Thursday, January 31, 2013

Drowning Cops In A Bathtub

Yesterday I listened to the senate hearings into gun violence on my iPhone on C-Span radio (yes, such a thing exists, and Bill and Cap Hill in the Morning are a riot).    As I listened to the rhetorical ping pong bounce from Democrat to Republican and back again, the grand scheme of Republicans became clear.  

Senator Dick Durbin asked NRA Spokesgoon Wayne LaPierre the following question: 
 Your NRA members say, “You just don’t get it. It’s not just about hunting. It’s not just about sports. It’s not just about shooting targets. It’s not just about defending ourselves from criminals,” as Ms. Trotter testified. “We need the firepower and the ability to protect ourselves from our government” -- from our government, from the police -- “if they knock on our doors and we need to fight back.”
Do you agree with that point of view?
Wayne LaPierre responded:
Senator, I think without any doubt, if you look at why our founding fathers put it there, they had lived under the tyranny of King George and they wanted to make sure that these free people in this new country would never be subjugated again and have to live under tyranny.
I also think, though, that what people all over the country fear today is being abandoned by their government. If a tornado hits, if a hurricane hits, if a riot occurs that they’re gonna be out there alone. And the only way they’re gonna protect themself (ph) in the cold and the dark, when they’re vulnerable is with a firearm. And I think that indicates how relevant and essential the Second Amendment is in today’s society to fundamental human survival.
In fact, so essential, it was part of the foundation of Maslow's hierarchy of needs until his liberal editors made him remove it.  

Next, enter sweet Lindsey Graham, direct from the set of Gone With the Wind.    He told the heartwarming story of a mom and her gun.
Let’s talk about a real-world incident that happened in Loganville, Georgia on January 4th, 2013. My basic premise is that one bullet in the hand of a mentally unstable person or a convicted felon is one too many. Six bullets in the hands of a mother protecting her twin 9-year-olds may not be enough. So, I’ve got a chart here. At the very top is a .38 revolver and on the right is a 9-millimeter pistol that holds 15 rounds.
Does everybody on the panel agree that a convicted felon should not have either one of those guns? Does everybody agree that a mentally unstable person shouldn’t have either one of those pistols? OK, common ground there.
Put yourself in the shoes of the mother. The guy broke into the home. She ran upstairs. She hid in a closet. She got on the phone to the police. And she was talking to her husband in real time. The intruder broke into the home, had a crowbar, and he found them in the closet. And they were confronted -- confronted face to face. According to media report, her husband said, “shoot, shoot.” She emptied the gun, a six-shot revolver. The guy was hit five of the six times. He was able still to get up and drive away. My question is: Put your family member in that situation. Would I be a reasonable American to want my family to have the 15-round magazine in a semi-automatic weapon to make sure that if there’s two intruders, she doesn’t run out of bullets? Am I an unreasonable person for saying that in that situation, the 15-round magazine makes sense?
You see, Lindsey knows that almost every Friday the 13th, Jason Vorhees is attacking homes and isn't going to be stopped if you only have a simple six shooter at your side.   

But Lindsey isn't done there.   No, he moves on to  Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson, who was there to talk about better background checks and closing loopholes.  
GRAHAM:   The point is that we have different perspectives on this. And the reason I’m going to oppose the legislation, Chief Johnston, is because I respect what your do as a law enforcement officer.   Has your budget been cut?
GRAHAM: Will it be cut in the future?
J. JOHNSON: I am optimistic that it is not.
GRAHAM: Well I hope you’re right, but I can tell people, throughout this land, because of the fiscal state of affairs we have, there will be less police officers, not more, over the next decade. Response times are gonna be less, not more.
So, Captain Kelly (Mark Kelly, who was testifying about the Arizona shootings that severely injured his wife) I really do want to get guns out of the hands of the wrong people. I honest to God believe that if we arbitrarily say nobody in this country can own a 10-round magazine in the future, the people who own them are the people we’re trying to combat to begin with, and they (sic) could be a situation where a mother runs out of bullets because of something we do here.
Lindsey would have had mothers Mary Lanza and  Tanya Thomas testify to the importance of not running out of bullets, but for some reason, they couldn't make the trip.  

