Living in the land of plenty

Donut - Land of Plenty

I remember growing up in St. Paul, there was a donut shop on University and Dale that made the best raised donuts in the world. They were big and my favorite was a chocolate with crushed peanuts on top. We would take a special trip there every few months and only get one donut for each of us. The donut would take forever to eat.

We had the same relationship with the Dairy Queen on Rice St. We would visit the DQ on the Sundays our family drove down by the Mississippi to watch the barge traffic. We didn’t go for those drives often and we would always only get a small cone per kid. No matter how hot it was, that ice cream would last for a long time.


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The Dad Who Shot His Daughters Laptop: 7 Reasons The Majority Are Wrong

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.

Earlier this month, a YouTube video of a fed-up father who shot up his daughter’s laptop after she posted a disrespectful letter about her parents on Facebook went viral on the internet. This is the video:

On YouTube

A few words up front: I was not a perfect parent and sometimes not even an adequate one. I don’t know Mr. Jordan or his daughter well enough to speak to their true characters, intentions, or their family dynamics.

What I do know is what Mr. Jordan chose to make public. First, his 15 year old daughter wrote a scathing post against her parents which many people, including me, thought made her sound like an entitled brat. She posted it on Facebook and her dad found it through their dog’s account (seriously). Second, Mr. Jordan decided to teach Hannah a lesson by posting a video to her Facebook wall. After going off on his own diatribe, which I found not too horrible (hey, parents are people, too — our feelings get hurt and we don’t appreciate being disrespected,) Mr. Jordan decided to put several rounds of bullets into his daughter’s computer. That’s where his family drama became ugly for me.

A majority of parents (and by my count mostly women), lauded Mr. Jordan with praises like, “It’s great to see someone actually parent” and “The brat got what she deserved – I bet she won’t dare act that way again”. It takes a lot to shock me, but these kind of comments did. Here’s why:

1) If it was any other authoritarian relationship — say, employee/employer, teacher/student — people would have been up in arms over the destruction of property in order to teach a lesson, not applauding the act. If someone provided a computer to their employee or student and then shot it up when they found them abusing it, most of us would think they were nuts, even if they did pay for what they destroyed. We wouldn’t be praising the “lesson” they were teaching.

2) The “lesson” that it’s somehow okay to destroy someone’s property when you feel disrespected, even if it’s something you bought as a gift, teaches that destruction and revenge are appropriate responses. It seems to me that a lot of people who grow up with that lesson are the same ones who do things like slash the tires of their boyfriend’s car when they find out he wasn’t faithful.

3) The definition of vandalism is “deliberate, mischievous, or malicious destruction of public or private property.” The law may have given the father the right to control his daughter’s use of property, and he could argue that the property was ultimately a gift he bought and then reclaimed, but the spirit of vandalism remains. He deliberately and maliciously destroyed something even he admitted was his daughter’s.

4) Discipline and revenge are not the same thing. That’s why comments like “finally, a parent acting like a parent” stunned me. Since when is an act of vengeance the same as discipline? While I understand people’s frustration with kids who are spoiled or act “entitled” I fail to see how shooting up a child’s possessions can, in any way, be considered good parenting or intelligent discipline.

5) The public doesn’t know, can’t know, both sides of the story. The dad said his daughter was grounded for three months before for doing something “similar” and “stupid.” To those who say the girl was previously spoiled and therefore needed a harsh reminder of her place, I’d counter that a three month restriction seems pretty drastic and not lax at all. A quarter of a year is a long time in the life of a teen — and there are few teenagers who don’t repeat their mistakes. And that list of chores? How long did they take in reality? Did the girl also work at her stepmom’s business, as she claimed? Was she given adequate time outside of school to be a kid? We don’t know. While the girl’s letter was nasty — I especially took exception to the “cleaning lady” bit — maybe she had her own and possibly legitimate reasons for being frustrated.

6) Like Hannah’s father, I also left home at 16. I was mostly self-supporting by the age of 14. I don’t think it made me a better or more responsible person, and I would not wish that kind of necessary but early independence on any teenager. I have no problem with a 15 year old having a part-time job, but unlike Hannah’s dad I don’t view it as a requirement. I think a child’s primary job is to go to school. I think learning social skills and having friends and activities is also important. There’s plenty of time and occasions in life to go to work at Burger King for minimum wage. At 15, I think a job should be a choice, not a condition of living happily under your parent’s roof.

