Saturday, October 10, 2020

My Failings As A Father and as a Person


Alexander the Great I'm not.
It's my birthday tomorrow, which always brings me a certain level of depression and frustration.  It's right around this time each year that I start to think about all the things I haven't accomplished, all the things I haven't done, all the things I wanted to do this year, and somehow managed to avoid.  

When I was in my 30's, my joke used to be "When Alexander the Great was my age, he'd been dead for five years.  He had conquered all of the known world.  I've finished making payments on my five-year-old car."  

Yeah, I know.  I have it good compared to a lot of people.  I'm still alive and without COVID (knock wood)  My wife still has her income, and I'm fortunate to continue to be a house-husband, stay at home dad,  and (sort of) pursue my goals as an artist. And I've accomplished a lot this year.  (Including shedding 70+ lbs, working out every day for a year+, and keeping it off during the pandemic!)  I've also taken three major workshops, attended a couple of conferences, joined a mastermind of sorts, live-streamed every day for a month, wrote every day in my blog for a different month, started playing D and D again, and produced almost 40 sonnet videos (although I've stalled the last few months) on my Daily Sonnet video project. 

So I've done some things this year, but not enough, not enough.  I'm feeling disappointed in myself that I didn't jump on the virtual show bandwagon, that I didn't miraculously monetize my sonnets, that the idea that I have for an online course now seems stalled.

Dark skies ahead.

But  I wasn't thinking about any of these things when I lost my cool with my son tonight, in a way that did not reflect my best self, my best intentions, or show myself as a good parent.  Instead I got pretty angry and frustrated.

My son has been having focus issues at school, particularly with math.  He is complaining all the time about school.  We have had to cut down his computer game time, and assiduously watch it, because he's lied about checking out game sites during the day, about doing his homework, and he's just putting in the absolute minimum effort to do his work.  He doesn't want to do what the teacher expects, which is to write down the problem and show his work.  He's downright belligerent about it.  And sadly, I can be belligerent too.

After online school today, my son came to my office to ask if he could download a video game and play with his friends FIRST before he did his homework.  Typically he has to do his homework first.  But all of his friends were playing now, and I want him to have fun. He said that my wife had left it up to me.   I said, okay, but afterward, you need to finish your homework and take a shower.  He agreed, and even pinky swore.  

That was at 2:30 pm.  I had a bunch of stuff to do, and was in my office working at 4:30pm when my wife called me to say that she was leaving to have a socially distanced dinner date with a girlfriend, and did the boy do his homework?  I went upstairs to check on him, and he (naturally) was still playing video games.  It turns out children are not self-regulating, and they need to be reminded to do the things they said they were going to do. I asked him to get off and start on his homework.  

He grumbled but said yes.  About 8 minutes later, he was off, and when I checked in on him 10 minutes later, and he hadn't done a single Khan problem.  He's just looking at the problems, and he seems a little dejected.

There's nothing on his notepad.  He hasn't tried it at all..  I ask him if he needs help.  He says yes. 

 I pull up a chair and say "Okay, what's the first problem?"  

He pulls it up on the computer.
I say  "Okay, what''s the first step? " 

He says  "I don't know.  This is stupid. I don't understand it all."

"What don't you understand?"


"Like what?"


I can't stand this kind of answer.  If you are having problems with understanding stuff, that's cool.  Math isn't easy, algebra isn't easy, you have to practice.  But when you haven't tried-- when you've put in zero effort, and then you ask me for my help, it is frustrating.   And then you start just making excuses, saying you don't understand everything, well, shut up.  It's not that you don't understand it.  It's just that you are refusing to try.

I try to show forbearance:  

 "The first step is: Write the problem down."
He says "I don't want to... I can't.  My fingers hurt.  I don't know where the sign goes, I can't multiply by a decimal. I don't know how to add or subtract."  And a dozen other excuses.  I chide and chide him. He finally writes it down.  He writes it extra big so that the problem takes up the whole piece of paper.

I say, "Okay, let me show you again how to do it."  I take the pad, and put it down, on the mousepad, moving the mouse slightly.

"AYYYYYYYYYYY!" he yells.  "Don't move the mouse!" 

"Why is it broken?"

"No, I just don't want it moved."  There's not enough space on the desk to make notes.

We go through this four times.  At this point, he wants me to just solve his problems for him, and he's pretending that he doesn't know how to add or subtract numbers.  Every time I try to show him, he is not paying attention, or he yells about me moving the mouse slightly.

He's telling me that he's stupid, that's why he doesn't get it, that he has a little brain, that he's not good at anything, he's not good at Minecraft.  I'm reassuring him that he's not stupid, I've seen him do this work before, he can do it.   But I'm not cheerleading him, it's not buoying him up.  He wants to get out of doing his homework and I don't want to be tricked or taken advantage of.  He's looking for sympathy, but I don't have a lot for him. We have been down this road many times before.

At this point, I know I need to show compassion, but I don't have any to give.  He hasn't met me a quarter of the way.

His obstinance and deliberate obtuseness is getting to me.    I say "Don't be lazy."  Then I regret telling him that.  I say, "I don't mean that you are lazy.  I mean that you are not doing the work you need to do, and now you are just being obstinate, hoping that the problem will go away. But it won't." 

Still no movement from him.  He's dug in.  I explain to him the options.   I tell him that I will take away his computer for the rest of the weekend.  I tell him he will have to sit at his desk until he finishes his homework.  He has three more problem sets to do.  It's 16 questions.  It will take him 15 minutes if he works at it, or it will take him three hours if he doesn't.  There's nothing else he can do. 

 Despite my best intentions, despite my desires, I've turned this into a power struggle, one I'm destined to lose.  

I'm trying to be patient with him.  I try to show him the problem again, he yells at me again about moving the mouse, I pick up the pad, and it brushes his face and "Ow!  You hit my nose!"  He won't let me work on the desk, so I bring him to  the kitchen table, and he puts his foot under mine and now "OWWWWW!  My foot hurts!  You stepped on my foot!"

