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Throwback Thursday! Just One Thing…

This story warrants a re-post because last week life and my dentist reminded me about it, again.

(Sept. 26, 2015) Many of you may not remember this scene from the 1991 movie City Slickers:

Or maybe you do. Jack Palance’s, character, Curly, tells Billy Crystal’s character that the “secret of life is just one thing.”  To which Billy Crystal replies, ‘That’s great. but what’s the one thing?”  Curly answers, “That’s what you’ve got to figure out.” This week I figured out what my one thing is.

It was the end of the school day at Cicero Elementary School. Bus number 186 was called over the P.A. system, meaning I could leave the classroom, retrieve my coat from my cubby and head outside to find my bus in line. Eight year old Phil gathered my papers and books, pushing them sloppily into an already overstuffed desk. I hurried a little extra because I was thirsty from playing outside in the sunshine during end of day recess and I wanted to get a quick slurp of refreshing water from the fountain in the hall before I left.  I rushed to my cubby outside the room, grabbed my coat and put my orange and black Baltimore Orioles Little League baseball cap on my head. It was probably a little crooked, it always was. I just didn’t have the knack of centering the brim over my face unless I was looking in a mirror. I didn’t care though. I was still at an age where I hadn’t yet learned that I should be self-conscious about how I was put together. That was something boys didn’t think too much about until they noticed girls.

I didn’t know it, but the next moment was the one that changed my life. I turned from my cubby and fought my way across the hall, dodging and weaving through other students flowing through the hallway like a swift moving river of four foot tall humanity. After successfully navigating the obstacle course I reached my destination. The hallway water fountain.

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Doesn’t that bubbling, gurgling water look refreshing? I thought so too, so much so that I leaned in for a drink a little too quickly. See that curved piece of metal above the bubbling water? I leaned over, perhaps slightly hurried and slightly distracted by the crush of students passing by and thoughts of my waiting bus, and as I did so one of my center front teeth hit that curved metal piece. Not hard, but hard enough that about one quarter of a tooth broke off cleanly and completely. One drink. One quarter of one tooth. One life changed forever.

Yes, I know it sounds insignificant, but we rarely realize the long term ripple effect of small moments when they happen. That one moment those many years ago helped me realize just how lucky I am.

On Thursday of this week, two days ago, decades after I broke that tooth, I visited the dentist because of that tooth. Complications related to that one simple moment have probably required me to have, literally, about 100 additional dental appointments over the years.  There have been countless procedures, needles, poking, prodding, and pain. Today I thought to myself that if I had one chance to turn back time and change one moment in my life, that moment when I broke my tooth might be what I’d choose.

When I started writing this I thought to myself, considering what others have endured, if my biggest problem in life has been a broken tooth that would plague me for the rest of my days, then I’ve been pretty damn lucky. Then I decided that I wouldn’t go back in time and stop stupid eight year old me from bumping my tooth, because from today going forward it will always remind me how lucky I’ve been so far. Weirdly, I think that the next time I’m in a dental chair because of this tooth, I’ll probably smile. Because of the dental work on the tooth it may never be a perfect smile, but it will be a grateful one.

So what’s your one moment? Your “one thing”? What would you change if you could? Or what life lesson did you learn from that one moment in time?

As always, if you enjoyed #ThePhilFactor, please share it by hitting the Facebook, Twitter or re-blog buttons below. Have a great weekend! ~Phil

Fun With Search Terms: The Father’s Day Edition!

When most of us were kids, Google was our dad. There was no internet or search engines. If you wanted to know something you had two choices: break open that giant set of encyclopedias that your parents bought twenty years ago or ask your dad. Dad was supposed to know everything, right? Only now that we’re parents we know that our parents didn’t know everything and were making all their answers up.

Now though, we can search the internet for answers. Unfortunately, when you ask the internet questions,  sometimes the internet keeps those questions so a blogger can make fun of them later, like now. Today. That is what I’m doing. Here are the funniest/weirdest search terms that brought readers to #ThePhilFactor over the last three months:

Gary Spivey on Trump Impeachment: I will take any opportunity to post a picture of Gary Spivey, Psychic Medium because I’m jealous of his fame and fortune. And hair. We have a lot in common. We have great hair and both he and I have predicted a premature end to the term of he who shall not be named. Also, I predicted I would interview Gary for The Phil Factor this year. He knows it’s going to happen.

