On Call, A Timeline

Managing the right staffing levels for your business is key to maximizing profit and maintaining employee satisfaction. I know this because I watched one of the business channels once. Also, I had a subscription to the Wall Street Journal for three months in 1999. For most businesses this isn’t rocket science. Even restaurants that have variable customer flows can track trends and mostly know which holidays and events are going to impact their staffing needs. Hospitals, on the other hand, are the dumpster fire of staffing and resource planning.

In a nutshell you fully staff every floor weeks or months in advance because you have zero idea how many people on a given day will decide to walk into traffic while texting, or will perform the infamous – “hold my beer, watch this” routine. The end result is some days every room in the hospital is full, and some days half your floor is empty.

The hospital is terrified of having to pay for a gaggle of nurses with nothing to do and access to closets full of cool medical supplies. Stedy Stand® jousting tournsara-stedy-1aments in the hallway, syringe darts, compressed air + tubing + tape + wheelchairs… a MacGyver playground. The chaos and mayhem that would ensue is unimaginable.

The brilliant solution is to wait until about an hour before the next shift starts, realize “oh crap, we have too many nurses” and then then start calling people to put them “on call”. On call means that I get paid approximately 75 cents an hour to sit at home and wait for “the call”. The rule is that when I get “the call”, I have 30 minutes to be at work. You can’t go anywhere and can’t start any type of project in which immediately dropping what you’re doing would be a bad thing.

So the “on call” timeline usually looks something like this:

0530  – Phone rings, you’re officially “on call”.
0530 to 0730 – Happy dance, more coffee, catch up on whatever social media outrage happened overnight, more coffee, renounce all social media, more coffee.
0730 to 0800 – Make serious plans for completing home projects: Laundry, organizing Tupperware drawer, clean-up the workbench and put away tools from some project three weeks ago, replace all burned out lightbulbs and smoke alarm batteries, start writing a best selling novel.
0800 to 0845 – Check social media to see if there’s suddenly world peace and political harmony. More coffee.
0845 to 1000 – Carry load of laundry to basement, get distracted by dog barking and then start watching YouTube videos.
1000 to 1100 – Check the fridge at least four times in case anything new magically showed up. Watch a breaking news story about a grain elevator that collapsed somewhere in North Dakota. Spend 15 minutes Googling grain elevators. Decide the coffee isn’t working and you’ll just close your eyes for a couple of minutes and then start your projects.
1138 – Phone rings, you’re no longer on call and need to go in.

Dammit, how am I supposed to get anything done?

busy


 

Make Your Mark

I listened to a discussion the other day that I liked. It was centered around the thought that happiness is more closely related to acceleration than velocity. When an airplane is at cruising speed you never notice how fast you’re going. But you do notice it when you take off. It’s the relative change from low to high that we remember. On paper you may have every reason to be happy, but if every day is status quo and never changes… it’s easy to feel dissatisfied.

The moments we remember, the events that give us the feeling of happiness are those times when things are new and changing. Going on a vacation, trying a new sport or hobby, visiting a restaurant or museum you’ve never been to. If you’re not continually accelerating you may have an impressive velocity, but are you really noticing it?

Last week I had an encounter with a * patient that made me think. This gentleman was not from around these parts as the saying goes. He was from a country in a different hemisphere that very few westerners would even remotely consider visiting. When it came time to sign his discharge paperwork, he very carefully made an X.

This fellow had never had the opportunity to learn how to read or write. He did not know how to write out his own name. That brief encounter impacted me fmark2or some reason. It’s so easy to forget what a bubble we live in here in the west. Sometimes (very often) we take for granted how fortunate we are. Any why are we so fortunate? Because we won the ovarian lottery by being born here and not in this gentleman’s country. He had no options from day one. So many people in this country have every opportunity you can imagine, yet spend their time unhappy and complaining.

What do these two things have to do with each other? Nothing really. Just sitting here, marveling at how fortunate my family is and how grateful I am. Grateful that I have the ability to worry about something as trivial as daily happiness and what am I going to do to continue accelerating forward.