You see, in the GOP vision for America, government is neutered to the point where it can do NOTHING for you.   You must seize your opportunities without the government, just like founding father Ayn Rand would have wanted.   What Lindsey, Wayne LaPierre, and other GOP politicians and supporters were making clear yesterday, was that the whole Grover Norquist idea of a government so small you could drown it in a bathtub is not about the ideals of smaller, more responsible government, but rather a return to the Old West, where lawlessness reigned supreme, and men of honor, like Clint Eastwood, took the law into their own hands.   At least, when they weren't talking to chairs.   

To read the full transcript of yesterday's hearing, click here


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Stop, Think, And Listen

Yesterday I called a place needing to get information about whether I needed to fill out a certain form for my daughter's school application, and how it might impact that application if I filled out.  

The person on the other end, rather than listening to what I was asking for, assumed that they knew what I wanted. Rather than listen to my question about completing it, she said "send it to us."

I rephrased my question to make it clear that I wasn't asking where to send it, but rather IF I needed to fill it out and how it would impact my daughter.  

The person got impatient. "Send it in to us."

When I indicated I thought that the form in question had to go back to my daughter's school and I was simply asking about if I should fill it in at all and how it would impact her application, she said, "Send it in to us."

It's at times like these that I begin to suspect I'm speaking a foreign language.

Finally I stressed again that I needed to know IF I had to fill it out and wanted to know the impact.   

She finally relented and asked the question of someone else.  Success!!!!

But then, later at work I was in a meeting discussing an overhaul of an internal application that was not being used to its full potential.   I tried up front to say that I thought it was important to discuss the current use of the application and what people thought needed to happen with it before we did anything. 

Immediately, a type A coworker who is a sweet person, but also has a flair for passing off skills I learned in middle and high school as a vast wealth of professional knowledge, cut me off.    He said, as though he were talking to a two year old who had never organized anything before, "that's good, but I think we need to get the framework down and decide what we want to do before we have that discussion."

After a decade of learning to choose my battles, I turned off my mouth and did a mental eye roll while my coworkers hashed out grand plans.    After 50 minutes of beating out insignificant discussions about structure and other things that weren't relevant to a high level discussion, the person finally said, "I think we need to know why and how people use this before we can go further."

Wow.   Wish I had said that.

Life would be much better if people simply listened to each other and realized that there may be something there you're missing, or a "nugget" of gold you can mine within the conversation. People who jump into something without thinking it through frighten me. Especially when they do it with great confidence.  

For more information, check out

In the Louisville area, severe weather warnings are a fact of life.   And since I'm now officially old, I can remember when severe weather would knock out power and you'd be stuck in the basement with a flashlight that had seven year old batteries, some candles that smelled like a nursing home sprayed with Glade, and your trusty AM radio, tuned to your local "clear channel" (NOTE:  This is when Clear Channel meant 50,000 watts of power, and not 50,000 decibels of right wing nonsense)  station for in depth coverage of the storm. 

Those days are over.

Our local AM station of record, which used to be the place to turn for school closings, live traffic updates, continuous news coverage during major events, and more, is now a shell of its former self, with only a couple of local personalities left, a news department that's a shadow of its self, and its entire weather operation, which used to have radio dedicated meteorologists from one local station, now simulcasts the TV feed from another station, which does a lot of "as you can see here" for the radio audience.  

But now we have a new wrinkle.  The smartphone.   Yes, most of us have one that we spend far too much time on, and that ties us into Facebook, Twitter, MySpace (don't judge me!), and AOL (they're the app with the floppy disk).     So our local media now encourages you to follow them on your smartphone if your power goes out, and then "check out for information on weather related delays".

So in a potential severe weather situation, you want me to use the battery on my one lifeline to friends and family to surf your website for information that you could have given me in a matter of seconds on the radio.   Thanks for that.   

So I turned off everything and watched my Super Triple Sweep Doppler Weather Rock

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Fine Commonwealth Punts Buttocks

A few years back Kentucky decided it needed to brand itself.    Not with a hot iron with a giant K on the end, but with a marketing slogan.    Why?    Well, let's turn to Kentucky's own comments on the initiative:
According to the American Marketing Association, a brand is "a name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of the competition." That line is most important. A brand is an identity given to a product to make that product more desirable to the consumer. And in our case, the "product" is the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
According to a Tufts University research project, "A brand's purpose is twofold: One – it serves as a major tool to create product differentiation: and Two – it represents a promise of value. From a consumer's viewpoint, a brand is – above all – a shortcut to a purchasing decision."
In other words, Kentucky needed a branding slogan because some overpaid consultant told someone in power it was a good idea.