I dealt with that, and brought him back to the desk.  I'm trying to persevere, I'm trying to show him how to write down the problem, and he yells about the mouse again.  In a fit of frustration, I clear all the stuff on the desk onto the floor with one sweep of my hand.  Everything clatters to the floor. I meant it to be "okay, let's clear the desk so that there's room to work within your ridiculous phobia about moving the mouse."  And yes, it was an overly dramatic gesture.

But that's not how it read to him.  (Of course.)   It came off as "I cleared this desk, and if you keep on making me angry, I'm going to clear you."  He gets frightened and runs into my bedroom.  I'm fuming at him for his obstinance and at myself for the way I've handled this.  Why can't I have more patience with him?  Why can't he just do the work, and save us this endless runaround?  Why do I care so much that he tries at his homework?  And why did I let him get to me?

He's barricaded himself in my bedroom, he's called my wife, she texts me to say, leave him alone, don't worry about the homework.  I text her to say I'm considering joining the French Foreign Legion.  Because I just want out.

I'm pissed.  I'm fuming.  He's played us again, he got to play video games, he didn't take a shower, he didn't do his homework, and I feel like a failure as a father.   I don't want any part of him, I don't want to hug him, or comfort him or find out what the problem is with his math.  My goodwill towards him is at zero, and I'm upset with myself that it bothers me so much.

I make my own dinner.  I toy with not making him dinner at all, and letting him fend for himself, but decide I can try to be the peacemaker.  He yells at me "Where's my food."  I give it to him, and we sit in silence, not looking at each other, not talking to each other.  I hate it, but I am not going to let him get the better of me.  I have to review an online show, so he goes back to my bedroom and watches The Good Place.  I don't say a word to him.


Self portrait as a frustrated dad.

My wife finally got home, and she soothed him a little bit, as she is capable of.  They watched TV in the bedroom.  I didn't want to go in there.  I watched my show and wrote this blog post, read the news, watched my own show, avoiding our bedroom, avoiding them.  He fell asleep in our bed, and I considered just not going to sleep, or sleeping on the couch.  But I went in and pulled him out of the bed and brought him into his own.  But I'm not tired and I don't want to sleep, and I feel like I need to share this post, even though it's not a good look for me.

I wish I had a better, happier ending to this story.  I wish I knew how to let it go, to let it roll off my skin like water off a duck's back.   But I don't.  Right now I don't even know how I'm going to let this go, and I know I need to, but I don't want to.   I'm disappointed in him, and I want him to know it.  And I'm disappointed in myself, and I don't know how to fix it. 

Happy Birthday to me.  And it looks like Alexander the Great is going to have the last laugh. His son became the Emperor

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Sometimes Digital Learning Can Be Great!

 I've been complaining a lot about digital learning as of late.  It's not engaging, it's overly strict, the kids are too regulated, there's not enough playtime or downtime. 

During the digital lesson my son (aged 12, going on 26)  is either trying to shut off his video so he doesn't have to pay attention or sneaking discord/ chat messages with his friends.  (He's already gotten in trouble for arranging to play minecraft during Lunch time while using the school provided Google Chat!)  I have to go over his history with a fine tooth comb, and he's always pretty shifty.

After the lesson is over, I find myself either having to police my son to make sure he does his work, threatening him with lack of internet (do I have any other leverage these days?)  And when he manages to do his work, it's lackluster and/or just out and out wrong.   And he's cried and gotten angry more in the last three weeks than he did all summer, and I have to think that digital learning is at the root of most of that.  (Well that, and the onset of puberty!)

 Basically, my son hasn't had great experiences with digital learning thus far.   But there's hope on the horizon.

Brady Lea

My friend Brady Lea (fellow alum of Clown College and a brilliant playwright and theatre artist) teaches improv at the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts, a competitive arts-based public high school.  She recently posted a fantastic story on her Facebook about one of her digital/ distance learning/ Zoom classes.  It was inspiring, and I wanted to share it here.  And she gave me permission to do so!  

The thing that is so great about this is that it shows when handled in just the right way, that digital learning can totally rock.  She gave the students some (pardon the pun) Lea-way, and they came through big time.

 I'm not sure how you could teach math this way, but maybe you could.  And if not this way, some OTHER way that follows the student's desires while still pushing them forward, using peer pressure in a positive way.

One of the things I love about this is that it's not about how great a teacher she is.  (although I'm sure she is)  As the story is told below, the real magic is in how Brady saw an opportunity and seized on it, and let the kids guide her.  And in the process, threw away her lesson plan, and her agenda. That's the kind of teaching (and learning) that makes a real impact.  I have no doubt that years from now, this little incident will be emblazoned in the brains of the kids who participated.  I know I'll be thinking about this moment of magic for some time.  And I wasn't even there!

Thanks for sharing, Brady!

Post by Brady Lea (all copyright by her. Reposted by permission)

I've posted an image of the facebook post below. If that doesn't work for you, I've also posted the text below that. All words by the wonderful Brady Lea.

If that image didn't come through, here's the text (again, reprinted by permission)

Warning: Long Post. (But entirely politics-free.) Follow up to yesterday's post about having a great zoom class. It was my first class teaching my material (have been doing other activities the last few weeks) with HS Juniors. I've had them for three years. It's a frustration to speak to a screen when a lot of kids are muted and/or have their video off. Especially teaching improv. We get no automatic feedback. As a comedy person, this is extra painful. 
Thanks to the many other generous teaching artists sharing lesson plans and tips for online teaching, I found a few tips on getting students engaged right off the bat. One was to admit nobody until there were 5-6 people in the waiting room. So I did that. Someone else suggested having the teacher's mic & camera off so they chat amongst themselves, something we really don't see much of. (Except them messaging each other on other platforms.) I waited for 5-6 more and then let that group in. They chattered away for 5 minutes, as I let in a few more people one at a time. 
I had been planning to just turn on my camera & mic then and start class, but also about that time, they started going, "Wait... where IS Brady." "Yeah, where?" Then they said some things I might be doing (nothing offensive-- ribbing me for my pet subjects.) I thought it was funny, and they were more engaged as a class on one thing than I'd seen in-- uhhh--since the before times. Eventually, someone said (joking-- I think) "What if something happened to her?" "Yeah, what happened to her."
At that point, I scrapped my warm-ups and wrote in the chat:


I really thought this would maybe get me 1 second of sarcastic laughter from ~16 yr olds. But they got into it, freaking out (schmacting) about my peril. Then I said:


And at that point they all (ok mostly) got into using tactics and mirroring and ensemble work to save me. They tried doing it psychically. They asked about my whereabouts. They all (but one) made a tube with their hands for me to crawl through. The Alien commander took over my chat and made the one hold-out participate. Then the commander demanded a sacrifice. Before they actually sacrificed one of their own, they were told it could be someone from their rival department. They had a name instantly. The commander then said he had eaten this kid. (YAY!) (We like him.) 
As the problem solved, trying to find the internal logic none of us knew, they also asked specific questions about the aliens to help further their rescue plans. How many legs? (6) How many arms? (3) What color? (Purple and green, based on my wee nephew's skin color chart.) Then they did the math to make sure every alien limb was accounted for.

 This had been 15 minutes of working together and narrative-building and it seemed like maybe I should start "real" class. I teach standing up from my kitchen and at that moment David Gallagher (spouse) came by. I told him to stand in front of my computer, and I turned on the camera. Students screamed. He spoke for a few seconds and then just moved his mouth while I dubbed his voice, claiming to be trying to take over his body and therefore escape. They used more psychic powers/telekinesis to blast him off the screen at which point I finally appeared. Much applause all around, and I praised the ensemble improv skills they showed. And then we started our grading period.

I had so much fun. So, thank you to whoever it was in whichever teaching theatre online group I'm in that suggested waiting until there were 5-6 of them before I let them in. Useful.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Dad 2.0 Digital: The Takeaways

As mentioned in an earlier post, I spent this past weekend at the Dad 2.0 Digital Summit.  It was a three day affair, and overall was a great success, so I wanted to take a minute to celebrate the Dad 2.0 crew for creating a small intimate conference where men could meet, have heady discussions, share their writing, meet sponsors, and have an excellent time furthering the conversation of fatherhood.  

I have been to two or three digital conferences since the pandemic began, as well as EVERY Dad 2.0 Summit.  I'm a big fan of Doug French and John Pacini and the whole XY Media company that produces Dad 2, and I think they did a great job of adapting the original conference to a digital format while maintaining the spirit of the physical conferences.


At the closing toast, Doug and John asked for feedback on this new format-- what worked, what didn't- and  hinted that they expected that some of the innovations that occurred during the Digital Summit may make it into other summits (or that they may adapt the digital summit as a portion of their offerings)

For the most part, especially considering this was the first time they did it digitally, they did a fantastic job.  I had some minor ideas for tweaks, listed below.


The Programming.  I thought the programming was (as always) excellent.  Below this section I've gone through in greater detail about some of my favorite parts of the conference.  From a programming aspect, every aspect was well done.  The presenters were all great, and the fact that I got to go to everything (all on one track) was greatly appreciated.

Three panelists (and the moderator Doug French) from the Freelance Writing panel.

The Intimacy: I also loved the intimate nature of the event.  There were about 100 people registered, and I saw some of them on the first day, but most of the Zoom calls I saw had between 20-35 people on them.  Most of them were previous attendees, so I  knew most of them, but there were a few new guys (and at least one guy dialing in from France, and I think another from India!)   Very quickly, there was a good feeling in the Zoom chat, and lots of questions and puns and dad jokes throughout the event.

Tom & Lucy Riles
have a new book
available on Amazon

This was about 1/3 of the people who typically attend Dad 2.0.  This may not be enough people to make the conference viable, but the small number of people that were there made it feel very cozy and intimate feel like the experience we shared together was special.  I don't know what the top number of people would stop me from feeling that way.

The Comradery: More than the programming, I always love coming to Dad 2 for the comradery.  There's a good feeling in the room,  nobody's a real jerk, and people are very generous with their time, their energy, and their friendship.  This came through, especially in the happy hour, hosted by Tommy Riles and his wife Lucy , and the annual Dad Voices event, where people share their writing.  That's always a special part of the event, and it remained so in the digital version.


The sponsor activations
  There was an hour each day to meet with the sponsors, and it both wasn't enough (I had to cut about three meetings short to make sure I got to everyone so that I could get my special scavenger hunt code from them, to put me in the running to win an Amazon gift card (I am in the running, tied for first-- I think it will be a random draw)   and it was too much.  At most of the zoom rooms that I went to, I was the only person there, and the people jumped on me.  I'm not sure what can be done, but I did not feel like I got the same quality introduction/experience with the sponsors that I might normally get at the conference, and I'm guessing the sponsors might feel the same.   And even though I'm in the running for the prize for the scavenger hunt, not sure that I like the way it was handled.  
I think it could have been done in a more fun way. (see below for an idea)

Life gets in the way:  This is something else, I'm not sure how they could do it differently. Usually, when I go to a conference, I go somewhere else, and I have nothing else to do but go to the conference.  That's my full agenda.  Going to a conference while having to get lunch for my kid, take him to skating practice, help with his homework, do laundry, make dinner for the family, etc.-- all of those mundane things got in the way of me feeling even more engaged in the conference.  Perhaps if the conference were only one day long it would help.  (but then there wouldn't be the same kind of energy)

Add personal interactions:  I would have liked to see something added into the mix,  where you got to make more personal connections with people.  Maybe it's using the Zoom breakout rooms to discuss some of the issues, and then come back to the main session with your group's ideas? Or a scavenger hunt event, where there's a speed dating group to meet the sponsors, and your team wins sponsored prizes for a judged "interaction"  or quick video?  I would like more opportunities to hang out virtually with other guys and get to know them better.  If they could sign a chain restaurant sponsor (or a delivery sponsor) maybe that could happen over a small group lunch or dinner?)

