The cost of convenience

Earlier this week, we were running low on bath tissue.

(OK, OK, let’s just call it toilet paper because that’s what it is. “Bath tissue” is just a marketing ploy. Much like “Chilean sea bass” was invented to put a more palatable spin on the real name of that species: Patagonian toothfish.)

We’re always running low on peanut butter, too, thanks to our teenagers and their protein shakes.

So instead of driving the three measly blocks to the grocery store, I ordered a four large packages of both TP and PB online. Sounds great in theory – who really wants to go to the store to hand pick their TP? (Other than bogus 70s housewives and Mr. Whipple, of course.)

But then the packaging showed up on our doorstep. Two different shipments, on two different days, in giant cardboard boxes, and for some reason the packers felt it necessary to “cushion” the TP with a mile of those plastic air bubbles. Seriously, I thought it was a costume for a Chinese New Year parade:

Each giant plastic jar of peanut butter was also hermetically sealed in a plastic bag. I guess to prevent “leakage”… or “oozing” in the case of peanut butter. It seemed completely unnecessary. I’m sure anyone who orders online has also experienced the “giant box for one tiny item” phenomenon. That’s a lot of cardboard wasted. Delivery is usually by diesel trucks, which pollute more than passenger cars. My order came from a warehouse, which is certainly farther away than the three-block distance to my store. And the truck probably wasn’t completely full because of the haste required to meet the arbitrary two-day shipping deadline. Not to mention the fact that my home delivery won’t replace a trip to the store… it’s just in addition to those jaunts. That means more vehicles on the road spewing pollution.

Here’s a nice article that sums up the environmental challenges of home shipping. Here’s a video too:

Then there’s this article about how all this shipping can wreak havoc on the labor market and infrastructure.

So I’m going to choose “no hurry” shipping when I have to order online, and go back to the old-school way as much as possible – it feels more earth-friendly. Especially if I ride my bicycle.

A 10-second seminar on wealth management


True wealth is not measured in money or status or power. It is measured in the legacy we leave behind for those we love and those we inspire.

— César Chávez

Someone super behind the hoopsters

It’s been a tough season so far for Xavier basketball, but the fact that fans can be “disappointed” with a middling season in the Big East shows just how far the program has come over the past two decades. A lot of credit for that growth goes to a man who never played a minute for the team. Dr. Bill Daily was a Xavier grad who returned to teach, and he was passionate about hoops. The university had dropped football in the early 70s to cut costs, and in the late 70s the basketball program was in a similar predicament.

“(Daily) was the single voice to say that this basketball thing is really an important piece of what a University is really all about. He convinced them to make a commitment and spend the resources and he chaired the search committee to get Bob Staak.” 

Gary Massa, former XU basketball player (Class of ’81) and current VP of University Relations

Bob Staak helped turn the program around in the early 80s (which coincided with my time at Xavier, btw… merely a coincidence, of course). The teams got better, and the program got bigger – moving from the Midwestern City Conference to the Atlantic 10 to the Big East, and moving from the ancient fieldhouse to the Cincinnati Gardens to the state-of-the-art Cintas Center on campus.


“Dr. Daily was the beginning of an unprecedented run if you go back … he had the wherewithal and the vision to see what basketball could be.” 

Gary Massa

Dr. Daily passed away last month at the age of 83. If being a “founding father” of the Xavier basketball program were all that Dr. Daily accomplished, his life would be considered a rousing success. But that merely scratches the surface of his influence on lives. Dr. Daily had six kids, and I know his daughter Maria well from our days at Xavier.

 “He really felt his purpose in life was to make sure that everybody knew they were important and they were loved.” 

Maria Dickman, daughter

From this Cincinnati Enquirer article: He continued to learn and participate in a variety of adventures like the Urban Youth Academic Service Learning Experience in Over-the-Rhine, where he lived with and taught Xavier students in a house adjacent to Washington Park for multiple semesters. He started out teaching in the education department and eventually became chair of the communication arts department. 

He sought every opportunity to help people which led him to become co-founder of the E Pluribus Unum program at Xavier, which helped students learn about diversity in today’s society. 

He also received another degree in pastoral counseling from the Athenaeum of Ohio. He went on retreats to Gethsemani and was an associate at the Sisters of St. Francis convent in Oldenburg, Indiana. He took mission trips to Nicaragua, El Salvador and Ghana.

