Everything I need to know, I learned from the funny papers

Confession: I’m 52 years old, and I still read the comic strips first when I get the Sunday newspaper. (Kids, ask your grandparents what a ‘newspaper’ is.)

This past Sunday, there were two comic strips that I found quite profound… tucked in among the usual banal suspects like Beetle Bailey and Hi & Lois.

Pearls Before Swine is consistently very good, and Stephan Pastis really struck a nerve with this one:

Non Sequitur is another standout strip, and this one was outstanding:

You can keep your philosophy books… I’ll take my life lessons in nine panels or less, thank you very much.

Go-Go-Godin

I go to a lot of concerts every year. Yesterday I saw a different kind of rock star. Seth Godin is marketing wizard, a best-selling author, a brilliant blogger and one of the best public speakers I’ve ever seen.

Yes, this guy rocks!

He was in Cincinnati yesterday to give the keynote speech at an event called “Brandemonium” (because all of the good names are taken, apparently).

His presentation was ostensibly about how consumer brands can better connect with customers in the digital age. But really it was about life. About generosity. About art. About connecting. About overcoming fear.

His presenting style should be required viewing for any public speaker. Way too many folks try to cram a bunch of bullet points, charts and graphs onto their PowerPoint slides, and they wind up being a huge distraction to the audience… and a crutch for the speaker. Seth uses compelling visuals (one per slide) and a sprinkling of text to move his narrative along, so you can focus on the story instead of the charts and graphs.

I set up a blog a few years ago, and created a whopping total of about five blog posts in the first 18 months of its existence. Then Seth issued a “blog post a day for one week” challenge via his own blog, and that was exactly the kickstart I needed. (So if you don’t like dubbatrubba.com, blame Seth, not me!) He taught me that if you keep waiting for “perfect” you’ll squander your talent (using that term very loosely). “Ship your product” in Seth’s parlance means creating something and putting it out into the world.

I highly recommend you subscribe to Seth’s blog. You’ll get a daily email containing his latest blog post – most posts take just a minute or two to read, but the food for thought will sustain you all day long.

I know I sound like a fanboy. Because I am. You should be too.

“Guns don’t kill people…”

Oh wait, guns DO kill people. Especially semi-automatic assault rifles that have been modified with a legal “bump-fire stock” that allow shooters to fire up to 100 bullets every minute. And even more so when there are 23 weapons in the possession of a single person, allowing him to rain down bullets indiscriminately upon an unsuspecting crowd, slaughtering 58 and wounding hundreds.

Yes, more stringent background checks probably wouldn’t have helped in Las Vegas… but they would have in Aurora, CO, Charleston, SC and Washington D.C., and other cities that have experienced this hell. So would banning large magazines, outlawing bump-fire stocks, instituting mental health screenings and terrorism watch list bans, and shutting down online sales and gun shows. And if you believe that a nationwide registry wouldn’t have raised a few red flags when one man purchased 33 semi-automatic weapons and a mountain of ammunition over the course of just 11 months, then you’re delusional at best. How about biometric trigger locks while we’re at it? I’m just spitballing here, trying to save the lives of innocent people who were just trying to enjoy a concert, or a movie, or attending church services, or going to kindergarten. (As well as the lives of hundreds of kids who die from accidental shootings each year, and perhaps some of the 21,000+ people who use a gun to commit suicide.)

There’s a huge gulf between “I own a handgun and a hunting rifle” and “I own weapons designed to mow down dozens of human beings in the shortest amount of time possible”… Can we find some common ground in that chasm? Use some common sense? If not, these massacres will become even more common.

 

 

The Day The Music Died… yet again

Local radio station WNKU signed off for good a couple of nights ago. It was the only local station worth a damn, and now it’s gone. They started as a bluegrass and folk station in 1985, but over the years had morphed into a “Triple A” (Adult Album Alternative) format, and recently had shifted more toward modern rock/indie rock, a format very similar to 97X, a now-defunct station where I worked as a DJ back in the mid-90s. In fact, WNKU had even added Matt Sledge — one of my co-workers at 97X — to their on-air staff a couple of years ago.

