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    Questions: The Regrets Edition (Part II)

    Great answers to Part I of the regrets column. Here are my other 5 top regrets.

    6) I regret being afraid of dying. In some ways, I feel my whole life's purpose is to finally accept (at least on a Zen-like level) the inevitability of my death. Instead, the concept so terrifies me that it has clearly kept me from being as adventurous and/or productive as I could have been. A little caution can be a good thing, perhaps, but to live without fear of death sounds so freeing. (To be completely accurate, it's more the pain of dying than the actual being dead part that scares me).

    7) I regret being shy around girls. Ok, so it's all good as I ended up finding this great awesome girl, but oh man, I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have caught the eye of a beautiful girl and wish I had gone up to her and introduced myself, make small chat, throw her a compliment, ask her on a date, etc. but instead only watched her walk away and out of my life forever. If I had chosen not to do any of those things because I thought it would be too forward and ungentlemanly or even creepy, that would be one thing. But me ... I was mostly just scared, especially of rejection, and that's just silly. Only the rejected can give rejection its power (Oh yeah, that's like Tony Robbins good!)

    8) I regret not being more serious about my writing. Even as a young kid, I fancied myself a writer. I remember creating a whole series of short stories, including a choose your own adventure (damn I loved those), about a porcupine named Kong. I had people who liked and encouraged my work, including a teacher I had in elementary school who took a bunch of my stories and compiled them in a pretty cool bound package and helped get one my tales published in a young children's magazine (still one of my all-time great thrills).

    I continued writing short stories and small pieces throughout college, but as time passed, I grew more discouraged. I would read stories by the masters, by authors I totally loved, and bemoan the fact I could never be as good as them. I experimented with longer forms of writing, including novels, but could never finish my projects. My imagination was lacking. My vocabulary was inadequate. My characters were cliched.

    But if my writing was inadequate before, it's only gotten worse. Writing is a skill that must be honed like any other and I unfortunately have written very little over the past five years - aside from these blog posts, of course. I think I convinced myself that writing was not as enjoyable as it used to be, but I wonder if maybe there's something more going on here.

    Because sometimes I think of how envious I am of the people who seem like they know what they've wanted to do since the day they were born, who have passion about something and pursue it with joy AND single-minded determination, a lethal combination for success. And then I think back to how I would spend hours as a young kid holed up in my room, composing stories, getting lost in the process, reveling in my own creations, and wonder if for me writing should have been that thing, and - note the emerging theme - I just was too afraid to pursue it. That my imagination was lacking, indeed.

    9) I regret not doing more for my fellow man. This one is simple. I give to charity a decent amount, but not nearly enough. But more importantly, I should be more generous with my time. On this site, I've often complained about the lack of compassion certain members of society seem to have for their fellow humans, and yet I cannot honestly say I've done much to make a difference in this world. I talk a much better game than I do, and worry I just may be more selfish than I'd like to believe. Even when I try to do something charitable, I often do it begrudgingly and with the minimum effort, like the time several years back when I along with my brother mentored an inner-city student and helped sponsor his private Catholic school education. I did so little to really help that kid succeed, and embarrassingly, have since lost touch with him and his family.

    10) I regret not going to California to watch the Northwestern Wildcats play in the Rose Bowl. OK, this is a small one, but when I was a senior in college, the Northwestern football team came out of nowhere - after decades of being the doormat of the Big Ten - to shock the world with a miraculous year for the ages. In one season, they beat Notre Dame, Michigan (in the Big House) and Penn State to win the Big Ten and earn their first appearance in the Rose Bowl in fifty years.

    I saw every home game that year, and even a couple of away games, and that season easily stands as one of the top three sports fan experiences in my life. Many of my college friends went out to Pasadena during the Winter Break to cheer the team on, but I was a rather broke student and decided it would cost too much money. So I went home to St. Louis and watched the game on TV with some friends and family.

    What a joke. You don't get opportunities like that often, and when you do, money should hardly ever be the deciding factor. I know the advice to save and prepare for retirement or a rainy day has its merits - and especially sounds sage in tough economic times like the current ones - but money is merely a means to an end, nothing more. Be prudent, but have fun and take advantage of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities when they arise. Trust me, you won't regret it.



    6) Are you afraid to die? Why or why not?

