This is one of my three favorite holidays.
It is a love story in Japan.

If you make a wish on this day, and if it does not rain, then your wish will come true! This year it is especially lucky because it is the seventh day of the seventh month of the seventh year.

Here’s the story as I wrote about it last year. It is a colorful, wildly fun holiday, and I wish I were in Japan this year for this holiday!
(Images from here).

Tanabata means “Festival of the stars.” This is a story about the two stars Altair (the boy) and Vega (the girl) which are the main stars in two constellations, Aquila the eagle and Lyra the musical lyre:


Altair and Vega are also two of the three stars of the Summer Triangle, and appear closest to each other in the summertime. (Images from here and here).

There was a girl named Orihime – she was the daughter of the Sky God and she wove beautiful weavings. One day, she looked out of her window and saw the oxen-boy, Hikoboshi, and they fell in love. They spent so much time together that she didn’t have any time to weave, and so the Sky God separated the two, and allowed them to only meet each other on the seventh of the seventh.

Why is the Milky Way involved? “In the Chinese Calender, there is almost always a half moon on July 7th and they believe ORIHIME and [HIKOBOSHI] use that half moon as a boat to meet each other over the great river in the sky, AMANOGAWA [the Milky Way],” reports this site.


As long as the Milky Way does not overflow, everyone’s wish will come true on this day. So you can put on your bright summer cotton kimono, called the “yukata,” and you can go dancing in the parks, and you can write your wishes on brightly colored paper (as Dave describes here!) and tie them to a plant (in Japan, it would be a bamboo tree). And finally, you make that wish wholly and deliberately, and then you let go….

I wrote about how the way you tell the story of your life – to yourself and to others – may affect how productive and successful you are in the future. One way to see which stories you’re telling and why you’re telling them this way is to ask yourself about some of your favorite stories that you heard as a child.

When: When you want to learn more about why you do certain things.

How Long to Play: 15-30 minutes.

Players: Alone, with one person, or with many.

Materials Needed: Paper and pen.

Goal of the Game: To be able to explain a current situation in terms of your thoughts from when you were a child. Why do this? Because sometimes seeing things this simply makes a current situation dissipate in power, which is what you may want.

1) Sit down with your friends or by yourself.
2) Everyone write for 10 minutes: “What’s your favorite story from childhood and why?”
3) Everyone write for 5 minutes: “What current situation in your life might you be playing out like your favorite childhood story?”
4) If playing with friends, everyone share your favorite childhood story, why it was your favorite, and how it may affect your current expectations about any parts of your life.

(Since today is Question Friday, feel free to answer in the comments section! I’ll answer in there too – looking forward to hearing your answers!!!)

In 1998, I wrote this Seinfeld script one night out of the blue. Since today is Story Tuesday, enjoy!

TITLE: Mr. Subliminal

ELAINE interviews a prospective job candidate and JERRY buys a silk undershirt.


Scene I

JERRY at comedy club.

JERRY (on stage): You wanna know why I became a stand-up comedian?

All the other jobs had applications! – I couldn’t handle the applications. “Applying for a job? Please fill this short form out … High school athletics … past salaries … references.”

I didn’t have any of those. I would hand in a half-filled out application. The secretary would never even let me in to see the interviewer.

Scene II

In ELAINE’s office at work.

ALFRED GRUBERG (A medium-height, going bald, 30-45-year-old man. Dressed in a business suit for an interview. Smiling and charming. He has one quirk: he is a psychologist by training and often inserts subliminal phrases into his speech. Subliminal phrases are in all capital letters. Alfred says these phrases quickly as if skimming over the words with no change in demeanor, in how he speaks, how he acts.)

ELAINE and ALFRED walking in.

ELAINE: Mr. Gruberg, please sit down. (ELAINE points to seat on other side of her desk) Now, let’s take a look at your resume. … Secretary at Blomingdale’s . . . Vogue . . . Russian Tea Room. Psychology? It says here that you received a degree in psychology before starting your secretarial positions. Why would you do that (very puzzled look, taking her glasses off) – gain proficiency in one field and then leave it for secretarial positions?

