Hold your applause: PR stunts for the naive

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I was going to write about this earlier, but the fact is that when it is a hot topic and you have no time, it is hard to get ahead of those who write for a living. So, I’ll just preface a professionally written article with my two cents of analysis.

Public Relations is a hard thing for companies, but when they have the right atmosphere a PR stunt can garner them a lot of positive attention. We witnessed such a perfect PR storm this last week that it can’t be denied for what it really is. Many Americans applauded and ate it up, but my take is that many of those Americans are really naive to think the decisions were made based on some moral guide, superiority, or an actual political stand.

PR stunt Olympics

Companies this last week have been announcing they will no longer sell assault style weapons, raising sales ages to 21, banning bump stocks, etc., etc., etc. They are all basically designed to make it more difficult to legally buy these types of weapons or supplies. On the surface, this is a great PR win for the companies but it is really just a stunt for press attention.

Why do I say these moves are just PR stunts? Let’s be real here. There is no moral fortitude being used when it costs you nothing to make a stand. I don’t have real hard numbers here but I would bet if you looked over these companies financial statements you would find that gun sales are a small, small percentage of their overall sales. By extension, that would mean the sales of the specific weapons they are now demonizing are a fraction of a percent in their overall sales. If your PR stunt involves a small fraction of your overall sales, it doesn’t cost you anything to make a stand. But what it does do is help naive Americans think you are the greatest thing since sliced bread.

A few examples:

  • Dick’s Sporting Goods/Field & Stream – the first of the big stores to announce the ban and restrictions. Let’s be honest, not the first place most people would think to go to buy a weapon! Dick’s sells more shoes, shorts, baseball gloves, and golf clubs than it sells guns. That’s their bread and butter, so guns sales is an afterthought for them. *Personal note – The firearm section in my local Dick’s is so small and limited that it is a joke to even think of shopping there. Most of the time, I forget they even have them.*
  • Walmart – What are they known for? Everything under the sun (most of the time) at low prices. Yes, they have a small section of firearms but this is not your go to destination for firearms. They even admit they have sold these types of guns, but they just don’t sell. (That would be because people who are serious about anything don’t shop at Walmart, they go to a specialty store.)
  • Kroger/Fred Meyer – Again, what are they known for? Clothes, groceries, and home goods. Firearms is not a major source of revenue for them. *Personal Note – I was actually surprised to see a small firearms section magically appear in our local store a few years back. It seemed totally random and out of the blue.*

Listen, a PR stunt is a PR stunt and there no real stand being taken here.

The fact is, there are laws on the books to keep bad people from getting guns and when they are followed they work a vast majority of the time. Are there ways around them and are they fool-proof? No. Nothing is perfect. I am not that naive. Could we do more? Maybe. But for me it comes down to “just because we can doesn’t mean we should.” These things are a slippery slope and are much like government entitlements (once you give them it becomes difficult to take them away), only in the opposite direction – once you take someone’s right away, it becomes difficult to give it back.

 

Check out the great article below which was published before I could publish my conclusions:

Gun-control proponents shouldn’t be so quick to praise corporations.

Source: Corporations only break with the gun industry when it’s cheap and easy – The Washington Post

Anniversary: A Travel Cup Commentary

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Some things in life are worth holding onto. Some things in life are worth letting go.

Most things, just aren’t made they way the used to be. Those old things, those are the ones worth holding onto, most of the time.

Week day mornings for the last 10 years have mostly started with the same object in my hand while I commute from home to work. It has travelled as far as I have over those years.

My trusty Starbucks travel cup bears the signs of use, and lots of it. It has kept me company in the car and has made my mornings that much easier to deal with the day ahead. Sure, it isn’t as pretty as it was when it was new, but I like it just the same.

When it was new, it was blue. The color has been long since worn away and now it is just a plain stainless steel, double walled shell. It didn’t have dents along the bottom ring, or a chipped lid. It certainly didn’t have a nose print (yes, that ring is a nose print) or a whisker burn on the lid. Some of the wear and tear has come from riding in a cup holder, taking dives off the top of the car, being tossed into the back seat, shoved into a bag, or just plain doing what it is supposed to do. But it has withstood all the travel and abuse.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t leak! The original rubber ring that closes the seal between the lid and the cup is still intact. The rubber nub that keeps the air hole closed on the lid is still intact as well. Not only does it not leak, but it also keeps my coffee hot for my entire commute (provided the coffee lasts that long), which can sometimes be more than an hour.

