Category Archives: Communications

Political Ads

It’s that time again—the airwaves are cluttered with negative political ads. I parodied these a few years ago by claiming that George Washington should not be elected President because:

  • He wasn’t born a United States citizen (because there was no United States when he was born).
  • He had served—as an officer, no less—in a British military unit (during the French and Indian War).
  • He owned slaves.
  • He distilled whiskey (corn could rot in the silos, while whiskey didn’t spoil).
  • He named his home—Mount Vernon—after British Admiral Edward Vernon.

All true, but today, someone would spin them to discourage people from voting for Washington. With negative political ads facts are inconsequential—it’s the spin that counts.

Why do politicians rely so much on negative ads? Negative ads work.

If we think about it, negative ads reflect poorly on politicians.

But what does the success of negative ads say about us?

Confession

I hesitated to bring this up. I’m sure there are multiple government agencies, heavily armed with former special operations personnel, ready to respond with dedication and a show of force.

But I can’t keep it a secret forever.

I don’t like pumpkin spice.

I don’t like pumpkin spice coffee–hot or cold, pumpkin spice candy, pumpkin spice cookies, pumpkin spice pork, or pumpkin spice French fries.

I don’t like pumpkin spice.

Pumpkin pie used to be my favorite, but with such a public orgy of pumpkin spice dominating stores, coffee shops, and television commercials, the thought of any pumpkin flavored product makes me shudder.

And to add insult to injury, I bet most of those do not contain any real pumpkin–just artificial flavors and coloring.

I don’t like that either.

 

Surrendering to iPhone

After trying almost every other brand of mobile phone over the past quarter century, I finally ended up with an iPhone. I guess it was inevitable. The kids have had iPhones for the past few years; they’ve told me why  they like them, but it didn’t seem to make an impression. Nevertheless, it was important to them.

Several of the family smartphones were showing their age. I’m suspicious that just like the Mission Impossible tape players, smartphones self-destruct when their amortization is complete, but I cannot prove it. In any case, one had several cracks across the screen, while another had a chip out of the side of the screen.

In any case, we ended up with iPhones because of one feature not available on other smartphones.

When we can’t figure out how to do something, we can ask the kids for help.

Missed Us by That Much!

Hurricane Dorian headed out to sea without to much damage here. There was some flooding and the cities opened up some shelters, but only a few folks went to the shelters. Based on experience, they probably live in areas that routinely flood.

There are two main reasons for regular flooding:

  1. The sea level is rising while the land mass is sinking.
  2. Lots that were once considered unbuildable are now being developed as waterfront.

Unfortunately, this means that some newly constructed homes will not last as long as their mortgages. One house, in such an area, had a “No Wake” sign on the mailbox, which was only partially in jest.

 

 

Cut!

I finally figured out how I could finally become rich and famous–well, at least rich.

I planned on producing a reality TV show in my part of the world. Naturally, it was going to be titled Real Housewives of Hampton Roads, Virginia.

I went scouting for locations and talent. Location isn’t a problem, this area is very picturesque, with the beaches, Chesapeake Bay–you know, lots of excuses to show women in bathing suits, which appears to be a requirement for a reality TV show.

Talent was the problem. I’m not saying the women in this area lack talent, but every time I thought I had someone convinced to star in the show, I’d hear:

“Can’t, I’ve got to get to work.”

“Sorry, I’m the designated driver for soccer, tonight.”

“Ooooh, can’t make it. That’s my kids’ band concert.”

I even had one who laughed at me with this comment, “After the day I’ve had, you have got to be kidding. Thank heaven that tonight my husband is grilling, otherwise it’d be do-it-yourself peanut butter sandwiches for everybody.”

These women are all too busy dealing with real life to appear in a reality show about real life.

“Promises, Promises” (wrote Bert Bacharach)

Musings and promises to myself:

  1. I do not (and will not) watch any television program with a title that begins with Real. Not Real Housewives of Dubuque, not Real Sanitation Workers of Santa Monica, etc. None. Zero. Zip.
  2. Likewise, I avoid any internet stories that claim that a celebrity “confirms what we knew all along.” If we knew it all along, why should we succumb to their click bait?
  3. Some of the stories on the Internet have lives of their own and refuse to die. One example is the story about the girl who passed herself off as a rich duchess. Or was it a countess? All I know is that whenever I see THAT SAME OLD PICTURE I shudder. It’s sounds like an addition to Chevy Chase’s old routine. “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead AND the phony countess is still in the news!”
  4. And, unless it’s a story about geology, any use of the word rocks (as in Former supermodel rocks a bikini or Barney rocks a Speedo) it will be ignored.

