You can find it at the 16-Bit bar in downtownColumbus.
I’ve written before about the Platinum Stylist, the dedicated professional and perfectionist who cuts my hair and gives me a head and shoulder massage, mini-facial, and hot towel treatment to boot. She’s an exuberant personality, and our appointments always end up being fun encounters where I walk away relaxed, refreshed, and with the best haircut you could possibly get anywhere.
The Platinum Stylist’s real name is Alyssa Rowland, and at our appointment on Thursday she told me that she’s starting up a new consulting business. (Fortunately for me and the rest of her coterie of intensely loyal clients, she’ll continue to cut and style hair.) The Platinum Stylist is maintaining her association with precious metals by calling her company Gold Soul, and you can read about it and the services it offers here. Its focus will be on helping and motivating people to provide exceptional customer service — something that the Platinum Stylist does as a matter of course.
I wanted to give Alyssa a shout-out and a plug because she practices what she preaches when it comes to going the extra mile and because I think anybody who has the guts and moxie to start and run their own business deserves a boost and a pat on the back. Entrepreneurs who believe in what they can offer make the capitalist world go round. I also think, though, that Alyssa and Gold Soul, with their emphasis on service and quality, have identified something important that is increasingly lacking in modern commerce. With goods and products becoming more and more commoditized and “self-serve” the new normal, it’s pretty rare to have any kind of positive service experience these days. And yet, don’t we find instances where we have received fine personal service far more satisfying than the now-standard fare of sterile, rushed, generic treatment?
My conversation with Alyssa and Gold Soul’s website remind me once again of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a hugely influential book for me that I wrote about in one of my very first postings for the Webner family blog, more than seven years ago. The author, Robert Pirsig, posited that “quality” was a kind of innate characteristic that people could recognize in just about anything — be it art, writing, or hair styling — even if they hadn’t been trained in art criticism or didn’t hold a Ph.D in literature. The core concepts of “quality,” such as care and attention to detail, come shining through.
Although I’ve not seen one of Alyssa’s Gold Soul presentations, I have no hesitation in saying that I am completely confident that they are great. She’s just that kind of person. If you work for a business that is looking to up its game in the customer service department, it would be worth your while to give Alyssa and Gold Soul a call.
I haven’t written about politics for a while because it’s just too depressing. Now that the recent primary results make it increasingly look like we are in fact going to see an election in which Hillary Clinton leads the Democratic ticket and Donald Trump carries the Republican banner, I can only ask, where the hell are the viable third-party options?
With choices like those that apparently are going to be provided by the two major parties, you’d think this might be the year when America starts to look more like Europe, and third parties could fill the awesome void that now looms before us. Well, forget it. There’s no sign that any one of those down-ballot parties that you see on your presidential ballot every fourth November — the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, the Constitution Party, etc. — has been taking advantage of the opportunity that 2016 presents by raising more money, drawing more supporters, or gaining media attention about their candidates, policies, or platforms. Does anyone have any idea, for example, who might be the leading contenders for the Libertarian Party nomination, or even how or when the Green Party will pick its candidate?
(In case you’re curious, the Libertarian Party’s convention is next month in Florida, and you can see the names and pictures of the people “currently recognized by the Libertarian Party” as potential candidates here. The Green Party, on the other hand, has recognized five candidates identified here and will hold its nominating convention in August in Houston, Texas. I’m sure the press coverage of both conventions will be epic.)
Don’t hold your breath that one of the other “parties” might actually nominate a meaningful candidate who could attract enough support in the polls to participate in debates come fall or offer a plausible alternative to Clinton and Trump. That leaves the issue of whether we might have a quixotic bid by some relatively well-known figure. It’s happened in my adult lifetime, with Ross Perot and Ralph Nader, and I’ve even voted for a third-party candidate for President before, when I voted for John Anderson in 1980. We may still see a rogue Republican who can’t stomach Trump or a Democrat who loathes Clinton’s Wall Street ties, of course, but right now the only buzz seems to be about an effort to draft a former Marine Corps general I’ve never heard of before. And the problem is that, without an established party apparatus, it’s not very likely that a third-party candidate can even get the signatures necessary to appear on the presidential ballot in every state, much less mount a credible campaign.
