Beer for the people, by the people

Great Lakes Brewing Co. is one of the original craft beer breweries. Based in Cleveland, they’ve been around for more than 30 years.

They recently introduced a new year-round IPA.

Last year, they introduced something even better: an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), which means all of their employees are now employee-owners. It was a classy move on the part of the founders, brothers Patrick and Daniel Conway.

“This wasn’t designed to be a liquidity event for Pat and Dan. It wasn’t designed to bring capital into the company. This is 100 percent focused on putting an ESOP in place so that our employees can share in the upside of Great Lakes.”

Great Lakes CEO Bill Boor, in this article.

The people portrayed in the artwork on the new IPA bottle label and six-pack carrier are folks who work at Great Lakes. One is an acquaintance of mine. Lisa Farmer is the regional sales manager for Great Lakes in the Cincinnati area.

Lisa’s third from the left… writing up an order.

Lisa’s been working at Great Lakes for 16 years, calling on restaurants, bars and supermarkets, and working promo events that typically take place after normal working hours. Now, that loyalty is being rewarded.

Being on beer labels and coasters is pretty cool. Being an employee owner is even cooler.

Several other beer companies have also gone the ESOP route: Deschutes, Harpoon Brewery, Left Hand, New Glarus, Alaskan Brewing Co., Voodoo Brewery, Odell Brewing (partial ownership), and New Belgium and Switchback, which are wholly-owned ESOP companies. (Source.) Think about that the next time you’re buying some brewskies… all other things being equal, why not spend your dollars in a way that benefits the people doing the work to bring that beer your way?

I love a parade…

Actually, I really don’t love a parade. Whole lotta standing around to see people waving from vintage vehicles, and emergency vehicles blaring their sirens for no good reason. Marching bands are fine, I suppose, but you wind up hearing 20 seconds of the tune.

If it’s one of those parades where people throw candy from their floats, parents have to be constantly vigilant lest one of their tykes gets run over by a 1957 Chevy Coupe as s/he is chasing down an errant, dirt and gravel-encrusted Dum-Dum lollipop.

The only real highlight for me is Shriners in their tiny cars.

But today’s parade is different. It’s the Cincinnati Reds annual Opening Day Parade. The Reds are MLB’s oldest franchise – they’re celebrating their 150th anniversary this year.

As the éminence grise (or éminence rouge technically) of the league, they used to host their first game a day before the rest of the league. “Tradition,” as Tevye sings in Fiddler on the Roof. Or “dibs” if you prefer. First come, first served.

For decades, the first pitch of every major league season officially took place in Cincinnati, and the Reds remain the only major league team to always open the season with a home game.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opening_Day

That’s before MLB got greedy a couple of decades ago and decided to bow down at the altar of the Almighty TV Viewing Rights Dollar by having different (read: more prestigious) clubs open the season in Japan, Australia, Puerto Rico or other exotic locales.

Why be on the Reds when you can be in the black?

Cincinnati’s Opening Day parade has been going on for a century, organized by Findlay Market, a old-school public market in the heart of Over-the-Rhine, the area just north of downtown that was the landing spot for thousands of German immigrants (hence the name) back in the late 1800s. Findlay Market is still going strong, with dozens of independently-owned and operated businesss: butchers, bakers, fishmongers, produce peddlers, cheese merchants… you name it. They all band together to organize the parade every year, so it has a nice Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland “hey kids, let’s put on a show!” vibe to it.

Long before Men Without Hats

And the Reds Opening Day is an unofficial civic holiday, a day with high absenteeism at schools and businesses (Reds fever!), where thousands come downtown early to stake out a prime parade vantage point, and actual tickets to the game are a prized possession (a fact borne out by StubHub prices).

The parting of the Reds Sea.

It’s just an amateur parade for a mediocre baseball team. But really, it’s way more than that. It’s a celebration of Spring, of new life. It’s a parade of hope… hope that this season, this year, things will be better. Baseball’s just a convenient excuse to throw an optimism party.

I love a parade like that.

Oblivion is the best medicine

An early contender for album of the year is eponymous debut from Better Oblivion Community Center. The band is a collaboration between Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst. Phoebe is on a roll: in 2017, she released her debut album, Stranger in the Alps, , to well-deserved critical acclaim, and last year she worked with two other rising stars, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, to release a fantastic EP under the name boygenius. Both releases are well worth multiple spins. Listen now and thank me later.

Now Phoebe has teamed up with Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes, Monsters of Folk) to put out an album that’s stellar from start to finish. The tune “Dylan Thomas” is the song of the year, sez me. Love the lyrics.

And here’s another stellar track, “Didn’t Know What I Was In For.”
It’s much mellower but again so strong lyrically and musically.

We may as well complete the CBS This Morning trifecta with “My City.”

And for bonus indie cred, the video for “Dylan Thomas” was directed by Michelle Zauner… a.k.a. Japanese Breakfast, another dubbatrubba favorite band.

Looks like I’m not the only card-carrying member of the Better Oblivion Community Center fan club, though. If you want to catch them in concert, you’ll have to visit a scalper or Scandanavia.

GQ Jay is a classy guy

Jay Wright is the head coach of the Villanova University men’s basketball team. They’ve won the NCAA Championship two of the last three years, which is an amazing feat for any squad, much less a team from a small, private school. Jay is also a handsome dude who is always nattily attired on the sidelines, hence his “GQ Jay” nickname.

Love the pocket square.

