An Apple a day won’t keep the ghost of Steve Jobs away

Help! My 14-year-old daughter and my 12-year-old son have joined a cult. I’ve tried to rescue them, but they’ve been brainwashed. No matter how much I try to reason with them, they won’t budge. I’ll have to resign myself to the fact that they are… (sob)… Apple worshippers.

They’re bowing their heads out of reverence… or maybe they’re just checking their phones.

My son’s hand-me-down iPhone 5 gave up the ghost a few days ago. We made the mistake of taking it to the Apple Store to see if they could fix it… at a mall… on a Saturday… without an appointment. I thought we were going to a store, but clearly we wound up in the 7th circle of hell. Never before have I seen such a mass of humanity transfixed by bright, shiny objects, drawn like moths to a flame.

Consume mass quantities!

You would think they were giving out free ice cream and puppies, instead of charging people $1000 for phones that will crap out in 19 months, and $2000 for laptops will be obsolete before you get home.

Somehow I managed to elude the tablet-toting army of green-shirted minions, trying to trick me into spending a mortgage payment on a phone. (You think you’re pulling one over on me with your lack of cash registers, but I’m onto your devious “seamless transaction” plan!) As a cheapskate parent, I tried to talk my son into using a discarded Android phone from our basement mobile phone graveyard. But no, that simply won’t do.

He wouldn’t be able to FaceTime with his friends… which is the modern-day equivalent of actually talking face-to-face with your friends.

When I started looking at refurb iPhone 6 models online, my daughter hit the roof, because her 6 is also a hand-me-down (thanks Cousin Brian the tech junkie) and SHE deserves an upgrade, not him! (She would make a great scorekeeper.) And even though, according to my kids, the lowly 6 should be relegated to a museum of ancient history, a friggin’ refurb is still nearly $300. I got my brand new Android for half that.

I don’t get it. As a fan of zigging when everyone else is zagging, I’m not on the Steve Jobs bandwagon. And I believe that an open development platform (e.g. Android) will always win out over a closed system (looking at you, iTunes, iPods, iPads, i-whatever). Seth Godin said it best (as usual): Apple has become a fashion brand, a status symbol… nothing more. They can charge a premium not because their products are better, but because the name has cachet.

 

The Oatmeal has a funny take on Apple addiction too. Check it out here: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/apple

My designer friends (that is, friends who are graphic designers… I’m not buddies with Ralph Lauren) will vehemently disagree, but I will not be swayed by their arguments, even if they create a visually stunning infographic and show it to me on a retina display.

So, in summary, I’m starting a Kickstarter for my kids’ upgraded phones. You can contribute at www.DadIsBrokeAgain.com.

 

 

Friday. Cry day.

We send our kids to school in the morning, and they come home in the afternoon. That’s how it works. Until it doesn’t. Kyle Plush went to school on Tuesday morning. He never came home.

Image result for judy zehren cincinnati

He was supposed to play his first tennis match that afternoon, and as he was reaching over the third row bench seat of his 2004 Honda Odyssey to get his tennis gear, the seat flipped and he got trapped.

The emergency system let him down. Even though he wasn’t able to reach his phone, he used Siri to call 911. Twice.

“Help, help, help,” Plush said in a call he made at 3:16 p.m. “I’m in desperate need of help.”

Plush said several times he was “at Seven Hills,” though the operator apparently did not hear clearly or understand what he meant. “Where are you?” she said, over and over. “What is the address?”

Two officers arrived on scene at 3:26 p.m. They were there for 11 minutes, patrolling the area to look for anyone in distress. 

While they were in the parking lot, Kyle was making his second 911 call. In that second call, Kyle gave more details of the van he was trapped in, including its color, make and model. That information was never relayed to officers on the scene.

“I probably don’t have much time left, so tell my mom that I love her if I die,” he said. “I’m trapped inside my gold Honda Odyssey van. In the (inaudible) parking lot of Seven Hills Hillsdale.

“Send officers immediately. I’m almost dead.”

At 3:37 p.m., the officers closed the incident and went back into service. 

A short while later, a Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputy who was at the school to direct traffic said he wanted to look again. 

