Is it hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk?

We all got ourselves scared silly by the apocalyptic weather reporting around here and after obsessively checking to make sure the water dishes were full and the hammer to bust out a car window was safely stowed in the van, we just plumb ran out of things to do.

And then our minds started to wander.. And wonder.

Being the scientifically inquisitive dogs we are, we decided to test that myth of a sidewalk being hot enough to fry an egg.

The MythBusters Adam and Jamie would be so proud.

Enjoy our experiment.

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The killing of Osama bin Laden

As the media launches it’s way into the play-by-play analysis of the Osama bin Laden raid, I’m left here struggling to figure out how I feel about the whole thing. I have come to the conclusion that I feel the same about bin Laden’s death as I do about the towers coming down on 9/11.

Brace yourself; it’s not anything an American living in a Red State will ever admit in public.

I do not feel fear. I do not feel joy. I do not feel any great swell of Americanism that compels me to rush out into the street shouting “U-S-A, U-S-A!” at the top of my voice or run to WalMart to buy the largest flag I can find and fly it from the highest flagpole.

I do not feel like anything life-altering has happened.

I do feel a bit ashamed that we are celebrating the death of someone, even if that someone chose to live his life committing evil and fostering evil and hatred. I do not feel happy or sad that Osama bin Laden is dead but I do feel sad that we are celebrating it with the same sort of cheering one reserves for the Super Bowl.

I feel dismayed that we have created an entire generation that has grown up in fear of terrorism and suspicious of each other instead of steeped in optimism and hope. Osama bin Laden did not do that to us; we did that to ourselves to win elections and to grab the reins of power.

I feel a massive tug of manipulation as the media work desperately to shape the “national mood” to fit a narrative instead of reporting it. I feel this event — like the 9/11 event — is being treated by the media like a book tour, a movie premiere or a CD drop complete with PR spin. They raise questions and then answer them, then treat the answers as if that was the news. Then, they report on what they heard based on what they said.

I feel like we’re being told how to feel by the warm-up guy in preparation for an upcoming election show. If we play our part, we’ll be rewarded with attention. If not, we’ll be ignored as fringe. Problem is, there is a lot of “fringe” out here.

I wish media would have stuck to a headline “Osama bin Laden Dead” instead of “Killed.” “Dead” states a face whereas “killed” injects opinion, conjecture and value judgments.

On Sept 11, 2011, the rest of the world was besieged by earthquakes, landslides and massive flooding. I know this because I had access to the AP Newswire all day at the Dayton Daily News. I had to ignore those stories and search instead for some angle, some news on the 9/11 story. These other stories went almost unreported for nearly a week as media crafted new narratives each day around the 9/11 story. And when that failed, CNN ran taped loops of the towers coming down and reconstructed timelines, much as they are doing now with the raid plans.

On May 1, 2011, tens of thousands of citizens in the South are still homeless as a result of horrific tornados. Fires rage in Texas. Oil still washes up from the Gulf. Gas prices are out of control at $4.19/gallon locally. Health care cost continue to rise at twice the rate of inflation. Housing prices continue to fall. Wages are stagnant. Unemployment is still high.

I think we need to start not only thinking for ourselves, but feeling for ourselves as well. I think we need to start embracing real feelings about things that matter more deeply rather that co-opting boogie-man feelings media report we should have.

Photo source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Osama_bin_Laden_portrait.jpg

None of your reality is really real

North Clayton Village, Clayton Ohio

This is the town center of North Clayton Village in Clayton, Ohio. It has a nice wide Main Street, store front shops, a coffee shop, a park around the corner and apartments on top of the shops. It has everything you would ever want in a village.

Only it is a fake.

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Cool your jets – a #letsblogoff post

When I was offered a job with Huffy that moved me from Minneapolis to Dayton, I was a young, ambitious, go-getter. Go, go, go. I supposed that is why they wanted me; lots of energy, lots of ideas, gonna change the world.

There was the courtship, the salary dance, the relocation package, the offer letter and then that period of silence. I was eager to get things decided, locked down, set on a to do list, go, go, go and these people were not returning my calls. What the hell was going on? I needed to know!

And then I get a call from Sandy, an older woman in the Human Resources department whom I knew only vaguely. She would later turn out to be a very good friend.

“Cool your jets,” she said.

I learned all I needed to know about salesmanship from those three little words, only I didn’t know it at the time. I learned that there was a natural ebb and flow to persuasion, that people needed time to process and that the timing and candace of information delivery was just as important as what you told them.