These are minor quibbles. Overall, I had a great time, and can't wait to attend the next one.  

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Dad 2.0 Digital Summit Starts Today!

 This weekend I was supposed to fly to California to attend the Dad 2.0 West Coast Summit-- an extra-annual conference where marketers, social media leaders, and blogging parents connect to discuss the changing voice and perception of modern fatherhood. 


This was one of the souvenirs from a previous 
Dad 2 Summit.  It turns out, it's now worth
beaucoup bucks!
I have the rather proud distinction of having attended EVERY SINGLE ONE of these conferences.

Read my recaps of previous conferences.

 I went to the first one at my wife's insistence-- I did have a dad blog, but I wasn't thinking about marketing, I was thinking about writing, but she wanted to go to Austin for South By Southwest which was happening simultaneously, and this felt like a good way to visit Texas and write off some family vacation expenses. 

 I loved that conference-- the community of guys, some of whom I was already reading, but many that I didn't know, and the diversity and breadth of writing talent and marketing savvy was palpable.     

And I even knew a few guys there! (it turns out that unbeknownst to me, my pals from the New York City Dads Group were also attending in Austin (and also have been to every event )  Talk about Kismet!

Since that time, I've visited various places, including San Diego, San Francisco San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans, Washington DC to be with my community of dad writers, marketers, and sponsors, and it's been an important part of my "Recharging process"  in terms of my parenting writing, and why I am even blogging at all.    And I've done some great events, met some great companies.  I even got some writing work out of it!

Dad 2
One of the cool events that I got to do as part of the Dad 2.0 Community. 
Tour the Meadowlands with Doug Flutie!

This year at the last conference at the end of February in DC, they announced that they would hold an additional summit this year in Los Angeles.  I signed up for it, although wasn't sure if October would be the best time for me to travel.  But I've been to every one of the summits, and I thought what the heck.   This wasn't exactly pre-COVID-  I remember being a little leery of my cab drivers and wondering who sat in the Lyft before I got in.  But it was definitely before the lockdowns, and the mandatory masking, and the implosion of social gatherings.


Dad 2.0 made the announcement this summer that they were going digital, and that my ticket would be good for both the digital conference and the next meat-conference they hold. I was happy because with COID I wasn't planning on traveling anywhere anytime soon. 

  The three days have been on my google calendar since March, but they were just marked off as three days.  Usually when I go to a conference I have traveled there, and I have NOTHING ON MY AGENDA except for the conference.  I am there, everything else is on hold.  This week, I need to fit in the conference in between my weekly D and D game, my son's skating practice, shepherding him through his homework and virtual classroom day, my wife's busy work schedule, and more.

 When my wife and I went over the weekly schedule, I said Oh, Dad 2.0 is this week.  She said, "Well, when will you not be available for looking after our son?"  Which was both a perfectly reasonable question and something to which I had no idea.  I don't typically plan out the conference until I'm on site.  When I went to the website to look at the schedule, I noticed something that makes perfect sense, but is also a stark reminder that no matter how connected we get, we won't be together.  

The Time Zone Change!  Although it was originally a west coast conference, all of the times for the official schedule are on Eastern Standard Time.  Since I live in a Central Time Zone state, I need to translate those in my head.  And there are guys attending from Europe who have to translate everything 7 or 8 hours.

Here's the schedule- and since this is my blog, I've conveniently translated all of the times to Central.  

Do the math in your own head!


All times in Central

Wed Sept 30

2:30 PM Newbie Seminar
8:00 PM Twitter Party

Thurs Oct 1
8:30 AM Fitness with Dai Manuel (Part 1: physical)
10 AM: Opening Doug French and keynote:
Michael Ian Black
11:45 AM: Marketplace- Sponsor Networking
1:00 PM Crafting the Counter Pitch
2:30 pm Hack Search and Grow Your Audience
 3:30 PM Build Your platform
4:30 PM Stay-at-home Influence
Friday Oct 2
8:30 AM Fitness with Dai Manuel (Part 2: mental)
10 AM Workshop
11 AM: Video gaming and Family entertainment 2020 trends
11:45 AM: Marketplace Live- Sponsor Networking
1:00 PM Raising Boys To Be Good Men
2:30 PM SEO Like a CEO
3:30 PM Podcast Marketing
7 PM: Happy Hour with Tom and Lucy Riles
8 PM: Dad Voices

 Saturday Oct 3
 8:30 AM Fitness With Dai Manuel (Part 3: Nutritional)
10 AM Workshop
11 AM Hiring A Virtual Assistant
12 PM How To Pitch Anything
1 PM Freelance Writing
 2:30 PM Closing Keynote & Closing Toast


It will also be interesting to interact with the sponsors.  Typically at a conference like this, you spend a lot of time in their booth, getting to know people individually.  Not sure how it will work digitally.  

They have a fair amount of sponsors.  In the past Dove Men+Care has been their major sponsor, but they decided to sit this one out.    Here's a list of the sponsors for Dad 2 Digital.  From what I can remember, most of these sponsors have not been involved with Dad 2.0 previously.  

Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament  (which is a bold move, considering that most of their locations are either not yet allowed to operate, or are not operating at even close to full capacity.)  I love this place, and actually reviewed their Chicago show back in 2015

Here's a video I took then of some of the swashbuckling and joustingaction.

GSK-Glaxo Smith Klein-- a global health care company. 

Intellivision Amico- A throwback to the 1970's is making a comeback, and are presenting a new platform for videogames  is still around, and they are reinventing themselves to play on the same field with XBox, Playstation, and Wii.  Very excited to find out more about this!

This looks like a fun platform for playing games!

  - the wipes that were invented by a dad.

Babo Botanicals - organic, soy-free, gluten free sun care products.

Bluehost- one of the top wordpress and web hosting providers.  

Connected Camps- a not-for-profit providing fun learning experiences that foster creativity, problem solving, collaboration and interest-driven learning.
 They use Zoom and Minecraft as platforms to teach.

