The analog still rules. My takeaway from #140conf NYC 2012

140conf The State of Now

140conf The State of Now

The #140conf was held last week at the 92Y in New York City. We were there.

It seems like every year, going to the conference is like being at Woodstock; the one in 1969, not the fake ones that tried to recreated the magic. At some point in the future, my ability to say “I was there” will stop and define a moment of time.

When you find yourself in a room filled with geeks, the point of view tends to change somewhat where the technology begins to get worshipped far more than the humanity that created and used it. I guess that is human nature to see your point of view as holding an answer to problems but most of life acts as a potentiometer, not a switch. Sometimes what you know or can bring to the table is in the off position or dialed back really far. Other times, it is full-on. Wisdom is in knowing the difference and being able to apply it correctly.

As I was listening to each of the talks, I realized that no matter how great all this twitter and facebook connection stuff is, nothing happened until someone with a belly button cared enough to reach out and touch; using “old media” like a telephone or television or in some cases, a letter scratched out with a pen. Then — and only then — did the wheels turn and the train start moving forward.

To hug a friend during a chance meeting in the hallway; to hear music created with the tips of ones fingers; to extend a hand to an old gentleman climbing the few stairs to the entrance of the building; to feel your butt fall asleep even as the sessions went on; to hear the clamber of the trade show right outside the door, competing with the speaker on stage, to feel your stomach growl. These are the things that are most memorable even though they maybe shouldn’t be. These are the things that have almost nothing to do with the digital marvels that brought us all together in that one place.

Yet it is the digital marvels that we use to justify why we are there.

The more we immerse ourselves in this digital stuff, the more we crave analog contact. Eventually, it will be this very thing, this very messy analog that digital was supposed to bring order to which will once again define us.

* * *

My pick of the 2012 conference is Kevin Honeycutt (@kevinhoneycutt). His presentation* was the right mix of excitement and skill without dipping into the overly-exuberant. He lives and breathes his message and attempts to infect every student, every teacher, every one of us in the audience with an enthusiasm for learning. His story is also told with an analog pivot, a phone call. Read his story, watch the video below and then make something happen in your school, even something really small. But I dare you to just sit there afterwards.

One frustrating note: The speaker who came after him Andrew Rasiej (@Rasiej) wrongly concluded that education in America would be better if every student had access to an iPad.

NOOO!!

In one sentence, he negated the entire point of Kevin’s presentation.

Every student should have access to teachers like Kevin. It is Kevin who is the variable here, not the iPad. I’ll bet Kevin would have been just as effective motivating kids to get excited about music with a couple buckets, some string and a gum wrapper. How very, very sad this was so very wrongly interpreted.

Invest in people first; invest in the analog and the digital will follow. The people you invest in will see and use digital in creative ways. If you just invest in the digital, you will turn students into robot users, not creators.

Kevin’s presentation is between 1:47 and 2:06 below. Kevin’s “conclusion” follows briefly afterward.



Video streaming by Ustream | 140conf Day 1, Session 1

*The harmonica app is awesome, but as an accomplished player of the real thing, I got bored. The banjo tuner was fun only it that is annoyed @chirn9980 when I claimed to be able to play a foggy mountain breakdown in the key of G. He claimed it was just a tuner and I was an idiot. It was still fun.

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Why Seamus keeps dogging Mitt and what Melissa Harris-Perry got wrong

Yesterday during her show Melissa Harris-Perry, Melissa weighed in on the dog kerfuffle with Mitt Romney and Seamus (pronounced SHAY-mus) and more recently, with Barack Obama eating dog meat when he was five years old in Indonesia. (video below)

She — along with a lot of Senators and campaign advisors — made the mistake of thinking the whole dust-up is about the treatment of a dog.

It isn’t.

Here is the real issue.

Faced with a complex problem — namely how to transport five boys of various ages, his wife, himself, luggage and a large dog in a station wagon on a five-hour trip — Mitt Romney failed at the solution, specifically for three reasons:

1. The solution he arrived at did not include empathy for the one occupant, Seamus, in the car who was the most vulnerable and dependent on his ability to make a quality decision. Mitt saw him and treated him as property, not as a living being.

