We come bearing gifts

The purpose of life is to discover your gift.
The work of life is to develop it.
The meaning of life is to give your gift away.

David Viscott – Finding Your Strength in Difficult Times: A Book of Meditations, 1993

My gift is goofball writing. You’re welcome.

Typical dubbatrubba reader…

Speaking of giving it away, if you have a friend who might enjoy my random brain droppings, please share a link to dubbatrubba.com with them. Thanks.

According to my WordPress dashboard, this is Post #677. I’ve still got a long way to go to get to the 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell cites as the benchmark for mastery of a craft. My “gift” is a work in progress.

But I’ll keep working. And I’ll keep giving it away.

Nature’s air conditioners

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree

Joyce Kilmer

The Cincinnati Parks Foundation has a great program that offers free trees to city residents if they plant them in their front yards. Pretty up your plot and suck more carbon dioxide out of the air… win-win.

It’s called the Fall ReLeaf program, and you can request a tree (or trees) online. They have several varieties available, from small trees such as Serviceberry and Royal Raindrops Crabapple to towering ones like the Dawn Redwood and Northern Red Oak. And you don’t get some tiny twig of a tree that has a slim chance of surviving. The trees they dole out are typically a few years old and approximately five feet tall. As long as you plant them in the right place, they’ll thrive.

Trees Without Hats

The Cincinnati Parks Foundation used to offer the program in the Spring, but realized that Fall is better for transplanting. Five of the trees in my own front yard are from this program – a Yoshino Cherry, a Black Plum, a Frontier Elm, a Queen Maple and a Kousa Dogwood.

There are so many environmental and social benefits to trees.

Source: the great 30 second video embedded below

And they’re fun too… well, after the raking is over.

It’s a program I really dig. You will too!

Saved by the sun

Kudos to Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank for committing to renewable energy in a “yuuuge” way. As in 350,000 solar panels on 1,400 acres at a solar facility in North Carolina. (Read more here.)

(Photo: The Aulander Holloman Solar Facility. Credit: Fifth Third Bancorp)

This will allow Fifth Third to reach 100% renewable power, as part of RE100.

Companies in the commercial and industrial sector account for approximately two thirds of the world’s end-of-use of electricity. Switching this demand to renewables is transforming the global energy market and accelerating the transition to a clean economy.

I hope more companies get on board, and fast, as the glaciers melt and hurricanes, “100 year floods”, droughts and extreme temperatures increase across this globe we all share.

Solar isn’t just for corporations either. We have 23 panels on the roof of our house. Here’s how much juice we grabbed for free last month:

That’s roughly half of our electric usage. We installed the panels in September of 2017… we should reach full payback seven to ten years from now. We got an Ohio “green” loan with an interest rate of 1.35%. There’s a 30% tax credit on the cost of solar installation projects, too. (Hurry, it starts phasing out at the end of this year… thanks Agent Orange!)

few presidential administrations have been as antagonistic to clean energy as the Trump White House

Source: this Wired article – https://www.wired.com/story/a-tax-credit-fueled-the-solar-energy-boom-now-its-in-limbo/

There are a lot of empty spots across this country, where silver solar panels can co-exist with amber waves of grain under spacious skies. Let’s boost renewable energy projects, before we all get burned.

They grow up so fast…

In case you missed it: a youth football/cheer squad organization in a town just a few miles from Cincinnati was requiring kids as young as age seven to sell tickets in a gun raffle as a fundraiser. (Full story from cincinnati.com is here. All excerpts below are from that article.)

Absurd is absolutely right. Asinine.

Because the brave mom questioned the “wisdom” of such an event, the organization’s leaders allowed kids to opt out of selling tickets. However, the youth org is still raffling off the type of semi-automatic weapon of war that has been used in several mass shootings/killings. The Junior Lions need to raise funds to… wait for it… pay their insurance bill. Because youth football can be a bit dangerous, don’t ya know?

Kudos to Heather Chilton for trying to provide a sanity check in a country that desperately needs more of it.

Two far gone

Here’s a photo of our second child, Peter, taken just a short while ago:

And here’s a shot of him from yesterday:

We dropped him off at college, at Ohio University. Abandoned him, really, at the tender age of 18.

Our oldest goes to school in town, so Peter is the first one to be truly “away” at college. It’s a two-and-a-half-hour drive, but it seems light years away.

I know he’ll be fine; it’s the rest of us that I’m worried about. Peter is a “glue guy” as the sportscasters like to say. Easygoing, funny, gets along with everyone. A straight arrow. And more than happy to chauffeur his two younger siblings around. With him gone, the sibling dynamic will change, and the family fabric will be altered. We’ll all have to adjust to life sans Pedro.

I know it’s just the first in a series of goodbyes, of slowly but surely letting go… but that doesn’t make it any easier.

How many days until Parents Weekend?

Biking and breathing

“Just breathe.” It’s become a mantra in our multi-tasking, mile-a-minute society.

But if you have Cystic Fibrosis, it can be difficult just TO breathe.

