Barack Obama does not care about dogs

Dogs did not get a mention in the State of the Union address last night and boy are we miffed! Apparently, President Obama does not care about dogs, even though he has one of his own residing in the White House, a residence that we collectively pay for. Dogs should have gotten at least a mention.

And gun control. And African-Americans. And arts and literature education. And music. None of these things got mentioned either.

So we can conclude that the President of the United States does not care one little bit about dogs. It’s our position and we’re sticking to it, even though it makes us look petty and stupid.

Get a grip, people. The speech was 6,800 some words long. The president can’t cover every topic nor can he gab on for hours trying to cover everything without people grabbing for the remote or another beer.

That is all I have to say about that.

PS This is sarcasm. And media are plural.

The skinny on Skins

If you are a student of American culture, you have undoubtedly heard about the new MTV adaptation of the British show Skins. If not, you probably should. For better or worse, MTV drives a lot of the teen and pre-teen culture, despite the best efforts of American parents to control or ignore the exposure to their kids. It’s just gonna happen, so you should be tuned in.

CNN had a segment on this morning about Skins. In typical fashion, they showed brief clips of some racy, provocative footage and cut to a psychologist answering prepared and banal question about how this is “kiddie porn” and why it should scare parents. Then he went on to offer solutions to parents, mostly amounting to “turn the tv off, control the remote” as more footage ran in the background. All neatly wrapped up in 4:45 minutes.

Yeah, and just say no and don’t have sex.

Kids will be kids and as a parent, if you don’t think any of this is going on behind your back, you are seriously delusional. Moreover, if you believe you can control your kids behavior with a remote, you really do have your head in the sand. My issue with Skins and that genre of reality is far more basic.

Skins (and reality tv) is highly edited to show a glamorous and accelerated view of life. Life does not move that fast nor does it have cuts. It moves in real time. I think it sets false expectations of even faster immediate gratification in teens.

The second issue I have is the shows never show the real down sides of the decisions the kids make. It is a life of privilege without responsibility. Someone else pays the cell phone bill, the rent, the clothes. Someone else cleans up the mess unless the “mess” is the catalyst for the plot.

That is what parents need to hone in on. Your kids will watch Skins, the Real World, Housewives, 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom and other shows of that ilk. It’s part of their collective conversation.

As I turn to my private focus group to validate my observations, they shrug and say, “it’s just TV. That doesn’t happen in real life.” Maybe as MTV gets more and more provocative, kids will tune out more and recognize the programming for what it is; a desperate cry for attention from mass media and advertisers.

But they’ll still watch.


One thing to consider on education reform

This has been education week on the cable news and talk shows and in true fashion, they have blasted out all sorts of opinions from tons of experts in the education field who purport to know better about how to reform education in America. Most of the advice is along the lines of; getting parents more involved, making teaching a more respected profession, giving schools more money. Blah, blah, blah we’ve heard this all before.

And I waited throughout the week to see if I could pick out some truly great ideas. I heard none. And next week, we’ll all go back to the same old stuff and next year about this time, trot out the same ideas on reform we had this week. This cycle of a week-long focus news programs do may be the most harmful thing we do, but I digress.

Instead of trying to propose a massive change to the entire education system, I think we should try just one thing; employ older people as teachers. Hear me out.

If you are 50-67 years old with a bachelor’s degree and you want to become a teacher, the Federal government would allow you to draw 70% of your Social Security benefits, enroll in Medicare and earn up to $25,000 in salary before it affects your retirement benefits. If you wished to continue teaching after the age of 67, you would be eligible to draw full Social Security and Medicare, but your salary allowance would cap at $20,000 (or something like that. Smarter people than me would have to run the numbers) You would be required to take a six month teaching course on managing a classroom.

Studies show first-year teacher turnover at a little more than twenty percent. If you visit any college campus and ask education students why they want to become a teacher, you will find some legitimately have realistic expectations of what the occupation is like, but for the most part, you will hear things like: I like working with kids or I want my summers and holidays off. You will also find a fair number of students who have delusions of becoming another Mr. Holland or reviving the Dead Poets Society.