So if, like many of us, you think the looming choice for President will present us with the worst choice in a lifetime, don’t just blame the Rs and the Ds — blame the little guys, too. No one is offering us credible alternatives.
Kasey puts up with our whimsy and shenanigans, just like we put up with hers. It’s part of the dog-human bargain.
We learned some things so long ago that we have no recollection of the process. The words “Mom” and “Dad” and the names of our siblings. That you don’t stick your hand into an open flame or onto a glowing red burner. Simple temporal concepts, like “today” and “yesterday” and “tomorrow” and “later.”
And basic words. Anybody who has children knows that kids typically learn the words “yes” and “no” some time before the age of two and then stubbornly and infuriatingly speak, shout, or scream the word “no” exclusively for the next 12 months.
But counting comes later, along with learning your ABCs. Counting is a building block for math, just like learning the alphabet is a building block for reading and spelling. When you think about it, counting is a fairly sophisticated concept. First you grasp the difference between none, one, and many — and then you learn that specific words and symbols represent precise numbers of, say, the little meatballs in the Chef Boyardee spaghetti that your Mom served for lunch.
One of the challenges of counting, of course, is that the words that represent the numbers, and their progression, aren’t intuitive. I thought of counting and its challenges when I stumbled across this article about the words “eleven” and “twelve” and their history. For many kids, the numbers between 10 and 20 are the big challenge because they’re weird and not consistent with the concepts that come before (between 1 and 10) or after (for 20 and up). To this day, I think the only reason I know the world “delve” is because of the rhyme I learned about counting as a kid. (“Eleven, twelve, dig and delve.”)
So where did eleven and twelve come from? According to etymologists, both come from the root word “lif,” which apparently meant “to leave” — the concept being that 11 would mean one left after 10, and 12 would mean two left after 10. It’s weird, and something that would forever after cause kids learning to count to stumble and hesitate after then got to 10, but it’s not unique to English — when you learn how to count in French, at least, you encounter the same issue and strange words just after “dix”.
That suggests that, in the early days among the common folk, most people didn’t need to routinely count up to 573, or for that matter much past ten. That makes sense, because we’ve got ten fingers and kids learning to count often do so using their fingers. Our ancestors created special words for the numbers just past ten, but at a certain point they probably just shrugged and settled for “many” rather than going for precision.
Lots of kids learning to count would like to have taken the same approach.
There are lots of parks tucked here and there in downtown Columbus. One of the least visited ones is the Ohio Police & Fire Memorial Park, located at the corner of South Third and East Town streets. That’s a shame, because it’s a nice little park, with a small memorial square and statue, lots of shade trees, and blooming shrubs that, come springtime, look like someone draped a bright purple carpet of flowers on the bushes.
What are the costs of eating fast food? Of course, one cost is the simple consumption of an unsatisfying, typically over-salted meal in either a car seat or a sticky and garish fast-food environment, rather than sitting down to a leisurely meal with family or friends. That’s a given. Then there’s the weight gain that tends to result from slamming down high-calorie processed foods. But now research is indicating there’s even more to it.
The Washington Post recently published an article about the curious association between fast-food consumption and phthalates. (Yes, “phthalate” is a real word, and no, I have no idea how it is pronounced.) The study tracked fast-food intake by 9,000 research subjects — fast-food was defined as any food served at a restaurant without waiters or waitresses — and took urine samples from them. Analysis of the urine samples showed that people who had eaten any fast food in the last 24 hours had higher phthalate levels than people who had not eaten any fast food during that same period, and the larger your fast food intake, the higher your phthalate levels tended to be.
The results are troubling because phthalates are industrial chemicals used to soften plastic and vinyl and make it more flexible, and the Post reports that they have been associated with a number of adverse health effects. Male infertility is one of them, and another is diabetes. Why do people who consume fast food have higher phthalate levels? Researchers don’t know for sure, but they suspect it is because the processed nature of fast food means that the food tends to touch a lot more machines, conveyor belts, plastic wrapping, other packaging materials, and other potential sources of phthalates before it gets onto your plate — I mean, your cheap cardboard box, paper bag or foam container.
