Confessions of the creative wannabe

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I remember buying a tape recorder at Radio Shack when I was twelve or thirteen years old. It was one of those old ones that you loaded the cassette tape into the top and plugged in a wired microphone. I remember how excited I was that this piece of gear would allow me to record sounds that had never been recorded before, including my own voice. When you’re young, you think the sound of your own voice is pretty cool. As you get older, you discover not so much.

I got bored pretty quickly with the recorder as I thought a 16mm video camera would be even cooler. I never did get one, but only because VHS video cameras came out before I had enough money to buy one. I hear nobody makes 16mm movie camera anymore.

….

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Jumbo

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There is an old joke that goes something like this:

I had a nightmare last night I ate a giant marshmallow. When I woke up, my pillow was gone.

Ok, settle down.

Your nightmare joke is now a reality. Meijers had pallets of these JUMBO marshmallows staged alongside the graham crackers and Hershey chocolate bars. Really, these things were grotesquely huge. I think it might be national S’mores week to coincide with Independence day. Nothing says freedom like… marshmallows?

Happy Fourth of July. How much more American can we get? Oh, about another 100 pounds per person, I would reckon.

Be a patriot and eat up.

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Three days ago, we had a park

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Three days ago, we walked around every day during our long lunch hour in a theme park* that was rich with landmarks and history. We gave each of the landmarks a name; some from works of literature and some that just fit.


This is Cutter’s Quarry from the movie Breaking Away.


This is Lake Avalon, from King Arthur (yeah, I know.. but close enough)


This is the Lonesome Road. We just called it that because Charlie usually trotted down here when the rest of us turned left into the small park to get to the truck going home. It was the way he stood in the road and looked back at us that gave the road its name.


These are The Mudflats. No matter how little it rained, they would stay muddy long after the rest of the grounds were cracking.


The Burial Mounds. They just looked like Indian burial mounds. The dogs would race and chase each other over the tops and look like a roller coaster as they crested.


This is Shakespeare’s Cliff from King Lear. I know, not quite as white and chalky as the cliffs of Dover, but we pretended.


And Birnam Wood from Macbeth. the sticks never did move and I guess the big house in the sub division across the street could be Dunsinane


Rushes Creek. Just because of the sound it made as the dogs chased each other through the reeds.

Three days ago, a bulldozer, backhoe and plow showed up at our park. And here is what it looks like today.

For some reason, I felt I needed to take photos of these landmarks last week. It felt very urgent. I now know why. Each of the landmarks are lost in time, like tears in rain or foot steps on a sandy dune.

*Actually, an abandoned housing development in Clayton, Ohio. Again, thank you Saxon Henry for the inspiration, context and clarity.

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I lost the remote and the television was stuck on this channel. Honest – A #letsblogoff contribution

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Seriously, though most of the guilty pleasures I am about to disclose below I ended up liking because I couldn’t find the remote after waking up at 3:00am with the television still on. Ok, a couple I consciously decided to watch for good reasons.

Laguna Beach

As a parent of a then teenager, I made it a point to always be knowledgeable on the leading cultural shows of the time, no matter how stupid they were. LB was quite painful to watch at first, but after a few candid, off the cuff conversations with my daughter, I discovered teens really do talk this this. And really do give each other bad advice like they did on the show. It was hard not getting hooked on the story.

Clarissa Explains it All

Again, kids, but this show was actually really well-written. I like when characters are given a brain.

Gilmore Girls

What red-blooded American dog can resist a smart woman who can do repartee like Lauren Graham? Seriously. Need I really say more.

Glee

Shut up. Don’t judge.

Mad Men

Not really sure this qualifies as a “guilty pleasure” but I’m throwing it in anyway. Again, who can resist a smart woman (Peggy)?

Slap Chop Informercial; Rap Version

Almost forgot to add Vince. Got to watch it all the way through; the old woman at the end is hilarious. Well, kinda funny. Ok, goofy. They only ran this a few times on tv, but we’ve got Internet so it is the version I like better.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about answering the question, Guilty pleasures: what’s your favorite show on television? To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

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Why Sarah Palin also needs a lesson in basic photojournalism in addition to history

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I was going to let this one go, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought I just needed to say something.

This is a photo of US Park rangers posing at the Washington Monument. It appeared on www.SarahPAC.com.

sarahpalin photo

Three women, one man (African American) standing in front of the largest phallic symbol this nation has to offer. This is either a really, really snarky, passive agressive (and somewhat racist) message OR it is just plain dumb, dumb, ignorance.

This reminds me of the video that was shot on a turkey farm. Oblivious to the background.

If anyone needs some extra explaining about what the message could be or what the possible racist jab is, please drop me a comment.

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Crazy like a Weiner dog!

