Game Over: It's Time to Live It

Photo by Iris Jones, with permission via Flickr.
I knew my mom should have let me own an Atari. She never budged. I had to do my best mastering Asteroids and Ms. Pac-Man at the bars with dad instead. We were poor, but quarters were one thing I could get in abundance from him when there was no money for anything else. Maybe it was his subversive way of investing in me – helping his boy gain real life skills that might, you know, some day save the world.

Or maybe he was just keeping me happy and out of his hair.

Either way, I have fond memories of those early days gaming. Shooting descending centipedes, saving a girl from a computerized ape, hopping across the road to safety before being flattened by cars and trucks, all while moderately sloshed patrons cheered me on from their nearby stools. Quarter by quarter, I got lost in these virtual worlds despite the clunky, pixilated graphics and limited adventure space of arcade games.

Fast forward 30 years to last week, and I’m now wondering if I should have stuck with those playful quests. If it were up to Jane McGonigal, that’s exactly what would have happened.

To see what McGonigal has in mind, click here to read the rest of this post at the The High Calling. is a site about work, life and God.


Nissan Leaf, Polar Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers...hugs all around!

Nissan Leaf
I don't know who pitches for the Dodgers or leads the points race at any given Indianapolis 500, but I do watch football. I've been a Steeler fan since the mid-70s, when we played flipsies at Chad's house with now legendary playing cards of folks like Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris, and when we stopped every police officer in town to ask for special edition trading cards.

I'm still a fan thirty-some years later. Their winning record and exemplary team management over the decades has certainly helped. And they're fun to watch, though if you saw yesterday's stressful game against the Jets, you'll know that I mean drop-tower fun more than Chuck E. Cheese's fun.

But this post isn't about the Steelers. Supposedly, an ad for the Nissan Leaf aired in the NFL season opener back in September, 2010. I missed that game, and, therefore, the ad. Yet with all the commercial repetition and subsequent hours of Sunday afternoon football I have caught since then, I somehow missed this much-discussed ad until yesterday afternoon.

Yes, it's manipulative. No, it doesn't mean Nissan is exempt from leaving an environmental footprint. But I like it. It surprised me in a good way, especially after assuming it was all cgi.

If you don't remember seeing a recent commercial with a polar bear in it, I suggest you start this video at 02:28. Then go back to the beginning to learn how they created it.

Nissan Leaf


Sayable Design

I've read Lore's blog on and off for a few years. She has a way with words. But just today I found her Sayable Design site via a friend. If you're looking for help with a graphic or web layout, check her out.

If you aren't looking, I still say check her out, and here's why:

When you remain within the confines of screen size and follow the path of website-owning masses, you typically get no more than a visual re-shuffling of CSS and pieces of code moved here and there until they please you. It's like having seven items to hang on the living room wall but only room for six. So you lay them out on the floor, moving and looking, rotating and looking, measuring and looking. In the end, you hang what you like where you like it. Fair enough, but Lore said heck with wall size. Maybe she said, What wall? I'll hang eleven items if I please.

I remember listening to a Disney employee who gave a talk about doing a lot with little. The company had purchased a large sum of acreage and told the design team, "Put something here." The team asked, "You mean like a theme park?" to which Disney replied, "Whatever you want."

I would have thought theme park too - an understandable mental boundary. Yet for creative types, boundaries need to be mobile. Adam and Eve had a garden full of ingredients and God said, "Mix something here." It amazes me that by Genesis 4, there were already "tools of bronze and iron" and early versions of musical instruments. I don't know how much time elapsed in those few chapters, but seriously? We started with a garden and ended up with harps?


Okay, Lore didn't make a harp out of stuff she mined from the earth, but she did something fun and you should go see it. Sayable Design.


A vocational tale of woe and jubilation

Bridge picture from Curious Photos
I began thinking about life direction when a middle school drafting teacher showed appreciation for my drawings. I was an average student but I liked the work well enough that perhaps I heard more praise than was actually there. In high school, I took every architectural and engineering Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) class available. With three or four of those under my belt, and a few miniaturized balsa wood structures glued and tested with satisfying results, I finally decided I would be an architect.

I was a junior and relatively clueless.

During my senior year, I turned down an opportunity to work part-time in a real drafting firm, opting for more CAD classes instead. College quickly approached, and because I really had no idea what being an architect meant, I agreed to try civil engineering (Okay, so the school didn't offer architecture). Besides, I was promised we would make bridges in class - just like in high school! Perhaps this desire to simply extend high school, as well as my refusal to take the drafting firm job, were early yet unrecognized clues that I didn't want to be either an architect or an engineer. I just liked the fun parts.

Discovery in the library

By the second year of college, I knew clearly that I should surrender this now thread of a career dream. Feeling suddenly directionless and pressed for time, I scanned the library shelves for a book on careers. I found a thick volume containing every job known to employees, with accompanying descriptions and average expected pay. In one hour I made my decision. I would become a Spanish teacher.

I told some of the Spanish teacher story in On Earth as It is in Advertising, and I've shared it with many audiences, so suffice it to say that as much as I enjoyed and continue to enjoy the language, I initially chose the profession simply because I liked my 10th-grade Spanish teacher.

