Friday, February 28, 2014

Half-life Of Humor

There is always something that happens during the day that throws you a little bit off. To a certain extent, everyone experiences this on a daily basis. Some a little more, some a little less. This is how we gradually learn how to deal with those instances and move forward without much interruption. However, the real challenge, at least for me, is making sure those moments don’t interfere with the client. The best solution for me was simply to make the client laugh.

Making them laugh eases the impact of whatever news that you have for them. It makes the bad or unpleasant news a little more palatable and makes the good news that much better. Sometimes it can even do wonders for minor errors in a document, email, or other collateral during the draft stages. This is also where creativity comes into play. Basically, you can either take errors at face value or you can transform them into a joke. When done well it can be a great thing that makes everyone’s day better if for only a minute or two.

With that said, there is a line that you can’t cross and you have to know what kind of humor that will work with each person. If a situation gets to a certain point a joke or simple moment of attempted levity can do much more harm than good. Also, the same negative impact can occur when there is a complete mismatch in sense of humor. Thankfully, I have, thus far, been able to match up the humorous comments with the individuals with a fair amount of accuracy. Except for George from Georgia but he is a real prick. There have also been people like George that I don’t even attempt to go that route as the chance for success is far too slim.

The half-life of a joke is also something to consider. Today I made a comment which was received well. I used it once in the morning in response to an innocent typo in a document we were reviewing and everyone in the email chain received it well. At the end of the day, there was an opportunity to neatly fit the premise into another email with the client. It worked again. However, that joke is now spent. Most likely, I will not be able to continue the world play without it seeming forced.

Sometimes you just have to know when to stop!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Today From The WTF Files: “Silent Cheer Day”

Don't snore! It could be too loud and you might offend someone.

A big part of sports is the cheering, booing, and everything in between. This aspect of athletics only becomes more prominent as we get older and we can’t be the ones in the competition. Just go to any baseball, football, hockey, or basketball game and you know exactly what I am talking about. For those outside the U.S. think rugby or soccer.

When I was younger I can remember my parents on the cold uncomfortable metal bleachers just beyond the dugout cheering on the rare occasion when I actually showed some semblance of athletic ability. Albeit a rare occurrence I had a few moments. Most people know that feeling of those moments (some more some less) when they can hear the cheers of their team mates and family ringing in their ears. It is a part of growing up and it motivates you to try and get better.

On the flip side, we all know that feeling when we let our team down. I remember many long hits given up when I could see hear the cheers against me and see the faces of my team mates as they did whatever they could to minimize the damage. Even those moments can prove to be formative ones as you bear down, move on, and focus on turning things around. Learning how to deal with a little adversity is a great thing growing up. In many respects it is a better learning tool than the moments of glory.

In both of these instances the roar of the crowd for or against is the fuel that is needed to succeed the next time around. But what if there weren’t any cheers? What if parents were penalized for cheering? I know, that is just crazy talk and things would never become so screwy that something like that would ever happen. Right?

Think again. The notion of “Silent Cheer Day” has been around for probably 20 years in one incarnation or another and every once in a while a story pops up to remind us all of the quality ideas coming out of California. I know, it sounds like something from the stoner Olympics (Denver 2018). This year, Idaho is in the news for implementing this mellow means of ‘you’re all special’ kind of athletics. Funny, I was certain it would have been Colorado this year. From The Coeur d' Alene Press:

“Silent Cheer Day” focused on sportsmanship and encouragement without spectators yelling negative or even positive remarks at the players or referees.

“Coaches said the kids played a little better because there was less noise,” said Post Falls recreation coordinator Justin Brown.

Brown got the notion for the silent cheer at a seminar he recently attended at the National Alliance for Youth Sports in San Diego. The goal is for parents and spectators to find less distracting ways to communicate their support for their kids, such as applause and signage, and eliminate some of the negativity that can come out during a game. If they were loud during Saturday’s games, they were given a red penalty card and sent to the penalty area for one minute.

I repeat, hearing cheers either for or against you are a means of motivation (especially when they use your name or position). Incurring such penalties, even for a day, is a ridiculous waste of time and energy. And what is it really teaching these kids? It’s not your fault if you don’t succeed, the crowd was too noisy. Give me a freaking break.

Oh, wait, I forgot. It’s a California idea. That means we can’t hold people accountable for their own actions. We can only blame those around them or some other circumstance that was out of their control. We might as well start them off early and teach them while they are young that there is always something or someone else you can blame for anything that goes wrong.

I just wish that they would start silent bitching day. Instead of forcing the rest of us to participate in this crap, how about you miss and moan silently to yourself and leave the rest of us out of it. That is a day that I will be happy to stand behind.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Thank You Huffington Post For Bastardizing The Word ‘Safety’

I came across an article today that really got me thinking about word selection. If you think about it, even the use of a term or sometimes a word in a title can frame the entire subject matter of the story. There are also the rare occurrences when the use of punctuation can achieve the same end but in this instance it is all about the words. Thanks to Matt over at The Bang Switch for bringing the following piece of fine media bias to my attention.

Usually when my eyes scan by an article from the Huffington Post, an Eloi favorite, I just keep moving and focus my attention on actual news. However, the title of this article happened to stop my glance. When I read “Man Accidentally Kills Self With Gun During Demonstration On Gun Safety” I was honestly a bit perplexed. If he was following the Four Rules of Gun Safety as created by Colonel Jeff Cooper this would be an impossibility. So, really, how could he possibly kill himself if he was honestly trying to demonstrate gun safety? The answer, you can’t kill yourself if you are following the simple rules outlined above.