And many recent graduates are woefully unprepared both intellectually and emotionally to handle kids who are formulating their own emotional identity. You do not have to spend much time in the classroom to see how this plays out every day in frustration and tantrums on both sides of the teacher desk. Young teachers with little confidence quickly grow into old teachers with obstinacy in an attempt to establish their expert credentials over parents. It becomes a tug-of-war which results in parents being effectively shut out of the classroom, relegated to sidecar tracks like the PTO or Boosters.

By employing older professionals who have more life experience outside the classroom — including raising kids of their own — school districts are able to tap into a richer experience and more emotionally stable teacher population than colleges are producing. And as older people have most likely built some wealth over their working years (this could be a qualification) and feel no pressure to repay huge student loans on a small salary, they would be a lower flight risk. Medicare would be available as a benefit so the cost to employ an older person as a teacher would be less. And we would be saving one more soul from the doors of Walmart or the counters and drive-thru windows of McDonald’s.

Young kids as teachers was a good thing several generations ago when learning to read, write and add were all the skills citizens needed to be productive. But this has changed and the world has gotten to be a far more competitive place. To entrust the educational future to young kids, fresh out of school also learning who they are is perhaps not the wisest long-term strategy.

I’m confident the teacher’s unions and colleges would discredit this idea on its face, but I’m hoping perhaps Education Secretary Arne Duncan will at least read this post and start thinking. We can’t start down the road of corporations owning the educational process like IBM is doing in New Jersey. Education is a matter of public trust and to allow corporations to craft the education of our citizens will eventually lead to them only producing workers that satisfy their need for profit. We tried that with health care and food production. When will we learn?

I’d sure hate to be back here next year during Education Week talking about the same old ideas. One can still hope.

Editor’s addition after publishing: I keep snippets in my head until I write and I sometimes forget them until days after I press the Publish button. But this is a bit too important to let go.

What young teacher truly understands the internal struggle of the characters in the Scarlet Letter or the quiet desperation of Edna in The Awakening or the social statements made in the turtle chapter in the Grapes of Wrath or the meaning of the other in The Secret Sharer? You can outline the plot, discuss themes, memorize lines in these works, but you don’t arrive at a full understanding until you are much, much older. And even then, you ache to understand. Each of these works holds a timeless lesson on navigating the human condition but without the benefit of a life lived with purpose, they are just another book the teacher checks off as the class having read. A teacher who has lived will beg students to read each in every decade of his or her life forward.

The debt the next generation will be paying was not started by our government, but by ourselves

Alice Paul c. 1930s

In her article in the WSJ, Peggy Noonan uses an example that has been kinda turning over in my head ever since I read it early yesterday morning. In it, she quotes Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee that many in the Tea Party crowd are grandmothers and that:

“Women are always focusing on a generation or two down the road. Women make the education and health-care decisions for their families, for their kids, their spouse, their parents. And so they have become more politically involved. They are worried about will people have enough money, how are they going to pay the bills, the tuition, get the kids through school and college.”

Ms. Blackburn suggested, further in the conversation, that government’s reach into the personal lives of families, including new health-care rules and the prospect of higher taxes, plus the rise in public information on how Washington works and what it does, had prompted mothers to rebel.

And that really got me thinking about who these “grandmothers” and women are, the timeline of their lives and the unintended consequences of history.

These women — who are older and are now “livid,” concerned and intuitive — were most likely responsible for inadvertently starting the ball rolling toward our ever-increasing crushing debt load by supporting the most politically and socially active woman’s issue of the time; the Equal Rights Amendment.

Now before you all start in on me for beating up on grandma, just hang with me for a moment. Growing up Catholic and as a kid of a mother forced to go to work second shift to afford us, my formative years were spent at ground zero of this issue. One thing that came out of the ERA was that women were an emerging force in the employment scene. With the political and cultural tides turning the way of equal pay for equal work and looking like the ERA was going to be ratified, companies slowly, reluctantly began paying women more and promoting in an effort to ward off legislation. Women were also becoming more educated and getting better jobs. The country was getting used to the dual income. And that flush of cash was too tempting for corporate America not to scheme a grab.