That’s the real gut punch – I feel like WNKU was just hitting their stride and picking up momentum when the rug was pulled out from under them by their owner, Northern Kentucky University. I get it, there’s a budget crunch in higher education, and especially in Kentucky, where Governor Matt Bevin cut funding for all state schools by 4.5% in 2016. So the university had to get out of the radio business… especially when the format favored outlier artists over the pop pablum, bro country and other lame formats favored by the (m)asses. WNKU broadcast on a few frequencies around the area – two were sold to a Christian broadcasting company, and another signal went to a local country station.

It’s a big loss for music in the area. WNKU supported local artists by playing at least one track from a local band every hour. And they helped draw national acts to the area. This past winter I hosted a house concert by Craig Finn, lead singer of The Hold Steady. That never would’ve happened without WNKU, because Craig scheduled his house concert tour around in-studio appearances at radio stations, promoting his new solo album. He was on the air with Liz Felix in the afternoon, doing an interview and playing an acoustic set. Liz even came to the house concert that night. No WNKU = no more Craig Finn visits = no more amazing house concerts at my place.

For indie music fans of a certain age in the Cincinnati area, it’s reliving a nightmare. 97X signed off in 2004 and left a similar void in their lives. There aren’t many folks who are into the artists who are weirdos, rebels, up-and-comers, but those fans are as passionate as you’ll find, and losing a beloved radio station is like the death of a family member – for listeners and staff alike, as you’ll see in this video from the Cincinnati Enquirer:

The Enquirer story is here.

Sure, it’s a bluetooth, wi-fi, satellite radio world. We can stream Spotify or Pandora or Google Music or Sirius/XM or whatever is out there in the ether. But it’s not the same. It’s not as personal, and it never will be, because those folks (or more fittingly these days, those algorithms) don’t live here, they don’t know us and get us like a local radio station does.

Aaron Sharpe wrapped up with a great Talking Heads song. I’d like to add a couple more to the swan song playlist. One is a local band, This Pine Box. Guitarist Joe Tellmann is the son of my friend Dave, who worked at 97X for more than a decade. This band should be on every station in America, not just a tiny station that no longer exists.

And here’s the song I heard on WNKU more than any other tune, it was played nearly every Friday morning during the request show, and it’s a beautiful song about death from a brilliant artist ignored by the mainstream. Seems rather fitting.

 

 

 

 

Hair of the dog(s)

Meet Bibo:

“I know the ‘sit’ command… now give me my treat!”

He’s a 4-month-old Golden Retriever/Yellow Lab mix and the latest addition to the dubbatrubba menagerie, which now numbers two dogs, two cats, three teenagers and one tween.

Bibo (pronounced “BEE-bow”), a.k.a. Justin Bibo, Bilbo, Bippo, Bibonator, Bibbity-Bobbity-Boo, et al. is a loaner. He came from a non-profit in Xenia, Ohio called 4 Paws For Ability, which provides service dogs for children with disabilities and military veterans. He’ll be with us for about five to seven months, then will go back for his official service training. So we just have to get him socialized and used to going to new places, along with the typical puppy training.

Yes, an excitable, chew-on-the-shoes, pee-on-the-floor, chase-the-cats ball of fur is the last thing we needed. But dogs like Bibo are exactly what a lot of kids and their families need.

Half a year of extra work* to help provide years of peace of mind for kids and their families? Yeah, we’re in. Welcome aboard, Bibo!

*Our daughter Leah is doing most of the work, she’s a future Dog Whisperer.

 

Good day, Sunshine

Yesterday felt a bit like Ferris Bueller’s Day off, except without the Ferrari.

In the morning, I biked nearly 30 miles in the local Cystic Fibrosis Cycle for Life event… and raised more than $800 for CF research (#humblebrag). Our route took us along the river on the Ohio side, and then across a bridge to Kentucky and along the river on that side. It was quite scenic, and other than the killer hill at mile 15, rather enjoyable.

Meanwhile my wife Tina took our youngest child Andrew to his soccer game, and his team avenged their only loss of the season with a 3-1 win.

In the afternoon, Tina and I hit an outdoor beer festival at a local brewery/restaurant. We hadn’t made advance plans to go, but since the weather was nice, we figured we’d check it out for a couple of hours. Dozens of local brewers were serving up some of their standard brews, as well as a few specialty beers, and there were bands playing on three stages. We ran into my friend Todd – a loyal and faithful listener to 97X back in the day when I was a radio dude — who had volunteered to serve beers at one of the booths. (He’s a giver, that Todd. Probably should mention that volunteers got to drink free.)