“Your guys couldn’t find any van with anybody stuck in it,” he told an operator in a four-and-a-half minute phone call, “but I just wanted to go around and double-check one more time.”

The deputy said he had only seen one van in the lot during his check but didn’t find anybody in it. Chief Isaac said later that that was probably the van Plush was in. 

The deputy and the operator continued talking about Plush’s 911 calls and what might have been happening.  

“(He) was unable to hear me and just kept repeating, ‘Help, help, I’m stuck. I’m in the Seven Hills Parking lot,’” the operator said. “It was really hard to hear (him). It sounded like (he) was kind of far away from the phone.”

“That’s weird,” the deputy responded.

“Yeah, it was really a strange call,” the operator said

They also talked about whether the whole thing might be a prank. Around the same time Plush was calling 911, the deputy had run into a woman at the school who was getting in his way. He wondered if that woman was up to something – especially since the first officers who looked for the van didn’t find anything awry.

His dad found him at 9 p.m. that night, trapped in the van. Lifeless. So senseless.

In the classroom, teachers saw a bright future for Kyle, a strong and independent student with a tender heart and a love for those around him.

“Kyle’s gentle spirit made it a joy for others to be around him. We lovingly remember Kyle as creative, vibrant, and kind,” said Patty Normile.

We send our kids to school in the morning, and they come home in the afternoon. My wife and I send our 18-year-old son to school every morning in his 2003 Honda Odyssey minivan. The epitome of a “safe family car.”

Visitation will be 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at T.P. White & Sons Funeral Home, 2050 Beechmont Ave., Mt. Washington.

Kyle’s funeral will be 9:30 a.m. Monday at St. Rose Church, 2501 Riverside Dr., East End.

The family is asking for memorial donations to go to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Cincinnati, 350 Erkenbrecher Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45229.

“Tell my mom that I love her”… a phrase that breaks the heart of every parent.

We send our kids to school in the morning…

 

Snowy synchronicity

I hate Winter. Especially when it happens in the Spring. Woke up this morning to find a dusting of snow on the ground. Enough, Jack Frost! Game over… I surrender, you win. But there was some good that came of it. I got to wear my Buffalo Tom knit cap while waiting for the bus.

My kids need to teach me how to take selfies.

And that reminded me of the Buffalo Tom song “The Bus”…

Obviously, it doesn’t take much to take my feeble mind off the weather.

I love those little moments of synchronicity, or at least of loose ends all tying up neatly in ways you’d never think of ahead of time. On Friday, I stopped by the offices of Cincinnati Magazine to pick up a copy of the April issue. Seems my subscription had lapsed in March, and I was never notified. But my old friend John Fox is the editor, so I hounded him for a copy – after all, it was the music issue, which is right in my wheelhouse. The cover photo is of the Cincinnati-bred band The National.

Lead singer Matt Berninger has a side project called EL VY. Their song “Return to the Moon” name-checks Cincinnati landmarks Eden Park and the Serpentine Wall. I heard that song yesterday afternoon… in friggin’ Big Lots! (Don’t judge me – it was their 20% off storewide sale, and I’m a cheapskate. Also, props to whoever programs the Big Lots Muzak channel.)

The magazine features a profile of Bootsy Collins, written by Gil Kaufman. Gil’s wife Stephanie was the teacher’s assistant for our son Andrew in grade school, and our daughters have played on the same soccer teams. Saturday night I went to the FC Cincinnati soccer game with my friend Phil, who had gotten the tickets from — you guessed it, Gil and Stephanie.

The April issue also features an article about Chuck Cleaver from the band Wussy. Before Wussy, Chuck was in a band called Ass Ponys (Chuck’s not big on having a band name that has broad appeal, clearly). I love both bands, but Ass Ponys will always have a special place in my heart because they were big when I was at 97X. Back then, John Fox (hmm, where have we heard that name before?) was the editor of Everybody’s News, and he and his staff would come in once a week to do on-air segments about local events.

