Friday, September 30, 2011

GUEST POST: Sometimes, You Just Need To Move On.

Guest Post by Stacy Harris.
When you hit the end of the road, when there is nothing left for you to do, will you embrace the journeys you have traveled or will you be the one shouting, “I wish I would have done more!”
Which Way Do I Turn?
The type of life you live and the type of person you become is completely up to you. You are the only one who can make the choice and you are the only one who can make the changes necessary to live the life you want to live. It is time to evaluate. Are you on the right path?

Recalibrating My Internal Compass.
It wasn’t long ago when I found myself waking up each day wondering if there was more. There was a sadness that completely encompassed me. I had to force myself to move, since I much preferred to do nothing at all. It got me thinking. Was this just a serious case of depression? Or was this just a lack of satisfaction in my life?
My life had taken many turns. I had lost friendships; I changed positions at work; my house was falling apart at the seams. I even felt like a burden to those who were supposed to love me most! None of these situations result in blooming amounts of happiness. 

Time For A Change ...
Out of nowhere was a beam of light. As a family, we decided to make a change. A change of scenery and a change of pace. We packed up all our belongings and moved out of state.
This was a chance to wipe the slate clean. Sure, you may think this is equivalent to running away from all your problems, but it really is a new start. A chance to make new memories and to go on new adventures.

... And It's Good!
As I sit here today, I am a happier person. Things are starting to go my way. I have a chance to stay home and raise my children. I have a new house that isn’t falling apart. I am taking the time to meet new people. It has been an eye-opening journey. One that was filled with a few hardships, a few great memories, and, in the long run, has taught me a lot about myself and the people around me.

It just goes to show, if something isn’t going the way you like, you just need to move on. After all, it is your life to live and when you come to the end of the road, it is you that must be happy with it. After all, it is your celebration! The rest will follow!

Stacy Harris is a wife and stay at home Mom to three in Riverside, Ca. Aside from her family, writing is a primary passion for Stacy. Stacy's nom de plume is barbergirl28 and you can find her work on HubPages and Xomba.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

ROL: Happy Birthday.

Today's post appears through the magic of scheduling. I am taking a couple of days off the grid. It is my habit to respond to every comment. I will respond, it may just take a few days.

ROL (return on life) is about making small changes in attitude or action that can produce a significant increase in QOL (quality of life). This week's ROL is about our planet.

source: morgueFile
Hayom Harart Olam.
Today the world was created.
From: Roshana/High Holiday Liturgy

Today, I will be joining the rest of the worldwide Jewish community in celebrating Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. One of the themes of Rosh Hashana is a divine annual review with the potential annual bonus, another year of plenty. Not receiving the divine bonus comes with likely severe consequences. Given these circumstances Rosh Hashana is significantly more low-key than secular New Year celebrations. Another theme of Rosh Hashana is the commemoration of the creation of the world. Happy Birthday, Planet Earth.

I think this creation of the world is something everyone can celebrate. Both Christianity and Islam recognize Judaism as their theological progenitor. For atheists, agnostics and other proponents of "Big Bang Theory", well, today is just as good as any other day. As to the many other theologies I fail to encompass, I apologize but just go with it, okay? I don't suggest celebration in the same green theme manner of Earth Day. I'm in favor of a day to pay mind to conservation of Earth's limited resources, so way to go Earth Day. But for today, Earth's birthday is the subject matter.

Take a moment, look around and drink in Earth's majesty. Have ideas for making Earth better? That's for Earth Day. Today is for acknowledgement and enjoyment. If you're in the northern 1/2 of the northern hemisphere, look at the vibrant autumn colors as the foliage acknowledges the approaching winter.  If you're in the southern hemisphere close your eyes and imagine the oncoming summer. If you can do neither, there's always the internet, but don't forgo the birthday celebration. Do you have some ideas for celebrating Earth?  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Emmy Awards. Somebody Got Robbed.

