This is about truth. This is about choice. This is about life before death…This is Water.

In a commencement address in 2005, David Foster Wallace told the graduates of Kenyon College that they were about to face a life of boredom, routine, and petty frustration. He said, “The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what ‘day in day out’ really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. [One of these is that] the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.”

David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace (Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

He then explains that the real value of their education is not in teaching them to think,
but in teaching them how to think, by providing them the ability to make a choice about what they think, and when they think it. He continues:

But please don’t just dismiss it as just some finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death.

The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

“This is water.”

I could go on about this, but I could never do it the justice that the author did, so I will merely provide the following and encourage you– as strongly as possible– to watch it and then read the transcript. I’m telling you, truer words may have never been spoken and few commencement addresses provide as much real world advice to graduates. This should be required reading in colleges throughout the country.

Video: This is Water

A note about the author: David Foster Wallace was an award-winning American novelist, short story writer and essayist (as demonstrated with applomb by “This is Water.” His second novel, Infinite Jest, was cited as one of the 100 best novels from 1923-2005 by Time magazine. 

Sadly, he suffered greatly from depression and hung himself in 2008, at the age of 46.



This is how you celebrate the end of Lent

graceEveryone had a play date yesterday except for Grace. So when Char came home, they decided the two of them would ride their bikes to Huddles for some frozen yogurt. When they rang up the totals, there was a significant disparity in the cost between their cups.

Char said, “Grace, my gosh, my yogurt was only $2 and yours was $6.50.”

Grace looked at her cup of two flavors of frozen yogurt, topped with gummy bears, mini white chocolate chips, and Nerd candy and said, “Mom, I haven’t had candy for 40 days. Don’t judge me.”

Why You Should Teach Your Kids to Write Code

Well, it’s Friday… another week gone by, another month in the history books, and another conversation about how hard it is to find people who can write programming code.

So it was in this spirit that Tom brought this video to my attention. It’s simply brilliant, and raises a question that has the potential to haunt us all in the future: If we don’t encourage our kids to learn to code, how will we find qualified people to fill the shortage of computer programmers?

Fortunately, there are some great resources available. Take a look at for advice on helping your kids start the process of learning to create things with their hands, intelligence and problem solving skills . You can also find resources to help you teach, even if you’re learning yourself.

The MIT Medialab has created a really cool tool called Scratch, which teaches kids to learn programming basics in a web-based drag and drop environment. While being simple to use, it also helps them understand advanced concepts like variables and object-oriented code.

One more thing…
If you know of anyone who is writing code and wants to be a part of a great team, send them our way.

“You’ve just been pep-talked!”

Kid President's Awesome YearEveryone needs a little pep talk now and then. Here’s yours for today, presented by Kid President, a kid with wisdom beyond his years. His primary message: “You were made to be awesome. Now get out there and get to it.”

I suggest you watch it. Bookmark it. Then come back tomorrow and watch it again.

Some pearls of wisdom in there, including these:

The world needs you; stop being boring. Boring is easy, everybody can be boring. But you’re gooder than that.

This is life, people! You got air coming through your nose! You got a heartbeat! That means it’s time to do something!

A poem: “Two roads diverged in the woods. And I took the road less traveled. AND IT HURT, MAN!” Really bad! Rocks! Thorns! Glass! My pants broke! NOT COOL ROBERT FROST!

But what if there really were two paths? I want to be on the one that leads to awesome.

It’s like that dude Journey said: ‘Don’t stop believing. Unless your dream is stupid. Then you should bet a better dream.’ I think that’s how it goes. Get a better dream, then keep goin’, keep goin’, and keep goin’.

What if Michael Jordan had quit? Well, he did quit. But he retired, yeah that’s it, he retired. But before that? In high school? What if he quit when he didn’t make the team? he would have never made Space Jam. (And I love Space Jam.)

What will be your Space Jam? What will you create when you make the world awesome? Nothing if you keep sitting’ there! This is why I’m talking to you today!

This is your time! This is my time! This is our time! We can make every day better for each other.

If we’re all on the same team, let’s start acting like it. We’ve got work to do. We can cry about it, or we can dance about it.

You were made to be awesome. Let’s get out there!

I don’t know everything, I’m just a kid. But I do know this: It’s everyone’s duty to give the world a reason to dance. So get to it.

You’ve just been pep-talked!

This is exactly how I feel about what the team is doing here at Rare Bird. These guys are creating awesome every day, often without any fanfare and definitely not enough dancing. So kudos to you, Birds. Now get back out there and get to it!