ALFRED: Well let me tell you the two differences between secretaries and psychologists – Secretaries get fewer looney-tunes (signaling crazy with his finger to his head) if you know what I mean (smiles at ELAINE) GORGEOUS BRUNETTE WOMEN and more money to boot. (laughs, trying to get ELAINE to laugh with him)

ELAINE: (laughs uncomfortablly, looking at resume) Uh-huh.

ELAINE’s VOICEOVER: (Double-take) Did he just say “gorgeous brunette women”? Is he trying to come on to me during an interview?

ALFRED: (reaching over her desk) And if you notice there at the bottom, I have listed my specifications: typing speed LOOK CLOSELY PENILE ENLARGEMENT and standardized test scores.

ELAINE’s VOICEOVER: (ELAINE looks very skeptical) Standardized test scores?

Scene III

JERRY’s apartment. JERRY and GEORGE.

JERRY: My mom recommended I buy a silk undershirt for the winter. But I just don’t know . . . . She recommends it every year.

GEORGE: Oh, no, JERRY, silk undershirts have been underrated. My mom got me a bunch when I was in junior high school.

JERRY: And you still have them?

GEORGE: Uh-huh.

JERRY: You have silk undershirts from when you were in junior high?!?! How could they have lasted that long?

GEORGE: (Looking at himself apologetically) Well, I haven’t changed much. (Explanatory tone) And – and I only wear them in the winter.

KRAMER walks in.

JERRY: Hey, Kramer, you have any silk undershirts?

KRAMER: Oh, yeah, (smiling big) how else do you think I stay warm in the winter? And let me tell you, women love that! Silk shirts, silk boxers, silk bedsheets, oh yeah! Ok, guys, I need your advice.

(Door buzzer)

Continue reading

Here’s the entire Little Book of Self-Discipline:

Page 1:

Little mouse Jonathan wakes up and wants to play, play, play.
He wants to find his friends, and just play.

Page 2:
He goes to play with his fun mouse friends Sally and Joe and Melanie and Siobhan and Markus. They run around and they chase balls of yarn, and they play hide-and-seek around tree trunks!

Page 3:
Then Sally says, “I’m going home to help my sister do the laundry.”
Joe says, “I’ll be back. I’m going to help my mom make lunch.”
Melanie says, “I promised my brother that I would help him with arithmetic.”
Siobhan says, “I told myself that I would finish twenty more pages of my great book.”
Markus whispers, “Oh, my whiskers, my whiskers! I want to keep them nice and short!”

Page 4:

All of Jonathan’s mouse friends run off to do the things they needed to do. So Jonathan lies on his back and he thinks. Then he gets a little bored. So he walks and he walks and he walks. Then he thinks, “I can go help my sister with the laundry! I can help my mom make lunch! I can learn arithmetic and help my little sister later! I can finish more of the super book I read at night. I can go cut my whiskers!”

Page 5:
Little mouse Jonathan runs home to help his mother, his sister, and to do some things for himself.

Page 6:

In the evening, when little mouse Jonathan goes to bed, he is very very very happy.

Little story book POP-QUIZ: Why is Jonathan mouse content and happy when he goes to bed?

Today is Story Tuesday. Enjoy!

I remember best by stories, so since today is Story Tuesday, I’ll tell a little story about David Armano’s new Ed experience diamond and what little Eddie is like as a pre-engineer on the hot beach.

Once there was a little boy named Eddie. Eddie was a curious, fingers-in-everything, seven-year-old boy with blond unkempt hair and usually bare feet.