7) Another viral YouTube video was that of a judge who was shown spanking and yelling at his then-teenage daughter for being disobedient. He had told her not to download music from the internet and she did. The majority of parents condemned the judge for his abuse, which was blatant and easy to see. Almost no one in that case called the girl a spoiled brat or praised the judge for his parenting skills. Yet Mr. Jordan was lauded for shaming his daughter publicly by posting his video on Facebook and YouTube — an act that will have consequences for her years into the future — and for taking a gun to his daughter’s property in order to prove that he was the man in charge. The hallmarks of domestic violence are not always physical. The six signs of an abuser are: Dominance, Humiliation, Isolation, Threats, Intimidation, Denial and Blame. Again, I do not know Mr. Jordan outside of what he has made public, but I see all six signs in the behavior exhibited in his video. He asserted his dominance, humiliated his daughter, promised to isolate her through restriction, threatened her with promises that her life was about to get “a whole lot harder,” intimidated her by showing her his power, denied that she had any right to complain, and then blamed her for his own overreaction, which was to put several rounds of ammunition into her property. I do not see much of a moral difference between the physical abuse of the judge and what Mr. Jordan did. Both men showed a lack of self-control and used their power wrongly. To condemn one while praising the other is, to me, hypocritical at best.

I believe in discipline. I don’t believe in destruction. I believe that good parents have a right to demand respect. I don’t believe respect is achieved through acts of violence. I believe children should know that their parents are human and can get angry and have hurt feelings just like anyone else — but I think it’s a parent’s job to model an appropriate way to deal with frustration. The use of a gun to make a point is never appropriate. Ever. That many people think it is — that the majority of comments praise Mr. Jordan — doesn’t make him, or the majority, right.

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Dear Catholic Church…

Papal Seal

My aploogies to Elizabeth Warren for editing her words ever-so-slightly to fit the argument at hand.

You built a faith-based hospital out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your services to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your hospital because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your hospital, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.

“Now look, you built a hospital and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

In the latest dust-up between the mean, godless, tribal Obama administration and God, leaders of the Catholic Church, right-wing pundits and every God-fearing Republican is unleashing a torrent of vitriol against the policy that requires faith-based organizations to provide for birth control in its employee-based health insurance. As the argument gets heated beyond reason, pundits are hauling out the separation of Church and State arguments as well as

In the United States of America, I value my freedom FROM religion much more than I value my freedom OF religion.

Before you go off on a puppy, I was raised Catholic. I was in as deep as anyone could be. If you want to kick me in the ribs, you’d better be prepared for a knock-out, drag-out that you will lose.

The Catholic Church has a right to set its own agenda and preach what it wants to preach. That right is guaranteed in the US Constitution. But when it dips into the resources of the secular parts of the United States for its survival and growth, it becomes beholding to the State. Jesus even said “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21) The Church is not allowed to dip into the resources of the State without just compensation. If in the end, it wants to only hire Catholics, service Catholics and give back any tax-abatements it has ever received, then by all means, allow it to set its own agenda.

The United States of America is not a theocracy and the Catholic Church need not operate within its boundaries. If the secular laws are intolerable, it can decide to abandon the flock here. But before leaving, it may want to take a look at the flock, learn a bit of balance and tolerance from it and recognize its existence is symbiotic with the State.

WWJD. Do that.

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Meet the head of your new HOA; The Bank

Common wisdom was once upon a time that the bank did not ever want to own your home. It would try so hard to not own your home it would fall over backwards to work with you if you ever fell behind on your mortgage.

Until the housing bubble burst in 2007-08.

Everything has now changed. Banks want so badly to own your home that they will literally dodge your phone calls and letters attempting to restructure your loan or even work out terms with you.

Being rather old school, this sort of behavior puzzled me at first. What would a bank do with a house? They are not in the real estate business?

But they are. Getting into the real estate business is their way of turning lemons into lemonade.

When the foreclosure rate was insanely low, the cost to the bank to manage a house that was foreclosed on was too great for the return. But look what has happened since the bubble burst. The foreclosed homes have consolidated. Where there was only one home in a subdivision, there are now 20-40 homes or more. It now makes sense to hire property management companies to flip the house, maintain it and manage the renters*.

The banks are slowly owning large tracts of private property. They are becoming the de facto Home Owners Association. Eventually, they will be the loudest voice at city council meetings and zoning boards.

Are you noticing? Is anyone in Washington?

*We have had one such company rent out an old church and set up shop just right outside of Englewood. Their signs are on almost every distress property in every subdivision for miles. Like watching McDonalds expand.

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Don Draper was a poser and so can you. The myth of graphic design

Mad Men

My editor wrote this little thing this morning. Since I’m also a Mad Men fan, I asked him if I could repost it here for you. He reluctantly agreed, but only if I give him full credit. He is such a stickler for the rules. Here is his post as it appears on his blog.

There is a current narrative going on within the creative community lamenting the demise of professional graphic artists. One such narrative appears on my favorite design blog, Before&After Magazine.