So, what the heck is this ‘reporter’ talking about? Well, here is what the article said:

The 36-year-old, whose name has not been released, was showing his girlfriend how his three handguns are safe when they aren’t loaded, according to the Detroit Free Press. He was attempting to demonstrate the safety of the handguns by holding them to his head and pulling the trigger.

The third gun fired, and the man was struck in the head. He was pronounced dead at the scene.  

Three children ages 7, 10, and 12 were in the home but did not witness the shooting, according to reports.  The man’s girlfriend told authorities he had been drinking most of the day before the incident took place. 

This isn’t the first time a gun safety demonstration has gone wrong. In January 2013, 18-year-old Florida resident Alexander Xavier Shaw died doing a similar demonstration. Richard M. McLean, a 22-year-old from Michigan, died in a similar fashion in June 2012. Missouri resident James Looney, 40, was also teaching his girlfriend about gun safety when he shot himself in the head in September 2009.

Notice something? That’s right, this really wasn’t a demonstration on gun safety. This was an act of stupidity by someone who was not following the rules that any responsible gun owner follows. We have rules for a reason. Unfortunately, as was unnecessarily cited, similar acts have taken place in the recent past. None of them were demonstrations of ‘gun safety’ as the article would like the reader to believe. Put it this way, this incident is on par with the movie The Deer Hunter when it comes to demonstrating gun safety.

The sad part, beyond the confines of the story itself, is that this article has a purpose unrelated to the acts described. This is a piece motivated by politics and the Eloi agenda. Thankfully he wasn’t doing a demonstration on wood shop safety or we would have to consider legislation to outlaw or, at the very least, heavily regulate the sale and use of power tools. Think about how ridiculous that headline would sound, “Man Accidentally Kills Self With Power Tool During Demonstration On Shop Safety”.

You know you will never read that headline even though I am certain that it has happened before because power tools don’t look scary (unless you paint them black and put on a collapsible stock). But here we are debating a Constitutionally protected right because people are scared by the way something looks, they don’t understand how it works, and they refuse to place the blame on people for their actions. Remember, the gun didn’t load itself, it didn’t jump on the table and point at the guy, and the gun didn’t pull the trigger. This was a tragedy caused by man NOT a collection of polymer and steel.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Shifting Priorities

When a door closes pick another one to open!
Yesterday was a hectic day at the office. Really nothing earth shattering in that statement. That pretty much sums up every day at work for me. But yesterday was a little different than most as it left me scrambling to adjust my list of priorities for the foreseeable future. Every PR firm has clients come and go. It is the nature of the business and something that is to be expected. While I prefer the former, the latter can sometimes free up some much needed time to ramp up other projects for other clients.
However, I absolutely hate seeing a client go especially when the business/product is something unique that is certainly going to continue to be a huge success. While there seems to be specific reasons for every client departure they vary greatly from company to company. The only thing we can do is make sure that things are taken care of on our end so that if the company does move on we can look at the decision as something that is out of our control.

I have seen and heard all different kinds of ‘reasons’. Sometimes it is a shift into a new direction, sometimes is a personal connection/contact they have with another firm, sometimes it is a matter of style. It all comes down to the fact that while from the outside PR can seem like an industry that is impersonal and monotonous or, more precisely described to me, “a business of repetitive acts both in form and practice” that really doesn’t come close to what we really do. Some have even said that it is easy.

For those that have any experience in the industry know just how personal this business can be if you truly invest in your work. Most days it is a one on one discussion during which you get to know the person on the other end of the phone, table, or computer screen. At the same time you are trying to bring them along on the story you are trying to tell. If you believe in your clients, you enjoy talking to people, and you respect the publications you are reaching out to this can be a very personal process.

A certain amount of pride and appreciation is experienced with every placement not because your name is anywhere in the text (as a PR professional you don’t want your name anywhere near the text) but because you have done your job and got the story out into the world. You do it for the client. The same can be said when you produce content for a client and you craft the messaging in such a way that grabs someone’s interest while hitting all the points that need to be addressed.

I guess this is why the creative side of me enjoys this field as much as it does. While there are undoubtedly routines in my day (like any industry or occupation) there is a tremendous amount of creative freedom and personality that, when applied properly, can produce exceptional results. And it is because this is such a personal profession for me I hate the few times I have experienced when a client has left. But when that does happen, as it just has, it does allow me to share that passion with another company and gives me the excuse to get to know a completely new group of people. So I guess you could say that it is both a really good and really bad situation but I am going to do my best to focus on the positive.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Breaking Even

One of the things that I complete every month when I pull together the lodge notice is our membership numbers since the turning of the Masonic calendar to the new year. While I would like to report that our numbers keep going up, so far this year we are breaking even. Being Secretary, putting these numbers in is both a great moment and one that I dread heading into every new month. This month has been a prime example of this particular dichotomy.

While we had someone petition the lodge, saw many degrees conferred, and even had someone’s transfer come through, we also lost two Brothers. In each of these situations I was the primary contact. I don’t mind filling out the forms and answering questions but, needless to say, it is easier to discuss the first steps or even next steps in a Masonic journey rather than discussing the final masonic request of a brother called off from labor.

Last week I found myself in a, what was for me, a unique position. I was contacted by a family that was arranging for the funeral of their grandfather. While he had been living in Florida for the past several years, he was originally from the Philadelphia area and so the family reached out to the lodge that they thought was the one this departed Brother belonged. Not having the complete member list memorized, I quickly checked our records but could not find this brother in our records.