That's it.

Superficial reasons for decisions along the way embarrass me to some degree now, though I don't feel alone in this. Having worked with college students for the past 13 years, I see similar patterns over and over again.

Quitting on the kids

I graduated in 1996 with a BS in Spanish Education and entered the public school system for three years. And now I get to my biggest regret to date: I had no idea that faith ought to inform vocation. There I was, a white high school teacher with no white students in perhaps the toughest school in Pittsburgh, and I saw absolutely no connection between a) what the kids really needed and b) vocabulary lists for soccer, beaches and international travel. With no vision (or even awareness that there was vision to be had), I left.

Ironically/Providentially, I landed in the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO) where they specialize in helping college students think about faith and vocation. Funny thing is, it took nearly seven years working in the CCO before I thought one bit about this topic as it applies to my former inner city teaching job.

Jubilee epiphany

He was a German teacher from Michigan. It was my seventh Jubilee, a conference on work and faith hosted by the CCO, and for the first time, there was a breakout session for foreign language majors. I decided to attend. The German teacher wasn't riveting, nor particularly ingenious. But after seven years of preaching the importance of faith informing work in chemistry labs, cadaver classes, Work and Faith conferences, articles and countless other venues, here I sat, listening, with rapt attention, to what the Christian faith had to say about teaching foreign language.

I know, I know. Obvious, right? But it wasn't. That afternoon, I began to panic. Regret over missed opportunities flooded my brain. I questioned whether I could continue with the job I loved in the CCO. Visions of burning those out-of-context Spanish textbooks entered my imagination and I saw myself in the old job marching into the Board of Education building, calling for change.

That Jubilee afternoon with the German teacher was the day I really "got it." Everything I had experienced and learned suddenly connected and, though I didn't really have all the answers and still don't, I gained a specific passion that day to help others connect what they do with why they do it; to help students study their faith as much as they study their major; to help employees integrate faith and work in a way that is biblically and theologically sound.

I stuck with the CCO. It took mentors I admire to calm me down and show me that God has timing I cannot trump. There was no way to go back and I had to come to terms with that reality.

I'll be heading back to Jubilee for my 12th year on February 18-20, and while I can't promise that anything miraculous will happen to you if you go, I can assure you that whether you're a student or a seasoned professional, you'll be inspired to renew your vocation.

Read more about Jubilee here, or find an invitation here at The High Calling - a site about life, work and God.   


Git aht!

Dr. Barbara Johnstone is a linguistics professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Of all things, she specializes in Pittsburghese. You might be tempted to say, Git aht! but let me assure you that she does.

Few cities have so notable a concentration of verbal and grammatical peculiarities that an esteemed teacher could find enough to study over the course of a decade or so, let alone with a colleague. Pittsburgh, however, is one of those few. You can read more about Johnstone's observations at The Pittsburgh Speech & Society Project, or read this recent highlight of her work which includes a three-minute video with examples. Or, for plain old fun, visit the informal version at Type in a note and have it instantly translated into Pittsburghese.

Rosetta Stone, look aht, an I ain't jaggin!

Okay, what's the point? What used to be a normal product of immigrant communication has become an identity marker for natives and non-natives of Pittsburgh alike. I grew up south of the city and yet came to love funny words like nebby and gumbands and yinz. Put me in a room with other Pittsburgh fans and we'll go on with a language all our own. Yet, it isn't our own. The PR magicians didn't launch this. We adopted it. Pittsburgh just kept on being Pittsburgh and friends of the city caught on. It helps that we like the place. A hole in south-western Pennsylvania most likely would have failed to gain attention beyond the locals.

The Post-Gazette article about Johnstone's work struck me because I love language and have an affinity toward Pittsburgh, but also because there's something powerful about having influence in the world that comes simply from being entertained by your own oddities. So here's my invitation to join in the fun:

If yinz ever visit yoor relations near da burgh, git off da caach 'n meet me at Permani Brudders fer a sammitch and pop. Bring yer bumbershoot if it looks like its gonna rain. Meybe we'll even ketch a Stiller game. 


Buckley's Mixture

Happy New Year. In the vein of Canada's cough syrup, Buckley's Mixture, I hope 2011 is a rough one.

I learned about this medicine at Larry Hehn's blog today and was immediately glad to find Buckley's award-winning ad slogans. Here's a favorite: "People swear by it. And at it."

Larry's post is about New Year's resolutions and the tough, often distasteful, discipline it takes to achieve them. Ease and comfort don't produce much in the way of results. Buckley's, however, makes a good point. Besides the honest advertising (see his post for more examples, and others here), which is delightfully refreshing, I'm glad for this reminder that hard times are ahead for those want to grow and heal.

No getting around that. I'm closing in on 40 and feeling the need for worse-tasting medicine, if for no other reason than I simply can't imagine reaching 80 with the same regrets I have now. New medicine is on its way in 2011.


  © Free Blogger Templates Blogger Theme II by 2008

Back to TOP