Find your little heart place

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levain cookies 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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A monkey with a loaded gun does not make him a marksman


bulletholes A monkey with a loaded gun does not make him a marksman

I wrote four drafts of this #letsblogoff and scrapped every one. I don’t think the world needs another diatribe about how we are all getting stuff for free and think we are owed full service. I’ll let others do that.

Instead, I’ll just list a few things that make me go “Hmmmm…”

Social media experts who have found fame blogging believe they are experts about other things for which they have not spent the time honing the craft.

Soccer moms with crappy cameras who stand on the touchline and say things like, “Don’t waste your money on the photos. I’ll give you mine for free.”

Speakers who speak at conferences where the attendees have paid good money to attend and expect quality advice say things like, “The best thing about this software is it’s FREE!”

People who remix songs from others and claim to have talent and skill. Same with photos, paintings and prints.

Politicians who vote to send kids to war but don’t budget Veterans’ benefits when they come back all shot up.

Overhearing this being said; “Anyone can write.”

Just because a monkey with a loaded gun hits the target, it doesn’t make him a marksman.

* * *

And this video says everything I need to say about the argument against ever increasingly low prices. The only thing I wish were different is if I could somehow spend a few bucks for the privilege of embedding it here in my blog for you to enjoy.

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 can’t afford the tip, you can’t afford the meal. To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

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Christmas 2011 fireplace


Early last year, I finally broke down and bought a fireplace for the living room. I should have done this years ago. It transformed the entire room and gave me an excuse to never put a television in it.

During October, I brought the fake pumpkins out of storage to put on the step outside, but they didn’t quite make it. While I was pondering how to string the power from the garage, I plopped the pumpkins on the mantel and plugged them in. They never made it to the step outside.

For Thanksgiving, I put up some autumn decorations and for Christmas, what you see below.

xmas fireplace Christmas 2011 fireplace

The poinsettia theme was inspired from my puppy days of Christmas time at St. Agnes Church in St. Paul where the altar was decorated with poinsettias from Seeger’s Flower Shop on Dale St. in Frogtown (it is long gone) from end to end starting with the first Sunday in Advent. The flowers were all tilted slighting so the flowers would face forward. Every week, the florists would come in and tilt them foward just a little bit more as the flowers would fight to grow upwards. By New Year’s Day, the stems of the flowers were as crooked as a leprechaun’s staff. Apparently, even nature is an illusion in church.

I don’t have photos for Halloween or Thanksgiving because I only just thought of this. Apparently, after you do something for three consecutive holidays, it is a tradition so I’m going to decorate the mantel for each season. New Year’s up next, then Valentines’ Day, followed by St. Patrick’s Day. Fair warning; the non-Christmas decor will probably not be as elaborate.

Stay tuned as I post up the fireplace photo here as the theme turns!

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You really want the US Postal Service to go away?


usps You really want the US Postal Service to go away?

I received this letter in the mail yesterday. I noticed the return address had two things; a PO Box and the ZIP Code.* That’s it.

A few days ago, I read some tweets in my stream where a few people were cheering on the demise of the US Postal Service. My gut reaction was “not so fast, everyone. The USPS — with all its faults — is still a pretty vital spine in our democracy.”

The letter I received underscored how sophisticated the USPS really is. With no more information than a PO Box and a ZIP Code, it can get a letter to the right person from anywhere in the world.

That is something that just didn’t happen by accident.

*Altered for some privacy

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I became an artist because I hate math


During my stint at the Dayton Daily News, I used to do career day at local schools. I think everyone at the paper just wanted a day off from me which is why they always nominated me to go. That’s ok; give me an open mic and a stage and I’m all over it!

So I showed up at a Dayton elementary school to speak to a classroom full of fourth-graders. There was the usual collection of policemen with their uniforms and shiny badges and fireman in hats — with firetrucks parked out in front for the kids to climb on later — lined up ready to speak.


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Drug testing our way to a Master Race


drug test bottle Drug testing our way to a Master Race

In October, Linn State Technical College in Linn, Mo., notified its 1,200 students that they will have to take a drug test to enroll there

Florida requires citizens applying for pubic assistance to submit to a drug test. Supporters of the policies note that public assistance is meant to be transitional and that drug tests are increasingly common requirements for getting jobs. So, the argument goes, people get drug-tested all the time so it must be ok.

Only it isn’t ok.

