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giving the #awesomecount the love it deserves

Andrew and I went to Target the other day to get some new Disney Infinity characters. You see, ever since Andrew got this game, he’s been saving every scrap of money he finds, earns, and has been given with the goal of getting all the characters. Last weekend Target was having a sale on characters, so Andrew jumped at the opportunity to build his collection. He had already saved enough money so that he could buy two new characters (or a set), but with this sale he could just about get a third. He buckled down and cranked out 15 pages of neat writing and careful coloring in his “Fun Book.” At 50¢ a page, he earned the last bit of cold hard cash he needed to buy a third character. He was ready.

We set off to Target with his money jar in hand. The excitement was palpable. We took a beeline straight to the electronics section of the store. As we approached the display, I could see the inner turmoil burning. As he shuffled his feet back and forth, he chomped feverishly at his fingernails, eyes scanning every package. He turned to me.

“Dad. There’s only one problem…Which ones do I get?”

“That’s a good question buddy,” I replied.

He’s been playing through The Incredibles storyline, but only certain characters can accomplish certain tasks (an evil, yet genius marketing ploy). I pointed him to Mrs. Incredible and Violet (they didn’t have Dash or Syndrome). He picked up the Mrs. Incredible box. I could see him replaying each mission he’d already played in his head weighing the value of Mrs. Incredible as a companion. He did the same with Violet.

“Dad!” he gasped.

“Yeh Bud?

“Remember that mission that only Violet gets to do?”

“Yeah!”

He put the Violet character back. Back and forth he went between Violet and Mrs. Incredible. Then he stopped. Something else caught his eye. The Jessie and Buzz Lightyear set. We probably spent twenty minutes weighing his options. This decision was going to be very deliberate. He earned that money, and by gosh, he was going to get his money’s worth. In the end, he settled on getting Mrs. Incredible and the start of his next adventure, the Jessie and Buzz Lightyear set. This may have been one of the toughest decisions he’s ever had to make.

I had been playing the role of the escrow account, so I handed him his money when we got to the register and he got to make his own purchase. The cashier seemed amused at this ritual, and happily handed him his change – $2.41. Andrew pocketed the cash and we headed for the exit.

On our way to the car, he slowed down as he often does when he’s distracted by something. I turned around, and urged him to catch up. He ran up and tugged on my shirt.

“Dad, why didn’t we stop?”

“Why? Should we have stopped?”

“Yeh, didn’t you see that sign?”

“No, what sign?”

“That guy sitting on the chair when we left Target. His sign says Homeless Veteran and he has a bucket for donations. Dad, can I give him some money? I have $2 left over from my characters.”

“You want to give him some of the money that you worked really hard for?”

“Yeh. Can I give it to him? No one should be homeless. That means he doesn’t even have a home!”

“Okay. You can give him something if you want to.”

“I do.”

We walked over to the man, Andrew looked him in the eye and said, “Here you go.” He dropped $2 in the bucket and walked away with a smile on his face. On our way to the car, out of curiosity I asked him, “Why did you want to give that guy your money?”

“Because he needed it, and it made me feel good to help him out.”

Giving that guy his money was a total no brainer.

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Being a parent is the most rewarding, exhausting, and insane thing that any person can do. That day Andrew reminded me of something that’s easy to lose sight of. Not everyone is as fortunate as we are. We need to look out for others like we did when we were young. The next time you see someone that could use a little help, think about that extra $2 you had left over from a purchase where you bought something you wanted. Think about how it would be if you were struggling to just get what you needed.

Julie Yelling at Andrew a la Adam and Jamie

Over the weekend, we were fortunate enough to see the “Behind The Myths Tour” showcasing the awesome Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters. The show was held at the Orange County Performing Arts center in Costa Mesa. My mom heard about the show coming into town and asked if we wanted to go. Andrew has been very excited about science lately, so we thought some hands-on science would be really exciting for him.

The show was awesome as you might have expected, but for more than just the obvious reasons. Beyond the comedic tension between Adam and Jamie, the audience participation, the 100,000 round per minute anti-aircraft paintball gun, and the phone book friction, Adam dropped some serious knowledge that Andrew will never forget. Some folks in the crowd might have missed it, but when Adam spoke these words it was like an arrow shot straight out of his mouth and hit Andrew in the heart.

“Read a lot and stay curious”

That’s the key to becoming a good scientist according to Adam. When my five-year-old son heard those words, his heart leapt. He turned to the other 6 of us and shouted, “That’s ME! I’m curious AND I read a lot!” Unbeknownst to Adam, those words will probably be the driving force behind Andrew following his dreams and becoming a scientist. It was as if everyone in the audience disappeared and Adam was having a one-on-one conversation with Andrew.

This show didn’t just have something for Andrew though, Julie learned a little applied science that gave her some new knowledge that she needed to finish part of her invention convention build. One of the segments in the show was about pulley ratios. Adam and Jamie had a 10-ish year old lifting a 250lb-ish guy about a foot off the ground. The kid did this with the help of a 4-1 ratio simple pulley system. The next day, Julie and I looked up a video on simple pulley systems. We’re in the process of adding a small scale simple pulley system into her invention convention project. Real world science FTW!