Todd took this artsy angled shot… must’ve learned that trick from his teenagers.

Then the missus and I needed some grub, so we decided to check out a neat little restaurant that recently opened up nearby.

We’re glad we tried it – the food was delicious and the atmosphere was really cool. (I brought down the hip factor several notches, of course.) While we were there, Tina saw a Facebook notice that her cousin Mike was playing acoustic tunes in the courtyard of another local restaurant/bar called POP. We had no other choice… we HAD to go. (Sidebar: what’s “Facebook”?)

Sometimes the best days happen when you just go with the flow.

 

You know your area has a bad problem when…

… the local newspaper, the Cincinnati Enquirer, has a reporter like this:

Yes, sad but true, her only beat is reporting about the scourge of heroin. Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky have been hit hard. According to the CDC: In 2015, the five states with the highest rates of death due to drug overdose were West Virginia (41.5 per 100,000), New Hampshire (34.3 per 100,000), Kentucky (29.9 per 100,000), Ohio (29.9 per 100,000), and Rhode Island (28.2 per 100,000).

Cincinnati is in Hamilton County, and the ‘burbs are Butler and Warren counties. All of those counties make this chart from a June NY Times article.

Where’s the miracle solution? There isn’t one. But this article has some good suggestions about stopping the cycle. And this one has some for reducing overdose deaths. Gotta start somewhere.

Here comes the sun… and the savings will follow

We had 23 solar panels installed on our roof this past week.

I’ve always been a tree-hugger, but I’m also a cheapskate. Thanks to a federal tax credit, I can deduct 30% of the cost from this year’s tax bill. Thanks to the state of Ohio’s ECO-Link program, I was able to knock 3% off the loan rate, so my loan percentage is lower than most 12-month CD rates. And the way our house is positioned, the panels are on the back part of our roof and can barely been seen from our backyard, so the missus is OK with the lack of aesthetic appeal. Besides, Elon Musk’s solar shingles are several years away from getting to the Midwest.

My electric bills will go down immediately. Conservative estimates show the system paying for itself within eight years. After that, it’s all gravy.

23 panels aren’t going to clean up all the dirty air that coal-loving Duke Energy is spewing into the Cincinnati area… but you gotta start somewhere.

If Germany can get 7% of their energy from solar and 35% of their energy from renewables, why can’t we?

It’s floodin’ down in Texas…

I never officially lived in Houston, but I spent roughly two years residing there, one summer at a time. When I was a wee lad (back in the Stone Age), our widowed dad used to ship us down from Arkansas to stay with our aunt, uncle and cousins just about every summer. Back then, a heavy rainstorm would leave a few inches of water on the street for a couple of hours, and my brother, sister and cousin would have a blast riding Schwinns through it.

But this is serious business. Looks like my aunt and uncle’s former home is in one of the flooded areas:

And if you want to help, the old standby of donating to the American Red Cross may not be the best use of your charity dollars.  Even more reassuring (he said sarcastically), is knowing that the tax dollars used to rebuild the infrastructure may get washed away again next time, thanks to your president trying to curry favor with the climate-change deniers. (Two excerpts from the linked story are below.)

Ten days before Hurricane Harvey descended upon Texas on Friday, wreaking havoc and causing widespread flooding, President Donald Trump signed an executive order revoking a set of regulations that would have made federally funded infrastructure less vulnerable to flooding.

The Obama-era rules, which had not yet gone into effect, would have required the federal government to take into account the risk of flooding and sea-level rise as a result of climate change when constructing new infrastructure and rebuilding after disasters….

“This executive order is not fiscally conservative,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Florida Republican, said in a statement. “It’s irresponsible, and it will lead to taxpayer dollars being wasted on projects that may not be built to endure the flooding we are already seeing and know is only going to get worse.”

The Obama administration estimated the regulations would increase building costs by 0.25% to 1.25% but save taxpayers significant money in the future. Studies have found that for every $1 spent on disaster mitigation, the government will save $4 on post-disaster aid.

50 inches of rain from an “unusually warm” Gulf of Mexico yet there’s no such thing as climate change? That’s a bit hard to fathom.