In my continuing effort to stay behind the curve, I seek redress on a grave injustice served at last week's Emmy Awards. Peter Dinklage won the Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in the series "Game of Thrones". I am completely unfamiliar with both the actor and the series. Still I am completely comfortable in saying that the best supporting actor in a drama series received neither the award or even a nomination.
The Emmy Should Go To...
Source: Wikipedia
As a fan of "SportsNight", "Six Feet Under" and "The Gilmore Girls" I should have taken to "Parenthood" immediately. For inexplicable reasons, I didn't find the show until the middle of the first season but due to the magic of Netflix, I caught up immediately. In the midst of an incredible ensemble is an actor that doesn't appear to be acting. Max Burkholder as Max Braverman isn't playing a child with Asperger's syndrome; he is a child with Asperger's Syndrome.
He's Just Acting, But... 
Before I go further, Max Burkolder does not have Asperger's Syndrome, though it's hard to tell. As the parents of an Aspie, neither my wife nor I were sure Mr. Burkholder was acting in his roll as Max. He has the manifestations of Asperger's (inflexibility, lack of eye contact while conversing, mastery of minute details) down pat. His timing as he enters meltdown mode is impeccable. His (lack of) dealing with social situations and unspoken communication is pitch perfect. Max's portrayal of Max should be recognized by his peers in the acting community.
Older, Not Nearly As Good.
There have been adult characters with Aspergers on TV in the recent past. Mary McDonnell's Dr. Dixon on "Grey's Anatomy" was two-dimensional. Christian Clemenson as attorney Jerry "Hands" Espenson on "Boston Legal" started well but soon went over the top ("Boston Legal" was not noted for continued nuance).  There have been other characters with Aspergers as well, but none portrayed as well as Max Braverman by Max Burkholder.

So I now ask you: Do you have any other examples of outstanding representations of characters with challenges? Do you agree with my thoughts about Max Burkholder? Any ideas on the next step to getting Max Burkholder an Emmy?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Weekend Magazine: Two Great Tastes That Go Great Together.

Reese's, 2.0

First, there was peanut butter and chocolate.
Now, there is beer and sausage.
What will be the next great 2 in 1 food combination?

Friday, September 23, 2011

It Doesn't Make Sense.

Two days ago, Wednesday, September 21, 2011 Troy Davis was executed in Georgia. Davis was convicted in 1991 for the 1989 murder of an off-duty police officer. During the ensuing myriad appeals, numerous witnesses recanted, some claiming their original testimony was coerced. Additionally, a witness for the prosecution confessed to the murder. This confession was not allowed into the appeal process due to procedural rules. Davis maintained his innocence until his death. Many, including the family of the murdered police officer believe justice has been served. Many others are not similarly convinced.
source: morgueFile

The death penalty remains an option in 34 states. Physician assisted suicide is legal in 3 states. Montana is the only state that allows both capital punishment and physician assisted suicide. So in 2/3 of the United States it's okay for the government (with very specific criteria) to end your life for the sake of justice, but illegal for a doctor to help you end your pain for the sake of dignity.

Can anyone explain this to me?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

ROL: Take a breath.

ROL (return on life) is a qualitative corollary to the quantitative metric, ROI (return on investment). Just as ROI strives for incremental investment driving disproportionately large returns, ROL strives for small incremental changes that greatly increase quality of life. This week's ROL is about the simple act of taking a breath.
Crazy Is The Norm.
Things have been quite hectic around the house. Just as the kid's routine for school became established, the adult's routine changed. My wife's work schedule changed from 2nd shift (3:30 PM - midnight, Sun-Thurs) to 1st shift (6:30 AM-3PM, Tues-Sat). The change is good. On the 2nd shift schedule my children and my wife weren't awake together at home 5 consecutive days each week. Still, my wife has never been fond of mornings, so I moved my 5:20 AM wake up to 4:30 AM to be able to offer any help she might need in the AM. Little Susie gets up at 5:40 AM to catch a 6:45 AM school bus and Mario gets up at 7:30 AM for the 8:25 AM Septran pick up on our driveway.

During the four hours from wake-up to kids-gone I work on wake-ups, lunches, backpacks, breakfasts, and clothes. I dole out the proper allotment from the household apothecary for everyone. I review material and post to the blog. I check email and social media. I try and walk between the time my daughter gets on the bus and my son gets out of bed. If everything goes smoothly, I may even read and comment on a blog or two. And Gracie the wonder beagle is going to want breakfast and some attention. I realize that many parents consider my morning schedule a vacation, but there is a big difference: This is my crazy schedule.
Wait There's More.
Yesterday, I had one additional agenda item. I had to take my mother to pick up her new hearing aid and still be back to meet my daughter off the school bus. Taking my mother for her hearing aid is a 200 mile round trip, so keeping everything on schedule was a must. I got my son out the door and was getting ready to go myself. Wait, do I have everything? Did I pack my lunch? Did I eat breakfast? Did I take my meds? The only reason I didn't hear the screeching of the walls closing in around me was the loud chirping of the birds circling my head. So I stopped and took a breath. Then I took another breath. The walls returned to their rightful place and the birds went away.

Sometimes it is that simple. As the world starts to spin out of control, stop and take a breath. Then take another breath. Everything stops spinning and equilibrium returns. That's how I do it. What about you? Do you have any routines to offer that stop the day from running away?
Post Script.
I actually took my slow-down mode to another level yesterday. In the car, I turned off my usual radio mix of sports talks and politics. I plugged the stereo jack into my smartphone and listened to some favorite songs. It almost felt like a vacation. Not, really but it was a nice break. Why don't you take a few minutes and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Triberr, Spam and Fertilizer.

