"Don't tell your mother what we're about to do. Oh, and don't breathe the fumes"
June 20, 2011 6:07 AM   Subscribe

Tips my Dad Says. Last week, MAKE Magazine asked their staff, contributors and readers to share some tips and words of wisdom from their dads and granddads. They received over 140 responses and have created a downloadable card of some of the best.
posted by zarq (45 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
It's hanging up right there in the workshop where I said it was. Go look again.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:11 AM on June 20, 2011 [9 favorites]

My dad's is, "Before you do something, think about what you'd say to the paramedics."
posted by Apropos of Something at 6:15 AM on June 20, 2011 [7 favorites]

"Don't tell your mother what we're about to do. Oh, and don't breathe the fumes"

"Before you do something, think about what you'd say to the paramedics."

Good sensible advice for the readers of MAKE Magazine whose link in the FPP contained a further link to this: The Frankenhorn Flamebone Flamethrower Trombone.
posted by three blind mice at 6:19 AM on June 20, 2011

Recent MetaChat thread
posted by Trurl at 6:32 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was going to download that card when I saw it yesterday, but some of them are pretty meh. "Teaching someone a good work ethic..." for example is good advice, but is advice to the sign hanger not sign reader.

And the "if it's stupid and works, it isn't stupid." So wrong. There have been many (many many) times when I finished working on something and thought "no, that's a stupid solution" and just did it over. I'm almost invariably happier with the result both then and later. In fact, that advice directly contradicts the first one on the list "do it right the first time".
posted by DU at 6:34 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think you missed where that statement was telling you to not be so hard on yourself. Sometimes, a solution can work. If you're more comfortable with a re do, great, but if it works -- you don't always have to.
posted by cavalier at 6:45 AM on June 20, 2011

One my favourites from my most awesome father:

"You'll get over it before you become a girl."
posted by bwg at 6:45 AM on June 20, 2011

Not my father, but "build one to throw away" trumps "if it works it isn't stupid" and "if you don't have to time do it right, when are you going to have time to do it over".

Iteration is a powerful tool.
posted by Leon at 6:47 AM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

My father's advice for dealing with worry and stress:

When facing something that is causing you worry, anxiety and/or stress, ask yourself three questions:
1) Is it a problem?
2) Is it MY problem?
3) Is there something I can do about it RIGHT NOW?

If the answer to any of those three questions is no, then stop worrying about it.
posted by LN at 6:50 AM on June 20, 2011 [8 favorites]

My favorite from a friends Dad:

"Can't lives on won't street."
posted by cccorlew at 6:51 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

"build one to throw away" trumps...

Yes! My current fave. And I just realized I taught it to my 10 year old just this weekend. In the workshop!
posted by DU at 6:54 AM on June 20, 2011

Looks like Scarabic's dad got in there.

if you ever have to shoot someone, make sure you empty the gun. That makes it look like you were scared. -Sam Murphy
posted by cashman at 6:54 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

My relationship with my father is a bit strained a lot of the time, but he only gave me two pieces of advice I specifically remember: "Try not to lie if possible, as it's difficult enough remembering what's true, without having to remember made-up stuff as well" and "Never volunteer for anything". There was a lot of other stuff, but I mostly remember it as non-specific disapproval.

By the way, when did Father's Day become a Thing, rather than a greetings card sale opportunity? I'm sure it wasn't a Thing when I was young, outside Hallmark at least.
posted by Grangousier at 7:05 AM on June 20, 2011

Dad: “son, hand me a wrench”
Son: “what size wrench you want Dad?”
Dad: “Doesn’t matter, I’m gonna use it as a hammer!” -Jon Oxford
posted by digsrus at 7:06 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

My father's advice was "Measure twice, cut once," and "Did you add one inch, stupid?"
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:10 AM on June 20, 2011

As a child, it was crudely said but at a football game standing next to me in the next urinal: "Give it one last shake before you zip up, nothing worse than dribble."
posted by Fizz at 7:10 AM on June 20, 2011

"Wearing pearls adds ten years to your age"
posted by Segundus at 7:13 AM on June 20, 2011

(On his deathbed) "Never vote for Reagan"
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:18 AM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]

My Dad's two bits of advice:

"Whenever you start a new job [employment], establish right from the start that you can come and go as you please."