And grab they did. From 1964-1980, the average house price went up from $13,050 to $68,700 while average income went from $6,000 to $19,500 per person. That calculates to 217% of annual income for a house in 1964 v 352% annual income in 1980. In addition, a car which cost an average of $3,500 in 1964 now cost $7,200 in 1980. In 1964 when most families were single income, they only needed one car. In 1980 when the dual income family had firmly taken root, a second car was necessary. So was out-of-the-home day care. Women had fought the right* to be equal in the workplace, but so too had this fight created a dependence on a dual income for a typical family to afford a home to live in. Women could no longer leave the employment world at will and their men could no longer afford them to.

Life got too expensive to maintain and none of this was due to the Federal government meddling with significant entitlement programs (except Medicare, which every senior in the Tea Party loves and would kill any candidate who takes it away.)

But we really didn’t learn that large social shifts will always be taken advantage of by our free market economy and corporations incessantly hungry for more profit. In this last decade before the Recession, universities were watching the housing market climb up and up and jumped into the fray with their version of the cash grab. They raised their tuitions, knowing full well the middle class would dip into their easy home equity to pay for Johnny and Suzie’s education, regardless of cost. Now, their grandkids are saddled with large bundles of debt nobody is willing to forgive.

And men are losing their jobs at record rates, reducing the dual income family to a minority. And I was left wondering, “Were the grandmothers in Ms. Noonan’s article the same women who foresaw the staggering and unsustainable private debt we are now faced with as they marched for women’s rights back in the early ’70s?” All these women wanted was the right to be treated equally and have the right to do the same job as a man so they could have a higher quality of life. Unfortunately, all corporations saw was an opportunity to grab more disposable income.

I’m finding it hard to believe the average grandma is more “livid” and worried about the US Government going broke from entitlements than they are about their own grandkids being $50,000+ in debt from student loans and not being able to afford a house to live in because homes are priced to a dual-income standard. Maybe I’m missing something.

*I know, the ERA Amendment is still shy of 3 states ratification and died in 1982, but it gets reintroduced every year. Maybe someday. But for purposes of creating a dependence on dual incomes, women have won these rights.

Get your own ham; it’s all about self reliance

When my son was just shy of his fifth year, we found ourselves in an Old Country Buffet on a Saturday afternoon. For those of you not familiar with the format of the all-you-can-eat-for-one-low-price buffet, these places usually have a lower price afternoon service that did not include carved meats and a higher price evening service that started about 4:00pm. For the extra savvy buffet-goer, it was generally known that if you came in about 3:30 or so and stalled a bit on some salad, you could sneak in and get the good stuff for a lunch price. I did not partake of this little loophole but sometimes, we found ourselves in that limbo time.


The malaprop prez

I am really starting to re-think my whole opposition to Sarah Palin in 2012. I’m beginning to think that maybe four years (or eighteen months, whichever comes first) of Palin’s malapropery might be just the thing to get this country into a good mood once again.

It’s the most fun my English degree has had in years! Let’s refudiate anger, fear and hate. Vote Palin 2012 and let the pun begin. Fun? No, pun. Who cares, it’s only one little letter. Whose with me?

“Personally, I think this @sarahpalinUSA odorous refudiation is much ado about nothing,” Shakespeare quips. #dogberry

Making the perfect cheeseburger

This weekend, millions of people across the United States will be firing up their grills and plunking down hamburger patties and grilling them. And those millions of people are all cooking cheeseburgers the wrong way. In my feeble attempt to save your taste buds from yet one more badly cooked cheeseburger, I offer you the definitive guide for cooking the perfect cheeseburger. Use this power wisely as any mis-application may result in you being invited to many BBQ parties only for your cooking skills.

As with every recipe, the perfect cheeseburger starts with the perfect ingredients. Luckily, the list is not long.
Hamburger, 80/20 ground chuck no leaner. This is no time to be thinking healthy.
Kaiser rolls, do not be tempted to go weird like Ciabatta rolls or anything like that. Kaiser rolls are the perfect hamburger bun, no substitutes.
Sharp cheddar cheese, the big brick kind. Do not get shredded or pre-sliced.
Lettuce, iceberg, fresh, cold. Keep cold. Again, keep cold! Also, like the rolls, do not substitute for fancy gourmet greens.

You will also need a flat griddle pan or a large frying pan. if you insist on using your grill, make sure you get a cast iron griddle you can place over the coals or burners.

