On the Origin of Egging Someone On

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“Stop egging your sister on.”

It is a phrase that I’ve used as a parent, though I’ve never understood it. Is “egging” even the right word?

For the longest time, I thought that the real phrase was “agging,” which isn’t even a word, but I justified it because I thought it was somehow slang for “aggravating” or something like that. But I was woefully wrong.

The phrase really is to “egg on,” and it has nothing to do with a bird’s eggs or being on top of anything. The verb form of “egg” has the same etymological root as the word “edge.” Thus to “egg someone on” carries the same idea as “edging them onward” or leading them down a specific path. As we use it, it specifically refers to leading someone down the path of frustration.

So now I can say the phrase with confidence, even if I don’t want to say it because it means that my kids are aggravating each other. Oh well.

Word power!

I Am a Former Dalmatian Owner

spot_the_caveman_eaterI got Spot when I was in middle school. He was a dalmatian puppy, the runt of the litter, and I paid for him with my hard-earned paper route money. Had I done a bit more research, I may have chosen a different breed of dog, but as it was, I was able to give Spot a better home than the one into which he was born.

Here’s a brief history of the dalmatian breed: They are originally from the Dalmatia region of Croatia, thus the name. And they are known by two other nicknames, the carriage dog, and the firehouse dog. The reason for both the these names stems from the dalmatian’s unique relationship with horses. You see, no other dog holds a horse’s gaze so well as a dalmatian. They calm and comfort horses, which is why they are handy pets to have if you drive a horse-drawn carriage, or you need to get your horse-drawn fire wagon (from the earliest days of fire-fighting) anywhere near a burning building (which is somewhere that horses do not naturally like to be). By the time that fire engines took over the horse’s job, the dalmatian’s association with the profession was too established to disrupt. This is also why the dalmatian is part of the logo on Coachmen campers.

Dalmatians, as I learned after the adoption was finalized, are a breed that has been blessed and cursed by stardom. Who hasn’t heard of the Disney classic 101 Dalmatians?

Pongo and Perdita are the very picture of the perfect dog. They are loving, loyal, and they look cool. How could a movie that casts dalmatians in such a positive light be a curse to the breed? Mainly because once everyone knew about dalmatians (or thought they knew them from their cartoon counterparts), everyone wanted one for a pet. This popularization led to massive breeding mistakes. In order to cash in on the breed, owners that had male and female siblings bred them with each other to meet the demand, leading to a whole generation of inbreeding complications.

That’s the story of where my messed up puppy came from. When I started looking for a dog, I searched newspaper ads for a while, but I didn’t find anything until a friend from church mentioned that their neighbor’s dalmatians just had some puppies. I called and they came out to do a home visit. Shortly after that, I passed over some cash and I had my dog.

I soon found out that there was a reason that they had done a home visit to me rather than having me come out to their house, and it had nothing to do with making sure that my home was suitable for a dog. A couple of weeks after I got Spot, I received word from my church friends who were neighbors with Spot’s original owners. They had skipped town, leaving their dogs in the house without food or water. By the time the authorities went into the home, one of the dogs was dead and the others had to be put down.

If I hadn’t adopted my dog when I did, he would have died.

As it was, his life was marked by neurosis and I’m fairly certain that he was a pure inbred. I don’t mean to dissuade anyone from getting a dalmatian. I do mean to encourage you to do your research about dog breeds if you are considering a new pet. Also, if a movie comes out and popularizes a specific type of pet, be wary of getting one of that kind. And if you already have that breed, please don’t inbreed it just to make a quick buck.

But if you are in a spot like I was and you have the opportunity to give a pet a better home than certain death, feel free to do the right thing, even if it is with a breed of dog that has been hindered by popularity.

Do you have a favorite breed of dog? What fascinating thing can you share about it?

Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. Worried that robots are going to steal your job? Check here to see if you are safe.
  2. At one time in my life, I really wanted to be an astronaut. Space fascinated me. But my aspirations changed when I made two realizations about myself: I really don’t like the idea of dying in space (always a possibility), and I am probably not smart enough to work for NASA. Little did I know that all you needed for some NASA jobs was the ability to lie down for months at a time.
  3. I don’t know if you can claim the title of pyrotechnics expert if you blow yourself up with your house, but that’s what the headline says.
  4. Where’s Waldo? (He’s really in there somewhere).
  5. When I die, I don’t need a giant pyramid like they had in Egypt, just something reasonable like the 40 foot high ones that they had in Sudan.

Enjoy!

Creative Communities

creativity_incI am reading Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace. Ed Catmull is one of the co-founders of Pixar. Though his name is probably the least known of the Pixar co-founders—Steve Jobs and John Lasseter being the other two—Ed is the true pioneer in the landscape of computer animation. And he owes much of his success to the collaborative, creative approach of his computer science professors at the University of Utah.

One of my classmates, Jim Clark, would go on to found Silicon Graphics and Netscape. Another, John Warnock, would co-found Adobe, known for Photoshop and the PDF file format, among other things. Still another, Alan Kay, would lead on a number of fronts, from object-oriented programming to “windowing” graphical user interfaces. In many respects, my fellow students were the most inspirational part of my university experience; this collegial, collaborative atmosphere was vital not just to my enjoyment of the program but also to the quality of the work that I did.
—Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc.

I know of another such creative community who saw success: the Inklings. The most famous members of the Inklings were C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, but there were a number of successful writers in the group, each creating things in their chosen genre that are known and loved to this day.

Click here for information on a few of the lesser known Inklings

And I am proud to say that I am in such a group as well. My writers group, the Weaklings, may not be as well-known or well-published as the Inklings, or as financially or industriously successful as Ed Catmull’s group from the U of U, but we’re growing more by our combined efforts than we could if we were struggling alone.

