Lincoln's Fart Joke

It may surprise you to learn that Abraham Lincoln, widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best, Presidents in American History, was a big fan of crude humor. He was also apparently a good storyteller - it was said he "could make a cat laugh." I heard this joke of his re-told today and it brought me to tears. Apparently it's not close to the crudest he told (one contemporary referred to him as "possibly the most obscene individual ever"), but it is, in my estimation, gut-bustingly hilarious:

There was a party once, not far from Springfield, and among the crowd was one of those men who had audacity. Cheeky, quick-witted, never off guard on any occasion. The audacious man, chosen to be the carver of the turkey at the dinner table, whetted his great carving knife and got down to business carving the bird. The man of audacity expended too much force and let a fart, a loud fart, so that all the people heard it distinctly. It shocked all.

A deep silence reigned.

However, the audacious man was entirely self-possessed. He pulled off his coat, rolled up his sleeves, spat on his hands, whetted the carving knife again, never cracking a smile or moving a muscle on his face. It became a wonder in the minds of all the men and women how the fellow was to get out of his dilemma. He squared himself and said loudly and distinctly, “Now, by God, I’ll see if I can’t cut up this turkey without farting!”
If you don't think that's funny I really don't know what to tell you. And if you don't think I'm going to share this joke with every single history class I teach from now on you don't know me very well.


The Stimulus – I hope I’m Wrong

image So I figure I’ll post on the stimulus package being signed soon by President Obama (aka the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act”).  It begins at $787 billion dollars and is certain to cost over a trillion dollars once everything is taken into account.  I have a few problems with this bill and think it is going to make things worse, not better.  I hope I’m wrong, but I’m afraid I’m not. 

I don’t think government spending is the right way to get the economy out of a depression.  Keynesian Economics follows the principle that when an economy hits a downturn one of the chief ways for the Government to stimulate the economy is to increase spending.  In this way the Government is supposed to be creating demand that the consumers aren’t creating, thus keeping business in business and keeping people employed.

While FDR gets a lot of credit as one of our greatest Presidents, no serious historian or economist argues that the New Deal is what got the U.S. out of the Great Depression.  For those of you who don’t remember your U.S. History, the New Deal is the name for the unprecedented Federal spending undertaken by FDR in an attempt to get the U.S. out of the Great Depression in the 1930’s.  He started all kinds of Government agencies, instituted Social Security, and greatly expanded the role of the Federal Government.  We take it for granted today that many things are the responsibility of the Government that used to be the responsibility of individuals.  That’s a whole different post – but it appears to me that when massive Government programs have been tried in the past to rescue the U.S. from a depression, they have not worked.  In fact, a recent study led many economists to believe that the New Deal actually had the opposite effect and prolonged the Great Depression.

What makes this so difficult for people like us is that we have “expert” economists telling us opposite things.  Some say this massive stimulus package is necessary and others say it is not.  They all have lots of degrees and knowledge and whatever else that is supposed to make them know more than us…but they have totally divergent points of view on whether this will work or not.  It seems to me if you’re going to borrow and spend around a trillion dollars you should have a pretty powerful consensus that it’s going to work.  I’ve heard those in favor of this bill saying that “doing something is better than doing nothing.”

That may be true – but if that something is an unprecedented amount of spending and taxes foisted upon our children and their children – spending money we do not have – I’m not sure this something is better than nothing.  From where I stand the burden of proof is on those calling for this gargantuan spending and I don’t think they’ve met it.  Especially when you consider the historical context and the failure of the New Deal to get us out of the Depression.

There is all kinds of spending in this bill that seems to have very little with “stimulus” in the form of creating jobs and is more in line with a bunch of government programs that people have wanted to get passed and now they have the chance under the guise of “saving the economy.”  I understand there is a genuine philosophical difference – for some any government spending qualifies as “stimulus” (therefore “waste” doesn’t matter because you’re not spending for product, you’re spending just to spend because that by its very nature is supposed to be stimulative – a la this article) but I don’t think it’s controversial to question the stimulative value of much of the crap in this bill.  It’s telling that those in favor of the bill would actually argue that inefficient use of money doesn’t really matter as long as we’re spending money.

I for one would like to know that if the Government is taking my money they are spending it efficiently and not just to spend it.  Especially in this case when they are spending hundreds of billions of dollars they don’t have – that they are going to take from you and me and our children and their children.  We have to borrow this money from foreign countries like China.  It can’t be conjured up out of thin air.  If we borrow at this rate there’s no guarantee we won’t see some super inflation and see foreign investors stop loaning us money.  I see it as a massive trainwreck and I honestly have some fear about how it’s going to work out (or not work out).

