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The Boomtown Charter: Introduction

On May 18, 1884, the residents of what was once called Change, Washington, adopted the Boomtown Charter, establishing the town of Boomtown forever. Signed by Chang himself (founder of Chang’s Famous Fireworks Factory), the Charter and its 20 Articles have served as a guiding light for all of it’s past and present citizens. During boom times and bust times, the people have always been able to rely on the wisdom of the Articles to give them the inspiration they needed to endure and prosper.

It is now my pleasure to be able to share with you the 20 Articles of the Boomtown Charter. Each of them will be explained in separate articles and posted here on this blog over the next several weeks. I welcome your comments. Please let me know what you think.

And now, without further ado, I present the 20 Articles, listed in numerical order:

I.  For Best Results, Add Fireworks.
II.  Politeness and Civility Always.
III.  The Least Government is the Best Government.
IV.  Buy Local.
V.  Blow Something Up.
VI.  Exercise Restraint.
VII.  Mind Your Own Business, except…
VIII.  Look Out for Number Two.
IX.  Promote the Community, not Yourself.
X.  Respect Authority, Honor the Honorable.
XI.  Get Married, Stay Married.
XII.  Celebrate Cultures.
XIII.  Work Hard, Play Hard.
XIV.  Eat Well, Laugh Often.
XV.  Entertain the Mind, Elevate the Spirit.
XVI.  Invest in Education.
XVII.  Preservation First, Progress Second.
XVIII.  Reuse Everything.
XIX.  Own Less, Share More.
XX.  Show Mercy.

If you find inspiration in these principles, you may want to download your own copy of the Charter at the following link and display it proudly on your wall:  Download Boomtown Charter.

Finally, I had a certain 5th grader once say to me: “If everybody tried to do what the Charter says, the world would be a pretty cool place.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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Nowen Goes to the Movies!


With the release of the paperback version of Boomtown (March 2010), I am committed to doing whatever it takes to make my first-ever book a smashing success.

One of the things I’ve always wanted to do was produce a series of promotional videos/animated movies.  This is my first!

I have two other movies planned for Boomtown – and one for my other children’s book, One Hole Day:

  • Does Nowen Really Exist?
  • Eggbusters:  Exploding the Myth of the Hen Grenade
  • What Would YOU Do with a Magic Hole?

You can be an important part of spreading the news about Boomtown by sharing this video with others.  Thank you!

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Gray is the New Black: 50 and Fabulous!

On the advent of my 50th birthday, two events occurred – unsolicited, uninvited, but there they were – one in my mailbox and the other staring back at me from the mirror.

The first was the arrival of my AARP card.  Bright red logo, red and gray stripes, my name boldly printed in all capital letters and the signature of William D. Novelli, chief executive officer, all neatly printed on a shiny laminated punch-out card. The accompanying letter joyfully invited me to register my membership in an organization comprised of millions of fellow patriots like myself who are “fighting for the American Dream, demanding the commitment we need from our leaders for lasting solutions in healthcare and financial security.”  By joining, I would be rewarded with travel discounts, access to health-related benefits and financial programs, reduced fee legal services, and a regular subscription to AARP The Magazine.

Of course, it was the discounts that first caught my attention.  But I forgot about the discounts the instant I looked in the mirror.  I’m no George Clooney, but I don’t look half bad for a man my age.  What do I need with a stinking AARP card?  Who do those people think they are?

At least, that’s what I was thinking until my wife gleefully made the observation: “The hair on your chest is turning gray!”  She seemed particularly amused by this discovery, even though if it weren’t for the “magic bottle” that she keeps hidden in the bathroom cabinet, her own crown of hair would be gray from sea to shining sea.  I carefully counted the offending hairs on my chest (I only have about fifteen of them). Three of them are holding steady. The rest have surrendered to the sands of time.

The combination of these two events – silver growth sprouting from every surface of my body and the invitation to become a card-carrying AARP member – means that every single one of my future birthdays will be marked with the obligatory “The Problem with Getting Old…” birthday cards.  I know that all four of my children will not be able to resist the annual opportunity to point out my multiplying signs of physical deterioration, even if it means risking their portion of the inheritance, which, by the way, continues to shrink with each insensitive comment and holiday indiscretion.  That won’t stop them, of course, from buying packages of adult diapers and tubes of denture cream and wrapping them in festive packages just so they can see my reaction.  I know my kids.  I raised them to act like this.  They can’t resist poking fun at the Old Man.  Just ask my dad.

