Thursday, February 12, 2015

Why We Travel

With all of the advances in modern technology, it's much easier to "experience" the many wonders of the world without ever having to leave the comfort of your home.  High definition screens and cameras capture the beautiful, vibrant colors of coral reefs and tropical fishes, the deep greens of rain forests and the bright blues of the crystal clear ocean.  Tiny action cameras give you the feeling of soaring over deep waterfall-filled canyons, zip-lining over rushing streams or careening down a steep hill on a bike.  Surround sound systems make it feel like you are right in the middle of garden full of singing birds or the wind is whipping past you atop a hill overlooking a beautiful city.  Digital photo editing allow for the perfect shot in the perfect light taken at the perfect time almost every time.

But when was the last time you had a dream about watching something beautiful on TV?  Or the last time you found your mind wandering to an occasion when it "felt like" your body was in motion--when you were actually sitting in a chair?  Or you ever felt anticipation for opening up a picture book or clicking on photos saved on a hard drive?

For all of the 3-D, fully-immersive, sensory-overload electronic system we develop, they will never, never replace the human experience.  Our bodies are full of receptors that no electronic device can ever trigger with video motion, digital sound or ultra-high resolution.  It's the subtle difference between "watching" and "seeing".  Watching means it comes to your eyes after being filtered through a secondary source.  Seeing means everything that is happening is directly processed by your brain--producing much more vibrant memories.  What's more, all five of your senses are stimulated at the same time.  In addition to seeing the tropical fish, you feel the warm water against your skin, you smell and taste the saltiness of the ocean and you hear the rustle of the wind or that "clicking" noise that is apparently made by shrimp marking their territory.  It's a real experience that technology still can't come close to replicating.

And it is why we as humans still travel.  It's why we leave the comforts of our own homes and venture out to places that we have never been--or have been to already but want to experience again.  I could look at 10,000 pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco from Battery Spencer Park on the internet.  But which of them is going to be the equal of standing on that same hill and "seeing" that same view?  There are dozens of hi-def videos of the doors-off helicopter tour that we are taking on Kauai next week on Youtube--each with scenes that make you think some sort of editing was done to put that many waterfalls in one place--but am I going to recall in exact detail what is in those as opposed to being in that chopper myself?  And every January I watch the Hyundai Tournament of Champions from Kapalua Plantation Course and watch the pros bomb it over 400-yards from the 18th tee.  But it will never compare to when I did the same thing myself ten years ago--and hope to do again this year (c'mon 25 mile an hour trade winds!!).

So the time has finally come--after two years of careful planning--for my wife and I to go and have those experiences that no video, picture or audio track can ever replicate.  It's time to not just watch the world--but to live it.

Mahalo and Aloha!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

To Unplug, Or Not To Unplug

In two days, my wife and I will be jetting off on our grand 10th Anniversary vacation to Hawaii.  Two weeks of fun activities, beautiful scenery and warm temperatures.  It's the perfect place and opportunity to get away from it all and just relax.  That is if I am willing--and able--to actually unplug.

The first time we went to Hawaii, I had a very "non-smart" cell phone.  It was one of those where you still had to use the number pad to text--hitting some keys three or four times to produce the letter your wanted.  It could not receive email, I could not call up the internet.  It was pretty easy to just leave in my backpack if we were hiking on the volcano or lounging on the beach.  Plus, cell coverage was spotty on the islands in those days.

But now, I have a smart phone that is plugged into pretty much everything I do.  All of my work-related and personal email is sent to it.  I get text alerts on breaking news and weather alerts.  I can access my computer here at work from it.  And of course I have all of the social media apps as well.  It is really a miniature office and radio studio all in one--as I have record features and an app that connects me to the station directly.  And based on the coverage maps provided by Verizon, it looks like the island we are going to are nearly covered by 4G cellular service--meaning the internet is just a touch away.

As you can imagine, I spend a lot of time on my smartphone--for both work and entertainment purposes.  I "always need to be in touch"--just in case all Hell breaks loose in Oshkosh and WOSH News has to be on the scene--or in case Frank Kaminsky breaks his foot in practice and is lost for the rest of the year for the Badgers.  So it will be very difficult to "disconnect" from all of that--especially for two weeks.