Obama has recently been criticizing the opposition to the bill, saying that those in opposition are obstructionists who (and he says this repeatedly) think “tax cuts alone” will solve the problems and have a “knee jerk anti-government reaction.”  That kind of dishonest rhetoric coming from someone who talks big about being bi-partisan is pretty disheartening.  While Republicans have zero credibility in criticizing wasteful government spending because they spend like crazy, that does not mean there is no valid reason to criticize the stimulus package. 

Many who oppose the bill are like myself – believe some Government spending may be a good idea, in combination with tax cuts – but don’t want to spend such a massive amount of money or spend it on so many questionable and wasteful programs.  Especially after the TARP (bank bailout) has seen us throw hundreds of billions away with nobody having any real clue what happened to the money (other than executives giving themselves large bonuses at our expense).

I hope this stimulus package succeeds.  I hope I am wrong and this spending really does get the economy back on track.  History gives me very little reason to believe this will be the case, but I’ll hope for it anyway.  That’s all I can do.  But mark me down as someone opposed to this stimulus package and someone who is looking at the future of the U.S. with less optimism than I used to.


Stay Motivated 8: Stop making excuses.

8. Stop making excuses.  The main gist of all these suggestions I’ve offered is to remove any kind of excuse you can make to yourself that will keep you from persevering.  Excuses are the real enemy, and they come up all the time.  Excuses got me to be a big fatty most of my life that was unhappy with how he looked but did nothing about it anyway.  Each of the suggestions on staying motivated I’ve offered have been linked to excuses that I’ve had to deal with.  You probably have your own set.  If you’re going to get healthy, eat right, and exercise – you have to stop making whatever excuses you make.

image If you allow yourself to make excuses then you’re going to fail, and it will be your fault.  If you’ve decided you want to make a change, then make it.  If you’re not ready and you’re going to listen to your own excuses, then don’t make it.  But don’t blame anyone or anything other than yourself.  Your health is your own responsibility.  We all have different obstacles to overcome when it comes to our health.  Some have medical conditions that make some stuff harder than others.  Healthy looks different for all of us (remember number 7).  But you’re not helpless.  You have the strength and power to make the change you want – if you will let yourself succeed, and if you will stop making excuses. 

You are not too busy to eat right and exercise.  I’ll compare my schedule with yours over the past year any day of the week and I can just about guarantee I’ve got as much going on in my life as you do.  You have the time.  The question is whether or not you will make the time.  Saying you “don’t have time” is the lamest thing ever.

Do you want to spend the rest of your life whining and feeling bad about your health or how you look?  Then by all means give in to the excuses that keep you in bed in the morning, or the rationalizations that allow you to eat those extra five cookies at the end of the day.  But if you really want to change and if you really want to succeed – you have to stop making excuses.  Stop selling yourself short.  You really can do it.  Trust me.  If I can do it, you absolutely can do it.


Stay Motivated 7: Don’t compare yourself to others.

dolphin cow jump 7. Don’t compare yourself to others.  Sometimes I look at someone else and think “you know, no matter how hard I work out I am never going to look like that.”  That’s not always a bad thing – I don’t want to be as swole as some dudes, so it’s not particularly de-motivating.  Other times, it is.  Sometimes I look at all the fit, good-looking people and think that I will never look as good as they do.  “So why bother at all?” comes the little voice in my head.  “You’ll never look as good as they do so why bother trying?  Just enjoy eating whatever you want and sleeping instead of getting up to work out.  It’s pointless anyway.”

If and when you find yourself thinking that way – ignore it.  You’re trying to get fit because you want a change in your own life.  You’re not happy with your situation.  You need to be happy with yourself in relation to yourself – not in relation to others. It goes back to the reasons you’re doing this – are you working out to look better than anyone else?  Or are you working out to look better than you currently do?  Are you working out to have bigger broceps than that guy curling 150lb dumbbells, or are you working out to be healthy and live longer?  You’ve got to know why you’re doing what you’re doing so you can stop the comparison game.  Just worry about yourself.


Stay Motivated 6: Eat and exercise efficiently.

6. Eat and exercise efficiently.  I don’t know about you but I want to know if I am inconveniencing myself I want to know it’s for something that’s going to work.  When I changed my eating and exercise habits I did some homework to make sure I wouldn’t just be spinning my wheels.  If you’re on some diet or doing some kind of exercise that you’re not absolutely convinced will work – you’re not going to stick with it.  You need to have the confidence that you will benefit from the sacrifices you are making. 

mmmmmham Do whatever you need to do to learn about and convince yourself that what you’re doing is going to work.  If you think you’re just doing another gimmick diet or workout that will not help you succeed in the end, then you’re probably going to give up.  You need to be able to shut that voice up inside of you that says “what’s the point, this isn’t going to work” when you’re pushing yourself during a workout or choosing to eat healthy instead of crappy.  Be confident that the way you’re eating is going to be effective.  Be confident that the exercise you’re doing is actually helping you.  Do some homework and be smart about it – it will give you an extra boost when you’re looking for excuses to give up.