A Different Coda

As we’re trying to downsize, I’m trying to cull the musical herd. My daughter gets to take the piano once she gets her own place. My son’s clarinet doesn’t take up to much space. However, my guitar collection and the drum set do. I hope to get down to my Taylor 6 string, Greenbriar by Peavey 12 string, Peavy Raptor electric, and of course, my Brian May guitar.

My current guitar amplifier is an oldie but a goodie, a Peavey 112 Bandit Sheffield Transtube, Silver Stripe. By the long name, you might expect it to be big. It is. It is also heavy and loud.

My new Peavey Vypyr VIP1 is smaller, lighter, and has all kinds of effects built in. It’s got a 32 bit floating point computer processor, which is a marketer’s way of saying, “You have to learn how to program it.”

The bottom line, I now have a guitar amp, cell phone, tablet, laptop, etc., ad nauseum ALL of which are smarter than I am.

I miss the days when my biggest challenge was to get the VCR to stop flashing “12:00”.

Sports???

As regular readers know, I am not much of a sports fan. After Chuck Ealey was relegated to the Canadian league (my Northern-North America friends got a great quarterback) I lost almost all interest. Then, when I lived in the Cleveland area and Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore, I was pretty much done and over with sports.

However, I must wax poetic.

Professional sports pay people obscene amounts of money for their physical prowess and effort. Most sports take inborn physical abilities, training, and practice, practice, practice.  Being a professional athlete is the physical equivalent of being a Jesuit.

However, I always thought it was a stretch to consider auto racing a sport. To me it’s more technology; you build a vehicle that can do phenomenal things, get inside, then drive fast and turn left {repeat}.

In my opinion, billiards was pushing it and I thought it was beyond the pale when ESPN featured poker, until they advised that the “E” stood for “entertainment.” There explanation was a stretch, but, okay.

However, now that video games–VIDEO GAMES–are not only a “sport” but being proposed as a high school athletic program . . . Wait!

I hereby designate blogging as a professional sport, or will as soon as the city builds me an appropriate blogging stadium, grants me tax free status, and arranges for network coverage.

Let me know when I can pick out my $9 million sports car and my $100 million mansion. In the meantime, if you want something, call my agent.

Random Thoughts

How do you “draw a blank?” Once you draw it, it’s no longer blank.
Can you ever dig half-a-hole? No matter how much or how little you dig, it’s a hole. If you try filling in in, it’s still a hole until it is no longer a hole.
Why are people who explore caves called “spelunkers?”
When did the transition occur in which people now have sex first, and then (possibly) fall in love?
What if everyone in the world were all the same color, relative height, four hair colors (brown, black, blonde, red—grey doesn’t count)? How would people know who to hate?

Wallowing in the News

It seems like the Internet now focuses so much on negativity:

Cardiologists say avoid this food . . . .

Movie Star denies hiding millions in secret Swiss bank accounts . . . .

When did Obama become a Republican?

You get the drift. The other spots on the news websites are filled with rumors about celebrities–who’s dying, who’s cheating, who’s raising kittens–the whole nine yards.

At least I no longer have to sneak a peak at the tabloids in the supermarket.

Much Ado About Nothing – How We Describe Our Hometowns

Back in the stone age, when I was young, we described different parts of town with specific words. In northwest Ohio there was downtown, but no uptown. There was the East Side, the West End and South Toledo. North Toledo was described by the various neighborhoods–Polish, German, Lebanese, etc.

That was simple. In August, Mom would take me downtown to buy school clothes, which, by October, by the way, I’d managed to mangle.

Over time, downtown disappeared, replaced by shopping malls—which also meant that the local stores such as Tiedtke’s and Lamson’s also disappeared.

Oh, there was still a downtown, but it was the haunt of lawyers, bankers, and others who were in a different caste from my family. There was the main branch of the public library, but libraries don’t define an area.