I learned how to be patiently calm in the eye of a storm.

I’m using this technique now with you in this blog post. Did you notice?

Does it affect how you feel about me that I told you?

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, What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

I sure do miss the smell of horse dung

typical white christian American family

Last year, an acquaintance who has a part-time firefighter job, supplemented by a full-time ambulance driver job with no health benefits had to go to the emergency room with asthma complications. The hospital ended up having to admit him for three days. The total cost of this unplanned vacation was $23,000 and some change.

He had no insurance and he did not have $23,000. He applied for Medicaid, went through some hearings, some denials, appeals and eventually Medicaid paid the bill.

He is a Republican through and through. When asked how he liked his socialist benefits provided by his government, he smiled sheepishly and looked away. He was caught in a lie and he and I both knew it. He is still a Republican. Having his medical bills paid for through no personal merit or responsibility did not change his mind one bit about his political loyalties or the argument for his loyalties.

And that is when it hit me solidly: The GOP is not about fiscal responsibility. They are entirely about social issues.

A little background
My friend was raised in the rural parts of Ohio, right outside my town of Englewood which is ten miles north of Dayton, sixty-five miles north of Cincinnati. So he wasn’t actually raised out on the farm, but enough where there is little if any diversity and no weird artsy-fartsy types with book-leraning and such. The men hunt every fall, fish in the summer, drink beer, watch football and chew tobacco. And the women tend to their men. And everybody goes to church on Sunday and if they don’t, they still believe in Jesus Christ. (Really, these places exist not too far out your front door, wherever in America you are.)

And this is also where they talk openly about “how in the hell we let a g*d**n n****r in the White House” right before they spit chew violently on the ground in disgust.

How we got here
The GOP has gotten its followers to believe and say there is a finite amount of money available and that your ne’er-do-well, slacker neighbors are taking your fair share of your hard-earned money. Only it’s not really true. It’s not what they really mean when they say “money.” Money is just code for “my white Christian culture.”

The Greatest Generation were better storytellers than they were social engineers. When the men went off to war, they brought back stories of valor, courage, bravery, camaraderie and honor. My grandfather never talked much about the War. My dad never talked about the Korean War either. All we had were photos, medals and a few stories of good times with their buddies. They never talked about the horror of seeing their friends die or body parts getting blown off. When they came home, they put the past behind them and created a narrative that was peaceful and prosperous, even though it was not the truth.

Women who went off to work in the factories did much the same thing. It was hard, back-breaking, grueling, greasy, filthy work but when it was over, it was over. They did not tell stories of workplace accidents, the long days and the restless nights. They spun yarns of achievement, honor and patriotism.

And three generations later, that is how we remember the past that never was. Families lived in harmonious, quiet neighborhoods with houses all lined up on clean streets. The dad went off to work, the mom stayed home and kept house. There were regular raises and good benefits at his job. The kids played baseball, went to school and played stickball in the middle of the street. When they grew older, the kids went out on dates, got married and had kids of their own.

Each year, the family would get together and have Thanksgiving dinner, then Christmas and celebrate Easter in the spring. There would be great news of babies and marriages and of course of deaths and funerals. Everyone married a virgin, everyone died at peace. This all played out like some great movie with a well-crafted script. There were things nobody talked about and everybody knew what those things were.

And the children forgot about the struggle the previous generations went through to build this Great Lie. The storytellers of television and the movies gladly filled in the gaps, fueling an even more memorable past that never was.

The Great Lie of our American Dream is even embedded into our future. The following is a video made by Corning. The cues of the Dream are embedded everywhere across generations. Take a look. Can you see them? Do you find yourself wanting to be there? It’s a powerful Dream.

The past is knowable and comfortable. The future is scary. I’m fairly certain in a generation back there were old men who sighed wistfully as a truck blowing smoke passed them by on a farm road. Sure do miss the smell of horse dung, they might be thinking.

Money as a mask
We use price as an excuse for almost every human behavior. If we don’t really want to buy something, we say “that costs too much” or “I don’t have the money right now.” When we really want something, we find a way to get it by charging it, putting it on layaway, leasing it or in the case of a house, commit to mortgage terms that are not in our financial best interest. We rationalize a debt to get the things that we really want.