Note: this means you do actually have to do homework.  I don’t mean you should just pick some diet and then tell yourself over and over that it will work until you believe it completely.  There are bad diets out there, there is bad information, there are bad fads.  It’s possible to bust your butt working out and eating a certain way and end up wasting your time.  So do your homework and make sure that’s not you.  Decide what you want and then figure out the best way to make it happen.


Stay Motivated 5: Buy new clothes.

5. Buy new clothes.  If you drop weight and can therefore fit into new clothes – go buy some.  It may sound dumb but when I bought a pair of 36” waist jeans (instead of the 38/40 I was wearing before) it was a huge encouragement to me.  If money’s a problem just go to the thrift store – you can find at least one article of clothing there that will do you justice.  And if not you can at least laugh at how you can wear ugly clothes that are smaller than the ones you wore before.

image It is so awesomely motivating to wear clothes you did not wear before because you looked bad in them, and now you look better.  Or to wear something smaller than you wore before.  Every time I put on a pair of 34” pants I feel motivated.  You might also try out new kinds of clothes you didn’t bother with before.  Today I am wearing a button-up shirt, tucked into a pair of NON-JEANS (gasp) – and you can see my belt.  When I looked in the mirror and actually saw my belt – it made me excited to wake up early tomorrow morning and get to the gym.  So you may not think about it – but if you’ve lost some weight go try on some clothes that are smaller than the ones you currently wear – you may surprise yourself. 


Stay Motivated 4: Talk to others about it.

image 4. Talk to others about it!  If you keep your goals or desire for change a secret it’s easier to give up on it.  We all know you shouldn’t care what other people think – but we all do to an extent.  So tell somebody, or lots of somebodies, about what you want to do. That way you can be shamed into continuing when you need to.  Sure, you could give up, but then those people you told are going to realize you’re just another one of those people that talks about wanting to get healthy but never does anything about it.  Do you want to be that guy?  I sure don’t.

Me blogging about this is another way of talking about it.  Look at me talking all big – I better live up to it.  Or I’m going to have a bunch of friends thinking “Jackson is so lame.”  Come to think of it, I probably already have a bunch of friends that think that.  But I want it to be for other reasons.  Share your intentions to change with at least one other person and it will increase your chances of sticking with it.


Stay Motivated 3: Know why you are doing this.

 image 3. Know why you are doing this.  Why are you making this change?  Why are you trying to get in shape?  Why are you trying to eat better?  Why are you passing on that glorious piece of cheesecake?  Why are you dragging yourself out of bed and getting in your car to go work out when you could get another hour of sleep?  If you don’t know the answers to these questions, and if your answers aren’t sufficient for you – you will fail.

When I first lost weight before meeting Janelle my primary motivation was to get thinner so girls would like me.  As I ran around Lake Elizabeth or ate my chicken breast at Outback while my buddies savored the garlic mashed potatoes I would remember why I was doing this: for the ladies.  Yes, it’s shallow as heck, but it was my motivation.  I dropped weight throughout the year, met Janelle, got engaged, and lost my motivation.  My habits also took a hit; I wanted to spend lots of time with her, which meant I’d eat with her and her family or hang out instead of working out.  I no longer had a good answer to those questions – at least not one I really believed.  I knew working out would make me healthier and feel better but I didn’t really care.

Over the next couple of years I developed new motivation and now the answers to those questions keep me motivated.  When my alarm goes off at 4:45am and I’m tired because I didn’t sleep well and I don’t want to get up, I can answer the question I ask myself: “why am I doing this?”  Make sure you can do the same.  If you don’t answer the question before your alarm goes off, and answer it in a way that means something to you, then you’ll have a hard time sticking with it.


Stay Motivated 2: Don’t give up when you hit roadblocks.

Mustard Man 2. Don’t give up when you hit roadblocks.  You will mess up and you will fail from time to time.  You won’t push yourself as hard as you could have on a workout, you’ll give in and have that crappy food – deal with it and move on.  Do not tell yourself “well I messed up that one time so what’s the point, I’ll just eat like crap the rest of this day/week/month/year and start over again.”  That is the road to failure and a downward spiral that will ensure your continued dissatisfaction with yourself.  You’ll screw up – so keep going!

There will also be days or weeks where you don’t see or feel any progress.  You might start off great and then not lose any weight for a couple of weeks.  Don’t give up.  Keep going.  It happens.  If you’re really in this for the long term – and you are really changing your eating habits and exercising regularly – you will get healthier.  It’s science!


