Competition.

Twenty years ago, back when I was the Program Director of a small Top 40 radio station, I used to dread “book months”. These book months were the ratings period for radio, the timeframe when select listeners would write down what radio stations they listened to, how often they listened and for how long they listened. It was during these times that we would formulate promotions that would dazzle listeners, for example, nearly impossible to win $100,000 giveaways, free trips to New York to see “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” and chances to win vacuum cleaners for Mom as a gift for Mother’s Day. We knew how to impress.

The ultimate reason for dazzling the listener was to generate more ratings during book months, which would then in turn make our little radio station more appealing to ad buyers. This, in turn, would give us more commercials to play, causing us to drop more songs per hour but would guarantee we would have enough revenue coming in to paint the studio in gaudy blues and golds, fulfill payroll requirements and allow us to do nifty things like put up billboards to remind folks how great the radio station was. 

One of the many things I didn’t like about this process was the sense of competition. We were one of two Top 40 radio stations in the area and I was told to keep the radio station aggressive. Push the limits with music, reach fringe listeners if possible and more importantly tell them how bad the other radio station was. We had to fight, Fight, FIGHT our way to the top for that ad revenue. The trouble was, the other radio station, Kiss 102, had a bunch of great ideas, had a good team for the most part and played the same music we did. Heck, the Program Director of Kiss 102 was a friend of mine. We had worked together at another station. We “grew up” together in radio. But I had to make the Mr. Voice say clever, snarky things about them all in the name of promotion.

Competition. Why?

I can’t help but roll my eyes when people start chanting and screeching and carrying on about the United States of America being the Greatest Nation on Earth. Now, don’t misconstrue what I’m saying here. I believe that as an American citizen that I’ve got it pretty good. The water is clean, the air is breathable, I can get food for myself with the utmost of ease and I feel mostly safe. I can conduct my life as I see fit, for the most part, without interference, censorship or fear of being killed for just being me. And as an American, I believe that the opportunities that I am afforded should be available to anyone in the world that is willing to come here, work hard, be true, be honest and stand shoulder to shoulder with me as an American citizen. Honestly, I don’t care if you’re black, white, brown, yellow, mauve or drink vodka for breakfast.

We just need to humble about it.

A good portion of the American populace gets off on war. We thrive of competition. Video games, movies, television shows, all of it is about strife. Reality shows are about discord. We are adrenaline junkies and we are not happy unless there’s a threat of a zombie attacking us at any moment. Bad guys lurk everywhere, even if we have to remind you that there’s an impossibly small chance that you’re going to have a bad guy come after you at any given moment. We build huge stadiums next to overcrowded high schools that are falling down, just so we can scream and make other noises that our school is the best at (insert sport here). Apps on our little technological wonders of communication (smartphones) match us up against strangers when we do something as simple as take a morning walk. We earn points, likes, stars, hearts, retweets and shares to stoke our ego. You, too, can go viral!

I often wonder what it is like to live somewhere where folks have more security in themselves. Where they don’t need to be told how great they are at every given turn. Where there are no trophies for participation. Where they don’t need to be constantly reminded that they live in the greatest country on the planet. What is that like? Does it still exist?

Last night I watched Donald Trump give his nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. His speech was filled with many buzzwords, a bunch of catch phrases and a whole lot of sound bites that will be perfect for the news burps that are designed for the average American with the attention span of a gnat. His name was projected in outrageously gold letters, his skin had a strikingly similar hue and his words, while plentiful, struck hollow. Apparently there’s a lot he’s going to do as President, right from Day One, but no one has a clue as to how he’s going to accomplish this, what with the three branches of the United States government and whatnot. There was much praise, USUALLY IN CAPS, about how great his speech was, especially because he uttered the letters, L-G-B-T-Q.  He is going to keep the gay folks safe. However, if the GOP Platform is realized, we can’t get married, our jobs are always in jeopardy and God forbid we buy a cake in Indiana, but Trump is going to do right by us and be wonderful.  WONDERFUL!

Please people, please calm down. And don’t get me started about that damn wall along the southern border.

Can we find our place back to humility? Can we go back to being the greatest country on the planet without constantly beating our chests screeching about it, wearing red, white and blue war paint on our faces and telling the rest of the world they suck? And can we start listening? Has substance given way to sound bites? Is there a chance that common sense will become common again?

Can we just do what we do, as best as we can, without screaming “oh my god look at me I’m awesome!” all the time?

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Insert Witty Eye Catching Title Here Because I Don’t Really Care.

