Category Archives: Publications

Silver Linings Playbook: What I Learned from 30 Days of Endless Positive Thinking (via Success)

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Success — My earliest memory is a pretty bad one. I was called out by a substitute teacher in kindergarten for talking during story time.

You could argue that, in the grand scheme of things, getting in trouble at 5 isn’t that big of a deal. But the story, and how it’s burned into my brain forever, speaks to a shared and brutal human reality: We cling to the bad moments—getting busted in kindergarten, botching a speech, getting broken up with the day after the prom, feeling wordlessly judged by someone in richer clothes, whiffing on a 3-2 count in the bottom of the ninth—with more force than we afford the good ones. Negative memories are monstrous beasts, gross and sticky octopuses that attach themselves with ferocious tenacity to the present. Science, Eastern religion, elections and all eight Star Wars movies prove that negative powers aren’t easily fought. Only the strongest and most disciplined minds can train themselves to destroy the darkness with light.

I do not have such a mind.

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HGTV’s Two Chicks and a Hammer Nail Down a Second Season of ‘Good Bones’ (via Indianapolis Monthly)

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Indianapolis Monthly — There are a lot of ways to destroy a chimney—and most of them are satisfying—but Mina Hawk (née Starsiak) says you’re really only supposed to stick with one. “A brick at a time,” says Mina, over coffee/La Croix at Calvin Fletcher’s coffee shop in Fletcher Place. “We allllll went to college. We allllll understand gravity.”

But during a recent day of shooting the second season of Good Bones, the HGTV home-renovation show she headlines with her mother, Karen E Laine, Mina suddenly found herself dealing with a second, considerably more dramatic method. “Spoiler alert,” says Mina, sounding as if she’s still trying to convince herself she saw this. “Tad just pushes it over.”

Tad is Mina’s college-aged little brother and the guy in charge of the Good Bonesdemolition crew. Tad’s gift is for breaking things. But here, Tad has made what Mina clearly regards as a questionable decision. “Tad is on the roof, sees the chimney wobbling, and pushes it over. It goes straight through the roof. Huuuuuge hole,” says Mina, sounding either scolding or impressed; I can’t actually tell which. For her part, Karen is more delighted. “We were all like, ‘That was really cool! But shit!’”

This is more or less a standard afternoon on the set of Good Bones, currently shooting a second season that premieres in May. Good Bones differs from many home-renovation shows in two key departments: 1. Significant increase in angry falling towers of brick, and 2. Mina and Karen handle nearly everything themselves.

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Fan Friction: The 10 Most Memorable Moments from the IU/Purdue Rivalry (via Indianapolis Monthly)

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Indianapolis Monthly

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Indianapolis Monthly — Indiana basketball’s defining rivalry rekindles twice in February with two new episodes of a series Purdue currently leads by a reasonably commanding 115–89. Aaaand you know where this is going: That’s where IU people say “banners,” and Purdue people say “dusty,” and IU people mention how Purdue’s dominance was mostly before color movies, and Purdue people observe that the schools are dead even with 22 regular-season Big Ten titles each, and IU people bring up Gene Keady’s $600 comb-over, and Purdue people note how none of their coaches have ever been fired for forcefully scolding a 19-year-old. Here’s what got (and kept) the ball rolling.

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Tastes Like Burning: The Never-Ending Quest to Breed and Consume the World’s Hottest Pepper (via GQ)

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GQ — Late last year, the former guitarist for Guns N’ Roses propped up his camera phone, pressed the record button, produced a cherry-red coffin-shaped box and put its contents directly in his mouth.

The box contained a tortilla chip—one single chip—made from the dust of the Carolina Reaper, the hottest pepper on Earth, designed solely to obliterate the senses.  In the video, the guitarist, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, places the shard of fire on his tongue as his wife of 27 years, Jen, does the same. Incredibly, Jen smiles. Bumblefoot, meanwhile, looks like somebody hit self-destruct on his face.

“If you like pain, you’re gonna like this,” he says, through breaths that grow increasingly panting. “It’s still burning. I’m feeling kind of sweaty.” He grimaces, forces some smiles, the fire inching back up his throat. A few minutes in, he absently brushes his right eye, which, because his immune system works, immediately swells shut. “I no longer have use of my eye,” he says, half-laughing through tears and mucus. Jen, next to him, continues to seem totally fine. A guy who spent eight years with Axl Rose as his boss is getting slaughtered by a tortilla chip while his wife is like, eh, whatever.

This episode goes on for six minutes. Bumblefoot excuses himself to flush his eye with water—which obviously doesn’t work—until the fire finally dies down enough for the couple to record an outro. “Paqui chips,” he says, sweating and one-eyed, “Thank you very much for destroying my life for the next half-hour.”

The full story at GQ.com.

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How We Briefly Sort Of Totally Lost Our Son on the London Underground (via the Washington Post)

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On Parenting at the Washington Post — One day, during my retirement, if there is still Social Security or whatever, I plan to write a collection of short stories called “Places I Have Lost My Son.” I lost him once in a state park, where, during a verdant and filthy family hike, he ambled ahead 10, then 20, then 500 yards, past a vigorous series of intersections and switchbacks. (We found him at the ranger station, making plans for what to do with his months-long iPhone ban.) I lost him once from his own bedroom when, at age 4, he let himself outside at 1:30 a.m. in a half-sleeping dream state, in search of the Polar Express. (We found him 20 minutes later a quarter-mile down the road, where he’d been discovered by two teenagers named Kevin and Brendan who were most assuredly not Tom Hanks.)

