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The Iowa Caucuses. A study in how NOT to throw technology at a process.

4 Feb

This Iowa Caucus mess will make one hell of a business case of what not to do when you are faced with applying tech to a mission critical challenge. While what I’m about to say is constructed out of reading a bunch of news reports and picking up nuances and details in the first hours after the disaster, I’d say this is a pretty complete laundry list of the failures:

1) Start with a completely byzantine process that was engineered in the early 1970s and has never been actually rethought, just incrementally changed to become even more complex

2) Decide to throw an app at the process, without considering that your userbase will consist of largely techno-phobic post-retirement volunteers

3) Start late and go long on your development process

4) Be so afraid of hacking that you literally do not allow your users to test your product prior to using it

5) Be so afraid of hacking that you also forgo full-scale stress testing of your infrastructure to make sure you have enough server-side strength to support the usage level you’re going to get

6) Deploy the app widely and simultaneously across a 1700 person user base and expect them to install the app on their personal smart phones, not knowing a) what version they might be on; b) how much memory and bandwidth resources they may have; c) if they actually even know how to download and install apps (note userbase demographics above). Do not conduct training, and document the app minimally.

7) Do not deploy the app for installation until the moment it needs to be installed and used

8) Deploy the app across a rural environment with thin cell coverage except in areas of major metros and major highways, again with mission-critical timing

9) Assume the 1700 locations that your 1700 elderly/technophobic users will be visiting all have solid, available wifi connections, OR in lieu of good wifi, have good cellular bandwidth (note point 8 above). Don’t bother visiting and testing the locations to verify connectivity.

10) Create a telephone support system but design it and staff it only for supporting the application, not replacing it

11) Don’t create a disaster plan that assumes the app is completely unusable

12) Do all of this while

a) you’re supporting an event that has global importance

b) the global media is watching

c) the national news is broadcasting live

And they wonder why this went pear shaped?

#digitaltransformation #applications #apptech #apps #Iowacaucuses

Kobe & GiGi and all those families

28 Jan

Too many of my recent blog posts have dealt with death and grieving. And here’s another.  Sorry about that. I promise I’ll write more positive content next. But … Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash with the deaths of his daughter and 7 others got us here.

What is it about celebrity deaths that pull at all of our heartstrings?  Kobe Bryant’s passing in a helicopter crash, made all the more tragic because 8 others, including three 13 year old girls, a couple, and two more moms, and the pilot all were killed as well.  But that aside, what is it?

In reality, other than nostalgia (when an older celeb passes), “wished I’d seen” (when a favorite performer passes), and of course the tragedy factor like this one, celeb deaths don’t truly affect us.  Yet we still grieve. Fans of Kobe and the Lakers were drawn to the Staples Center to gather and support each other. The Grammy’s opened with a tribute. NBA games around the league devoted their opening “packages” to him. Outdoor signage at stadiums lit with his visage, and more.  We connect with them. We admire them. Their talents entertained us and made us happy.  To know that’s gone forever is what makes us grieve.

With this one though, here’s what pulls my heart strings –it’s the kids and it’s the similar to our real lives. It would be one thing if that chopper went down with Kobe and the pilot and maybe one other adult person. Yes, it would have been tragic. But we’re talking whole families having their lives upended.

The fact that makes this even more real to all of us is that this was more or less the same scene so many of us have played out in our SUVs and minivans. They were “carpooling” – albiet in a style the rest of us don’t have access to – to a youth basketball game. Just like all of us have done to basketball, baseball, soccer, dance lessons, music lessons, etc. Three girls from the team. The coach and assistant coach. Couple of moms and one dad. This could have been any of us from that perspective, loaded up in an SUV or minivan pressing to get to a game. To me, that’s what makes this so tough.

Yes, we’re going to miss Kobe and his future contributions to film, to art, to sports, to basketball. But what matters most to me is his widowed wife, and their three remaining kids, one only 7 months old who will never know her Daddy. The two teenaged sons of the baseball coach and his wife on board with their 13 year old daughter who now face life without their parents and their sister. The husband and twin 16 year old sons of the mom with her 13 year old daughter. The husband of the assistant coach and their three young children left behind. The family of the pilot. It may feel personal to us, but to them, it’s inescapably personal.