I immediately got back to the family and let them know that I couldn’t find his record but that I would do everything I could to help them find the right lodge. This email was soon followed by a request sent to all lodges to check their records and get in touch with the family if they found this brother. About three hours later I got word that their grandfather’s lodge had been located and that arrangements were being made for a Masonic service.

It just goes to show that it is only though our collective efforts as a unified fraternity that we can accomplish many of the most important tasks. That is the real power behind tracking the lodge membership month after month. We all look after one another and we need to know the names of our brothers, young and old, whether they have been a mason for 5 days or 50 years. We are all a unified fraternity, we are brothers, this is what makes it so difficult to record the passing of a brother and also so rewarding to note the addition of a new member to our lodge.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Gluttonous Appliance Adds To Errand List

My wife and I headed out today to take care of a few errands which we had been putting off for the past couple of weekends. Obviously, nothing that was urgent but it needed to be taken care of at some point and today was the day. Our first stop was somewhere that used to not bother me much but, over the years, it has started to get a bit rundown. It is not the same place, and I am not the same person, that it used to be so I no longer look forward to entering the mall. The fact that there are aspects of the building that are starting to deteriorate doesn’t do anything for the overall appeal either.

Not surprisingly, this stop was so my wife could stop at a few places that are only found in various malls throughout the area. One thing that I did notice about one of the stores was that if you really want to increase your sales you might want to think about coordinating the prices you have in your store location with the one listed on the website. These people refused to honor the online price despite it being their own website. And we’re not talking about a few dollars, this was more like twice the price in person. Nice salesperson but the company needs a little work. Oh well, I guess you really didn’t want my sale. Fortunately, there were no such issues at the second store.

From there we drove down the street to take care of one of my least favorite activities… clothes shopping. It wasn’t for any big purchase, it was Wal-Mart after all, but it is still a less than desirable activity made worse by the fact that these crazy people had almost exclusively shorts out in the workout gear. I had to dig to find a freaking pair of workout pants. Thankfully, socks are much easier to find.

Of course, this trip wouldn’t be necessary if our dryer didn’t have an eating disorder. Like many of its elk, it consumes socks on a regular basis. Only one from the pair as I assume it doesn’t want to be seen as gluttonous. However, our particular dryer has a hankering for draw strings. Because it only eats half a pair, it has plenty of room for the countless draw strings that help to keep our pants up and our sweatshirts closed. Well, my workout pants were the victim of the latest nibbling and so I had to swim among the shorts to find something that would go past my knees at the store.

So, it didn’t take long before all the small tasks were taken care of and we were on our way to dinner. It wasn’t the best place to stop with the goals that we each have but we were actually pretty good and stuck with the healthier options on the menu. And so concluded our day. From there we made our way home in the Sunday traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway. No accidents, just highway congestion that seems to be ever-present on that particular stretch of highway.

And what was my thought when we finally got home. Was it that I was looking forward to relaxing on the couch and not watching the Olympics closing ceremony? No, it was a night of trying to get things done on the computer and the sense of dread when I looked into the direction of the dishes piled in the sink. Oh well, it has to get done at some point and tonight was the time to do it. At least the dishwasher doesn’t eat my socks.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Return To Soreness

It has been a week since my wife and I joined Planet Fitness and while not everything has gone to plan, we are both making some surprising progress for only being one week in. On our first day we were in the gym for 30 minutes, we are now gotten a pretty solid and tightly packed routine down which, at the moment takes us about 45 minutes. There are a few things that I still have to add but, overall, it is a pretty good start.

I can notice a little bit of change with this new routine. While the strength has yet to return, my muscles seem to have been activated and are bigger than they have been in years (especially my shoulders fro some reason). I don’t know if I have lost any weight because I haven’t been on a scale in probably a month but I don’t think any weight has come off since my clothes still feel the same.

Our diet is something that really is a work in progress. Myself more so than my wife (by far). She has been doing really well, she’s not where she wants to be but who is? As for me, I have made some improvements in that I am eating more salads but can’t say that my portions are any better and there are the occasional times when something really unhealthy seems to find its way into my hand. Small steps though. Just going to keep trying to take them ne after the other.

One thing that I haven’t been looking forward to but I have once again learned to embrace is the soreness. I kind of missed this feeling. The feeling like I actually did something physical during the day. You never get the same feeling by just walking around. I once again feel the comfort on the machines, lifting weights, and on the treadmill that has been absent for many years (especially the last few times that I tried getting into a workout routine).

This is why I can already tell that this time is going to be different. I can feel the difference and I already know where all of the locations are around home and work. Now it is going to take time to get to where I want to be and where I know I can return. One of these days I will post a picture for reference but, for now, it is my motivation Even though it is early, there is progress being made and a comfort level that I have been missing. This is just the beginning.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Full Circle

As you may recall from my resolution post at the very beginning of the year one of the many things that I wanted to focus on this year was to get back to my creative writing roots. The overall goal was to resume writing poetry and stories, pursue publishing them, and doing the occasional reading. While my time is still very limited leaving me little time to pursue these efforts I have been presented an opportunity this week that should get me back on the right path in this endeavor.

For those of you who don’t know, I was rather active in the Philadelphia and Boston area poetry scenes about a decade ago. Since then, time and other objectives seemed to have stymied that creative outlet and it has been a struggle trying to return to that eclectic world ever since. This week proved that sometimes things come full circle when we are least expecting them.