MTV music video font: From my old days working on MTV I stole their font and have been using it.

Philthy Animal Old: I take exception to Google deciding that my blog, or me in particular, is the answer to this search term. It’s like Google is mocking me personally.

Funeral Fun: That’s right! Need entertainment for your funeral? Just call 1-800-Phil-Factor! I will emcee with humor and empathy!

“phil factor” bill gates: Yes, I’m the Bill Gates of blogging.

Phil is leaving memes: You’re damn right I’m leaving memes. I’m a meme dropping machine. And I’m sassy.

real sexting conversations to read in hindi: This goes back to a post from 2015 and since I published that, the views and this search term haven’t stopped. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. That’s ok. You Hindi speaking people feel free to fly your freak flag at The Phil Factor anytime you want. I’m here for you.

Have a great Sunday and Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there! ~Phil

Music Monday! Saturday Sun by Vance Joy

I hope you brought a little bit of the weekends Saturday Sun into your week. Have a great Monday! ~Phil

Throwback Thursday! A Spell Checkmate? What’s Your Kabaragoya?

With the Scripps National Spelling Bee wrapping up today, I thought you’d enjoy this classic Phil Factor.

(May 31, 2014) See what I did there with the title? That was clever right? For the first time in 52 years the Scripps National Spelling Bee ended in a tie.

Kabaragoya? That’s what’s wrong with the spelling bee. There has never been, in the history of planet Earth a practical reason for anyone to use the word kabaragoya in any context. The fact that I’ve used it twice in this paragraph is already a new world record. Here’s your chance to win something. I’m trusting that you’ll be honest. The first commenter to tell me what the word kabaragoya means, without looking it up, wins a free copy of one of my books. All three are in e-book format and the two novels are also in paperback.

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It’s a good thing the contest ended in a tie. I doubt that any single spelling bee contestant has the muscle mass required to lift that trophy by themselves. It ended in a tie? Apparently after the competition was whittled down to two, the contestants both spelled twelve words correctly before it was declared a tie. Really? Twelve words? Are you telling me there wasn’t an adult somewhere in that room that couldn’t have cracked open a dictionary and pulled out a few more words?  How about if you asked the contestants to spell the word “girlfriend” or “social life.” I’m pretty sure those are terms they’re not familiar with. Did they have to declare it a tie because the competition is so physically grueling that the contestants couldn’t go on? Were they worried that the audience was in danger of literally dying of boredom?

When I’m elected President, or Sexiest Man Alive, whichever comes first, I’m going to pass a law mandating that if the spelling bee is down to two contestants and they’ve both spelled two words correctly the tie will be broken by a physical competition. The first contestant to successfully demonstrate any actual dance move wins. Moonwalk, Gangam Style, Harlem shake, anything close wins.

Now I know that you may be thinking that I’m just a mean jerk for mocking these kids. I may be, or perhaps it’s just green eyed envy. I was almost one of them. Almost… That’s right, as a 13 year old I was my school’s alternate to go to the county spelling bee championships. Had I gone and won, it would have sent me to the state championship and then the National Spelling Bee. We took a written test that we never got back, so I don’t even know what my kabaragoya was. It will haunt me forever. One more correctly spelled word, or a convenient “accident” to my in school competitor and fame and fortune could have been mine. Instead I’ve just got this blog, so please leave a comment to help me overcome the demons of a spelling bee past that has scarred me lo these many years.

As always, if you enjoyed #ThePhilFactor please share by Facebook, Twitter, or re-blog. Have a great weekend! ~Phil

Throwback Thursday! Dumb and …uhh What’s That Other Word?