The question is not if it is ok that we test welfare recipients but that we are testing people at all for drug use. It is not an invasion of their privacy. It’s about assuming they are guilty of using and proving they are not. It assumes that people who test positive (whether or not they really are positive) are unemployable, bad credit risks, stupid or unworthy of basic human assistance

We don’t test for alcohol yet alcohol kills more people and contributes to more workplace accidents than marijuana does.

If we are wondering how to create a “Master Race,” this is how we do it. Only employ people with high FICO Scores, no prison record and a clean drug test. The rest with any human faults and frailties we can leave to the ravages of poverty.

But that is probably ok as we work toward privatizing prisons and then replace public sector employees with prisoners who make less than a $1.00/day. They are already being put to work as highway workers and firefighters.

Maybe we can replace teachers with prisoners one day as well.

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Who are you?


some cares Who are you?

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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Essential Thanksgiving food


cranberry Essential Thanksgiving food

Thanksgiving is an opportunity to make a meal from scratch. I do every year, with the exception of one item on the table.

Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce. From a can.

I know, I know. I’ve tried making every cranberry relish recipe you can dream or look up and it remains uneaten. Even the dogs wouldn’t eat it (not really. Never feed your dog dark fruit, seeds or dark turkey meat.)

So, every year, without fail, I buy two cans of Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce.

Here’s the recipe:

1) Buy two cans Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce
2) Punch a hole in the bottom end of the can.
3) Use a can opener to remove the lid.
4) Shake hard once over a serving plate. Listen for the slurp and plop noises.
5) Cut into slices.


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, It’s Thanksgiving, so let’s blog about food To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

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The passive-agressive guide to OccupyWallStreet


ows was here kilroy The passive agressive guide to OccupyWallStreet

I grew up Catholic in St. Paul, Minnesota or as I like to say, I had a season ticket front-row seat to the “Minnesota Nice Guilt-Fest.” We used to hold passive-agressive contests at the local parish church every Sunday where the best competitors went on to compete in the Dairy Barn at the Minnesota State Fair.

Our church ladies always took home the blue ribbon.

I was watching a bit of #OccupyWallStreet live camera stuff on UStream last week and like many of you, read the accounts of the early morning Zuccotti Park raids and book trashing.

So the OccupyWallStreet movement has been given the heave-ho by the government that was trusted to provide protections the citizens thought they had. Apparently the right of free assembly does not mean the right to camp out on public property and beat drums. The rights of others who don’t wish to participate need to be respected.

Fair enough. The Occupiers will have to just assemble and disband every day. I’m sure they will make that work somehow. They are bright, young and tenacious. If it were me, I’d assemble in silence in the park every day and just stare at people coming and going on Wall Street.

But where they can really make the Occupy movement work is to slowly infiltrate the rest of America with nonspecific, irritating, passive-agressive actions that anyone who supports the movement can take.

Here are just a few suggestions:

Banks and Credit Card Companies
Quit going paperless. Ask for paper statements to be mailed to you each month. Quit using the ATM and go into the lobby. Don’t show up prepared. Ask that they look up your account number and fill out the deposit slip at the window, not before. Call their 800 number almost daily to inquire about your balance or ask that they verify a check was cleared or some other inane question.

Cell Phone Companies
Again, do not go paperless. Make them mail you a bill every month. Call them to verify the terms of your agreement or check the signal strength or some other nonsense almost every day. Resist the urge to upgrade until after your contract has expired or even later.

Grocery Stores
Quit using the self check-out lanes. Ask for paper bags. Shop when they are giving out free samples and don’t buy any product they are sampling. Carry cash and lots of coins so you can pay in exact change, but take a while to count out the small coins. If you have to start over every now and then, ok. Make multiple trips a week so your purchases are small.

Use them!

Your Employer
Punch in on time, punch out on time. Don’t give any more time than they are paying you for. Take ALL your sick and personal days. Don’t bring in anything for office potluck parties. Don’t bring in anything from home.

Gas Stations
Buy only a few gallons of gas at a time and never pay at the pump. Go inside; use the restroom, pay in cash with coins and small bills. Count it slowly. Irritate the clerk who can’t add but can see the line getting longer behind you.

Above all, never become annoyed or defensive with anyone. Be clueless, act helpless, ask inane questions. A true passive-agressive always controls the situation be remaining in character.

Sure, all this stuff takes time and effort, but what else were you gonna do? Stand around in a park?

These are just a small sampling of ideas where you can exercise some passive-agressive behavior against corporations. For the past several decades, they have been pushing their cost-savings onto their customers in the form of shadow labor without giving any of the benefits back. No wonder many of them are able to make record profits! They are getting free labor.