Constant Contact- one of the leaders in online marketing.

LiceFreee!- A safe alternative to traditional chemical pesticide head lice treatment.

Mediavine- a full service ad management and monetization partner for bloggers.

Trane a maker of HVAC and home comfort equipment.

Fathering Together is a 501c3 that supports individuals who identify as fathers to become better parents and people.


There's still time to register for Dad 2.0!  To do so, visit and click the red register button.  

It's $99 for the digital conference only, and $149 to register for the digital conference and Dad 2 2021, wherever that might be in the physical world.

I'm not sure where it will be, but I'm pretty sure I will be there!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Music Review: Keith Munslow's Exclamation Point!

I've known Keith Munslow for just about 30 years  I first met him in 1991 when he was performing for the Big Nazo Puppets, and I spent a short stint with them performing as a masked actor/puppeteer.  We probably did 8-10 gigs together as part of Big Nazo.  (Hmmmm... thinking back on it, I mostly did holiday themed shows with Keith.  We did a Halloween show, a Thanksgiving show, a Christmas show, and oh, yeah, a fair housing show at a Catholic School.  Is fair housing a holiday?  It definitely should be!)

Keith is a brilliant musician and performer, and over the years I've watched him grow as an artist.  I'm a big fan of his work.  I've seen musicals he's written, watched improvs he's directed, rocked out to his blues bands, and listened with delight to his children's music.  I've also eaten at diners with him at 3 am.  When I was directing the now defunct Bright Night Providence, the New Year's Festival, I hired Keith as often as I could, both for his kid's programming and then at night, if he was available, for an adult swing/blues program.  

What makes Keith a great performer are two things:  his virtuosity as a musician and his sense of humor.   Both of these are on display on his latest family music album Exclamation Point! 

Keith manages to meld a number of different musical styles, and makes them original and entertaining and fun to listen to.  On this album, he's got jazz numbers, show tunes, a tango, straight hard rock, and probably a few other styles I don't know.  All of them are original, and feature a combination of Keith's clever word play, bouncing rhythms, and sense of play.  

I'm especially fond of Drummin' Is Free, which is a rap/drum corp song (Keith is known as a piano player, but he is an excellent drummer.  One of the funniest improvs I ever saw him do was him playing Marching band cadences as the folk song of his people.  I was in high school band too, and they are folk songs!)  

 I also really like Waiting For The Pizza, a song that is a rollicking western number about anticipation and the meta song These Are Not The Words, which is about a guy who doesn't know the words to the song. I know that feeling really well!

There are 11 songs on the album, and all of them are worth listening to and will get your toes tapping and the muscles of your mouth curling upward into a smile.  And that's Keith's real virtuosity-- his ability to entertain.

You can purchase Exclamation Point! on Apple Itunes or directly from Keith on his website.  (and while you are there, check out his other albums, and songs including the newly released Poultry-geist sensation Ghost Chicken, and Benny's The Musical, a theatrical love album to one of Rhode Island's most beloved stores (that sadly has gone belly up)

Keith Munslow & Empire Revue: Bennys The MusicalKeith Munslow:  Ghost Chicken 

Friday, September 11, 2020

One Year of Working Out (And Counting!)

Well, I managed to surpass a couple of significant personal achievements this week, and something that is probably worth writing about and mentioning (although I feel like I might mention it entirely too much.)  But I have talked about it before, and I made my major goal, so I do feel like I have the right to talk about it here.  (And if not here, on my own blog, then where?)

I've had a couple of minor achievements in the last few days, including a 37 mile bike ride to the Museum of Science and Industry and back.  See this Facebook Live video if you want to know more (I shot it halfway through the ride!)

I also made 1250 move goals on my watch a couple of days ago.  I estimate I've had my watch for 1798 days, which means my completion of move goals is approximately 69.5%.  Considering that some of those days I didn't wear my watch at all, I think that's pretty good.

But all of those pale in comparison to my big achievement of the year.


I have spent ONE FULL YEAR working out 30 minutes every day and writing down pretty much everything that I eat!  I've lost approx. 70 lbs during that time frame, and I look and feel a lot better.  I still have more to go, but my new plan is to work out everyday for the rest of my dang life.  Who knows, maybe I'll become the new Jack LaLanne! 

When I started back on 9/11/2019, I don't think I foresaw that I could do it, that I could have the stick-to-it-ivity to do that kind of hard work, day after day after day.  I knew it was possible for someone to do it, but wasn't sure that I could do it.  At least not anymore.  

I had spent previous, less well-documented amounts of time sticking to an eating plan (I ate low carb for about 2.5 years from 2002-2005)  And I had spent about 6 months prior to that (25 years ago, from 1995-1997) going to the gym 4 times a week, and eating a low fat diet.  

One year ago, I came out of the doctor's office convinced that if I didn't lose weight this time, I was going to have gastric bypass surgery (which is still a very real possibility, if I start gaining weight again. I am not going back to being over 300 lbs again.  I refuse.) 

There are 3 main components to my weight loss "plan"   Here I explain what my commitment is, I grade myself on how I'm doing it, and talk about what I want to do better or improve in the next year.


THE COMMITMENT:  I spend at least 30 minutes every day intentionally moving my body.  

For me, the important thing is not how much I sweat or how many calories I burn, but the fact that I am doing it with the right purpose of getting better and stronger.  It could be as simple as taking a long walk with that intention, or doing a series of stretching exercises.  What I don't count is walking or doing something for some other purpose.  So when we went to Disneyworld, and we walked 10 miles a day at the Parks, I didn't count that.  I still felt that I needed to get 30 minutes of exercise in to be true to my commitment.  Sometimes I go longer, sometimes shorter, but it has to be at leat 30 minutes.


I did it everyday, even when I didn't want to, I had several times when it seemed like things were conspiring against me to work out (I showed up to the pool to Swim and the pool was closed.  And I didn't have gym clothes with me) I could have just gone home, but instead I got in my swim suit and worked out at the gym in my swim suit.  And then when I finished, the pool was open, and I got my swim on then.  When I went to visit my sister-in-law for a week, I figured out how to make exercises every day work.