Where I live now, there is a city center with the various city offices and courts, but except for the main branch of the library, that’s it. Unless there is a food truck event, there isn’t a restaurant or even a drive-through, fast-food, franchise place in the “downtown” area.

There are (more or less) seven cities in this area: Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach (in alphabetical order so as not to offend anyone). The area has had various monikers—Hampton Roads, The Historic Triangle,* Tidewater, Virginia Beach (it’s the tourist attraction, after all), but none of them have ever been adequate. We’re still working on it. However, if there are lakes, rivers, the Chesapeake Bay, beaches, and the Atlantic Ocean, there are more pressing issues than deciding on a metropolitan name.

We divide our area into the Peninsula, which includes Hampton and Newport News (along with Williamsburg, Croaker and Norge), the South Side, with the other cities, and various other areas like the Eastern Shore and the Outer Banks just over the line in North Carolina.

 

*Jamestown—the first permanent English settlement, Williamsburg—an early capital of Virginia and arguably a birthplace of American Independence, and Yorktown—the last major battle of the American Revolution, after which British General Lord Cornwallis’s troops surrendered to George Washington.

Commitment

Have you ever read the Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America? Most people don’t recognize that as the actual title of what we call the Declaration of Independence. Written in Philadelphia, approved on 2 July 1776, and published two days later on the fourth of July.

Those who signed the document risked much if they failed. If they were lucky, they would be hanged “until dead.” The practice of hanging, drawing, and quartering was the prescribed punishment for high treason. In this case, the condemned would be hanged, cut down while still (barely) alive, often disemboweled (again, while still alive), then beheaded and their body cut into pieces.

These founding fathers had to work hard to reach common ground since they had agreed that unanimous consent was required so as not to force brother against brother so many vehement arguments led to revisions that the authors vehemently opposed. The issue of slavery was particularly difficult, and striking a phrase prohibiting slavery did, in fact, lead to the war of brother against brother.

While most of the body of the declaration deals with the grievances against King George the third, I believe the most important part is at the end.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Who among us has that kind of commitment today?

 

Changing Relationships

Wired Magazine has an interesting article this month that talks about how the Internet has changed. When I read it, it was like getting a diagnosis for an unpleasant condition.

I have been somewhat avoiding the Internet because I no longer trust it–and that’s the nicest thing I can say about it. What once was, or at least hoped to be, a forum for exchanging ideas for the betterment of all has become a hate-filled pariah that imposes itself on anyone who will allow it.

Put another way, if the Internet were a neighborhood, I’d move.

Naturally, it makes me less prone to writing. It used to be that I got ideas for blogs on the Internet, but what has become acceptable and routine is not worth reading. Even the news glamorizes the crackpots and mass murderers.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did our attitudes toward civility decline, which led to today’s Internet or did the Internet lead to our loss of civility?

The Play’s the Thing (Complete with Music!)

I’ve decided to write a play specifically designed for off-off-Broadway. I wanted a theme everybody could relate to–something familiar yet somewhat of a challenge. Then the muse hit me–I tried to duck, but she still caught me on the chin.

I realized that no matter what you do, a significant portion of your time will be spent in meetings. It may be called a class, a board, a tiger team, a training session, church, basic training, or whatever–it’s still a meeting. Fortunately, Office Space and The Office have already laid the groundwork. I want to take it one step further and write it as a musical. Imagine——

The stage curtains are closed. The house lights dim and the orchestra begins the overture. [For those of you not musically inclined, overtures are a melodic mashup of the music used throughout the production. Today, we call it recycling.]

SCENE 1: The curtains open to show a conference table with chairs all along the upstage side (a concession to the acoustics in off-off-Broadway facilities). A spotlight is focused on a door, stage right. A man in a suit [the Boss] enters with an armload of papers and breaks into the opening number. “It’s My Meeting So I’m in Control” He dances toward the head of the table, leaving a random portion of the papers in front of each chair, reaches the front empty handed, looks at the various stacks of paper, decides one is slightly taller, dances back to that spot, takes the extras from that stack, dances back to the front of the meeting room and crescendos with the final line, a redux of the first line of “I’m in control.” The spotlight disappears, leaving the stage dark.

SCENE 2: The spotlight, collimated very tightly fades up on a man [the Nerd] with a short sleeved white shirt, out-of-style skinny black necktie, pocket protector, and taped glasses immediately begins singing the second number, “Oh, What I’d Do for a Doughnut!” When he finishes, the stage briefly goes black.