Today’s acceleration will definitely not include yardwork.

* HIPAA overlords, this is a hypothetical patient. Not real. Definitely did not happen. I made this up. Fictional. Please don’t report me.

___________________________________

Tyler Durden:   I know who you are. I know where you live. I’m keeping your license, and I’m going to check on you, mister Raymond K. Hessel. In three months, and then six months, and then a year, and if you aren’t back in school on your way to being a veterinarian, you will be dead…

Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel’s life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted.

A Public Shaming

I’ve joked about weight loss and my lack of conditioning for years. Lots of self-deprecating comments about being weaker than a kitten, squishy around the middle,walle wheezing like a two pack a day smoker walking up stairs… In my head I was joking, but I was never really concerned because I just knew that a couple of afternoons in the gym and I’d be back in race shape. It’s not that hard, I just need to put my mind to it.

I have cleaned out the fridge and cupboards multiple times the last six months because starting tomorrow I’m eating “clean”. I’ve subscribed to Blue Apron and Cook Smarts. I religiously read several paleo web sites. I have the bible for body mechanics and movement, Supple Leopard, on my desk. I just recently purchased a Soda Stream so I’ll drink more water rather than buying crap at the store. I’ve read Jocko Willink’s book and subscribe to his daily 4:30 am discipline tweets. I have a fully outfitted gym in my garage. I have zero excuses.

I have a stack of jeans in my closet that I don’t want to throw away because I know I’ll fit in them again shortly. I wear the same three things over and over because I hate how everything else looks on me… but I’m not about to go buy clothes because I’m loosing weight any day now and that would be a waste of money. I spend way too much time researching stationary trainers, the Peloton Bike ($2k, seriously?), the Woodway Curve treadmill ($7k, WTF?). Last year I signed up for a bike race but never showed up because I was forced to admit I probably wouldn’t be able to finish. I wrote the other day about catching sight of myself on video and being horrified. Clearly that wasn’t enough to prompt me to do anything about it.

Yesterday, reality hit hard. I went skiing for the first time this season (it’s been a really bad snow year). I know I haven’t done much exercise for, uhm, a while, but that’s never really stopped me before. Maybe I wouldn’t be able to do as many runs as normal and I’d be a bit sore then next day, but otherwise no big deal.

Late in the day I took a silly little tumble on an awkward slope. No problemo. Went to get up and… my quads weren’t strong enough to stand up. I literally did not have the strength to stand. I sat in the snow and contemplated taking off my skis so I could get on my knees, when my nephew skied up and asked if I was ok. I said of course I was and wrenched myself up in a heroic effort. I managed one more run and that was it. I’d clearly strained my back and knew it.

This morning I’m sitting here with plenty of ibuprofen, a heating pad, and feeling sorry for myself. How in the world did I manage to let age get the best of me like this? How sad that I’ve lost so much strength I couldn’t even bleeping stand up? I’ve seriously claimed how ridiculous it was that someone would let themselves go like that (in my inside voice). Karma baby. One of my greatest fears would be to end up on my own hospital floor. Having my coworkers help me on a bedpan because I didn’t take care of my back is not an option. I’d fly to one of those surgery centers in India before that happens.

I hope this was the last straw. I know what to do and I have the tools to do it. I’ve done it before. I was in amazing shape (ok, maybe not amazing but pretty good) four years ago. Can I do it again? It takes an average of 66 days to create a habit. Why is it so mentally hard to break the cycle of eating and sloth? Isn’t there a pill I can just take instead?

I’ve already committed to more skiing, cross country skiing, mountain biking, and a river trip this year. If I continue down my current trajectory I’ll have to bail on all of it. I don’t want that. You have my permission to publicly shame me. Call me out on my diet. Ask if I’ve worked out. Tell me I look squishier than usual.