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On May 24, 2011 Anthony Weiner rose to speak in the US House of Representatives on the issue of Medicare and was basically told to sit down and shut up by the GOP chair. You can watch the video here on C-SPAN Minute 5:13:40 (I love that site!)

It took me a few days to figure out what he is doing and he is either really dumb or just crazy; crazy like a weiner-dog.

I don’t believe Weiner sent a picture of his crotch on twitter nor do I believe he actually engineered this. But here is what I think occurred to him at some point.

“I can use this thing to suck the oxygen out of the news cycle for a few days. Shut me up, will you GOP? HA!”

So he goes out and says, “I didn’t do it,” “I’ve been hacked,” etc, etc. Then when asked directly if it was a photo of him or not, he drags the media through another cycle by specifically not denying it was him. He knows they will spend a day speculating on why he is being coy. Then, maybe he comes out and says, “Ok, ok, it is me. Sue me, I got a big wiener.” OR he denies it emphatically after the advice of his lawyer.

And the media will spin it up another day, speculating on why a Congressman would take a photo of his own crotch OR why he just didn’t come out and say it wasn’t him.

Clever. Three days minimum of clever.

Or I’m entirely wrong.

Either way, I still like how he fights back!

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The march upwards of health insurance costs

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I did a quick exercise on my health insurance costs and assumed that I would be keeping the same policy over the next fifteen years until I make it to Medicare age. I looked over the increases over the past several years and they average 20% (just a hair over, but for the sake of clean math, let’s say 20%) over the previous year.

If we start at annual premiums at $5,760 and calculate that out at 20% increase over the previous year, we end up in 2026 at $88,744. Please, double check my math. I think that is way too high.

My increases in costs year over year per year are:
2011-2012: $1,152
2012-2013: $1,382
2013-2014: $1,659
2014-2015: $1,991
2015-2016: $2,389
2016-2017: $2,867
2017-2018: $3,440
2018-2019: $4,128
2019-2020: $4,953
2020-2021: $5,944
2021-2022: $7,133
2022-2023: $8,559
2023-2024: $10,271
2024-2025: $12,326
2025-2026: $14,791

In reality, I’m not going to pay $88K in health insurance premiums. I am going to search for another provider, maybe get a lower introductory rate the first year, then increase the deductible next year and squeeze that out for about 3-4 years before switching to another provider. But as there are only a few providers worth a damn in Ohio, I will either have to move or buy something that may or may not cover me. But I will pay substantially more and get far, far less than I am today.

In 2011 alone, I have spent more than $6,000 out of pocket in medical costs that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Ohio did not cover. I don’t know why; they just didn’t. So the true cost of me having insurance is the cost of premiums PLUS the out of pocket, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s stick to just premiums.

And I look at these increases which is real money I will pay to an insurance company for a guarantee that they may or may not authorize a medical procedure that they may or may not deem medically necessary. And after 2014, while they can’t kick me off the plan for a pre-existing condition I incurred last year, they can then increase my rates so that I can no longer afford the plan. In effect, they will kick me off the plan.

I think to myself: If my TAXES were to increase this much per year and I was guaranteed medical care coverage when I needed it, would this not be a better deal? We fight against a small tax increase to cover everyone in favor of paying a private insurance company obscene premiums for something that carries no promise of delivery.

Does anyone else do these calculations? Or do we just write the check, bury our heads and believe the common mythology of private insurance is better than a “Medicare for All” solution?

Somebody please, check my math. This is kinda nutty.

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Impressive dogs, but…

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Impressive, but can these dogs blog and tweet? Fleet Week 2011.

We’ve got a lot of sniffing to do on Times Square when we get to 140conf next month.

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The definitive difference between a real journalist and your sorry blogger butt

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New York Times front page May 25 2011

Maybe I’ve read one too many rants from know-it-all bloggers about how nobody really needs journalists and how journalism is a dead dying industry, but it really hit home today about the real difference between journalists and blogger know-it-alls.

Above is the front page of the New York Times.

How much fortitude did it take for Eric Thayer to look through his camera lens and snap that photo, straining to keep his emotions from shaking the shot out of focus? Did he fight back tears as he shot or did he just let them flow and do his job anyway?

Has Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) thrown up yet because of anything he’s seen while reporting in Joplin? I’m guessing he has, yet he continues reporting.

How many of us could go to a disaster site like Joplin and not be so overwhelmed by emotion that we could not find the courage to continue reporting or shooting photos so the rest of us could know about the devastation?

Anyone can report the news on good days. It takes men and women of incredible skill, determination and a cast-iron stomach to handle news as devastating as a tornado, earthquake, flood or war. The value of a good journalist should not be measured by how well s/he does the job on a slow news day, but how well s/he reports when all around them is falling apart.