SCENE 3: The lights come up illuminating the table but leaves it dark upstage (behind). The conference table now has people sitting in all but the last chair. The Nerd comes through the door, ignores the looks of derision, grabs a powdered sugar doughnut, leaving a trail of white on people’s clothing. When he sits, the white powder mounds like a snow bank in front of him [special effects, but inexpensive].

The Boss bows and with an exaggerated sweeping gesture points toward the unlit back of the stage. A stern women [Stern Woman] in a business suit emerges from the shadows. As she walks toward the head of the table, with a big smile she begins to sing, “Death by PowerPoint.” The last line, a Capella, is “And My Laser Pointer!”

I don’t have room for everything. Suffice to say, the rest of the play leads to the grand finale with the Stern Woman between the Boss and the Nerd performs a dance number on the conference table surrounded by the entire cast dancing together and singing “Meetings Are Better than Work!

Now, if I can just find a patron.

 

 

Wuttchoo Say???

I like to read, but more than once I’ve been embarrassed when I mispronounced a word that I’d read often but had never spoken before. So, one of the many things in life that befuddles me is how we handle foreign words. It is especially vexing when the word is translated from a phonetic language. Theoretically, since that society has its own written character and does not rely on the English alphabet it would seem that getting the pronunciation–rather than the spelling–right would be important.

For example, the United States has a naval base at Yokosuka, Japan. It’s actually pronounced yuh-KOO-skuh. Why didn’t we spell it phonetically as Yokuska? Japan uses a combination of kanji and kana, which bear no resemblance to the English alphabet. Incidentally, they refer to their home as Nippon, even though we somehow mangled that into Japan.

Not too far from Japan is China, which, based on its size and population is hard to miss. If you forgot, we did not recognize China after World War II until Richard Nixon was President. Its capital is Beijing, but for years (or maybe centuries?), we wrote it as Peking for (pronounced pay KING). Did some cartographer forget that English actually has phonemes for “b” and “j”? I’ve tried saying Beijing many different ways, but no matter what I do, it never sounds like Peking.

The Arabic world has its own form of writing with 28 consonants, no regular vowels (they indicate some vowel sounds by a superscript), AND NO English letters. Nevertheless, when we translate Arabic names to English, we tend complicate them. For example, why did someone plunk an “h” smack dab in the middle Baghdad (the word, not the city)? For years we wrote the name of their sacred scripture as the Koran (which tells you how to say it), but now it is often written as Qur’an. I can pronounce Koran, but if I hadn’t seen that first, I’d be clueless as to how to pronounce Qur’an.

Then of course there’s the Arabian Gulf State of Qatar, which I’ve been told can be pronounced “cutter,” “guitar” or “gutter,” without offending anyone. Somehow I think it would be polite to copy the pronunciation that those who live there use.

Of course, we’re just as imprecise with our own words, which is why Lima is pronounced LIE muh for the city in Ohio, but LEE muh for the city in Peru.

It’s no wonder that many people do not enjoy reading—or should that be
REDD ing, as in Pennsylvania?

It’s Not My Fault That I Wasn’t There!

Always Use a pencil!
(courtesy nytimes.com)

Hi, I’m Steve and I’m temporally challenged.

There, I admitted it. I can’t keep time straight.

If an event, appointment, or whatever is not written down in my Day-Timer, I’m not responsible. I know the rest of the civilized world uses their smartphones, but where I work, electronic devices are not permitted (Don’t ask–it will only make your head hurt), so I rely on paper and pencil.

Unfortunately, however, my analog calendar is defective. I’ve replaced it many times, but it doesn’t help. My calendar says that the first day of summer is June 21st. However, everyone says that summer starts on Memorial Day.

When it’s 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside, I think it’s summer and look for shorts, the stores feature back to school items.

The day after Halloween, everybody is promoting Christmas.

When I need a coat or winter gloves the stores are displaying swimwear.

It’s obvious that my calendar is defective. Unfortunately, there’s no software patch for an analog, cellulose based, paper calendar.

A House Divided

It’s always good to reflect on the thoughts of great philosophers–Socrates, Plato, or Monty Python.