Yesterday, our son Andrew had a soccer game. He’s one of two Andrews on the team. The other one? Well, he’s the son of Dave Morrison… drummer for the Ass Ponys! But wait, there’s more… they have a song called “Last Night It Snowed”!!!

All roads lead to music. Just be careful, those roads may be icy in spots.

“Dryer” rhymes with “fire”

It was a very relaxing Easter weekend… oh, other than the part where I nearly burned down our house. On Saturday morning, I threw a load of freshly laundered clothes into the dryer, just as I’ve done hundreds of other times. (With four kids, laundry is never “done” – the wash/dry cycle goes on forever.)

Roughly 30 minutes later, I was upstairs and smelled an acrid burning-plastic smell. My son Peter did too, and he was in another room. We couldn’t figure out where it was coming from until Peter looked out the kitchen window and saw smoke billowing out of the dryer vent pipe. We headed down to the basement laundry room… and smoke was pretty thick at the ceiling level. I opened the dryer and saw clothes on fire in the drum, as well as flames behind the clothes compartment. We unplugged the dryer, and used a wet towel to extinguish the burning clothes, then poured some water in the back to put out the flames we could see yet not reach any other way. All of my fire safety training (i.e. a childhood spent watching every episode of Emergency!) had paid off! We were like a modern day Gage and DeSoto.

“Give them an I.V., D5W, and transport to Rampart immediately.”

At the time, it seemed rather funny – especially the sweatpants/running shirt/boxer shorts that had melted/melded into a charcoal briquette. But after the adrenaline rush subsided, I realized that if no one had been at home while that load was frying instead of drying, our home would be toast. Scary stuff.

Welcome to laundry hell!

It wasn’t lint buildup, either. I clean out the dryer vent line once a year. But our dryer is so old that recently drawstrings have been getting caught in a gap between the drum and the back of the dryer. My best guess is an article of clothing got caught in there, and the spinning of the drum created enough friction to start a fire.

Don’t worry, Fire Marshall Bill… I’ve learned my lesson. I won’t dry clothes when I’m not at home. Unless I’m using this:

 

 

 

Egging you on

[I’m doing a rerun today – this post originally ran back in 2015, when only three people knew of this blog’s existence. Now there are at least 10 – count ’em – 10 folks who check out this blog on occasion, which counts as “going viral” in my book…]

Happy Easter! Here’s hoping your kids feel like these kids today:

Parents, just a few Easter Egg Hunt reminders…

1. Don’t hide hard-boiled eggs unless:

A. you really really would like egg salad for lunch for the next 3 weeks

B. you keep a map with the location of every egg. If not, it’s guaranteed that at least one egg will go undiscovered… and your house will stink to high heaven in a couple of weeks.

2. Be prepared to find that fake plastic Easter basket “grass” around your house until at least the 4th of July.

3. Using leftover Halloween candy in Easter baskets is unacceptable.

4. Coconut may help your cake look more like a bunny, but most kids won’t eat it.

5. Get the hollow chocolate bunnies unless you want to make an emergency visit to the dentist for a cracked tooth.

choco_bunnies

 

It’s your third birthday – have a beer!

Don’t call Children’s Protective Services on me… I’m talking about a brewery. Braxton Brewing to be exact. Today is their third anniversary celebration (it was supposed to be last week but it got snowed out – thanks March!).

Braxton started with four guys and a dream. A father, his two sons, and a Yoda-like brewmaster.

L to R: Jake Rouse, Richard Dubé, Greg Rouse, Evan Rouse

Now they have two taproom locations, their beers are distributed in three states and their staff has grown exponentially. It’s a true American small business success story, and I couldn’t be happier for them.

My friend Keith Neltner created the killer logo

I worked with Greg Rouse, one of the founders, for 12 years. He left his full-time gig as a print production manager at our company a couple of months ago to take over as COO at Braxton. That was always the plan, but he was such a superstar at our company that our leadership had to hire two folks with 20+ years experience in print production to attempt to replace him. He was a great guy and a genius at what he did – we miss him dearly. But I’m thrilled that he’s able to work with his sons and wife every day now.

Nice job title!