I've been a "Passionate Parent" on Triberr for under two weeks and I'm now ready to take a stand: Triberr either is or isn't spam. Wow! What a relief to finally admit that! Perhaps some context might help.

Triberr Primer.
Triberr's primary purpose is to help bloggers seek out and expand readership. Triberr accomplishes this through an algorithm that automates tweets about blogposts. Triberr is exclusive by invite to a specific tribe(s). Tribe members agree to mutually publicize each members post's via the Triberr algorithm. Tribe size, frequency of tribe member posting and quantity of tribes joined affects the number of Triberr tweets that go into a tribe member's Twitterfeed. There exists the possibility that a very popular Triberree (ex: a member of many large tribes with very active bloggers) can have a noisy Triberr-driven Twitterfeed, which creates a noisy Triberr-driven Twitterfeed for followers of the aforementioned Triberree.
Twitterfeed Purity: My Story
I respect the desire to keep a Twitterfeed free of excessive meaningless tweets. My first 18 months on Twitter I was SMS only(text, no internet) when mobile. There was some motormouth kid from Malaysia clogging my Twitterfeed. Even though motormouth was following me, I whacked the kid. Kid's name was Aaron Lee.  Yup, I whacked Aaron Lee.  Well, ya live (hopefully) and learn (hopefully).

source: Wikipedia
Putting aside my personal aside, at a certain point the argument about unclogged Twitterfeed falls apart. Once you are following 200/500/1000 the Twitterfeed becomes unmanageable on a one to one basis. At that point, what's another 20/40/100 tweets per hour?
Missionaries and Irony.
One of the beauties of Twitter is the open exchange. Got an opinion? Phrase your opinion in less than 140 and tweet. Want to target a specific group? Add a hashtag. So I ask the "Triberr is spam crowd" why do you add the #Triberr tag when you complain that Triberr is spam? Do you think someone cares? Are you trying to convert the Tribe(rr) natives to your more evolved religion? As you crusade about spam, how much spam are you creating on the #Triberr hashtag?
Don't Go Away Mad...
Any Triberr member understands the potential pitfalls and accepts those challenges for the broadcast benefits Triberr creates. For those that find Triberr to be spam, hey it's your opinion and your Twitterfeed, duly noted. Now please, shut up. Or use another hashtag, like #Triberrisspam. Or better yet, shut up.

Monday, September 19, 2011

"Up All Night"? Not Watching This.

NBC debuted "Up All Night" starring Christina Applegate, Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph on Wednesday, September 14, 2011. The half-hour sitcom is about how becoming parents effects a me-first, party all night couple.

The First Scene Goes Into The S*#@$$er.
The show begins as Reagan (Christina Applegate) and Chris (Will Arnett) are sitting on the bathroom floor counting the minutes until a home pregnancy test results appear. Reagan and Chris spend the time exchanging meaningful comments, unfortunately I can't recall the meaning of the comments. Once the p-tests results are revealed, the scene fast forwards to the couple using expletives, thankfully deleted, as adjectives describing how exceptionally beautiful their new baby is. Reagan (or was it Chris?) suggests with a new baby in the house it might be time to curtail the cursing. Chris (or was it Reagan?) agrees that it's bad to swear with a baby around, at which point both parents remark how f*&#^ing beautiful they find their baby.

And There is More.
We learn that Chris gives up his job as lawyer to stay at home with baby while Reagan returns to the job she loves: Producer for "Ava", an Oprah/Ellen/Rosie talk show with Maya Rudolph as Ava. For reasons inexplicable, Reagan goes back to work 2 days before the couples 7th anniversary, leaving the anniversary celebration for a work night.  The pilot covers Reagan's relationship with Ava, Chris's apparently 1st venture into the supermarket and both parents coping with the lifestyle changes that come with being parents.

The Good.
The show handles the pseudo-poignant discoveries of a sitcom pretty well. Reagan realizes she can't be at Ava's beck and call and be a Mom. Ava discovers that having a baby changes the lifestyle of her producer/pal Reagan. The parents learn that a babysitter isn't the only cost of a "night on the town" anniversary celebration. Also, Maya Rudolph does a respectable job playing an over the top personality without going over the top herself.

The Bad.
The show is a situation comedy. The situation is real enough. The comedy is non-existent.

The Possibilities.
Lorne Michaels  (SNL wunderkind) is the executive producer of "Up All Night". The show has a SNL skit feel to it. Unfortunately it feels like the SNL skits that show up after the Update, which is usually B-minus or worse material. Occasionally these late show sketches pick up steam so perhaps "Up All Night" can do the same.