Had this accident happened on a highway, with 3 kids, and 6 parents killed in a horrific highway crash, without the Kobe Bryant connection, it still would have made national news. It’s that horrific of a tragedy.  That it happened in a luxury helicopter, with one of the best NBA players ever to have played the game involved, makes it more newsy.

Events like these teach us a few lessons, and they bear repeating every time.

  • Every day is a gift. Period. You just never know when your number will come up.
  • Hug your loved ones and make sure they know your love for them as often as you can.
  • Life is for living.

Tragedies like this make that shit show going on in Washington and the White House seem insignificant.
PS:  Photo credit to Ethan Miller of Getty Images, also known as my lovely wife’s first cousin!

As you were,

Stew

The Rake

13 Jan

This post is about grief. If you’re looking for rainbows and unicorns and baby goats today, click away from here. I’m prompted to write after experiencing at close hand the unimaginable grief that happens when someone loses a child.  A dear friend of mine, and her husband, daughter, parents, and friends are experiencing the loss of their son/brother/grandchild who died suddenly and accidentally at the age of 18. I won’t detail the circumstances other than to say it wasn’t a suicide. My friend is at once overcome with grief, raging with anger, stymied by frustration at the unfairness of it and crushed by despair over the loss, the senselessness of it, and weight of it.  As you can imagine.  And can’t unless you’ve been there.

My biggest losses to date have been my Dad, and then 20 some years later, my father in law, who had stepped to be in the “Dad” role to me in my 30s and 40s and the sudden loss of my best friend when I was about 40. All of those were gut punches that in the moment I couldn’t figure out how I’d get past them. I cannot even begin to imagine the weight of what they are going through with the loss of a child.  I truly hope I never do. It happened in my wife’s family when we were first married – her cousin passed at a young age – and not having kids at the time I really didn’t understand what her Aunt and Uncle were going through.  But I understand much better now. And I thought a lot about them this past week as I was thinking about my friends.

In talking about grief with friends who have lost their parents and other close loved ones, and thinking about how I’ve dealt with it on my own, I’ve often described grief as a rake lying in the grass, waiting to be stepped on.  When it’s fresh and raw, you’re just standing there next to rake and most every step you take the grief slams you in the face.  Over time, you develop the ability to step around it.  But it’s always there, and you know it. On occasion, you put a foot wrong, and BAM, you’re hit in the face. Maybe it’s triggered by a memory. A song on the radio.  Maybe it’s triggered by a friend experiencing grief.  But it’s there, and it happens. BAM. And sometimes you just do it on purpose. Jump. BAM.

And there’s other times when you just straight up know you have to step on the rake. Perhaps it’s the birthday of the person you miss so much. Or the anniversary of their death. Or a holiday. Or a funeral for someone else. You try as gently as possible to step on it, to limit how badly it hurts. But it always still hurts. You take the hit and you move on.

I’m not a “dweller” when it comes to grief. It comes out, I take the hits every now and then, but I prefer to always remember the happy memories.  In a discussion I was in last evening, I spoke of my Dad being remembered at his funeral by a family friend as “the kindest man he ever knew.”  Yes, at the time I heard that, it brought me to raw tears.  Now, 27 years later, it just makes me smile. I carry that around with me like a comforting teddy bear. We smile and laugh at the wonderful memories of him. I’ve been very happy that my wife’s family all operate the same way when thinking about my father-in-law.  Yes, I’m sure the rake hits them, just like it hits me, but we sure do smile and laugh often when we think about him.

I went to the visitation for my friend’s son on Saturday.  It was an nearly an hour’s drive through the snow and ice we were getting here Saturday, but I couldn’t imagine not being there, if even for just a few minutes.  The reality was, that’s all the time I was there for, to hug her and her husband.  To share a tear together and to let them know that I truly hurt for their loss. And to feel their loss, their sobs as we hugged. I felt like a sponge, soaking up and dissipating some of their grief. Two hours of driving in crappy weather to give them 5 minutes of comfort feels like a great investment. I’m so glad I was there.

