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Archive for Life

Feb. 7, 2019 — A color choice

Today, I made a conscious choice to wear orange.

It’s not necessarily because of my affinity towards a particular sport or sports team, but it was a shout-out to my graduate school, The Maxwell School of Syracuse University. It has been more or less the top-ranked school for public administration the last two decades.

I have a deep and firm belief in the goodness of governance and public trust. A people, united behind good leadership, can form communities and societies where people take care of themselves and each other, build roads and bridges, and make a good living.

The last week has tested my beliefs, especially when I look at what has been going on in Virginia.

Three high-ranking officials have come under scandalous scrutiny for things that they had done in their past.

As they should.

The thing is, the whole blowup has occurred only a few days before the effective end of the legislative session. There is business to get done, laws to get passed, budgets to be put into place.

After all of the punditry over the weekend and the wailing and gnashing of teeth, I find it interesting that the scandals have not (yet) shifted the focus off of the work at hand.

Which may be the miracle of this entire enterprise. After all, we are in a different era in our national politics.

Jan. 26, 2019 — Finishing a package, and, perhaps, an era in history

This morning, I pulled out a Ziploc bag from my refrigerator. It had a date and a name on it. The contents were some handmade flour tortillas.

The story behind my breakfast is that these tortillas were made by a friend of mine who had to turn to production of the Mexican food staple in order to make ends meet. She’s a lawyer for one of the armed services who, like some 800,000 people in the last month or so, have not been drawing a Federal paycheck because of the U.S. government shutdown.

The last month has opened up not only a certain solidarity amongst people who are in public service, but it has ramped up what has been called “the gig economy.” There’s a large underground economy of part-time work which has included on-demand transportation, food sales, and the making of art. I’ve made it a point to try to help out that economy for people who, for no fault of their own, have not had a job to do.

Fortunately, by this coming week, things should be back to normal when it comes to the workday.

Even the traffic. But that’s another story.

Jan. 5, 2019 — A thought experiment inspired by a celebrity’s passing

I grew up watching Penny Marshall’s tour-de-force take on working-class life in 1950s-era Milwaukee in the situation comedy Laverne & Shirley.

And like many of my peers, I noticed that the sitcom has not aged well. Some of the subject matter involving working women, race, and the portrayal of Italian-Americans is a bit grating when you recognize it.

But when Penny Marshall died last month, I found myself drawn to perhaps the single most memorable feature of the show: the prominent cursive “L” that was on just about every item of clothing the character of Laverne DeFazio wore.

Having been around a lot of vintage clothing enthusiasts in my life, I’ve been interested to see how much this kind of oversized monogramming was prominent in the 1950s, when the show started.

Apparently, it wasn’t.

I also came to the conclusion that even the average unionized female worker of the time (she and best friend Shirley Feeney were bottlers at a Milwaukee brewery) likely could not have afforded identical monograms on every blouse, dress, and sweater in her closet.

I know, I know, this is me, overthinking a fictional television show.

But I do wonder if the appliques had a basis in fact — aside from the kitschy poodle skirts of the era.

Jan. 3, 2019 — The rabbit hole

A few months ago, I was in the market for what is called in the industry a “pico projector,” or a small box with a bright light inside of it that could be connected to a tablet or smartphone in order to do visual presentations.

As part of my professional development as a public speaker, I was an early adopter of PowerPoint, having done a slide deck two decades ago in order to sell potential advertisers and sponsors on the benefits of a women’s sports website.

Nowadays, with video and presentation apps, I was in the market for an inexpensive projector that I could carry with me to meetings so that I could simply point and start if there was a blank wall somewhere in the room.

The projector came, and I immediately noticed a problem. The projector had ports which would have worked well with computers from about five or 10 years ago, but did not have a digital input capability that I could discern.

I looked at a couple of solutions involving a lightning cable and a UV cable, as well as a cable which looked like it had the requisite ports. I asked an expert about it.