Together, we have launched blogs, participated in writing contests, been published in various magazines and books, and founded a writers conference that is free and welcome to everyone.

Creative communities work because they work together. Are you part of a community?

Bob Evenhouse is right.

I recently attended the Jot Writers Conference, and even though I was required to because I was one of the evening’s speakers, I would have wanted to go anyway. After people were finished suffering through my presentation, they were able to enjoy a whole evening of great thoughts on blogging, self-editing, poetry, and rejections from the editors.

bob_evenhouseThere was a lot of great content, but there was one particular part that made me think more than the rest. It happened during Bob Evenhouse‘s presentation on blogging and it had to do with the content of the blog.

As a blogger, I am keen to learn how to improve my craft. Bob’s blog is older than mine, but for a long time, I don’t know how much effort he wanted to devote to it. You see, when he started his blog back in the day, he was more passionate about writing high fantasy than he was about blogging, so his novels received the lion’s share of his time and attention. The blog existed to be part of his platform so that when he submitted one of his aforementioned novels for publication, he would have something of an online presence for a publisher to see.

After limping along from post to post, Bob knew that something needed to change. So he took a month-long break from blogging in order to ask himself some tough questions. What was his blog accomplishing? What did he want it to be? How could he use it to further his other writing endeavors? And how did his blog differ from the ones that he followed on a regular basis?

Those are all good questions, and I’ve found myself asking them about my own blog recently. But the one thing that stuck out to me in his whole presentation was this: Bloggers should have a consistent theme within their blog and avoid posting on a hodgepodge of topics.

Bam!

Bob nailed my blog. If I have a theme to my posts, it is only that I wrote them. I realized on the way home that I could easily segment my blog into seven different topical blogs where I would post once a week on each, and possibly have more successful followings. I write autobiographical content, word and phrase origins, book reviews, recipes, writing and publishing tidbits, Lego prompts, and random other things.

I was convicted by Bob’s presentation because he’s right. If a publisher were to look at my blog to see my platform, I don’t know if that publisher would be able to tell how my blog writing relates to my book proposal. And that’s a problem.

I’ll be reevaluating things. I still plan on writing, even if it is a hodgepodge of posts, but I’d like to reign things in a bit. Bear with me as I do.

I am enamored with disorderly used book stores.

The first impression that my wife and I had of Lowry’s Books in Three Rivers, Michigan was made when we parked outside the front entrance, or what we thought was the front entrance, anyway. The door that we parked near had a sign on it that said, “Lowry’s Books–The main entrance is five doors down.” We hadn’t even made it inside the bookstore and we were impressed by the expansiveness of the place.

The inside of Lowry’s Books is everything that a book lover would love in a used book store. There were books everywhere, floor to ceiling. There were huge stacks of books sitting on the ground. Bookshelves were arranged in a maze-like pattern, drawing the shopper deeper and deeper into used book heaven. And every time you thought you had come to the last room of books, you’d discover a doorway into another whole room of books.

The reason that my wife and I went to Lowry’s Books was because I was speaking at the Jot Writers Conference being held there. Had I known the used book glory that awaited us there, we probably would have made it there earlier in the day to accommodate the time needed to shop. As it was, I probably spent too much time buried in the stacks after the conference when I should have been hobnobbing with fellow writers. But if there is a community of people who would forgive me for ignoring them in favor of books, it is a fellowship of writers who attended Jot.

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Thanks again, to Tom from Lowry’s Books who allowed us to host our event there, but thank you also for having such a delightful bookstore in the first place. If you are ever within driving distance of Three Rivers, Michigan, Lowry’s is worth the trip. Just leave yourself a few hours to shop in order to make the trip worthwhile.

Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. In preparation for my talk at Jot tomorrow, you may want to brush up on your Norse gods.
  2. How does an investigative journalist find a person on the Most Wanted list when the FBI can’t even find them? They call every bar in the state and ask to talk to them.
  3. As we head into fall, you may be looking for some yummy apple-related dishes. Personally, I think this Bloomin’ Baked Apple thing looks pretty amazing.
  4. What is the best way to welcome airplanes to an airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin? With a sign that says “Welcome to Cleveland” of course!
  5. One of my favorite and most useless interests as a kid was origami. I’d fold all kinds of things that would then need to be thrown away. And now, you can too!

Enjoy!

Jot is this Saturday!

2015_jot_6_poster (1)The Jot Conference is this Saturday, September 12th from 6-10pm at Lowry’s Books in Three Rivers, Michigan.

You should come. We still have a few open seats. The best way to make sure that you have one of those seat is to sign up here.

If you don’t know what Jot is, it is the writers conference started by my writers group, The Weaklings. Other writers conferences have fancy, well-published speakers and last for days at a time. Those conferences also cost a bucket of money and require more time than most of us have available. Jot is free, only one night, and it is a great place to connect with other writers. Plus, we build a bit of time into the conference so you can get some writing done too.

This is the sixth Jot conference that we’ve held, but it is the first that we’ve held outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan. And like the first Jot ever, the speakers for this Saturday are made up of the writers in The Weaklings. We’re basically hitting the reset button on the whole thing to start it in another city.

For our Grand Rapids writing pals who are worried that we won’t be coming back to Beer City, USA, don’t worry, we’ll be back in the spring. But if you can make it to Three Rivers this Saturday, you should come. Even if you don’t like any of the presentations (which are free so you shouldn’t complain), the bookstore that is hosting Jot is worth the trip. Picture in your head the perfect used bookstore. You just pictured Lowry’s.

I hope to see you there!