What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Designer kindling. The internet just tried to sell me a $50 cardboard box of L.L. Bean branded kindling. The biggest problem I have with any of this is that if Bean has bothered to assemble a 35 pound box of kindling and put it on their sales rack, more than one person has actually bought it. That means there are people out there among us that spent $50 to have kindling shipped directly to their door. It feels like there are so many better ways to start a fire – shred a bit of newsprint, tear off some parts of that empty cereal box, soak a few cotton balls in petroleum jelly, or put a match to some of the lint you cleaned out of your clothes dryer. Throw a few small, dry sticks aboard and you could have saved yourself $50 plus shipping. Then again, you’d have missed out on the chance to impress your guests with your big box of designer kindling. The deeper we wade into it, the more I really do hate the 21st century.

2. Freedom of Speech. No, the NFL is not taking away anyone’s “free speech.” The First Amendment specifically prevents government from restricting speech, so unless you live in some Bizzaroland where you’re being governed by the commissioner and franchise owners, you sound like a ranting lunatic when you make that argument. The league, like most other business, is identifying what they deem acceptable behavior in the workplace. Knowing those conditions, people are then free to work for the NFL or not. As it turns out, even millionaires aren’t exempt from having a few limits placed on what they can say and do at the work place. After all, if it weren’t for those kind or rules, who in your office would decide that their version of “free expression” was dispensing with pants for the duration of their 8-hour shift?

3. LED bulbs. Over the last 3 years I’ve worked steadily to replace all the incandescent light bulbs on the homestead with LEDs. There’s been a surprisingly respectable reduction of power consumption (and corresponding reduction in cost) over time. This week, the bulb in one of the garage door openers went out and I dutifully replaced it with one of the spare LEDs I had laying around. It turns out there’s enough wattage running through the opener even when it’s “off” that it keeps the bulb lit at what I’m guessing is about 10% of it’s full output. It’s probably not enough to burn the house down, but it’s enough to be aggravating. I’d rather have a old-fashioned bulb burning for 5 minutes than a fancy new LED that burns all day every day until the end of time.

On the importance of crafting your message…

It’s been a lot of years since my undergraduate communications course, but I remember a few tidbits from that long ago class. The most important of those would seem to be that communication, no matter its form involves both the person “sending” the message and the person or people “receiving” the message. In the absence of the sender, you’re just someone listening to dead air. In the absence of a receiver you’re just talking to yourself.

In the mad dash of social media to tell us who’s standing and who’s kneeling, it’s been pointed out by more than one of the people in my feed that the “intended message” of the players to choose to kneel is being largely ignored or misinterpreted . Therein lines nearly every problem with communication. While original intent is important what’s more important is crafting and delivering your message in such a way that it is “heard” by the receiver in a way that matches what you intended them to hear.

Any halfway decent public relations firm could have told the knee takers that a protest centered around the national anthem would draw attention to the cause – but not the kind of attention the sender might want. Despite the old saw, I’ve never been of the opinion that all press is good press. No matter how well intentioned (and I’m not personally willing to even concede that point), kneeling during the national anthem was bound only to attract controversy. Once it did that, the actual intended messages became entirely academic because it was buried under the weight of those rejecting the message because of how it was delivered / how it was received.

My advice? If you’re making millions of dollars a year and are bound and determined to have your voice heard, spend a little money with your favorite public relations professional. Let them help you craft the message and the delivery vehicle. Laying out a few dollars up front so you can shape the dialog instead of inflaming a substantial percentage of your fan base seems like it would have been money well spent in this case.

We stand…

It appears that we are once again entering a period in America where being an old fashioned patriot has fallen out of favor. Celebrities and “opinion makers” are lining up to tell us how awful things are and why we should be ashamed of ourselves.

Here’s the thing, though. I don’t tend to base my opinions on whatever the cool kids tell me I should be thinking. I didn’t when I was a kid myself and I sure as hell don’t intend to start now that I’m a thinking adult. I’ll form my opinions based on my own experiences, observations and ability to reason. The opinion makers can say what they want.

I grew up as the son of a teacher and a cop during the long slide of King Coal into a faltering business model. It wasn’t a bad childhood. We waded in the neighboring creeks, swung from hillside grape vines, and pedaled bikes from one end of town to the other and back again. There was even a store where you could buy candy for a penny a piece while trains hauling the last of the Big Vein coal out of the valley rattled past just 20 feet away.