2. Mitt Romeny showed poor risk assessment. If the carrier would have broken free of its restraints while the car was traveling at a high rate of speed, Seamus would have died a horrible and gruesome death. The risk is the same reason why it is illegal for passengers to ride in an RV trailer.

3. Ann Romney asserted in an interview that Seamus liked riding in the carrier. Just because Seamus liked riding in the carrier doesn’t mean it was the best thing for him. Leaders need to assess risk against immediate gratification. Sometimes what the population you govern wants something that isn’t the wisest course of action, like a tax cut while trying to reduce the deficit. A leader is someone who has the wisdom and foresight to say “no.”

Like most of the dog-people arguments made before hers, Melissa mistook the plot for meaning. It is the same mistake high school students and college undergraduates make about literature. The Scarlet Letter is not a story about adultery; The Awakening is not a story about a women who cheats on her husband with a playboy. Literature is about something bigger than the plot, yet most people never get beyond the plot.

Melissa committed this sin and never got beyond the plot of the dogs and silly season.

The reason the Mitt-Seamus dog story is substantive is because it is about a grown man — who wants to be the next President of the United States — being faced with a series of decisions to solve a problem and making the wrong choices. The presidency is all about solving complex problems within a set of constraints.

The puppies here at the DogWalkBlog assert that how Mitt Romney solved the Seamus problem gives us a glimpse into how he would solve the inequity of the tax code, health care for the elderly and women and the treatment of war-time veterans as President.

And that glimpse is far from silly. It is positively terrifying.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Mugging for social media

Uggie
Uggie
SOURCE: http://weinsteinco.com/sites/the-artist/

If you’re gonna make a movie that features a dog and that movie wins Best Actor and Best Picture of the Year, we’re gonna have a thing or two to say about it. I’m talking about The Artist starring Uggie and a few human beings in supporting roles, of course.

We don’t do movie reviews here, though this film is certainly worthy of one. After seeing it a few dozen more times, I may write one. For now, though, here are two observations.

“Silent” media gives a voice to the mute or the flawed.
Social media channels are for the most part, silent media. They do not require anyone to actually be themselves or show themselves in photos or video. You are what your words are in blog posts, in tweets, in Facebook updates and such. You do not need to be a great speaker, be able to carry a tune or dance to perform in the social media space. Social media gave to many nerds and geeks what silent film gave to George Valentin (and Uggie the dog if you want to extend the metaphor.) Sorry, you will have to see the film to the very end to understand this reference. Yeah, I know.. but life has no short-cuts.

Unfortunately for most, video is on the rise in the social media space, giving it a real voice in much the same way talkies did for silent film. Many stars will fall by the wayside, but it will also make way for the young. “People are tired of old actors mugging at camera to be understood. Out with the old, in with the new. Make way for the young! That’s life!” (Peppy Miller, The Artist)

Hating on the French
Can we just stop that already? As the Oscars went on and The Artist picked up more awards, my twitter stream filled up with anti-French tweets. I think we may be able to learn a little bit from Jean Dujardin who said in his acceptance speech, “I love your country” and proclaimed his delight for cinnamon rolls on the red carpet. If a big star like Dujardin can find delight in the smallest, pedestrian things about America, why can’t we find these same things about the French?

We all have flaws. Some of us are socially awkward; some are camera-shy. Still others have stage-fright and other have a French accent. Most of us are the dogs that run around the feet of others, just trying to get some attention. The tools you learned to use to overcome your flaws may not help you next year.

The survivors in this game are not the young as Peppy Miller suggested, but those who are willing and able to adapt.

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Find your little heart place

Yesterday, a friend of mine who lives in New York City sent me a box of cookies from Levain Bakery. If you have never had a cookie from them, go right now and get one.. or two.

I’ll wait.

Aside of being the most delicious cookies in the whole wide world, what struck me the most is the label they put on every box and post card. Along the bottom, they draw the New York City skyline in pen. Toward the very end, they color in their bakery and float a heart above it.

Subtle, but the message is clear. Even in a crowded, dense city like New York where everyone is seemingly insignificant to everyone else, you find meaning, purpose and love in a little bakery in the middle of the chaos.

Slow down and find your little heart place.

Happy holidays.

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Who are you?