Now, Kentucky could have gone with any number of suggestions.    Some of my favorite include:
  • Kentucky - Where Men are Men, and Sheep Are Scared
  • Kentucky - All The Feet, None of the Shoes
  • Still Smarter Than West Virginia
  • Drinkin', Smokin', Gamblin', and Churchin'-- Kentucky, We Got It All
  • Kentucky Is For First Cousins  
 But no, Kentucky wanted something that captured the very essence of the state.   A phrase that instantly conjured up vivid images of the state and all that everyone loves about it.

That phrase?  Unbridled Spirit.

Are you moved?   Was that phrase the tipping point in visiting Kentucky, or perhaps relocating your business there?   No? 

Perhaps you need a little help.  Thankfully, our marketing gurus, who knew we mere mortals couldn't be trusted to understand their expertly created marketing slogan, gave us a definition:

"Kentucky is a place where spirits are free to soar and big dreams can be fulfilled. We relish competition and cherish our champions for their willingness to push beyond conventional boundaries to reach new heights of success."

Just ask Papa John.   Or Colonel Sanders.   Or.........

And that's part of the problem.   Kentucky is a very nice state with a lot of nice institutions.   But truthfully, many of our most successful natives with big dreams (like Muhammad Ali, The Judds, George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Jennifer Lawrence, Abraham Lincoln, and Secretariat) and soaring spirits had to go elsewhere to achieve those big dreams and spirit soaring.    Nobody's going to hear "Unbridled Spirit" and be motivated to visit the state.  

Enter three guys who feel Kentucky's marketing slogan should be "Kentucky Kicks Ass".     As a story on NPR's All Things Considered detailed, Kent Carmichael, Griffin VanMeter and Whit Hiler feel that Kentucky needs to kick the ass of Unbridled Spirit and bring in something more memorable.

And why not?   It's off-color enough to be appropriately redneck.  It creates a southern-fried edge and air of mystery that almost challenges you to find out if we truly do kick ass here.   And it certainly looks better on a t-shirt or license plate than "Unbridled Spirit."

Sure, as a state we could do things like improve our educational system, reject parochial ways of thinking, create a climate more hospitable to business, or pursue institutions besides ones that cater to major vices to put us on the map.    But if we can't do that, we might as well kick a little ass.    So more power to them.

For more information and ass kicking, visit Kentucky For Kentucky.

Or you can watch their video, below.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

The World is Full of French Models

Are you Facebook friends with this woman?   I'm guessing you are.  She (or he) is the one who believes The Onion is true, worries that she'll wake up in a tub without her kidneys, and because she once heard of George Carlin, and heard he was a thoughtful comedian, believed he'd write something that sounds nothing like his comedy.

I sometimes think I grew up at a disadvantage for these times because I was pushed by my teachers to question what you read and verify it as true.   It seems as though our collective BS detector is defective these days and we'd rather simply believe anything that falls in line with our belief system, or worldview.  

So like a good neighbor, let me give you this advice.   If you read something crazy, outrageous, or that isn't from a news source you typically read and trust, try searching for more stories about it before you post it. This link is a great place to start.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

You Can't Change Stupid

"Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not know the difference."  -- Mark Twain

Today was one of those "EUREKA!" days.   For several days now I've had my mind filled with (anger, frustration, irritation, Jello Pudding, pick one) over something going on at work that really gets my goat. (Okay, I don't have a goat, I have a cat who eats trash, but play along.)  

My anger stems from individuals who argue a position with blinders on to the obvious hypocrisy and logical flaws of their position.   I thought I'd share my wisdom with them, they'd see the error in their ways, concede I had a point, marvel at my brilliance the artful way in which I stated my argument, and then we'd go get an Orange Julius and toast to our new found friendship.  

How do you think that worked out? 