I need to just turn off social media today. I need to turn off anything that purports itself as a news station for the foreseeable future. Hell, I need to turn off the television, period.

I have grown so weary of stupid people trying to get themselves into power and stupid people trying to put stupid people into power. Let’s face it, I’m just tired of stupid people, and unfortunately, being stupid is très chic in these here United States.

I am so drained from the sheer idiocy being displayed by “my fellow Americans” that I can’t even begin to figure out how I’m going to make it through the next four months of these stupid dog and pony shows that pass themselves off as the “American Electoral Process”.

Plastic faces. Stolen speeches. Stupid ideas. Hateful words.

I am better than this. We are better than this. Electing the next leader of “The Greatest Country In The World”™ should not parallel the likes of your standard, bottom-feeding, scrub grubbing reality show. And this is exactly what we have, a reality show that caters to the stupidest people in the country.

Look, I get that I’m different. I think differently. I see things in a different light. I don’t have a lot of tolerance and I’m often short on patience. And it’s my observation from this far off the beam that makes me realize I just need to shut down the computer and tune out the sheer lunacy, stupidity and idiocy that has gripped this nation.

Either that or we need to move.

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Safe.

The first time I stepped into gay bar it was November 1986. The bar was called “Doc’s”. It was located in the basement of a pediatrician’s office in Jamestown, N.Y. I was a freshman in college at the time. I had met a guy at the college production of “The Normal Heart” and he thought we could meet up for a drink. He was 21, I was 18. Below drinking age and having never stepped foot in a bar on my own, I made the drive and walked in, ordering a Coca-Cola from the bartender. The bar wasn’t really big; it could probably hold 75 without everyone feeling overly cramped. There were three rooms once you descended the stairs into the basement: a room with a pool table, a room with some couches and chairs and other relaxation areas and the main room which had the bar, a decently sized dance floor and a few tables in chairs at the end opposite the bar.

The bar had about 40 people in it when I walked in and I felt everyone’s eyes on me; I was a new face. Having grown up in a small town where my contact with gay men was very minimal, I was probably quite skittish and didn’t strike up conversation with many folks. I just wanted to meet the guy I had met a few nights before.

I was always uncomfortable in unfamiliar social situations because I was always worried that I would be “found out” and subsequently be taunted for being gay. After a few moments of standing by myself, I came to the realization that this wouldn’t be a concern for me at Doc’s, everyone else there was gay. For the first time in my life, I relaxed and let my guard down. In that space at that moment, it was OK to be me. For the next couple of years going to a gay bar would be the only place where I could really be myself. Of course I was still socially awkward, that’s just part of my modus operandi. But I was less socially awkward there. If I was going to be taunted it would be due to my cheesy mustache or my poor fashion choices, not simply because of being gay.

The folks at Pulse in Orlando last weekend were just out for a fun night with friends in a space they considered safe. Now, 2016 is much different than 1986 when it comes to being gay in public, however, I imagine for many the gay bar is where they still felt like they were in a safe space. They could be themselves and let their guard down.

Except a man decided that he wanted to go in and kill as many “perverts” as possible. Whether he was indoctrinated, taught or just came up with the belief that gay folks are perverts is not relevant. The fact of that matter is he made the conscious decision to go into a gay bar and massacre as many gay folks as possible.

They just wanted to dance, have fun and feel safe.

Politicians have been quick to politicize the event. This massacre has been labeled a terrorist attack, presumably due to the assailant’s allegiance to ISIS. The fact of the matter is, this was a hate crime. This was a deliberate attack on individuals that are wired differently than many. People that are still demonized, ostracized and beat over the head with Bible verses for being sick, perverted, etc.

A couple of the victims were friends of a coworker and his family. Reports are showing screenshots of children writing to their parents moments before they were shot dead. This is the biggest mass shooting in the history of “The Greatest Country On Earth”.

I really wish we’d start acting like our grand declaration of “The Greatest Country On Earth”. We hear that a lot, don’t we. “Number One!” “Number One!” “Number One!”. When are going to start living up to our own hype and getting beyond stupid prejudice acts of killing like this? When are we going to start enacting sensible gun control? We all have to take our shoes off at the airport because one idiot decided to hide a bomb in his shoe but how many mass shootings will it take before someone says, “hey, we need to do something about guns.”

Just to be clear, I don’t believe that we should take away everyone’s guns. As I mentioned yesterday, that’s not going to solve the problem. But I do believe that we need to add another layer of security to the process of obtaining a gun.