No, the only question that remains is how I will write the last chapter of my life.  It began hopefully with once upon a time.  Will it end happily ever after?

Until age twenty-five, I walked a meandering road of discovery, moving aimlessly from one foolish endeavor to the next, managing to collect a series of humorous anecdotes about some of my more spectacular failures, but otherwise surviving those years intact and measurably wiser than before.  The second set of twenty-five years has been mostly an exercise in adult responsibility: raising kids, working hard, paying bills, building equity, and looking forward to the time when I could de-shoulder the weight of my obligations and strike out on a new adventure without risking those who needed to depend on me.

I’ve finally reached that milestone. Age fifty, with perhaps twenty-five good years to go if I remain healthy and keep my left foot near the brake pedal.  It’s my turn now.  What shall I do with my last hurrah?  Will it be a memorial service where I mourn the loss of who I was and what I had, numbering my regrets and wishing I had done more with my life?  Or will it be more like a glorious night at the Kennedy Honors – or even a celebrity roast where my friends and family, myself included, laugh about what I’ve done and what I’m going to do.

I choose the latter.  It ain’t over yet.  The fat lady is still in the wings warming up her voice.  Let her wait.  I’ve got a lot of living left to do.

So, I’m sitting here studying my AARP registration form.  It gives me three options for membership:  “Choose a box below and enclose your check or money order for the appropriate amount:  one year, three years or five years.”

That’s it?  Only five years?  I feel a lot more optimistic than that.  Where is the box that says “twenty years” or “forty years” or even “forever”?  Because gray chest hairs or not, I’m very much alive and I plan to stay that way.  I’m fifty and fabulous.

(Eat your heart out, George.)

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Kids Need to Read!

The effect that reading has on the health and well-being of children cannot be overstated.  Consider the following proven benefits for children who read:

Vocabulary: Research confirms that most new words are discovered through reading.

Attention Span & Memory: Reading develops the ability to concentrate at length, retain detail and improve memory.

Listening/Speaking Skills: Reading impacts the ability of a person to listen well and speak effectively.

Critical Thinking: Reading strengthens ability to sort through information to make better decisions.

Spelling & Writing: Kids who read are better at spelling, punctuation and grammar.  Reading well-written books improves writing ability.

Creativity: Books require readers to exercise their imaginations, cultivating creative thinking.

General Knowledge: The amount you know is directly related to the amount you read.

Educational Success: Children who read score higher in all school subjects.

Success in Life: 50% of all unemployed youth are functionally illiterate. Readers tend to get better jobs and get promoted more often.

Positive Values: Kids who read wholesome books are less likely to take drugs, drop out of school or be imprisoned.

Parental Bonding: Reading to your child builds emotional connections.

The last point on this list is the one that captures my attention as a parent and grandparent: Reading establishes emotional bonds between children and adults. This is especially important when you consider that a recent survey calculated that the number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children was only 3.5.  That’s it!  Three and a half minutes of heart-to-heart conversation – per week! That same survey determined that the number of minutes per week that the average child watches television is 1,680, a total of 28 hours.  That’s more than 1450 hours a year!

Are you surprised?  It may be more serious than you imagined.  The Kaiser Family Foundation found that the typical American child spends more than 38 hours a week as a “media consumer” in a home that averages 3 TVs, 3 tape players, 3 radios, 2 VCRs, 2 CD players, a video game player and a computer.  In other words, the majority of a child’s waking time is consumed by non-human interaction with electronic gadgets.  Other than being told to “turn that thing down!” a parent may rarely if ever speak to their child in a meaningful way during any given week.

The simple answer is to establish the Bedtime Story as part of your daily routine.  At first, it may be difficult to break the TV habit, but I guarantee that after about a week both you and your children will look forward to those shining moments.  They will drag you over to the reading chair or jump into bed waving a book under your nose. You will travel together on fantastic adventures that only children’s books are able to take you.  Like Peter Pan sweeping Wendy off to Never Never Land, kids books have a magical way of carrying you to places like nothing else can.