"If you want to impress the boss, don't come in early -- stay late."

Oh yeah, and "Don't become a musician. They're all alcoholics." And "the point of an education is to get a fun job."
posted by Faze at 7:24 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

"don't put your pecker anywhere you wouldn't put your tongue"
posted by Redhush at 7:32 AM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]

My dad was so exasperating; his one piece of "advice" that he kept trying to hammer into me was, "If you want something bad enough, it will happen." Even as a child I knew that was crap (Oh really? What if I want to be the King of England? What if I want to marry an alien? What if I want to travel back in time?) but it was just his way of blaming me if I failed at something. Kinda like the way some Christians set prayer up for failure-- if it didn't happen it was because you weren't "pure" enough.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:36 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've acquired a lot of useful advice from my father over the years, but most of it not pithy like these examples. Nevertheless, one that is: "Common sense to most people are pennies."
posted by namewithoutwords at 7:47 AM on June 20, 2011

I never knew that for the first decades of my life, my father always harbored a tiny question in his mind that I might not be his. Not because my mom was a cheater, but mainly because he thought I was so much smarter and prettier than he was.

However, one weekend home from college, Dad asked me if would mow the yard to help them out. I went out, tried to start the mower but no luck. After a number of tries, and trying different things to figure out why the mower wasn't starting, Dad came around the house to see me beating the mower with a wrench and cussing it. He said that at that moment, he knew I was his daughter at a molecular level.

He also taught me:
Cooperate and graduate.
Aim for the body, it's a bigger target.
If you don't know how to do something, ask somebody who does. If you don't know anyone who knows how to do it, get a book on it and figure it out.
posted by teleri025 at 7:48 AM on June 20, 2011 [8 favorites]

"Go look it up."

"Here, take this apart."

"Here, [pile of wires, motor, switch and a battery] make the motor work."

"Gimme your walkie talkie. I'm going on the roof. Go turn on the Cubs game." [through the radio] "Tell me when it isn't blurry!"
posted by gjc at 8:00 AM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

From the comments, this one jumped out at me as sage, practical advice that would probably have kept 90% of the people currently in jail, out:

"Never to break the law while breaking the law."
posted by gjc at 8:03 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

My father's sadly cynical yet utterly true wisdom: "Always look for the buck" meaning if you find the money trail, you've found all you need to know.

He also had a sign on his desk reading "this too shall pass."

Oh gosh I miss you, Dad.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:12 AM on June 20, 2011

My dad always put it as: "Only break one law at a time."
He also said: "You're smarter than the guy who built it and at least as smart as the guy who designed it, so there's no reason you can't fix it."
posted by Floydd at 8:14 AM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]

I recently rediscovered something I'd been wondering about since I was 16 and had my first real job (stockboy at a camping store). My dad said, before my first day of work: "Be careful about how hard you work today, because people will see that and think that's how hard you'll work everyday". Being naive and optimistic and enthused, I thought he was imploring me to prove how hard I could work so that my new co-workers were impressed.

23 years later, I suddenly realized he was warning me not to work too hard, because once people know you're a hard worker, they start making you do all the work.

I was reading a back issue of some magazine that talked about racism in the workplace. (I'm a straight white guy and have never been discriminated against by anyone ever so take this for what it's worth)... anyway a minor but striking assertion in the article was that often privileged folks in the workplace skate over the surface of their job without doing any hard work, because it's obvious to them that they don't need to, because they're visionary leaders yadda yadda, while the proles want to make a good impression and wind up working twice as hard, and thus inadvertently reinforcing management's impression of them as workers instead of leaders.