Stay Motivated to Get Healthy: Part 1 – Set Small Goals.

image  Losing a bit of weight isn’t that difficult in the short term.  Just about anybody can adhere to a diet for a week or two and lose a few pounds.  Gyms make all their money on the huge percentage of people who purchase memberships, go for two weeks, and then never return.  We all know what it’s like to do something for a while and then give up.  It’s really hard to develop new habits, and when it comes to eating and exercise I think this is doubly true.  When you live a busy life it’s tough to eat right and find the time to exercise.  Unless you’ve grown up eating right you will likely have to work hard to change many of the bad habits you have related to food and activity.  So how do you keep going?

I don’t know how you keep going.  I can share what has kept me going so far, though.  February 2008 was about the time I got serious with my own health, and that was a year ago.  There have been a couple times over the course of that year where I slacked off a bit but overall I have been pretty consistent with my good health habits and they are becoming more and more internalized, and less and less of a struggle to maintain.

This is the first of a several-part series of short posts on staying motivated to become healthy.  I decided to split it into short posts because that increases the likelihood you’ll read them.  I am of course as always interested in hearing your thoughts on each of these posts, and also different ways you stay motivated.  Up first…

image1. Set Small Goals.  This is pretty basic stuff – but set small, attainable goals.  I weighed around 245 when I first got started.  My first goal was to get to 225 lbs.  Ultimately I knew I’d want to lose more weight than that, but even for a merciless cynic like myself setting a smaller goal was helpful.  If my first goal was 170 lbs it would be a long time before I could celebrate any kind of victory.  My current goal is to get down to 180, though I’m more focused on body fat than weight right now.  I’m going to lose weight slower this way but it’s fine.  It’s important to set goals in areas besides weight as well.

Set goals for whatever you want to change.  When you’re trying to change the way you eat, tell yourself you’ll eat that way 5 days a week, or 6, or whatever.  Instead of going from eating 5000 calories a day on Tuesday moving down to 2000 a day on Wednesday – ramp yourself down.  The goal needs to be meaningful to keep you motivated and help you see results, but it also needs to be attainable.  Do this with your days of exercise, the weights you lift, whatever.  When you succeed, set a new goal.  I am first to roll my eyes and say “shut up playing stupid tricks on yourself doesn’t work” but I know short terms goals help. 


Student Teaching Has Begun

This is my first week doing student teaching.  I’m at Irvington every day and in a number of different classrooms.  I’m going to be teaching mostly Economics and World History, with some forays into AP U.S. History.  Right now things are busy at the school as students clamor to get teachers to give them breaks to make up for an entire semester of slacking off, and teachers are grading finals and turning in their semester grades.  Things still aren’t particularly clear regarding what my responsibilities will be and what the rhythm is going to be…that makes me a little uneasy but I know it’ll get sorted out soon enough.  I’m eager to get teaching again and have already learned how to avoid getting “owned.”

Apparently if someone says your first name and you respond with “what?” they can “own” you by then saying your last name.  The Sophomores in my World History class tried it on me and I’ve been owned once, but now I’m wise to their little game.  You’ve gotta keep your guard up.  Yesterday I tried to own a couple of them but they are ever vigilant.

This has led to a more packed schedule for Janelle and I.  During the week we have almost no free time…we get home, cook dinner, get stuff ready for the next day, get Belle to bed, and then need to get to bed pretty soon after that in order to get up the next day.  Most evenings there’s some school work to be done.  We alternate workout days, where we get to the gym at 5am.  I know that’s early but if we don’t get up then, we won’t be able to do it at all.  We will be cherishing our weekends for the next several months.


100 Often Mispronounced Words

image It’s no secret to those who know me that I am a bit of a stickler when it comes to spelling, grammar, and pronouncing words correctly.  I tend to think my reputation as a “corrector” exceeds my actions, but as my sociology professor told me, “things that are perceived as real are very real in their consequences.”  Whether I am as much of a Grammar Nazi as people perceive me to be is irrelevant.

My friend Adam is pretty similar to me when it comes to pronouncing words properly and I love it when he and I get to talk about words.  We both understand that when you correct someone else’s pronunciation of a word, it is an act of love and consideration for the other person.  It’s not a matter of trying to show off what you know, it’s trying to help the other person out.

This past week I came across this list of 100 often mispronounced words.  Here are some of the highlights for me:

Irregardless is not a word.  The word is “regardless.”

Alzheimere’s Disease is not “Old Timer’s Disease.”

You escape from a bad situation…you do not excape.

I especially hate it when people say exspecially, but find it much more annoying when people say supposably instead of supposedly.


Go read through the list to help yourself out and see what you did or didn’t already know.  I was actually surprised to find “spitting image” should be “spit and image.”