Add to that grave concern among the muckety-mucks here at the Radio Ranch caused by the staffing cuts that make it nearly impossible for the station to function with one person taking such an extended period of time off.  You can imagine how this trip to paradise may not be as relaxing as I had hoped.

Recently I saw a picture on social media of a guy typing away on his smartphone while sitting on a boat--as a Humpback whale is breaching right next to him.  He is totally oblivious to the wonderful natural scene unfolding before him--as he sends an email to Steve in Accounting about the TPS reports that were filed last week.

I REALLY don't want to be that guy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

It's What You Expect

I will be the first to admit that we do a lot of "boring news" here on WOSH.  City Council and School Board meetings, court cases, special events going on around the area are our bread and butter.  Occasionally we have something "exciting" like a fire, a big crash on Highway 41 or an elected official breaking the law to "spice things up"--but those are thankfully rare.

But those at the upper levels of the media can't have such "boring" newscasts.  People don't tune in to hear about Congress passing such-and-such bill or a certain world leader coming to Washington to talk about free trade.  In today's everyone has a video camera on their phone, I need to see the footage of everything and all events are a "disaster" or a "crisis" news cycle, you need to have something sensational or shocking for the viewers every minute of the day or you are going to have no ratings.

And that is how Brian Williams finds himself likely out of a job as anchor of the NBC Nightly News.  Williams is under fire for lying about being under fire while flying with Marines in Iraq during an "assignment" about seven years ago.  Debate continues as to whether it was another chopper in the same convoy that was fired upon or if Williams just made up the whole thing in a dream as he slept on the helicopter--but pretty much everyone agrees that his original and subsequent versions of the story are not accurate.

And for Williams that put him in a very difficult spot.  Here he is in the field and "unfortunately" nothing happened--which likely was the norm and not the exception for the military personnel involved.  But NBC didn't need a "Brian Williams is flying around doing nothing in Iraq" story for the Nightly News that evening.  They needed a "Brian Williams dodges bullets and rocket propelled grenades to bring you this story from Iraq" story--probably because ABC or Fox News had an embedded reporter "lucky enough" to have come under actual fire that day or the day before and NBC was in danger of falling behind in the "crisis coverage race".  So Williams figured that if one of the choppers in the sortie did come under fire that day--he would just "transfer" himself to that unit and suddenly you have a top of the newscast "brush with death story" that the guys actually there with him weren't going to see anyway to call him out on.

That still doesn't excuse what Brian Williams did--or the embarrassing way that both he and NBC are trying to explain it away now.  But if we were willing to accept a little more "boring news"--which actually has a much greater impact on our day-to-day lives anyway--we wouldn't have so many of our "trusted reporters" having to apologize for violating that trust.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Following Up

I thought I would follow up on a few topics covered in recent My Two Cents.

On the day I talked about Tiger Woods perhaps facing a crossroads in his golfing career (Staring Into the Abyss) he walked off the course after completing just 11 holes in the opening round of the Farmers Insurance Open.  In classic Tiger style, he blamed back spasms caused by his glutted "failing to engage" putting more strain on his lower back.  Amazingly, the Golf Channel was able to find two fitness and conditioning "experts" to come on the air and defend Tiger's excuse and break-down this latest break-down.  Meanwhile, the calls for the end of the "Tiger Era" in golf grow louder.

Shortly after I shared my outrage with President Obama's plan to tax distributions from 529 Educational Savings accounts (The Sharks Are Circling) the White House dropped that proposal.  Even the most hard-core tax and spend liberals like Nancy Pelosi came out in opposition to the plan--pointing out that the vast majority of 529 investors are middle-class Americans who vote.  But don't think this idea--or my fear that Roth IRA's will be the next "tax free" tax target--is going away anytime soon.  Remember "Hillarycare" was the trial balloon that later became "Romneycare" in Massachussetts and then "Obamacare" nationwide. 