On the drive back home, I drove along in a silent car. Ironically, I had spent the drive out doing a bit of mourning for the loss of one of my favorite musicians, Neal Peart of Rush, and listened to Rush hits all the way out on the drive.  Going home, silence seemed to be the right thing.  I thought of my friends who lost their son and what they are going through and the monumental size of the rake they have to deal with.  I thought of my Dad; of Julie, my father in law; Darrell, my best friend, and others I’ve lost in my life, and yup, I ever so carefully but intentionally stepped on each of those rakes and shed a few tears while I drove, for my friends and their son, and for all those I miss so much.

And life goes right on. Step gently.

By the way, if you’ve read through this to this point, you really deserve some baby goats.

As you were,

Stew

It’s those little things …

8 Aug

Another week where we’re all reminded of the fragility of life.  Layered on top of the twin tragedies of El Paso and Dayton were multiple tragedies in Chicago and even some personal ones I know of – a woman close to my mother in law died suddenly over the weekend.  She and my “MIL” were supposed to have lunch and go walking Monday.  They didn’t.

One of my favorite “ditty” songs (as opposed to an “epic” song like Kashmir by Led Zepplin, for example) (a ditty would be something that just sticks in your head a bit) is the song Chicken Fried by the Zak Brown Band.  It’s a song that just celebrates the little stuff. Like a little bit of chicken fried. Cold beer on Friday night. Pair of jeans that fit just right. And the radio on.  He goes on to talk about how the best things in life are free. And he’s right.

So here’s a little list of little things I like.  Some free, some not.  I hope this inspires you to think about and enjoy some of your own.

  • The patterns on a newly mown lawn.
  • Puppy breath!
  • Cat stretches.
  • Half moons. crescent moons, even full moons.
  • Mooning.  HA!
  • The smell of hot melted butter in the pan waiting for me to crack in a couple of eggs.
  • A burger.
  • For that matter, a hot dog too.
  • Cheerios.  I could snack on them forever.
  • Looking out over water. Anywhere, anytime.
  • Watching a fire burn (hopefully in a fireplace, a campfire, a pit, etc.)
  • Holding hands with my wife. Never gets old.
  • Touching toes when we’re going to bed.
  • That “CRAkuschhh” sound a freshly opened can of beer makes.
  • That first long pull on a cold beer.
  • (not to go all alcoholic on you but …) that wash of relaxation that slides down my neck and shoulders when I have that first long sip of an ice cold martini.  Ahhh … SANDPAPER (takes the rough edges off)
  • New jeans.
  • New sneakers
  • Washing the car by hand and stepping back and admiring the result
  • Discovering a new bloom on the rosebush or other flower
  • Delivery pizza!
  • Getting your back to pop.
  • and a thousand more.

Just remember.  Life is for living.

50 Years Ago Today

20 Jul

Fifty years ago today, I was a 7 year old kid from Newton, IA, riding in the back of my dad’s “company car” 1969 Chevy Impala on our way from Iowa to New Jersey for our annual sea shore vacation with my grandparents from my mom’s side.

50 years ago today was also a crucial time in our nation. Besides the Vietnam war, and all the protests, and Beatlemania and hippies and Woodstock and everything else that had happened in the last 3 years, we were in a national race for our future, or at least it was perceived that way.  The Soviets/Russians and the Americans were locked in a dead heat for space dominance.  And on this day, the US would decisively win, because on this day, the first men landed and walked on the moon, and those men were American.

All I knew as a seven year old kid was that I was OBSESSED with Apollo.  I could name every astronaut. I could name every major part of a Saturn 5, I could quote the thrust rating of the five F1 engines at liftoff (7.1 million pounds, 40 times the max thrust of a Boeing 747-400 by the way), that the whole Saturn V stack weighed 6.8 million pounds and it would take an escape velocity of about 27,000 mph to leave Earth’s gravity and head to the moon. While I don’t remember it, I’m guessing my Mom and Dad may have won a few bar bets with me back then.  “Go ahead, ask him …”

I remember that day like it was yesterday.  We had overnighted in Glen Ellyn, IL at the home of my aunt and uncle and cousins, and I remember not understanding why my oldest cousin, who was my age, didn’t seem to care about this like I did.  We set out across Indiana and Ohio, and I remember stopping for gas somewhere in Ohio or just into Pennsylvania at a Gulf station where they were running a promotion of a free paper die-cut lunar module “Eagle” model you could pop out of the paper and build.  My Dad got me one and it was the best present ever.

