Hoops is Life

So I get this email Friday afternoon.

The tag line, you know, the one that shows just a few of the first lines of the complete text says:

"Your novel "Selfie" has passed . . . "

And I procede to flip (the %#@$) out.

If you've been following along for a while, you probably know that this time last year I got a little fed up with playing bars and nightclubs and I decided to take a radical new direction with whatever time I have left during my mid-life crisis and do . . . well . . . something.

I made a list of all the things I would like to do, which turned out to be very short. I wanted to have a better stage show, and I wanted to write a book.

How hard could that be?

Not hard . . . really . . . I mean . . . digging ditches is hard . . . growing tomatoes in rocky soil when the outside temperature is above 100 degrees from May to October is nigh impossible . . . putting lots of words together . . . hell . . . I do that every time I open my stupid mouth.

I was, however, thoroughly unprepared for how unprepared I was.

Not naive.

Unprepared.

See . . . even though my hubris is comfortable in proclaiming itself as a capable writer . . . at best I could describe myself as an essayist . . . not a novelist. I write in short bursts from a singular point of view, most often with ideas that came to me in the shower about fifteen minutes before I sit down to write. My style is all wrong.

Since it's important that one begin with writing what one knows (or at least what one thinks about a lot), I wanted to encapsulate all the things I've been learning about social media, how internet life is contorting actual life, what the internet experience is doing to the psychology of us and our children, what it means for the modern family, and how ridiculous modern mental health has become.

Oh . . . and with all that change . . . how nothing has really changed.

So I dreamt up this character, a millennial (my step-son's age) who gets sort of quashed between her online queen-bee persona and the frailties of actual life.

Sounds kinda cool.

To me anyway.

But I had absolutely no story.

Like none.

So I did what all good artists do . . . I cheated . . . I stole . . . I ran to my Shakespeare library and adapted.

She . . . the millennial . . . wasn't a new character at all. But who is she? Well . . . she just a person trying to deal with parents, friends, lovers, her own self, and of course, the ghost in the machine.

Sound familiar?

Of course it does.

She's Hamlet.

So now I've got it all going. I've got modern character, in a classic story, a scene by scene outline, and a narrative that fits my short bursts creativity, and a whole slew of characters to keep me from being stuck with a single voice.

Now . . . if you think that's cheating . . . go ahead. But I will remind you that Hamlet is actually an adaptation of another play . . . and if a genius like Shakespeare has no compunction with lifting some one else's words . . . that a novice like me shouldn't either. His name is on the title page along with mine. No one is fooled.

Except . . . maybe I fooled myself.

I expected it to be readable on the second draft.

It wasn't.

Neither was the third or fourth.

The fifth was where it became a book.

The seventh is where it's at now.

And where it's at now is sitting on an editor's desk waiting a final decision for the possible go ahead to write and eighth, ninth, and tenth, version before publication actually begins.

Which brings me back to Friday's email and after I preceded to flip out.

The full text of the email said my novel has passed the second round of panel reading, and I will be contacted directly by the editor with rejection or acceptance.

That's great news right?

Of course it is. It's freakin awesome.

Only . . . I didn't even know there was a second round. Again with the being unprepared for how unprepared I am, because it makes perfect sense that there be a lot of screening before a manuscript gets handed to a person who lives day to day with career making/breaking decisions.

They can't have their time wasted with bad novels.

And I am now on the "not a bad novel" short list.

That's the good news.

That bad news is that there are hoops that I am still going to be jumping through that I don't even know about yet . . . which . . . when you think about it . . . isn't bad news at all.

It's just life.



What About the Girls? Five

I'm not immune to click bait.

I just have that curious kind of nature where I sort of want to know which Game of Thrones character I'm most aligned with and the Top Ten Reasons I should vote for Ted Cruz.

I'm not going to, but it's good to know why I should.

Anyway . . . this morning I saw a list of the Top Ten Fastest Growing Restaurants and I simply couldn't help myself. Since I'll probably have to return to a life of retail at some point (don't be sad . . . it's what I'm good at) so . . .  I considered such a click to be market research.