Cystic fibrosis is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time. 

https://www.cff.org/What-is-CF/About-Cystic-Fibrosis/

I don’t ride my bike as often as I used to, but I do participate in the Cystic Fibrosis Cycle for Life event in Cincinnati every fall. I’ll be riding a 32-mile route, which is no small feat for an old man with creaky knees pedaling a rusty (but trusty) bike.

Sure, my lungs will be burning a bit, especially on the hills. But that’s a not-so-subtle reminder of the challenges that folks with CF face on a daily basis. As I pedal, I’ll be thinking of the people I know who are affected by this disease: John’s daughter, Walter’s stepson, Paul’s niece and nephew…

I’m sure you know someone battling CF too. If you feel so inclined, I hope you’ll donate to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and support me in my ride. You can do so here:

http://fightcf.cff.org/site/TR/Cycle/42_Greater_Cincinnati_Cincinnati?px=2458867&pg=personal&fr_id=7574

If you can’t swing it, no worries. Either way, I know you’ll be rooting for me to ride like this:

Even though I’ll really look more like this:

Off the beaten path…

I like to zig when everyone else is zagging. I also like to zig when everyone else is Zumba-ing. (Don’t try this at home, you might pull a hamstring.) If there’s a mainstream, I like to swim the other way. I don’t follow fashion (ask my wife, she’ll gladly attest to this). I like my music weird. I like weird in general.

I like my businesses that way too… the quiet coffee shop on a desolate corner, the hole-in-the-wall bar in a forgotten part of town, the mom-and-pop shop in a sea of corporate sameness. Landlocked Social House was all of those: quaint, quiet coffee shop by day, hole-in-the-wall bar by night, run by a husband and wife who became a mom and pop about a year after opening up.

The reasons I loved it are probably the reasons it’s closing down. It was tucked away on a street that was a one-way street for eons… and a lot of Cincinnatians probably don’t realize that part of it has changed to two-way. Landlocked was right on the corner where the street changes from two-way to one-way, and right by the interstate… hence the “Landlocked” name. Easy to love once you experienced it, but tough to get to, and nowhere near top of mind or “in crowd” status.

I was a huge fan, but I only made it there a handful of times… usually dragging along some other folks who’d never been, for a happy hour or nightcap. I’d sing Landlock Social House’s praises to anyone and everyone, but I’m a middle aged suburban dude, not a social influencer. (I should change my last name to Kardashian, that might help.)

Photo credit: Brittany Thornton, from CityBeat article linked above

The “mom” (Anne Decker) was the coffee expert, and the “pop” (Andrew Decker) was a craft beer pro. They and their staff were super-friendly. They hosted trivia nights, and chef pop-ups that were quite popular. No reason was given for the closing, but running an independent business is an uphill battle in the best of locations, much less when you’re under the radar and off the beaten path. Opening at 6:30 a.m. for the coffee crowd and staying open until midnight for the beer gang, six days a week, isn’t very family-friendly either, especially for a couple with a young child.

Thank you to everyone who made this place special. We will never forget you, we will never forget our time together. We will be open this week. Come pay your respects to this thing we built together. Landlocked Social House is Dead, Long Live Landlocked Social House. #landlockedsocialhouse

It’s just another independent business that didn’t make it to the five year mark. You can find dozens of examples in every city. But this one really stings, and it’ll sting even more with every Starbucks cup I see.

The sad state of our country

I read this a week ago… haven’t had the heart to write about it until now.

Videogame makers down, gun stocks up

Videogame maker shares came under heavy selling pressure on Monday after President Trump referenced the industry after two mass shootings that shook the country over the weekend. “We must stop the glorification of violence in our society,” he said during a press briefing. “This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace.” Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) tumbled 6% on the news, while Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA) dropped 4.6% and Take-Two (NASDAQ:TTWO) slipped over 5%. Firearm stocks saw gains on gun control fears, however, with American Outdoor Brands (NASDAQ:AOBC) and Vista Outdoor (NYSE:VSTO) rising over 2%.
(Source: Seeking Alpha, 8/6)

It’s been more than a week since the Dayton and El Paso mass shootings/killings, and despite the cries of “do something” we know Mitch McConnell will do absolutely nothing. Because he’s in the back pocket — the very deep back pocket — of the NRA. He should get another nickname to go along with “Moscow Mitch”: “Mass Murder Mitch”.

(Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

I don’t want your hunting rifles. I don’t want your handguns (even though having a handgun in your home makes you more likely to die of a gunshot wound). But please help me understand how a 24-year-old with a history of violent threats possessing an assault rifle, body armor and 250 rounds of ammo makes us all somehow “safer.” Actually, don’t explain it to me, explain it to the residents of Dayton, Ohio.

Yes, Mr. President, there are some videogames that are “gruesome.” But real human beings being mowed down indiscriminately (or discriminately in the case of El Paso) is much more gruesome. So start by focusing on the real killing machines. There are common sense gun regulations that the vast majority of Americans agree upon. Keeping weapons of war limited to the battlefield, for starters. (The 2nd Amendment was — and is — about arming a militia, not common citizens.) Closing loopholes. A national database. Red Flag laws. Trigger locks. Even the NRA supported gun regulations for decades.

(Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, we the people need to do something besides protesting and waiting for the next election cycle. Advocating for, and contributing to, mental health agencies would be a good place to start. Or even just delivering a small dose of kindness every day.

A good deed doesn’t just evaporate and disappear. Its consequences saturate the universe and the goodness that happens somewhere, anywhere, helps in the transfiguration of the ugliness.

Desmond Tutu

Bob Ross was right: Happy Trees!

Here’s your prescription for better health: Take a Hike!

Yes, getting lost (in the wilderness) is the quickest path to improved health and happiness. Check out this article. Here’s the TL;DR excerpt:

Studies showed that just three days and two nights in a wooded place increase the immune system functions that boost feelings of wellbeing for up to seven days. The same amount of time in a built environment has no such effect. Human response includes increased awe, greater relaxation, restored attention, and boosted vitality. Health outcomes on the receiving end of the pathway are astounding: enhanced immunity, including reduced cardiovascular disease, fewer migraines, and lowered anxiety, to name but a few.

Can’t make it to Great Smoky Mountains on your lunch break? A city park or any nearby greenspace will do… as long as it has trees.

The ‘fro knows nature!

Because making your way through a corn maze won’t cut it – you need those happy trees for best results. Here’s another article on that topic. And here’s an excerpt:

“Protection and restoration of urban tree canopy specifically, rather than any urban greening, may be a good option for promotion of community mental health,” write Thomas Astell-Burt and Xiaoqi Feng of the University of Wollongong in New South Wales. Their study, along with a commentary, is published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Here’s my urban oasis, my daily dose of goodness:

I eat my brown bag lunch here nearly every weekday. It’s two blocks from my company’s office, in the heart of downtown Cincinnati, but the trees are magical.

I’ve never understood how some co-workers can eat lunch at their desk, staring at Facebook on the same computer screen that they have to stare at the rest of the day. I want to run up to them and give them just two simple words of advice:

Get out! Turns out it’s not just a great way to hit the reset button on your day, it’s also a fantastic way to improve your mental and physical health.

So go ahead — hug a tree today. You’ll love it!

And it’ll love you back.

How to create a (s)crappy website in 48 hours

A few weekends ago, I created what many would consider a very crappy website. But I don’t think it’s crappy — I think it’s scrappy.

I’m a big fan of Seth Godin, and one of his key tenets is “ship your work.” In other words, you have to put your product out there, you can’t keep it hidden, or keep noodling it to death, wishing and praying that it’ll become perfect at some undefined, future time.

It’s scary, it’s intimidating, because you’re essentially signing your name to something that is rough, raw, unhoned. You’re saying “here, I made this” and opening yourself up to the slings and arrows of other people’s evaluation… and even criticism.

Here’s a recent blog post of Seth’s where he talks about “scrappy” vs. “crappy”:

‘Scrappy’ is not the same as ‘crappy’

The only choice is to launch before you’re ready. Before it’s perfect. Before it’s 100% proven to be no risk to you. At that moment, your resistance says, “don’t ship it, it’s crappy stuff. We don’t ship crap.” And it’s true that you shouldn’t ship work that’s hurried, sloppy or ungenerous. But what’s actually on offer is something scrappy. Scrappy means that while it’s unpolished, it’s better than good enough. Scrappy doesn’t care about cosmetics as much as it cares about impact. Scrappy is flexible and resilient and ready to learn. Ship scrappy.

Ship scrappy is exactly what I did. I’m a big fan of music (no shock to my handful of faithful readers), and I wanted a site where I could consolidate all my music musings:

  • blog posts about live shows, bands, the music business
  • episodes my semi-monthly podcast about my days at 97X, a ground-breaking indie rock station from 1983-2004 and online only through 2010
  • A weekly list of the concerts coming to the Cincinnati area, with my wacky (and sometimes snarky) commentary included. I used to send this out via email, but having it on a website makes it easier to edit and send, and more engaging (I hope) for the recipient.

Hence, 97Xbam.com was born in June, weighing in at 10 pounds of scrappy in a five-pound bag. Wondering where the name came from? Here’s the answer:

While I was putting the site together, I realized I could also add a few more features… a music video, a song from SoundCloud or a similar listening platform, indie rock headlines/news, a discussion board, a photo gallery of concert pix, even sound clips from my days at 97X.

I’m a writer, not a designer, so it ain’t pretty, but it’s pretty good. Huge tip o’ the hat to WordPress for making it so easy that even a caveman like me could do it. The domain name cost about $10, and hosting is about $100. A small price to pay for a scrappy little website. And I’ll keep working on it.

I’ll be posting most, if not all, of my music-related pieces on 97Xbam.com instead of posting them on this site. So if you don’t like my weird taste in music, you’ll enjoy NOT getting the occasional music post. But if you DO like music, you can also subscribe to 97Xbam.com via a link at the bottom of the page, and you’ll get an email anytime I post, typically 1-2 times a week.

It’s not perfect. But it’s scrappy. And that’s music to my ears.