beware of #dogma, #marketing and #advertising

Don’t be a lemming.  Understand that you are under constant attack by marketing and advertising.  Sometimes the marketing is so effective it becomes dogma.

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” says Lenna F. Cooper, B.S., writes in a 1917 issue of Good Health, the self-proclaimed “oldest health magazine in the world” edited by none other than Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the co-inventor of flaked cereal.

“Spend at least 3 months salary on your diamond engagement ring” says  DeBeers (a diamond company).

“Got Milk” and “Milk does a body good” by the Dairy Industry although humans are the only mammal species to drink any milk after infancy as well as the only mammals to drink milk of another species ewwww.

“Say it with roses” according to  FTD Flowers or better yet, say it with words.

Marketing is designed to create an emotional response.  Keep your thinking hat on and make your decisions independently,

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Parenting lesson learned

About a week ago my son walked out to the car after swim practice.  He said that someone inside wanted to talk to me.  Specifically he said that a man asked “are you Andrew?  Tell your dad I want to talk to him.”

Concerned, I went inside and the other dad found me.  He told me that he wanted my son to stop teasing his kid.  I asked my son if the accusation was true and he looked a little confused.  I glared at him because it is not the first time he has gotten in trouble at swim practice or at school, but he has never been unkind to anyone.  He may call out or be otherwise disruptive, but never hurtful.

I told the dad that I would follow up with my son and have a discussion about this behavior and we parted ways.

Within about 15 minutes, I was so mad at myself for how I handled the situation.  Let me share all of the things I would have done differently today.

1) I would have asked the other boy to join us in the discussion.  I was hearing things third hand and I think that if the 4 of us sat down together we may have found a version of the story closer to the truth while still acknowledging that something may have happened to cause the other boy to be upset.

2) I had the conversation in front of a couple of people which definitely caused additional embarrassment for my son.  I should have moved the talk to a more private location.

3) The three of us stood in a triangle pattern which isolated my son.  The other dad was over 6′ tall and much larger than both of us.  I am sure my son was intimidated as he felt like it was him against two adults.  Looking back I would have stood next to him with my hand on his shoulder so that he felt safe and supported even if he made a mistake.

4) Worst  of all, I assumed my son was guilty.  As I said before, he has never been mean or hurtful to anyone.  Taking the word of a stranger over that of my own son upsets me still today.   My son is far from perfect but after 13 years I know his patterns and personality.  I should have supported him better as we learned the details of the teasing incident.

Parenting is not for the weak of heart, but if you make mistakes you can learn from them and build stronger bonds with your children.

PS – The other boy apologized to my son for his dad’s behavior the following day.

to my parents on their 50th anniversary

Our understanding of modern marriage arose about 800 years ago when people didn’t live as long as we do today.   When a couple committed to love honor and cherish each other until death do us part, it wasn’t that big a deal because the typical lifespan was only about 40 years!

Through advances in modern medicine and inventions like vaccines, antibiotics, Crestor, and Lipitor, we live well into our eighties. So if you are making a commitment to love honor and cherish until death, you really better mean it!

I can only hope to be able to stand in front of a group of friends and family with my beautiful wife after 50 years of marriage and my sister can only hope to stand in front of a group with her beautiful husband to do the same.  Only then will we really understand just how meaningful, rare, and lucky it is to accomplish such a beautiful milestone.

Please join me in raising a glass to happy marriage!

 

gift cards are the worst!

I once heard a comedian who did a bit about gift cards that really hit home.  In his monologue, he mocked the concept of taking $100 that could be spent ANYWHERE and then exchanging it for $100 that could only be spent at one store.

I also dislike gift cards.  I find them to be impersonal gifts, bordering on selfishness of the giver.  Think about it.  Many givers fallback option is the gift card.  It makes it LOOK like they put some thought into a gift, but in reality, it is an illusion.  “I think you like sports, so here is $100 to spend at Dick’s.”  When you give a gift card, you are subcontracting the work to the recipient.

Another issue with gift cards is probably more personal to me, but others may also relate.  I suffer from chronic frugality and the thought of buying something for the sake of buying something is counter to my lifestyle.  Yesterday I roamed the aisles of @REI for about an hour lamenting a $50 gift card.  There was nothing that I needed but I had $50 burning a hole in my pocket.  I was browsing the store for so long that I think the staff was getting concerned.  I was overwhelmed by options and suffering from analysis paralysis.  It was torture for me.  In the end I bought a headlamp for mountain biking.  I also added a small item to max out the value of the gift card without going over!