It looked like a foregone conclusion that my prediction of a Seattle Seahawks comeback victory in the Super Bowl (Super Thoughts) was going to come to fruition.  And then, the team that ran the ball more than any other in the NFL this season decided to get swept up in the "modern approach" to the game and go spread/empty backfield on a 2nd down and goal from the 1-yard line.  It was poetic justice that the pass was intercepted--one of the two out of three bad things that can happen every time you throw.  I felt bad for Russell Wilson--but I doubt that will send his career into a tailspin.

And finally, I took my wife to task at the end of last year talking about the outrageous amount of stuff we took to Hawaii ten years ago (First World Problems).  After about six "practice packs", I am proud to report that we shall be traveling back to Hawaii with two fewer bags later this week.  It's amazing what airline bag fees will do to your need to bring along a few extra shirts, sweatshirts and jackets "just in case" Hawaii sees its first Polar Vortex in history.  We are still bringing more electronics than can be plugged into our new 7-port USB Charger--but I guess that's the price you pay for "modern convenience".

Friday, February 6, 2015

Sed Non Ita Laboratis

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank says Governor Scott Walker's budget proposal that might require professors to teach more classes will lead to the "poaching" of UW faculty by other universities that don't require so much time in the classroom for their instructors.  Blank adds that students will likely follow those instructors to those "less stressful" colleges.

That got me to thinking about the recruiting videos that air during college sports broadcasts and how schools could target students looking to "flee the oppressive UW System":

 We here at Not Wisconsin University know that only well-rested, well-compensated minds can successfully teach today's youth.  That is why at NWU you will never see professors burdened with the outrageous workload of four lectures or labs a day.  In fact, you may not see professors at all--as we have a large staff of Teaching Assistants who handle most of the actual course work.  What could be better than learning from someone who sat in the same desk as you just a couple of years ago?

Not Wisconsin University also encourages its faculty to take as much time away from the classroom as needed to write updated versions of the $85 textbooks they require for all of their classes--and which make the $45 used versions of previous editions at the off-campus bookstore obsolete.

NWU is a national leader in research outside of the classroom.  Our faculty members have taken part in such groundbreaking studies as Social Media Habits of College Freshmen, America's On-Line Dating Patterns and the Effect Cocaine Use Has On the Mating Habits of Quail.  THAT is the kind of knowledge that will make America a better place in the future and give our students the knowledge they need to succeed in the 21st Century workplace.

Not Wisconsin University faculty are also expected to be socially active.  That means if the Evil Scott Walker tries to limit the influence of public sector unions again, they have our permission to organize bus trips to Madison to take part in protests--even if that means cancelling the classes that you paid for.  And speaking of pay, we have some of the highest salaries in nation--because you have 20-years to pay back all of those student loans and will hardly notice!

And finally, to grant our professors the peace of mind they need to be their best every day, we offer tenure to all instructors--meaning they never have to worry about losing their positions, no matter how lousy a job they do.  Unless of course they say something that might be considered offensive by students of color, women, gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals, trans-sexuals, those questioning their sexuality or members of any religious group--except for Evangelical Christians and Catholics.

So come to the school with the happiest faculty in America: Not Wisconsin University--where our motto is "Sed non ita laboratis" (You Work Hard So They Don't Have To".

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Staring Into the Abyss

Later today, Tiger Woods will tee it up in the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego.  The man once considered a shoo-in to break the record for career tournament victories and major titles has finished dead last in his last three tournaments and has not made the weekend cut in an event since July of last year.

Some of Tiger's recent poor performance is due to a back injury that required micro-surgery, which followed an Achilles Tendon injury, which followed a broken leg that he gutted out to win the 2008 US Open--his last major victory--which followed a series of knee injuries.  It's possible that Tiger will never be "fully healthy" again--meaning the days of dominance over the entire field are likely over.

But a greater source of concern has been the complete collapse of Tiger's short-game prowess around the greens.  In his last two events, he has hit more skulled shots and duffed chips than I've had in the past three years.  It was so painful to watch, I hoped that at the Waste Management Open last week that Golf Channel would just stop showing--and replaying, and replaying and replaying--the embarrassing shots if for no other reason than it would become ingrained in my mind and I would duff it around like that when we can get back out on the course this spring.