The next time you hear someone at a conference or on a blog rant on about how journalism is dead, ask them if they’ve been to Joplin.. or Minamisanriku… or New Orleans… or Afghanistan… or Sri Lanka. Ask them how many children they’ve seen dead in the streets or how many faces of utter despair and hopelessness they have looked into.

Like their experience with real journalism, I would wager the answer would be zero or fewer.

Footnote (literally this time) I found this moments before hitting the publish button. It was so overwhelming, I had to share.

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Essay 25 MWLT

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When my son was born until he was about five, we lived in an apartment building in St. Paul on Fairview off Grand Avenue. The landlords, Pat and Harold Hamm — the two kindest Angels of my early adulthood — had taken us in as their adopted family. We were invited to Sunday dinner, to sit with them on the curb in the evening, to share their air-conditioning on hot evenings. But mostly Pat, a large woman, made sure we were eating properly.

“You kids are too skinny,” Pat would say as she whisked my son away to get his special treat; green Jell-O.

She was the only one who could make him green Jell-O. If we made it for him, he wouldn’t touch it. Pat would give him a whole bowl and a big spoon, kick her husband out of his favorite Lazy-Boy and my son would sit in their air-conditioned living room, eating his green Jell-O in front of the tv. Even during Hamm family reunion dinners, she would make green Jell-O and nobody else was allowed to touch it.

When my son was about fifteen, he visited with Pat toward the end of her life when diabetes has claimed most of her limbs and several strokes had taken the rest of her. She could barely see or hear, but when he spoke and touched her arm, her face lit up with a smile ear to ear and she said, “green Jell-O” in the happiest voice I’d ever heard.

She died two days later.

When my daughter was in kindergarten, she found a pair of bright yellow rubber boots on the clearance rack in some shoe store and decided they were the perfect shoe that went with everything from jeans to shorts to pajamas. She wore these boots to school almost every day throughout her entire kindergarten year. When we asked her if she wanted to wear something else, she always had an argument why those boots were the best.

More than a few times, her teacher called a bit concerned. She may have been more concerned we didn’t have money to buy her more shoes. “Is she learning and socializing well?” Yes, but…

Eventually, she outgrew the boots.

She is now 20 years old and her taste has grown beyond yellow rubber boots, but still leans toward the eclectic. Whenever she pairs something like denim shorts with a peasant top and black combat boots, accessorized with a rhinestone-studded Fossil watch and asks me if she looks ok, I see a floppy head of blonde curls, a gap in her smile where her brother knocked out a tooth and bright yellow rubber boots.

But most of all, I see a young woman who is not afraid to be who she is.

Original post May 24, 2011.

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Yellow boots and green Jell-O

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When my son was born until he was about five, we lived in an apartment building in St. Paul on Fairview off Grand Avenue. The landlords, Pat and Harold Hamm — the two kindest Angels of my early adulthood — had taken us in as their adopted family. We were invited to Sunday dinner, to sit with them on the curb in the evening, to share their air-conditioning on hot evenings. But mostly Pat, a large woman, made sure we were eating properly.

“You kids are too skinny,” Pat would say as she whisked my son away to get his special treat; green Jell-O.

….

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My little dopamine spritz #twittermakesyoustupid

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Bill Keller New York Times

Last week, Bill Keller (@nytkeller) Executive Editor, The New York Times tweeted out: “#TwitterMakesYouStupid. discuss.” And I wrote a blog post that was a half tongue-in-cheek job application and half… naw, it was a job application.

I suspected his tweet was done to get some material for a column he would eventually write and I tore through my Times every day looking for it. Sure enough, there is was (online, but in print this coming Sunday.) I’m sure he read my blog post because he called twitter a “helpful organizing tool for… dog-lover meet-ups…”

My phone will be ringing any day now!

Almost immediately, Mat Honan, Editor of Gizmodo wrote a blog post lambasting Mr. Keller for his views. It would have been easier to take seriously had he used appropriate AP style, not resorted to name-calling, did not employ obvious logical flaws and stayed away from using curse words. It is also obvious that Mr. Honan was in a state of heightened agitation when he wrote the post.

All of this, of course, just went to prove Mr. Keller’s points about “our ability to reflect” and twitter being the “enemy of contemplation.” Had Mr. Honan thought a bit more about what Mr. Keller was trying to say, he may not have been as incendiary and hyperbolic in his response.

The world has changed is crap
As I was writing a #letsblogoff post last month, I was also listening to a speech by yet another social media expert who asserted, “The world has changed…” and I thought that was the most absurd thing I had ever heard. That is not a truth. That is not even a fact. The fact is this moment has changed from the last moment and the moment before that. “The world is ALWAYS changing…” is more the truth. The truth is most people either did not notice the changes or lied to themselves about them happening.