The last problem I have with gift cards is that they are a gift that usually ends up with the recipient overspending and digging into his own pocket to complete a transaction.  This does not sound like much of a gift to me.  It would be like buying someone a cell phone and then letting them know they are responsible for the service.

If you want to see for yourself how much gift cards suck, slip a crisp $20 bill into a birthday card at a kid’s party and look at their face when opening.

PS – When I got home, I realized my headlamp wasn’t going to fit my helmet and I’ll be returning it and shopping all over again.

 

 

 

Bode’s tragedy and summer safety

It was a schoolmate’s birthday pool party.

I was sitting on a lawn chair enjoying the sunshine.

The kids were splashing in the pool as the parents mingled and made small talk.

Something about my personality is drawn toward children, so I gravitated to the pool where the children were playing.  I also wanted to oversee my son to make sure he didn’t splash too aggressively or bother the other children too much.

I would spend a few minutes looking at my new iPhone and randomly glance up at the kids whenever it got too loud or too quiet.

Most of the kids were about 6 years old and able to swim.  A few of the younger ones had swimmies on to help them float.  Everyone looked capable.

But still, I glanced up randomly.

And then I saw him.

A boy who appeared to be about 4 years old was stuck under an inflatable raft.  Instead of simply bobbing out to the side, he kept trying to hug the float from underneath.  He was submerged and drowning.

There was no violent splashing or cries for help.  Looking back, it was barely noticeable.

In an instant I leaped from my chair and jumped into the pool.  I flipped over the float and grabbed the boy under the arm and brought him to the surface.  He coughed and coughed but never cried.

The parents who were mingling now gathered around the pool and the drowning boy’s parents stepped forward to gather him.  I heard each one say, “I thought he was with you”.

The grateful homeowner thanked me profusely and offered me a towel.

I felt like a schmuck as I sat back in my chair, soaking wet for the rest of the party.

Some thought I over-reacted.  And that’s fine by me because the boy is alive.

When I read about the tragedy of Bode Miller and his family’s loss of their child due to drowning, I remembered my story with vivid detail.  There are some who will blame, question, and accuse.  I can tell you first hand that drowning can happen to anyone, anytime, and anywhere there is water.  It is a silent killer.

Fast forward 10 years.  As I have become more involved in the world of aquatics due to my son’s career in competitive swimming, I completed lifeguard certification at the age of 45.  It is a fitting ending to a story that began almost 10 years ago.

 

call out the bullshit

I am convinced that under this administration, people have felt more emboldened to allow their bigoted and otherwise backward views on life bubble to the surface without shame or fear of consequences.  When the leader of the free world refers to a sitting member of Congress as  what most people deem to be a racial slur, it is no surprise to hear his supporters refer to another accomplished woman of color as an ape.

Sadly, it has taken an outrageous act of stupidity and racism to rid the networks of Roseanne Barr despite years of history of showing bizarre behavior.  From her regurgitation of conspiracy theories seen on the front page of InfoWars to her photo shoot of a Nazi character taking  burned Jewish gingerbread men out of an oven, she should have been gone years ago.

When racist and ignorant people are emboldened by the lack of push back, we arrive at a dystopian prequel to our future.  Subtle racism becomes not so subtle and white supremacists feel comfortable espousing their hate in public and parade with torches in hand.

What can decent people do?

For me, it is a simple answer but one I have struggled with in the past.

My dentist is a mid 60s white male and everything about him screams Trump voter.  He is full of conservative opinions that he shares freely with me as if he believes they are also the values that I hold.  I assure you I do not.  His off color comments on everything from religion, public schools, immigration,  and socio-economic fallacies flow freely.  In the past I have felt uncomfortable confronting the man with sharp objects jabbing around my mouth.  But now I know that the only way to stop the bullshit behavior is to start calling it out.  I may start subtly by asking questions such as “why do you feel that way” and anticipate ending with “I don’t share your views on that”…  Ultimately I will probably leave the practice.

In any event, people with openly hostile viewpoints that imply superiority need to feel some discomfort in sharing their opinions in public.  They need a reality check in the face of unashamed stupidity.  I have little hope of reforming my dentist, but doing anything I can to make sure he knows his intolerance is noticed make me hope he goes back in the bigot closet where he belongs.