This has led to rampant speculation among golf "experts" that Tiger has contracted the most dreaded "disease" in golf: the yips.  The yips have ended promising careers throughout the history of the sport.  There were guys who couldn't make 18-inch putts, hit the most basic chip shots or even tee off with their drivers--all because of the fear of not knowing where the ball was going to go.  The yips are equal parts physical and mental--as you know what your body has to do, but at the moment of impact none of it works properly.  It's why you see guys putt cross-handed, with funky grips or go to the long-putter (which will be banned at the end of this year).

Tiger maintains that his short game problem is due to his fourth (or is it fifth?) swing change in the past 15-years--and that he just needs to 'work through the process of finding the bottom of his arc"--and when he does that, the bump and runs and the flops will magically return to finishing just inches from the cup every time.  But I think that in his mind, Tiger knows that he is on the precipice of seeing what was building up to be the greatest career in the history of the sport torn down by the inability to hit a simple wedge shot.  How else to explain his allowing younger guys on the Tour to actually give him chipping and pitching advice on the practice range yesterday?  I have seen Tiger in person at a number of events and he travels with his own entourage--does his work with his team--and exchanges a few pleasantries at most with his fellow competitors.  He is not one to seek swing advice from Billy Horschel.

While I am not a Tiger Woods "fan", I'm not a "hater" either.  I don't revel in his recent struggles or wish him continued failure.  Tiger is good for the game and is still the only figure that can generate interest among non-golf fans.  And if the storyline continues to be "Tiger misses the cut again" or "Tiger can't find his game" it doesn't bode well for the sport as a whole.  So really, it's not just Tiger staring into the abyss--it's all of us who love the game.

That being said, he'll probably go out and shoot a course record 62 today--and the story will be "TIGER RETURNS IN TRIUMPHANT FORM!!"

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Waxing Nostalgic

I wonder what Oshkosh buildings "Historic Preservationists" will be fighting to keep around 50 or 75 years from now.  When someone suggests finally tearing down the former K-Mart/Sears building on Koeller Street after it's been sitting empty for five decades will there be an outcry to save it?  Will someone claim it serves as a "perfect example of the turn-of-the-century Big Box Retail style of building design"?  Will a member of the City Council tell tearful stories about buying a cherry Icee with his grandparents at the store as a child and suggest using state historic preservation grants funded by taxpayer dollars to keep it standing?

There are few structural reminders of Oshkosh's "Sawdust City" reputation from the 1800's--with all of the old sawmill buildings torn down to make way for senior living apartments and proposed riverfront condos.  Should we then be making some efforts to keep the ugly Buckstaff buildings standing so that we have a "monument to the people that built Oshkosh"?  It's one thing to see a picture of an old mill in a book--but you can't "experience what it was like" unless countless thousands and millions of dollars are spent to keep outdated and rotting structures around.

My wife and I have made plenty of great memories in our house--and I hope that when the time comes another young couple can buy it and create lasting memories there as well.  But I would have no hard feelings if someday, someone decides to tear it down and start with something fresh.  There is no need for the next or the next or the next owners to have to live without the modern functions and features that will inevitably be invented in the next few generations just because someone with an elected title or a self-appointed expertise in "history" says they shouldn't have it.

My grandfather spent much of his life building houses in the Green Bay area.  He always took great pride in pointing out the old homes that he had worked on when we would drive around town.  And even though he had to drill all of those holes by hand, and pound every nail by hand and turn every screw by hand, I doubt that he would believe that his handiwork should be made to stand forever.  I think he would probably want another carpenter to have a chance to put his skills to work making something new that he can show to his kids and grandkids--until the time comes for the cycle to start anew again.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Keep 'em Dependent

AARP is out with a new poll this week that shows 60% of Wisconsin workers over the age of 45 fear they won't have enough saved for retirement.  It paints an ominous picture doesn't it?  Factories, offices and malls someday filled with elderly men and women--some with walkers and canes--trying to eke out a living instead of spending the day watching Judge Judy and Wheel of Fortune while talking to their small dogs.