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The school that my kids go to has a wonderful garden program. Once a month the kids get to come to the garden and experience one of five programs: Planting, Maintaining, Exploring, Worm Composting (2nd grade only), or Hot Composting (4th grade only). To my parents’ delight, I have come to my senses and found a love for gardening through the eyes of my children. I’m certainly no expert when it comes to identifying plants or knowing best practices with regards to planting things, but one thing I do know about is having fun. In previous years, I’ve been in charge of the planting and maintaining programs for my daughter’s class, and they were both great learning experiences. This year, however, I’m in charge of the exploring program. This terrifies me. When the kids come out to the garden, they look to me as an expert. Most of the big things around the garden, I can speak intelligently to…the water cistern, touch and smell garden, butterfly garden, the barn, Coinker, and all of the various beds we have. When I begin to struggle is when lightbulbs start going off in my little explorers brains.

Them: “Mr. Dove, what is that plant?”
Me: “Hmm…I don’t know kids…let me ask my explorers assistant (my iPhone).”

That usually works pretty well, but for one plant, I haven’t had any luck. It’s in our touch and smell garden, so the kids ALWAYS ask about it. Since this blogging thing is working out for me so far, I figured I’d try a reverse flower lookup and post a picture to my brain trust.

Take a look at the picture above and leave a comment below if you know the name of this intriguing purple flower.

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These days it’s so easy to fail. Everywhere I turn there are distractions that I’ve inadvertently created for myself that, without keeping in check, will lead to my demise. Even though some very basic scientific principles contradict me, I feel like there are fewer and fewer hours in the day to get things done.

It’s a bit early in the blogging process for me to be giving advice about how to do everything perfectly, so instead I’m going to give some insights as to how I plan to eliminate the distractions I face when trying to blog. If nothing else, this will be a good point to return to at the end of a year’s time to see how much things change.

Idea #1: Don’t Use WordPress

Before you go and crucify me for hating on WordPress, I’m not talking about abandoning the platform, just the web app. There are so many distractions baked right into WordPress that it’s easy to get sidetracked. Installing plugins, changing your theme, tweaking settings, and analyzing stats just to name a few. Being a web developer, it’s easy to fall into the trap of customizing WordPress instead of using it to write. The WordPress iOS apps are great for cutting out all the extras and getting right down to business. That’s where I anticipate writing most often.

Idea #2: Sketch and Write

For me, writing is hard. Any resistance along the way causes me extra frustration and ultimately causes me to write tons of incomplete posts. Since I’m going to primarily be using devices that doesn’t naturally lend themselves to long format writing, they’re going to need some help.

Naomi happened to have a Belkin iPad case that she wasn’t using that had a keyboard attached to it. I’ve been using it for the past few days and it has changed the way I use my iPad. Since I’m often on the road with my kids, it’s not always ideal to lug around a laptop. With apps like Koder I’m able to get some code written when necessary, iBooks lets me take my book library with me, Paper lets me doodle and sketch, Google Drive helps me collaborate on documents with my coworkers and clients, and the WordPress app lets me publish on the go. These aren’t new ideas by any means, but adding a keyboard into the mix has made some of them exponentially more usable for me.

I picked up a stylus from lunatik that doubles as a real pen so that will help me when jotting down notes and sketching. Before that I made a stylus from materials that I had laying around the house (remind me to post a DIY guide about that!). I’m a digital sketchbook nut, so I have just about every paid and free app available on the App Store (Bamboo Paper, Sketches, Sketchbook Pro, Paper, Penultimate, and Notability) with all of their in-app purchases. Each one has its own pros and cons, but my favorites are Paper, Sketches, and Bamboo Paper…in that order.

Idea #3: Write In Spurts

Since I’m running here and there on most afternoons, I think it will make sense to write in chunks when I can. This will likely mean that I’ll write when inspiration hits me – while walking my kids to school and waiting for them outside the dance studio. I often don’t have enough time to get much of anything done besides responding to emails, so this would be an ideal time to get some ideas down.

Update: As it turns out, this is a terrible way to write. I’ve been writing this post the way I previously described, and I’ve had to re-read what I wrote several times already. Fail #1. Instead of actually trying to write posts during these times, I think I need to figure out a system where I can capture ideas as they come to me. I’m thinking a quick voice recording of the light bulb moment. It might be interesting to add those recordings to these posts so that you, the reader, can get a better grasp of my thought process.

Conclusion

We’ll see how this whole thing shakes out. in the long run. In just two days of blogging I feel like I’ve already learned so much about what works and what doesn’t. If you have any tips, or you’re Chris Lema, leave a comment and let me know your strategies. Until next time…

I’ve been watching this guy evolve over the course of a year in his campaign to blog every day. The growth that he showed in his traffic statistics was eye-opening.

Just recently I spent a weekend at a conference called Pressnomics. Pressnomics is a conference that is unlike a WordCamp in that it doesn’t focus on building things with WordPress, but building and running a business around WordPress. One of the speakers at Pressnomics had a strategy for building your online presence. At first he said there were something like 141 things you should do to do better than the next guy in order to beat them in search rankings. If that seems too tough, he offered a second solution – 10 things you can do to beat out the next guy. Finally, if that’s still too much work to he boiled it down to one thing – hit the publish button. Do it more frequently, with better content, for a longer period of time and you’ll win.

I can’t promise I’ll have the discipline that Chris Lema does, but I’m going to do my best to drive traffic to this site in one way or another. I’m not sure what I’ll be writing about, but it will probably range from WordPress code to business strategies, parental anecdotes to photo galleries, and from time to time maybe even some good old fashioned high school type writing prompts.

Hang on, we’re in for a wild ride.

Now, I’m not saying that these jokes have never been thought of before, but Andrew assures me that he came up with them on his own. I think they’re pretty awesome coming from a 5-year-old. This kid never ceases to amaze me.

What state has the most pigs?
PENNsylvania

What state can you wear?
North DaCOATa or South DaCOATa

What state has the most pencils?
PENCILvania