My wife gave me the cup just a little over 10 years ago for my birthday. We had just started dating then and it was the first of my birthdays we had been together, so who knew what kind of life it, let alone we, would have since then. She told me the other day, when I mentioned it was now 10 years old, that I should get another one. My response? “No way! I love this cup.”

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The thing is, there really isn’t anything special about the cup. It is, after all, just a cup. But, what is special about the cup is that my wife gave it to me and it has been a part of my mornings for so long, I can’t imagine using a different cup. It is kind of like that old pair of sweat pants or shoes, that old t-shirt or sweatshirt that is so worn out and thread-bare, but you just can’t give it up. Why? Well, because it is comfortable. When you wear them or use it, it just feels right. It is a piece of you, to some degree, so giving it up would be like giving up a hand, or leg. Ok, well maybe not that drastic, but you know what I mean.

I get it. Some people would say, “But there are new ones. New is better. It has more bells and whistles. It looks better.” I say, let them say it. Replacing something just because it is old, isn’t the answer and it is over-rated. Period.

They don’t make them like they used to…and some things are just worth holding on to.

 

What thing or things do you have in your life that is worth holding onto because it is familiar, comfortable, and just plain made better?

Aborted: Valentine’s Day Love Letter to Myself

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I can’t escape this day, so I might as well embrace it for what it is. What it is, is time to give myself some love, something I have neglected to do for a long time ever.

I have written about Valentine’s Day in the past. I don’t have a love affair with the idea of the day and maybe probably actually despise it a lot little. But something I have never done is actually given myself some affirming words on a day that is should be dedicated to me love. So, let’s give this a try and see how it works out…

My Love Letter To Me

You ARE enough. You don’t have anything to prove to anyone. You don’t have to be everything to everyone, and you shouldn’t try to be. YOU are enough the way you are.

You ARE unique. There is no one like you and you already stand out for the right reasons. YOUR uniqueness shines through in all that you do.

Abort, abort, abort…

OK, that is as far as I got. It totally feels foreign. Awkward! Why is it so weird to talk about myself in this way?

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The truth is that I am not good at this. I guess I have never been very good at accepting compliments, let alone taking them from myself. Maybe I never will be.

I am hard on myself. Always have been. My humor is self-deprecating, but that’s probably a reflection of the fact that I don’t see much that is valuable. I know I am valuable, but affirming it of myself, from myself, is not something I’ve been good at. Is anyone good at it, really?

I suppose most of us probably avoid this sort of thing because we see others who may be good at it but we feel like they are being conceited or full of themselves. “Well, lookie here. Who got up on his/her high horse today?”  We don’t want to come across as someone who is full of themselves so we do the exact opposite and then it turns into a habit, where we beat ourselves up and tear ourselves down.

Oh, for the love of Pete self…

So, has anyone written a love letter to themselves before? How do you do it? Got any hints, tips, pointers?

How did you feel while you were writing it?

How did you feel after you had done? Do you go back and reread it once in a while?

The great mystery here, at least for me, is how to love myself AND actually feel it without feeling like it is phony self-talk. Is that possible?

The Accountability of Weight

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There is a birthday coming around the corner, and it is high time something changes.

Number 46 comes on February 14 (yes, the one that is tomorrow) and I have been thinking about this for a while. The thing is about this birthday, as opposed to say some major landmark like 50 or 60, is that I feel like this one is scary. Not because I am getting older, but because there are things in my life that need to change and by putting it out there (as in, bringing it up on my blog and other places) I am going to have to do something about it. Accountability…I don’t fear it, but I do when it comes to this.

I am overweight and something needs to change.

I know. I have known it for a while. Now, I’m not grossly overweight – though the current standards on obesity certainly indicate that I am, in fact, grossly overweight. I don’t really feel it (all the time), but I know that my clothes just don’t fit well any longer and that the prospect of buying bigger ones that do fit, well, that isn’t all that appealing really. So, I am at a crossroads.

According to several websites, the ideal weight for my age & height ranges somewhere between 130-145. To me, that doesn’t sound reasonable because it is too low. The reason it doesn’t sound reasonable is because that is the weight (130) I was at when I graduated high school. At the end of high school I was a lean, mean wrestling and baseball machine and I don’t really have any intention of going back to being that lean. But, it does give me insight into what I think would be a much healthier me, maybe 15-20 heavier than the “ideal weight.” I mean, let’s be honest here, I am going to have to have some muscle! I don’t care if it is toned or sculpted or whatever they call it these days. I just want to feel better and have more energy. So…

I would like to lose 46 pounds in the next year. Yes, that’s right, I want to lose one pound for each year I have been alive and I want to do it in the next 365+/- days. That would mean this:

Currently I am 208 lbs – 46 lbs in 1 year = 162 lbs as a final weight.