“That’s kind of what dad’s mission in life was. He wasn’t out to get the credit, he just wanted to make sure things got done.” 

Mary Beth Bruns, daughter

Nice job, Doc. The entire Xavier community owes you a deep debt of gratitude.

(Please read the entire article about Dr. Daily. This post doesn’t do him justice.)

Thought of the day… for every day

Or as the kids like to say: 

Have an eccentric, different, perhaps strange day! 

Love and loss… and more love

My friend Mike Argadine made me cry yesterday. (And today too, for that matter.) He sent me a link to the video below. It’s a song by the band Frightened Rabbit, as done by fans.

Frightened Rabbit wasn’t a global sensation, but they were big enough to have thousands of avid followers all over the world, and released several albums. They didn’t have any casual fans – if you were into them, you were cuckoo, head-over-heels, abso-tively posi-lutely in love with them. Their songs were burned into your brain, etched into your heart and seared into your soul. There was a lot of darkness in the music— with titles like “The Modern Leper” and “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” — but those songs resonated, they were cathartic, and they helped us make sense of an often-senseless world.

Frightened Rabbit’s lead singer and main songwriter Scott Hutchison took his own life in May, when the demons of depression and anxiety that he battled daily for 36 years overcame his better angels.

We mourn the loss. We miss Scott dearly. But his music will carry on… and carry us with it.

When it’s all gone
Something carries on
And it’s not morbid at all
Just that nature’s had enough of you

When my blood stops
Someone else’s will thaw
When my head rolls off
Someone else’s will turn
And while I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to earth

 

“Be so good to everyone you love” was one of Scott’s last tweets before he left us. It’s up to us to honor that request, and make tiny changes to Earth.

Batteries not included

Before you go out and buy that electronic doorbuster special for the wee ones on your holiday shopping list, you might want to consider these two posts:

First, there’s this old article from an ex-Googler, about how websites and apps are hijacking our minds:

…this is exactly what product designers do to your mind. They play your psychological vulnerabilities (consciously and unconsciously) against you in the race to grab your attention.

But here’s the unfortunate truth — several billion people have a slot machine their pocket:

  • When we pull our phone out of our pocket, we’re playing a slot machine to see what notifications we got.
  • When we pull to refresh our email, we’re playing a slot machine to see what new email we got.
  • When we swipe down our finger to scroll the Instagram feed, we’re playing a slot machine to see what photo comes next.
  • When we swipe faces left/right on dating apps like Tinder, we’re playing a slot machine to see if we got a match.
  • When we tap the # of red notifications, we’re playing a slot machine to what’s underneath.

Second, there’s this recent post from the always-brilliant Seth Godin:

If a parent uses a tablet or a smartphone as a babysitter, it’s a lot easier to get a kid to sit still. As a result, parents who are busy, distracted or can’t afford to spend as much 1:1 time as they’d like are unknowingly encouraging their kids to become digital zombies, with a constant need for stimulation, who are being manipulated by digital overlords to click and click some more.

If a kid can’t read, it’s not clear he should be surfing the web, watching TV or playing a video game for hours a day.

Boredom, daydreaming, a good book, building in three dimensions, interactivity with other humans–these are precious skills, skills that are being denied kids that are simply given a plate of chicken fingers and a tablet instead.

Tell the tablet and phone makers to take a hike. And take your kids on a hike instead!

Caught in the college basketball net

Another college hoops season has begun, bringing joy to millions of fans (myself included).

But there’s a seamy underbelly to sport, and the kids that play are merely pawns in a high stakes game that reaps billions for the NCAA. Yes, they get a scholarship, but that’s chump change compared to the money in play. Check out this New York Times article from a few months ago to read about one kid’s sad saga.

Brian Bowen Jr.  (Photo: Gregory Payan/Associated Press) 

A few excerpts below highlight the hypocrisy… bold emphasis is mine:

Playing in a gilded arena — the KFC Yum! Center — with luxury boxes and bars in the concourses that serve bourbon and other hard liquors, Louisville basketball has generated more than $45 million in annual revenue in recent seasons.

According to the government’s case, $100,000 is what it took to lure Bowen to Louisville and its Hall of Fame coach, Rick Pitino. Only $19,500 was actually paid to anyone — an amount equal to one-quarter of 1 percent of Pitino’s annual salary, $7.8 million.