    I'm not afraid of dying. I'm afraid of not accomplishing all the goals I've set out for my life before death happens. But even more than that, I'm afraid of living the kind of half-life my mom lived at the end of her life.

    Life, death, new life: I accept that natural cycle in principle. But I do fear experiencing a form of death that drains life of meaning and joy -- something long, pain-filled and dehumanizing.

    I draw comfort from Woody Allen's wise advice: "Death should not be seen as the end, but as a very effective way to cut down on your expenses."

    Mostly not until I start thinking about how final it is.  No matter what happens I will not be back on this plane of reality as I am now.

    I like to think I'm fairly Zen about this, but I suspect it's more that I'm good at denial. Obviously, I have some fear of death or I'd do really stupid things that'd kill me. On the other hand, I really just don't think about death that much. When someone close to us dies, my wife sometimes gets really rattled as she considers mortality (especially with regards to her parents), but my instinct is to just not think about it. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. (I am prepared for it, however, in the sense of having a will and knowing where my parents' wills are.)

    I have no intention of dying.

    7) What is (or was, if you are no longer in the biz of picking up) your biggest strength as a pick-up artist? And your biggest weakness?

    I'm told I have a great smile, and I can dazzle girls with my intelligence. On the other hand, I've gotten rather old and creepy-looking.

    The whole pick up thing just sails right over my head.  It is really funny now but on at least five different occasions I have been out with friends and when we are going home they'll ask why I didn't respond to some guy coming on to me or even asking me out.  I'm like what are you talking about.  I think I'm too literal or serious or something.  At least three times I would have loved to go out with the guy if I had a clue about what was going on.

    um, that's interesting. i always think a girl is coming on to me. sounds like i have too much confidence and you have too little!

    Strengths: my incredible good looks.

    Weaknesses: my humility.

    Strength: hidden depths

    Weakness: depths are too well hidden

    8) My English teachers in high school were fantastic, though i wish I had that one mentor who really truly believed in me and encouraged me to become a writer no matter what the odds against success were. Did you have that kind of teacher - tell us about him or her (even if you didn't, tell us about your favorite teacher.)

    My high school English teachers were three of the worst teachers I had in my life. I loved to write when I was a kid, especially poetry. But they beat out every ounce of creativity I might have had. The also took all the joy out of reading, and made me hate the classics. As a result, I didn't discover Jane Austen until I was 27.  

    It took me years after to realize how much I actually loved to write. As a result, I studied politics in college, which was fine. But I should have studied literature, I was just too shell-shocked after high school to realize it

    My favorite high school teachers were my Anatomy & Physiology teacher and my American history teacher. I had almost zero interest in either subject at the beginning of the year, but both teachrs made learning the wonderful exploration and discovery that it should be. 

    My English teachers don't stand out in my recollection; I owe more to a string of good editirs I've worked with. But I did have a high school science teacher who sparked my enthusiasm and let me take some equipment and materials home for extra study (test tubes, litmus paper etc.). In return, I had to promise to ace the final, and I did. Good teachers are rare and wonderful things.

    Just remembering this one depresses me a bit. I was "star student" at my high school (an honor which was based solely on your SAT scores), so I got to pick the "star teacher". Originally, I wanted to pick my high school counserlor because she was awesome, but I was told it had to be an actual teacher, so I picked my 8th grade algebra teacher (our high school was 8-12). I would've picked my calculus teacher, but he had gotten the award so many times, I thought it might be nice to spread it around a bit, and I really did like my 8th grade algebra teacher. After picking her, and notifying her of my decision, the person who told me I had to pick a teacher came back to me and told me that it actually would be OK to pick my counselor. I really dislike conflict and disappointing people, so I didn't change my selection. My 8th grade algebra teacher was star teacher that year.

    Fast-forward five years, and I'm now a new physics teacher at the same public high school I graduated from. While in the teachers' lounge, I hear my 8th grade algebra teacher say something along the lines of "I expected more from my white students" with regards to some particular student who had done something or other. That really took the air out of my lungs.

    I'm shocked that no one listed the name of their favorite teacher. who knows? maybe one they'd be googling themselves and would stumble upon dagblog, and it would make their day. I read Teacher Man by the late Frank McCourt a couple of years ago and always wanted to somehow let me high school teachers know that what they did mattered and I remembered and appreciated their efforts.