Ok, ok, let’s just round that number to 165. There. That is my goal. I have one year to get it done.

Now, I don’t want this to turn into a blog about my journey to/thru weight loss, so I am body_deadline-2not going to write lots of regular updates here. I don’t think you want to be bored with that kind of info. But, what I do want is some accountability, so I am going to try to post an update on my progress about once a month (hopefully progress, and not lack thereof). Approximately every 30 days you should hear something from me about how it is going. Hold me to it! If you don’t see something 30 days from now, email me and remind me. Please. Pretty please. Thank you please.

 

I was talking with a friend last night and he has lost 95 pounds in about 14 months. Man, that was a motivator too! I can do this…I just gotta put my head to it and my nose to the grindstone…

If you see me with food that is bad for me, slap it out of my hand and punch me in the nose. Ok, that would be good accountability but I don’t think I really want that. Maybe.

Any advice as I go into this? I mean beyond the typical eat right and exercise. I know that part. Food tips? Exercise tips? Motivational tips? Music? Apps? What do you know and recommend? Comment below!

Directions You’re Gonna Regret

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Every had one of those moments where you decide to follow the directions and then instantly regret it?

The image above shows the directions I followed, which I instantly regretted. Why? They seem relatively straight forward, right?

Not exactly. If you were paying attention, the food is contained within a pouch. The problem is the pouch. The food literally does not need to be cooked in the pouch. But, you decide to follow the directions anyway. So, as a result, one wouldn’t think to cover the top of the pouch…I can see that lightbulb flickering…you are starting to get it…because while to food is in the pouch there is no convenient way to cover the top of the pouch with something that will keep the now heating food from exploding all over the inside of the microwave. POP! SNAP! CRACKLE, CRACKLE, BOOM!

So the written instructions on the back of the food product would more accurately read:

  1. Tear or cut open pouch.
  2. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) for 45-60 seconds. Microwave ovens vary; heating times may need to be adjusted.
  3. Wait for “fireworks” noises to be heard over the humming of the microwave.
  4. If you live dangerously, wait for the time on the microwave to expire and you hear the beep or ding. If you don’t like to live dangerously, curse loudly and pull open microwave door immediately.
  5. Remove pouch from microwave while surveying the messy damage. If you like burnt fingertips, grab anywhere and throw in a little squeeze for kicks; otherwise, carefully grab a small corner at the top edge of the pouch.
  6. Empty remaining content of pouch into a bowl or onto a plate. If the pouch is lighter than when you put it into the microwave, deposit pouch directly into the garbage.
  7. While cursing or muttering under your breath, grab cleaning supplies (we recommend all purpose cleaner and paper towels) and clean the entire inside of the microwave before the next co-worker needs to use it. Return cleaning supplies to proper location after use.
  8. If you are still hungry, ENJOY the small amount of remaining contents from the pouch. Remember, it may be hot (depending on how long it took you to clean the microwave) so use caution. If the remaining contents are not hot, please return them directly to the clean microwave and cover the dish with a paper towel.
  9. If you are not still hungry, return directly to work and try to be productive while your stomach growls all afternoon.

Here’s how it should read since the instructions are out of order or they left out a few steps:

  1. Tear or cut open pouch.
  2. Empty contents into a bowl or onto a plate.
  3. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) for 45-60 seconds. Microwave ovens vary; heating times may need to be adjusted.
  4. Enjoy.

There, now isn’t that better?

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Do you have an example of when you followed the directions and then regretted it? Share in the comments below!

School Picture Thievery

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This school picture thing is a pretty big racket if you ask me, and if you’re a parent you know what I am talking about. If there is any place you know it and can feel yourself being ripped off but can’t do anything about it, it is definitely with school pictures and sports team photos.

I have felt this frustration in the past, but it kind of boiled to a head this year when I went to order my daughter’s school pictures. It usually isn’t a big deal trying to order them, but being the “non-custodial” parent who usually gets the information second-hand sometimes it takes a while to get it done. (Yes, I realize I could just have photographer friend take the photo and avoid all the trouble so I guess I am a glutton for punishment).