All these folks wanted yesterday was to be in a safe place to have a great night out with friends.

Words can not express how terrible it is that they had to do die for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Answers?

Earl and I were at the Central New York Tour de Cure bright and early this morning. Earl volunteered to help coordinate the breakfast tent and I was one of many participants in the cycling event. I rode the metric Century, which was actually 65.5 miles (100 km = roughly 62 miles). The ride went well and I completed it in four hours 39 minutes of riding time. There were five rest stops along the route.

It was at the first route that I posted a photo or two on Facebook and that’s when I saw the news of the mass shooting at the gay bar “Pulse” in Orlando. A gunman armed with an AR-15 assault rifle shot at least 50 people dead and wounded at least 53 others. It’s the largest mass shooting in the history of the United States.

Words cannot describe how much my heart aches as I watch the direction our country is headed. This type of horrific event is becoming entirely too commonplace “from seas to shining sea”. There are reports of the gunman’s possible ties to terrorists groups in the Middle East. Many news outlets are accordingly calling this an act of terrorism.

It was an act of hate.

I have no answers. I have many questions but I have no answers. Yes, stricter gun laws should be in place but I know that’s not going to slow down killers that are intent on killing. I toyed with the idea of making biometric triggers mandatory on firearms but 1. I don’t know what that would really do and 2. Any firearm already out in the wild could easily be looked over for meeting that requirement.

The only answer I can come close to is that we need to stop the American fetishization of firearms and we need to ramp back the depiction of consequence free killing in the media. Honestly, I don’t know that either will help the cause but it’s a start.

I refuse to be afraid. I refuse to be intimidated. The only thing I fear is the direction the U.S. is heading. I read some comments on Twitter from popular politicians and it just increased my desire to vomit. Trump was being Trump, others are touting the virtues of the Second Amendment.

I have no answers. I’m sick and tired of asking the same questions over and over.

Infrastructure.

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Earl and I were riding around the area in the Jeep this afternoon when we got into a discussion about the crumbling infrastructure of Upstate New York. While I haven’t heard any reports about water issues like the atrocities in Flint, Mich., one can’t help but notice that Upstate New York municipalities, as well as the NYS Department of Transportation, is having a hard time keeping up with one component of our critical infrastructure, and that’s maintenance of our roadways.

In order to move goods to and fro around the area we need to have a good highways with safe bridges and road surfaces that aren’t going to ruin a vehicle. As we bounced along a state maintained highway, I remarked to Earl that in my nearly 48 years of living in the Empire State I have never seen the roadways in such disrepair. And I have been very attentive to roads my entire life.

Back in 1987 a bridge on the New York State Thruway over Schoharie Creek collapsed, killing ten people. It was a very big deal when this happened nearly 30 years ago and measures were taken to avoid the situation again. Money was poured into our highway infrastructure throughout the Upstate counties and the roads were beautiful. But Mother Nature can be quite hard on asphalt around here and the constant scaling back of construction projects due to budgetary concerns is really start to show the wear and tear on our highways.

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On a recent road trip, I was startled by the condition of the main thoroughfare in the Jamestown area. The picture above was taken along NY Route 394 in the Town of Busti. This busy road serves the majority of commercial interests in the area. I can’t help but wonder how many cars get beat up on this roadway as residents try to do something as simple as go to the mall.

Businesses that might consider moving to the area must look at the condition of our roads and buildings and bridges and wonder if the state is really as committed as they claim to be when everything seems to be in disrepair.

I know this all falls on the shoulders of the budget and the fact that there’s just not enough money to go around. I hear the word “entitlements” being thrown around quite a bit. Some like to blame welfare, others like to blame the “lack of taxes” on the rich. I think it’s a mix of everything.

I wish I could suggest a solution to the faltering economy in the Empire State, but I don’t have answers. All I know is that what we are doing isn’t working. With weekly reports of politicians being hauled off to jail I suspect that corruption is part of the problem as well but the populace seems too lazy to vote to get some new blood in Albany.

This is disappointing.

I’m hoping that someday I’ll be around to see the Empire State live up to its name once again. I just hope I don’t lose the Jeep in a pothole while I’m trying to get to the grocery store.

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Decency.

Jamie was in a car accident yesterday. He was headed home to Chicago along the Ohio Turnpike, driving in the center lane when I car in the left lane cut in front of him, pushing him into a tractor-trailer in the right lane. Luckily, he hit the cab of the tractor-trailer and didn’t hit farther back, where his Cooper Countryman probably would have slipped under the truck. That would have been nasty and I try not to think about it. Aside from a bruised up wrist, he is OK. Three other drivers, along with the truck driver, witnessed the accident, made sure he was OK and stayed behind to provide information to the police. The driver of the vehicle that cut him off spun out a little bit, righted his vehicle and took off.