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Kia is starting to understand men

I first saw this ad (I think the short version) ironically enough while waiting for the Grismer folks to change out some critical suspension parts in the event van. I was all fired up to write another blog post about how car companies are stuffing men (and women) into stereotypes.

But then I got to the end of this extended version and I think marketers are finally starting to get it. There is no gender war. It turns out men and women pretty much want the same thing, even if the detours and paths to get there are different.

I am holding my breath to see which version makes the game cut and which one will eventually run long-term. But this was made. It’s a start.

What do you think?

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Je ne parle pas français

I’ve only met my maternal grandmother twice in my life. The second time was when we visited them in Maine for their fiftieth wedding anniversary. She died two days later. My grandfather died less than a year after that.

This is the story of the first time I met her. Her name was Leda Boutot Pelletier.


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I know how Google will die

The End of Google

The End of Google

I know how Google will die. I’m not a psychic, just an old dog who has seen this cycle before. But before I get into the specifics, let me share a story with you.

It was the summer of 1992 and I was working at my job as at the Fortune 500 I was lucky to be at. We were all sitting around with a pretty big retail client, brainstorming on ways to improve the cycle of customer satisfaction, experience, etc, etc. with the service delivery. These were the early days of “partnership” when it was in vogue to include your vendors as “partners” rather than companies you called and barked “do this!” to. In hindsight, we were all pretty new at the game.

About the middle of the meeting, it became somewhat apparent that the client was getting frustrated that he was not quite getting the result he was looking for. We were trying to build value for our services and he was trying to manipulate us into thinking we were the ones “discovering” what he needed done.

In a moment of uncontrollable frustration, he blurted out, “who is the damn customer, here anyway?”

Dead silence.

He knew what he had just done. For the rest of the meeting, nothing really got talked about. We had turned from partner vendors into robot order-takers. Yes, sir, yes sir. The client got exactly what he wanted and not a bit of effort beyond that. We all pretty much knew our place.

From that day, everyone in sales worked hard to replace the retailer with programs that valued our head skills rather than just used us as a pair of hands. We were able to separate from the client a year later. Revenue was one thing; our ability to grow along our mission was something else.

Fast forward to the early days of Google. They were all about cataloging the world’s information, building great search tools, branching out to maps and enterprise apps and useful things that helped users collaborate and make the world a better place. Do no evil, they cried but more importantly, celebrate the human spirit by letting our employees work on cool stuff even if the return was less than certain.

And the stock price soared and the profits kept rolling in. Shareholders kept seeing their returns increase hand-over-fist and their expectations kept rising. If there is one thing rich people always need more of is more money.

Then things started slowing down as they usually do with mature companies. But the expectations did not stop. Google started cutting expenses and “stupid” projects that the shareholders and analysts felt were not making money and never will. Then came a push to consolidate and “own” the user until they now have the User Agreement we were all just sent last week.

“We own your online identity” is the short version of the file. You can read the whole thing if you want, but that is the translation. The push to make us buy stuff through the Google-created channels is becoming apparent. “Who is the damn customer, here anyway?” the shareholders and advertisers are now screaming. “Deliver us buyers or else!”

And Google is buckling.

The shareholders and advertisers will continue to squeeze and squeeze as the users quietly work their way through whatever hold Google has on them now and find a way to replace what Google gives them. It might take a decade or so, but at the end, Google will be left scratching at the floorboards, wondering where it all went.

Google will die because Google got too greedy. It didn’t know when to push and when to coast. Or maybe it did, but like every other company that allows itself to be “owned,” it ran out of leverage to push back.

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People want to eat but they won’t join the hunt

Hunting Dog

Most people wear your web site, twitter feed or facebook page like they wear a jacket or drive their car. When they want to use it, they do. When they don’t, it is out of sight and out of mind.

People who work in the online space are in a very rarefied space. They live and breathe online all day long and delude themselves into thinking this is reality. When they go outside their front door, life dilutes the online world by about 1:10,000,000,000,000 parts per billion.


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My #SOPABlackout thoughts

SOPA Blackout

SOPA Blackout

The is not going dark for the SOPA Blackout today for a few reasons.

Firstly, I am not entirely against SOPA and PIPA (I’d link to the bills, but the ones in Congress are still in flux, the Wikipedia one is skewed and blacked out).

Secondly, the sites that are going black remind me of a small child throwing a tantrum, screaming that he will hold his breath until he turns blue. I want no part of that childishness.

Thirdly, if we just stop talking, how we will convince anyone of our point of view? Instead of going silent, we should become louder.