We got back in the car and a little while later my Dad turned up the radio loud – the Astronauts were landing on the moon.  We were driving along (I-80) and hanging on every word. I didn’t understand a whole lot of what I was hearing but even then I remember thinking how amazing it was that we were listening to Astronauts from 246,000 miles away (I knew that stat too!) live on the car radio as if we were listening to my Dad’s beloved Iowa Hawkeyes on a fall afternoon.  And we heard the words …

“Houston, Tranquility Base here. ……… The Eagle has landed!” 

Apollo11b

And all of a sudden outside of the car, every car horn on the road was blaring. My dad hit the horn as well, adding the blare of the Impala’s voice to the brief I-80 celebration.  I remember looking out the back window where there was a semi-truck following us, and he was blasting his horn, and pounding on his steering wheel, a giddy grin a mile wide on his face.

I don’t remember a whole lot of the rest of that day – we stayed at a motel – our preference was one of the “big 3” in American travel motel brands – Best Western, Holiday Inn or Howard Johnson.  I liked “HoJo” the best because of the food, but I don’t think that’s where we stayed – I think it was a Holiday Inn.  I’m sure we swam, had a nice dinner. My folks probably had a couple of cocktails from the “portable bar” kit they always brought on trips like this, while my sister and I splashed around in the pool.  And then it was bed time.  Except it wasn’t – we were staying up REALLY late – past 10:00 PM eastern time – because the Astronauts were going to walk on the moon.

I don’t remember which network we were tuned into on the TV (my mom insists that it was a TV we brought on the trip) but the anticipation was incredible.  I remember as Armstrong came out of the LEM door and activated the TV camera, that the picture was upside down and Mission Control had him pause there for a second while they electronically flipped the image.  Then he descended the ladder – I can see the shadowy figure on the TV screen across the darkened motel room like it happened 2 minutes ago.  He stepped off the ladder and into the history books.

“That’s one small step for man.  One giant leap for mankind.”

Aldrin came out, they started their 2 hour excursion.  I fell asleep moments after Aldrin came out, I think. I was probably wearing astronaut themed PJs, and most definitely the smile of the happiest 7 year old space-crazed little boy on earth.

The world watched and observed America’s greatness in that day, and the world came together for a brief moment as one.  They say now that as many as 1.5 billion people watched some sort of coverage of the moon landing and another .5 billion followed it on radio.  At the time the global population was estimated at 3.61 billion people, so that’s more than half of the people on earth, all hanging on that amazing moment and celebrating our species’ singular triumph.

They say that space travel changes you – that you achieve a global perspective that you can’t really get sitting down on terra-firma where borders and governments and politics identify where you live, not a single address:  Earth.

Our world could use heroes again like Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins (and the rest of the Apollo astronauts).  Our world could use something to raise it’s gaze to a more global view.  Hopefully that will come in something like Apollo, versus catastrophe.

But just for today, let’s all put aside that and remember that in some way, for those of us that were alive to see and remember it, we were all wide-eyed little 7 year olds in our astronaut jammies, fighting off sleep as men stepped out of their little “earth” habitat and explored another world in an effort to make our world a better one.

earth_from_moon

As you were,

Stew

The Gift

29 Aug

The last 18 months have been exceptionally difficult for my family and me.  In May of 2017, my job was eliminated at the healthcare software company where I had been the marketing leader for the past 18 months.  The combination of anger, betrayal and the blow to my self-esteem from the loss of a job where I had an incredible team, felt I was well respected across the company, and was delivering great work, was a terrible setback that I really wasn’t sure how to recover from.

Layer onto this my age and the stage of life and career that I occupy and it has been very difficult to find new work.  I have been lucky to find a variety of consulting projects that have supplied limited income and I continue to push in that direction.

