the whole passage below, just click on it.)

advicesports

Matt Cassel, Eric Winston, and 9/11: a brief guide to maintaining your humanity while watching large mammals collide violently

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On Sunday, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel was injured on a play. Matt Cassel is a pretty shitty NFL quarterback. According to offensive tackle Eric Winston, while Cassel was down and injured, a decent portion of the crowd was cheering because it meant Matt Cassel would be unable to return to the game and, therefore, would also be unable to continue playing quarterback for the Chiefs, shittily. After the game, Winston described hearing the home fans cheering for an injury as “one hundred percent sickening.”

Bravo, Eric Winston. Gold sticker for that one, bud. If they were cheering the injury, you are one hundred percent right.

[Read more →]

advicefamily & parenting

Kids: for and against

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Yesterday on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, author Jessica Valenti discussed her new book Why Have Kids?. I haven’t read the book, which sounds like a good one (that’s the level to which I’ve sunk as a book critic). But the conversation got me thinking about my own life.         [Read more →]

advicesports

Learn to love the NFL replacement referees in 420 words

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You’re not going to win this one. The replacement refs are here, and there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of progress being made between the NFL and the League of Extraordinary Officials Who Can Actually Figure Out Where to Spot a Ball Within Eleven Minutes. But this doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy football. Don’t get mad, get glad. Here’s how:

[Read more →]

advice

From one single father to the next

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My life long best friend just went through a divorce over the last two months, his wife left him, his kid, the house, all of it.  She just up and walked away, and the guy is now facing a personal crisis.  He doesn’t know how he’s going to make ends meet, how he’s going to raise a little girl, or what life is going to be like as he moves into the future.

I remember those feelings very well.  I experienced the same sadness, loss, disorientation, and loneliness when my relationship with my baby’s momma fell apart and I got sole custody of my daughter.  But when I went through it, I didn’t know any other man with custody of his kids, I didn’t have anyone I could talk to with a similar perspective, no one to encourage me, tell me to keep my head up, and offer advice to me.

So I sat down and wrote a letter of encouragement to my life long friend, the brother I chose, to help him out.  I posted it on his Facebook wall, and then proceeded to get numerous comments from people telling me that I needed to post what I wrote somewhere visible, so that other men in our situation could have the chance to benefit from it too.

I don’t know if what I wrote is really that good, I have a hard time judging my own writing, but I’m following the advice of a bunch of people who don’t even know me, so here it is.

To all you single dads out there, read it, and like my buddy, remember that you’re not alone, that it will get better, and that your life has made a gigantic turn for the better, my friends.  –Mike

[Read more →]

adviceBob Sullivan's top ten everything

Top ten signs your new year is off to a bad start

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10. Your New Year’s kiss left smudge marks on your mirror

9. Your wife’s resolution was to give up you

8. You recently invested all your money with some Italian guy named Ponzi

7. You’re Michele Bachmann

6. You accidentally watched that new TV show about two dudes in dresses

5. You just woke up from your 2010 New Year’s Eve party

4. You started the new year with ten fingers and toes – now, not so many

3. You can still hear that firecracker someone set off near your head on New Year’s Eve

2. Last year your company went paperless; this year they’re going peopleless

1. You’re still writing “2011” on all your death threats
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

advice

There are always too many sluts and hookers

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So it’s that time of year again.  The leaves on some of the smaller plants are beginning to change colors, the nights are getting longer, and the summer heat is finally dissipating.  Football is on TV and on the mind of every old man down at the local coffee shop in the morning talking about his grandson.  My pumpkin patch has already produced ripe fruit.  Fall is certainly right around the corner.

It’s time to start thinking about what you’re going to wear for Halloween.

[Read more →]

adviceends & odd

How I almost went to jail for five years

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Recently a friend of mine decided to sell the antique Indian headdress she kept in a Perspex box in her house. I was baffled by this decision as it was a thing of great beauty and she did not need the cash. But she had made up her mind: she was moving house and the headdress had to go.

I asked how she had acquired it in the first place:

“My grandparents picked it up at a train station in the 1930s,” she said. “They used to travel around the South West and the Indians would come to the platforms to sell things. So they bought the headdress. They probably didn’t pay much for it, either.”

It was, apparently, a Navajo war bonnet, a headdress of great symbolic power. [Read more →]

adviceBob Sullivan's top ten everything

Top ten signs your home is way past due a spring cleaning

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10. The rats have gnawed through your garden hose, making it impossible to hose down the hallway

9. Your living room’s leaf pile dates from three autumns ago

8. The producers of Hoarders thought your place was just a little too much

7. Your heating vents are clogged with Frito crumbs

6. Even Jehovah’s Witnesses won’t come inside

5. The Health Department has you on speed dial

4. When you go in the kitchen, your spouse uses Raid to provide cover fire

3. You have so many dust bunnies, the legs of your bed no longer touch the floor

2. You’ve misplaced two of your children

1. Your refrigerator has a wet hacking cough
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

adviceart & entertainment

Top ten signs your prom date is a loser

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10. The ‘corsage’ he pins to your dress his handmade from Bounty paper towels

9. He takes you to the prom in the basket of his Schwinn

8. Every time he starts dancing, concerned chaperones place a wrapped spoon in his mouth to prevent him from biting his tongue

7. He wants to be home by 9:00 so he can catch the rerun of Fringe

6. He claims he’s suffering from ‘Bieber Fever’

5. He’s wearing a cardboard Burger King crown

4. His tux was ‘borrowed’ from his dad’s funeral home business

3. When he asks you if you want to catch a bite somewhere, he displays his collection of coupons

2. He keeps calling you “Mommy”

1. You’re both wearing the same dress

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

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