(Note: Kid President dedicated this pep talk to Gabbi, “who is fighting cancer. Like a boss!” This kid is awesome. Here’s a little more background info on Robby, aka Kid President.)

When #everything has a #hashtag, #nothing does.

Hashtags might be the most nuanced thing about using social media. As a result, it can be tough (especially for someone new to the concept) to understand how to use them correctly. To help you get the most out of this small but mighty tool (and help you avoid looking… well, #stupid) here’s a quick primer on what the hashtag is and how you should use it.

Hashtags are any word that has the hash mark (#) attached. For example, in the headline of this article, #everything, #hashtag and #nothing are all hashtags. Ideally, people use these tags to identify items they feel are related to an overall concept or conversation. Here are a few examples from Twitter:

Be careful using hashtags to ensure your intent is understood

Two million tragic stories of loss… and one pair of Hello Kitty slippers. Be careful using hashtags to ensure your intent is understood.

When you see a hashtag, it’s intended to give you a clue to what the item is about while also linking to other items with the same tag. When you click on a tag, it’s like doing an instant search on the social network for all of the other items with that same tag.

This behavior can be powerful and useful. When the Superbowl was in Indianapolis, many of the messages on social networks from local users contained a variation of a Superbowl-related tag. It was common to see #Superbowl, #Superbowl46, or #sb46. One of the problems, of course, is that there is no official tag list, so there are often variations of similar tags. Additionally, on social networks with a limited number of characters (Twitter limits you to 140), it can be a challenge to add a relevant hashtag, let alone more than one.

Twitter will also use hashtags to show you topics that are “trending”, or rising in popularity. Looking at this list will show you what people are currently talking about and enable you to add your voice to the conversation. It will also help to highlight some of the problems with hashtags: Since there is no ‘hashtag authority,’ people can use a trending tag to have their post show up even if it’s totally unrelated. You can think of this as “hashjacking.” It’s annoying and makes you look like an obnoxious ass. Don’t do it. Here’s an example:

Rule of thumb: If you want to make your content easier to find, adding a hashtag can help. To be most effective, do a little research first and try to figure out which tag seems to make the most sense and use that. Try to limit your use of tags to just a few.

Some social networks, like Instagram, have no limits on the size of the comments you can add. As a result, you might see an image with several tags. Ultimately, this is completely up to you, but you might want to pause just long enough to consider a couple of things.

First, since there are no rules about hashtags, you’re free to add anything you want. But before adding a tag, you should consider if it has a ‘default’ use. Recently, I saw someone lamenting about a pair of shoes that had been eaten by their dog. They used the tag #rip in the post. I’m not sure if they meant this to mean that the shoes were ‘ripped’ or that they wanted the shoes to ‘rest in peace’, but the common usage of the tag is for the latter. So if you look at all of the photos using this tag, there are some truly heartbreaking stories about tragedy and loss…and one pair of destroyed shoes. Be cautious.

Second, consider how many tags you want to add and your motivation for doing so. If you want to tag that photo of the sky you took with #clouds and #beautiful or even #sky, feel free. This is especially true if you’re adding something new to an existing conversation. But if you feel compelled to keep going, adding things like #blue #monday #instagram #ig #awesome #cool #photooftheday #selfie etc., you might pause long enough to wonder why. Often, adding multiple tags allows people (and/or computer bots) to find and “like” your contribution. In many cases, the bots do this hoping that you’ll follow them back so they can use their inflated number of followers to peddle their influence.

If you’re just hoping total strangers find your photo and ‘like’ it…well, why? Sure, we all recognize that the point of social media is to find out how much people ‘like’ us, but do we really care if they’re total strangers? (There was a great deal of sarcasm in that last sentence.) On the other hand, you might use hashtags to categorize your own photos, so you can come back later and click a tag to see all of your other pictures of #mykids (and every other photo tagged the same) and if people don’t like, screw ’em! That’s also completely up to you (remember, there is no hashtag clearing house or police to tell you what you can and can’t do.) But: It might make you look a little odd, or desperate, or whatever, so keep that in mind. These are just people tapping a little button, they aren’t likely to follow you into battle or help you hide a body.

Look, all sarcasm aside, social media is supposed to be fun. So, by all means, join us and add your voice to the conversation. And if you feel that your contribution should be part of the greater collection, then add all (please, just a few) of the (related) hashtags you want. I’ll be looking forward to your contributions.