In scrolling through the list I noticed a singular trend.

4 out of 10 were sportswear/barbecue/alehouses with scantily clad girls pouring drinks. Lots of big smiles with shiny white teeth, and of course, boobs.

I honestly can't remember if my decision making has ever been altered by a pair of tits (that didn't belong to my wife, of course), but I see no reason to condemn the practice. As long as everybody is a willing participant and treats each other with a level of respect (LOL), I'm rather indifferent about the whole practice.

Not to say that problems don't occur. As a manager of a "restaurant" I have had to forcibly walk a few men out the door for inappropriate behavior, but after 13 years and about 400 customers per day, I'd say I've dealt with ten times the amount of conflict between two women than with any of the other scenarios combined.

That's not misogynistic, just observational, and I thoroughly invite debate on the subject.

Anyway, the actual point I was trying to make was that it seems to me there is an untapped market for restaurants catering to 53% of the population.

Does that seem right to you?

And I don't think you can just do a reverse Hooters, with Buffalo Mild Wings and shirtless body-builders in bow ties. They have those (I think) and none of them made the Top Ten.

So for today's Friday Five I thought I'd tackle the unthinkable.

What Do Women Want?

1. The Place
Okay . . . when not roaming in the family pack, women travel in three succinct groups. The single, don't touch me, I just wanna drink before I go home. The Duo, besties, who want to talk, and share their feelings. And, of course, the Bridal Shower, who want to get a little rowdy. So the place would have to be big, real restaurant sized, with a seriously long bar on the side of the entrance, intimate tables in the middle with seats for four, but cozy for two, and all along the perimeter would be U-Shaped couches around big square coffee tables.

Lots of napkins.

Lots of coasters.

2. The Food
Finger food and Comfort food. Tapas and Pasta and soups or stews. No salads.

Why no salads? Because all people go out to restaurants to EAT. If one woman orders a salad then they all have to order a salad, when really, what they're there for, is a double order of pulled pork sliders. Take away the salad options and everybody is happy.

However, options must be a thing. Men order food based on the picture and/or whether there is Bacon in the title. Women order food based on how many adjustments they can make to the ingredient list.

Another reason why no salads.

In fact, every ingredient should be available to order on the side.

All meals come with a chocolate desert.

3. The Drinks
Drinks should not come from the bar. Too much of a hassle. Drinks should come from a drink cart on wheels. As soon as you are seated, the drink cart comes to you and sets you up. The drink server should specialize in cocktails and wine. Beer isn't frowned upon, but not advertised.

There needs to be two drink carts per section.

4. The Music.
Classical for lunch, Indie pop for Happy Hour, Country for dinner, smooth jazz for late night.

Don't ask me why. I don't make the rules.

5. The Staff.
All men. Except maybe management and the cleaning crew. Which sounds exactly terrible, I know, I'm sorry. But let's pay the cleaning crew management salaries, cause it's literally the most important part of running a classy establishment.

Okay, for the wait staff, there should be beefcakes in the couch sections, hipsters at the bar, and gentleman serving the tables. The beefcakes should be dressed in tight fitting clothes and have shapely posteriors. The hipsters should have some sort of beard and soulful eyes behind square glasses and at least one tattoo. The gentlemen should be neatly quaffed and remind everyone of someone's grandfather.

Once the drinks have been served the wait staff should pass around the menus and instead of asking if anyone would like to hear about the specials they should ask "Does anyone want to tell me about their day?"

If needed the wait staff is required to sit down and listen, and offer free brownie sundaes.

I think I'll call the place "Cuddles."





TBT: The Point of Indifference


March 26th, 1827.

Beethoven dies.

I was thinking about classical music lately in that I should probably listen to it more. I've never been to a symphony, which seems weird to me now, but it's probably because tickets are outrageous and I wouldn't know a good one from a bad one.

I could tell you a good pop song from a bad one. I could elaborate on a good play versus a not good one, and I know you shouldn't pair beef stew with a white wine. But knowing the difference between the London Symphony and the Vacaville Symphony would be beyond me.