On my LinkedIn profile I have a sample of one of my more popular poems which has been published multiple times in various literary journals, an anthology, and a part of my own small collection (i.e. chap book). Many of the people I have connected to through LinkedIn are from those days in the poetry scene and every once in a while I get the occasional correspondence usually just checking in and seeing if I am still writing. However, this latest message was very specific in its purpose… I have been asked to write an article about Janusz Korczak.

The goal is to complete the 3,000 – 4,000 article by the end of next month with publication scheduled for April. While I have some knowledge still remaining in my mind on the subject and about Korczak’s life, I am going to have to do some extensive mining to recover those raw ore that will power the story. Nearly ten years is a long time between writing projects on a specific subject especially when I am going to have to rediscover my academic writing side.

It will be a challenge and one that I am heading into with some trepidation but I am looking forward to reading the end result. It will not be a scholarly piece but it will serve as an introduction to an astounding life. It will be a means to make history more accessible which was the original goal of my poetry in the first place. This is precisely the reason why I said that this project is going to bring me full circle.

So, what was the poem that sparked this project and inspired a local literary editor to contact me? I could just direct you to my LinkedIn profile but I’m not going to do that. I have included the poem below. I hope that it sparks the same kind of curiosity in you that it has in others.

A Pure Breath

“What matters is that all this did happen.” – Janusz Korczak

The boy pushed away sleep and,
blinking his silent eyes in the candlelight,
he listened to Korczak’s voice.

Echoing above the soldier’s
ash-muffled steps, the only
sound in the camp was
the doctor’s paper cracking
like a stiff flag in a sharp
breeze as he chiseled lead
onto what once was white.

Despite his arthritic fingers,
he had written hundreds of
pages in the ghetto;
but these were the first
curled letters of his Kaddish.
This was his last leaf of script;
the last journal entry which
would never leave his hand.

This was his voice that would rain
down with his body and
rest in the lungs of Treblinka.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Third Times Is The Charm (Or Is This Four)

Yesterday I had to leave the office much earlier than I usually do. I was in the car and on the road by 3:00pm. Not for anything bad, it was actually for a darn good reason even though I knew I would be sacrificing some of my evening in the process. Had I not double booked myself to be on two calls at the same time I could have held off until 4:00pm but sometimes those things happen and you have little choice in the matter so I headed out the door a hour early so that I could borrow some office space from a client for a call.

So, I got to my client’s office with about five minutes to spare until I had to get on the phone. Cutting it a little closer than I like but, hey, I made it and that is what really counts. While I was waiting for the call to begin, I pulled out my computer and started getting a few other things done. It’s great having access to a secure and reliable wireless network. The call went off without any issues, as I would expect from the people on the line. With about 30 minutes until my next commitment I had just enough time to get my tie on and prep for the next event, the reason I had to leave the office early which you know I don’t like doing.

A quarter to five and I could hear some very familiar voices carrying across the building. Knowing that things were obviously getting started a little early, I hurried myself back out to the car and dropped off my bag and coat, it was a mild evening, so that I wouldn’t have that clutter later in the night. On my way back, my colleague joined me and we entered the reception, mingled (with plenty of work mixed in) and awaited the Governor’s arrival.

That’s right, for the fourth time in the last six months, I was able to meet Governor Corbett and hear him speak as well as honestly answer every question that is presented to him. It was and evening when I wish my boss was able to attend as her views are similar to mine but she has yet to meet the Governor. With that said, her substitute representative, this being his first encounter, left that evening impressed by the fact that he finally met a politician who took his time, spoke to everyone, and was honest and sincere in his answers and views.

There were other business items that came up during the evening that brought the evening back to some of the issues that we have been facing time and again, nothing which I am at liberty to discuss here, but it was an excellent evening nevertheless and our client seemed to be pleased with the overall experience and results of the evening. And, personally, the evening served as greater motivation to do my part in participating in the process and ensuring that Pennsylvania continues along the right path during a second term by Governor Corbett.

In the end I only left with one question unanswered: when asked if there is any media in the room, should I start raising my hand? It is an interesting dilemma and one that will only become more complicated as some other projects, hopefully, come to fruition. I guess I will have to take this day by day, event by event, until I reach a clear conclusion. Until that time, my hand will stay down. No need to complicate things.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Long Awaited Extra Meeting

Every month we have an extra meeting for the conferral of degrees. Obviously, the degrees vary but the schedule remains pretty consistent. Our stated meetings are on the first Thursday of every month with the degree conferrals occurring the following Tuesday. Not a complicated schedule and one that seems to have worked for some time now.

However, in an attempt to make things a little easier for us all during the week, the decision was made to hold the extra meeting on a Saturday morning. With three separate degree conferrals scheduled for the same meeting, this would prevent us from being at lodge until 11:00 PM or later on a Tuesday night. That was the plan. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t agree with our attempt for convenience and after cancelling two Saturdays in a row, it was back to Tuesday night.

As it turned out, we only conferred two degrees on Tuesday evening as one of the new brothers has a growing family that needs his attention. A completely understandable reason to postpone until the following month. So, we began trickling in on Tuesday night as we all looked around and began counting to make sure we had enough to fill in all of the officers positions (elected and appointed). As 7:30 quickly ticked to the present, we had just enough to get things done.

It was a bit of a shuffle, as some brothers were able to physically do more than others so I found myself being shifted around from one place to another, east to west and back east, until I finally took my seat as Senior Deacon. Working in our favor is the fact that degree work has a pretty standard set of minutes that need to be taken so, between degrees, I was able to quickly step over and jot a few details down on the notepad at my desk. The rest of the time was trying to remember what to hand the Worshipful Master and following the directions of others during the meeting.