Social Media cares... about itself

On Nov 15, The New York Times published a story about Facebook forcing Salman Rushdie to use his real name — Ahhmed — on his profile, even as he is commonly known as Salman. Facebook makes the argument that forcing people to use their real identities creates a more civil discourse on the Internet.

Bull crap.

Google and Facebook want you to use your real name because they want to sell you to merchants who buy their ads. Merchants can’t and won’t buy anonymous or aliased users. Facebook and Google have no interest in policing good behavior on the Internet, but they know the real argument for your real identity won’t be picked up by technologists.

In fact, the parrots are already squawking the “civil discourse” talking points without any proof that it is true.

When companies and governments justify their actions with “for your security” or “for your convenience,” start clutching your wallet.

Follow the money, folks.

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Puppies of Mad Men

Midge drawing puppies for Gramdmother's Day in Mad Men

Midge drawing puppies for Gramdmother's Day in Mad Men

I was transferring some rather large iTunes libraries and one of those little buggers is bound to start playing in the background. Season one, Episode One Smoke Gets in your Eyes was the one that started playing.

By the time I figured out it was playing, it made it all the way to the scene where Don knocks on Midge’s door and she shows him the greeting card she is drawing for Grandmother’s Day. It was a puppy! I missed that scene.

Anyway, it got me thinking that if Mad Men started off with a puppy, there has got to be a ton of other puppy references throughout. So I am going to find them and add them here.

If anyone wants to join in on the project, just holler below in the comments and let me know which episodes you will be watching. Post the time dogs or puppies are referenced and we should have a list in short order.

Hey, it’s research!

Season 1, Episode 1, 3:42

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Water pressure

I spent a huge chunk of my 20s and 30s traveling around the country for my corporate employer who no longer graces the list of the Fortune 500. I have stayed in thousands of hotel rooms and all of them had one thing in common; terrible, miserable, horrible water pressure.

But that might be a tad unfair of me. Let me back up a bit.

….

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The I Could Do it Better Syndrome

InvisiblePeople.tv

You know them.

They’re the people who yell at the television on Monday nights, insisting that they could have caught that pass or avoided that tackle. They’re the ones who can’t attend a conference or event without telling other people how they would have made it more interesting. They’re the people who believe they can do everything better than anyone else, whether it’s blogging, forging a career, making choices, having a relationship, or even serving a charitable cause.

The I Could Do It Better Syndrome seems to affect only a small percentage of the population, but they’re a persistent and vocal minority that demands not only to be heard, but somehow validated. It’s not enough to address their criticisms — they want nothing less than complete capitulation. Yes, you are right and I am wrong. How may I serve you? What can I do to make you happy? Until they get the attention and agreement they want, the I Could Do It Betters won’t let up, at least until they find a new outlet for their hostilities.

There’s a man online who has been doing a remarkable job of bringing light to the issue of homelessness. It was his vision, his idea and his efforts that resulted in a mission that has gathered steam, sponsors and many, many supporters. And while I’ve been neutral in the past about social programs that “raise awareness” — believing that direct, one-on-on support is more critical — Mark Horvath’s InvisiblePeople.tv has gained my respect. His pinpoint focus and tireless travels across the United States and Canada have resulted in more than just awareness and sympathy. His interviews with homeless people have spurred real offers of help and assistance. Further, in giving the homeless a direct opportunity to tell their stories to the world — to look into the camera and in their own words talk about their situations and feelings — Mark has given a powerful voice to those “invisible” people whom society has often ignored or dismissed.

I’ve followed Mark’s journey online for about a year. While it doesn’t surprise me that his mission has been attacked recently by a group of I Could Do It Betters, what I do find disturbing is how far they’ve been willing to go to get other people to jump on their hateful (and I must say, seemingly jealousy-driven, bandwagon). They’ve tweeted his sponsors and threatened to never do business with them. They’ve made YouTube videos questioning his ethics. They’ve accused Mark of exploiting the homeless for his own gain, of being a limelight seeker, of not answering questions to their satisfaction — even of passing out the wrong kind of donated food. Their claims have gotten ridiculous and out of hand — they’ll criticize anything from Pop Tarts to socks — but they seem to delight in any opportunity to assail Mark’s “motives”, his tactics and his character.