Many sites are going dark today and I think — as adult human beings — we should grab this as a learning opportunity in human evolution. We did not become the dominant species on Planet Earth because we cowered in the face of adversity. We did not become top of the food chain by hiding in the darkness. We became king of all beasts (except dogs, dogs still rule) because we learned how to adapt and survive in our environment.

Taking that lesson, all the librarians need to herd the students into the libraries and teach them the magic of the Dewey Decimal System. Newspaper journalists should use this as an opportunity to tout their product and process as immune to going dark. Book publishers should launch a campaign that says, “see, we’re still here! You can always read us without the Internet.” Same with music CDs and movie DVDs. Television… ok, you can play too. HAM Radio operators, you are definitely invited to the party.

A blackout should be an opportunity for this generation to teach the next how to truly navigate their world by clock and fist. Because some day, they will have to. Someday, the machines really will go dark.


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Turning my back on time

Turn Back Time

Turn Back Time

If I could turn back time, I would turn it back before last Monday when I suggested to my editor that he float the theme “If you could turn back time” to the Lets BlogOff editorial staff.

When I first starting writing this blog seven years or so ago, nobody cared what I had to say. As I kept writing, I picked up readers. Part of the problem with writing in an autobiographical style where I am the protagonist is some parts start straying a bit from the absolute truth to an amalgamation of the truth to something that starts becoming story. As Virginia Woolf said in A Room of One’s Own

Lies will flow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them; it is for you to seek out this truth and to decide whether any part of it is worth keeping.

If Virginia Woolf thought it ok to make stuff up for the sake of a story, who am I to argue? Nonetheless, I find I can’t really write to the theme as I would have to fly too close to the sun for the story to flow. It would only lead to an endless game of regret and what-if. My life moves in one direction — forward.

Hence, (yeah, I said hence) my post is this short: I wish I could turn back time to before last Monday.

For no particular reason, in no particular order, my two favorite turn back time-themed songs of my youth.

Tanya Tucker-What’s your mama’s name

George Jones and Tammy Wynette- Golden Ring (Embedding disabled, but worth the click.

* * *

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 exploring the theme, If you could turn back time? To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

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56 channels and nothing on

TV Static

TV Static

Fred Wilson wrote a blog post about the scarcity business model in the entertainment industry, specifically film, but it applies universally.

I left a comment that accidentally turned into a blog post.


Here it is.

I remember the days when Christmas shows like Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty, The Grinch and A Charlie Brown Christmas were on TV at ONLY a specific night in December. Everyone cleared their calendar, sat in front of the TV and made it an event. Now, all these shows are on 24/7/365 on the Internet, run 5 million times a week on cable and nobody cares. “I’ll catch it later” and they usually don’t.

56 channels and nothing on.

Fred’s opening paragraph actually makes a case FOR scarcity. There is SO MUCH content that none of it looks appetizing any more, like an all-you-can-eat buffet in Vegas open 24/7/365 for $7.99. There is no anticipation, no sense of community that an event creates, no anything that gets the juices flowing, the heart racing and the mind thinking. I remember seeing the Death Star blow up in a movie theatre and to this day, it still overwhelms me. I doubt very much anyone under forty has had that same sensory experience.

Even if Fred were to be able to watch Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I’d lay odds that he would have been checking Twitter, his email, etc within 20 minutes of the start. “What else is out there..”

I watched the Golden Globes last night… the television was not enough stimulation; I had to also tweet.

The problem isn’t one of access or scarcity. The problem is there is TOO MUCH access. Any time, any where, any place. We have programmed our audience to always expect the “New and Improved” model instead of building value for the experience of enjoying what is available now.

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Happy MLK Day

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
SOURCE: Wikipedia

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

If you are one of the lucky government, postal, banking or financial services employees* who got the day off today, please remember to treat the people who did not with the respect and gratitude they deserve as they wait on you at the local restaurant, the Walmart or Target Store and the gas station. They are the working poor who feed your salaries every day of the year.

Ironic that Martin Luther King, Jr’s last fight was against poverty, specifically the poverty of the working poor.

Perhaps we should start leveling the playing field by giving everyone the day off.

With pay.

*A special bark out to those companies that give their employees the day off and those who can’t, holiday pay. It’s a start.

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Anxious or excited?

Charlie and Sallie at the vet

Yesterday, I took both Charlie and Sallie to the vet for some routine check up stuff, including getting their license, a shot each and heart worm testing. Charlie is the German Shepherd and Sallie is the lab mix. While they are two large dogs (75 and 110 pounds) they are generally easy to handle together — except when they go to the vet.

Sallie gets all excited about meeting new people and exploring new rooms she has never been in. She sees the visit to the vet as an opportunity to expand her world and maybe get a new treat, make a new friend, etc. Her ears dance and she quite literally smiles.


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