It was a different experience and one that I believe, to my memory, was the fifth position that I had viewed conferrals from (including my usual spot behind the secretary’s desk). While I prefer to sit in the position to which I have been elected by my fellow brothers, I enjoyed the change of pace for the evening and learning the duties of that officer. As I have said many times before, just being a part of the ritual and ceremony is something that every brother needs to experience, especially when it is during the raising of Master Mason.

Even with the postponement of one of the degrees, I still didn’t get home until about 11 at night (after a little bit of work in the office). This is why we tried to get this moved to Saturday. Hopefully the weather will cooperate the next time we try to make things a little bit easier for everyone during the middle of the work week. Only time will tell but the important thing is that we got everything done and advanced our brothers in their Masonic journeys.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I Guess Sometimes I Need Four Hours Of Sleep

I was up late Sunday night trying to take care of a few things that had to be done first thing Monday morning. I stayed at my laptop until the last item was entered. Unfortunately, sometimes my determination gets the best of me and I just lose track of time altogether. Because of that, I didn’t crawl into bed until about three in the morning. With my alarm set for seven the week was already off to a rough start.

Having had my eyes shut for only four hours, my alarm was not a welcomed sound. As I rolled out of bed and began my morning routine, it was not looking too good. After a not so relaxing weekend, I had a bit of dread heading into the office on Monday morning. Even the drive to the office, while smooth and with minimal traffic, I was tired and the highway seemed to go on forever.

I walked into the office like I do every day, got to my desk, and set up everything I needed out for the day. Before sitting down at the computer I headed over to the kitchen, made a big cup of coffee, and began going over the client checklist of all the things that needed to get done by the time I headed home for the night (all the things I wasn’t able to get to the night before). This really wasn’t going to be a good day.

It was time to head to my fate so I planted my rear in my chair, poised my fingers above the keys, and waited for the blank thoughts to flood my mind. It was at this time that things, for some strange reason, just seemed to click. Sometimes I just have one of those writing days when everything seems to come into place.

Before I knew it the paragraphs were forming on the page and, what was even better, they seemed to make sense. Within a matter of a couple of hours I was pages into a project and was still going strong. With a handful of projects filed away and emailed, I had gotten more done during the morning than I had expected to get done the entire day.

It was at this point that the creative wall tattooed me across the forehead and left me with a massive headache. Thanks to a productive morning, I was able to keep the severe pounding at bay with Motrin and a number of small items that I could fill in between the eye rubbing and temple massaging. It turned into a long day, as expected, but it was hugely productive, which was a pleasant surprise. You really never know when those creative streaks will hit but I am really glad when they do.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Why Do We Have A Day Off For Presidents Day?

While many were home today for Presidents Day, I was at the office trying to get things done. With so many storms and other delays lately, it has been a chore trying to stay in front of a lot of items on my to-do list. And, when I think about it, what better way to honor Presidents Day than to work? After all, the men for whom the holiday was created, Washington and Lincoln, worked and worked hard to achieve what they did in their lifetimes.

So, for the sake of education, here is a little bit of information from Wikipedia about Presidents Day, the day when we honor a Mason and a Republican (ah, I can sense the liberals cringing):

Washington's Birthday is a United States federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday of February in honor of George Washington, the first President of the United States.

It is also a state holiday in most states where it is known by a variety of names including Presidents Day and Washington's and Lincoln's Birthday and officially celebrates, depending upon the state, Washington alone, Washington and Lincoln, or some other combination of U.S. presidents. Some states celebrate Washington and the third president Thomas Jefferson but not Lincoln.

Colloquially, the holiday is widely known as "Presidents Day" and is often an occasion to celebrate, or at least remember, all presidents and not just George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Both Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays are in February. In historical rankings of Presidents of the United States both Lincoln and Washington are frequently, but not always, the top two presidents.

In Washington's adopted hometown of Alexandria, Virginia, celebrations are held throughout the month of February.

The federal holiday honoring George Washington was originally implemented by an Act of Congress in 1879 for government offices in Washington (20 Stat. 277) and expanded in 1885 to include all federal offices (23 Stat. 516). As the first federal holiday to honor an American President, the holiday was celebrated on Washington's actual birthday, February 22. On January 1, 1971, the federal holiday was shifted to the third Monday in February by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This date places it between February 15 and 21, which makes the name "Washington's Birthday" in some sense a misnomer, since it never occurs on Washington's actual birthday, either February 11 (Old Style), or February 22 (New Style).

The first attempt to create a Presidents Day occurred in 1951 when the "President's Day National Committee" was formed by Harold Stone Bridge Fischer of Compton, California, who became its National Executive Director for the next two decades. The purpose was not to honor any particular President but to honor the office of the Presidency. It was first thought that March 4, the original inauguration day, should be deemed Presidents Day. However, the bill recognizing the March 4 date was stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee (which had authority over federal holidays). That committee felt that, because of its proximity to Lincoln's and Washington's Birthdays, three holidays so close together would be unduly burdensome. During this time, however, the Governors of a majority of the individual states issued proclamations declaring March 4 to be Presidents' Day in their respective jurisdictions.

An early draft of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act would have renamed the holiday to "Presidents' Day" to honor the birthdays of both Washington and Lincoln, which would explain why the chosen date falls between the two, but this proposal failed in committee, and the bill as voted on and signed into law on June 28, 1968, kept the name Washington's Birthday.