Having followed Mark’s mission for over a year, I know that not even one of the accusations are even partially true. This is a simply a bold case of I Could Do It Better by people who, hypocritically, are seeking attention for themselves. They seem to resent the (well-deserved) praise InvisiblePeople.tv has received and believe they could do a better job with the resources Mark has gathered.

My question to the armchair critics would be — if you believe you could do better, why don’t you? Instead of all that energy spent denigrating one person’s efforts, why not build your own mission from scratch? What’s stopping you from rallying support for your own better ideas and solutions?

The answers are, of course, apparent. Lacking their own will, drive and ideas to actually affect change and improve the world around them, the I Could Do It Betters would rather imagine that they could — if only they were Mark. If only they had had the idea and put the work in. If only they had spent the great amount of time and care that Mark has gathering support. If only they were given the opportunity.

However, the I Could Do It Betters have to know that Mark wasn’t given his mission — he created it out of his own vision and ideals and then worked very hard to make it a reality. There’s nothing to stop others from doing the same (or even better) should they ever choose to leave the comfort of their armchairs and take the real-world actions they believe would be an improvement.

You can learn more about Mark Horvath and his mission to help homeless people by visiting InvisiblePeople.tv, or by following @hardlynormal and @invisiblepeople on Twitter.

Today’s post is a guest post by the novelist and essayist, Jane Devin. We’re delighted she stopped by to bark and walk in our back yard and welcome her any time she wants to wander in. If you haven’t already, buy her book, Elephant Girl. It is nothing short of amazing.

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Jobs

Barack Obama on Labor Day

I was going to skate past Thursday and not comment on this big jobs speech that President Obama is going to deliver tomorrow, but then @caroljsroth tweeted this morning:

I want to know what #jobs creation efforts/policies you are looking for as a small business owner. What would incentivize smallbiz to hire?

Oh, crap! I took the bait and replied:

Guaranteed customers. Seriously, that’s what I want.

I know, I know, it was flippant and snarky but it was what bubbled up on my brain at that exact moment. And I just blurted it out. I think a lot of other small business people are thinking the same thing. Washington and the media keep asking the wrong damn questions.

Here is the small business reality: Yes, we know that by hiring someone, that person will then spend money into the economy and eventually, when there are lots of other small businesses hiring, that will create more demand for the goods and services we provide. We get that. We really, really get that.

Theoretically.

But on a practical level, we’re all sticking our heads out the store front, not seeing any potential customers and saying, “I’m not gonna try it; you try it.” just like the Life cereal Mikey commercial.

In the back room, the banks — who have nothing to lose because they will get bailed out — are pressuring us for personal guarantees on any loan we sign. If I am the first to stick my neck out and nobody else follows, it is MY house and MY car and MY retirement fund that I will lose. And my government will not give a puppy’s pooch about me. Same with the SBA and other government-backed loan programs. Modern-day natural selection.

But back to the original question.

The president will most likely do some tax policy deal. Ugh. Tax policy tinkering never works for small business because the only thing we hear is the ear-piercing screaming of our CFO who just got back from a workshop learning about all the changes to the tax code from the last time Congress messed with taxes. Yeah, we all hate paying taxes, but taxes are a sign of success. If you make money, you pay taxes. If you spend money, you pay taxes. If you are neither making nor spending money, taxes don’t matter; even if they are set at 100%. 100% of $0.00 is still $0.00! Congress can’t give us a big enough tax incentive to hire anyway, so just quit trying. Please quit trying.

Policy change #1: Quit farting around with the tax code. When you make these “deals” it only sounds like someone is getting screwed somewhere. And that someone be us. Leave it.

Put your money where your mouth is. US government, YOU hire people to do stuff. Start with writers, artists, sculptors, filmmakers and musicians to create works open to the public. If we see that work, chances are people you are paying will start buying our goods and services and we’ll have to hire people to staff up. Pretty soon, the private industry employees every other small business is hiring will start spending money on our stuff and Uncle Sam can quit hiring people. We’ll probably offer better wages and benefits anyway and then those government jobs will just dry up.

Policy change #2: Direct hiring. Do not give money to the states and private contractors to hire people. They will just use the cash to shore up their bottom lines and bloat their stock prices.

