Gold Soul

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.

static1.squarespaceThe 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?

ashanti20gold20dish20late2019th20centuryMy 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.

The Third-Party Deficit

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?

deez-nutsWith 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.

Garbage In

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.

chemicals-in-fast-food-wrappers-show-up-in-human-bloodThe 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.

Crossroads Of The Country


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 Faces On Our Money

I’m glad that Harriet Tubman will become the new face on the front of the $20 bill.  When I read, in connection with the announcement that the twenty will be redesigned, that no woman has been featured on U.S. paper currency in more than 100 years and no black woman has appeared on American bills, ever, I thought those were ridiculous omissions that should be corrected as quickly as possible.  Tubman, who bravely led escaping slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad and then advocated for universal suffrage and women’s rights, is a great choice.

why-we-could-soon-see-harriet-tubman-on-the-20-billI’m not sorry that Andrew Jackson has been booted off the front of the $20 bill and moved to the back, either.  Sure, Old Hickory may have beaten the Brits at the Battle of New Orleans and been a strong proponent of the federal government at the time the southern states first started talking about secession, but he was a slaveholder who “owned” 150 human beings at the time of his death.  You can talk all you want about Andrew Jackson being a product of his era and his place, but given his slaveholding past, putting him on the face of one of the most used American bills in this day and age is just wrong.  I’d take him off the bill entirely.  We can learn about Jackson during history class, but we don’t need to see him every time we are paying for our lunch.

For that matter, I’d like to see the decision to put Harriet Tubman on the twenty start a process of moving away from politicians being the only faces on our currency.  I’m as big a fan of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln as anyone, but I’m heartily sick and tired of politicians being the default option for coins, currency, or the names of public buildings.  There’s a lot more to America than dead Presidents.  How about thinking outside the box, for once, focusing on the richness of American culture, American invention, and American accomplishment, and coming up with some non-political figures to feature on our paper money?  I’d rather have Louis Armstrong, Thomas Edison, Marie Curie, young Elvis, Dr. Martin Luther King, Lucille Ball, Dr. Jonas Salk, Diana Ross and the Supremes, and Neil Armstrong in my billfold any day.

Is Porn A Public Health Crisis?

Utah’s state legislature has passed a resolution declaring pornography a public health crisis, and yesterday Utah’s governor signed it.

ip01091The resolution doesn’t ban pornography in Utah — with the volume of porn available on the internet and through various media outlets, it’s hard to see how that could be accomplished, anyway — but it does seek to highlight what it calls an epidemic.  The resolution says that porn “perpetuates a sexually toxic environment” and “is contributing to the hypersexualisation of teens, and even prepubescent children, in our society,” and speakers at yesterday’s signing ceremony argued that porn also undermines marriages and contributes to sexual aggression.

Utah, which is a majority Mormon state, has always long been one of the most socially conservative states in America, and an “adult entertainment” trade group called The Free Speech Coalition said that Utah’s declaration is an “old-fashioned” morals bill that ignores that porn watchers tend to have more progressive views on sexuality and women’s rights and that ready access to porn correlates with a decline in sex crimes.

It’s hard to see how anyone could plausibly argue that pornography is a public health crisis in the same way that, say, the Zika virus or Ebola are.  Porn isn’t randomly striking people down or causing microcephaly or other serious health conditions through mosquito bites, and if there is such a thing as “porn addiction” it sure isn’t as widespread or destructive as alcoholism or drug addiction.  Clearly, there are more serious targets of our public health spending than porn.  And there obviously are free speech concerns at issue, too, that the law has wrestled with since one Justice of the Supreme Court famously declared that he might not be able to craft a legal definition of pornography, but he knew it when he saw it.

Still, I think anyone who pooh-poohs the fact or significance of the increasing prevalence of porn — soft, hard, and even violent — in our society might be missing the point.  “Dirty books” and “dirty movies” have always been around, but they sure are a lot more accessible these days, available with a few clicks of a mouse or TV remote control unit.  Anybody who watched HBO, as we do, can’t help but notice how graphic the depiction of sexual activity and sexual situations has become, and broadcast TV isn’t far behind.

There’s a reason pornography is euphemistically called “adult entertainment.”  Parents have a legitimate interest in protecting their children from exposure to porn until the kids have a chance to learn about sex in a more neutral, less charged, less graphic way.   No one wants their kids to think that the scenarios presented in porn are a normal representation of sexual activity in a loving relationship.  That’s not old-fashioned, it’s common sense.

Deciding The Worst Job

A website called CareerCast.com has declared what it considers to be the worst job in 2016:  newspaper reporter.  It’s the third year in a row that being a print journalist has ended up at the bottom on the desirable occupations list.

The website uses a methodology that looks at each job’s work “environment (emotional, physical and hours worked), income (growth potential and salary), outlook (employment growth, income growth potential and unemployment), and 11 stress factors to determine which professions are among the least desirable.”  Newspaper reporter ends up at the bottom of the list because the median annual salary isn’t that great, the outlook stinks because so many newspapers and other media outlets are closing, and there isn’t a lot of potential for career growth.  The best job, in contrast, is “data scientist,” where the median income is $128,240 and there is a strong growth outlook.

news-guySorry, but I disagree with this.  Good jobs and bad jobs aren’t just defined by salary and whether you’re in a thriving industry.  Other qualities — like being able to use your creativity and your brainpower, and whether the job involves noisy, smelly, dangerous, or otherwise unpleasant conditions — are important, and more important still is whether you like your boss and co-workers and look forward to getting to work in the morning.

Speaking as a former reporter, when those other qualities are considered, I think being a reporter is a pretty good option.  The job is always interesting, and at times, when you break a good story or write a particularly good lead, that you feel a nice little adrenalin rush.  Are you really going to get the same kind of feeling from being a boring, nerdy, white coat-wearing “data scientist”– which sounds like a puffed-up title, anyway?  And how can reporter possibly be less attractive than the traditional scutwork jobs, like sanitation worker or cubicle dweller?

Sorry, CareerCast.com.  You’ve totally missed the boat on this one.  There’s just no way that being a reporter is the worst job around.  Who knows?  Maybe the real worst job is ranking jobs for CareerCast.com.