This seems utterly true to me, in my experience, though I'm sure I've benefitted from the dynamic more than I've suffered. But the people who do the work are usually the people who are treated as disposable resources- whereas the ones who put their feet up on the bosses' desks and tell a dirty joke are the ones who become managers.

So all along my dad was trying to tell me: don't work too hard, or you won't get a promotion. And I took it the wrong way and worked like a dumbass instead. Whoops.
posted by Erroneous at 8:15 AM on June 20, 2011 [16 favorites]

"A ferret in a box troubles no man"
posted by Segundus at 8:31 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

That chart would be a lot easier to look at without individual accreditations for each tip.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:35 AM on June 20, 2011

"If you have a question, ask it. The worst thing that will happen is I'll say 'no'."
"Keep your stick on the ice."

My dad also loves to quote movies, seemingly unprompted and without context. Sometimes, his references work. Most of the time, they don't. My favorite "working reference" is when we went to the gun range once, and after I emptied the gun rapidly, I hear him say "Whoa whoa whoa, nice shootin', Tex!"
posted by King Bee at 8:38 AM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]

My dad used to say that his father had taken him aside when he was just about to move out of the house, and told him that he only had one piece of advice: "never pass up an opportunity to go to the bathroom." And that that was the only piece of advice that he, in turn, had to pass on to me.

He first told me this when I was about 9, and I swear to God I was 17 before I realized he was kidding.
posted by penduluum at 8:56 AM on June 20, 2011 [5 favorites]

My family's oft-repeated version of that, penduluum, was "Never pass up a chance to eat, sleep, or go to the bathroom". I think it was most often said by my mother, though.
posted by hattifattener at 9:50 AM on June 20, 2011

My dad always advised that if someone offers you a breath mint, take it.
posted by digsrus at 9:53 AM on June 20, 2011

There Are No Accidents. There Is Only Stupidity.
posted by Zed at 10:06 AM on June 20, 2011

If someone says, "it's not about the money...", it's about the money.
posted by Chrischris at 10:29 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Never sign anything if you can avoid it."
posted by Babblesort at 10:40 AM on June 20, 2011

"Would you rather have it and not need it, or need it and not have it?"
posted by jquinby at 11:34 AM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

My dad is who made me the geek I am and was the first person I ever heard using online acronyms. RTFM, SOL and FUBAR were terms he used quite a lot while talking to me when I was little. I think it was just his way to swear - while not swearing - around his daughter.
posted by MaDonna Flowers at 11:58 AM on June 20, 2011

I think it was just his way to swear - while not swearing - around his daughter

For years, I thought "son of a gun!" was the worst possible swear phrase, because that's all my dad used when I was a kid.
posted by maxwelton at 12:19 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

"Would you rather have it and not need it, or need it and not have it?"

Yikes! That's the rationale of the hoarder.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:03 PM on June 20, 2011

Best advice I ever got from my dad was "Get away from that you don't know what the fuck you're doing."
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:31 PM on June 20, 2011

Yikes! That's the rationale of the hoarder.

No hoarder he. This was usually said in the context of things like a big-assed flashlight, leatherman pocket tool, his gun*, etc.

* retired LEO; doesn't carry any more AFAIK,
posted by jquinby at 4:56 PM on June 20, 2011

Once at the age of maybe 8 I was with my family in Lahore, Pakistan, walking around a market. My father spotted an ice cream stand and me and my sister said we wanted some so he went off to buy them. I quickly got distracted and started looking around, thinking to myself, and then a minute later my dad shows up with the ice cream.

For some reason not seeing him pay for it convinced me he didn't have to! So I asked "Daddy, did you get the ice cream for free?". I'll never forget the expression on his face. It was a mixture of derision, pity, and incredulity. He simply responded "Nothing ever comes for free".
posted by asymptotic at 12:27 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Rust, fire and explosions are the same process, taking place at different rates."

Rust and fire, yes. Explosions, no, at least not all of them, and especially not those generated by what we typically think of as "explosives." Many high explosives do not require oxygen to be effective.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:39 PM on June 21, 2011

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