What are you doing this April?

The good news: it was quiet this afternoon, because Mary was out at a knitting worksop.

The bad news: I had to spend most of the time doing our taxes. It went fine, it was just time-consuming.

I think it’s terrible when I have to be an adult and do things like taxes and clean the house and cook and stuff like that when I could be blogging and visiting all my blogging friends. Which reminds me, look for the post on the technical aspects of simulcasting your blog that was promised in my co-host post on the A to Z Challenge blog on Monday. A couple of things are in a state of flux as of yesterday.


I think most of you have already signed up for this year’s challenge, but if you’re one of those who is still holding out, now is a great time to drop everything and run, don’t walk, over to the A to Z Challenge site and sign up to participate. Here are some reasons why.

  • It’s great fun.
  • You’ll meet a lot of new people, bloggers from all over the world, and get a sense of the good things they’re doing at their blogs.
  • You’ll get a ton of new traffic at your blog, making blogging even more rewarding than it already is. This is especially important if you’re looking to make money with your blogging. If you’re an accountant, for example, you could do the ABC’s of tax preparation. Demonstrating your ability using an A to Z approach could get you a few phone calls and new business.
  • It is a challenge to come up with a word or term for each letter of the alphabet based on a theme. Even if you choose to go without a theme, coming up with a word or term that starts with each letter of the alphabet is a good mental exercise. Pretty soon, you’ll be seeing word lists in your mind. If you blog or write on a daily basis like I do, that can be a tremendous resource for those days when you don’t know what to write about.
  • You get a badge, like the one above, suitable for framing, and if you survive the month, you get another one. Just like with NaNoWriMo!
  • Did I mention it’s great fun?

So, what are you waiting for? Click the badge above and see what we have in store for April.

Do you like green eggs and ham?

Today is the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. He’s most famous for his children’s books, such as The Cat In The Hat, There’s A Wocket In My Pocket!, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, and my personal favorite, Green Eggs and Ham.

Life Magazine ran an article in 1954 (eight years into the Baby Boom) that blamed the rising rate of illiteracy among kids on the fact that kids’ books were boring. The president of Houghton-Miflin came up with a list of 348 words he felt were necessary for first graders to know, then challenged Seuss to cut that list to 250 and deliver a book. Seuss wrote The Cat In The Hat using 237 of the words, and it became a classic. Green Eggs and Ham, featured above, only took him about 50 of the words.

I grew up in the era of Dr. Seuss, and I know that his books were effective. They told good stories, they were fun to read, and the anarchy in the drawings meant, if nothing else, that kids could have a good laugh. Lots of us learned to read the books just so we could see the pictures, and read them over and over and over because they made reading fun.

Mary and I were at Kroch’s & Brentano’s in downtown Chicago many years ago, and sitting on a table was a copy of Green Eggs and Ham, written in Hebrew. I picked it up, and “read” the whole thing to her (even started in the back and worked my way forward), reciting the book from memory. She was amazed. “I didn’t know you could read Hebrew!” Okay, so it was a silly trick to play on her, but it’s a testament to how memorable the books are, especially the pictures. Change the pictures, it just isn’t the same.

Dr. Seuss died in 1991, but his books probably never will. If they do, it’s likely the end of civilization as we know it.

RIP Leonard Nimoy

Farewell, Mr. Spock

Leonard Nimoy and my mother have the same birthday. Sad I didn’t find that out until today.

I’m by no means a Trekkie, but I do know that Leonard Nimoy was a great actor. His Mr. Spock was an icon; even if you didn’t watch Star Trek, you knew who the guy with the pointy ears was. He was also Paris for a couple of seasons of Mission: Impossible, a bad guy on an episode of Columbo, another bad guy on an episode of The Man From UNCLE, and a character in a host of other TV shows and movies.

A minute ago, Mary came up and told me that Mr. Nimoy had died. He passed earlier today at his home in Bel Air, California, of COPD caused by years of smoking. He was 83.

I know many people (including a few of you) got their start as writers by writing Star Trek fan fiction, inspired by the weekly exploits of Kirk, Spock, Bones, Sulu, Uhura and the rest of the crew of the USS Enterprise. I can only imagine how you feel. My condolences to his family and loved ones, and to Star Trek fans everywhere.

STEM and Creativity

I put “need for STEM education” into Google, and I got all of these sites. One of them was this page from the US Department of Education, which makes a couple of interesting points:

  • “Only 16 percent of American high school seniors are proficient in mathematics and interested in a STEM career.”
  • “The United States has become a global leader, in large part, through the genius and hard work of its scientists, engineers and innovators. Yet today, that position is threatened as comparatively few American students pursue expertise in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)—and by an inadequate pipeline of teachers skilled in those subjects.”

They even put this diagram on the page to show the need for young experts in the STEM fields.

Source: US Department of Education

I bet if you were to ask kids why they aren’t interested in going into careers in these fields, they would say, “It’s too hard! All that math and science and stuff…” And, granted, kids have to have a good foundation in sciences and math before they can hope to understand the material being discussed. But they need something more.

Remember this that I put up on Wednesday?

See, people involved in the STEM areas are just as creative and intuitive as artists and writers. Engineering isn’t just an area where people work with numbers and logic; engineers also dream and design. Same with mathematicians: I was a math major in a previous life, and got into areas of mathematics that don’t deal with numbers or computation. We worked with number systems that don’t involve anything resembling the numbers we use every day. (That’s when I got out.) You could make similar arguments for scientists and technologists. All of the STEM areas are arts as much as sciences.

If we want more mathematicians, engineers, technologists, and scientists, we need to make sure that kids are seeing both sides of the picture. We know that both sides of the brain work together, each side doing what it’s best at and drawing connections between the world of fact and the world of fantasy. I realize that’s an oversimplification, but if a kid’s education doesn’t provide as much focus on creativity and idea formation as it does on math and grammar, what good does it do?

Then again, I could be wrong… What do you think?