That’s pretty much what I want to hear tomorrow. I’m not going to, but that is what it will take.

Otherwise, it will be the same ol’ waiting game we’re all playing right now.

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Google, hire an English major

Watch this video resume. Then visit his web page.

And here is a comment I sent to Matthew Epstein this morning.

Cool resume, but the correct use of “bad” is the adverbial form.

“I want to join your product marketing team, badly.”

If you are writing copy, you can take some liberties, but should punctuate it differently as such.

“I want to join your product marketing team. Bad.”

My English Major oath would not let me let this slide. Sorry if you are feeling those usual, “who the hell does he think he is” thoughts most people feel when we point out a typo. Really, it’s for your own good. Learn from this. You want the advantage over others who won’t care so much about the details of craftsmanship. As Joseph Conrad writes in The Secret Sharer, “exactitude in some small matters is the very soul of discipline.” Google is an exacting company and will only hire those who subscribe to this life philosophy. Embrace it. (and read the book; it’s only 50 pages.)

And how is it that you have not gotten the “Cease and desist” letter yet from the Google Legal Team for registering a domain with “Google” in it?

Anyhow, I hope Mr. Epstein gets a job with Google and I hope they never regret hiring him because all of his copy is clean, tight and well-crafted.

You’re welcome.

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The US Post Office mangled their good news again

Owney the Dog USPS

Yesterday, The Rachel Maddow Show (with guest host Melissa Harris Perry) ran a story segment about Owney the Post Office dog. In short, a new stamp will be issued today with Owney’s image.

I’m not sure how easy it is for everyone else to get The Rachel Maddow Show to run a story about them, but they seem to be able to ignore any request from us at the Dog Walk Blog rather deftly. It might be the restraining orders, could be that we have not published any cool dog cocktail recipes or maybe they just don’t want annoying little English major sh*ts in the bullpen, correcting them at every turn..

I’m sure they have their reasons. Maybe you have to know someone, like Melissa’s dog Pebbles (does Pebbles have a twitter account?)

We got all excited and dashed off to USPS.com to buy a doghouse full of Owney stamps.

Nothing.

No promo, no front page links to the unveiling, nowhere to place advance orders. They received a ton of free media promoting a really cool story and they did nothing with it. Dogs have been maligned as tormenting carriers for decades and when they finally have a chance to make it right with the entire canine community, they blow it.

Eventually I found the Owney stamps in their store and placed an order, but I had to click around for a while. If anyone wants a personal note with an Owney attached, just DM me on twitter with a mailing address. When they come in, we’ll send them out.

No wonder the USPS finds itself closing offices, laying off workers and losing money. It is not competition from FedEx, UPS and email. It’s just not paying attention to the details.

BTW, here is the segment. And the 45322 post office has a sign that says “No dogs allowed.” Really.

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What’s next for NASA? Ummmmmm I dunno

Atlantis Space Shuttle landing at Kennedy Space Center July 21, 2011

I watched the space shuttle STS135 Atlantis touch down this morning and I felt as if that was the ending of something really big. I think what is happening is something more than simple nostalgia even though I am part of the generation that saw the first man walk on the moon July 20, 1969.

I think something bigger is happening to the human race, something that is not so good as we think it is. I think we are losing our quest for meaning.

Colleges have turned into trade schools where there is very little learning and lots of job training. Professors are demonized and teachers are vilified. Lots of people have hopped onto the bandwagon of questioning whether or not a college degree is worth the money; not based on whether or not you come out thinking more clearly or having received a strong liberal arts education that gives you the tools to ask questions steeped in meaning, but whether or not the degree qualifies you for a job.

We’ve choked off stem cell research even though it holds the biggest promise in curing cancer, paralysis and other diseases. We’re starving education budgets and breaking unions in favor of giving wealthy capitalist barons tax breaks so they can employ a vast army of under-educated workers they will toss away when joints and muscles break down after years of hard work. We publish books by Snooki and Bristol Palin instead of talented writers. We argue about whether or not gay people are worthy of respect as human beings instead of just accepting the differences. We deny the dignity of health care as a basic human right. We throw away people when they get too old to work. We allow superstition, fear and faith to trump empirical facts and science. We are willing to bring down the most powerful government in the world simply because the man at the top is a member of the wrong race.