By the mid-1980s, with a push from advertisers, the term "Presidents' Day" began its public appearance.

Now that you have a little bit of background on the origins of the holiday what seemed like a good idea to remember some of the greatest men in this country’s history really doesn’t seem like a proper means of honoring those same men. Two men who fought for, who relentlessly worked for freedom in this country are memorialized by taking the day off? No thank you. I am going to honor them, and honor what they stood for, by continuing to work hard. Honor their memories through your actions not by taking the day off and going to some big retail sale.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Returning To The Gym: Not What It Used To Be

One of the resolutions that I seem to make year after year is to improve my health. It is something that I have now included in two posts on this blog but with little progress having been made until now. It had been about a year since I last stepped foot in a gym but today my wife and I broke that unhealthy pattern and signed up for memberships at the local Planet Fitness. While we have tried this before basically going into it blind, this time we made sure to set a schedule so that we have specific nights when we can hold one another accountable.

For many years when I was younger, the weight room was a place that I enjoyed going to multiple times a week. It was a place when I could just block out the rest of the world and focus on a singular task of putting up as much weight as I could as many times as I could. Now, things are a bit different. Now I am going into this basically starting from the beginning.

While in the past, I would push as hard and as long as I could, I know that is not the best thing for me at this time. While I can still push myself, I can’t simply keep pushing until something gives. It isn’t just about getting in shape and going to the gym on a regular basis, it is about changing my mentality while I am there. What worked in the past is not healthy for me now. I have to pace myself and make sure that steady progress is made. Maybe later I can push harder but, for now, consistency is what needs to be my focus.

In addition to the general joint issues that I have faced, and which have gotten worse, for the past fifteen years I am now going into this new routine with diabetes, fibromyalgia, and borderline blood pressure issues. All of these things will basically shut me down if I just go in full boar without consideration for my current health status. So it is a matter of steady progress. It will be painfully slow and will require a commitment that is a bit foreign to me but it is nothing that I can’t push through in order to reach my goal.

So, today I started my journey to reaching my goal. Time to lose the 100 pounds that has been, literally, weighing me down lately. Well, maybe not 100, it all depends on how much muscle I can build back up. A more realistic, and healthy, goal is to get my BMI back down to 10%. By far not the lowest I have ever been but definitely a healthy number to aim for and one that will be achieved in time. When, I don’t know but I will definitely be recording my progress and I am sure setbacks on this blog.

Given my previous experiences, I know that I need to do and I know the exercises, pace, rep counts, and tracking that needs to be done. However, like everything else, I don’t know everything and any input would be appreciated. Feel free to leave your comments and questions below. I look forward to reading your input.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

McDonald’s Or Wendy’s?

Those of you that know me, know that is not a question that I encounter in my daily life. Those of you that have yet to get to know me you know by my svelte build that is not a common query. But that question really isn’t the story, it is what was going on around me when that question was asked which is of interest. The fact that the question was even asked by a complete stranger adds a little color to my long Friday commute.

I started my morning right on time to make it to the office well before a 9:00 am call. Having had to work from home the day before, the day was going to be pretty hectic as I tried to make up for what was a less than optimal day of production. The roads weren’t too bad with only a few slightly slick spots here and there, the occasional rumble strip of snow and ice, and a sun glare that gradually got worse as the minutes went by. With the sun directly in my eyes about five miles from the office I increased the gap between me and the car in front of me and reduced my speed to about 40 miles per hour. And I am really glad I did.

Without any warning traffic came to a dead stop and I slammed on the brakes. As the antilock brakes pumped I could hear the crunching of cars ahead of me. Thankfully, I took the precautions I did and I safely came to rest about three feet from the car in front of me (the car behind me did the same). So we all sat there for the next five minutes with our cars still running and brake lights on.

It was only a few minutes later when the reports began filling the radio and we all knew that we were going to be there for a while. Like dominos, cars were put into park, engines were turned off, and we all settled down for a long delay. Thirty minutes to go before my call and I knew that I would be dialing in from the car so I sent a few text messages to the office, my family, and my wife letting them know that I was fine but that I wasn’t going to get to the office any time soon.

Before I knew it, it was time to dial into the conference call. Surprisingly enough, this may have been the first time that I have had to be on a conference call from the car. Having now done it once, I can say that I am not a big fan and I will continue doing my best to avoid it in the future. By the time I got off the phone we were all sitting in the same spot and we all knew the extent of the backup as opposing traffic had now ceased and emergency vehicles were driving back and forth assessing the damage and looking for anyone else who might need assistance.

By 11:00 am we were all walking around the highway chatting and getting to know other people who are now sharing a common inconvenient experience. After all, we all knew how much worse it could have been for us. We could have easily been the ones in the 100 car pileup just a half mile ahead. So, while we were all a bit grumpy (especially those of us who were without coffee) we were all, at least most of us, were just trying to make the best out of things.

Not long after that, the kindness of strangers began showing itself. What began with bottles of water being handed which was appreciated, soon gave way to a woman in the far right lane passing out cupcakes which would no longer be consumed at work and the aroma of coffee being replenished in travel mugs. Our new found calm only made the morning pass a bit faster and made us all just a little bit friendlier.

Around noon we all seemed to return to our cars. Not because of any anticipation of traffic beginning to free up it was a strange unified time when everyone decided to make phone calls. I guess another benefit to this whole dilemma besides forcing everyone to just stop and try and find the positive to the situation was the fact that we could catch up on some long overdue phone calls. While I wasn’t able to dial everyone, I did manage to catch up with a few people with whom I had not spoken to in some time.