End With The Beginning.
Many works of literature foreshadow later developments in the beginning. The final scene of the "Up All Night" pilot returns to Reagan and Chris using expletives as adjectives to described the beauty of their child. One (or the other) suggests that it is a bad habit to curse around the baby. One (or the other) agrees that it is bad form to swear around the baby. The both continue to use expletives as adjectives to described the baby's beauty. I fear that "Up All Night" will end as it began, not funny.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Weekend Magazine: Math Tutor Required

Santa's Village
Saturday, September 17, 2011

Looking for captions that complete this equation:
First Aid + Lost Child =_________

Friday, September 16, 2011

Top 10 Concerns of Parents.

As I celebrate the end of my first week as a "Passionate Parent", enough of the sunny, rosy, it's a wonderful world talk. It's time to go negative. For all the wonders of being a parent, there's an enormous list of parental worries. In order to make the weekend just a bit gloomier, I ask exactly what keeps parents awake at night?

In August, WebMD ran a post about the Top 10 Concerns of Parents. The overall breakdown according to the WebMD survey is as follows:

  1. Childhood obesity, 33%
  2. Drug abuse, 33%
  3. Smoking and tobacco use, 23%
  4. Teen pregnancy, 24%
  5. Bullying, 24%
  6. Internet safety, 23%
  7. Stress, 22%
  8. Alcohol abuse, 20%
  9. Driving accidents, 20%
  10. Sexting, 20% 
The article goes further, breaking down concerns and respondents by ethnicity. Total number of respondents was less than 2000.

I don't know WedMd's methodology. I think the poll items in total certainly represent a month's worth of parental nightmares. I disagree with the order. No disrespect to childhood obesity or tobacco use, but those are long term killers.  I would put driving accidents, alcohol abuse, internet safety and sexting all before obesity and smoking. My reasoning is simple. Accidents, booze and improper use of technology can get a kid killed right now instead of later.

What do you think? How do you feel about the poll rankings? Take a moment and leave a comment or respond to the poll in the left sidebar.

On a final note, though you can never protect your children completely active and involved parents can and do minimize the risk of growing up. As you finish this post do comment or take the poll and then please ignore my tongue in cheek treatment of the issue. Do everything possible to have a great weekend. Every moment is dear, enjoy your kids.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

ROL: Be Fearless.

ROL(Return on Life) is the "help improve your life" counterpart of ROI (Return on Investment). Simply stated, ROL suggests incremental changes or activities that can produce major returns toward a better quality of life (QOL). This week's ROL is about starting something new without being afraid.

Whatever Happened To Pong?
As a parent, I have mixed emotions about hand held gaming systems. I would much prefer my kids are reading instead of doing thumb stretches. I'm also not thrilled that these gaming systems come with a habit slightly less expensive than cocaine. On the other hand, as we end a two hour car ride free of "I'm bored" or "Dad, she's breathing my air", hand held games are... priceless.
No Fear, Just Fun.
This month finds my family anticipating way too much time for the kids in the car. In that light, each of my kids got (yet another) much anticipated cartridge for the handheld. My wife was amazed as the kids put in the games and just started playing. No tutorial and no review of the rules. Just dive in and have fun.
I'll Be Ready Tomorrow.
After my wife's observation, I realized I should follow my kid's lead. Too often I am reticent to jump right into an activity for one reason or another. I watch for norms, try to fit in and wait for the perfect moment to become involved. In fact the perfect moment doesn't announce it's arrival in advance. No one ever got better at anything by not doing, so why delay the doing? As my kids have shown me, push start and keep going.

Do you find that you wait too long to jump in? Or have you found that the "measure twice, cut once" approach works best in all facets of your life?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ralph Waldo Emerson Trust 30 Challenge: Changes

This Trust 30 prompt is from Carlos Miceli. The challenge is to take whatever isn't working (job, relationships, friends, acquaintances, appliances) in my life and assume the problem is me. What is my approach and what changes would I make to position my life where I want my life.

It's My Fault. Just Ask My Wife.
The fact is whatever isn't working in my life is indeed my fault. My job, friends, wife, kids, relatives, friends, etc. are going to act as they act and do as they wish. I may have some input with the people in my life, I certainly have little control. I am however, in charge of my reaction. Therefore if some component(s) in my life is/are not working, it's my fault.
Nice Theory. How Does It Work?
In practice, the "I'm in charge of my reaction" is truly as simple as it is in theory. For those you love, love and accept them for who they are.  Don't let short term disappointment with someone you love cloud the fact that this person is indeed someone you love. If it hurts too much to be around someone you love, don't be around that person. 
What About Non-Relatives?
Don't confuse a friend with a) an acquaintance, b) a neighbor, c) a co-worker, d) someone you know or e) someone you know well. A friend is someone you love, see the paragraph above. The rest of these relationships are great to have if there is (mutual) benefit. If you seem to always be coming up short, at the least minimize encounters or better yet, ban the person from your life. Remember, if you spend an hour each day railing about the moronic behavior of the guy next door, who's the real moron?
The Boss.
What if your employer/supervisor/premier client is an unmitigated, self-centered, self-impressed jerk? (Not that I have ever personally worked for someone with these lack of  qualities.) Replay: I may have some input with the (work based) people in my life, I certainly have little control. I am however, in charge of my reaction.  It is a personal decision to work with and react to those that make you miserable. Once you deem the transaction to be in-total negative, why should you continue to transact?