But, as usual, AARP doesn't delve into why those workers haven't saved enough for retirement.  The poll doesn't ask if those folks have borrowed to purchase every car they have ever owned.  What their balances are on their credit cards--and how much interest they have paid on the three or four gaming systems they have bought the kids for Christmas every couple of years.  There is no indication as to how many of those 60% did no-money-down mortgages--or opened home equity lines of credit.  How many have still found money to smoke, to buy a case of beer every week or are on a first-name basis with the cashiers at McDonalds and Starbucks?  Wouldn't AARP want to know WHY just as much as HOW MANY haven't saved for retirement?

Well I can tell you why AARP doesn't care about the cause of retirement insecurity--because it relies on retirement insecurity for its very existence.  If we had a nation of financially secure seniors, AARP would lose all of its power.  This is no longer the organization that gets you a ten percent discount on your Early Bird Special at Denny's or five dollars off your subscription to Readers Digest.  AARP is a powerful lobbying group and political action committee whose main business is Government dependence.

What is AARP's recommended solution to the "problem" that it sees with the results of its incomplete survey?  Wisconsin setting up Government-run private investment accounts--where people who don't have retirement plans offered through work can save for their golden years.  These retirement accounts sound a lot like Standard and Roth IRA's--which are offered at thousands of financial services offices in almost every town in Wisconsin don't they?  They are more portable than 401(k)s and offer tax advantages either on the front end with Standard IRA's or on the back-end with a Roth.  A system is already in place--in the private sector--to provide the very services that AARP (and Legislative Democrats) want to duplicate in State Government with twice the employees, twice the expense and lower returns on investment.

Now if AARP offered investment services--like they offer Medicare Supplement Insurance plans and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans (both programs they lobbied heavily in favor of in Washington) they would probably be more on-board with encouraging people to invest with someone other than Uncle Sam.  Of course, if people started doing too well in their retirement savings, they wouldn't be so scared about reductions in Social Security or Medicare benefits--and then what would AARP use to boost it's membership?  You gotta keep the cash flowing in to battle against mandatory drivers license testing for Seniors too.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Very Vexing Vaxxers

I have to admit, I never thought that I would have to worry about a measles outbreak in the US during my lifetime.  As a child of the 70's and 80's, mine was to be the last generation to be at risk, as the M-M-R shot (measles, mumps, rubella) had become so widespread in its use that there were hardly any kids around that might get it.  The only things my parents had to worry about me contracting at school was stomach flu, a cold and the chicken pox (I got them all).

And for better than 40-years other parents enjoyed that same peace of mind.  But then came the "Anti-vaxxer movement".  Somewhere a "scientist" tried to link the increase in autism diagnoses among children to the use of childhood vaccines (as opposed to the overwhelming desire of today's "helicopter parents" to have a "medical reason" why their child had trouble at school, was moody or had other behavioral issues).  The movement picked up steam as celebrities like Jenny McCarthy were given air time on her show The View--along with her then-boyfriend Jim Carrey--to spout their "belief" as proven fact.

Suddenly it was "cool" to be an Anti-vaxxer.  There were more celebrities bragging about how their kids were "never going to get their shots".  And that was followed by website touting "natural, holistic ways to protect your children" against the same diseases.  Immunization rates fell--but we didn't see the big outbreaks because such an overwhelming number of kids (and adults) were still immune.  But now, diseases that no child had to fear for nearly fifty years are coming back--as the growing number of illegal immigrants bring with them spotty immunization histories and expose the kids of Anti-vaxxers to the diseases for the first time. 

And don't think that this is just a "west coast" or "big city" threat.  Remember a few years back we had cases of the mumps on the UW Oshkosh campus.  And who is to know if the measles virus has mutated in such a way over the years to make the vaccinations that we got as kids less-effective against a new strain.

There is considerable debate what should be done with parents who refuse to get their kids their shots.  They claim to have the right to raise their children based upon their own beliefs.  But as we have also seen here in Wisconsin, the law doesn't always grant you that right.  You may recall a Wausau couple being sent to jail after deciding to have faith in prayer to heal their daughter's medically-treatable diabetes.  As the child lay in what had to be agonizing pain from diabetic shock--they held fast to their "beliefs"--right up until that last minute when she died.

I wonder if the Anti-vaxxers have as much faith in their beliefs to put their kids through the same ordeal.