I could tell you which room has better acoustics . . . so at least that's something.

I went to an opera once. La Boheme directed by Baz Lurman. That was pretty cool. But I don't ever have to do that again. With opera I find that the composers spend more of their notes trying to figure out what the voice CAN do and not enough time thinking about what the voice SHOULD do.

I also don't like people screaming at me.

Back to Beethoven, I always put him at the top of my classical music taste. Like . . . Bach invented music. As a music scholar once told me, Bach was "The Man." He is precision.

Mozart, on the other hand, gave music personality. Even without knowing much about anything, you can hear Tom Hulce's giggle behind every bar of Mozart's cannon. He's as easily recognizable as a Danny Elfman score.

Beethoven gave music pain and anger.

Even his "Ode to Joy"

Composers after that get too avant garde for my taste. It's like Beethoven perfected realism and truth and after that . . . well . . . nothing is left but to push the art into eventual abstraction.

Anyway, I was listening to this RadioLab bit on Beethoven's tempo markings. Between his 8th and 9th Symphonies, the metronome came out and so he went back to all of his work and added in the tempo he wanted his pieces to be played at.

And it seems as though Beethoven was more punk than we thought.

He wanted everything faster and louder than is traditionally played.

And in a lot of cases . . . uncomfortably so.  He was probably more likely to hang out with Joey Ramone than Yo Yo Ma.

There's a lot of debate over this. Maybe his metronome was broken. Maybe there was a clerical error. He was deaf by the time the metronome came out so he was hearing the music in his head and not in an actual space.

(In actual space there is reverberation which when notes are played too fast, the tail of one note bleeds into the attack of another, making things all muddy).

Or . . . he wanted his music to push your buttons.

Which makes the most sense to me.

Yet . . . if we have the tempo markings . . . why has his music evolved to be played much slower?

The answer is a cool thing called Vierordt's Law.

See, if we played beats too slow, the natural tendency is to speed it up. And if we play things too fast, the natural tendency is to slow things down.

The tempo at which we feel most comfortable is around 95 beats per minute.

It's called the Point of Indifference.

Beethoven put a lot of songs at 108.

He didn't want you to be indifferent. He wanted you just a little bit on edge.

The Point of Indifference has another meaning as well. It's an economic term for when the rate of investment moves away from (and above) the rate of return.

The Point of Indifference is where spending more doesn't result in making more. It's an important factor in how companies decide on such things as product quality and payroll dollars.

And it doesn't have to be limited to just the financial sector.

An expensive set of clubs ain't gonna make you a better golfer. More salt isn't gonna make your food taste better. A healthy lunch isn't going to help you with those love handles when you still plan on Pot Roast for dinner. You can auto-tune your voice all you want . . . ain't gonna make you a better lyricist.

and so on.

What frustrates me about the indifference point is that it's most commonly and aggressively institutionalized as the ULTIMATE GOAL. (especially, especially in the business world).

I much prefer to think of the indifference point as ROCK BOTTOM.

It's the point at which you've failed.

It's the point at which you've gotten things right and no longer have the strength, nor the courage, to get things good.

In art . . . it's the point of abandonment. Which . . . is okay . . . but only because you have to go on to the next thing, and a good artist will remember the steps that got her/him to the indifference point and try to avoid them in the future.

I hate that moment. Though it does come with certain sense of relief, it always reminds me of the gap between what I meant to do . . . and what I actually did. Sometimes that divide is really like super really painful to experience.

Beethoven felt that way when he could still hear his works being played.

too slow . . . too slow . . . that's not what I meant at all . . . in fact . . . it's not what I did.

So with the invention of the metronome, he goes back to all his works and makes sure his intention is set in stone.

But even his insistence gets eroded by time.

Gravity moves us all to the point of indifference.

Bum Bum Bum, Buuuuuuuum.

Buuum Buuum Buuum, Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum!