Stimulate the Senses – Hot on the Toes, Charred Hamburger
He had bare feet. He was on the beach on an early Sunday morning with his Mom and younger brother and sister. But he was far away from them all playing on the hot, hot sand by the water. It was already hot enough on the sand that he could only comfortably walk by the water’s edge. On the hot sand, he had had to run on his tiptoes to not burn his feet. His Mom let him play on the shore by himself because he was the oldest. He had tiptoe-hopped off across the hot sand away from his brother and sister because he wanted to bring them something fun to play with. As he was hopping away on his toes and fast, he smelled the charring of the hamburgers from the concession stand and he thought he could almost smell the hot, wilting strawberries through the tupperware that his Mom had brought and had left lying on top of the sun-drenched cotton blanket.

Design for People – For His Brother and Sister
Eddie walked on the shore and saw the shells and smooth rocks. He stopped suddenly seeing two similar-sized flat, white shells. He looked very carefully to find any other white shells of the same size. And he did – he saw two others. He knew what he wanted to make. He stuck the four shells into the ground all parallel, two in front, two in back, and then he looked around carefully. He found what he was looking for. A dead horseshoe crab, or what was left. He set it on top of the other shells, and it looked like a car. Like a car!

Share Meaningful Stories – Horseshoe Crabs and Strawberries?
He picked all the pieces up, and ran toe after toe, hopping over the increasingly hot sand. Straight to their beach blanket. Then he said to his three-year-old sister and four-year-old brother, “Want to see what I got you!?” Yes, they both said. So he built it again – the four shells in the ground, and the fat, somewhat-chipped horseshoe crab on top. And he started telling his brother and sister stories. How the horseshoe crab was the king crab and that’s why the other shells carried him in such a royal way. How the car had traveled all over the beach, stopping at their blanket because not-living horseshoes like the smell of strawberries in tupperware. And other stories.

Built to Last – Building a Stronger Horseshoe Crab Car
Just before noon, Mom said that they were going home for a picnic in the backyard because she told Eddie that she didn’t want his brother and sister to burn. Eddie of course asked if he could take the horseshoe crab car. His Mom hesitated but then said, “Sure, as long as you keep it in the backyard.” That was fine for Eddie. Because he already knew that these four shells and horseshoe crab were just the model for some more elaborate, more interesting, maybe also horseshoe-crab-based car that he would have to make once he got home – a car that maybe rolled and looked ominous for his brother and sister and that probably liked sun-warmed strawberries in tupperware that he could tell stories about.

He sang to himself.
In front of 10,000 people, he sang to himself.

Stage lights reddish-orange. Words muffled by his beard.
My friend said, he is shy and doesn’t like to see the audience.

The sitar-like dobro alternately squeaked and bellowed
hallowed violin music.
Drums backed up his rhythm guitar strumming,
the guitar sitting high on his button-down shirt,
like a mantle on a statue of a musician

who might have been in performance for an audience.
But he was not. The audience is irrelevant.
A performer without performing, he speaks a Mantra.
He says, Gone Away. From Me.

Classisa is 12 years old. She has been dating Geordie for about a week. In this week, dating has meant that they’ve sat next to each other at lunch, and on the weekend, they went to the movies and held hands.

Clarissa got dropped off by her mom at her friend Jamie’s house. After fumbling with the doorknob since she was holding two sweaters and two nail polish containers in her hands and didn’t have a bag with her, she went in and upstairs to Jamie’s hot-pink-color room. Jamie’s mom always left the house door open for the neighbors to come in at any time.

Jamie was on her bed reading some Asimov (a hand-me-down book from her brother) with Modest Mouse blasting on her computer. Clarissa dropped her small armload onto the end of the bed, and said, dramatically, “That’s it. I want it to be over.” Jamie blew a watermelon-smelling bubble, turned over, closed her book, and sat up. “Why?” she asked slowly, wanting to draw out the details from Clarissa patiently and slowly.