The GOP understands this about human nature — and particularly the American culture — very well and has masterfully crafted its message around money. “The state is broke,” they rail when a program is funding issues that are contrary to the Great Lie. “Our country is going bankrupt!” “Limited government” and “Take back our country” are all very attractive catch phrases for a population that has been led to believe that the supply of money is finite and being spent irresponsibly by your drunken neighbor. After all, many of these people don’t have much left from their paychecks at the end of the week, so it all makes common sense.

Everything the GOP wants to do is masked as a money issue because they know that American culture understands money. All this other stuff about happiness and rights and liberty is so hard to quantify. But money is easy. You can count money.

The inconsistency is the key
The key to understanding why money and fiscal responsibility is not the real issue is the inconsistency between what a conservative says and what he does. He will take a Medicaid handout to keep from paying a $23,000 hospital bill. He will take a government-supplied paycheck as a firefighter. He will take a home interest deduction on his taxes, a Pell grant from the Federal government, drive on the freeway system without paying a toll, attend a public school and do all these things as if it were his right to do so all the while saying we need less government. Taxes pay for all these things that give him a standard of living yet he perceives to have gotten these things through his own hard work and initiative.

And my favorite inconsistency of all, “Keep your government hands of my Medicare.”

The GOP knows that if they keep the discussion framed as “fiscal responsibility,” they don’t have to address all those other messy issues that go along with promoting the Great American Dream that never was. All they need do is step back in shock about why someone would not want to be fiscally responsible and they win the argument. Only the argument never really was about money. It never will be.

What’s in it for the GOP?
Power, I imagine. I can’t think of any other reason why someone would care more about the state budget being balanced than the health of their own household. Maybe some of these politicians really believe the rhetoric about fiscal responsibility, but I doubt many retain it. I think most of them are angry that not only have they lost their birthright, but it was stolen from them. They see political office as a way to take it back.

The GOP may have been about fiscal responsibility at some point in their distant past, but I think they have always been more about preserving the American Culture. As they become more and more desperate about preserving the Dream, the more they are letting their mask fall away. But judging from my friend above, they may think they can now afford to do it and start being honest about who they really are. Apparently lying about their true intent bears no consequence as at least half the country is one of them.

Am I off the mark here?

Fire for hire; the new public services

I read a rather dry account of the last Union, Ohio city council meeting in the Dayton Daily News this morning. Nobody goes to these things and fewer people read the articles recapping them. But maybe we should start paying more attention. (I looked for the article online and could not find it, so I scanned it here and will replace with a link when it gets posted.)

Here is why we should start paying attention.

Fire and police departments are receiving less tax revenue and are set to receive even less for salaries when bills like SB 5 pass. But they are still expected to be on the other end of a 911 call. (I think the City of Englewood has a EMS charge, but not fire.) It appears the City of Union would charge for police, fire and EMS services; first to your insurance company and if they don’t pay, to you.

I understand subrogation and why sometimes it is necessary. But when someone calls 911, the last thing they should be thinking is; “Can I afford this call?” If their house burns down, and they are insured, the insurance company will replace it. If their house catches fire, the fire department comes out, and the insurance company will pay for repairs but not fire services, the homeowner could end up paying a whole lot more than the house is worth in fire-fighting fees.

I think the last thing we need is for a family to be sitting on the front lawn with a calculator, estimating how much a 911 call is going to cost and whether or not it is worth it.

In truth, though, what these laws will eventually do is increase insurance costs. The insurance companies will spread out the risk for everyone, charging people who live in Zip Code 45322 a bit more of course. And since insurance in America is a for-profit game, these additional fees will include the profit expectation a publicly-held company demands. These are also post-tax dollars, so they are about 33% more expensive than an income tax assessment would be to cover the additional cost of fire-fighting services for a community.

Government cuts are always nice, but when your income tax tax bill is cut and your total cost of citizenship rises, where is the savings to the citizens? It’s like buying a really cheap printer but paying hundreds of dollars a year in ink cartridges. Or a really cheap car that costs you the retail prices in repairs every two years. Or buying cheap processed food and paying more than quadruple in medical insurance premiums because your BMI is out of whack (assuming you carry insurance.)

Subrogation for essential emergency services is a very slippery slope. I know that the proposed ordinance is limited to “at-fault” incidents. Anyone who has ever been in an accident knows that at-fault is almost never a 100/0% split. In most instances, you are partially at fault simply because you were on the road. Clearly, if your house was not there, there would be nothing to burn.

Once you crack the door, it is easier to fling open wide.

I wonder what other public service will be next?