Why did I address my response to you when the challenge was for me? I  wasn't speaking to you, I was talking to me. I invited you to listen to my conversation.

This, however is for you. What changes have you made when something wasn't working? Was the onus on you or was it really what was happening to you?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How I Scored A Triberr Invite.

Increase Your Reach.
I first heard about Triberr in April via a post from Gini Dietrich. You could say that Gini's shtick makes for clicks that stick. Or not. The fact is when Gini says investigate, I click. I saw all this stuff about Tribes and Invites and Chiefs and Bones and Bonfires and again realized why I wouldn't join a fraternity. Frankly, it was more than I wanted to assimilate at the time so I went on to something else.

Triberr, Again?
Within the last 10 days the name Triberr appeared on my radar again. I clicked and the whole "reach multiplier, invite required" showed up. I went onto the blog (Bonfires) and looked for some back door way to get an invite. No such luck. I read a post about getting an invite and set a standing search on Seesmic for #Triberr. That's right, I was going to cyberstalk.

If You Can't Say Something Nice...
The first thing I noticed on the #Triberr search was the large amount of people pissing and moaning about how Triberr is spam. That's right, complaining about the application on the hashtag for devotees of said application. Great, I thought, another future blog topic for free.

Desperately Seeking Triberr Invite.
Within a day I saw tribal chieftains scouring the hashtag for potential members.
  • "Seeking German Opera Blogger"-no, not me.
  • "Looking for left handed auto mechanics with a passion for writing"-still not me.
  • "Do you hate social media, especially blogging? Come join my tribe." -ironic, but not for me.
  • From @erinswallace: "Have a tribe Passionate Parents, looking for bloggers, tweet me". - well not really my portfolio, there's always tomorrow.
Be Patient, Collect Reward.
The next day I saw a Chief looking to fill a writing tribe. Again, not really me but I asked via tweet "How tightly are you defining writing?" Well, @erinswallace responded to my tweet and asked if I was interested in joining her tribe of Passionate Parents. I'm as passionate a parent as there is with a deep seated hatred and total mistrust for my kids (These are qualities of being a good parent, trust me). @erinswallace and I exchanged a few tweets about fit with both of us asking questions. I received an official invite code, joined the Passionate Parents tribes Saturday night and had my first parenting post up well before kickoff on Sunday.

My Plan Can Work For You.
That's it. A little time, some honesty and I got my Triberr invite in under a week. It didn't hurt that I am new to Triberr and my blog doesn't look like a NASCAR race car. If you're looking for an opportunity to join Triberr, I just gave you a 3 day roadmap. If you're not looking to join Triberr, why are you still reading?

Monday, September 12, 2011

One Great Lesson In Leadership.

Last Friday I saw a great lesson in leadership from my friend, Andi. Andi asked me to accept one day of contract work. As usual, I was happy to oblige.

A Rough Day For A Family.
I am a funeral director by trade, as is Andi. She requested my assistance with a funeral at a local synagogue. Jewish funeral customs are such that a visitation the night before the funeral is extremely rare as is viewing of the deceased by the general public. Whether the family receives condolences at the funeral prior to the service is subject to local custom. On Friday, the family chose to stay in seclusion prior to the service. The family expected about 500 people at the funeral. Some of the attendees are public figures and many were flying in from out of town. Given these parameters, the family gave Andi a list of attendees family members would like to see prior to the start of the funeral service.

What To Do?
Including myself in the conversation, funeral director have large egos. It comes with the territory. Funeral Directors also pride themselves on their "following"; families that specifically want to work with a specific funeral director. Many funeral directors would have chosen to be in full view as people arrived for the funeral. Being in grand view is a great way for a funeral director to network and grow a following. Andi made a different choice.

It's About Choices.
Andi requested my presence on Friday specifically for my assistance and judgement as people arrived to attend the funeral. Why? Because Andi wanted to be "on the door" where the family was in seclusion prior to the start of the funeral service. This allowed her to be at the family's call prior to the service. This also made Andi responsible for who was allowed to see the family. Andi chose to protect the familiy's privacy (a primary request of the family) at the expense of the opportunity to network prior to the funeral service.