“That won’t work,” he said. “You need a digital adapter because there’s no way for the phone to talk to the projector with these inputs.”

Hmmf, I thought. Would have been nice to know before buying the projector.

Technology, these days, is an enormous rabbit hole, one which gives particular problems to people who have bought a number of older devices.

It took three days for my brother to figure out how to get full use out of a smart speaker because it required him to not only connect via the Wi-Fi connection in his home, but through Bluetooth on a phone which is older than the one I have.

Eventually, having that speaker is going to require him to subscribe to a music streaming service different from the one to which he is accustomed.

Me? I don’t need a smart speaker. I have enough trouble trying to get Siri to understand me …

Dec. 31, 2018 — 228 right, 88 wrong

Today, I finished my Trivial Pursuit Master’s Edition Year-In-A-Box calendar, a calendar full of questions about everything from Google to grapes to Aretha Franklin’s hat.

My percentage of correct answers this year was 72.1 percent, about the same as a year ago

Yep, I keep score.

Dec. 23, 2018 — The wrong time to get sick

The Christmas season is a time of being social, gift-giving, and, for Christianity around the world, a reminder of renewal through the nativity of the Son of God.

Only, for the first time since 1972, I’m lying in bed ill.

The circumstances of the last time I was ill during Christmas were most unforgettable. It was our first-grade Christmas pageant, and I played Santa Claus, and I was in charge of pressing a button on a very large box to release characters representing toys and other gifts.

My first-grade music teacher, Mrs. Vandiver, was panicking when she saw me in costume when I arrived. She looked at my face and knew what was wrong with me.

Chicken pox.

But I, and the show, had to go on. I was the only Santa who knew the lines. Heck, I was the only Santa. The teachers got out their pancake makeup and covered up some of the scarring that was becoming evident on my face.

I’m pretty sure this would never happen today because I would be a kid with a communicable disease acting in a play along with my peers. Plus, the teachers were all putting makeup on me to try to cover over the impending crisis.

Somehow we got through the play, and I guess the silver lining for getting sick was the fact that we had a couple of weeks off before returning to school after the New Year.

I still hope I didn’t give anyone the shingles in later life because of my misfortune.



Dec. 16, 2018 — Even more work to do

As some of you may know, one of my off-hours vocations is coordinating volunteers at public dance events at a national park. As such, I have a certain responsibility to ensure that the volunteers help create a safe and harassment-free environment for the patrons.

I assist two out of seven presenters for one specific dance form. There are seven different dance forms run out of this particular venue, and there are up to three dozen dance forms are enjoyed by tens of thousands of people in a metropolitan area of 6.2 million people.

As such, I’m beginning to understand the magnitude of the problem of what USA Today laid bare late last week, where Olympic governing bodies of sport have seemingly been unable to prevent banned coaches from having a role in the sport from which they were banned.

It’s similar to a situation which I witnessed a few weeks ago. After attending a dance held by another presenter, I went to a different dance on the same premises where a banned dancer from my dance form was engaged in his same predatory behavior towards young women.

I went to a seminar last weekend, trying to learn more about the magnitude of the problem and whether any kinds of “safe space” or other policy could ameliorate the situation. What I found was a legal thicket, involving an entire wing of the law called “premises liability” and the question of whether dance volunteer duty should involve mandatory-reporter duty.

The overall North American partner dance world has been roiled by scandals involving instructors who have been accused of sexual misconduct by victims emboldened by the MeToo movement. The ramifications have been immediate: disinvitation from teaching gigs, the discontinuation of a clothing line, and even the removal of footage of these instructors from YouTube.

Yet, there are also stories about many of these same instructors being able to find work, even though there is a common ban-list with the names printed out in black and white, But, unlike USA Safe Sport, there is actual documentation showing why the particular figure is banned.

Dance, and sport, are involved in a long game in order to mitigate sexual misconduct, and it appears that not even a higher level of transparency is helping.