Because Pot Roast

Ingredients:
3 lbs Beef (Chuck, Brisket or Round)
Onions
Carrots
3 Cups Stock (Beef, Chicken or Vegetable)
Sprig of Rosemary or Thyme
Olive Oil
Peas
Gold Potatoes
Butter
Sour Cream
Parmesan Cheese

Tools:
Slow Cooker or
Dutch Oven

Okay, so I feel a little bad about this recipe, not because it's anything but friggin delicious, but because I know some of you are on the diet track, and this is practically anything but.

You can eat the peas.

Sorry about that. Maybe I'll catch you next time. Or maybe we can't be friends anymore.

Remember . . . it's not you . . . it's me.

Anyway, Pot Roast is kinda a new addition to my repertoire which all started when I gave my wife a slow cooker for christmas (or was it her birthday? Can't remember). It's important that when you have a new cooking utensil that you abuse it as much as you can.

Stews and soups are nice too, and there will be a super-low fat shredded salsa chicken recipe coming up real soon, so be cool, but as for the soups and stews, I really need it to rain for those to be comfort foods, and it hasn't rained much like at all.

I'm watering my lawn in March. That's how much it hasn't rained.

But it was kinda chilly, which means that it was in the low 70's, and Pot Roast sounded real good.

All right . . . lets get to it:

The Meat:
Now . . . I don't wanna freak you out . . . but you're gonna need time. Like a lot of time. Like four full hours if you're cooking in the oven, and all day if you're using a slow cooker.

I actually used the oven for this one.

Which . . . I guess . . . negates the whole point about using the slow cooker . . . but hypocrisy is healthy.

Anyway . . . Preheat the oven to 275. (Or turn on your slow cooker)

Heat up some olive oil in your Dutch Oven (or a frying pan if you're going slow). Add some onions. Let 'em get translucent. Add some carrots. Let 'em get just bit soft.

Now the fun part: Remove all the onions and carrots (set aside for later), and throw that big slab of meat on the pan. Sear both sides. That means cook it until the sides are brown and crunchy. Then, remove the meat (set aside). Then add about a half a cup of stock to the pan and scrape up all the good charred bits until you've got a nice brown au-jus.

Mmmmm . . . au-jus.

Okay, if you've done all this in your Dutch Oven, put the meat back into it, add in the set aside onions and carrots, pour the remaining stock until it rises about 3/4 up the side of the meat, toss in a sprig of Thyme or Rosemary, cover it up and put it in the oven.

Wait 4 hours.

Or . . . if you're rocking the slow cooker . . . put the meat in the cooker, add the au-jus, add the carrots and onions, add the sprigs, cover and wait.

Wait forever.

Pro-Tip: I like the smell of meat wafting all over the place, especially after a hard day of whatever it is that I do, but not everyone feels comfortable with smelling like burnt flesh. You can mitigate the pervasiveness of the aroma by closing the doors in your house or apartment and periodically opening a few windows. You'll still get that smell, but it won't stick to your sheets.

Moving On:
Now . . . some purists might say something like "Add Potatoes to the slow cooker for the last hour" like it was a stew, but they're wrong. Nothing goes with pot roast like mashed potatoes.

Nothing.

I think I've had the potato debate here before, but here's another look at the kind of potato you're gonna want to consider for this dish. We all know Russets. They're the big brown ones. They're flaky and have a good thick skin. Yukons are super creamy with very thin tasteless skin. Reds are less creamy but with a nice tangy (and good looking) skin.

I reserve russets for grilling. Especially when charcoal is involved. The thick skin crisps up amazingly with a little olive oil and salt.

The reds I reserve for when I'm not in charge of feeding my son. The itty bitty bits of red skin in mashed potatoes not only give the side dish a colorful look, it also adds to the texture and taste.

He doesn't like those things.

So Yukons it is.

Chop into even sized bits (You do this so that they cook at the same rate.) Boil 'em til they're soft. Drain the water. Add 4 tbsp of butter, a couple of globs of sour cream, sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Mash.

(Side note: He didn't eat the Yukons last night either. So now I'm not so much concerned about his health . . . as I am about his paternity.)

Finally . . . the veggie bits.

Now I don't know how you feel about peas. But you do have to admit, they're the perfect vegetable to go with mashed potatoes. I think they come in three categories:

Fresh Peas: Freakin' Delicious, but ridiculously time consuming to shuck.