When the City of Englewood “saved” a million dollars.
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You wish you were Charlie Sheen

Charlie Sheen as he appears on the twitter

Admit it. You wish you were Charlie Sheen.

While you are shaking your head violently from side to side and stomping up and down disagreeing with me, just hear me out for a few seconds. Then you can go back to your ranting about why I am wrong, why Charlie is melting down, how he is bad for his kids, why he is anti-Semetic, a bad role model or any of the other pat sound bites the media are flinging around.

Ready? This stuff could be a bit deep. Or deep in it. I’m sure you’ll decide for yourself. **

Charlie admits his humanity. All of it. He says the “crazy” we think in our minds and acts on it.

Only this stuff isn’t so nutty. He is magic. He is a big star. He was born small and now he is huge. He has navigated the shark-infested waters of the entertainment industry and is smarter than most of the people he has come up against. He is special. He has a natural gift of poise and conversation. He got 1.2 million followers on Twitter before you even got out of bed this morning.

And he is not saying hateful things. He is just saying really, really brutally honest stuff. If we tag it as crazy then we can all feel better about ourselves. If we say he is crazy, we don’t have to deal with why we’re not living up to our potential. And if we go even further and start tearing him down, we’re morally superior.

He is getting away with all of this because he is operating within the bounds of the human condition. He knows down deep inside — way, way, way down deep inside of each of us — is a Charlie Sheen Dream that has been smashed down by years of following the rules and believing what others tell us about our inadequacies. There is always tomorrow. Next time. The next relationship.

Will you embrace your inner Charlie? Yeah, me neither. It’s too bright and scary out there.

You may now resume your lives. Or drop a comment below. Or unfollow me on twitter. Or unsubscribe from this blog. Whatever fills the ignored hole in your soul.

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** But I’m betting you won’t.

I was not going to write anything about Charlie Sheen. But then I got to thinking that Martin Sheen, his father, was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. By extension, we invented Charlie. So naturally — as is our way here — we needed to claim the good things this invention brings to the collection of humanity. Just like we do the Wright Brothers, we plant a flag in anything that gets famous and claim it for our own.

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Imagine this as the future of newspaper

Gatorade Control Center

I read yesterday’s Dayton Daily News today and they had a special section included. I don’t know where it is on their web site and I gave up trying to find it. I had hoped to point it to you as it is really cool stuff.

They have assembled all the COX Ohio Media in one facility and really decked it out with a bunch of studio space, digital equipment and tons of toys. I hope they give tours. But as I read the 10-page broadsheet-sized insert, I noticed a gaping hole in their media– no social media. Just newspaper, television and radio.

Oops. I hope that is just an oversight. If not, call me and let’s do business.

Here is what I think a newspaper/television/radio media company should do. Build out a social media center like they did at Gatorade (photo above) and staff it 24/7/365 with people authorized to reply back. Anytime anyone mentions Dayton on twitter, Facebook or blogs about Dayton, they know it. They know all the influential bloggers, the restaurant directories, the sporting events going on about town. They see tweets from people stuck on 35, wondering what the holdup is. They see a shout-out to a favorite restaurant or a blog post just published touting the really cool things about Dayton, Ohio. They see tweets from a frustrated bride three days from her wedding looking for a wedding photographer because the one she booked cancelled on her. They get behind movements to get Kroger to carry cheese curds.

And they would suggest advertisers quickly and authoritatively. And advertisers would get calls. And business.

And they see tweets when people are coming into Dayton for a family visit and welcome them back. They see birthdays on Facebook and send out tweets and updates wishing each a happy birthday. Maybe they even send out random cupcakes on that special day from a local bakery who advertises with Cox. In short, they act as the bar in the City Where Everybody Knows Your Name.

Can you imagine how many people Jeff Pulver would tell at his 140conf Conferences about the time he came to Dayton, Ohio to visit Hamvention and the local newspaper made sure his experience here was warm and inviting? That they tweeted him when he landed, asking if he needed a ride, maybe even tweeted his hotel to alert them he was in town? I wonder how many other people would like to visit Dayton, Ohio, just for the pampering experience?

You are a neighbor here in Dayton, Ohio, not just a resident. And in the process, we all connect just a little bit closer to each other and the outside world.

That is what I think a local newspaper can become. And for not a lot of money.

Postnote: 2011-02-21
Chris Brogan posted a video about the future of media. Here is one facet of my take on hyper-local.