“I think he likes Liz,” answered Clarissa, looking towards the hardwood floor. Continue reading

As we celebrate Thanksgiving with turkey, mashed potatoes, apple pie or pumpkin pie, and gathering family and friends, what do we remember about the origins of this tradition? We’ve heard that this tradition grew the first year when Pilgrims settled into Plymouth, Massachusetts when the Pilgrims brought together all their harvests and celebreated their bountiful foods.

The big secret is that the Pilgrins arrived in the fall of 1620, and the first year of harvest of the Pilgrims in Plymouth, 1621, was absolutely terrible, and resulted in a famine. So did the second year. And then in the third year, 1623, something dramatically changed about how the Pilgrims chose to govern themselves, and it is that that led to the bountiful first harvest, and to the gathering around and sharing the great food.

Here is the first person account by the Governor of the British colony in Plymouth at the time, William Bradford, of the years between 1600 and 1622:

* 1621, The first harvest was shared communally among all the families and was very small. Furthermore, from the time they had arrived, abundance had decreased significantly.
“They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter … every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees).”

* There had been very little supply up until 1623.
“All this while no supply was heard of, neither knew they when they might expect any. So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery.”

What was the something that changed before the harvest of 1623, the first abundant harvest? William Branford writes:

* This was the DECISION OF THE PILGRIMS in 1623:
To give each family some land to farm on their own as opposed to having communcal farming and communal land
“At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other thing to go on in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number, for that end, only for present use (but made no division for inheritance) and ranged all boys and youth under some family. This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.”

Why did having the private land for each family result in much stronger crops than having a communal shared farming? William Bradford answers this question also with his 1620’s explanation of shirking – he claims that there is no increased happiness in communcal living and that shirking goes away when people farm for themselves as opposed to for others.

* No increased happiness from communal living.
“The experience that was had in this common course … that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.”

* Communal living had hurt everyone – young men, strong men, aged men, and women who were as slaves, says Bradford.
“For the young men, that were most able and fit for labor and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labors and victuals, clothes etc., with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignity and disrespect unto them. And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it.”

* In fact, and Bradford writes firmly about this point, communal living and treating all people the same actually ‘diminish[es] and take[s] off the mutual respects’ that people would naturally have towards one another.
“Upon the point all being to have alike, and all to do alike … it did at least much diminish and take off the mutual respects that should be preserved amongst them. … I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in His wisdom saw another course fitter for them. “

In 1623, there was a DECISION that changed everything, and it is because of that decision that we now celebrate Thanksgiving.

Lesson and Take-Away: People take incomparably better care of something that belongs to them personally than they do of communal property.

* William Bradford: History of Plymouth Plantation, c. 1650 (exerpts, entire book in google books)
* More information about the secret history of Thanksgiving can be found here, here, here, and an account dating to 1607 with the Virginia settlement before the Plymouth settlement here.
* If you want to google and search for this real history of thanksgiving, search for the words “thanksgiving private property“.

Ivan and Abdul – Part I
Ivan and Abdul – Part II

The story of “Ivan and Abdul” is by Bernard Suits, and ellipses are used to make sections briefer. If I had only ten books to take with me to a deserted island, this would be one of them: The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia by Bernard Suits, a story-based philosophical discussion about what makes games into games.

Continued from yesterday, Bernard Suits’ story of “Ivan and Abdul.” All words are by Bernard Suits. I have used ellipses to make some sections shorter.

… unbeknownst to Ivan and Abdul, their game did indeed contain at least one rule of the required kind…. Let us awaken Ivan just before dawn on the appointed day and put this question to him.

‘Ivan, are you awake?’
‘I am. Who is it?’
‘I am the Voice of Logic, and I have a question to put to you.’
‘What time is it?’
“An hour before dawn.’
‘Put your question, then, but please be brief.’
‘The question is a short one. Why didn’t you destroy Abdul just as soon as you had decided to have a fight to the finish with him?’
‘Here is an equally short answer. Because I have no interest in destroying Abdul per se. I am interested in seeking to kill him only so that I can be battling him.’
‘Let me test that allegation, if you don’t mind.’
‘Test away.’