Be everywhere, but be nowhere. Cause small disruptions and annoyances for corporations but not enough that they can target you. Frustrate their efforts to push off expenses onto you. Frustrate their forward momentum in pushing out new products designed to give you more shadow labor without compensation.

Large crowds may be easy to disperse, but thousands of years and millions of guilt-ridden Catholics have proven that passive-agression can be a pretty formidable weapon. Learn from their years of mastery.

*Thanks to David Carr (another Minnesota ex-pat) of the New York Times for the perfect image to this post. His inspiration can be found here.

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How stupid is Mike Bloomberg?

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I have nothing to add other than when the weak become fearful, they start shooting and hitting.

On YouTube

Regardless of what you think about Keith Olbermann, elected leaders who choose to start arresting and repressing the pubic only fuels protesters. I’m not really sure why nobody teaches that in the “So you want to be a politician” classes these guys should be taking before they take an oath.

But they should.

Governing for Dummies. I wonder if that title exists?

The things that make us out here in Middle America pause, think, sympathize, fill with rage and then act:
– Book trashing
– Cops in paramilitary dress
– Arresting or restricting journalists’ access
– The use of “health and safety” laws for cover
– DHS involvement against American citizens
– ‘Freezing’ a public area
– Raids under cover of darkness

On February 27, 1968, Lyndon Johnson said, after watching a special report on CBS News by Walter Cronkite, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the American People.” We don’t have a Walter Cronkite, but we do have Internet that brings us these stories of elected officials abusing their power given them by the people who trusted them to govern. We can see for ourselves the lengths they are willing to go to in order to maintain the power of which they have long forgotten the source.

Mike Bloomberg, you are losing the American People, one middle-aged mutt at a time.

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The complete and authoritative guide to social media


socialmedia icons The complete and authoritative guide to social media

My buddy Neil Hedley wrote a blog post yesterday that I just had to comment on. That comment turned into a blog post for me. (yay!)

This came on the heels of a post by Bonnie Stewart on about Klout. And here on her blog earlier. Neil Kramer penned this little rant today and Saxon Henry threw this out for discussion on her weekly salon last month.

It occurred to me that perhaps the online community needed a dog to strap up and take the lead position in this runaway social media sled, so here goes. The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Social Media.*

Your Blog: This is where you live. This is yours, all yours. This is home. EVERYTHING happens here. You own it. Start here; end here.

Twitter: Random crap that pops into your brain during the day. A place to huck your stuff (like blog posts, new books, other writers’ new books, shout out to friends who got mentioned in the press.. except in the police blotter.. leave that out icon smile The complete and authoritative guide to social media )

Facebook: Ugh. Post as little as possible, push to blog, Comment rarely, never more than 2 responses deep. NEVER engage in an argument there.. ever.

LinkedIn: Only post what you want people with money to see. Only reply to posts in groups to establish your authority on a subject.

YouTube: Only to host your videos so you can embed them on your blog. Don’t spend any time customizing your “channel” and never, never care about comments there. Never.

Google Plus: Post for the purpose of smashing keywords into the Google search engine. Push folks to your blog. Comment rarely. No social goal, only SEO/SEM.

Foursquare: Check in if you have B2C clients or sponsors; need an alibi for the police; want to annoy your son who is a chef by checking into chain restaurants.

That’s it. You need nothing more social than that and probably never will. Ignore any other advice you get about social media.

For every other connection that is worth a damn, use the phone or email.

Would a dog lie to you?

*Not responsible for a drop in revenues, self-esteem or any other “in real life” assets you foolishly attached to any of your social media identities. If you ever want to know what is real, take your dog for a walk. Nothing else matters.

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You cheated me. You stole my destiny.


lt dan You cheated me. You stole my destiny.

There is a scene in Forrest Gump where Lt. Dan hauls Forrest to the floor of the military hospital and lashed out at him for saving his life. His destiny, he yelled through clenched teeth, was to die in battle like his ancestors before him. He was angry and bitter that had been taken away from him, even though he had been given his life in exchange.

We see this facet of the human condition all around us.

Mitch McConnell was supposed to serve in a government that was stately and hallowed, where learned white men exchanged discourse of higher ideals. Instead, he found himself in a Congress where he perceived the shoe-shine boy and coat check girl were in charge. And that made him a bitter, frustrated old man.

The same could be said about the recent spontaneous student riots when Joe Paterno was fired from Penn State. The media prattled on about how the students were showing support for JoePa. No, they weren’t. They were scared, bitter Lt. Dans, lashing out at any ol’ Forrest, screaming “you stole my destiny.” They knew in their hearts they were not ever, ever going to be a part of that great football legacy of Penn State. It was stolen from them.