    Alas, i have forgotten the name of the elementary school teacher who bound my stories up in that compilation and got one of them published in a magazine (Im thinking Mrs. Spring or Mrs. Thomas, but i could be way wrong) ... so instead, I'm going to honor all of the English teachers I had in high school.

    Mr. Tom Wehling - he was actually a great influence in my brother's life and helped him out of some difficult situations. I wasn't as big of a fan, but he was a solid teacher and I still remember his incredibly robust spoken performance of Macbeth. He was quite the ham.

    Mrs. Roberta Berk - she was a very sweet teacher, and I remember her placing a lot of importance on vocabulary. Among the words I know I learned in her sophomore class were obsequious and filial. I also remember an assignment she gave us where we had to write a version of a fairy tale in the style of Holden Caulfield (I was pretty pleased with mine - think I did Cinderella)

    Mr. Dulick - my Shakespeare teacher, he was incredibly committed to his students, and would attend almost every extracurricular activity with his handicam in tow - by the end of the year, he compiled it all into a video yearbook that i still have somewhere. He was kind of a shy guy and had a kinda odd, dry sense of humor (with this incongruent loud laugh). I actually felt a little bit sad for him because i thought he almost spent too much time caring about his students at the expense of any noticeable private life.

    Dr. Barbara Osburg - she was a spunky, hippie-ish teacher, full of life and just a tad bit ditzy. She had a very specific process when it came to composing and revising essays, which i think helped me quite a bit in future classes. She was cool.

    Mrs. Jeanne (?) Eichhorn - Tall, gruff and a bit intimidating on the outside, Mrs. Eichorn was a softie on the inside. She gave the speech at our baccalaureate (along with Dulick i think) and I remember it being a touching one where she got a bit emotional. I probably have a special fondness for her because she totally loved my essay on Beloved, and from what I heard would hand it out to her students for years afterward. She was the closest thing i had to someone who encouraged me to pursue writing as a vocation as she also read and seem to sincerely enjoy a story I submitted for this contest at the school.

    Mr. Larry Moceri - he was hilarious. Very sarcastic with his students. I can still picture him lifting the eyebrows on his egg-shaped head and calling me out for some inane comment I had made. he was probably the most compelling teacher I had as well - I have a high opinion of Crimes and Misdemeanors solely because of how he analyzed it. I probably remember some of the works we read in that class more than any other - The Second Coming and A Modest Proposal are two that come to mind. He also gave me very good advice when it came to deciding on a college - i was worried about the cost of going to Northwestern University but he pooh-poohed that saying I'd make enough afterward to pay back any loans and beside, 'you can't squeeze blood out of a turnip'

    Well, here's my top 3:

    Dr. Phoebe Bailey - She was the first (and only) English teacher who was actually able to begin to pierce through my thick skill why my writing could be technically right, but still be stylistically wrong. She was able to put some algorithms behind style so that the engineer in me had a chance of comprehending it. As a side note, she was the only teacher in the school with a Ph.D., and the only African-American woman I knew at the time who wore her hair naturally.

    Mr. Steve Cole - My Calculus teacher, who finally convinced me the value in showing my work. As I mentioned before, he was a frequent recipient of the Star Teacher award, and he deserved it.

    Mrs. Chambers - My AP History teacher who actually made history interesting. Unfortunately, I can't remember her first name, and the Google keeps thinking I'm interested in the Chamber of Commerce. She, too, was a frequent recipient of the Star Teacher award.

    Here here for Larry Moceri. By far the best teacher I ever had.My intro to Kafka. By the way, Mrs Spring taught first grade at Craig

    I googled 'Larry Moceri' and your entry came up.  I had him as a teacher in 1972 -1974 at Parkway North Senior High.  Any idea if Larry is still with us? If so, any idea where I could contact him?

    Thank you.

    Greg Galvin

    Dr. Brooke Workman, who taught the two best classes I took in high school: a seminar on J.D. Salinger and a course on satire. He treated his students like college students, with the benefits and the responsibilities that entails. We read all of Salinger's work, tracking and analyzing his development as a writer. We were required to turn in a paper every week, and two of them were chosen for the class to discuss and to grade. I produced schlock some weeks, but I also wrote the best paper I'd done in high school.