Graham Chapman: I think all right-thinking people in this country are sick and tired of being told that ordinary, decent people are fed up in this country with being sick and tired.
All: Yes, yes…
Graham Chapman: I’m certainly not! And I’m sick and tired of being told that I am.
MC: Mrs. Havoc-Jones?
Mrs. Havoc-Jones: Well, I meet a lot of people and I’m convinced that the vast majority of wrong-thinking people are right.

Since this was performed about fifty years ago, I wonder how they knew.

[There was supposed to be a picture here, but WordPress’s new improved editor wouldn’t accept the upload. Too bad, because it was silly, very silly.]

 

 

(Anti-)Social Media

I was able to get on the Internet in its earliest days. In Cleveland one of the universities had 80 or so phone lines dedicated to dial-in access. It was first come, first served, so busy signal was not uncommon.

There were chat groups for every interest, noble or profane, but people generally interacted with a “live and let live” attitude. Perhaps this was because most users were either certified geeks or geeks-at-heart.

Then the Internet evolved into the World Wide Web (for those who are too young, that’s what the “www” at the beginning of many web addresses means.

As they say, “There goes the neighborhood.”

Now it’s seen as a way to express hatred, to spread falsehoods or half-truths, and–if you’re a malevolent government–a place to promote division and create doubt.

It’s also the avenue for some people to post their suck-in-the-gut,  best-angle, cosmetically enhanced, and Photoshopped virtual reality picture that can cause normal people to despair. Comparing themselves to these phony perfect bodies and faces are believed to have contributed to an increase in suicide among young people.

I suspect that every supermodel, movie hunk, K-Pop Star, or whatever went though awkwardness acne, and/or hating their body during their teen years. The Internet has gotten so huge that we’ll never see an objective, scientific analysis of truth vs. falsehood.

If you have kids, make sure they understand that if it’s on the Internet, it’s not necessarily true.

The Internet was less harmful when only the Geeks knew about it.

 

 

WordPress Screws It Up, Yet Again

I had begun this post, stopped, worked with WordPress, and thought that the problem was resolved.

NOT SO FAST! PUT DOWN THE IDEA AND STEP AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD! KEEP YOUR OPIBIONS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM!

(Sigh)

When something works, why do geeks (and yes, I’m a geek) insist on changing things? When I was in medical imaging, there was a Cardiac CT Scanner that was cutting edge technology. The problem was that the engineers kept improving it. That should be great, right?

Not so much.

Each scanner was slightly different than every other scanner because of the improvements. That meant that the parts, diagnostic routines, manuals, etc. were all different.

Play piano? Imagine if every keyboard you sat down in front of was laid out different. An 8 note scale? Nope, we like eleven (I would have used the numerals, but the WordPress program, in its infinite wisdom thinks it should be 11. Why?).

I remember when Japanese manufactured cars went from a novelty to the norm and every mechanic had to have both SAE (English) size tools as well as metric. I can deal with that; if you tell me the rules, I can follow them.

So, bottom line is that when I have a few spare minutes around job, family, chores, repairs, and the miscellaneous hurricane or other disaster, I want to jot down my  ideas and share them.

WordPress, if I wish to be frustrated, I have children and a job; I don’t need you to add to it.

(Sigh)

Oh, and I’m still looking for the draft of the post I wanted to put here.

(Sigh)

Putting Things in Perspective

University of Virginia Men’s Basketball
2019 Champions

I’ve lived in Virginia for most my younger children’s lives. My older son and his family live in Virginian. My daughter-in-law’s family lives in Virginia. My younger children are fortunate enough to receive their college educations at prestigious Virginia Universities. I love Virginia History from Sir Walter Raleigh, the Powhatan people, Washington, Lee, Jefferson, and NASA mathematician, Kathrine Johnson.

I love that Jefferson attended the College of William and Mary but had his tombstone celebrate:

Author of the Declaration of American Independence
of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom
& Father of the University of Virginia

I consider myself a Virginian.

However, when TV sports experts announced that the recent UVA basketball championship “Will be remembered forever!” I saw a bit of exaggeration. With Americans, we’re talking about people who can’t tell you Virginia’s role in slave trading or why Washington, DC is half its planned size because they returned Virginia’s donation of land.

But they will remember the 2019 Basketball Championship?