(May 23, 2015) I like to think I’m a relatively smart person. Of course I like to think a lot of things about myself which aren’t true, but that’s a topic for another post. (Coming soon to a blog near you, Top Ten Lies I Tell Myself!) If you’re reading this, you’re obviously a very smart person too. (Top Ten Lies I Tell My Readers) Let’s, for a moment, be honest with ourselves. It’s impossible to know everything about everything, right? So sometimes all of us geniuses feel dumb in certain situations. Some more than others of course, but there’s no need to raise your hand right now. If you’re an adult with children and they can make your cell phone do technological cartwheels while you can barely figure out how to text without accidentally calling 911 then you know what I mean.

Admittedly, I had one of those situations where I felt dumb the other night. I know, I know, after putting me up on the pedestal that you have, it must be very upsetting for you to hear this about me. I had to call the cable company for technical support and the conversation went like this:

Me: Hi, umm,..I tried to turn my TV on but it’s doing that thing where there’s a message on the screen and it won’t turn on. Well, it’s on, but there’s no picture.

Tech Guy: Did you turn it off and turn it back on again?

The I.T. Crowd

The I.T. Crowd

Me: Yes. Same thing. It did this once before and the guy told me what to do and I tried that but it didn’t work.

Tech Guy: Hold on. Let me pull up your account. What’s the last four digits of your social security number, your mothers maiden name, the house number of the street you grew up on. No, not that one, the other one, and what kind of car did your fourth grade teacher drive.

Me: Blah, blah blah (gives information) Wait, was it what color was the house my fourth grade teacher lived in? Blue, no, wait, I think it was purple. Hold on, I’m going to try something. I switched the HDMI input and connected the satellite feed into my VHS player. That should work right?

Tech Guy: Ok, I see your account here. Oh, it’s you Mr. Taylor. Just set the remote down and step away from the television. Nope. Don’t touch it. No, that’s too close. Is there another room you can go to? Just wait there. We’re sending a guy out to your house. I’ll stay on the line with you. Just take deep breaths. It’s all going to be over soon.

Me: There’s just so many cords and wires! Why do there have to be so many? Why?!!? I just plugged the coffee maker into my chromecast. That will work, right? Dammit! Why does there have to be so many?

Tech Guy: Calm down Mr. Taylor, try to breath into a bag. There’s no need for tears. Someone will be there soon. (shouts to someone in the background “What the ETA? We’ve got a Code Zulu Banshee here! Code Zulu Banshee!”

Me: (sobbing) There’s just so many. So many wires. So many buttons. Why does there have to be so many? A man should not have to go through this to watch a few Friends reruns! You know Ross is the unsung hero of that whole show. You know that right? Ross fecking Gellar could figure this out! Why can’t I? You know he was a paleontologist before he was 30. That’s not easy. Neither is this. Wait, I think I’m on to something. What is it? White you’re right, red your dead? So if I switch…

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Tech Guy: Calm down Mr. Taylor. Our guys are at your house. They’re going to come in slowly. Just set the wires and cords down and let them help you. Don’t push any more buttons and this will all be over soon.

Cable company guys rush in and disarm me taking the remote  from my hand. Speaking into a mic on his shoulder “Headquarters, this is Captain Bravo, Tactical Response Team 1.  The scene has been secured. It appears that Mr. Taylor was trying to change channels with his garage door opener. We’ve given him the remote. Situation de-escalated. We’re returning to base.”

So what are the situations you feel stupid in? Do you avoid them? Do you just give up? Do you try to figure them out? The second picture in this post is Chris O’Dowd as Roy from the British sitcom The I.T. Crowd. If you have Netflix, I strongly recommend a weekend binge watch. As long as you’ve read this far, would you mind doing me one tiny favor? One of my tweets is up for Tweet of The Week in a Chicago Tribune poll. Could you click THIS LINK and vote for me?

Have a great weekend! ~Phil

Top Ten Tuesday! The Ten Best Books I’ve Ever Read. What Are Yours?

Like the title says, these are the ten best books that have ever read. They’re my favorites. Yours may be different. In fact, I’m hoping they are. Either in the comments or, in your own blog post with a link back, I’d like you to share some of your favorite books so that we can all maybe find a new favorite book or author from each other. Of course I won’t shamelessly plug my own books by putting them on my list, but if you want to, I won’t argue.

