Recently, I re-read the first of the five books that make up the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy trilogy.  At the back of the book, there are some “extras” (kind of like you would find on a DVD).  My favourite is the fax that Douglas Adams sent to the American editor of the book.

It appears there was an attempt to “Americanize” the story by replacing English locations, companies, currencies et cetera with American ones.  There is no need to repeat Mr. Adams’ argument against it.  My point in mentioning it, is that here is a clear example of how we underestimate ourselves.  The editor, an American, must have felt it was too difficult for an non-British reader to follow along.  I can’t speak for Americans, but as a Canadian, I didn’t have any problem.

It is hard enough to overcome the criticism of others, but not giving yourself a chance is worse.  So, my simplistic advice is try, fail, try again, fail again, try again or try something else and enjoy the journey.  And, of course, “Don’t Panic”.

I started writing about justice, but then I paused to look up some quotes.  So, instead of continuing with my words, I will just put something attributed to Martin Luther King Jr.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Two things I can say about Redirect is that the book’s blurbs are right and the concept of “personal story editing” is deceptively simple, but effective.

This isn’t a “self-help book” — the author isn’t a fan of those types of books and he explains why.  Still, the book’s topics are useful in the way that self-help books claim to be.  What makes it different is the author’s insistence that everything is tested.  In Redirect, Wilson explains why some well intentioned programs to curb teenage pregnancy, alcoholism and violence not only don’t work, but actually have the opposite effect.  He also goes into some parenting strategies and personal level challenges.

And now, a few of the burbs that I agree with:

“With a deft narrative touch, an engaging metaphor for bringing about psychological change (personal story editing), and a ferocious commitment to scientific evidence, Timothy Wilson has made a remarkable contribution to knowledge.”    Robert B. Cialdini (author of Influence)

“Whether you are a parent, educator, employer, or simply someone who cares about making the world a better place, you should read this book.”   Sonja Lyobomirsky (author of The How of Happiness)

“There are few academics that write with as much grace and wisdom as Timothy Wilson.  Redirect is a masterpiece. ”   Malcolm Gladwell
Title: Redirect
Sub-Title: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change
Author: Timothy D. Wilson
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Copyright: 2011
ISBN: 978-0-316-05188-0


Professor Wilson’s Webpage:



There is an interesting book by William Goldman called Adventures in the Screen Trade.  Goldman is a novelist and a screenwriter, known for such films as All The President’s Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Princess Bride and Misery.

Much of the book is about his experiences in Hollywood, but at the end he gives a practical example of how to take a story and turn it into a movie script.  The story is one he wrote about a couple barbers.  He asked his colleague, George Roy Hill (director of such films as All The President’s Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting and Slapshot), to critique it.

George Roy Hill had a problem with one of the barbers.  This barber was a genius, but also a jerk.  Since he didn’t like the perpetuation of this stereotype, he wrote:

“The people I’ve known with the greatest artistic integrity are usually the most professional and most considerate, while I’ve unfortunately run into a few second-rate artists who behave like s**** in the belief that this somehow automatically endows them with talent and integrity.”

I don’t have anything to add to that, except to agree.

Famous quotes are fascinating things.  In a sentence or two, or even in just a few words, a truth is well expressed.  As a bonus, they often come from someone with authority. While I like to use them from time to time, I’ve always been skeptical of ones I don’t know the source.

One I heard years ago is, “The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one.” It is found in Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell To Arms” (Book 2, Chapter 21).  It’s powerful, but it is interesting to read a little more around the quote.  Below is the passage in the book:

“We won’t fight.”

“We mustn’t. Because there’s only two of us and in the world there’s all the rest of them.  If anything comes between us we’re gone and then they have us.”

“They won’t get us,” I said.  “Because you’re too brave.  Nothing ever happens to the brave.”

“They die once.”

“But only once.”

“I don’t know. Who said that?”

“The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one?”

“Of course. Who said that?”

“I don’t know.”

“He was probably a coward,” she said.  “He knew a great deal about cowards but nothing about the brave.  The brave dies perhaps two thousand deaths if he’s intelligent. He simply doesn’t mention them.”

I agree with the last paragraph in the passage above.  To me, it expresses a more universal truth.  There are many manifestations of bravery, just as there are many types of injustices.  Physical strength is an outward strength that everyone can see, but emotional, intellectual and spiritual strengths all need their own kind of muscle and endurance.

Poor King Canute! Or, should I say lucky King Canute?  I’ve only recently learned about Canute (or Cnut), a Danish king that lived a thousand years ago.  As a real historical figure, his life has been recorded.  But, I wonder how accurately.

There is one story in particular that I have seen told in two contrasting ways.  Both stories start the same, the king and his followers are on a beach facing the sea.  Canute is sitting in a chair, possibly his throne. In one version, the king is stupid.  He commands the tides not to rise, but of course they still do and he gets wet.  In the other version, the king is wise.  He has assembled everyone there to show them that even though he is a powerful king, he is powerless next to God who controls nature.

So, was he was wise, but some careless historian has made him into a buffoon?  Or, was he an idiot, but some royalist has tried to salvage his reputation?  Or, was he something else?  We may never know and I’m not surprised.

A while ago, it was pointed out to me that by three or four generations after we die there is no one around who really knew us.  And, any stories about us, may not be correct.  So, why worry about what people will think of you?  Live life with a clean conscious, be kind to others and take the occasional stroll by the seaside.  Just remember to watch out for the tide.

Looking back to my school years, I realize that I was lucky to have had some good teachers.  If I haven’t turned out to be more successful, it isn’t their fault.  Sometimes a lump of coal will never turn into a diamond.  I take full credit for my failures.  But, that isn’t my focus here.  Instead I wanted to praise one of my past teachers and recommend a website.

Below are two photos of my dictionary.  Buying it was one of the assignments given to me and my classmates from our grade 5 teacher, Mr. Doug Shaw.  He didn’t tell us what dictionary to buy, but he told us to make sure we got a good one.  He took the time to explain that a good dictionary would be with us for a long time and would help teach us a lot of words.  He was right. This book was with me through middle school, high school and university.

I still like and use my paper dictionary, but I also find myself going online for my word searches.  My favourite site is Merriam-Webster’s:   (Yes, it is essentially the same company that made my dictionary 40 years ago.)  Besides the regular dictionary functions, I’ve really enjoy their video series.  The videos are Merriam-Webster editors explaining a language feature in a simple, but engaging way.  Check it out; the “word nerd” in you will be satisfied.

And, one more thing: apparently my Grade 5 self felt that the edge of the book needed to be a little more “high class”, so I added some blue stripes.