Frozen Peas: Good, easy, available anywhere, anytime, and inexpensive.

Canned Peas: Vomit.

Guess which ones I prefer?

Now the best recipe is to sauté some onion slivers in some olive oil in a sauce pan, until clear. Add a cup or two of the frozen peas, mix them around until the peas are glistening with oil and then cover with water, bring to a boil and viola. Mmmmm.

Or,

Bring water to a boil, add the frozen peas, wait til it starts boiling again. You're done.

(Side Note Two: The peas were eaten.)

You're now ready to serve it up.

Additons/Subtractions:
There's obviously no getting around the fatty tissue of the meat. So, you know, portion control. But the mashed potatoes you can substitute with mashed cauliflower and the butter for olive oil, and if you add an insignificant amount of the sour cream and cheese (sprinkles not globs) it's actually really like weirdly super tasty. If you wanna get a kinds of crazy you can substitute the potatoes with refried beans and the peas for some kind of crunchy lettuce and you've got a monster burrito bowl just waiting for your love.

Now assuming your family consists of me and my wife, this recipe is a crowd pleaser. Goes well with beer or zesty wines (I'm usually a Merlot proponent, but this one's for the Cabs and Zins).

Heat up the leftover meat in a pan the next morning, add scrambled eggs and mushrooms and hell . . . why not some shredded cheese? You're gonna die anyway.

Wouldn't it be nice to know what heaven tastes like even if you don't believe in such things?





HTT: How To Roadtrip

I really wanna say that the road trip is a uniquely American venture. But that would probably be ignoring about 2.6 million years of migration. Although, to be fair, migration is usually with the intent on never going home, whereas the road trip is almost 50% return.

It would also be ignoring the 18th and 19th century western expansions, but again, return was unlikely.

No, so when I'm talking about road trip, I mean putting full luggage in the back of the car, buckling up the children, filling up the gas tank, and heading for something that's too far to get to in less than a day . . . maybe two.

We didn't take a lot of serious road trips when I was a kid.

Once or twice I went with my Dad while he was touring. That was a blast.

And throughout the spring and summer and fall, my mom would throw us into the pick-up truck or whatever, and with a Coleman stove, a pup-tent and bag of marshmallows, and we would spend the weekends out in the wilderness. And until I discovered sex, drugs and sriracha mayo, I didn't think life could get any better.

As soon as I had a set of keys and a day or two of freedom, I was gone.

I remember vividly every road trip I had ever undertaken.

The nights out on Lake Berryessa with Sean and whoever could come along, where we slept head to toe in the back of my Volkswagen van and told each other Zodiac Killer stories.

The trip to Santa Barbara with Deb in my brother's '64 Comet where we stopped at the general store in San Gregorio and I bought a hat.

The winding Pacific Coast Highway going north from Oxnard where Jon and I spoke in iambic pentameter all afternoon, and I discovered that he couldn't drive a stick shift so I was stuck behind the wheel for nine hours of winding coastal road.

A similar trip coming down the grapevine in a Toyota Corolla and saying to Natalie "Um, hey, did you know that you're going 96 miles per hour? . . . Yeah . . . maybe you oughtta let me drive for a bit."

The long lonely trip to Nevada to see about a girl.

The long lonely trip back home.

The best road trips were in the summer of 2003, Joann and I had just gotten married and we were looking for a place to live in Los Angeles, I was gonna be a songwriter, she was gonna be an actress. We'd gather up in the Echo with a snack bag full of Cokes and Triscuits and Easy Cheese and she would spray the gooey stuff on the crackers and hand feed me so I didn't have to take my eyes off the road. We stayed with friends and family or sometimes really really trashy motels just off the Sunset Strip. We never found a place to live.

Which in hindsight, was probably God watching out for us.

Anyway, so in prepping for another road trip, I thought today's "How To Tuesday" I'd spend sometime pointing out the differences and similarities from the classic days of yore to the now.

