Stay classy!

It’s Graduation Day for our oldest child.

Seems like just yesterday he was a toddler, and we were signing him up for preschool at the church down the street.

He’ll be leaving the nest in a couple of months, but he won’t be venturing too far from home. He’s attending the University of Cincinnati (dreaded basketball rival of my alma mater… kids are such rebels) to study engineering. I’ve talked to several folks who have either been through the program themselves or have kids who’ve gone through it, and it gets rave reviews. And as my friend Art (who was my college roommate) says, “college can be as far away as you want it to be” – meaning just because you’re going to a school that’s 10 miles from your house doesn’t mean you have to come home every weekend… or any weekend for that matter.

He’s a great kid. He’s smart, kind and a hard worker. He’ll do just fine.

 

 

A royal pain

As I type this, a B-list actress from the U.S. has just gotten hitched to a British prince… Harry or William, I can never remember which is which. Here’s how many damns I give about the whole spectacle:

Now that the wedding is over, can we please call it a day on the whole monarchy business? You can keep the palaces open as Harry Potter-style theme parks, and keep the silly hats, but treating people like royalty (literally) just because they come from a certain gene pool seems antiquated at best.

You get a sash, and you get a sash, and you get a sash… but not you Kate. 

They only serve ceremonial roles anyway… they’re basically the UK equivalent of Wal-Mart greeters, only with a LOT better pay scale.

Welcome to England!

This is the only Queen that matters.

This is the only Prince we should adore.

Game (of Thrones) over. Exit stage left.

 

 

Save the planet. It’s the only one we have so far.

I’m on the ‘Green Team’ at work – we try to encourage our colleagues to reduce waste and increase recycling throughout our building. Recently, a group of Green Team members visited a local recycling center.

Hard hats, ear protection and safety goggles… we’re ready for the catwalk!

As a tree-hugger, it’s heartening to see the amount of materials they receive each day… and it’s also a bit daunting. First the recycling items are dumped onto the “tipping floor”:

Then bulldozers and the world’s largest “claw game” move it onto conveyor belts.

From there, it gets sifted and sorted into the various types of recycling materials (cardboard, glass, paper, plastic) with human intervention to pull out non-recyclables.

While it’s great that this much stuff is being recycled, it’d be even better if we created less waste in the first place. After all, recycling is the final and least desirable of the ‘reduce/reuse/recycle’ trilogy. The low-hanging fruit is plastic water bottles – switch to reusable bottles. Then, put a stop to the junk mail you receive by unsubscribing, and sign up for e-delivery of other mail items. Buy in bulk to reduce the amount of packaging. Buy fresh instead of packaged. You know the drill.

 

OK, I’ll get off my (eco-friendly) soapbox now. Nobody wants to listen to a reject anyway.

 

All That Jazz(ercise)

On Saturday, I attended a Jazzercise class for the first (and perhaps only) time in my life. My wife has been an instructor for nearly two decades, and on Saturday they had a “bring your sweetie” strength training class. So basically it was me and all the other spouses/significant others of the instructors and a few class regulars.

                                                               Team shirt.

My wife has been asking me to attend a class for many years — the answer was always a resounding “no way!”

But some of the other spouses/boyfriends have attended classes occasionally — I call them “curve-wreckers” — and I hear all about it for months. Because it was Mother’s Day Eve, I finally waved the white leg warmers of surrender.

Not me. Not Jazzercise either.

Also, I was promised there would be beer afterward.

Here’s what I learned from my adventure:

1. I am the most uncoordinated human being on the planet.

2. “Jazzercise” may sound like something your grandma does at the senior center, but it will kick your butt. And your pecs. And your abs. And every other muscle area in your body. It’s like P90X, set to music.

3. They really need to update their name… because I didn’t hear a single jazz tune. It was more like a “hot hits” radio station.

4. Beer tastes better after a workout. If I keep going back, maybe I can have both kinds of “six-packs.”

5. Happy wife, happy life!

 

 

 

E.T., don’t phone home

My son’s Algebra teacher is also my new hero. Here’s a note she sent out to parents of her students:

Parents –
I have “preached” from the beginning of the school year, in August, that cell phones are not to be out during class unless I have given permission.  Most students are having no problem with this as I allow them to take the phone out to take a picture of a homework screen on the Daily PowerPoint or to use an app for making note of the homework assignment.  Most students can put their phones away after completing the task.
Apparently my long-term sub was a bit more lenient about cell phone use and some students seem to feel his policies still stand.
Noticing this after my return on Monday, I let students know that my policy still stands.  But, I had to confiscate phones from students today.  My policy is stated in the Policies, Procedures and Rules document all students received from me in August.  It is also posted on Schoology.  It refers you to the Student Handbook for the school’s policy on cell phones.  The pertinent section is on page 12.  The Student Handbook is on the school website – www.walnuthillseagles.com.
I’ve heard all the excuses: it’s my mom letting me know that she’s picking me up after school; it’s my grandma telling me she’ll be coming to get me at a certain time for a dentist appt; it’s my friend letting me know what we’re doing this weekend, and on and on it goes. I even had a student tell me (as their phone was actually ringing), that they needed to take the call.  Did I mind?!
If as a parent, you feel it is more important that your child is always checking their cell phone for a message, please let me know.  I will not repeat instruction, during class or at a Help Time, for students who choose to use their instruction time for cell phone time.  I feel they can last 50 minutes in a class, then check for messages on their way to their next class.  We often finish with a few minutes left in the bell and I haven’t minded that they pull their phones out then.
Emergencies should always come through an office.  I cannot release a student without office notification anyway, so letting them know about something through a cell phone message isn’t the proper or most expedient way to retrieve your student from school.
I hope you can support me in this.  My assumption is that your child is at Walnut for an education.  If that’s not important to you or your child, then I need to know this.
Thanks so much,
Mrs. Burris
 I love it! Her class is the high school equivalent of Luke’s Diner on Gilmore Girls: 

I love the closing lines the most: I hope you can support me in this.  My assumption is that your child is at Walnut for an education.  If that’s not important to you or your child, then I need to know this. 

First there’s happy, then there’s sad.

This was supposed to be a post about my youngest kid, Andrew, who turns 13 today. I drove him to school, as a birthday treat (how thoughtful of me!), and he brought along a couple dozen donuts to share with his friends. I love the fact that he’s able to think of others on a day that’s normally “all about me.” That’s probably fairly rare in the teen years. But he’s a sweet kid all around, so I’m not surprised by his gesture.

I made him take a selfie on my phone this morning.

 

If you’re keeping score at home, we now have four – count ’em – four teenagers in our household. 13, nearly 15, 17 and 18. Heaven help us… especially if our wi-fi ever goes out.

So it’s a happy day, and a happy birthday… and then when I got to work, a fellow music fan mentioned that the lead singer of Frightened Rabbit, Scott Hutchison, had been found dead, of an apparent suicide. Devastating. Soul-crushing. Looking back at the messages from both Scott and his family makes me so sad I can’t even describe it.

 

 

Then came the pleas from his family:

And finally, late last night, the news we feared the most:

I saw Frightened Rabbit in concert several times, most recently a year and a half ago when my buddy Dale and I squeezed up to the front of the stage for their set at an outdoor festival.

Several years ago, I was lucky enough to see them in an acoustic setting as part of a radio interview/performance at WNKU.

I even got to say a quick hello to Scott a couple of times.

He was always friendly, and seemed rather happy. But we never know the personal demons that live inside other people’s heads and torment them so.

“Thinking about songs like Floating in the Forth – I didn’t kill myself. I took that forward into other records. There’s got to be a sense that, as f****d as life can get, we’re still alive and we’re still doing this and we’re going to attempt to carry on.” 

Scott wasn’t able to climb out of the abyss. We all know someone like him. Please, give them a call today.

Some of the footage in this video is from the Southgate House in Newport, KY. I was at that show too.

 

Thanks (is worth) a million!

Marketing doesn’t have to be all algorithms, browser cookies and geo-tracking. The human touch will always be more memorable.

A few weeks ago, we needed a new faucet installed in our kitchen, and the shutoff valves below needed to be replaced as well. (I can do the former, but the latter is well beyond my DIY skills.) I found a local plumbing company that came highly recommended on NextDoor (like a Facebook for neighborhoods). Everyone I talked to, from the office manager who fielded my initial call to the plumber who came to our house, was friendly. About a week after the service call, I received a thank you card from them via “snail mail.”

I’ve used plenty of different plumbing companies over the years, and this is the first one to send me an honest-to-goodness thank you. On paper! In the mail! Who does that anymore? You’d better believe they’re on speed dial for all future repairs. And while robots may take over many jobs in the coming years, I don’t think I’ll ever trust a Roomba lookalike to replace two water shutoff valves under my kitchen sink. So the plumber’s investment in a single, solitary thank you card will earn them hundreds of dollars. (But not anytime soon, I hope!)

Yesterday I got the new Wussy album What Heaven is Like in the mail from the band’s record label, Shake It. Included with the CD that I ordered were a hand-written thank-you note and a postcard.

It probably took about 30 seconds to scribble out the thank you note, and another 10 to grab the promo postcard (clearly an homage to Springsteen’s debut album) and package it up with the album. Extra time in the era of efficiency – would Jeff Bezos approve? Doubtful.