But here’s the most troubling part of the Post story from my standpoint: the research revealed, and other government studies confirm, that one-third of the participants eat some form of fast food every day. That includes one-third of kids and adolescents.
A diet that includes fast food every day. Just the thought of it makes my mouth feel dry and briny from anticipation of the salt intake. It’s no wonder that we’ve got some serious health and obesity problems in the U.S. of A. We’ve got to start taking better care of ourselves, and it starts with eating better food.
This morning finds me at the Hilton hotel at the Chicago O’Hare Airport. And when I say “at the airport,” I mean at the airport — as in, right on the airport grounds, so that you see the Hilton sign dead ahead when your plane pulls into its gate at Concourse G.
How many thousands of people have been to meetings at the venerable O’Hare Hilton and roamed its sprawling, gently curving, utterly generic hallways? It’s the perfect spot for business meetings of people from diverse locations, at one of our busiest airports, with great connections, smack dab in the middle of the country. For that same reason, a visit to the O’Hare Hilton is the ultimate in transitory experiences.
Last night I flew into O’Hare, walked to the Hilton, and had dinner in one of its restaurants. Today I’ll go to a meeting in one of its conference rooms, eat the conference room breakfast and lunch offerings, and fly out tonight — all without ever setting foot outside the airport grounds.
When I get back to Columbus and someone asks how my trip to Chicago was, I’ll say I didn’t go there– I just went to the O’Hare Hilton.
The Cleveland Browns seem to at least have a strategy for the upcoming NFL draft. That’s a change from past years when the Browns clearly didn’t know what the hell they were doing and appeared to be just winging it on draft day.
The Browns had the number 2 pick in this year’s draft — no surprise there; given their record of failure, the Browns always have a pick in the top ten — but they traded down with the Eagles to try to accumulate picks. That took the Browns out of contention for the two hot quarterbacks in the draft, but it left them with the eighth pick and gave them 12 picks overall and six in the first 100, in a draft that’s supposed to be a deep one. That’s a smart play in my book, because the Browns’ roster is starved of talent. In fact, it’s so bad that Las Vegas oddsmakers currently have the Browns as underdogs in every game of the 2016 season. 0-16, here we come!
I’m leery of drafting a QB in the first round, too. First-round quarterbacks often are busts. That’s been true for the Browns, starting with Tim Couch and including Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel. All were dismal failures. And you can’t blame the quarterbacks exclusively for the failures, either, if there’s no offensive line or surrounding talent. Rather than spend a high pick on the quarterback of the moment, I’d rather build the talent level. The best picks the Browns made after coming back into the NFL — Joe Thomas and Joe Haden — were bread-and-butter players you could build a team around. Unfortunately, the Browns didn’t have the eye for talent that let them complete the team-building process. That doesn’t mean the model is wrong, it just means that the Browns need somebody who can distinguish a stud from a dud.
This year, the Browns have a new team of people to try to accomplish that. They have a new head coach, a new front office and a new approach: analytics, a la Moneyball. The Browns hired Paul DePodesta away from the New York Mets and put him in place as Chief Strategy Officer. It’s weird to think that an NFL team needs somebody to set a “strategy” — how about, “Just win, baby!” — but maybe a clearly delineated strategy will help the rudderless Browns. I’m hesitant to buy into generic “analytics” as a panacea, too, but I think taking a more structured approach to evaluating players is bound to help. No one using analytics would have drafted Johnny Manziel. (Of course, the Browns being the Browns, some fans of analytics in the NFL are afraid that having Cleveland lead the way inevitably means that analytics in the NFL are doomed, and one commented that they thought DePodesta was a genius until he decided to work for the Browns.)
So we’ve got a new set of decision-makers, and a new strategy and approach. Now comes the hard part — actually picking players, both in the draft and via free agency. Browns Backers the world over are holding their breath, hoping that maybe, just maybe, this group will actually show that it knows what it’s doing. Why not? We’ve been holding our breath for so long it’s become second nature.