If pain and public shaming don’t work, I’m doomed. I contemplated posting the “before” bathing suit picture so I’d have daily motivation to change. Rest easy, the Facebook (or my ego) isn’t quite ready for such a shocking image – one that you couldn’t unsee. This morning I officially weigh 203.6 lbs (after pooping of course). I was 176 four years ago. That’s a lot of cake and nachos. Let’s see what happens.
costanza


Milton Waddams:  “The ratio of people to cake is too big”

Unplugged

I’ve decided to completely unplug. To stop feeding the evil corporations and their bottom lines. To no longer be a pawn to the latest must-have advertising push. I am officially no longer carrying a cell phone. Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty we are free at last!

No? Ok, so in reality the laws of physics got me. A weight which shall not be mentioned, traveling at a velocity of v * some meters per second²… or was it divided by? At any rate, it was a large amount of force hitting the ground. My cell phone, in my back pocket, was the unlucky buffer for that force. Physics always wins. Energy has to go somewhere.

Rest in peace Samsung S6. You served well. Enjoy the eternal nap.

Cool! Mourning period over. A new phone, what should I get!?!?

Paradoxically, for a former tech guy I’m not very into “tech”. Clearly evidenced by a cell phone multi-generations behind. I didn’t think that I was that reliant upon a phone. I despise talking on the thing. I’ve purchased exactly one app in my life. I would have told you that I don’t need a phone right away.

It’s not until it’s gone that you realize just how dependent upon these things we are. It’s how I communicate with the outside world. I use it daily for work – communication, setting timers, the flashlight, looking up reference material, and the translator (why oh why didn’t I take Spanish in high school?). I didn’t realize how often I was checking the social webs. I can’t take pictures. It has my stored notes for music I’ll never download and books I’ll forget to read. It has my (free) list making app that I’ve used exactly once. It’s my alarm clock and nighttime bedside clock. Calendars, maps, contacts, the entirety of human knowledge instantly available at all times.

And now I’m without. I actually felt briefly vulnerable driving. What if something happened? What if I broke down? How would I get help? What if I went to the store and couldn’t remember if we had milk – how would I contact Mrs Troutdog? Do I buy a gallon and potentially end up wasting it? Do I skip the cow juice and risk a second trip?

* side note, we purchase milk EVERY single time we go to the store. We do not drink milk. We don’t put it in coffee. We don’t cook with it. We don’t eat cereal. It sits in fridge, quietly going bad, week in and week out. When it goes bad, we dutifully buy a new one. I don’t understand our compulsion to buy milk.

Anyway, I lost track of my point. I’m a little frightened at how dependent we are on these ridiculously expensive devices and how it happened in such a short period of time. It’s only been around about ten years in its modern form. Suddenly we’re all chained to a life long service contract.

Meanwhile I’ll be in a dark hole for two more days. Out of contact. Unable to summon help. Unable to snap that picture of bigfoot or a UFO. A barren, lonely existence, indeed.

* Google Pixel 2 XL is the replacement for those interested.

The Lost Year

“Know what’s weird? Day by day, nothing seems to change, but pretty soon…everything’s different.” – Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes

This was an odd year. Not bad, just… odd. On paper there’s plenty of memorable moments that I’m very grateful for – completing my mid-life crisis career change, a big anniversary, a bucket list trip, travel to some new cities, rekindling my love of nachos  and questionable relationship with golf.

Looking back however, there were so many things that I didn’t do. I didn’t ride my bike. Or motorcycle. There was very little skiing or rafting. I didn’t take any pictures. I didn’t write much. Didn’t connect a whole lot with friends and family. Ignored the yard work. Ignored the gym. No real hiking. And worst of all, the grill saw virtually no barbeque this year.

When I look at those two paragraphs, I’m embarrassed. It’s a cliché, but what horrible first-world problems. It’s easy to forget how fortunate I am to have such trivial regrets. There is a large portion of the US, let alone the rest of the world, that can’t imagine having the year I had. Yet it’s easy to take for granted what we have and to let time slip by.