I could push myself more.  Towards the end of the year, I started jumping rope, but I'm moving at it relatively slowly.   I have a desire to start running, but I'm afraid of getting hurt, so I've been avoiding it.  I need to push at my limits a little more.  I'd also like to get stronger, so I am thinking about adding some kind of kettlebell or dumb bell workout to my mix.


THE COMMITMENT:  I watch what I eat and write everything down in LoseIt.

I have often said that tracking is more important than what I eat because it forces me to pay attention. Vigilance is the best defense.  I use the app LoseIt, and at this point, I have a lot of custom recipes and typical meals that I eat.  I'm not on a low carb diet per se, but trying to eat a balanced diet, and more importantly write everything down.


If this were pre-COVID, I'd probably give myself an A.  I did write down my food everyday, and I was mostly careful about what I've eaten.  Since COVID happened, I've definitely been a little bit more lax about what I've been eating.  I'm still writing it down, but I have eaten snacks and sweets that weren't worth it, but somehow I managed to convince myself that they would be.   Out of 365 days, I've eaten less than my allotment of calories about 335 days, and some days by quite a lot.  But my weight loss is currently at a plateau, and I'm pretty sure this is why.  (Other factors, like it being harder to lose weight the lower you go, and my body's metabolism getting more efficient may also play in)


Focus on making better choices, specifically in the snacking department.  I am often snacking on an ounce of pretzels or nuts or sometimes even chips (all of which are between 140-160 calories per oz)  I need to eat fresh fruit or have some meat when I'm peckish.  A 10 oz apple has 145 calories and is much more filling.  I could eat a cup of 2% greek yogurt for 160 calories and get 22g of protein!  I think I could also work on portion control.  My lunch is typically a giant soup, and while it's filling, maybe I could less and still be full.


THE COMMITMENT: I don't eat after 9 PM, and I don't eat the next day until after 9 AM

One of the things that is hardest for me to control is night time eating.  I am a night owl, and I like to stay up late and read and watch shows, and it's very satisfying to be eating while doing this.  I made this commitment when I started, and it was hard to keep at first, and then it got easier, and lately, it's been hard again.  About 4 months after I started this process, I started reading about the idea of intermittent fasting, which is what I was already doing.  Some people intermittent fast for a day or more, or fast 23 hours, eat for 1 hour.  That seems too extreme for me, but perhaps it's in my future...


I did almost always intermittently fast.  I had a few times in the past year where I did transgress, but when that happened I mostly made up for it by not eating until at least 12 hours after my last meal.  Sometimes I went 14 or even 15 hours.  The big problem for me is that I sometimes end up eating more than I expect to or want to because I wasn't eating before.


I could extend it out so I'm doing 14-16 hours of intermittent fasting a day.  And I could make that 9 pm deadline even stronger and more ironclad.  I could also go to bed earlier.  (I am much less likely to get up out of bed to go eat something, even if I am awake.)

So that's my story.  I'm doing pretty well.  And I'm on a good path, healthwise.  I still have a long way to go.  (It's a little humbling to think about the fact that despite the fact that I've lost 70 lbs,  my BMI (Body Mass Index) still puts me in the obese category.)  My plan is by next year that will no longer be true!

One year comparison
What a difference a year makes--(and an angle) Photo on left is a selfie taken at Eiffel Tower in Paris.  Photo on right is taken in my bathroom in the mirror after a workout.  The before picture is not a great angle, but you can see the difference regardless.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Book Preview: Superhero Science by Cris Johnson

Cris Johnson is an accomplished elementary school assembly presenter.  In pre-pandemic times, Cris typically performed approximately 400 curriculum based school assembly programs across the states and in Canada, using a fast-paced combination of magic, music, audience participation, humor and fun to reinforce his messages and present education in an accessible manner.

When Covid-19 hit, Chris got busy, performing virtual shows and extending one of his shows into a book.  He recently sent me the first three chapters of that book SuperHero Science, and it really succeeds in creating a fun and funny intro to science in a way that kids are bound to enjoy.
Cris at work in one of his shows.

The basic premise is that he presents experiments that attempt to replicate, imitate, or simulate super powers.  Along the way he explains the scientific method, explains the idea of experimentation, and lays out each experiment in a casual yet professional manner.  Each experiment is laid out with the materials required (usually stuff that is around the house), the hypothesis (which, he explains, is a fancy word for educated guess) and any dangers or pitfalls that might require adult supervision (most of them do not, although don't check out parents-- you will be entertained and amazed as well!)  

And when he asks you whether or not the President of the United States may or may not have stolen your bike-- well, look out evil-doers!

Some of the experiments include forays into x-ray vision,  telekinesis, shrinking, invulnerability, and a lot more.  He explains it all in a folksy and slightly goofy way, asking people if they were aliens, how they would know if a hot dog wouldn't fly.

Cris is an experienced and entertaining performer, and that experience shows in his book.  The book is funny, relatable, and accessible to everyone.  Adults and kids alike will enjoy this adventure into science, experimentation, and imagination.  

Who knows, maybe you will even get bitten by a radioactive spider!  (My understanding from Cris is that radioactive spiders are not included with the book purchase.)

Superhero Science will be available in September 2020.  To find out more, visit Cris's website:

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Star Guard Academy: Digital LARP camp for kids starts August 17!

 A friend of mine sent this over, and it looks awesome!  

It's a LARP Camp that is played online (digitally) and has counselors acting as NPC's and moderators.

In case you don't know what a larp is, 
it stands for live action role-playing game.  The players (or campers!) physically portray their characters and pursue goals within a fictional setting represented while interacting with each other in character. It's kind of like a moderated form of make-believe with rules, or Dungeons and Dragons without rolling dice. 

The Players unlock plot, interact with camp counselors who act as different characters in the narrative, and work together to defend the galaxy.