Today we’re killing time before the first episode of the new season of Game of Thrones airs. Between now and then we’ll probably watch a few of last season’s final episodes to make sure we are fully caught up and current on the characters, but we’ll tune in without fail to see if there is a big reveal on Jon Snow. Could he somehow, some way, perhaps with the aid of his direwolf Ghost — might turn out to be aptly named, eh? — survive the brutal, literal stab in the back attack by his brothers on the Night’s Watch?
I can’t think of a TV show that has has the same kind of pre-season anticipation since the Dallas “Who Shot J.R.?” controversy back in the 1980. For those who didn’t watch Dallas back then, the controversy was not only who shot the despicable but roguishly charming J.R. Ewing, but also whether J.R. would survive. Since Larry Hagman was the star of that incredibly popular show, however, everybody figured J.R. would pull through, so the big question was who shot him — not an easy call since J.R. had managed to cheat, outmaneuver, embarrass and humiliate pretty much everybody on the show.
The Game of Thrones cliffhanger is of a different kind, of course, because it’s been clear since the outset that major characters are routinely knocked off — the Stark clan alone has been decimated — but also because there are so many other rich plot threads left dangling. So Jon Snow could easily be dead and gone, with no more muss or fuss, but there’s lot of other things to wonder about. Will we get to see Sansa Stark knock off the horrendous Bolton Bastard — hopefully in painful, bloody, graphic fashion? What about Daenerys, and Tyrion Lannister, and the dragons? What the heck are Bran Stark and Hodor and the frog-eaters doing north of the wall? And I’ll be happy just to see any screen time for my favorite character, Arya Stark.
Game of Thrones has become quite the phenomenon. Who would have thought that a fantasy TV show would develop such a rabid following?
We’ve had the same patio furniture for a long time. It’s durable and comfortable wrought iron, and all it needs every once in a while is a touch-up with some spray paint. Today was the day. OK, we’re ready — bring on the sunshine and the 70s!
Sometime in the very near future, the world will witness something that has never before happened in the history of homo sapiens: the number of people 65 and older will be larger than the number of children under the age of 5.
Demographic experts call it “the crossing.” It’s the point at which the upward moving line on the age chart representing people 65 and up crosses the declining line representing children under the age of 5. The result is like a big X on a graph, because once the crossing occurs, those two trend lines are forecast to continue until, by 2050, the number of senior citizens will be more than double the number of young children.
Why is this happening? The old age part is the easiest to explain: advances in medicine and treatment of disease are allowing people to live much, much longer than they ever have before. We’re routinely setting records on life expectancy and the number of people who have lived past 90 and even 100.
The other line on the graph, though, isn’t so readily explained. In some countries, people are just having fewer children, or no children at all. This isn’t a worldwide phenomenon, but one that has focused on certain “first-world” countries. Japan, the European countries, and Canada are all among the oldest countries in the world. In Japan, 26.6 percent of the population already is over age 65.
It’s not hard to foresee the serious challenges posed by these long-term trends. Without young people in the demographic pipeline to grow up, get jobs, and contribute their tax dollars, it’s hard to see how the social welfare model can be sustained. The health care and retirement payment costs of a growing number of elderly ultimately will overwhelm the tax contributions of a shrinking number of workers. And eventually, old people do die — which means that the “old” countries will soon become much less populated countries. What will it mean to Japanese culture and the Japanese social model and, for that matter, Japanese influence on the world stage when that country’s population is but a fraction of its current size?
One other thing about demographic trends — they’re not readily reversed. We’ve been moving toward “the crossing” for decades, and soon it will be here. Get used to seeing a lot of gray hair in the world, folks.
There’s still time to visit the 2016 Ohioana Book Festival, at the Sheraton in downtown Columbus. I got a signed book and shook John Scalzi’s hand, tried not to sound like a gushing idiot when we chatted, listened to an interesting panel discussion, and got some solid book and author recommendations.
Not a bad day’s work!