Looking ahead it feels like it’s time to reconnect. To realize that I’m way past the halfway mark of my trips around the sun. Nobody knows how many more you get, but it sure seems pretty stupid to waste them. It’s time to add some clarity to the filters that we apply to our day-to-day lives.

It’s time to say no to things that don’t add value to your life… Virtually everything on broadcast TV. Politics. Movie remakes and sequels. Being outraged at everything. Worrying what people think. Being afraid to try new things. To being lazy. It’s time to say no to pumpkin spice. And yams. Yeah, I said it. F**k yams. You can try to disguise them with marshmallows, but they’re still just nasty, mushy yams.

It’s time to say yes to travel and exploring. To being outside and skiing and rafting and fishing. To being back on two wheels and exploring trails. To being creative. To learning something new. To reaching out and maintaining connections to friends and family. To cooking and grilling. To more nachos. To exercising enough that I can eat nachos. To laughing.

Due to my job, I’ve spent a lot of time this year with people who are on their final trip around the sun. I can say with certainty that none of them wished they’d worked more, or spent more time watching TV. I suspect most of them wished they’d taken more risks. Experienced more things. Said yes more often. Engaged more with the people and world around them.

I was wrong about the year being lost. While at the time it didn’t seem like much was changing, at the end it’s given me a much healthier view of what’s important. I’m really looking forward to the new year. My single goal for this year – to minimize the number of days that seem wasted. To more often than not, go to bed and feel satisfied that I had a pretty good day. Seems simple. Harder in practice. Worth the effort.

The Problem With Protests

Quick – what is the NFL-anthem-kneeling debacle about? What do they want?  I’d be willing to bet that most folks only have a vague sense that it’s about some sort of injustice, maybe the first amendment, or because Trump said something.

Colin Kaepernick, who liked to take the field wearing pigs as cops socks, said this: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people kaepernickand people of color. … There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder”. If you’ve been supportive of Kaepernick and the kneeling movement, is this really what you feel? If you do, great. More power to you, stand up for your convictions. Otherwise, are you supporting something only because it’s popular? Don’t want to be the only one who didn’t hit the “Like” button?

You have every right to hate your country and what it stands for. I’d personally suggest you move to whatever country is the utopia you feel the U.S. should be, but whatever floats your boat. You don’t have to like this country. You don’t have to salute the flag. You don’t have to show respect. Playing the national anthem before events is nothing more than a tradition, not a requirement.

Protest all you want. You have that right. Just realize that if you choose to do it on your employers time… there may be repercussions. I know that my employer won’t be thrilled if I choose to march around and protest the plight of the endangered snowy plover while at work. Just ask Mr. Kaepernick. He may feel some satisfaction in seeing his actions briefly becoming a bit of a movement, but he’s still sitting home in his pajamas on Sunday without a paycheck.

How many people are praising the protest because they agree that cops are pigs and this country is a bastion of oppression, or are they joining the bandwagon because it’s popular on the Facebook? I think there’s a special irony in folks who are in the top 1% of wage earners, protesting the evils of virtually the only country on this planet where you can earn wheelbarrows full of cash to run around and catch a ball. They have every right to do so. And the free market has every right to react. The current 2017 Chicago murder count is 539. Primarily gang/drug related and black on black crime. Yo, oppressed NFL players – where’s the protest and call for action on that?

Symbolic protests have their place. They have the ability to spark a movement that can achieve change. That can be a good thing. But to be effective they have to have a clearly identifiable injustice and an outcome that everyone understands. To me, the kneeling thing has neither. Therefore it’s stupid, pointless, and will only hurt the NFL brand. Ultimately the players are doing more harm to themselves over something that will be completely forgotten several years from now.

My poorly thought out point is that as you’re doing a cut-n-paste of some clever meme to your Facebook page, do you really understand and support the protest du jour, or are you simply being a herd animal? I’d suggest you be a little bit of a skeptic before you hit that Like button. As the saying goes, reserve your f**ks for things worth giving a f**k about.