Prep the ingredients
The cheese and hamburger should be chilled. First, cut the cheese into square slices about 1/4″ thick. You can cut thicker, but not thinner. Set them aside and allow to reach room temperature. You may find if you wet your knife between slices, it will cut easier. Make sure your knife is very, very sharp and that you take safety precautions. If you have a cheese slicer with an adjustable wire, use that instead as you need all ten fingers to eat the cheeseburger once done.

Make the hamburger patties by first wetting your hands and breaking off a piece of hamburger larger than an orange, but smaller than a grapefruit. The exact amount of meat is not important, only it’s size in relation to the bun. My favorite size bun is a 4 inch roll, so my uncooked patty will be about 5-5.5″ in diameter, at 1-1.5″ thick.

With the ball of meat in your hands, pack it down to a solid ball. Then, transfer it from palm to palm by smacking and turning it slighting as you transfer, making sure to hit the center of the ball with the meaty part of your palm. The patty will get larger and larger with each smack. Do this until the patty is about 1-1.5 inces larger than your roll. Place it on a cutting board and press a slight indentation in the center. The burger will shrink up and out and the indentation enables you to have a somewhat flat patty when fully cooked instead of a “ball-shaped” patty that is higher in the middle. Do this for every patty. Season the top slightly with salt and pepper, nothing else.

Then, allow the meat temperature to increase to room temperature. Do not rush to put cold meat on a hot pan as it will only result in all the juices running out quickly.

Fire up the griddle
Why a griddle? To remain juicy and tasty, ground meats should cook in their own fat. If you are using a grill, the fat will drip away of the meat, leaving a lifeless, dry, tasteless burger behind. Rule of thumb: solid meat like steak, seafood, chops are grilled; ground meats are fried.

Fire up the griddle over a medium heat and allow to come up to temperature. Place the hamburger patty seasoned side down and immediately sprinkle a small amount of salt and pepper on top. Allow a crust to form, about five minutes. Turn over and crust the other side. DO NOT PRESS DOWN ON THE BURGER PATTTY AT ANY TIME DURING THE COOKING PROCESS!!! Please be kind to your meat. Never poke a steak, never press a burger. Give each side about five minutes of cooking time and then gently turn. Keep cooking and turning until the burger reaches your desired doneness. For reference, the burgers used here cooked for 20 minutes on medium to low heat, turned gently every five minutes.

Make sure the burgers are cooking in their own fat. If your griddle is not level or you see the grease run off to the sides, keep turning the griddle or pushing the grease back. But be careful, hamburger grease is very flammable.

While the meat is cooking, cut leaves of lettuce from the head by making small incisions at the stalk and gently peeling back the leaf. Remove the bulk of the stalk within the leaf and return it to the refrigerator. The lettuce leaf must be crispy, cold and flat for the final assembly.

Melting the cheese, toasting the rolls
The final steps require precise timing. if there are any noisy distractions in the kitchen, shoo her out now. Turn on the broiler. I use a small toaster oven, but if you are hosting a party, you may want to turn to your oven. Slice the rolls and have ready to toast.

Place a slice of cheese on each burger and place under the broiler. WATCH THEM LIKE A HAWK. You want to see the cheese sweat slightly and the corners start to droop. Remove the burgers and set aside to rest.

Immediately place your buns sliced side up to toast. The cheese will continue to melt slowly and the burgers will rest, making sure the juices will not run out when you bit into them. Once your rolls are toasted, everything is ready.

Some cheeseburger people say to use shredded cheese or melt the cheese under a steam cap until it is fully melted and gooey. I say they are wrong. When cheese is fully melted, it separates slightly become sticky, tasteless and a little bitter. When it is slightly warmed, it retains it’s taste and texture. Really. I’m right.

Assemble the cheeseburger
Place the heel of the bun on the plate, slide the hamburger patty with slightly melted cheese onto it, place a cold lettuce leaf on top, place the top bun on top of that and serve. The time from assembly to serving to that first bite should be no more than .00001 seconds.

If you have done this correctly, you will bite into a cheeseburger that has a juicy, flavorful beef taste, with a slight crunch and a full-bodied cheese flavor that is slightly al dente.