First things First: No Kids
My son is actually pretty good on road trips. We've taken him to LA a couple of times for Disneyland and he could practically navigate the trip to Grandpa's house by himself. But a five day excursion might be thoroughly testing the limits of how long any of us could go together without wifi.

Second things Second: Saving up your Podcasts.
Gone is the era of being subjected to the limitations of the local radio. In my youth-day, it was all about the mix-tape (man . . . creating the mix tape was like three days worth of excitement.), but you know . . . we're kind of older now . . . and that doesn't mean we don't like music . . . it's just that the stereos in our cars are kinda crappy.  And then there was the era of the Book on Tape (the staple of the 2003 adventures), but there really is only so much Patricia Cornwell one could listen to without knowing in advance who the killer is. So now it's free podcasts of "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" Fresh Air" and "This American Life"

But you need about twenty of them, and they only come out once a week, so you kinda gotta store up.

Third things Third: The packing gap.
In almost all areas of life, my wife and I have grown together. We watch the same shows, listen to the same music, found a nice meeting place where our domestic strengths and parenting skills compliment one another . . . but never has there been a greater divide in an approach to life than how we like to pack.

When she thinks of going anywhere, it's of the utmost important to consider every possible emergency and to be prepared for it, while I . . . well I like to figure out how I can get away with carrying the least.

There's no right or wrong. It's about comfort and peace of mind. And since we own an SUV, there is no theoretical harm in packing half the closet.

In fact, the only thing that I take umbrage with is that she still likes to ask my opinion about what to bring.

My opinion is important to her . . . as hers is to me.

But the conversation will go like this:

Should I take the high heels?

No . . . we're going to be doing a lot of walking.

What if we go some place nice?

We aren't going to someplace nice.

What if we do?

I doubt "Sizzle Pizza" is going to concern themselves with your footwear.

But just incase, it's not like we don't have the room in the car.

You're absolutely right, put 'em in the bag.

Now, that doesn't seem like much of a problem, but we'll have twenty identical conversations about jackets, pants, socks, umbrellas, toiletries, and food items. And it is always exactly the same.

I'm an ass and I say no, or don't bother, or whatever.

And she doesn't think I'm taking her seriously and argues for yes.

I try to convince her now . . . because I want to win the moral high ground.

Which is stupid.

I will never win the moral high ground.

And she mirrors my lais-sez-faire attitude and reminds me that it doesn't matter.

Yet another reason why we don't bring the children. Try packing for a nine-years old with this method.

Anyway, as you get older, you start to realize the gravity of what you are planning, the bags upon bags of stuff. The hours on the road, the back stiffness alone. The searching for the next place to get some gas or find a double cheese burger. The feeling in your body when those double cheese burgers start to back up because you haven't been to the toilet in three days.

Then you think, road trip might be a bad idea. You're getting older just thinking about it.

Fourth: Consider the Train
I really really really, wanna do a train trip someday. But . . . unfortunately . . . I live in the land of the road trip and the train lines, while still romantic, don't have quite the flexibility I'm looking for.

And it's expensive.

I might do it some day . . . but not this time.

Fifth: Consider Flying.
Flexible, relatively cheap, turns a five day trip into a three day trip, the Sacramento airport is easily the easiest and best airport to fly in and out of (Unless you're looking for public transportation, and, well, why would you?)

Yeah. I'm thinking we're gonna fly.

Only problem.

Packing.

Effing Packing.





Race Together to Where . . . Exactly?

So the coffee company Starbucks got a little media bump last week.

Good for them.

I may have spent my career working for the competition, and I may have spent more than my fair share of column inches teasing them about the ridiculousness of some of their beverage concoctions, but in truth, I've always had a certain soft spot for any company that produces a quality product and treats their employees with a more than an acceptable level of respect.

The reason they got that little bump is because they rolled out a a weird little program to write "Race Together" on their cups.

Howard Shultz (CEO) thought that it would be cool to create an opportunity to address race relations with some of his 2 million daily customers. I don't know what that means. I don't think anyone knows what that means. But you gotta admit . . . it's perfect.

It's so elegant.

