Category: advice

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‘Everything is an Opportunity’

A few months ago, I adopted a new, personal slogan—and it is my motto for 2017: “Everything is an opportunity”. Think of it as an adaptation of old adage: “Make your own luck”, which I Googled today out of curiosity. There’s some good advice from several of the top hits, somewhat syncing with my own thinking, that would be good new year reading for you: That phrase as headline, Psychology Today; “13 Proven Ways to Make Your Own Luck“, Inc.; and “10 Proven Ways to Make Your Own Luck“, Entrepreneur.

How interesting: Business publication stories top search results for the “luck” phrase; other than PT. I see the sense in that for someone trying to build something. My motto differs in expanse: It is a lifestyle, a way of thinking. I don’t mean to sound like some living-in-lala-land motivational speaker. As a journalist, my cynicism about everything flows deep through my psyche. But so does my optimism, based on experience. 

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From Amazon’s Bookstore Risk Can Come Great Rewards

There is collective head-scratching across the InterWebs about a Wall Street Journal report that Amazon will open as many as 300, or even 400, stores selling books. The company’s massive success selling ebooks and the cost and selection advantages of warehousing their physical counterparts make the concept seem nonsensical. I contend that it’s brilliant.

Amazon is in process of expanding online services into the purview of local retail, which biggest competitive advantage is immediacy. In conjunction with the $99-per-year Prime program, the online retailer offers faster shipping; same day, and within hours, in some locales. The company increasingly contracts its own carriers, as well. Immediacy requires presence. What better location than a bookstore that also warehouses other goods and provides customer service operations? That’s all without considering the branding opportunities, which, as Apple Store demonstrates, can be huge. 

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If You Can Vote for American Idol on Smartphones, Why Not Presidents?

Over the weekend, my 94 year-old father-in-law asked what I would do to assure that every American who could vote would do so. That was an unexpected question, but one I addressed gingerly. This post is my answer restated for a public venue.

Simple answer: Smartphone. According to PewResearchCenter, nearly 70 percent of Americans own one of the devices, but the number among voting age adults tops 80 percent, according to other estimates. Surely a program could be in place by the 2020 Presidential race, and if lawmakers were truly serious about universal suffrage, a Manhattan-like project could make it happen by the next Mid-terms. 

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What If: Google Drone Street View

There is no shortage of online blabbers making predictions about the future or bloggers pining pageviews with rumors about the next thing (usually from Apple). I rarely join the chorus of new year prognosticators—and won’t now. Instead I make a wishful what-if aimed squarely at Google. Watching the blizzard blast the Washington, D.C. metro area, once my home and for most of my adult life, I got to thinking: Wouldn’t a live feed, something like Google Drone Street View, be fantastic way to experience the storm?

Why shouldn’t this be the next wave in drone deployments? If not from Google, then from newscasters? The low-flyers could go where snow would stop motorized vehicles; and, connected in real-time to Google Maps, provide contextual viewing experience. You can be there, too, even if living one-thousand kilometers distant. Newscasters could use drones to give a more immersive watching experience. 

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The Paywall Problem

This week the long-dreaded Washington Post renewal email plunked into my inbox. So ends a glorious year of reading the digital newspaper on PC and tablet. My cheap thrill ride is over: “Your subscription will be renewed for a year on Aug. 26, 2015, at the rate of $149/year. As you’ve requested, payments for your subscription to the Post are automatically charged to your credit card”. I requested nothing. The Post imposed auto-renewal, which I cancelled the next day. My sub now ends on August 26.

Twelve months ago, the Post made an amazing email offer, good for just 24 hours: “Get a Full Year of Unlimited Digital Access FOR AS LOW AS JUST $19!” Wow, what a deal. We splurged and went digital on any device for another ten bucks. Washington Post is worth $29 a year—and it’s a good value for $149, too. But all the paywall news sites want that kind of cash or more from me. I’m willing to pay for good journalism, but my budget can’t accommodate them all. 

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A Life Lesson

For three summers during high school, I participated in federal assistance program Upward Bound at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. My parents divorced when I was 13, and my then 31 year-old mother chose to raise four children alone. Jobs were scarce in Aroostook County during the early 1970s, and mom couldn’t earn enough. We were poor, by most American measures.

That circumstance and college plans qualified me to spend summers in Southern Maine and someday to attend a school like Bowdoin (I didn’t). The program has expanded such that if I were a high school student today, my UB participation would be at the University of Presque Isle branch rather than the one at Bowdoin. While closer to home (next town over), the benefits wouldn’t be as a great: Getting out of the County’s confines, experiencing life on such a prestigious college campus, watching Shakespeare at the Theater at Monmouth, or traveling—even for a day—to Boston. 

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Use Drones to Fight Ebola

The world is at war. Ebola is the enemy. Not Islamic State. Not Russia, Israel, Palestine, the United States, or any other nation or peoples you would like to insert here. No country—pardon the word choice—is immune to Ebola. The disease doesn’t care about cultural, political, racial, or religious differences that divide people. The disease indiscriminately attacks everyone.

Ebola should unite us—a global community rallying against a common enemy. But the disease can, already does, divide us. Fear, not infection, is Ebola’s great weapon of mass destruction. In parts of West Africa, farmers abandon crops for fear of infection; yesterday, I heard a BBC radio report claiming as many as 40 percent of farms in some countries. Fear. Fear of infection will divide us unless we unite first. 

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Some Advice to the Washington Post's New Owner

Today, in the Guardian, former CIA analyst John Kiriakou accuses the Obama Administration of abusing the 1917 Espionage Act, claiming that “only 10 people in American history have been charged with espionage for leaking classified information, seven of them under Barack Obama”.

From Day One, the Obama Administration sought to plug any leaks. What’s said in the Oval Office stays in the Oval Office. That’s context for understanding the aggressive approach to whistleblowers. It’s philosophical. The current White House sees leaks as betrayals, so why not view whistleblowing as treason?

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Toilet Training

If you’re one of those offensive people who talk on the cell phone in bathrooms—particularly public loos—your behavior stinks more than your poop. There may not be more appropriate place to assert that you’re on my shit list, bud. Bathroom phone calling is bad etiquette by just about any measure.

I cringe when walking by a public toilet stall and hearing someone talking into their cell phone. I’ve heard men taking what clearly are business calls. Oh, please! I’d fire your ass, for sitting it on the toilet seat and talking to me (your client or boss). Could toilet talking be the real reason for noise-cancelling cell phones or Bluetooth earpieces? Surely someone will hear you doing your toilet business—or that of the person in the next stall—while you’re taking the call.

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Non-Top-10 List for Journalists

I have come to loathe top-10 lists, and I have stopped writing them. They are a sucker’s play for pageviews, although I have always used top-10s mainly for their presentation value. Now that they’re everywhere and displacing original content, I’ve got something of a personal boycott going (hence, why there have been none from me recently at Betanews). It’s with that introduction I come to maim a top-10 list posted last week. “The truth about the newsroom—straight-up!” offers 10 things reporters “want from [public relations] pitch to coverage”.

Deanna White tweeted about the post, to which I responded after reading: “My list would look nothing like this. If that’s what my peers want, someone pull out journalism’s obituary & run it” (News organizations generally keep prewritten obituaries ready to run the second someone famous enough dies).