No. No, really I advise no variations on this. I don’t care if you like ketchup, mustard, pickles, mayonnaise or other condiments, they are simply not allowed on the perfect cheeseburger. They only mask the taste.

Ok, there is one exception, but only one. Swiss cheese and mushrooms. Prepare the cheese as you did for the cheddar; cut cold and thick and allow to warm to room temperature. Prepare the mushrooms by sautéing in a small frying pan with butter, not margarine. Set aside and keep warm until the cheese warming phase, where you can place a layer of mushrooms between the hamburger patty and cheese slice immediately before broiling.

I may have lied. There is another variation; blue burger. But — and this is one huge but — only use quality blue cheese slices. Do not attempt to cheat with blue cheese dressing. Since blue cheese is hard to slice and keep in tact at room temperature, you can pile it on either crumbled or in slivers. Be bold; blue cheese deserves no less.

There you have the perfect cheeseburger recipe. Now, go forth and rid thy neighbors of crappy, dry, tasteless, over-grilled, mashed-down burgers this Fourth of July. George Washington would want you too.


The real tyranny in America

MSNBC Rise fo the New Right Image

I watched MSNBC Chris Matthews’ The Rise of the New Right yesterday. I learned almost nothing new about the Tea Party and the conservative movement, but Alex Jones’ quote, “We’re in deep tyranny. Deep, deep, deep…” keeps ringing through my head. This man is afraid and wants to make everyone else around him fearful. I guess fear sells as his website is chock full of ads. (By the way, everyone advocates for hoarding gold, water, guns and ammo, but nobody thinks a loyal dog would help. Except Hollywood. If this country collapses, I’m sticking with my pack.)

Then I got to thinking about who the real tyrants are in America. Alex Jones, his network and FOX News came to mind right away, but so did a lot of others. I’ve prepared a very short list below to get you thinking about how much non-government tyranny is wielded over us with little oversight and almost no recourse.

FICO Scores and Credit Agencies (TransUnion, Experian and Equifax)
Every American has now been reduced to a non-disputable, three-digit FICO Score between 450-850. A FICO Score is determined by a semi-secret algorithm that is held by a private corporation. Your FICO Score determines if you will get a loan, a job, insurance and an apartment. It determines where you can live, where you can work and how much in interest you will pay on a loan if you are deemed worthy enough to get one. It even determines whether or not you can serve your country in the military and to what capacity. If your FICO Score is too low, you can be denied a security clearance.

If you become unemployed and begin shopping at WalMart to save money, your FICO Score will be adjusted accordingly, thereby affecting your credit limits. If your identity is stolen, your FICO Score will be decimated with little recourse. If the credit bureaus make a mistake reporting your payment history, they do so with impunity and can erode your FICO Score with one typo on an account number, name, amount, etc.

Personal Debt
Nothing in this country paralyzes economic or personal mobility more than personal debt. Yet we embrace it every time we buy something on credit, lease something we can’t possibly afford, charge a new gadget that we have to have or buy something on late night TV for three easy payments. The credit card has become the new handcuff. Try renting a car without a credit card or staying in a hotel by paying cash. Try buying an airline ticket without a credit card (well, now anyway, not before the NYC car bomb thing.)

Homeowner’s Associations
If you think you own your own home, go ahead and try painting it lime green with chocolate shutters. Try putting up a large flagpole and fly an eight-foot American flag in the front yard. Try digging up your back yard and planting a vegetable garden. Try building a chicken coop and raise chickens. Try drilling for oil on your property. Try putting up a radio tower. Try putting up a wind turbine generator. Try doing something as Earth-friendly as hanging your laundry out to dry. You will find out very quickly how much power your homeowner’s association has and how forcefully they will wield it.

Health Insurance Companies
Regardless of how you feel about your health insurance, they are the only “death panels” in this country. Doctors want you to live as long as possible. So do hospitals, health care clinics and drug companies. Dead people don’t generate recurring income. The only ones that want you to die quickly when you are sick are health insurance companies. It is in their best interest to rush you to your end. Healthy people pay premiums; sick people rack up expenses. You do the math.