Brian Bowen Jr. is not a defendant; he appears to have been a bystander.

After Louisville said he would not be allowed to play there, he transferred to the University of South Carolina — only to be told later by the N.C.A.A. that he could not play there, either. In that organization’s view, he seems to be irredeemably tainted. At 19 years old, he was a hoops pariah.

In court documents, prosecutors quoted the N.C.A.A. rule book extensively, and in doing so, called attention to stated principles that sounded antiquated, if not outright absurd. “Among the N.C.A.A.’s core principles for the conduct of intercollegiate athletics is a directive that ‘student-athletes shall be amateurs in an intercollegiate sport,’” the criminal complaint says, and that “‘student-athletes should be protected from exploitation by professional and commercial enterprises.’”

It was a curious claim, given that the N.C.A.A. — the Indianapolis-based nonprofit that governs college sports — is not just an enormous commercial enterprise but arguably an exploitive one. In the fiscal year that ended in 2017, the organization surpassed $1 billion in revenue for the first time. A majority of its income, $761 million, came from television rights to the season-ending basketball tournament popularly known as March Madness, an annual payment that increased to $869 million in 2018. The contract with CBS and Turner Sports stretches to 2032 and has an overall value of almost $19.6 billion.

That money, though, is just a fraction of what college athletes generate in football and men’s basketball. (The major college football programs essentially seceded from the N.C.A.A. when they formed the highly lucrative Bowl Championship Series in 1998, but their players still compete under the N.C.A.A.’s amateurism rubric.) Their labor is responsible for revenue that flows directly to their universities from a range of sources, including ticket sales, donations from wealthy boosters, in‑stadium advertising, conference broadcast rights and so-called shoe deals in which Nike, Adidas and Under Armour pay for the right to outfit teams — thereby turning ostensibly amateur athletes into human billboards.

Until the kids that are the “product” peddled by the NCAA get a bigger slice of the pie, they are playing a losing game.

 

 

 

Monday morning musings

If you aren’t signed up to receive the Gaping Void blog posts via email, you should do so posthaste. You’ll get a nice visual doodle with some words of wisdom in your inbox nearly every day. Little stuff that can make a big difference. Speaking of which, here’s a great Gaping Void post from this summer:

As you get older, it’s not the stuff on your highlight reel that makes you happy, but the normal stuff you do every day.

That first cup of tea in the morning. The walk after dinner with your spouse. Lunch in the office canteen with Bob from Engineering. That new yoga class.

Sure, the photos from your vacation in Paris, or the time you got a standing ovation at the conference may stand out, but those are only temporary highs.

So if you need to start improving my your life, instead of coming up with grand schemes, you might start paying more attention the little stuff.

Not to mention, trying to focus your ambition on the stuff that really matters: Being useful. Being loved. Staying healthy.

It may not sound too exciting, but over time it works far better than trying to live out a rock and roll fantasy to nowhere.

Just an observation.

Remember, remember, the 9th of November

Yes, I know Guy Fawkes Day is November 5th, commemorating the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. There’s even a nursery rhyme about it:

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, ’twas his intent
To blow up the King and the Parliament
Three score barrels of powder below
Poor old England to overthrow
By God’s providence he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match
Holler boys, holler boys, let the bells ring
Holler boys, holler boys, God save the King!

But November 9th, 1968 is the day that blew our family to smithereens. It’s the day my mom passed away. It’s been half a century… and nearly all of my lifetime. I was 3 years old. My siblings were 6, 5 and 2.

My mom was 33. My dad was 37. He was never the same. Nothing was ever the same.  

I’d like to light a match and blow up leukemia. Instead I’ll light a candle and pray for a cure.

Well, I’ve cried me a river, I’ve cried me a lake
I’ve cried till the past nearly drowned me
Tears for sad consequences
Tears for mistakes
But never these tears that surround me

Alone in this place with a lifetime to trace
And a heartbeat that tells me it’s so
I’ve got these tears from a long time ago
These are tears from a long time ago
And I need to cry 30 years or so
These are tears from a long time ago
These are tears from a long time ago
I’ve got these tears from a long time ago

Rock the vote

Today’s the day to rock the vote… even if you do a write-in vote for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

“If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don’t bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible psychological reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don’t bullshit yourself that you’re not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.”

– David Foster Wallace