As a Xavier basketball fan, it’d be easy to hate him, and not just because he’s prettier than I am. Xavier has played in the same conference as Villanova since joining the reconstituted Big East in 2013, and the Wildcats have owned the Musketeers: 12 wins and only 2 losses. That includes the most recent overtime win by Villanova in the Big East semifinals that killed Xavier’s slim chance of making the NCAA tourney. But he had some very kind words to say about Xavier and their first-year head coach Travis Steele after the game:

Wright, the Big East coach of the year, said, “I told Travis he’s making it look easy. First year, he did a lot with this team. They’ve got a young team, too. They were playing as well as anybody in the conference coming down the stretch, and we knew it. This was no surprise at all. 

“Anybody who’s in their first year in any sport – the coach, the staff, you’ve got graduate transfers, you’ve got freshmen – a lot of people in their first year. That’s what we’re struggling with a little bit. Our staff, we lost our two top assistants the last two years. They had it worse … new head coach.  

“It takes time, man. It takes time. What Travis did with that team from the beginning to where they’re playing now, I don’t know all the tournament stuff, but that team could beat a lot of NCAA Tournament teams. A lot. I think it’s a credit to Travis and their program. They get all those guys back, man, they’re going to have a hell of a team.” (Source: this Cincinnati Enquirer article.)

That’s a classy move by a classy guy. And he’s not just Wright, he’s also right: Xavier will have a hell of a team next year.


Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Your event is not timed

Last Sunday I did a 5K walk as a fundraiser for the American Heart Association. This sheet was in the registration packet:

Sure, “your event is not timed” means that no one was checking our pace with a stopwatch. (Actually a sundial would’ve sufficed for me.) But it struck me that you could also assign a different — and much deeper — meaning to that. I was participating in the walk in memory of a college friend of mine, Kim Collins, who died suddenly of a heart attack last May at the age of 52.

Kimberly Ann Collins Obituary

Nearly 30 of Kim’s relatives and friends participated in the walk.

Kim’s siblings Drew, Lisa and Jimmy

Kim and her sister Lisa lived together, worked together, spent nearly every waking moment together… they were inseparable. Kim went to bed early on a Friday because she was having back pain… she never woke up.

“Your event is not timed.” The event is life, and it’s not timed for any of us. We never expected to lose Kim so soon. Lisa never imagined she’d be without her only sister/roommate/best friend in the blink of an eye. We may think about mortality from time to time, but do we ever truly appreciate the good fortune of merely waking up each morning?

Your event is not timed. Now’s the time to be grateful for each day on this earth, and share that gratitude with those we love.

It’s simple, really.

Time for another installment of “dubbatrubba sings the praises of ‘Gaping Void'”… it’s a monthly feature of this blog. Hugh MacLeod sends out a daily email with a cartoon-like doodle of art, and a few words of wisdom. They’re all great, and you should sign up for the mailing list on the Gaping Void website. Reading his email is often the best minute or two of my workday.

You should also read Hugh’s book Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity.

A Gaping Void post from last week struck me as particularly poignant. Check it out:

One of the things we affluent, supposedly happy Westerners suffer from, is that we like to make our lives far too complicated.

We take on far too much responsibility at work, we buy houses that are far too big for our families, we spend far too much money going out, fancy cars etc., we try to read far too many books, we buy far too many toys, the list goes on.

And then the bill comes… as it always does.

You’re much better off with a simple life.

The simple life begins not with stuff, but from the human heart.

The latter, by the way, doesn’t scale.

True happiness is an inward journey. 

That’s where the real joy is. 

Good luck.

Ah, Hugh, you’ve done it again. Genius… plain and simple!

I vant to be alone… at work

Sorry to channel my inner Greta Garbo, but it’s true. At least it’s true for the office, most of the time.

Image result for i want to be alone greta garbo

I work in one of those “open office” environments that companies love to tout these days… even though they don’t work for things like, oh, doing actual work! They’re supposed to promote collaboration but really they just promote confabulation. They’re supposed to foster innovation but are better at creating interruption.

Last year, a survey by enterprise software strategist William Belk found that 58 percent of high-performance employees say they need more private spaces for problem solving, and 54 percent of HPEs say their office environment is “too distracting.” The survey netted 700 respondents from a broad swath of industries.

In 2013, researchers from the University of Sydney examined the “privacy-communication trade-off in open-plan offices” and found that the benefits of easy communication that are intended to go along with open-plan offices don’t outweigh the drawbacks, such as a huge lack of privacy.

And, psychologist Nick Perham found that office noise impairs workers’ ability to recall information and even do basic arithmetic.

Source: this Chicago Tribune article from 2018. You can also check out this Washington Post article, and this one from Inc.

I’m a music lover, so my headphones save the day nearly every day. But my company also has not one, but two forms of instant messaging apps active right now. And I despise them… they are the biggest interruptors of “flow” ever created, and I’m a flow guy to my core. (Learn more about flow, also known as being “in the zone” in the TED talk below.)

The book It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (co-founders of Basecamp) , is my new bible. I love what they have to say about chat apps.

“Yet another thing that asks for your continuous partial attention all day on the premise that you can’t miss out.”

While they admit that there are times when chat is handy, overall it typically makes it way too easy for someone to interrupt a colleague:

“But it’s terrrible when that one expert is fielding their fifth random question of the day and suddenly the day is done.

The person with the question needed something and got it. The person with the answer was doing something else and had to stop. That’s rarely a fair trade.”

Amen, Brother Jason and Brother David! Finally someone who understands where I’m coming from on this topic, and doesn’t think that I’m just being a stubborn old man in the face of change. (I’m still a stubborn old man, but we all need alone time to do our best work.)

The entire book is great for:

A. pointing out the many reasons why the current norms for the “crazy” corporate world need a major overhaul AND

B. offering much calmer alternatives.

It’s highly recommended.

It doesn't have to be crazy at work

And since we started with a Greta Garbo reference, we should end with one… from The Kinks!