Parent Associations at Schools
If you think your child will succeed by getting good grades or get a place on the team by working hard and honing skills, you have never had an interaction with a parent association. Their members consist of self-appointed despots who have gone to the school and their parents went there and their parents went there. Getting “in” a parent association requires more humiliation than the worse sorority/fraternity hazing you can imagine. Staying in requires all the vicious deft of a hockey mom and the morals of a soccer mom.

These are just a few “unelected, non-government” groups that wield tremendous power over our day-to-day lives and have far more influence on where we can go, what we can do and to whom we can speak. They control what opportunities our children have, what homes we can buy, where we can live and what jobs we can have.

I could think of a few more like churches, energy corporations, your own employer, etc but I’ll leave those to you and the comments below.

Ironically enough, it is government that is most likely to protect us from these unelected tyrants. Or at least try to. Or want to try to. Or say they want to try to.

Our “free society” is at once our greatest asset and our greatest enemy. It enables us to plunder and pillage resources that belong to all of us for the purpose of personal enrichment. It is the hoarding of power with a select few — be that elected senators like McCarthy or fear-mongering activists like Jones — that is the real tyranny.

We should be vigilant and suspicious of both.

I am he and we are him and we are too big to fail but not too big to protest against

A friend of a close relative just got himself hired on as a firefighter with a department right up the road. They gave him a really cool light bar for his truck, a pager, a bunch of gear and most importantly, a paycheck. And now they are paying him to advance his training and certificates with the local community college so he can increase his skills and make more money.

But before he was hired on as a public servant for which tax dollars pay his salary, his benefits that are far better than my own and the education/training he is going to receive as part of his job, he went to a community college financed through Pell grants because his mom has been laid-off from her GM job for years and has virtually no income. And before that, he attended thirteen years of public school supported by property tax dollars.

And he is a Republican, border-line Tea Party supporter. And he thinks this country is becoming too socialist. And he thinks we should all be individually responsible for ourselves, the government is too big and should butt out of our lives entirely. Moreover, he believes he has achieved everything he has and is by hard work and his own initiative.

I need to know what I am failing to understand.

I don’t care what you think while I’m reading this book OR the endless search for the perfect sound bite

Image of a book page from A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

I was reading Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years on my iPad using Kindle when I flipped the page and saw a passage underlined with a dashed line.

“Hmmm, what’s this,” I asked myself. I never highlight passages in a book unless I am working on a paper and I forgot my post-it notes. (I have a literary theory that is loosely based on Stanley Fish‘s resurrection of affective criticism, but I won’t go into that right now… maybe later; Serious lit types hate anything affective. Phhttt!)

So I clicked on it and a window pops up telling me that 151 other people highlighted the passage. I was immediately outraged. How dare Amazon have the audacity to reach into MY book that I had paid for and think it ok to mark up my book nilly-willy with other people’s thoughts. How dare they screw up my reading and discovery experience. I went through all sorts of levels of rage and mistrust and eventually settled on this behavior being only one in a larger context of online behaviors. We don’t read anymore to discover ideas, to think critically through issues or to seek an understanding of complex ideas but to discover nuggets of wisdom, as known as the “quotable passage” or the “sound bite.”

Once we’ve found that nugget, we dust it off and highlight it so that others who come after us need only look for our dashed lines and not have to slog through the first 200 or so pages of babble prior to it that was just the writer’s excuse to get a book published and the publisher’s justification to charge us an insane amount of money. “Tear down these walls surrounding knowledge and wisdom,” goes the rallying cry of the consuming public. “Information needs to be free!”

We’re impatient with knowing things, which gave rise to CNN Headline News, Top 10 lists of anything, just the facts, ma’am, the bulleted Powerpoint presentation, give me the bottom line and dare I say, Twitter. We scour for and happily retweet banal, stupid crap from well-known twitterati that sounds anything like pithy, wise quotes. We draw conclusions about news based on headlines in newspapers, articles and blogs. We happily “report” out “facts” from CNN that were presented in a 10-30 second segment with the depth of understanding as an expert scientist. We don’t allow our leaders to fully articulate a complex position, instead only scan for that quotable sound bite that will play well over and over on the news, late-night tv and at cocktail parties.

We highlight passages in books or look for the highlighted passages from otherss to display our wisdom like a proud peacock without fully understanding how and why we arrived where we did.