Lemmings_off_cliff_2* No, lemmings don’t really march off cliffs.

 

 

On Maturity

Watching the violent snowflake outrage in Berkley over thoughts that don’t match their group-think, I was reminded of a recent conversation Mrs. Troutdog and I had about maturity. We were talking about kids being able to safely walk/ride their bikes to school and she said “…but he’s only in middle school”.

I’m not a parent, which of course makes me perfectly qualified to pass judgement on parenting styles. I’m also not the most adventurous person in the world and tend to be pretty cautious most of the time. But this one time way back in the stone age I was twelve, about to turn thirteen. I wrote a letter (gasp, no email?) and applied to a summer camp I found in the back of Sunset magazine. I got the job, got on a Greyhound bus in Northern California and traveled down to San Diego alone. Spent the entire summer as a camp counselor and lifeguard.

Now this was not particularly extreme and I’m sure many of you who grew up in the mid-west were probably even more independent. I think most of today’s younger generation parents would be horrified at the idea of putting a twelve year old on a bus to travel 800 miles away, alone. Practically grounds for a child abuse lawsuit. (9 year old on the subway ) A year later at thirteen, a friend and I loaded up backpacks and rode our bikes 30+ miles to a lake and camped for three days. No cell phones, no way for our parents to know if we were alive or had been snatched by an evil clown. Today, a child of thirteen walking (or Uber) to the store to pick up a gallon of milk will be required to check in by phone three times and the parents will be monitoring their real-time progress via an app.

Ignoring “extreme” travel, how many parents today would be comfortable with their twelve year old riding their bike around at 4am every day delivering newspapers in the dark?  (what’s a newspaper?) How else was I supposed to afford baseball cards and movies? Today’s kids get allowance for backbreaking chores like “keeping their room clean” or “taking out the trash”.

We’re raising a generation that isn’t particularly rugged and is frightened of everything. Is it any surprise that people in the U.S. are outraged at everything today? Give your kids the chance to be more self-reliant and independent – they’ll thank you for it in the long run.

Solving The Wrong Problem

On this day in the year two thousand sixteen of the common era, 18 days and 15 hours after it began, my green home experiment died a quiet death. My sad little recycle bin only contained several junk mail flyers, a popsicle stick (not recyclable), and a paper plate that probably shouldn’t be there because it’s coated with wax. Do I wish good things for my codyplanet? Of course. I carry the same first world guilt that many Americans do. I fear photoshopped pictures of frightened polar bears desperately clinging to their shrinking icebergs. The image of Iron Eyes Cody, a tear streaming down his face as he watches garbage callously tossed from a vehicle haunts me. But, I’m also terribly lazy and trying to figure out what can and can’t be recycled was a pain so that was the end of that.

After a brief pang of guilt, I moved on. I’m an adaptable guy. But it does highlight a common human problem. We invest tremendous amounts of energy in solving the wrong problems. Trying to solve the solid waste management problem by forcing people at the trashend of the chain to dutifully sort and separate their trash is doomed to fail. National participation rates hover in the 20-30% range. With the exception of aluminum, recycled materials are a net cost and energy loss. Virgin plastic resin costs 40% less than recycled plastics. Raw silica sand used for glass production is around $20 a ton vs $40 to $60 for recycled glass. A quote I either found or made up regarding the efficiency of recycling is:  “There is a simple test for determining whether something is a resource or just garbage. If someone will pay you for the item, it’s a resource. But if you have to pay someone to take the item away, then it’s garbage.”

We are not going to solve the enormity of our waste problem by imploring people to rinse out their plastic mustard containers and carefully place them in a special bin. The problem needs to be solved upstream. Radical changes to packaging, incineration and reuse of the ash, building a dedicated monorail and shipping it to the desert to create a giant pyramid future historians can marvel at… these are the ideas we need to focus our energy on.