Aside from being scared out of my wits over this news, I have to admit that I am very angry. I am grateful that witnesses stayed behind to provide the story for the police report. Apparently when the trucker jumped out of his truck the first thing he said was “that guy cut you off!”. Unfortunately, no one got the license plate of the indecent human behind the wheel of the vehicle that caused the accident in the first place. And I am angry that someone doesn’t have the balls to own up to their mistake.

Someone could have been injured or even killed. The thought that someone made a mistake that created this sort of mayhem and then just fled the scene is not helping my increasing belief that our society, and personal responsibility in general, is headed down the crapper. What has happened to watching out for one another, ‘love thy neighbor’ and all that stuff? Are people so narrow minded and concerned of only their little speck of existence that they don’t care what happens around them?

Horrible!

Jamie’s car is somewhere in Ohio, towed to a shop and awaiting a visit from an insurance adjuster to determine whether the car will be totaled out or repaired.  Personally I’m hoping for repaired because that’s an awesome little car. Earl drove out to Ohio last night to pick Jamie up and take him to Chicago so he could finish his school semester. I’m at home keeping the home fires burning and doing what I can to be supportive.

I still shake my h dad in disbelief that someone could knowingly create such an accident and just drive away from the scene. I really need something to restore my faith in American society (notice I didn’t say “restore my faith in the world”) because I don’t like the direction we seem to be headed toward. 

But most importantly, I’m just happy that Jamie is OK.

Car Phones.

A recent reorganization at work has resulted in my belonging to a bigger team. Once the lone guy in Upstate New York, I now have colleagues in the Rochester area, which is a little over two hours from the house. I made the drive today to meet these folks; it was a productive day today and I’m very happy to be part of this larger group. Face-to-face time is always a good thing.

Since the majority of my work travel has been by air of late, I hadn’t done much in the way of commuting in the Jeep. The drive along the New York State Thruway west of the Mohawk Valley can sometimes be described as mind-numbing, especially when one has political commentary droning on and on from the radio. I decided to wise up, turn off the radio and take notice of my surroundings.

The pace of traffic along Interstate 90 in these parts slows down considerably west of us. I don’t like cranking the Jeep up over 70 for too long as the tires aren’t really designed for interstate driving and more importantly, the “ECO ON” indicator turns off and my gas mileage plummets. The speed limit is 65 so I set the cruise at 69 because it’s a number that a lot of people enjoy. West of here traffic during the day seemed to be moving around 70-72 MPH today. I enjoyed looking at the other people driving on the road. There were quite a few people driving much faster and most of them had either out-of-state plates (namely Massachusetts or New Jersey) or their license plate frame/bracket indicated that they were from the downstate area. Traffic on the Thruway downstate moves much faster down there because those folks are always in a hurry.

The one thing that I really took notice of was the fact that hardly anyone was using their cell phone illegally. I didn’t see any illegal texting, talking or watching of video, that is, until I was on my way home and east of Syracuse. Once I was east of Syracuse the average speed picked up a bit and I spotted several more people talking on or using their phone in some way, even though the amount of traffic on the roadway itself seemed to be the same. Tell-tale signs of erratic weaving, unnecessary brake lights and misuse of the passing lane made it easy to spot those that decided that their phone was more important than the task at hand, that being driving the car. I couldn’t pin an average age to the activity, folks seemed to be all over the birthday spectrum but my completely unscientific observations did show that women were more apt to be using the phone than men.

I try really hard to not use my phone when I’m driving. I’ve been known to talk to my phone to launch music or dictate a text message to Earl or Jamie or to send a Tweet, but if Siri goes brain dead during one of these activities I will just give up on the endeavor and stay focused on driving. Most of the time. I wish it was 100% of the time but it would be a lie if I said I was picture perfect in this department.

I’m always striving for improvement. I wish others would follow that lead.

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LED.

We live in a gadget laden world. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, thermostats, televisions, toasters, dishwashers, the list of devices with displays and status indicators goes on and on.

By the way, who’s idea was it to put countdown timers on a toaster? Are we really in that much of a hurry that we need to know how many seconds are left before our toasted English muffin pops out of the toaster? Ridiculous.

I digress.