That said, during this time, we have been stunned to experience kindness after kindness from friends and family who know what we’ve been going through and have been eager to help.  There have been two incredible and extreme expressions of this kindness.  Both of them have reinforced our faith in both the value of friendships and in the nature of humanity to do good.

But one gesture in particular really has opened our eyes to the concept of paying it forward. The short answer is dear friends of ours, whom we’ve only known for a short period of time provided a gift for us that was both something we dearly wanted and needed and well, was costly and therefore, we couldn’t afford.  It was given without any expectation of repayment whatsoever – only a request that when our fortunes change for the more positive, that we do something similar for someone else.  Deal. And what they provided was so valuable for us as a couple, for us individually, everything.

But what they and our other friends have given us was far, far more than what they intended. They and the other kindnesses big and small have opened our eyes to the power of kindness and to doing as many good things for others as we can.  We obviously don’t have the financial means to do much, but we can give of ourselves – our time, our efforts, our talents, our labor and more. We can thoughtfully give away things we don’t need rather than just throwing them away, and we can thoughtfully volunteer and provide value to our volunteering far more than just “showing up.”  This has manifested in donating more time for organizations, giving away things to people that need them without any thought of selling them for a profit, taking more time and effort in the things we’ve volunteered for, being there for friends and family when they need favors – and offering without even being asked.

Bottom line is, now when the call comes, the thought process isn’t “can we?”, “do I have time?”, “ugh, I don’t want yet another commitment …” to “Ok, what needs to be done? What can we do? We’re in. We’re happy to help.”  And when faced with an in-the-moment situation where you can either help, or go on with life, we step up.

It’s one thing to help a friend through a moment. It is entirely another thing to make them better people. These people helped unlock something in us.

Those in this story know who they are and what they have done for us. Thank you for making me a better person, for making Robin and me a better couple, and better citizens of the world.

As you were,

Stew

A Muslim, a Jew, a Sikh and a Christian walk into a bar …

16 Oct

Great start to a joke, right?  Well, the bar part isn’t true, instead it was a Catholic high school in Waukegan, IL, but the rest describes my afternoon yesterday when I attended the Religious Founders Day event organized by my friend Tayyib Rashid, known on Twitter as @TheMuslimMarine.  The event is to promote awareness, cooperation, friendship, love and respect among these groups with seemingly different religious viewpoints, but when you dig in a touch, instead have very very much in common.

The structure of the event was pretty straight forward – there were four primary speakers, all “clergy”, each one from each tradition represented – Ty (Tayyid) was the “emcee”.   And the topic was racism – the speakers were challenged to speak on their faith’s viewpoint of human equality and their viewpoint on how we can battle this awful scourge in our country and around the world.

The speakers were:

A rabbi – in this case from the Chicago Jewish High School in Deerfield
A Nun – she was a retired nun who used to head up the school in Waukegan IL where the event was being held
A Sikh leader – this interesting gent was from the Sikh Gurdwara in Palatine IL
An Imam – and he was from Seattle and was visiting the local Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Zion IL (where Ty is a leader) from Seattle

Each leader spoke for about 10 minutes, then there were 10 minutes for round table discussions (appropriate as we were seated at round tables) on what each leader said and how we could personalize it for our own use. After all spoke, the final 30 minutes was spent addressing questions from the fairly large group of people that came to the event.

There were a lot of wonderful points brought up.  The Rabbi recalled the words of the Jewish sage Heschel when he said that racism is a disease of the eyes – it’s what you see when you look out at the world with your particular viewpoint that you’ve learned.  The Nun’s viewpoint was that she felt that racism is a product of both defensiveness and a desire for more – and interestingly took on the subject of the Catholic crusades and imperialism head on and called it wrong and as a contributing factor to the racism that persists today.  The Sikh leader – who was completely fascinating by the way – more on him in a minute – said that those that are racists aren’t seeing the truth. The Imam talked about how Allah/God created diversity so that we could tell ourselves apart and as such diversity should be celebrated and not denigrated.  He also spoke of how racism is the product of Godlessness – that those that are truly with God do not see/cannot see anything but beautiful diversity.