It's undeniably the best way to say something along the lines of "I want you to know . . . that I know . . . that there are problems . . . and I want you to know . . . that I know . . . that we should do something about them . . . but I want you to know . . . that I know . . . that it's important not to offend anyone . . . or spend any money . . . or we could talk about the weather . . . which is fine too."

Let's race together.

Genius.

Now, obviously it's gotten some eye-brow raising commentary.

Cause . . . again . . . nobody knows what it means.

And it seems a little silly to be doing something that may have an impact on the speed of service.

And it seems a little crazy to expect a twenty year old barista to engage customers about racism.

It's hard enough to get them to engage about coffee.

Trust me.

But to understand it more, you have to understand Howie, and his conception of what a Starbucks is. See, he didn't want to create a place that just sells coffee. No . . . he was already doing that. The modern Starbucks shop was designed to recreate the social gathering spot of 17th century european coffee houses.

It's not about the coffee, it's about the community.

That's why there are comfortable seats and board games on the tables.

And free wifi.

And if you know anything about european history, which I can't expect you to, but hear me out, the european coffee house was the gathering hole for revolution. All the changes in social reform, science, invention, art . . . had their humble beginnings with a few guys (and maybe some girls) over a hot cup of reconstituted french roast.

(Fun Fact: Most people drank beer from morning to night back then because it was safer than water. They actually needed vente sugar free pumpkin spice lattes to clear their heads.)

Anyway, with that perspective "Race Together" makes a bit more sense.

Howie wants you to know . . . that he knows . . . that there are problems . . . and he wants you to know . . . that he knows . . . that he could be doing something about those problems . . . but he wants you to know that he knows . . . he has to do something that doesn't offend anyone . . . or cost anything.

Wink, wink.

Now . . . I'm a gonna be honest here . . . race relations is not something I am particularly qualified or even really comfortable talking about. It's certainly not something you want me satirizing.

But I'm a huge fan of revolution.

And I'm gonna drop a big circuitous bomb that may require a few conceptual leaps . . . but don't worry . . . I'll type slowly.

First, again I know nothing about race relations, but I do know that if there is anything that has proven to at least help level the playing field . . . it's income.

If we're gonna talk about stuff we might as well admit that money talks real good.

And what is the only sure fire path to a higher income?

Education.

The greatest historical era of economical growth and income equality was in post-WWII America. Guess what that was fueled by? MmmmHmmm. The G.I. bill.

With me so far?

But education is expensive and getting more so by the second. (oh, boy is it.)

But is it?

Hmmm?

What if I said that within my lifetime (and hopefully before my son turns 18) that accredited higher education will be virtually free online for almost any degree you can think of?

Crazy nonsense . . . you say?

Well . . . actually it's already happening. And I'm not talking about the online colleges we have now. That's still very expensive and it gets more expensive the longer you stretch our your courses. I'm talking about the pilot programs where you could take a course from Yale or Harvard and receive a certificate of completion.

And because it doesn't cost any more to have 10,000 enrolled than it does to have 10 enrolled, the economy of scale is is in the favor of the tired huddled masses. They offer a whole bunch of courses for free.

That's right.

For free.

The process exists. You could go online right now and sign up for a Physics class from MIT. The information is out there. There just needs to be more. And someone has to put it all together.

We're still in the youthful days of this idea, but it's gonna happen eventually if not soon. All it would take is a little administrative push by, lets say, a 50 billion dollar company.

One like . . . let's say Starbucks.

What if, using this method, Starbucks offered a free (or nearly free) college education to all of it's employees?

Yeah, there would be a huge set of start-up costs, growing pains, etc. But it's a one time cost and imagine the future savings in retention, not to mention an entire generation of managers with business degrees, IT professionals with hands on experience, graphic designers in marketing, trainers with teaching credentials, all groomed in house. You would have the most amazing workforce that ever existed and any company that wished to be even remotely competitive would have to follow suit.

Except Walmart. They might actually collapse if their teams learned some basic math.

There are 200,000 Starbucks employees, most of whom are kids right out of high school that don't have a clear future in mind nor the resources to do much about it. You get a company like McDonalds to jump on the band wagon and you might create a future middle class ten times the size of what it is now and double that what it was in 1955.