When I was selling exercise bikes to paralyzed people, I worked with a biomedical engineer who was a great philosopher but didn’t really know it. “Biology works on a sine wave,” he was fond of saying. It was his job to make the binary bits (on/off) of technology works within that natural wave. For example, while he could make a muscle contract instantaneously, it would create intolerable pain and dangerous reactions for the patient. He therefore had to ramp up the contraction slowly, hold a contraction and then ramp it down.

Bear with me; I’m getting to the relevant parts. You aren’t fidgeting, are you?

Technology works on a binary framework. Things are either on or they are off. Biology works like a potentiometer, in degrees of on or off relative to each other. The two are almost always incompatible as the human brain struggles to stuff the digital parts into the sine wave of biology. Try as we might, no matter how much we talk about becoming cyborgs, the human brain will always be an analog, biological mass, tied to that sine wave. This makes learning hard and frustrating. You can’t just plug a thumb drive into your ear and transfer knowledge. Nor can you transfer wisdom or context. Technologist predict we will eventually, but I hope they are wrong.

So what we are is a mesh of technologies of varying degrees. Just because twitter exists, it doesn’t mean conversation ends. Just because we have Kindles, it doesn’t mean books are dead. Just because we have blogs, it doesn’t mean newspapers are dead. Media — like biology — exists on a sine wave.

Jeff Jarvis unwittingly proves Keller’s point
Predictably, Jeff Jarvis (@jeffjarvis) offered some tweets to refute Mr. Keller’s post. They were:

Just as Erasmus warned of the danger of the press, @nytkeller warns of the danger of Twitter. Oy. http://nyti.ms/iOAy6f

@nytkeller=Erasmus, who said: “To what corner of the world do they not fly, these swarms of new books?” #1

#nytkeller=Erasmus: Books are “hurtful to scholarship, because it creates a glut and even in good things satiety is most harmful” #2

@nytkeller=Erasmus: The minds of men “flighty and curious of anything new” would be distracted from “the study of old authors.” #3

I think that just reaffirms Mr. Keller’s points about knowing stuff. Obviously, Mr. Jarvis knows who Erasmus is and was familiar with his quotes. While it is possible he Googled “obscure quotes from dead guys on the books,” I very much doubt it. Mr. Jarvis was well equipped to argue a point with Mr. Keller without looking up supporting evidence. Hmmmm…

Mat Honan did the same thing with Socrates in his blog post. Sorta.

It’s about adaptability
At the end, Mr. Keller may be slightly concerned that we are becoming a species that is dependent on the longest lasting battery and is not acquiring and sustaining the skills to be able to exist by “clock and fist.”

While our use of technology may have the net effect of our species advancing for now, it does not develop the individuals of the species. Cut the power, you create a bunch of people who have no clue how to survive. The most adaptable will not be the ones who know how to program their GPS units but the ones who can navigate by the stars, clock and fist.

I think ultimately, though, Mr. Keller is calling on us to stay adaptable. Our very survival depends on it.

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How I spent my Saturday morning

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#TwitterMakesYouStupid – a New York Times challenge

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Last night, Bill Keller, Executive Editor, The New York Times tweeted out: “#TwitterMakesYouStupid. discuss”

And of course, this started up a firestorm among the twits, many of whom were not particularly skilled with using the grammar of the English language or the proper placement of an apostrophe, but that probably proves Mr. Keller’s bias a bit too much.

I digress.

I don’t care about how stupid twitter makes you or if stupid people use twitter or any of that. Not one bit. My motives for writing this blog post are just way more selfish than that.

I hopped on over to The New York Times library of blogs and noticed a gaping hole in your catalog: NO DOG BLOG!

That can not stand!

Everybody knows that Americans only want to read stories of cute puppies, dogs being rescued from flooded drainage ditches, loyal dogs saving their owners during earthquakes or rescue dogs doing extraordinary things during times of tragedy like 9/11 (shameless, I know, but watch where I’m going with this before you judge.)

So, Mr. Keller, I propose you hire me to write a blog specifically dedicated to dog residents of New York City. In a city of 8-9 million people, many who own dogs, there has to be at least a hundred stories a year worth reporting, right?

I will be in New York City for the annual 140Conf June 15-16. Please call my people to set up an appointment in your offices.. or Gregory’s Coffee on 7th is fine. I’ll buy.

Unless you think I’m just too stupid to write for your little newspaper.

All you, Mr. Keller.

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A thousand words in a million keystrokes

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This morning, I pulled the dust cover off the old manual typewriter, rolled a sheet of paper into the carriage and typed something. I wanted to see what it felt like again to be a “real writer.”

In truth, it felt like getting on an old bike after having not ridden for years; slow going at first… a lot of fits and starts but eventually that rhythm… aw, who am I kidding. It was painful as heck. It felt more like learning how to walk and talk again after someone hit you upside the noggin with a hammer and broke both your legs with a Louisville slugger.

….

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