It feels as if much of the United States is stuck in a conventional thinking mode. The old guard is longing for a time when we clearly dominated the world without really trying. Uber is a great example. My city just recently fought a protracted battle with the transportation upstart. The old guard was trying desperately to protect the cab companies and the way things have always worked. I recently took a trip and used both Uber and a cab company. Leaving for the airport at 4am, I checked the Uber app and there was a driver a few blocks away. It took him a few minutes to get to my house. His car was new, clean, and he was a pretty nice guy. $9 for my trip, taken care of by my credit card already on file. The return trip I took a cab from the airport. The cab was a rattling death trap that smelled of stale cigarette smoke and was driven by someone who grunted monosyllabic answers. Nearly $30 for that lovely experience. Why would anyone spend energy to defend that sort of old school business?

Politics, foreign policy, artificially created “shovel ready projects”, bringing back industrial manufacturing, the Eagles and Rolling Stones reunion tours, Hollywood remakes of movie classics like Vacation and Point Break – why? Move on. The world has changed. It’s time to think forward rather than wistfully dreaming of the days of the Sony Walkman and killer mix tapes. As Homer Simpson famously said, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way”. I think he meant the line to the Krispy Kreme, but donuts or global innovation… it’s all the same.

We’ve had a pretty solid run. We can feel good about it. CNN can continue to crank out mtvspecials documenting each decade. But we need to come to grips with the fact that it’s over. The world is changing at a remarkable pace. We need to make sure we’re solving the right problems or we’ll look up and wonder why our standard of living plummeted. My point? I’m not sure. I think I’m just frustrated because my Zune music player finally died and the new music landscape is just so… confusing. Sigh, why can’t we just bring back the original MTV?

On The Big Blue Bin

I shouldn’t tell you this because it makes me sound, well, terribly insecure. I am, but that’s beside the point. The point is to leave you marveling at how manly I am, combined with a deep sensitive side. Stay tuned for the end of the post and videos of monster trucks, tattoos,  blowing stuff up, and American eagles flying majestically over the latest Tough Mudder run.

This week I had two friends make me feel really bad about myself. They didn’t mean to (refer back to insecurity). The first incident followed the horrible running decision from my last post. My friend seemed to truly enjoy the run (no, I don’t understand that) and commented on her feelings upon reaching the summit. One of the things she said was how thankful she was that she had two arms and legs that work and how grateful she was that she could do something like this. At the time the only thoughts I had were #1: beer, #2: I’m never doing this again, and #3: beer.

It wasn’t until later that I reflected and realized that, holly crap I’m pretty damn insensitive. Of course she’s right. I’m sure there were folks in that race that trained most of the year, overcame incredible obstacles, and just finishing was probably a significant milestone for them. Meanwhile I’m writing a snarky post complaining that I didn’t do as well as I wanted and I should probably put more effort into it next time (no, there won’t be a next time). We’re all one horrible cement truck accident away from wishing we could run a race. I should be damn grateful that at my age I still can participate.

The second incident occurred over a dinner conversation. Somehow talk drifted towards garbage and I casually dropped the anti-green bombshell – no, I don’t recycle. After an uncomfortable silence, my friend called me out on my statement and said “why?” I briefly contemplated tales of old war wounds, presidential dispensations, we live in a recycle-free zone, my busy schedule… but quickly came to my senses and ‘fessed up. The answer is that I’m too lazy to sort it and I already take out the garbage too many times every week. Uh yeah, that sounds as lame writing it as it did saying it.

Sadly, I spoke the truth. I really am that shallow. I actually searched “does recycling really work” to see if I could make myself feel better. While there are a number of arguments you could try and make, at the end of the day recycling is a few less things that end up in a landfill. And that’s a good thing. Oh, but the cost!! Err, I looked that up too. In my town, even if I was to add a second recycle cart it’s only an additional .54 cents per month. Dammit, I hate when I can’t be right all the time.