To understand Occupy Wall Street is to understand this fundamental facet of the human condition. An entire generation (or class, or 99%) of Americans have become overwhelmed by the fear of losing the destiny that they were promised. The same is also true of the Tea Party.

The media spins stories around facts. They have to. They need to be able to verify human behavior — especially perceptibly irrational behavior — around a series of facts. This caused that, that caused this other thing, etc. Journalism isn’t about waxing philosophically about the inner workings of the human mind and heart.

And so we end up having a discourse around the talking points that are on the surface, those that we were told were the causal elements of an event instead of what is really going on.

What is really going on is basic human fear. The real cause is nothing you can prove, but deep in our hearts, we know it to be true.

Nobody stole our destiny. The truth is our destiny is to create our own world, to figure out how to grow legs when the world cuts us off at the knees. While our initial reaction is to lash out at the world, to get drunk on New Year’s Eve and rail against God and his creation, eventually we need to figure out the answer to the fundamental question Lt. Dan asked of himself in that military hospital; “What am I gonna do now?”

Some of us will figure it out, find peace and go get some new legs. Others will simply run out of time. Most will remain angry, frustrated and bitter.

What are you gonna do?

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Puppies of Mad Men


midge puppies Puppies of 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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I’m a joker, I’m a smoker, I’m a midnight toker… but mostly I’m a welder who writes haiku and works as a janitor on the weekends


When I was young, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life when I grew up; EVERYTHING.

I wanted to be on the receiving end of a firehose of experience that was exciting and revelrous and peaceful and satisfying all at once. Almost a lifetime (well, so far!) of living and I’m still looking for the perfect experience that stands still in time as well as moves the human race forward by a leap.

This morning, I wanted 5:00 am to last forever, with a hot cup of coffee, the New York Times and a large dog with his head in my lap. But I also wanted to write that perfect book chapter that was swirling in my head. 5:00 am turned into 6:39 am too soon and 6:39 am turned into 11:00 am and I had not stopped the clock nor had I moved humanity forward by a leap.

Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow.


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Who do you trust?

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dog cat trust Who do you trust?

When Steve Jobs died, I knew about it a few minutes afterward because I saw a tweet from Chris Brogan asking if it were true. But I didn’t immediately retweet or reply; I went to And And And

I also turned on my television and tuned to CNN. (They tend to break in with confirmed news fastest, though not always.)

When twitter gets it right, the pundits all point to the powers of social media, how they are scooping traditional journalism and why print and television is dying. When twitter gets it wrong, everyone has a good laugh and points to how silly and lemming-like twitter is.

Thank God we have some smart journalists at the control switch who can pull the handbrake on this runaway ham sandwich, they remark.

We continue to assess truthiness based on hit volume and forget that only one small child actually had the guts to say the emperor wasn’t wearing any clothes. According to the Google and Klout (and ABC for print) analytics, only the most viewed and recommended links are trustworthy even if only one small child or one barking dog says otherwise and in the end, turns out to be correct.

It all boils down to: Who do you trust?

We sometimes forget that Twitter and Facebook are commercial products and they have an agenda. This agenda may or may not be aligned with the users’. As Liz Heron of the New York Times remarks, “It’s helpful to have a journalist still.” (30:50 in the clip below)

Even liars have to get you to trust them or the whole game is off.

That is what Rupert Murdoch understood when he shuttered News of the World. Readers didn’t mind being lied to as long as he had their trust. FOX News understands this as well. That is why they spend so much of their time with phrases such as “Fair and Balanced and “No Spin Zone.” Their news day cycle consists of a slow building of “evidence” for their eventual “news” presentation in the evening.

Rush Limbaugh does the same thing by going through a formula of “logical” presentation of the story. He contorts a nuanced story into a blatantly simple ipso facto argument that basically says, “Trust me, I’ve thought all this out, here is the trail of evidence and here is the simple conclusion.”

At the end of the day, however, it boils down to, “do you trust me?” If the answer is “Yes,” then you believe your source.

Below is the opening session of the Journalism Interactive Conference at the University of Maryland, “Social Media: Best Practice in Journalism.” The link is at in case the embed does’t work. The folks on the panel are Jim Long, Lynn Sweet and Liz Heron moderated by Adam Ostrow. It is probably the most succinct piece on social media for journalism I’ve seen yet. No grandiosity, no hyperbole, no silver bullet solutions. These folks have thought deeply about the issue and it shows. It is an hour long, but worth the listen.

Video streaming by Ustream

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