It was during these phone calls when a man came walking down the highway, stopping at every car, and asking us if we wanted a cheeseburger. Not many of us passed up the kind offer which led to his next question, “Wendy’s or McDonald’s?” Not much difference between the two so I arbitrarily chose Wendy’s. 1:00 pm and lunch was served.

The next hour when quickly and before I knew it I was on another conference call. As we discussed the difficulties of my commute I could hear the wave of car engines turning on roll up the highway (the only exceptions beyond the accident scenes being those who ran out of gas or had dead batteries). As we slowly formed a single file line and slalomed back and forth across the lanes between accident scenes, I pointed my phone from atop the steering wheel and captured some random pictures of what had caused the delay which had all of us parked on the highway for the past 6 hours.

Around 2:30 pm, I arrived at the office and, contrary to what many people would think, I wasn’t really in a bad mood. Of course, my day was wasted and I have to make up some work this weekend but I was still in one piece and I was able to witness, first hand, how people come together when put in a situation that they really can’t change. However, I am now painfully aware that I need to stop by the store sometime soon and pick up some MRE’s to make these situations a bit easier. Might be worth adding a few other preps. You never know.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Are You Prepared For Valentine’s Day?

I have never been a huge proponent of Valentine’s Day. Maybe that is why I have always been a little light on the celebration of this day in the past few years. I have never fully neglected the day, which is why I am still alive, but it has never been a square on the calendar that got a huge amount of attention and planning. In fact, this year, my wife and I exchanged gifts for the first time in three years now that we have the ability to purchase gifts. Nothing big but things that we will both enjoy (i.e. Wizard of Oz DVDs and Chocolate for my wife and Amazon Prime membership for me).

This year in particular, while it was nice to exchanged gifts we didn’t have much energy for much else as the weather and other recent events have drained us of much of our energy. But, in the end, it makes you think about the real purpose of the day. Why should this day be different than all the others? Why isn’t love part of the daily experience and a way of living?

Let us take a moment to stop and take a look at the history of the holiday. Here is the listing from Wikipedia:

Saint Valentine's Day, also known as Valentine's Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is observed on February 14 each year. It is celebrated in many countries around the world, although it is not a holiday in most of them.

St. Valentine's Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. Several martyrdom stories were invented for the various Valentines that belonged to February 14, and added to later martyrologies. A popular hagiographical account of Saint Valentine of Rome states that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, during his imprisonment, he healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius. An embellishment to this story states that before his execution he wrote her a letter signed "Your Valentine" as a farewell. Today, Saint Valentine's Day is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion, as well as in the Lutheran Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church also celebrates Saint Valentine's Day, albeit on July 6 and July 30, the former date in honor of the Roman presbyter Saint Valentine, and the latter date in honor of Hieromartyr Valentine, the Bishop of Interamna (modern Terni). In Brazil, the Dia de São Valentim is recognized on June 12.

The day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as "valentines"). Valentine's Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.

Now to answer the previously posed questions. Actually, one answer should suffice. Valentine’s Day, like many other days noted on the calendar, is a time which reminds us of what we have and what can be possible when love is made a central part of our lives. It is in this spirit that we should all embrace this day regardless of its origins.

It should also serve as motivation for us all not only live a positive life but also appreciate and show our appreciation of those in our lives. Love, in all of its forms, is too often overlooked and relegated as a secondary emotion. Today is a reminder of its proper position as the primary purpose and motivator for a better life.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Night Filled With Fog

It never fails, there is always something that I am overlooking at any given moment when it comes to all the projects that are up in the air. There are two things that make this situation worse…. neglecting the same project over and over again and having my schedule thrown off by the weather or some other weekly interruption. Unfortunately, I find myself in a situation when both of these factors have converged on a single project and now my rear end is getting particularly toasty as it sizzles in the fire.

I don’t know what it is about this project. While it involved writing, which is usually not a problem, it is something that I have never written before and for a client that can be very particular in the content that we create for them. There have been little pieces completed here and there but I can seem to get any momentum going to see it through to the end. It’s almost like instant writers block as soon as I open the document and poise my fingers above the keyboard.

Even now, as I write this blog with a certain amount of fluidity, whenever the thought of that project comes to mind my fingers slow and hesitate before striking the letters. I don’t know if I have ever experienced this sensation to this extent in the past but I hope that it is a onetime deal. However, I have a feeling that this is probably not going to be the case as similar projects are will be materializing on the calendar shortly and the vicious cycle will most likely repeat itself.

If this was a matter segregated from the rest of my work I would be annoyed but not really concerned. I guess you could say that is an unrealistically optimistic statement. This problem does impact the rest of my work both for this client and for the other accounts that I work on. Heck, it even impacts this blog and brings a certain amount of fogginess to the creative process in all aspects of my writing.

In my work process, I need to be able to see the end point, I need to know where the writing needs to go. When visibility is limited, it is incredibly difficult to reach the finish line in an efficient manner. Personally, especially when writing these posts, I need to be able to see each step. Even those short distances are obscured by the haze. Overall, it makes writing a slow and sometimes tedious process. Even now, I am incredibly tired and so I am going to bring this post to a quick and abrupt end.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Truth Behind The Sarcasm

We are all familiar with sarcasm and most of us understand how to use it. However, there are some people that when faced with certain circumstances that demonstrate true mastery of this form of speech. Recently, I came across an article and video of one such master.