Six or seven years behind the espresso bar, and you're ready to Take the Bar.

Cause, despite what you think, we do need more lawyers too.

The system obviously wouldn't be perfect. Not everyone is cut out for higher learning and it wouldn't address the bigger 21st century deficits in health care and sustainable infrastructure, but it's nowhere near as expensive or as crazy as lets say offering benefits to part time workers (which Starbucks already does).

And yeah . . . it's not without considerable flaws.

But maybe they are flaws worth considering.

Surely couldn't hurt to talk about it.

I mean . . . I like the idea of racing together . . . but it wouldn't hurt to have an idea of where we're going and what we can accomplish when we get there.






Like Riding a Bicycle Five



Resurrected my mountain bike from the garage yesterday.

Something I've been meaning to do since October.

That's the month were the heat around here drops below 98 for the first time and you're allowed to outdoor things other than running from air-conditioned room to an air conditioned car.

Still need sun-screen in January though. Trust that.

So I've been meaning to get my bike out of my garage so I can do exercise-y things. I like going out for bike rides cause it's easy on the knees, you can actually get to places you would like to go, and my town has an incredible network of bike trails where you can almost pretend that you're communing with nature.

Nature loves a good commune.

However, I'm a casual enjoyer, not an enthusiast. The bike I own is made up of garage sale spare parts, a lot of rust, and under no circumstances do I own any lycra clothing, cause . . . you know . . . love handles. So you can probably get what I mean when I say I haven't gone out in over a year.

Anyway, you know the cliche "It's just like riding a bicycle?"

There's truth in that I guess.

Riding a bike is supposed to be easy once you've learned how to do it, but the same can be said about . . . well . . . everything else. Why the bicycle cliche took . . . I have no idea.

However . . . if you . . . like me . . . haven't gone out in a while there's a few safety things you need to check before you begin that three mile ride to the park or to the library.

One: Find your tools.
You're probably gonna need a wrench of some kind and some WD40. A flat tip screw driver might be key as well. If you can't find your tools, or if you don't think you ever had any . . . maybe bicycle ownership is not for you.

If things fall apart while you're going down a hill at forty miles per hour. You could die.

Or scrape your knee.

Which hurts.

Two: Re-inflate Your Tires A Day Before.
Tires are bound to leak. I don't know why that is. I could ride my bike every day for a month without a problem, but if I took like three days off, when I got back to my bike, the tires would be flat. It's part of the same phenomena as when electrical cords tangle or how my wife knows I'm not really paying attention to her.

Since it's been a while, you don't know if your tires are flat because there's a leak, or some magical transference of dark matter, and since you don't want to get stranded anywhere, pump the tires a day before your first excursion. If they're still good the next day, ride on. If not, gotta replace those puppies. I also suggest making that first ride short and circular just in case they go down.

Three: Check those Breaks.
I mentioned that my Franken-bike is made up from the corpses of several other machines. One of them I think was toaster oven. So it should come to no one's surprise that there is only one functioning side of handle breaks, the other being for decoration. And it should also come to no one's surprise that I can never remember which one is which.

I really don't know how I'm still alive sometimes.

Four: Check your Helmut for Spiders.
I forgot to do that yesterday before my ride and I started to get sweaty and my scalp started to get itchy, just as I remembered that black widow I found in the garden last year.

I was negotiating traffic while simultaneously imagining baby black widows crawling all over my head.

Yeah . . . I really should be dead by now.

Five: Wait for the all clear before you mount up.
Riding on a bike might be the easiest thing in the world . . . but getting up on one might be the hardest. Especially since it requires the use of certain muscles that one doesn't use while sitting at a desk. It also requires a certain amount of flexibility and grace. Two words that are listed under my name in the dictionary as antonyms.

So you're probably gonna look an awkward beached whale sort of creature until you get moving, but once you're up with some forward momentum, with the wind in your hair, an NPR podcast playing Terri Gross through your ear buds . . . well . . . the rest is like riding a bike.