Leaders Lead.
The lesson: Don't delegate primary responsibilities. If it's really bad for something to happen (or not) be in charge of that part of the event or project. Forgo the flash. Take control of what's important even if it leaves you in the background. That's leadership.

What other examples of leadership can you share? Feel free to include "how to" or "how not to".

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 and Being A Parent.

The phone rang at home a bit after 9 AM CDT on September 11, 2001. The caller was my administrative aide from the business I was managing. "Hey Barry", she said "with everything going on, I'd like to run to school and get my son so I know he's safe.  I'll either bring him here or take a sick day. Is this okay?" I couldn't imagine anything so critical in Milwaukee so I asked "What's going on?" She said, "You haven't heard that a plane flew into the World Trade Center in New York?" "No" I said, "I don't have the TV on. My son is throwing up the onion rings he ate last night". She asked again, "Can I go?". "Sure, whatever you need to do" I said. At home my wife and I had just about finished cleaning up the rug, so I got in the car and went to work. I don't even remember if my admin was at the office when I arrived.

Kids sure have a way of messing with mommy and daddy's thought process. The entire safety net of the USA was melting in the fires of the Twin Towers and all I could think was "No more onion rings for my son".  All hell was breaking loose 1000 miles away and all my administrative aide could think of was taking her son out of the safest place he was going to be that day, just to personally watch over him. The funny thing is, being a parent doesn't readjust your thoughts on a crazy day, being a parent changes your thinking every day. That's good and I wouldn't have it any other way.

What are your 9/11 memories, especially those involving your kids (or nieces, nephews or neighborhood kids)?
Any other examples of how kids occupy your thoughts when other things are flying all around?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Football, Jobs and The President

I am ashamed of our country. Not only did we spend 8 years as the laughingstock of the free world (previous president) we continue to soil ourselves in public. Worst of all, no one seems to notice or care.

Who Needs Jobs? We Have Football.
With nationwide unemployment listed at 9.1% but an effective unemployment rate much higher President Obama spoke to a joint session of Congress last night about jobs. The President actually wanted to speak Wednesday night, but House Speaker John Boehner wouldn't schedule a joint session of Congress due to a conflict with the GOP Presidential Candidate Debate. Normally a speech to a joint session of Congress is during prime time. Unfortunately, Thursday September 8, 2011 was also the 1st game of the NFL season and prime time was reserved for Monday Night (Sunday Night?) Football on Thursday Night. Thursday Night Football doesn't begin until midway through the season, but I digress. To avoid a conflict with the football game, President Obama's speech began at 7 PM EDT. The NBC affiliates in Green Bay and Milwaukee chose to air a pregame show instead of the President's speech. My head hurts.
Souce: Wikipedia
Hail To The Chief. Yah, Right.
Although the elected President of the United States belongs to a political party, the office of the President of the United States has no political affiliation. The office of the President represents many things but for the sake of this post two items are of critical importance:
  • Elected Leadership. When the founding fathers set guidelines for leadership of the USA, the founding fathers established free elections as opposed to establishing a monarchy. Our leadership from president of the country to mayor of the smallest town is decided by a vote, not through bloodlines.  Not only is our country based on free elections, but we espouse to the rest of the world that all other countries should follow our lead and in establishing, promoting and protecting free elections.
  • Peaceful Transfer of Office. No matter how divided our country has been at various points in our history, elected offices have been transferred without violence on the dates prescribed by the written laws established for each locale. In short, the results of free elections determine who takes charge, not stockpiles of weapons or military takeover. Again, the peaceful transfer of power is a tenet we want other countries to adopt as the only method to transfer leadership.
How seriously can other countries take the USA if we preempt our President's speech to our elected representatives in favor of a show about a sporting event before the sporting event occurs?
What To Do?
This total ignorance of our countries' values didn't happen overnight and is endemic of a highly politicized government and extremely polarized populace. In my world, NBC would have told the affiliates in Milwaukee and Green Bay to show the speech in real time. There should have been long and loud criticism about choosing pregame over the speech, but what do I know? I do know that the lack of civility and priorities that lead to the choice of pregame instead of President needs to be changed. None of us can count on those in Washington to create that change. So what do we do? What can the average person do to bring us back to a country that both respects and is respected?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

ROL: Context Matters.

ROL (Return on Life) is a self designated qualitative measure based on the quantitative metric, ROI (Return on Investment). ROI is maximized when small investments provide whopping returns. ROL is maximized when small incremental lifestyle changes provide exceptional enhancement in one's QOL (Quality of Life). This week's ROL is about delaying final evaluation until actions are reviewed in context.