I've often contended that the smartest among us are those who understand and are willing to admit when they don't know something and to learn from it.    Those who enter a situation in which they have no doubt or desire to challenge their own positions tend to be ridiculously undereducated and a pain in the ass to deal with.  

But that nagging desire to simply break through that inability to listen or question kept gnawing at my brain.   SURELY they would understand if I just argued a little better.  

But today it finally sunk in.   Certain people are quite happy being willfully ignorant.    Trying to persuade them they're wrong or misguided on any issue is merely an invitation for them to dig their heels in more.    You could provide them evidence they're wrong with a written assessment from Ben Franklin, Abe Lincoln, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking and they'd tell you their gut was never wrong.  

Of course, I could be wrong about all of this.

WTF Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

As discussed previously, I'm a huge fan of Marc Maron's WTF podcast.    What's interesting to me is that Marc seems to have spent his entire life searching for...... something.  Looking for meaning, information, faith, and more.   When he talks to people, you sense that he's adding little bits of them to his own life, searching for a fuller understanding.   If you listen to the full expanse of his WTF podcasts, you hear the sound of a person who seems to finally have latched on to something that he enjoys and loves.  

Yesterday I listened to Marc's talk with John Hodgman.    Like many WTF episodes, Marc got into a discussion of what Hodgman was like growing up.  And like many WTF episodes, we were treated to stories of someone who considered himself a misfit in school, but pursued his self admitted nerdy passions, which seems to have led to an accidental career he loves.

In 41 years on earth, I can honestly say that I have yet to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  As a kid and teen, I loved video games, computers, books, writing, music, and movies.   But I also spent a lot of time alone with these passions and always felt like I was a loser for being so attached to these things and not in the world dating, going to parties, and having real friendships with other people.

I don't suppose it ever dawned on me that there might be people who shared these passions with me.  Or maybe I suspected that I'd feel even less cool if I found a group of like minded nerds to hang with.   Somehow I was able to hold an idea in my head that I was a huge nerd, but a much more worthy nerd than the other nerds I knew.     I wonder what would have happened to my confidence in pursuing a career in my passions had I simply surrounded myself with like minded friends.  

I spend a lot of time thinking about my daughter and the ways in which she is similar to me and different from me.   She's beautiful, bright, funny, smart, and talented in ways I could only dream of.  She loves to do art and create stories.  I could see her being an artist, a writer, an actress, a designer, or more.    My hope is that she'll be smart enough and brave enough to simply embrace these passions and love them as part of who she is, and look for friends who share those same passions, rather than yearn to be something or someone she isn't, just because the "cool" or most successful people are that way.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Anti-social media.

I'm taking a week off of Twitter and Facebook. (Or rather, I tried to.  Damn you, Lance Armstrong and Oprah and your tweetable goodness!!!!)  I did it because both seem to be incredible at sucking my time.  Twitter because I enjoy the high of getting retweets and riffing on certain subjects.   Facebook because I like to argue with people that I once shared a gymnasium with back in high school. 

Part of what drove me to this was my desire to have a rational discussion about guns.    You know, a discussion of what might actually help save lives.    Unfortunately, when you live in the south than the north, you find out that any attempt to discuss curbing gun violence is greeted with slightly less enthusiasm than an invitation to a gay wedding in New York City officiated by Jane Fonda with music by the Dixie Chicks.    It's quite clear to my friends that any attempt to tighten the reigns on guns is simply the next step toward our Kenyan President microchipping us all and giving us the flu shot that controls our brains.

I forgot rule number one of the internet.   You cannot have a logical argument.   No matter what points you may make or what questions you ask, you'll be dismissed as someone who doesn't understand, a pawn of the "liberal media", someone who is afraid of reality, or a socialist, communist, hippie freak.  The real enemy is not people with guns, but a government who wants to watch our every move, exert their dominance over us, and make us fear them.   That's not the role of government.  (It's God's.) 

So I decided to take a break, and focus on writing something.  And four days in you have this ridiculous post.   

So maybe it wasn't productive after all.   So shoot me. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Quitting Social Networks

I decided to take a week off of Facebook and Twitter starting a glorious tweetathon after the Golden Globes.   Last night I deleted the apps off of my iPad and iPhone to avoid the temptation and found myself checking the devices multiple times today. It was like leaving your watch at home and checking your bare wrist.  