You will start talking to your children.  You will talk about healthy things like fun and fantasy and wonderful dreams.  They will make you laugh.  You will discover that your children are a lot more interesting than anything on cable or YouTube.  You may end up enjoying reading time even more than your kids.

I guarantee that as the years go by your child will NOT remember any of the million TV shows they watched or the mind-numbing video games they played. But they will NEVER forget those cherished moments they spent reading with you.

It will change their lives.  And it will change yours, too.

(Challenge: Start reading to your kids TODAY.  Share your favorite Bedtime Story experience on this blog. We’d love to hear about it.)

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Why My Left Brain Hates My Right Brain

It was still pitch dark outside when my left brain rolled over and glanced at the digital clock.  It groaned in frustration as it realized that once again, my right brain was wide awake and obsessed with its latest “big idea.”

“Are you out of our mind?  Do you have any idea what time it is?”

“Huh?” my right brain replied, jarred out of its reverie by the irritated tone of its opposing counterpart.

“It’s four o’clock in the morning!”

“Yeah. So?”

“I have to get up in a few hours.  When I do, I’ll be expected to make all the decisions, same as always.  I don’t want to be fuzzy – not like you, you right-brained lunatic!”

“But I just got this really cool idea for a new story. It’s about a detective who solves crimes by accident. And he’s accident prone, except the accidents never happen to him, only to those who are nearby.  So whenever he’s on a case, he always…”

“I don’t care!” my left lobe snapped.  ”It’s always something!  Why does it have to be at four o’clock in the morning?”

“I don’t know.  It’s not my fault.  It just happens.  An idea pops into my head and I can’t stop thinking about it.”

“Well, knock it off.  We’ve both got to get some sleep, especially me.  How am I supposed to run a business and drive a car and calculate the sales tax on a cup of coffee with only three hours of sleep?  My guy can make it fine without you – but what would he do without me?”

My right brain sniffed at the suggestion.  ”He would be as dull as chewed pencil if it wasn’t for me!  I’m the one who puts COLOR into his life!  Dreams!  Adventure!  Creativity!  Excitement!  He’d be a tie-wearing, cave-dwelling, pasty-faced Microsoft dweeb if you were in charge!”

“He’d be asleep if I was in charge,” my left brain barked.  ”Instead, we’re tangled up in our sheets, flopping around, dreaming about some stupid accident prone private detective.  Well, I’ve got something you can investigate.  This pillow!  Now shut up and go to sleep.”

For two minutes it remained dead quiet, until my left brain realized that the synapses in my right brain were still firing on all cylinders at a hundred clicks a second.

“Now what?”

“Did you ever wonder what would happen if an ostrich laid a golden egg?  I wonder how much it would weigh?”

“Do you know what I think?”


“I think if I had hands I’d punch you right in the Prefrontal Cortex.”

There. Finished.  And it’s only 5:36 am!

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Is it a blog…or a grog?

“Weblog” is a term first coined by Jorn Barger (Dec. 1997), and shortened to “blog” by Peter Merholz in May 1999.  Wikipedia defines it as “a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video.”

With 112,000,000 blogs in existance (Dec. 2007), we’re all familiar with the term.  But have you ever heard of a “vlog”? (video log)  Or a “splog”? (spam log)  Or a “phlog”? (a photo log)  Or how about a “frog”? (any weblog written by a French person)  C’est des nouvelles à moi.

Not to be outdone, I have decided to coin my own unique blog word.  Henceforth, my weblog shall be known as a “grog”.  It’s short for “gratuitous weblog”, because after all, let’s be honest, with more than 112 million blogs already up and running, does the world really need another one?  What could I possibly add to the conversation that hasn’t already been said – or is being said – right this very minute by tens of thousands of Twittering typers?  In the time it took me to write this sentence, 1200 new Tweets were added to the Internet.  140 characters per Tweet.  The clicking of the keys is so deafening it’s like a scene out of Hitchcock’s “The Birds”.  We’re quickly being pecked to death one “enter” key at a time.

Nonetheless, in spite of the blogging flock (would that be a “flog?), here I am posting my very first article on my very own grog.

The world may never be the same. We can only hope.

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