A good share of our personal electronics need to be charged on a nightly basis. Like many others, I’m sure, I charge my iPhone and my Apple Watch on my nightstand. The iPad joins in the fun as well. Since most bedrooms come with two plugs in the general vicinity of a nightstand, some sort of power strip or other multi-plug adapter is required for the task. This is especially true when traveling.

I recently purchased a USB charging adapter that can charge four devices at once. It is a compact unit that uses a single plug. It works great; the varying amperages available are perfect for the myriad of devices I have scattered on the nightstand. The problem is the status light on the unit. It is quite bright.

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Now, keep in mind that I am sitting in complete darkness snapping that photo and my iPhone is able to capture the light reflected against the wall without an issue.

I would love to see who is conducting these research and development meetings where they are discussing how to illuminate a bedroom with a small, pin-sized LED lightbulb. I am convinced that this LED is also used for taxiway lighting at O’Hare or Kennedy because honestly, the entire hotel room is illuminated by this thing.

I have a similar charger setup at home except the light is red. After one night of that bright merriment I covered the LED status light with electrical tape. The unit will get the same treatment as soon as I’m back home.

Are these bright LEDs suppose to be a reminder? An subliminal advertisement of some sort?

Perhaps people are getting crankier in today’s society because they can’t sleep due to all the needless light.

That’s The Spirit.

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A fight broke out on Spirit Airlines flight 141 from Baltimore to Los Angeles yesterday morning. Two women, reported to be intoxicated, brought a “boom box” onto the flight and were playing their music loudly. When a group of other women complained, they turned up the tunes and waved their boombox in the air. Apparently this went on for nearly the duration of the flight and a fight broke out between the two women. Screaming, punching, hair pulling, the works. One of the flight attendants was punched in the face. Several onlookers recorded the fight on their iPhones so that they could share on the Internet and get likes and ad dollars and whatnot.

Here’s a report from the Los Angeles Times (link).

Being a somewhat opinionated individual, I have several thoughts on this story.

Spirit Airlines flight 141 from Baltimore to Los Angeles left BWI at 0824 ET, arriving at LAX at 1034 PT. That’s might early to be intoxicated.

I’ve never flown on Spirit Airlines because, well, they don’t have a reputation for being a classy outfit and I tend to steer away from those types of experiences, especially when it involves being sealed up in an aluminum tube at 35,000 feet for several hours with a bunch of strangers. I have the impression that Spirit Airlines is basically a Wal*mart checkout line with wings.

While I don’t think this was a 1980s boombox, complete with cassette deck and the like, it’s rude to play your music without headphones in a public space, period, end of story, full stop. Earl and I had to endure a woman in a diner over the holidays that kept playing Christmas music off her iPhone and dancing around her booth as she waited for her double portion of Pork Roll. To this day I still can’t wipe out the horrible fidelity of the music nor the ugly Christmas sweater from my memory.

Who gets into a fist fight on an airplane? Who has the energy to get into a fist fight at 10:30 in the morning? Why did the TSA allow a boombox on the airplane in the first place? (Quick side note – the bomb that brought down Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland was concealed in a boombox). Why did the flight attendants address the issue before the situation escalated into a fight between passengers? Why didn’t the passengers recording the fight on their mobile devices step in and try to stop it?

If I had been the pilot I would have introduced the passengers to a maneuver called a “steep turn”. That would have shut them up. There’s a reason I don’t fly for the airlines.

Back to the intoxication. Why were they allowed on the flight? In my years of airline travel I’ve seen a few passengers pulled from a flight for being too drunk. The airline put them up in a hotel so they could sober up and fly safely the next day. Why were these intoxicated women allowed on the flight?

This is yet another example of the dwindling of any sort of manners, dignity or socially acceptable behavior in public. As trash continues to be glorified by the media people think they can do whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want.

It’s just another example of The New Spirit of America.

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Spelling Hints.

Here’s a helpful guide to avoid some of the popular spelling mistakes seen in today’s modern world:
 
 They’re going over there to see their new sofa.
 
 He will lose weight so his pants will be loose. This doesn’t make him a loser but his pants could be looser.
 
 They were at the salon lightening her hair with highlights during the thunder and lightning storm.
 
 He deserted his friends to eat an ice cream cone for dessert while sitting in the Arizona Desert.
 
 The animated French Fry’s plan was to group together with the other French Fries.
 
 If you’re one ass out of a thousand, there are many asses. Assess how many asses there are.
 
 You’re going to your graduation.
 
 Apostrophes do not appreciate when you use the apostrophe’s claim to fame inappropriately.