Advice to Youth

No one takes it, my kids especially. I write it as an exercise.


Don't smoke. Quit cigarettes first.

Avoid sunshine if you are light skinned. Don't just block it -- stay out of it so far as possible.

Strive always to be truthful. Have great respect for the difficulty (and the pitfalls) of generalization. Cling to specifics. Consider studying some general semantics (see also Language in Thought and Action, S.I. and Alan R. Hayakawa, Fifth Edition, First Harvest Edition (US): 1990, ISBN 0-15-648-240-1).

Understand some nutrition. Avoid obvious fat foods. Consider vegetarianism. Know how to prepare some foods from scratch.

Live in a clean place with good ventilation. Avoid furnishings that can't be kept clean, or impede cleaning (e.g., carpets). Keep and use appropriate cleaning tools and supplies. Tolerate no vermin. Bathe daily. Don't live in any region where the air is bad.

Exercise regularly. Running and isometrics are fine, if other opportunities are not at hand. Dance, sing. If you must climb to the top of things, be sure to use safety lines.

Take care of your teeth. Brush, floss. Check into floss forks and the Water Pik. Go regularly to a good dentist. (How to identify a good dentist? -- under construction!)

Develop manual skills. Start with penmanship. Cultivate drawing, drafting, and sculpting skills if possible.

Play musical instruments. Understand music notation. Do musical exercises until your fingers ache. Know some chording, harmony, counterpoint. Consider writing notation. (The best time to start a musical education is at age 2. Too late for you, perhaps, but maybe not for your kids.)

Understand how things work and fit together. Understand and use power tools, as well as hammer, saw, level, square, screwdriver, etc. (Use the right screwdriver and the right wrench!) Study fasteners, adhesives, lubricants, and protective coatings (i.e., paint, wax, boiled linseed oil). Learn to solder.

Learn a vocation in high school. Go to college anyway. To some extent, support your education with scholarships and your vocational skills.

If possible, learn a language with a different set of alphabetic symbols.

If you are up to it, go to your limit with math. And don't avoid physics and chemistry. (But you do not need to know how to dissect a cat, or even a frog, particularly since computer simulations are better, smell better, and won't make you sick or sad.)

Know measure: pounds, kilograms, meters, acres, feet/mile, grams/oz., $/lb., etc. Learn what is meant by dimensional analysis, and know how to do it.

Avoid casual sexual encounters.

If you must use a credit card, pay up each month. The difference between money you own and money you borrow can easily be 30% per year.

Gamble only when the odds are favorable, at least even. That excludes most, if not all, so called "gaming" (unless, of course, you are the "house").

Avoid acquiring things with multiple functions (e.g. TV-VCR). Go for mechanically simple things (e.g. u-defrost refrigerator). (Avoid TV altogether, if possible.)

Appreciate old things, particularly those you can restore/repair and maintain.

Don't fix it if it ain't broke. But learn to tune, adjust, optimize. And, as an exercise, attempt to repair when no hope seems to remain.

Understand this well! Things usually go wrong one at a time. If you modify a second thing in attempt to locate a primary defect, you must restore it to its original state before proceeding. Otherwise two things are wrong, and you are lost!

Never say "Do whatever is needed". Find out what is needed. Maybe you can do it yourself. At least you will have some idea what it should cost and who should do it.

Understand that many "professional" advice givers and service providers deal in equivocality and obfuscation, serving their own interests quite possibly to your detriment.

Understand that life, including us, is extremely improbable. An incredible stroke of luck, if you want to look at it that way. That goes for our animals and our vegetation, too.

"Don't drive like me, and don't drive like my brother, either."  (And welcome to my favorite radio show.)

If you have gotten this far, now would be the time go think about going out and doing some good in the world.

Sorry, I can't help you too much with that! Check out Ann and Amy, or Mother Teresa.

I have been told that much of the above advice is not appropriate to girls/women. Acceding to that view would definitely indicate sexism. I would say this: if you are a girl, do not volunteer to be a foot soldier. But I would say that to any one. In general, I believe that contact sports are to be avoided.

(This was inspired by a piece circulated on the Internet, and erroneously attributed to Kurt Vonnegut. It was actually attributable to a lady journalist in Chicago. My version reflects considerable modification.)

Dick Adams -- Canton MA --9/97, Rev. 2/2002

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