At our table, which consisted of our friends Gail and Chris along with two Muslim men (and one of the men’s 9 year old daughter), we talked about how racism and it’s cousin, religious persecution, is a result of a lack of knowledge – and that how while our diverse cultures must be preserved, for racism and fear to end, they also must converge.

Truly mind expanding.

The Sikh leader, a gent a bit younger than me named Parminder was an especially powerful speaker. Sikhs, because of their traditional turban headgear, their religious devotions that they commit to that keep them from cutting their hair, etc., are very visually notable – he joked that “they are more hardcore than the Muslims” and that they get blamed for every wrong in the world.  He grew up in Chicago as the son of a gas station owner and his Dad and he were blamed for a) the war in Iraq and the price of gas; b) 911, c) the war in Afghanistan, d) every single terrorist attack anywhere, etc. etc.  He joked that he wonders if the idiot racists will start calling Sikhs North Koreans next.  His comments were especially prescient – counter racism with truth, and with understanding and as last resort, fight back.

We all talked about what we can do to personalize this and actions we can take to help the problem.

For my part, here’s how I personalize it and how I’d encourage you to as well.

  1. Don’t accept stereotypes of any type.  It’s bullshit that Muslims hate America and want to invoke whatever on American and want us all to die, that Sikhs are every type of terrorists, that Jews are money-hoarders who manipulate the world’s finances and bake blood into their bread, that Christians want to convert the world and are responsible for racism in America.  It’s all bullshit. Stereotypes are made up viewpoints designed to create and foment fear.  Only by refusing to accept them can they go away.
  2. When you encounter racism, instead of calling them out as racists, instead, seek to educate, inform and provide loving guidance.  One overarching view was that “if you could just get to know someone who is a …” (fill in the blank), “you’ll stop being prejudiced against them.”  It’s totally true.  But calling it out just generally serves to entrench the viewpoint.
  3. Now as a counterpoint to 2, however, don’t tolerate it either. Never participate, and always never be afraid to point out that what’s being said is a) incorrect; and b) abhorrent to you. It’s amazing how racism turns from a “naughty joke” to “a turd in the punchbowl” and the person that’s putting the racism out there goes from being the class clown to the asshole in the room in just the blink of an eye.
  4. Lead by example – get to know others from other traditions.  I would especially encourage you to make Muslim friends.  You’ll be amazed at their religious devotion, their inner peace and love and their desire to learn about what you do and what you have to offer. But, that said, for example, we were fascinated by the Sikh speaker and we’re planning to go to the Palatine Sikh Gurdwara to experience one of their worship services and learn more. And I made a new Muslim friend while at the event and we’ll be inviting him and his family to join us at a B’Chavana service event sometime soon.

Only by love, respect, understanding, getting to know others of different traditions, and ending the propagation of stereotypes will we ever solve this awful problem in America.

Peace and love, friends.

As you were,

Stew

Life is for living. So live it.

2 Oct

A missive on living life to the fullest, as this day, these weeks, these months have taught us we must do. A rush of thoughts and emotions on this weird day that had us:

  1. Waking up to the news of 50+ people dead, 500 or so wounded in a horrifying automatic gunfire shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas.
  2. Finding out late afternoon that Tom Petty, of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers died today of cardiac arrest.
  3. These things coming on the heels of a) three horrifying hurricanes that destroyed Puerto Rico, many Caribbean islands, Houston TX and much of South Florida, and b) an earthquake in Mexico City that killed hundreds.
  4. All of this wrapped around the Jewish Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – where the liturgy says “on Rosh Hashanah it is written, on Yom Kippur it is sealed, who shall be written in the book of life for another year and who shall die” and then goes on to ask, who by fire, who by water, who by disease, who by famine, who by war, who by … who by … who by …

Holy. Crap.

Those who know me and my lovely wife Robin, know that we try very hard to live life to the fullest.  This summer has been a challenging one – after 18 months in a job I absolutely loved and was doing some of the best work in my career, I wound up out of a gig due to a reduction in force.  Yet, despite the crushing pressure to get my career back on track and my income reestablished, and despite draconian cuts to our lifestyle expenditures, we still worked hard on having fun and having a great summer filled with friends, laughs, adventures and more. Because we try to live life. At all times.