Anyway, I logged onto the website with my special code and wanted to just download the image to my computer and then go have them printed in the quantities and styles I desired. So, I selected the outrageously overpriced digital image – $22. Say what? Yeah, you read that right…let’s do some quick math…

If a school has 300 hundred students and the photographer can get 60 students through a line and photographed per hour, then the photographer would work for five hours. The photographer is, most likely, using a digital camera to take said digital images @ $22 each, therefore making $1320/hr, or $6600/day. That is of course presuming that each parent purchases just the digital image, let alone one of the other overpriced packages they offer. Now we know not all parents purchase the pictures, but you get the idea.

So, after choosing the digital image for download I get to the check out page only to see that I am going to be charged a “Shipping and Handling” fee of $7. Uh, wait, what? I am downloading a digital image. Why is there a shipping and handling fee? What’s worse is that I can’t remove the fee either. The radial button is greyed out. I either pay the fee right now, or wait until the next day to call them. So, I opted to call the company the next day since surely the fee for a digital download isn’t $7 bucks…

I called the next day and waded through their automated answering system until I got to a real person to talk to. I explained my situation and asked if there was some kind of error on their website that wouldn’t allow me to remove the shipping and handling fee. The response?

“No, that is a flat fee we charge for all late orders.” 

Late? Yes, it is true I didn’t order when the pictures were taken in the fall, but your website says they can be ordered at any time until following fall AND there is nothing to indicate this is a “late” order on the website. I was a little dumbfounded. I said, “You’re joking right? How does downloading a digital image warrant a $7 late fee or even a shipping and handling fee?”

“Well, we do have to mail you the rights release so you can have the picture printed.”

So what you’re saying is that you are going to charge me $7 to mail me a sheet of paper and an envelope that costs, at best, a stamp or maybe two? I said, “Listen, I understand it costs money to send a piece of paper and envelope out to me but I have ordered digital images from other photographers in the past and they didn’t charge me an extra fee for the rights release, they included it with the digital image download. Surely you have the ability to do that right? So, why would I need a piece of paper mailed to me? It takes less than three minutes to compose a generic email and attach two image files to it.”

“Ok, I suppose I could waive the shipping and handling fee. What email address would you like the images sent to?”

Thank you. Now was that so hard and how about you waive all shipping and handling fees for all digital downloads from here on out? I probably speak for everyone who has encountered this ridiculous fee. There is no reason for it other than you can, and you have families over a barrel. I would venture a guess that many people just pay the fee, which is sad.

Highway robbery, I tell ya, only there was no highway and the bandit holds parents and other family members hostage every dang year around school picture time.

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Logical trade, illogical politics

A week or so ago I wrote about a logical trade when it came to finding a solution to a budget impasse and solving some immigration issues. It seems no one was paying much attention (of course, my readership isn’t that high so that last statement was tongue and cheek).

We wake up today with a government shutdown and while the political spin machines are working over time to spin it this way and that, there is really only one place that blame can be laid here. I say that because when it comes right down to the crux of the issues, there is only one party in this case that is taking an illogical stance and fighting with illogical politics – the Democrats.

The Democrats are where the blame for this shutdown should be squarely placed. This is the bed they made for so many Americans who may find themselves with no job and no paycheck come Monday morning. Or worse yet, those federal employees (like our men and women in uniform serving all over the world) who will have to work and not get paid.

Why do the Democrats take the sole blame for this one? Well, they are standing on a program that protects illegal immigrants, DACA, and they are keeping the government from being able to protect and enforce it’s own borders, which essentially continues to add to the problem of illegal immigration. So, instead of negotiating with a little give and take, they have decided that this is where they will plant their flag and stand.

Just in some quick looking around, this is what we are talking about, by the numbers:

  • 700,000 (+/-) illegal immigrants who are known as “Dreamers” that the DACA program is protecting and allowing to stay in the US because they were brought here as children.

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  • 13,000,000 (+/-) federal employees who will be affected by the shutdown, in one way or another.

These numbers come from CNN, who we all know is left-leaning and “fake news” according to the president. The point being, these numbers are from a typically Democratic party friendly source so they may be even higher. There were various estimates all over the net.

All that being said, it shows that one party here is not making a logical stand when it comes to negotiations and is putting even more Americans at risk by taking this stance. The spin machines can spin all they want, but there is not getting around the numbers and what the fight is really over. Remember the old adage, “The greatest good for the greatest number’? It seems one party has forgotten it.

Hopefully, come Monday morning there will be an agreement that involves both sides giving something and the prospect of moving forward isn’t just a hope.