I’ve had to find him in zoos and museums, malls and airports, when something catches his imagination and instinct compels him to follow it. In my son’s brain, imagination is not some zingy, lively Peter Pan-type. It’s a 500-pound sumo wrestler who lumbers in and shoves aside all of the functions used for mindfulness and consciousness and “remembering to look behind him to see WHERE HIS DAD IS.” It’s both delightful, as there is no greater gift than childhood creativity, and god-awful terrifying, as there are few worse feelings than having to ask the nice security guards whether they have seen a 12-year-old in a blue hoodie. Twice.

Which brings me to how we totally lost him on the London subway.

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O Christmas Box, O Christmas Box (via On Parenting at the Washington Post)

High Angle View of Empty Cardboard Box with Open Flaps on Shiny Hardwood Floor - Moving or Shipping Concept Image

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On Parenting at the Washington Post — Generally speaking, Christmas trees arrive in one of two ways: 1. You pack a saw and rope and drive to a Cut Your Own Tree Farm, which makes you feel like a beefy, whiskey-swilling, red-bearded lumberjack army-crawling through dirt and pine needles and probably fire ants until you ask a 19-year-old to help you tie it to the top of your Honda Odyssey; or 2. You go to the attic and retrieve the Giant Box of Fake Christmas tree, which you purchased some years ago from, hypothetically speaking, a Kmart in east-central Indiana.

My family went with Option B. As I was fortunate enough to have both a Christmas-loving family and unusually tall ceilings, our fake tree was a goliath, a monstrous army-grade artificial Douglas fir Fraser pine (okay, I have no idea what it really was, I slept through college horticulture) that endured for nearly a decade. It was rich, plush and lifelike, even if it smelled less like evocative forest pine and more like the inside of a Kmart in east-central Indiana.

Mostly, it came in a box.

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Andrew Luck Made Me Read a Very Good Book (via Men’s Health)

image: Men's Health

image: Men’s Health

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Men’s Health — NFL players are generally associated with reading about as much as they are skin moisturizers and Sarah McLachlan albums, which is part of what makes the Andrew Luck Book Club such an odd little slice of nerd-joy in Indianapolis.

As the post-Peyton quarterback for the Colts, Luck has carved a reputation for being three things: 1. Rich (he signed a $140 million contract in June 2015, the biggest in NFL history), 2. Reliable (his stoic work ethic is pleasingly Midwestern) and 3. Dorky.The Stanford grad has been called the Colts’ unofficial librarian; his club is an extension of his propensity for gifting books to teammates and coaches. (Think of another NFL QB who’s on record as being super-into The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. We’ll wait.)

But the man makes $140 million throwing balls around, so he’s clearly onto something. And so, driven by Luck’s suggestion, I formed my own offshoot club, called three friends to participate (most common answer: “Huh?”) and got down to reading.

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The Adventure of Milo, The Daring Stuffed Cat Who Spent a Year on a Plane (via the Washington Post)

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Gonna take a walk outside today, gonna see what we can find today

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On Parenting at the Washington Post — Several Christmases ago, I found myself wandering around a deserted parking lot in San Francisco, clinging to the fragile idea of Christmas magic, but mostly just on the phone with airline customer service.

We’d just flown cross-country with the children, ages 9 and 2 (apologies again, Good People of Rows 13 and 15). The older one is deeply imaginative and inventive, just not especially good at paying attention or remaining in the real world instead of the one in his head, which is populated almost entirely by Percy Jackson and dragons. (Frankly it sounds like a good place to be; in that world sinks don’t leak and Percy doesn’t get Christmas Visa bills.)

Here’s how the cat came back.

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I Wore the Same Outfit for Two Weeks to Achieve Zen Calm (via Success)

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Success — To learn about the curious malady known as “decision fatigue,” I was given a very simple assignment: Wear the same outfit and automate as many daily decisions as possible for two weeks and write about whether it gave me more mental clarity. That was it. Easy breezy. I jumped right in.

On Day 1, I picked out a crisp white shirt, got dressed, opened the front door and promptly spilled coffee all over myself. The first lesson of automating your wardrobe: Select dark fabrics.

By “automating your wardrobe,” I mean following the fashion examples of Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and others whose jobs demand a daily deluge of global-scale decision-making. The idea is simple: To preserve brain space for the big calls, cut back on the less significant ones, because the collective weight of your choices, layered over and over each other, creates what psychologists call decision fatigue. Officially, that’s the “deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision-making,” says Jonathan Levav, Ph.D., associate professor at Stanford University. Colloquially it means reaching 4 p.m. and no longer giving a damn about the logjam of problems in your inbox.

The full story at Success.

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10 Ways to Either Stop Snoring or Do It A Hell of a Lot Less (via GQ)

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GQ — So I have this friend who snores like a psychopath. Enough that people bitch about it from neighboring rooms. Enough that his wife is basically scouting quieter replacement husbands. Enough that his son jokes that he sounds like elephant giving birth inside a metal garbage can.

But this friend, see, he knows that it’s hard to make lifestyle adjustments while unconscious. He also sleeps pretty well, so he wouldn’t even worry about it, if not for the complaints from people he likes. So this friend, while awake, went to the source: a PhD named Michael Breus, who happens to be a fellow at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Snoring is all about the airway,” Breus told my friend. “It’s turbulence. It’s like when you stick your thumb over a hose in the garden and water shoots out faster. When any part of the breathing passage becomes more narrow—your sinuses, trachea, any floppy tissue—you’ll snore.” Here’s how my friend learned to calm that turbulence down.

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