Here’s the lesson in all this tragedy:  Live life now.  Don’t put off for tomorrow what you could do today.

Open that special bottle of wine.  Say “I love you” an extra time to your loved ones. Spend five extra minutes outside with the dog.  Play with the cat. Take an hour for lunch with a friend rather than hammering back a sandwich at your desk between emails. Call a pal you haven’t spoken to in eons, just for fun. Watch cartoons. Re-read an old favorite book or re-watch an old favorite movie. Or take the time to go to the movie theater to catch the latest release. Buy a hardcopy book. Put your smartphone on the bedside table for an entire weekend day.

Spend the bucks on the tickets to see the favorite act you loved as a kid one more time (sidebar:  Tom Petty had always been on my concert bucket list, and I finally was able to “tick the box” this past summer when we saw him in May in West Palm Beach FL with our dear friends from Alabama.). Go see Hamilton before it leaves town. What the hell, have a donut, or a hot dog, or a burger, or pizza or whatever indulgence pops in your mind.  Cut out for the afternoon and take in a ball game. Cuddle with the dog on the sofa for a much deserved nap. Go to somewhere awesome for a weekend. Blow off mowing the lawn because your buddy invited you to his porch for a beer.

Leave the dishes in the sink overnight because a romantic moment suddenly occurred. Get dressed up and go out for a great dinner at that restaurant you’ve always wanted to try.  Take an hour on Sunday afternoon and walk to the ice cream shop for a cone. Lay outside and watch the clouds, or the stars, or the birds and just be in the moment with your mind empty.  Take a nap in the sunshine somewhere. Call your grandma, your grandpa, your favorite aunt or uncle or cousin. Listen to it rain. Go bang on the door of that new neighbor and say hello.  Stop at the lemonade stand of those kids down the street. Drop a buck or two into the kettle. Buy the Girl Scout cookies or the Cub Scout popcorn.

Take the long way home. Stop off at a bar for a beer. Take off your shoes and walk in the grass or on the beach. Organize an impromptu party at 9:00 at night.

Say “what the hell” and go be silly. Ask someone to hold your beer for a minute. Yell “Hey y’all, watch this!”

Feel things.

LIVE LIFE for now. As we’ve seen lately, it can all be gone in a blink.

As you were,

Stew

Don’t back down.

9 Nov

A part 2 of my post-election reflections.

There is a ton of despair out there – just roll through social media today and you’ll see it everywhere. People saying “I don’t know what to think, I don’t know what to do.”  Folks are concerned that all the progress that has been made, millions having health insurance they never had before, gay marriage, Roe v Wade, the threatened deportations for millions, etc. will all start happening and disappearing in the blink of an eye.

I’m here to say, no it won’t. It can’t.  The good news is our government has a lot of inertia. And the better news is the GOP realizes that this time, they can’t fuck it up or this will be a very short ride.  Trust me, they know they lost the popular vote.

Is the GOP out to now pursue their own agenda?  Of course they are! But, they are at odds with much of Trump’s views – which is good.  If they can’t get their own shit together, they certainly will have issues getting things done. And they will face fierce opposition from all points. There is another round of elections just 2 years away. We will prevail – we have the majority. But that’s the politicians. What about us?

Here’s what you should do:

DON’T BACK DOWN.

There are those that think that because Trump won, the other side must now be silent. I can’t tell you the number of people telling me “are you going to shut up now because, hey we won.”  No. Not a chance.

That whole “the other side must be silent now” thing? Nothing could be further from the truth. Because the other side won, now we must be louder than ever. We must call things as we see them. We must call out injustice at every turn and remind them of what they are doing and compare them to those that have done those things before. (Hint, that’s a conservative-like dogwhistle for “I’ll take ‘Famous Fascists’ for 40, Alex”.). Again, do not back down – let your voice continue to be heard.