That’s the place where I learned that we stand up when the national anthem plays or the American flag goes past. We stand because of the ideals that flag and that song represent. We stand because it’s the respectful thing to do. We stand because that’s what our parents taught us.

In this house, I will always stand. I will stand because it’s the respectful thing to do. I will stand because this country has allowed me to go further and see more than any kid from down the Crick could reasonably expect. I’ll stand because I am a patriot and my love for this country goes far deeper than any passing celebrity cause or presidential posturing.

I can’t make anyone else stand up. You’re well within your rights to sit there like a lump. You can sit there all day and all night and I’ll respect your right to do so… but there isn’t a power in heaven or on earth that can make me respect, support, or in any way agree with the position you’re taking.

Not a fan…

It was hard to miss the “breaking news” today that the US Patent Office vacated multiple trademarks owned by the historic Washington football franchise. I’m not a fan of the Washington Redskins. In fact I can’t remember the last time I watched a football game from Washington-Redskins-Logostart to finish. It was probably sometime in the 90s. Fortunately, this post is only tangentially related to football because it provides the backdrop for the point I really want to make tonight.

There are a lot of appeals between now and anything that might resemble a name change for the team, but if I were Dan Snyder, I’m pretty sure my plan of attack might go something like this: 1) Halt the sale of all items bearing the Redskins team logo; 2) Discontinue all team related activities – shuttering their training facility, FedEx Field, and offices; 3) Inform the NFL of my intention to sit out the 2014 season rather than being forced by the mob to do business as “Generic Washington, DC Football Franchise.” But then again, I’m the kind of guy who will cheerfully slice off my nose to spite my face.

Look, if you’re offended by the use of the name Redskins, then by all means avail yourself of the opportunity to not purchase a ticket. Show up at the stadium on game day with your protest sign. Send a letter. Do whatever it is you feel you need to do to make your voice heard… but in my final analysis, I get a cold chill every time some random agency of government is allowed to tell us what words are offensive, unacceptable, or otherwise “not nice.” I don’t want government within a country mile of making decisions about what words any one of us can or can’t use, from team owners to town drunks. Words are just words. They’re not imbued with any magical meaning or significance until we chose to give them that meaning.

I have a hunch that if Redskins was really an “offensive” term, we wouldn’t need government to save us from it. It would be reflected by the thousands of empty seats at every home game when when fans were too mortified to show up. I’m not sure when we came up with this idea that we should be able to get through life without ever being offended or having our little feelings hurt, but for my money it’s done us more harm than good.

For the first (and probably last) time in my life, I say this without a hint of sarcasm: Hail to the Redskins!

The draft…

SSSI was scrolling through Twitter last night when I ran across a tweet from someone I follow commenting on watching the draft on television… Which my brain immediately processed as The Draft. The one in which numbers are assigned and men between 18-26 are inducted into the military. The draft that was never part of my personal life experience as it ended years before I was born. Rather than look for a some kind of draft that a normal person might be expected to watch in 2014, my brain rolled low def news footage from the early 1970s.

Apparently, the tweet in question had something to do with the National Football League. Who knew?

Most Powerful…

There was a time when I thought being president would have to be the coolest job in the world. You live in a big, fancy house surrounded by armed guards to keep out the riffraff. You have your own jumbo jet and helicopter. You’re followed around by a guy whose only missing in life is to be ready to help you destroy the world at a moment’s notice. You’re President of the United States, dude. Come on, the only way you could be more impressive is to have a nice fancy uniform (I’m told the chicks dig that). As POTUS, it’s got to feel like you’re in the catbird’s seat and riding high with the last job you’re ever going to worry about having.

At some point, though, you’re going to realize being Commander-in-Chief doesn’t bring quite as much power and authority as you were promised as a kid. As president, you’d think it would be easy enough to hop on live TV and give the country a little pep talk. Except that your sworn enemies have already scheduled the night you really want. And your second choice date has been co-opted by the National Football League for the season’s opening game. Let’s face it, no matter how awesome your title, you don’t want to be the guy who makes the networks cut away from football, right?

So there you have it. You’re the most powerful man in the world and you just got played by the television schedule. That’s got to be a special kind of frustrating, I’d think.