We’re becoming a culture of “idiots, full of sound and fury” who know everything but understands nothing. This is why the Internet is making us dumber. We shortchange the journey in search of the destination. Everything now must be a destination or it is a waste of time and effort. Even this blog article you are reading right now, many of you are trying to sum it all up to a 140 character retweet. Can’t be done because it shouldn’t be done. (The title was intentionally long to keep folks from blindly retweeting. If you must retweet, re-write the title in your own words about what you took away. Or not, I don’t care.)

Discuss — if you can. (Warning: Only the people who actually read the entire book without highlighting the punctuating “moral lessons” will understand how ironic it is to highlight anything in this book.)

Can you circumnavigate the world by clock and fist?

This post is a comment to Chris Brogan’s post on education that quickly got out of hand. More was written and deleted than is shared below, but my education also taught me about discretion. Let’s leave it at that and I hope you enjoy the opinion.

I went to school in an age where teachers had rules and a fierce expectation that you learn your multiplication tables without using your fingers, that you learn how to read and write by reading and writing a lot. Turns out, the more you read and write, the better you get at it. The more you know, the more you want to know.


You are not lost, you are here and you know where here is, right?

You are reading, produced and written in Dayton, Ohio. We are talking with Rufus, one of the key writers of the blog where he reminds us why you, time and place are important for blog credibility and reader orienteering.

I was reading a blog from a linked tweet this morning and halfway through it, my mind jumped to a question we’ve probably all asked ourselves halfway through. “Wait a minute, is this a blog post written by the person who tweeted or is this a guest blog post or a link that was passed along by the person I’m following.”

I’m on an iPhone, so I scroll up to the top hoping to get some quick info, like the author’s name, date it was posted, maybe the location. Nope, nothing. Since I was reading it on my iPhone, everything was in a zoomed-in column and the author’s info was probably in the side bar. What a pain, I’m not zooming out for that. But my sense of irritation was so high at this point (mostly because I was trying to establish credibility for some of the statements that were being asserted) that I just quit reading and went back to my Twitterstream.

And I got to thinking about a post I read yesterday by Julien Smith. In the post, he was reminded during a recent radio interview of the value of constant station identification breaks and the recaps and reminders that a good radio interviewer will always do.

You are reading, produced and written in Dayton, Ohio. We are talking with Rufus, one of the key writers of the blog where he reminds us why you, time and place are important for blog credibility and reader orienteering.

And if the blog post this morning was an anomaly, I would not be writing this post now. But, it is not. Whether by lack of training, ignorance or good old fashion hubris, hundreds of thousands of web sites that should tell the reader where they are, don’t. “Everyone knows who we are,” is a familiar retort.

No, we don’t know who you are. Is the Springfield College in Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts, Tennessee or in fictitious Simpsonville? You would never know unless you crawled all over their Web site. (MA, down in tiny type at the bottom) How is this good for recruiting?

And folks who should know better — newspapers — are the worst offenders. Sure, we all know where New York, Chicago and Los Angles are, but where is The Richmond Times-Dispatch published? What community does it serve? Richmond, Indiana? Virginia? I dunno. And it is too much work crawling around trying to find out.

You are reading, produced and written in Dayton, Ohio. We are talking with Rufus, one of the key writers of the blog where he reminds us why you, time and place are important for blog credibility and reader orienteering.

Purists of the Internets would argue (did you catch my strawman argument? Pretty clever, right?) that the world is flat and that one’s experience, field of vision, place of residence, etc really don’t matter. It is the ideas, the engagement, etc, etc that really matter. Actually, it is not. When you have a homogenous view of the world that is created by your physical environment and fueled by willful ignorance, you end up writing crap like this book (review will not be forthcoming as I think “crap” sums it up nicely. Yes, I read it all the way through.)

And lastly, perhaps the worst offenders of all are local youth sports clubs. Unless you are THE Arsenal Football Club, please put your location front and center on your Web site. Above all, place very much matters to local youth sports teams.

Perhaps we can have little hide/click Blog Identification tags located in the content every three paragraphs so the reader can click on them and know immediately where he is and who you are. That would be a cool thing that newspapers should adopt. (I may even write a plug in for that.) But mostly, if we think about attracting new readers to our content, we would be less apt to assume everyone knows who and where we are.