Now, how do we do it? Graciously. Are we going to give Trump a chance to lead? Absolutely. Like him or not, he is the President. And if he does things that are right, we will support him. We’re not a movement that makes statements like “It is our goal to make him a one-term President” or a movement that considers it a loss when the economy recovers because it happened on the watch of the other guy.  It is the domain of the GOP and the right wing to obstruct and obfuscate, and hold interminable hearings that waste millions of taxpayer dollars.  The left acts through words, through actions, through social justice. And we do support what is right.

So … more:

Where?

Everywhere you normally do.  It used to be letters to the editor, town hall meetings, casual conversation, but nowadays, it is social media.  But you need to also do more. GET INVOLVED. Don’t let this loss take away your energy. Let it energize you to make sure that we don’t lose our progress. And that we ultimately win again.

How?

Become a grass roots activist and volunteer for social justice and action. Concerned about the hungry? Go volunteer at a food bank or homeless shelter and feed some folks. Write your congressman, go to meetings and townhalls being held by politicians and make sure they know your viewpoint. Got a few bucks? Donate to causes that support your views.

What else?

BLOG!  Blog, Blog and Blog some more.  All of the written content becomes indexed history on the internet. It becomes content that shows the world just how large the Progressive movement really is.  Socialize your viewpoints in social media – make sure that the voices for social equality, equal rights and justice for all are louder than those who want to practice xenophobia, prejudice, bigotry and hate.

There are those on the winning side who are saying they are “taking back the country” from people like us.

No, they are not. They will not. We won’t let them.

It’s our country too.

Don’t back down.

As you were,

Stew

Reflections on the Election

9 Nov

Hi Friends and readers.

Yeah, it’s been awhile since I last posted in my blog.  Hope you’ve been well. I think I’ll be getting back to this as it is a source of pleasure and happiness for me.  Hope you enjoy my writing as much as I enjoy writing it.

Let’s see, what’s been going on?

The Cubs Won the World Series!

So there was that – and that was cool.

We also just got back from visiting my son in California last week, and got to tour Tesla’s plant and spend an evening cruising the San Jose area in a Tesla Model S P85D with Insane Mode and Autopilot. That was cool too.

And then there was last night.  Yikes. Not so cool.

If you’re a friend on Facebook, you might have read this already – I wrote this with my thumbs into my iPhone sitting at my kitchen table at 5:30 this morning, in the dark, with a hot cup of coffee.  My reflections on last night.

A few thoughts on what is for much of America, a sad morning for our country.

First, we are better than one individual. What makes this challenging is the clear and present threats to the freedoms for minorities, for women, for the LGBTQ community, to freedom of and from religion and more. I truly hope that the ugly and bigoted rhetoric that Trump sowed on the campaign trail is just that – rhetoric. That said because the GOP holds all three elements of the legislative process, there is much to be concerned about here.

I am deeply concerned for our economy here and globally and the steady, if not stellar, recovery that has happened since the horrible 2008 recession.

I am also deeply concerned for our foreign policy and our national security. Let’s face it, a man who has this short of an attention span, this thin of skin, and who has demonstrated shockingly little knowledge of foreign affairs is very concerning.

Everyone is seeking a “whose fault is this” and I have my own view, starting with the profession of journalism, my college major, which has failed our country in its mission to report the truth and to not report that that is not truthful. I fear for that profession as well as our new President Elect has indicated that he would seek to change libel laws and limit the freedom of the first amendment.

I do think as well that the Democratic Party got way too wrapped into the paths of the inevitable. While earlier in the process I didn’t think that Bernie could have gone the distance in the general election, nor do I agree with his policies, upon further reflection, maybe I was wrong. We will never know.

There are a few truths about elections in America: first, we are passionate; second, there is no “undoing” the result; third, the result is what it is – all we can do is begin the work anew to shape our country in the model that fits our views.

This is my country and while I don’t like the result of this particular election, this is my country. I always have been and always will be a very vocal person in the political process and this election has only served to further strengthen my resolve to promote progressive and liberal viewpoints. If you don’t like that, your option is to tune out.

To those that voted for the new President Elect, congrats. Be magnanimous in victory, and know that success lies in the middle.

But know this: you reap what you sow. If this doesn’t go well, and I am deeply concerned it will not, you will only have your mirror to complain to.

America.

As you were,

Stew

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