In light of recent gun control legislation being considered in a local resident of Ashland, Oregon who identified himself as ‘Johnny Bolton’ attended stated meeting of the Ashland City Council’s on February 4th. In the beginning, it wasn’t entirely clear what the resident’s objectives were in his statement to the council but soon it was quite obvious what his true intentions were in introducing a new public safety concern group: Citizens for a Really Safe Ashland.

The presentation was made in response to proposed legislation concocted by the local organization Citizens for a Safe Ashland which would further infringe upon the rights of gun owners. It went on to answer the simple question which has been previously addressed in this blog: Why stop there when there are so many other things we can regulate to ensure public safety? He starts his speech in the following manner:

Representing well over 30 resident citizens, and given the current vogue for citizen introduced reasonable and common sense ordinances, ‘Citizens for a REALLY safe Ashland’ want to capitalize on the desire to act in a “timely manner” (or even in a knee-jerk expedited manner) to introduce a comprehensive public safety ordinance that – whilst perhaps not actually addressing any genuine or legitimate issues – does serve to promote a divisive partisan agenda!”

Thankfully, he also points out our caveman-like place in the civilized world just like a true American like Piers Morgan would by stating, “European countries are light years ahead, indeed a recent study by the esteemed British Medical Journal proposes banning all kitchen knives over 4” long – because the people would be safer.”

At this point, the full color of the citizen’s sarcasm began to shine through to the point that your name would have to be Sheldon Cooper to not understand the message that was being eloquently presented. Specifically, the Citizens for a Really Safe Ashland, proposes the following ordinance:

1.  Regulate the public visibility of, and

2.  Seek to punish those that allow minors access to, the following potentially dangerous, often unfamiliar, and in some instances outright scary items:
(i) Knives
(ii) Chainsaws
(iii) Power-tools
(iv) Hammers
(v) Ladders
(vi) Bath tubs
(vii) Swimming Pools
(viii) Car keys
(ix) Alcohol
(x) Prescription and non prescription medication

See, common sense safety. It should be known that Ashland is a hotbed from criminal activity where children frequently play with keys, swim in swimming pools, and take baths regularly (many times forced into this vicious cycle of addiction to cleanliness by their own parents). It is for this reason that this proposed ordinance is so important. Also it should also be seriously considered by the Ashland City Council because…  

“That this proposed ordinance will be ineffective, and a solution to a problem that does not exist is not of great importance.  What matters is making a statement about “community values”….We can’t ever be too safe, can we.  It’s for the sake of the children, and we – and they – have to be protected from ourselves.”

Unfortunately, even with such sarcasm, one of the final points made during Johnny Bolton’s presentation held some truly scary truth. While seen as a humorous over exaggeration by some, when you really look at what is going on in this country there is a little too much truth to the following statement: “Evidently concepts such as absolute inalienable rights, liberty, and personal responsibility are old-fashioned, outmoded, and frankly quite scary!”

Take some time to think about what is really being presented in the video below and consider all that has been proposed in this country (both on the local and federal level). This is not just with regard to the overabundance of gun legislation that has wasted countless taxpayer dollars but the elimination of trans fats, the socialization of medicine, and numerous other initiative that have been forced upon us in the spirit of “we know what is best for you.”

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Irony And Hypocrisy: Besties 4 Ever

Over the past few years we have seen a sharp increase in the number of protests and rallies throughout the country. While most have come in the form of large groups of people getting together to show their support or disdain for one topic or another. Personally, I haven’t been a part of these gatherings but fully support the reasons behind some of these assemblies. Others, I am simple left wondering if they really give a crap or fully understand what they are saying and what their actions say about their point of view.

A prime example of the questionable practices of some of these groups occurred this past Saturday in Raleigh, North Carolina when a group of individuals decided to hold a rally in opposition to the ‘Republican Agenda’ in the state. One of many points of contention was the passage into law this past year that a photo identification is required for someone to vote in person. I know, such a radical law. How do you expect the dead to vote if they have to actually show up at the polling place with a photo ID.

This is not the first time that such opposition has been seen. In fact, this is a constant topic of debate across the country. What was interesting in this instance was that there was a certain requirement in place at this rally in order for people to be part of the heard protesting this voting requirement. Enter irony and hypocrisy skipping into the conversation hand in hand (they are besties at this point).

As was reported by the Associated Press, “Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, said Saturday the NAACP was being hypocritical for directing marchers on a document to bring photo identification when it opposes a photo ID requirement for voting. Lewis helped shepherd a voter ID law through the legislature.” Yes, you read that correctly, a photo ID was required to protest the voter ID law. Interestingly enough, actually not really interesting more common practice at this point, this little tidbit wasn’t mentioned by any of the more left leaning publications beyond the AP.

Maybe it would make sense to simply have ‘Moral Marches’ on election day and everyone would be happy except, of course, for those who wouldn’t be able to participate in either. I wonder who they would protest against. Would they bother getting a photo ID in order to protest the fact that they didn’t have a photo ID? Why don’t those people without photo identification simply hold up signs at a presidential rally? Oh wait, those require a photo ID to get into as well.

In an age when identity theft is rampant it only makes sense to require people to have photo identification when they go to vote. We are not voting for the next American Idol, we are voting for the people who are supposed to represent us from school boards and other local elected officials to congressman, senators, and the president. Requiring photo identification ensures that you vote for who you want to represent you. One person, one photo ID, one vote. This is the basic equation that everyone, regardless of party, should stand behind.