Are You Ready?
Tonight starts the NFL 2011 Championship Season. Despite the fact that pro football adds no value to society I am a huge fan. I love the game.  Not so much the talking heads. Even less the useless statistics the talking heads spew whenever there is 2 seconds of stillness. For example:

  • The (beloved) Bears are 46-3 the last decade when they have 40 or more rushing (running) attempts per game. The inference is when the Bears run, they win. In context please understand that in the 2010 season the most yards gained per pass attempt average (San Diego) was 8.7. The most yards gained per run attempt (Philadelphia) was 5.4. Additionally running plays take longer than passing plays. In short, teams pass when they are behind and run to protect a lead. You don't win because you run, you run more when you are winning.
  • Time of possession early in games. This Sunday the (beloved) Bears are playing Atlanta. Atlanta starts with 12 plays and kicks a field goal to end their1st drive. The Bears run 3 plays and punt back to Atlanta. Atlanta has 14 plays, misses a field goal and the 1st quarter ends Atlanta up 3-0. Immediately a statistic pops up showing Atlanta has a 12:00 minute advantage in time of possession. All true, but Atlanta leads by a mere 3 and the Bears have only had the ball once. Given context the stat is meaningless.
I Will Never Be Ready For This.
I will follow up the above constructed, albeit true to NFL examples with a real life example. If you don't notice the thick line in the middle of my progressive bifocals you wouldn't know I have poor depth perception and poor peripheral vision. Unless I told you, you wouldn't know I am under treatment for anxiety. These two facts converge when I have to back my car 100 feet in an alley with two feet of clearance on each side. I sweat profusely. I will do anything to avoid backing my car more than 5 feet. As a casual observer you might think I'm chicken or maybe even chickens*#t. In context, my reticence to put the car in reverse make sense.

Hold Your Horses, Bucko!
Next time you see something that doesn't compute hold on a second before uttering the last word of "What the ?" See if you are able to see the situation in context. Maybe even consider exchanging "What the ?" for "Can I Help?"

Do you have other examples of context lending perspective? Or do you see things in a more "black and white" manner?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ralph Waldo Emerson Trust 30 Challenge: Self Portrait.

This Trust 30 prompt is from Matthew Stillman. The challenge is to: a) intentionally look less than my best according to societal norms b) capture the "look" in a photo and c) blog about it.  And away we go.

I Am Not A Morning Person.
I get up at 5:20 AM weekdays. Why? Because my 2nd grade daughter, Susy* has to catch her school bus at 6:45 AM. She gets up at 5:40 AM. I need to be up and moving before Susy, otherwise I spend all morning catching up. My son, Mario** doesn't need to get up until 7:30 AM, so after I put Susie on the bus, I go for a 35 minute walk.

Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011
6:33 AM
Warts And All.
Yup, that's me via my MyTouch 4G. No shave and that's the t-shirt I slept in. I probably haven't brushed my teeth, either. Hopefully my Andy Warhol 15 are not about to happen.

Comfortable In My Own Skin.
When I leave the house, I try and look presentable. T-shirts and gym shoes occasionally, torn jeans almost never.  If I'm specifically going to meet someone or network, I'll dress nicer. Shaving is a must and if I have enough notice I'll get a haircut (insert own joke here).

What's The Point?
I've never been particularly concerned with fitting in and I don't care if people don't care for my choices. Still, since the rest of the world is in the "You don't get a second chance to make a first impression"club I have to act accordingly. I do live in this world. Besides, I do feel a bit sharper when I dress with care. Sometimes that little extra edge is all it takes to carry the day.

How do you see yourself? How do you display your self image? Do you make a point to dress up, dress down or just put on whatever is handy?

*not her real name, named in honor of Susy Johnson, Jeremy's cutting edgy little sister on Phineas and Ferb.
**not his real name. My son's an Aspie and one of his areas of expertise are all things Mario, hence the name.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Suicide: 3 Observations For Those That Remain.

I have been very lucky during my time on Twitter to find and engage some of the early adopters/opinion makers of social media. Sunday, as I was checking on my feed some of these Social Media mentors were speaking in ominous terms about a friend of theirs, Trey Pennington. I have never met nor do I follow Trey Pennington. Still as an observant person with a background in funeral service, my sense was that Mr. Pennington had died suddenly, perhaps at his own hand. An engine search using "Trey Pennington, suicide" led to a post that confirmed my suspicion. If you are a family member, friend, follower or fan of Trey Pennington, I am sorry for your loss.