Does this mean there’s going to be a fundamental shift in my outlook? Have I completely given in to the North End, crunchy granola, hippie, 420 celebrating, Tibetan prayer flag, and save the whales lifestyle? Probably not. But I do think I need to be a little more appreciative of what I have. And if I can make a few small differences here and there, why not? I am officially making one of the two garbage bins under the sink a “recycle” bin. We’ll see where it goes, but don’t hold your breath for the hemp clothing and compost bin.

As promised, in no particular order:

egale

Monster trucks  (I tried, but I just can’t do it. Too close to pro bass fishing and “jorts + mullets)

U.S. Marines blowing shit up  (warning, might be disturbing for those who don’t really understand what “stopping ISIS” actually means)

It doesn’t fit me, but I’m fascinated with day of the dead tattoos. (Dia De Los Muertos if you’re not from pigs-knuckle Arkansas. Apologies to any of our southern brothers that actually live in Arkansas. If you’re a reader and live in Arkansas, on purpose… well, I’m sorry. Don’t know what else to say)water

The Tough Mudder. (Relegated to the same waste bin as running races. Never again. Interferes with drinking beer)

The Five Dollar Shake

The other day, in an effort to wean myself off the political crack I’ve been smoking in ever-increasing amounts, I was scrolling through a gallery of photos. It was an attempt to motivate myself to maybe take a picture again someday. Anyway there I am scrolling away,  every once in a while stopping to click on a picture that grabbed my attention. I started wondering what is it about a particular photo that reaches out and triggers something in the brain? All the photos were technically accurate and well done. Many were similar scenes or subjects. Why does one out of many grab you?

It would be a curious experiment to take a hundred photos and let a bunch of independent folks pick their top 10. How many people would pick the same list? There’s something about that “it” factor that’s so hard to quantify. We know it when we see it, but none of us can explain exactly what “it” is. Probably because it is often different for everyone. This applies to art, music, food, writing…

I don’t know what the right word is to describe this phenomenon. How does one restaurant or bar capture that vibe or buzz, where a very similar one a block away sits empty? We have a local business that, after a gazillion (I’m too lazy to look up how many) years, is closing at the end of the summer. This place is basically a “beer garden”. It’s way out of the way. A limited menu of mostly fried food and simple non-craft beer. A run down, biker bar looking place, with nothing more than a giant dirt “patio” and a bunch of rickety wooden picnic benches. It does not have one element going for it that would indicate any possibility of success. It would be listed under marketing 101 as exactly what not to do.

During the summer months – packed. Score of cyclists make it an end of ride stop. It’s practically a requirement to go there after floating the river. Flotillas of people make multiple pilgrimages there every summer to drink beer and bake themselves in the dust. How is it possible that a place like that creates a vibe that works, without advertising, and the fancy new million dollar brewpub downtown goes out of business in six months?

It’s a strange thing. The marketing folks spend a significant portion of our GDP trying to artificially capture or create it. Sometimes they get it right. At the risk of the implying to the Taylor Swift army that they’ve won the battle, her new ad spot for Apple struck me. It’s simple, unexpected, and funny. Why did that ad grab me and not the 2.7 million others we see on a daily basis?

As is the on-going theme of my life, I have very little point to this. I think it’s worth spending time looking at art, or writing, or something outdoors, and trying to figure out of all the images we see each day – which ones grab your attention? Now go find more of those.

VINCENT: Did you just order a five-dollar shake?
MIA: Sure did.
VINCENT: A shake? Milk and ice cream?
MIA: Uh-huh.
VINCENT: It costs five dollars?
MIA: Yep.
VINCENT: You don’t put bourbon in it or anything?
WAITOR: Nope.
VINCENT: Just checking.
_____________
VINCENT: Can I have a sip of that? I’d like to know what a five-dollar shake tastes like.
MIA: Be my guest. You can use my straw, I don’t have kooties.
VINCENT: Yeah, but maybe I do.
MIA: Kooties I can handle.
VINCENT: Goddamn! That’s a pretty fuckin’ good milk shake.
MIA: Told ya.
VINCENT: I don’t know if it’s worth five dollars, but it’s pretty fuckin’ good.