I plan to drop by the celebration this afternoon, and if I do, I raise a glass to Greg, Tina, Jake and Evan, and to dreams coming true. #LiftOneToLife

 

Back in my day…

The whole “we had to walk ten miles to school, barefoot, in the snow, and it was uphill… both ways” trope is played out; it’s useful only for comedians and great-grandparents. But, believe it or not, my siblings and I have a similar story… and it’s totally true!

I was reminded of it recently when I saw a sweet Ford Ranchero in L.A.

Ford Ranchero. Accept no substitutes (looking your way, Chevy El Camino). 

My wife wondered why I was taking pictures of an old car… but then again, she wonders about a lot of the stuff I do (e.g. saving dryer lint… it’s great for starting fires in our fire pit!) But seeing that car reminded me of the white Ford Ranchero we had back in my grade school days.

Not our actual car… but you probably already knew that.

On cold mornings, it wouldn’t start. So my three siblings and I had to push it down our driveway (a short stretch, but with a decent downhill slope) so my dad could pop the clutch and start it. Usually that brief launch would work, but if not, we’d have to give it another push, down past the Church of Christ and onto the dirt road, where there was another downhill run. So before we even got into the car (OK, truck, but barely) to go to grade school at Holy Redeemer (which was, you guessed it, 10 miles away), we were winded and tired. It’s a handy story to use on my kids when they want me to drive them to the bus stop (~200 yards from our house) on winter mornings.

Also, you might be wondering why my dad thought a mini pickup with only a bench seat would be a good vehicle for a family of five. You’re not alone – I wonder the same thing. The most likely reason is because that was only car on the used car lot that fit our meager budget when our previous clunker bit the dust.

I can’t quite recall how we all fit into the cab… memories are hazy nearly 50 years down the line. I think there was enough room behind the seat for one or two of the kids to stand up and ride. I’m sure we looked like a clown car when we were unloading at school… or one of those overloaded bicycles or mopeds from a third world country.

I never gave it much thought back then… it was just how we rolled (and sometimes pushed). But now it’s great leverage to use on my kids. And it allows me to state equivocally that Subaru Brats, with their fancy-pants extra seats, were for mollycoddled whippersnappers.

Back in my day, we didn’t need extra seats. We didn’t have a seat at all… and we liked it!  Now get off my lawn!

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy some meaty links for your Saturday breakfast

Don’t worry, I’m still a tree-hugging vegetarian. The “meaty links” that we’re serving up at the dubbatrubba café are longer reads/listens that are worth chewing on.

I recently posted about South African singer/songwriter/amazing human being Johnny Clegg. Here’s a great 50-minute interview and performance from a recent World Café:

Bill Janovitz is the lead singer of Buffalo Tom. He’s also a father. The latter is more important. He wrote a blog post back in December of 2012, about the Newtown school shooting. Sadly, it remains just as relevant today, in the wake of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (and dozens of other mass killings that have come since Newtown). Please read the entire post here… but if you don’t have time, please ponder these excerpts:

We may not be expected to stop every insane bomb-making McVeigh-like terrorist, nor will we stop every future mass shooting. But no one can deny that we need to start to take logical steps to regulating guns to make it more difficult for the most damaged among us to gain access to machines that slaughter the most innocent among us…

Each day that goes by without substantive corrective measures should bring each and all of us collective shame. As long as we are unwilling to take advantage our self-evident truths of individual liberty, enshrined in our nation’s most sacred documents, to speak out loudly and demand action, days like Friday should make us all feel ashamed to be Americans — ashamed to have done so little with the responsibility that comes with such advantages…

We have already failed these 20 first-grade children, as we have dozens, if not hundreds of others. What are we going to do to stop the next obscenity?

Speaking of gun violence, this article from German Lopez (formerly of Cincinnati’s alt-weekly CityBeat) is a must-read.

So while politicians often lean on mass shootings to call for gun control, the problem goes far beyond those incidents. Though it’s hard to fault them for trying; mass shootings, after all, force Americans to confront the toll of our gun laws and gun culture.