We just enrolled my son in this camp.  Tickets are on sale through tomorrow if you are interested in enrolling your child.

Along the way I found out about the Other Worlds Theatre company, and I have to say, I have no idea why I didn't know about them before.  They seem 100% up my alley, and fairly close to my house.  

Otherworld Theatre Company was founded in June 2012 with the mission to bring a theatrical experience to the science fiction and fantasy genre. Their work celebrates the depth of human imagination by engaging our spectators with high quality storytelling. 

They have a number of shows and events that seem fantastic, in addition to the summer camp.  They have LARPs for adults (which are usually played in person, and with COVID, it's possible that those will be played online as well)- as well as (during non-COVID times) plays, events, colloquys, and all other sorts of mashups of theatre and science fiction.  It sounds like great fun, and I definitely want to keep these guys on my radar!

Their first full length production (which is available on Youtube for free until August 14) is a show called Of Dice and Men.  It's a play about gamers and Dungeons and Dragons, and during the show the game comes to life.  

Here's the synopsis (please note that it is suggested 14+ because of strong language throughout. Viewer discretion is advised.)

Few dungeon masters can make the game come to life better than John Francis. Dwarves, Mages and Barbarians jump right off of their character sheets whenever he sits down at the gaming table of frisky suburbanite parents, Linda and Brandon. John Francis’ best friends, sailor-mouthed John Alex and thoughtful jock Jason, bring roguish swagger and knightly nobility to the game. And the object of John Francis’ affection, the feisty Tara, provides all the Half Elven Double Princess backstory they could ever need. 

But when Jason enlists to go to Iraq and with the relationship with Tara going nowhere, it may be time for John Francis to hang up his twenty sided dice and take a job on the other side of the country. However, John Francis is about to discover that leaving will prove tougher than the Tomb of Horrors. A blisteringly funny and heartwarming comedy about gamers, for a general theatre audience.

Here's the video (which may or may not disappear after August 14)

You can find out more about Other World Theatre Company on their website and on their Youtube Channel:

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Switch: Take what you are doing in the real world and bring it online.

I'm going to brag a bit on my wife, Stephanie Schwab, right now, who has a great course that she is teaching coming up in a couple of weeks.
 The course is called Switch, and it's a 3-week jumpstart into changing your business from an offline business to an online business.

If you don't know my wife, she's a great person (hey, I married her) but even if she weren't my wife, I'd be recommending her.

Here's Why She's So Great To Teach This Class!

She's an ace digital marketer. She's worked in all phases of marketing, got into digital marketing almost right at the beginning, and this is totally her niche. For the past few years, she's been teaching digital marketing at a number of universities, including Loyola University Chicago, the New School in NY (where she was one of the first all-digital instructors) and at, a high tech digital university in Barcelona and Bangkok, where she is the Director of their Digital Marketing program. She also is the CEO of her own digital marketing agency, Crackerjack Marketing

The thing about her (and this is less of a brag and more straight up facts) is that she's really good at seeing and explaining the next steps that you should be taking for your business. She's quick-witted, sees your possibilities, and knows her stuff when it comes to marketing. She's also really good at creating a collaborative classroom, where all of the students form a cohort and help each other out, and that’s exactly what she’s done with Switch!


 In 3 weeks, you will take what you are currently doing off-line, and figure out (with her help) how to transform it into an online offering: a digital course, a paid webinar, an online workshop, or some other kind of online offering, and it will be strong enough that you will be able to charge money for it.

The course is three weeks long, and each week follows a similar format.

On Monday, the class goes over the plan of what you need to be working on that week, reviews the principles of the work to be done that week, and sets a plan for how to do the work.

On Wednesday, there's a Q and A with the class where you can ask any questions you have about what to do next, and talk about any problems you might be encountering.

On Saturday, there's a work review meeting, where you share with the class what you've been doing, get feedback, from the group, and make adjustments.

There's work to do in between those times to get to the next level. Stephanie estimates 3-5 hours a week additional, more if you need more. Of course, it depends on where you are in your business, how digital-ready your materials are, how comfortable you are with technology, etc.

If you miss a class, the videos are available for review, and everybody in the class gets one free 30 minute consulting call with Stephanie.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

We interrupt this period of radio silence with...

An old photo of Reagan eating ice cream, courtesy of
the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
It's National Ice Cream Day!

It was Ronald Reagan, in the hot summer days of 1984, that first declared July to be National Ice Cream Month and that the third Sunday in July would be National Ice Cream Day.

 (At the same time, Ollie North was protecting Nicaraugan drug smugglers to prop up Noriega and the Contras, and lie to the American people and congress about it with Reagan's full consent. But I digress.) 

 Let's move on to something more relevant! Ice Cream!

Ice Cream Day Deals and Contests

Here are some places to get deals on ice cream today. Offers can vary and most times are offered while supplies last. Also, please note that some of these deals require you to download an app or be signed up for emails. Because of COVID, please check your local supplier before venturing out, as local franchisees could have modified this information. This list first appeared in USA Today.

7-Eleven: Free Slurpee Day aka 7-Eleven Day 2020 was canceled due to COVID-19, but members of the 7Rewards loyalty program can still get a free medium Slurpee through July 31 at participating locations. Learn more about the offer, which has a limit of one per account, at

Baskin-Robbins: Get a free regular scoop on DoorDash orders $15 or more with promo code BASKINSCOOP. Also pay no delivery fees of orders $15 or more through July 31, no promo code needed.

Blue Bunny: The ice cream brand has launched a Ticket Exchange and says it is "delivering some sweet perks and frozen treats to fans who faced canceled or postponed events, trips and other experiences this summer." Through Sept. 2, enter for a chance to win hundreds of prizes at and all participants will get a coupon for a discounted Blue Bunny Load’d treat.

Bruster’s Real Ice Cream: Get double Sweet Rewards points through Sunday. Register for the Sweet Rewards loyalty program at

Burger King: Find several offers on the BK app including two Oreo cookie shakes for $5. Learn more at

Carvel: Get $1 off any size soft serve cup or cone of Vanilla Bourbon Toffee Sunday. This deal is available "in-shoppe only" and no coupon is needed, the company announced on Twitter.