But those 40 seconds will pay off for years to come, in the goodwill they generate, in the warm fuzzy feeling you get from “hey, they took the time to thank me by name… that’s cool!” Shake It started as a local label, releasing albums by artists that they were passionate about, before branching out to set up a bricks and mortar record store too.  A record label and a record store… talk about tilting at millennial windmills! They know they can’t go toe-to-toe with Amazon on pricing, or compete with Spotify on music delivery. But by providing a personal touch, by caring about the music, engaging true fans, helping them dig deeper into their passions and exposing them to new artists, they can carve out a nice niche for themselves:

We carry some mainstream releases, but we specialize in independent labels from the obvious to the obscure – Chicago post-punk art-rock to Ethiopian boog-a-loo and all stops in between – rockabilly, vintage soul, r&b & blues, punk/hardcore, classic country & the best of the new breed, 60’s garage & psych, reggae/dub/rocksteady & vintage ska, krautrock, creative hip-hop & electronica, tons of straight ahead rock n’ roll & “alternative”, plus vintage bop, cool & avant garde jazz, cult soundtracks, Afrobeat/funk, “difficult listening” and much more. We’re introducing new releases and back catalog items every day, so there’s always something new in the bins.

You can keep your algorithms. I’ll stick with the handshakes.

Reviews of the new album are here and here(this one from my friend Gil Kaufman, who writes for Billboard). You can order it from Shake It here.

 

Odds and Sods

In construction, it’s “measure twice, cut once”… the email equivalent is “proofread twice, send once.” My kids’ school had a capital fundraising campaign, the Legacy of Excellence, but they misspelled “Excellence” as “Excellance” in the email subject line:

At least they got it right in the body of the email.

C. Montgomery Burns would NOT approve.

 

Meanwhile on Craigslist, a… well, let’s just call her a “contractor”… found a creative way around the rules against adult services, by placing this ad in the “Cars for Sale” section:

For the record, I am looking for a car for my son, NOT, I repeat NOT, looking for different “trunk.”

And while we’re in the gutter, we may as well as stay there. This was the opening of an article that appeared on WCPO.com a couple of weeks ago:

I’m sure the author of the article must be so proud… perhaps s/he always dreamed of being able to describe twerking in a clinical-yet-picturesque style. All those years of journalism classes have finally paid off! (And in just eight short years, the loans for those classes will be paid off too!)

 

OK, enough of this silliness. Since the title of this post was nicked from a Who album, I need to include a song from that release:

When pigs fly

On Friday, I posted about Mean Girls. Today, it’s about a single mean girl, whose comment spurred a runner to victory more than a decade later. 25-year-old Caitlin Keen won the female division of the 2018 Flying Pig Marathon yesterday.

When she was 12 and living in Cincinnati, she watched that year’s Flying Pig and said “I’m going to win that one day”…. another girl said “no you won’t.”

Caitlin got pretty emotional talking about breaking the tape for the first time, and her overall running journey.

“I was an OK high school runner. I never won a state championship. I walked on to a Division I school. I went to Southern Methodist University,” Keen said. “I ended up getting a full ride by my senior year but I never was a winner ever. Never was an all-American … I’m so happy. It means everything.” 

Watch this interview video – it’s hard not to be moved by it:

A record number of people (43,000 plus) took part in this year’s Flying Pig events.

Participants included Mrs. Dubbatrubba and her friends, who finished the half-marathon.

The races (plural now – marathon, half marathon, 10K, kids run, etc.) raise more than a million dollars for local charities each year. Not bad for a race that started with a small group of local runners scribbling notes on a cocktail napkin.

Sometimes all it takes is a dream, and then following through, step by step.

Radio Daze Part 3

I’ve previously posted a couple of audio clips from my 97X radio days. Here’s another gem (and by “gem” we mean “not completely painful to listen to”). It’s a commercial for a Cincinnati record store called Everybody’s Records. They advertised on 97X for the entire duration of the station’s existence, and are still around today, 40 years after they first opened their doors.

This commercial features three 97X legends… and me. Julie Maxwell, Rictile and Dave each spent several years at the station and are still remembered fondly by the small but mighty listener base. They’re all great broadcasters, and even better people. Rictile is still gracing the airwaves, albeit under his real name, at Vermont Public Radio. Julie and Dave work in advertising – as do quite a few other 97X expats.

This particular commercial was about 48 seconds long – at a free-form station like 97X, we didn’t have to adhere to strict timing guidelines. And the few advertisers that we did have gave us a lot of creative leeway in creating the commercials (as witnessed by my lame Grandpa Simpson impersonation in this particular ad).

The art vs. commerce scale tilted heavily toward the art side. We were a bunch of wacky kids, and the production studio was our playpen. We had tons of fun coming up with ideas and creating the spots… despite the fact that the recording equipment was a million miles away from state-of-the-art.

Our equipment was only slightly better than this.

Like Julie and Dave, I too segued from radio to advertising, and our time at 97X was our “10,000 hours” in Malcolm Gladwell parlance.

One of the things I miss most about my radio days is doing wacky character voices. You don’t get many opportunities in the real world to bust into a Bob Dylan, Snoop Dogg or Fabio impersonation. Well, I suppose you can, but your family, friends and co-workers might think you’re crazy. And they may be right.