OK, let’s try to brighten things up a bit. Or not. Check out a Wired article about how social media is eroding our love/pursuit of knowledge. Here’s a quick excerpt:

Social networks, though, have since colonized the web for television’s values. From Facebook to Instagram, the medium refocuses our attention on videos and images, rewarding emotional appeals—‘like’ buttons—over rational ones. Instead of a quest for knowledge, it engages us in an endless zest for instant approval from an audience, for which we are constantly but unconsciously performing. (It’s telling that, while Google began life as a PhD thesis, Facebook started as a tool to judge classmates’ appearances.) It reduces our curiosity by showing us exactly what we already want and think, based on our profiles and preferences. Enlightenment’s motto of ‘Dare to know’ has become ‘Dare not to care to know.’

Along those same lines, here’s a long, cleverly illustrated, irreverent article well worth checking out, about how our Social Survival Mammoth can block our Authentic Voice… and how we can overcome that.

Anyone who disapproves of who you’re being or what you’re doing isn’t even in the same room with you 99.7% of the time. It’s a classic mammoth mistake to fabricate a vision of future social consequences that is way worse than what actually ends up happening—which is usually nothing at all.

Let’s end on a brighter, sunnier note, shall we? Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin and Hobbes, one of the greatest comic strips ever) gave a fantastic commencement speech at Kenyon College back in 1990. It’s well worth reading nearly 30 years later.

I tell you all this because it’s worth recognizing that there is no such thing as an overnight success. You will do well to cultivate the resources in yourself that bring you happiness outside of success or failure. The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive. At that time, we turn around and say, yes, this is obviously where I was going all along. It’s a good idea to try to enjoy the scenery on the detours, because you’ll probably take a few…

…having an enviable career is one thing, and being a happy person is another.

 

Second generation famous

I’m not a doctor, and I never even played one on TV. But at least some relatives of mine are getting their star turns.

My cousin Tom’s daughter Jamie just wrapped up her second season as a New England Patriots cheerleader.

(Pro tip for Jamie: stand next to Tom Brady on the sidelines and you’ll be on TV roughly 10,000 times during a game.)

My niece Julia just moved up the TV food chain from Myrtle Beach, SC (#101 in market size) to Greenville, SC (#38) where she is the weekend sports anchor for the NBC affiliate, WYFF.

Last but certainly not least, my cousin’s daughter Erika will be playing the role of Cady Heron in the Broadway-bound musical adaptation of the iconic movie Mean Girls. She’s getting all sorts of kudos for her performance (they had a short sneak preview/tune-up run in D.C., and Broadway previews begin March 12th). You can read more here. And here. And here. Or you can check out the article in the latest issue of Vogue, along with a photo by Annie Freakin’ Leibovitz! NBD.

HT to my sister Jeanne for letting me know about the Vogue article… she’s the fashionista in the family.

I remember going to visit my cousin and her family in Northern California back when Erika was about 6 years old, and she was already performing plays for her family, friends — and house guests like us –on their back patio. (So basically, “I knew her when…”)

One of the characters in Mean Girls is named Damian…

Here’s hoping Erika thinks of me, her old pal and early theater patron, whenever she hears that name.

“You know I couldn’t invite you. I had to pretend to be plastic.”

 

 

 

 

The pot calling the kettle black…

In my most recent blog post, I made fun of the garish sport coat and bow tie sported by Mr. Clyde McCoy:

Then I realized that I too was guilty of the same sort of sartorial selections:

“It was the 60s… things were different then!”

In fact, on the Severinsen/Sager/Tarlek Scale of wacky outfits, from 1 to Oh-My-Goodness-What-Is-THAT!, Clyde is only about a 5… whereas I’m easily an 8.

Former Tonight Show bandleader. Suit NOT furnished by Botany 500.

Former NBA sideline reporter Craig Sager. Always understated.

Would you buy radio ads from this man?

I’m willing to do one of those “recreate the childhood photo” things that are all the rage on social media these days.

But I don’t know if we can replicate the crazy pattern of my suit, which seems better suited for a great aunt’s couch than a suit.

Werther’s candies sold separately.

Sorry for making fun of your outfit, Clyde. I now realize you were a fashion trendsetter, just like me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to do a bit of shopping.