For obvious reasons, discussing suicide in the open is uncomfortable. As my aforementioned Social Media friends take to their blogs to start the coping process, I want to offer 3 observations for those left behind talking about the death of a friend.
  1. The family of the suicide needs more support than can be quantified. The family's world has been ripped, shaken and thrown into the wind for the world to see. Getting through each minute is draining. Give them all the love you can. This doesn't mean fawning over the family. The support offered needs to be as accessible as a La-Z-Boy recliner and not much louder than the recliner itself. If you are a "larger than life" person assisting a family touched by suicide, you must be your self.  Now would be a good time to find your volume control and set it to 2.
  2. You do not need to know how or why regarding the suicide. These answers don't apply to you. DON'T ASK.  Pursuing these questions makes you a window-less voyeur, nothing more.
  3. There are people with a sadness induced pain so pervasive, relief can not be found. When a friend is so afflicted and finds relief, be unconditionally resigned to the fact that suicide was a choice to end their own pain. As a "left-behind" your anger or bewilderment is not the suicide's problem. The decision was made irrespective of you. (This does not apply to the family of a suicide. The family of the suicide is entitled to be pissed off it being pissed off gets them through the day. The family of the suicide can deal with their anger later).
As for lessons learned, don't waste time. If you are currently engaged in a war of words with a loved one, find a resolution. Life is too short.  It's also timely to maybe get an extra hug or kiss from a child or spouse. File that memory away and make a note to add another memory before tomorrow. You never know.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Labor Day 2011, Working For A Living.

I thought the song mentioned in the title summed up the day reserved to honor the workers among us. I also think the song pays homage to the sky high unemployment rate in this country, since Huey Lewis seems to have been without a job since the late 80's (a guest appearance on "Hot in Cleveland" is his version of short term contract work). As we head into a three day weekend, take a moment to consider how lost we would be without the following people:

  • The snow plow driver that clears the streets in a blizzard.
  • The person that cleans up the hospital, reducing the risk of infection for patients and doctors.
  • The drive-thru teller that sends suckers for the kids along with the transaction receipt.
  • The utility worker out for hours on end when Mother Nature reminds us how privileged we truly are.
  • The dental hygienist that keeps us occupied until the novocaine takes effect.
  • The phone operator that (Whoops, got me there. No more telephone operators).
  • The garbage collector that keeps our neighborhoods from becoming rat cafeterias.
So if you're grilling with friends this Labor Day Weekend, slather up a dog and pop a beer for those on the list. They make our lives better simply by doing their job. If you're enjoying the 3 days with family take a moment to think of those that perform these vital tasks with very little fanfare.

I am sure the list of workers is incomplete. Would you do me the favor of pointing out the many I neglected to mention? While you're thinking, how about some music? Take it away, Huey.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

ROL: Too Much Information and Not Enough Privacy.

ROL is an abbreviation for Return on Life. Return on Life is all about making small incremental changes that yield large returns on life enjoyment. This week's ROL is about respecting the privacy of others as well as your own privacy.

Sharing Has It's Limitations.
I'm still in the euphoria phase with my new MyTouch 4G. My new smartphone may not be a big deal to some but my last 3 phones were WindowsMobile (2 were provided by work) and frankly, WinMo sucks. I loaded CardioTrainer to track my morning walks. I like CardioTrainer, it's certainly functional enough. The only thing I don't like is at the end of each workout it asks me if I want to share my results on Facebook or Twitter. I understand one of the way these free apps get paid is via publicity but share my workout results? No! Then I wondered if the Kama Sutra app asks the same question?

It's None Of Your Damn Business.
Last week, Danny Brown gave Klout an earful about it's jump through hoops opt out policy. In a nutshell, Danny's point is that it is fundamentally wrong to have to instruct someone they do not have blanket permission (or in Klout's case any permission) to access your various social media accounts. Instead, the standard should be: assume permission to access account and score social media activity is denied unless expressly permitted. Insert standing ovation here.

You Don't Need To Know And I Didn't Ask.
These are trying times for those in favor of privacy. The U.S. government imposition of it's "fear of fear" policy is beyond the scope of this post. I'll talk about us, not the U.S. Given the immediacy of contact available via the internet, the walls of common sense and good taste are so thin as to be transparent. Let me offer a few simple examples to serve as guidelines for my version of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".

  • Do not ask a pregnant stranger if you can rub her belly. The answer is "No". Yes, I speak for everyone. 
  • Do not offer in a public forum the color of your bodily fluids after a wrestling match with Jose Cuervo.
  • I don't need to know the minute details of your root canal. Root canal is sufficient.
  • Please don't share how much you made on your last deal. Shame on me if I ask.
  • Don't ask anyone why they do not have offspring. If you don't already know, you don't need to know.
I could go on ad nauseam, but that brings the conversation back to bodily fluids (see above). In summary, before speaking or hitting the send button, ask: "Why do I need to know?" or "Does anyone else need to know?".  Everyone in your circle will be happier and the world will be just a little better.