Am I right?

You have been reading, produced and written in Dayton, Ohio. We were talking with Rufus, one of the key writers of the blog where he reminded us why you, time and place are important for blog credibility and reader orienteering. Tune in next week where we will bring you more exciting stuff, seen from the dog’s point of view. I’m your editor and host. Have a good day!

Corporations are not human, people are not brands

The logic of the latest Supreme Court ruling has me scratching my head a bit and scrambling to read my copy of the United States Constitution. I found all sorts of references granting rights to people, but none that granted rights to corporations. In fact, apparently there is no right of the people to incorporate, unless you count incorporating as assembly. Really, it’s not in there. Go read it for yourself; I’ll wait.

Corporations don’t have the right to free expression because corporations are not people, no matter how the State chooses to view them. Corporations are just containers of people working toward a common goal to make it easier for other containers of people — governments — to deal with them. And ironically, many times corporations insulate the people within the corporation from liability because of their choice of expression that offends or harms others. Ideally people should be able to express themselves by voting with their stock purchase on the action of the corporation.

Chief Justice Roberts asserted during arguments that if shareholders disagreed with the way the corporation was spending money to support a particular issue or candidate, they could merely sell their stock. And, in some cases, this is true but as more and more 401(k) programs have stock options for their employees that have limited periods of participation, this is simply not a reasoned or informed argument. When you throw in mortgage-backed securities and derivatives that are not severable from mutual funds that make up a large portion of 401(k) programs, the assertion becomes laughable. We may even see shareholder lawsuits demanding 401(k) reform based on this ruling.

It’s as if the Supreme Court has not been paying attention to all the causes of the current recession or worse, willfully ignoring them.

In any case, money is almost always the weakest argument. If you were able to persuade someone to agree with you on the merits of your argument, then you wouldn’t have to pay them. Consumers — and now voters — understand this and are quick to dismiss the legitimacy of influence when money is involved. We see this all the time with bloggers and their readers, between products and their endorsers.

In spite of the hysterical arguments that some have given regarding this ruling, I don’t see much changing with the exception of PACs becoming obsolete as they are now just the useless middle-man who adds no value. Political contributions are not tax-dedudible and the cost of contributions as a means to achieve a business goal must always be less than any other means for a corporation to engage in it. As anyone in business — and government — will tell you, influence is a very fickle thing. Senators are not cheap nor do they come with guarantees.

Money has always been the biggest point of influence with government. The voters know that. We are cynical because of it. Yet we continue to hope and believe that our Senators, Representatives and Presidents all aspire to their offices with the intent to serve the common good, even as we disappointed time and time again.

It is ironic, though, in the same period of the rise of social media and it’s rally cry for authenticity and a human voice behind the brand, the Supreme Court would rule that corporations have the same right of expression as does a human being. It’s one more thing with which government is out of touch.

Corporations are not human, people are not brands. To give corporations and brands the same rights and attributes as human beings and to see them legally as no different cheapens what is means to be human.

The government isn’t responsible for rising tuition costs, you are!


I was watching Fox News today (mostly because I couldn’t find the remote) and they had a panel on discussing how an average undergraduate degree now costs over $100,000 and the primary reason for the cost being pushed up was more Federal education money was made available and schools were going after that.

Ummm, no.

Pell grants and Federal loans are actually being limited per student to limit the government’s liability. The high default rate of the Boomer generation forced that issue. The Federal government was not responsible for pushing up tuition costs this last time around. You were.

Parents were taking out cheap loans against their homes to pay for education and that was the money schools were going after. Federal loans and grants were peanuts compared to what private lenders were willing to loan. The colleges gambled that parents would pay for their kids education and continue the culture of “nothing is too good for my child.”

And they were not disappointed.

The kids relying on Federal grants and loans are not going to a four-year college in this economy; they are going to community college and trade schools. Or trying to join the military. Or doing nothing.

College won’t reduce their tuition costs. They can’t. Cheap money from home equity loans has dried up. I don’t know what the long-term effects are going to be on education, but I can guess that if we continue this trend, education will once again only be for the folks who can afford to pay.

In a world economy, not educating your citizens dooms you to a path of decline. Probably not a good thing.