I decided to forgo this week off today for a work social network.   It was a decision I immediately regretted for reasons I won't go into.   Tomorrow I'll start my week off of it.  

The problem is that I love to debate, discuss, and argue.  I don't mind making arguments and stating my opinion.   I get very frustrated with those who state their opinions but don't back them up and haven't done any basic research or taken the time to poke holes in their own arguments.     These people are convinced they're right, and that's all that matters.  

My mistake is assuming that people actually enjoy defending their beliefs, or that people are used to challenging them.   This was certainly true among many of my friends in my academic career, but it's not the case among many of the people that I'm now in contact with  via social media.  

What I realized is that my own ignorance of the beliefs of people I only knew casually was indeed bliss.  And arguing with these people was a sign of ignorance on my part.   

So I'm disconnecting for a week from Facebook.  Disengaging from my Twitter addiction (where I've found like minded people who I really don't know), and working on getting back to the solitary pursuits I enjoyed before.   

Something tells me that once the withdrawal symptoms clear up, I'll look at the need to connect to "friends" a lot differently.  

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Snowman Terrorism

I took a look at the day yesterday through the blinds and saw the snowman that my daughter and I had created had lost his head.   I assumed the sun and ground warmth probably knocked  him out, or perhaps it had fallen off into the ditch behind him, a victim of my poor masonry and casting skills.  I said my goodbyes to the wife backed out of the garage and said, "what the heck has the UPS man done?"    Why?  You ask?  

Someone had left us a very strange package.  The world's largest snowball was on the porch steps.   But it wasn't just any snowball.  It was our friend, Mr. Snowman.  Or rather his head.   With a sign that read "Let Me In!"
I laughed, but felt a bit creeped out.   This was a prank, and a funny one.   But someone had done this at night, without me or anyone noticing.   What if I'd have seen them in the yard?  How would I have reacted?   Still, the snowman wasn't beaten.  His parts were all there.  

So I called my wife outside to come look.   She laughed too.   Then my daughter, who hadn't been up, woke up and saw him.  

And then she started sobbing.   "Who would do such a thing?" she said through her tears.   She was scared, because she thought she'd heard the people who had done this the night before, but was too scared to say anything.    The idea that they'd trespassed on our property and done THIS to her snowman was beyond her.  This was the little guy that she'd spent time grabbing up just the right materials to decorate.   Two Hershey Kisses inverted for eyes.   A bottle cap nose.   Pencils for arms.   A scarf and a Louisville Free Public Library Hat to keep him warm and imply he was a smart snowman who loved to read, just like her.   

It's hard to explain to your 11 year old that sometimes people do things they mean to be taken one way without realizing they'll be taken as another.   The people that took the head from her snowman most likely saw it as I did at this point, a melting piece of snow that was fun while it lasted, that was built for a few minutes of fun.

But then I thought back to my own 11 year old self.   The things that I created in reality and in my mind were sacred to me.   To have them destroyed, laughed at, turned into a joke, broken, or thrown away, no matter WHAT they were felt like a piece of me that had been erased.   It's part of the problem of being overly sensitive, and one that I still struggle with 30 years later.   Even today, while I enjoy a good prank, I tend to look for things that won't mess up anyone's personal space or affect, even temporarily, their sense of well-being.   

So, even though I was going to be late for work, I grabbed Mr. Snowman's head (which was FREEZING) and I ran through the house with it, and gingerly smashed it back on his body.   I believe I heard him say "thank you."  Or something else that ended in "you".  It's possible that he couldn't tell I wasn't the guy who stole his head.   After all, he had Hershey Kisses for eyes.   

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Need help with my writing exercise.

My wife is working on a yearly journal where you work a prompt a day for 365 days and then repeat the same prompt over the next four years to see how you've changed.  I've decided to do a journal entry every day, but I need your help.

I'm looking for something simple I can do each day that is a bit different that will allow me to create a journal entry about my experience.    Some examples I thought of were:

  1. Say hello to everyone I encounter.   
  2. Introduce myself to complete strangers 
  3. Drive a completely new way to work.  
  4. Eating a new food.
  5. A day without Twitter/Facebook/TV/Eating
  6. ............
So what are your thoughts?  Share in the comments or on the appropriate social media page.