‘Very well. I tell you that Abdul is at this moment fast asleep in his bed. You can easily gain entrance to the embassy and kill him in his sleep, thus winning the battle with a minimum of risk by a stunning surprise attack.’
‘As you can see, I am not leaping from my bed and speeding to the embassy.’
‘Yes, I do see that, and it puzzles me very much.’
‘I don’t see why it should. If I kill Abdul before the game starts, then I can’t very well fight him, can I? If I killed him now, our game could never begin.’
‘You are saying that this game you are going to play has a starting time.’
‘Of course.’

compass ‘In other words, there is a rule which forbids you to make a move in the game before a certain agreed upon time.’
‘A rule, you say?’
‘Yes,’ responded the Voice of Logic inexorably, ‘a rule.’
‘Then,’ said Ivan, frowning and sitting up in bed, ‘our fight to the finish is not really a game without rules.’

‘Not if you stick to your dawn starting time.’
‘And I thought we had finally found a game without the artificiality of rules. How could we have missed this business of a starting time?’
‘Perhaps it was because you were so busy eliminating an ending time. But it is perfectly clear, is it not, that a starting time is just as much of an artifice as a finish time?’
‘Yes, it is.’

‘And now that you know this, you will of course at once sneak up on Abdul in his sleep and kill him, right?’
‘Not at all.’
‘Why not?’
‘I have answered that question twice already. Damn it. I don’t want to murder Abdul – I like him, for God’s sake – I just want to play a game with him.’
‘Yes, I understand that. And you also want to play a game without rules that artificialy limits the means at your disposal for achieving victory. Isn’t that correct?’
‘Yes, it is.’ …

‘Well, if you are prepared to play such a game, I don’t see why you aren’t prepared to play any game. If, that is, you are prepared to accept what might be called an unnecessary obstacle in order to be able to play this game with Abdul, why not accept other unnecessary obstacles and play chess or tennis or golf with Abdul instead, and give up this folly of a fight to the finish? Either that, or admit that there is no reason to wait for the starting signal and kill Abdul now.’ Golf-Tennis

There is silence as Ivan turns this over in his mind. Then he leaps from his bed, flings on his clothes, and rushes wildly from the room.
‘Where are you going?’ cries the Voice of Logic.
‘I must reach Abdul before dawn!’ cries Ivan from the staircase.
‘To call off the game or to kill him?’ disjunctively queries the Voice of Logic.
But Ivan’s shouted reply is too muffled to understand as he rushes pell-mell through the dark and deserted streets.

statue Nearly half way to Abdul’s embassy Ivan sees a figure approaching at the opposite end of the short boulevard. It is Abdul. Has Abdul, too, been listening to the Voice of Logic? And is he hurrying to Ivan to call off the game, or to make a surprise attack? If Ivan can be sure that Abdul is making a surprise attack, then it is no surprise and the game can begin, for it has gained a starting time and the time is NOW.

But how can Ivan be sure that it is NOW unless he knows what Abdul’s purpose is? And Abdul may, of course, be in the same quandary. Ivan might shout, ‘Let’s call off the game!’ But Abdul might very sensibly take this to be a ruse on Ivan’s part for gaining an advantage. And Ivan, if Abdul called out the same proposal to him, would be foolhardy indeed to accept it out of hand as a genuine offer. Both stop in perplexed indecision.

And there they stand to this very day, in the form of two marble statues facing one another along the length of the Boulevard Impasse in the capital city of Rien-à-faire. At least that is the story the guides of Rien-à-faire tell to explain the sculptured confrontation along embassy row.

Thanks for reading! The story of “Ivan and Abdul” is by Bernard Suits, and ellipses are used to make sections briefer. If I had only ten books to take with me to a deserted island, this would be one of them: The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia by Bernard Suits, a story-based philosophical discussion about what makes games into games.