For what? A few extra short-term dollars? A few more minutes of power? What happened to our collective quest to discover who we are, why we are here and what our place is in the Universe? Did we give up or are we now satisfied that planet Earth is all we will ever have? Are we satisfied that the Universe really exists as one little race alone on a spinning rock in space, guided by a God we should seek out and worship?

Inevitably, the question of “What’s next for NASA?” gets asked in every newscast and with every interview. The answer is always the same; a short pause and then some mumbling about re-definging direction, cost-efficiency, saving tax money, blah, blah, blah that nobody really believes.

But the real question is: “What’s next for the human race?”

That is what we are really struggling with when the question gets asked.

*The we I am referring to is the human collective, not any one group. Whether or not you is one doing one of the above, you will most assuredly be swept along as the current gathers speed. It is already a raging torrent.

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Politics shut down Minnesota, but beer brought it back

Politics may have shut down the State of Minnesota, but the threat of having no beer brought it back pretty quickly. The only thing more dangerous than a drunk Minnesotan camping out in a tent in the wood is a sober Minnesotan who has no place to go.

Oh, settle down folks, I’m not ripping on Minnesotans. I is a proud native so it’s more self-depracating than anything. At least that is the one thing that is still not taxable.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP legislative leaders announced yesterday evening they have reached a budget deal to end a two-week government shutdown. Both sides didn’t get what they wanted, each side will claim the other has caved, the voters have spoken, blah, blah, blah. I read through.. ok, well I skimmed through the majority of the … ok, I skimmed the first line of each comment on the blog post and most talked about the political crap that surrounded the fight.

It was really all about the beer.

But the GOP will use this “success” with other states and shut them down as well to get what they want passed. The voting public will become really fed up with the tactic eventually and the pitchforks will come out. In the meantime, it will be entertaining to watch supposed fully-formed adults run our government like they are negotiating playtime with the brightly-colored alphabet blocks in kindergarten.

The rest of us know government shutdowns don’t work because it is not really shutting the government down. It is a bunch of chickenhawks playing pretend freedom fighter on a fake battlefield. Here is what a real government shutdown would look like.

  • Close all the state highways and freeways
  • Open the doors to the prisons and penitentiaries and let the prisoners go. No guards need show show up for work.
  • Close all the gas pumps and convenience stores as there is no agency with taxation authority to collect taxes on alcohol, fuel or cigarettes.
  • Lay off the highway patrol.
  • Cease salary and benefits to ALL state employees, including the governor, legislators and judges.
  • Close the state courts. Counties and cites are ok, but no state courts.
  • Cease enforcing all state laws.
  • Cease collecting all state taxes. Any taxes owed during the shutdown are automatically forgiven.
  • Close ALL state departments, including the BMV, Attorney General’s Office, etc.
  • Close all the schools.

You get the idea.

If anyone is going to irresponsibly shut down a state, they should be prepared to have ALL state services deemed non-essential, not just the artsy-fartsy ones. By reserving things like law enforcement, roads and penal systems as “essential,” we are admitting we need government by default. By not shutting everything down, we are just faking it. By deeming some services non-essential, we are creating a dual class of citizens; those who matter and those who don’t. (GOP, take notice that the beer-drinking, hard-working, unwashed masses kinda matter here.)

The next governor — Democrat or Republican — who gets threatened by a shutdown should call the bluff. Shut down the roads, open the prisons and suspend lawmakers salaries. We’ll see how far this shutdown strategy takes us.

If you’re going to rattle your saber, you damn well better know how to use it. Or be prepared to die trying.

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Tradition also means change

Whenever I hear people talk about traditions, a quick story flashes through my head. I don’t know if it is true or not, but it’s still a good story.

A young woman was cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the family. They had always gone to the in-laws to eat dinner and she was very much looking forward to impressing both sides of the family at her first hosted Thanksgiving with dishes and traditions that were passed down to her. When it came time to prep and cook the turkey, she cut it in half along the breast bone, laid each half in two separate pans and cooked it like that — just like her mom always did it and her grandma before her. When the turkey was served, it was “reassembled” for display. She never saw a turkey roasted whole before she married and went to her in-laws last year and started helping prep the meal.

….

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