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10. The Vampire LeStat: by Anne Rice. Unbeknownst to most people (you know it’s serious when I use big words like unbeknownst) it wasn’t Stephanie Meyer who invented the vampire genre, but Anne Rice about fifteen years earlier. LeStat, referred to as the Brat Prince, is such a fun character you’ll want to become one of the undead just to hang out with him for eternity.

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9. The Da Vinci Code: by Dan Brown. The first in the series was easily the best. Don’t watch the movie because Tom Hanks stars in it with a ridiculously bad hairdo, but read the book.

8. How to Succeed in Evil: by Patrick E. McLean. Edwin Windsor is an Evil Efficiency Expert who contacts out his services to help supervillains be more villanous. Hilarious!  You end up rooting for evil!

7. Bite Me: by Christopher Moore, award winning, New York Times bestselling author who I interviewed for The Phil Factor about three years ago. Spoiler alert: This won’t be his only book on the list. Trust me on Christopher Moore. You’ll want to read so many of his books. Bite Me skewers the vampire genre with brilliant sarcasm.

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6. Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys: by Pulitzer Prize winning Dave Barry, whom I interviewed for The Phil Factor in 2013. If you’re a woman, you’ll laugh as you read countless hilarious examples of the idiocy of men. If you’re a guy you”l see yourself in so many of the true stories.

5. 11/22/63: by Stephen King. I hope you didn’t watch the Hulu miniseries. They took some liberties with the plot that I didn’t think were necessary and detracted from the story. Read the book. It’s a surprising love story.

4. Good Omens: by Neil Gaimans and Terry Pratchett. Read. Laugh. Thank me later. Both authors are cherished titans of English literature, and their other solo works are brilliantly funny. Together they don’t disappoint.

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3. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: by Douglas Adams. This book is a literary classic. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT watch the movie. Read the book. Your cultural education cannot be considered complete until you’ve read this book.

2. A Dirty Job: by Christopher Moore. Being the Grim Reaper is a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. Hilarity galore. If you enjoy the absurdity of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, then you’ll also love Christopher Moore.

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1. Odd Thomas: by Dean Koontz. In general I consider Dean Koontz to be Stephen King lite, but Odd Thomas is his signature character. I read books from a first person point of view. I become the protagonist when I read. Some characters fit in my head better than others. Odd Thomas fit me like a glove. For me, he was one of those characters where I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be him or have him as my best friend. I read the first Odd Thomas novel at least a decade ago and was disappointed earlier this year when, after 16 novels, the series came to an end.
Those are my top ten. What are yours? Answer in the comments or create a post and link back so we can all find a few more good reads.

Have a great Tuesday! ~Phil

Ten Quotes! Donald Trump or Kanye West?

The Cut

You know the routine. In the comments tell me which quotes you think belong to Donald Trump and which belong to Kanye West.

10. “I’m too busy writing history to read it.”

9. “When you’re the absolute best you get hated the most.”

8. “…we build a school, we build a road, they blow up the school, we build another school, we build another road, they blow them up, we build again. In the meantime we can’t get a fucking school in Brooklyn.”

Next week do I go with Donald Trump vs. Shrek quotes?

7. “I have millions of ideas and I represent a new generation just trying to express themselves in a broken world. I will go down as the voice of this generation, of this decade. I am so credible and so influential and so relevant that I will change things.”

6. “You know what, Trump is doing a much better job than the Democrats did.”

5. “I hate when I’m on a flight and I wake up with a water bottle next to me like oh great now I gotta be responsible for this water bottle.”

4. “I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book’s autograph. I am a proud non-reader of books.”

3. “I hate it. I am a traditionalist. I have so many fabulous friends who happen to be gay, but I am a traditionalist.”

2. “When you hear about slavery for 400 years…For 400 years? That sounds like a choice.”

1. “It’s really cold outside, they are calling it a major freeze, weeks ahead of normal. Man, we could use a big fat dose of global warming!”

There you go. Can you pick which quotes are Donald Trump and which are Kanye West? Have a great Saturday! ~Phil