    In the satire class, I discovered writers I'd never heard of, like H.L. Mencken and Ring Lardner. I read Twain beyond Huck Finn and Swift beyond Gulliver's Travels. I learned to hear the biting critique hidden in the folds of Garrison Keillor's radio shows and e. e. cummings' poems. Most importantly, I learned how to write satire, a muscle that I've only recently begun to exercise again. If I ever publish a satire book, I will dedicate it to the memory of Dr. Workman.

    cool tribute. made me want to also give a quick nod to Dr. Dan Stelmach, history teacher, who also approached his class as a college seminar, where constant note-taking was the name of the game. he always wore a black shirt on days when he would be giving pop quizzes and he had a sign at his door which read something like 'Abandon all faith ye who enter here'. And he was a stickler about geography - to the degree that i can point out forieng countries on a map or name their capitals it's because of Dr. Stelmach.

    I'll always remember that black tshirt and its inscription -- "Machiavelli is my kind of guy".  I was so glad I had his class in the afternoon so I could cram for his quiz.  I still feel bad for the folks who had him in the morning session.

    Hmm, the morning-afternoon disparity casts some doubt on the wisdom of "pop quiz day."


    9) Enough about regrets for a second. What is the one thing you've done in your life that you're most proud of?

    Raised two kids who are now smart, ethical and confident young adults.

    Actually sold some prints of my art work to strangers (not friends).

    Blue, you should upload some of them to dag

    Probably my Masters thesis in astrophysics. It's kind of sad that's what I'm most proud of, I suppose.

    i think being an astrophysicist is very cool! do you use that in your day job?

    Unfortunately, no. I use the physics bit, but not the astronomy bit. It's possible I might get to in a couple years or so, though, and I look forward to that possibility.

    Wrote and directed a play

    (associated regret: didn't take the play to Edinburgh fringe festival)

    10) Do you have any sport-related regrets, either as a fan or as a participant?

    I played tennis in high school, but I was never under any illusion about my level of talent. I just love the game.

    I regret for my grandmother that she never got to watch the Cubs win a World Series. She was born in 1912 and died in 1999. She still watched them every day, and when she couldn't get the game on TV, she listed to the radio. She hated Harry Carry--called him Mush Mouth--and loved Steve Stone.

    I know what mean about taking the opportunity because in 1998, when the Cubs were in the Wild Card game, I didn't have a lot of money, but two tickets at an elevated price were waved in front of me, and I bought them. My best friend from high school and I watched the game from the first row of the upper deck in right field. Steve Trachsel pitched, so naturally the game was 4 hours long. Cubs won, and I didn't get my voice back for three days. It was the 2nd most exciting Cubs game I've ever attended (and I've attended a lot of them!). I know I couldn't afford the tickets, but somehow I managed to pay my rent that month and I don't regret the decision for a minute.

    I regret that, despite my continuing unconditional support, the Montreal Canadiens have pretty much sucked for the past decade and a half. It's karma, I suppose, since in my youth I was spoiled rotten by the year-after-year dominance of two Habs dynasties.

    The recent bloodbath among our free agents means next year's team will hardly feel like the Canadiens at all. They had better get off to an early winning start, or this city's notoriously demanding fans will turn on both players and management. It could get uglier.

    Not really a regret, since things turned out alright, but I still wish my mom had let me try out for football in highschool. She was afraid I'd get injured. Instead I took up diving. I busted my ear drum twice trying to invent some new dives, and learning why these dives weren't performed by professionals. (For example, have you ever thought about how divers spin forwards and backwards, but never sideways? Well, it turns out that if you're spinning sideways really fast when you hit the water, there's a good chance the force of the water will blow out one of your eardrums. Don't try this at home.)

    Putting my singlet on backward in the regional wrestling tournament

    Nope, not afraid at all.  Try getting into near fatal car crashes ( I had five before I was 21 yrs old - a little rebellious, ya'think??? )--- that will cure you of any fear of dying.  I basically relaxed, went into a state of acceptance, and was absolutely curious as hell what lies beyond this reality.  Hopefully, it wasn't hell----

    The only thing I fear is suffering immensely before I die (cancer, etc.)  Saw my mother go through it and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy-- although I can think of a few I might.....

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