Casper's Ice Cream: The ice cream company who owns FatBoy, vegan friendly Jolly Llama and Churn Baby says the brands will have their biggest social giveaways through the brand's Instagram accounts. To enter, you'll need to submit a video on Instagram either on your feed or story and tag at least one of the accounts (Churn Baby, Jolly Llama or FatBoy) with a video of them screaming for ice cream. They will also need to use the hashtag #iscream4icecreamCB/FB/JL (the end portion of the hashtag depends on the account). The contest ends July 27 and one winner will be selected per brand and will win a year's worth of free ice cream.

Checkers: Get free fries for joining the chain's text messaging program. Text SNACK to 88001 to sign up or sign up online at

Coconut Bliss: The brand is launching its special Insider’s Program in July and will be offering their fans the chance to win a year’s worth of free ice cream in honor of National Ice Cream Day. The company says it will share more information on its Instagram page.

Cold Stone Creamery: Through July 23, get a buy-one-get-one free Creation when you purchase a Creation online with a promo code. To get this deal, place an order online, log into your My Cold Stone Club Rewards account at check out and enter the code ICECREAM. Sign up to be a member at

Coolhaus: Get free Coolhaus ice cream at Publix with a digital coupon, while supplies last. Find Publix digital coupons at and select the offer. Must have a Club Publix account to activate the coupon, which has a maximum value of $5.99. Only one coupon per Club Publix card account. Coupon expires on August 1.

Cumberland Farms: Text the word SCOOPS to 64827 to receive $1 off any pint of Ultimate Scoops Sunday through Tuesday, July 21. Existing members of the text database will automatically receive the coupon Sunday.

Dairy Queen: Get a $1 off Dipped Cones Sunday through the chain's mobile app Sunday. The deal excludes kids cones.

Dickey's Barbecue Pit: Get a free ice cream cone with purchase of any entrée Sunday.

George Bush getting an ice cream cone and giving an
unfortunately Hitlerian salute.
DoorDash: The on-demand delivery company has several deals at convenience retailers through Sunday with code ICECREAM5OFF. Participating retailers include: CVS, Walgreens, 7-Eleven, Wawa, Casey's, Hasty Market, Circle K, Everyday Essentials Corner Store, GetGo, Speedway, Market On Demand, Royal Farms, Holiday Stationstore, Fast Mart, ExtraMile, Fresh Thyme and Smart & Final.

Fresh Market: The grocery store chain has select varieties of Graeter’s Ice Cream on sale for $4.99 and pints of Coolhaus are on sale for two for $8.

Friendly's: In celebration of its 85th birthday and National Ice Cream Day, Friendly's is offering 85 cent cones Saturday and Sunday to members of its BFF club. Sign up for the club at

Godiva: All soft serve and sundaes will be buy-one-get-one half off Sunday, the company posted on Twitter.

Good Humor: In honor of Good Humor’s 100th anniversary this year, the brand says it released limited edition anniversary packaging for its Strawberry Shortcake Frozen Dessert Bars. Each package features a coupon valued at $2 that can be redeemed on any one Good Humor six-count or four-count product, the company told USA TODAY.

goPuff: Get two select pints of ice cream for $6 Sunday.

Häagen-Dazs: The ice cream company is launching the “Fantasy Flavor Scoop Off,” an imaginative flavor idea contest. One winner will get 24 coupons for a year's worth of free ice cream. To enter, follow Häagen-Dazs on Instagram and look for its contest announcement post Sunday.

Insomnia Cookies: Get a buy-one-get-one free deal on the chain's new Monster’wiches Sunday. The company said in a tweet that its Cookie'wich is buy-one-get-one free Saturday and Sunday.

McDonald's: Find deals on McDonald's app. Also, each Friday through Sept. 27, get a free medium fries each Friday on mobile orders with a minimum $1 purchase when using an app offer.

My/Mo: To celebrate National Ice Cream Month and National Ice Cream Day, My/Mo is giving away 100,000 mochi balls with its "first ever Chompionship Games – a virtual competition for ice cream lovers everywhere to play for their own free box of My/Mo." Learn more at

Pressed Juicery: Get 50% off Freeze and Frozen mini cups Sunday.

Sensodyne: The sensitive toothpaste brand has a giveaway on Twitter noon ET Sunday in select parts of the country. To participate, tweet #SensodyneSundae, plus #giveaway and include the ice cream emoji, for a chance to win one free pint of ice cream, Sensodyne Rapid Relief toothpaste and more, while supplies last. The contest's participating cities include New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia. See the rules here.

Snickers: Through Monday, July 20, enter for a chance to win a box of Snickers Peanut Brownie from the first batch. Reply to social posts about what you're willing to do for the new candy. Learn more and see the contest rules here.

So Delicious: On Sunday, the company is giving 50 fans the chance to win free customized pints of the dairy-free frozen dessert. The brand will share recipes on its Instagram account and 50 fans who comment on their favorite recipe that day and mention a friend they’d like to share it with will be randomly selected to receive two free personalized pints. Find the contest rules at

Sonic Drive-In: Download the Sonic app for deals at

The Ice Cream Shop: Get free delivery through Uber Eats, Postmates, DoorDash and Grubhub Sunday. Promo code ICECREAMNOW is needed on Postmates orders.

Wendy's: The fast food chain has various deals on its app and website. Download the app at

White Castle: Find coupons, including a free drink with no required purchase, at

Whole Foods Market: Amazon Prime members get 35% off all ice cream and frozen treats through Tuesday at Whole Foods. Also look for rebates on the Ibotta app from Bubbies for its mochi ice cream and other brands.

Yogurtland: Real Rewards members get double the points Sunday for every takeout order. Sign up at

More deals: Locally owned businesses and regional chains also may have specials for National Ice Cream Day. One of the easiest ways to find out is to check restaurants' social media channels.