We have a broke(n) government – literally and figuratively.

 

 

A question of quality or quantity?

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I haven’t ever really committed to a “schedule” for publishing my blog. I am not sure I will. However, I am looking to do more with it this year than I have in the past. That being said, the ultimate question comes down to – quality or quantity?

When it comes to growing your blog, which is better? I am sure that quality matters, but does it really matter when it comes to growing your blog?

I have seen other bloggers who say just getting out there and publishing something is better than nothing. Yes, I understand that. I have also seen other bloggers say that putting out something that others want to read is important. Yes, I understand that. So where do the amount of what you publish and the quality of what you publish meet? Is there an intersection of balance or is that a fantasy (especially for someone with a family and a job)?

Perhaps I just think too much about this and go into too much detail by trying to support what I write with facts and details. Perhaps I care to much about what I write and want to make sure it is accurate. Perhaps I should care less, but not be careless.

Does having a schedule really work?

Does having a singular topic or focus area help?

Any insight or advice from the veteran bloggers out there? I know there are lots of places I can probably go to read about this, but I don’t want to comb through pages and pages of info because in the end it is all just opinions anyway, right? So, what do you think?

Seems Like a Logical Trade

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Hey, we need a budget (it would be nice if they could live within their means – but that is for another day) so there seems to be some negotiating going on that supposedly will at least make the unbalanced budget happen…ok, who are we kidding? There isn’t any negotiating going on, just a lot of posturing, finger-pointing, and name calling.

One point of contention is that there are people in our country that shouldn’t be here, 89a8134cd81b7609bec1fc47d6ca-should-illegal-immigrants-be-treated-equallymaking them illegal (why illegal, well because they didn’t follow a legal process – the law – to get here and stay here). This we know for sure and there is no debating it. However, some of those people are here as no fault of their own. They were brought here, illegally, when they were young and, for all intents and purposes, have not known any other home. This too isn’t a point of debate because it is fact.

dacaThose young illegals, were afforded some protection under the DACA policy (seems reasonable given their age and the requirements to stay) and on the surface it would appear to be a rather humane and successful way to deal with the issue. The DACA policy is set to expire in March, however, and some people would really like to keep it. Temporary programs, given that no actual law is created to make it permanent, are meant to end and not go on perpetually. So, a compromise on this point seems achievable.

Another point of contention is that there are lots of people in the US who would like to have a wall on the southern border to keep future illegals from entering the US. This is, after all, the right and privilege of any sovereign nation – to control its borders and limit who can enter the nation (in lots of cases around the world, this is done with a combination of actual, physical barriers and laws). This idea, while completely legit doesUS-MEXICO-RELIGION-BORDER-EASTER-MASS have some drawbacks since there are places where a physical wall is completely impossible. That really isn’t the point though and if there are places there can’t be an actual wall, there can be, in all practicality given technology today, a “virtual wall.” Regardless of how it happens, there does need to be a larger and more daunting barrier to keep people from entering the country illegally (because it is against the law). This too doesn’t sound like a bad idea, regardless of cost, because it is in the nation’s best interest to limit who is capable of arriving at and crossing over our borders. So, again, a compromise seems to be achievable here too.

**Author’s Note: Apparently I am too slow in writing at least part of this, as there now has been some negotiating, and apparently still some name calling – but we just aren’t sure.

Either way, this issue has lots of places there can be bipartisan agreement (or at least there should be) instead of just grand-standing on one political ideology or another. We need a government that works to keep the country safe and a political system that isn’t influenced by money. I know this is a lot to ask, but securing the borders of our country and stopping illegal immigration should be a priority. Again, that isn’t an issue that allows much debate – you either support safety and security or you don’t.

 

 

 

 

Swiss Diplomat Risks All During the Holocaust

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Having been a high school history teacher and also having a particularly strong affinity to things related to the Holocaust, this story highlighted in the link below was of extreme interest to me. I used to use Schindler’s List in class and spend a large amount of time teaching about WWII and the Holocaust in class. Several years ago I found out that I had a familial connection to heroic actions of a distant family member during the Holocaust (a story I hope to tell on here some day), which has heightened my interests in the subject even more.

This story from the BBC is one that many more people should read and know about. I had no previous knowledge of Carl Lutz but his sacrifice and courage while facing his own personal danger is extraordinary.

Please take the time to follow the link and learn about a man who should inspire us all.

The forgotten Swiss diplomat who rescued thousands from the Holocaust