23.July.2021

“It’s easy to go somewhere and win a championship with somebody else … this is the hard way to do it and we did it.”  
~
Giannis Antetokounmpo 

A huge part of the larger discourse of late has been the rise of social media, and the influence it has on the populace. There is no shortage of analysis and/or hot takes on the massive scale of Facebook (or the calls to #DeleteFacebook), the often arbitrary moderation of Twitter, and whateverthehell Parler was.

The latter was effectively erased from existence, but not before a lot of people made sure we all knew they thought their freedom of speech was being infringed on.

And of course, since nature abhors a vacuum, now we have Gettr. So that’s fun.

We also have Facebook back in the news again (do they ever really leave?), after President Biden was quoted as saying “they’re killing people.”

Are they? Maybe, maybe not. Obviously, no one from Menlo Park is pulling a literal trigger, but it’s hard to ignore the platform’s reach, and how well it works as an accelerator for misinformation. One can fairly easily draw a line between bad info on social media, resistance to receiving vaccines, and an increase in COVID-related deaths. 

And when just 12 people are responsible for the majority of bad info? That’s a very real problem we need to (collectively) address.

Regardless of where you stand on Facebook (or Parler’s extinction), I hope we can all agree on 2 truths:

1. Civics needs to make a return to our school’s curriculum, post haste. Critical Thinking too.

2. For all intents and purposes, social media IStoday’s Town Square. It’s where we go to share ideas, get on our (cyber) soapbox, and debate. The discourse isn’t happening down the street- it’s on your screen.

The First Amendment doesn’t apply to private companies, and everyone has to consent to a platform’s Terms of Service as a condition of participation. The easy answer here is to point to that, and say “if you don’t like it, leave.” I know, I’ve done it. But maybe the better solution is to model Terms of Service after the First Amendment.

It’s pretty clear that online is where people are now assembling, and as broad as it is, 1A still has defined guardrails. I don’t think you could legislate (read: force) companies to do this, but it’s certainly a model worth looking into going forward, even if it’s hard—especially if it means saving lives. 

Don’t @ me*.

*Actually, you should totally @ me! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

09.July.2021

Flying over Key West in early 2020. Photo by me.


“Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.” 

— Marie Curie 

When I was a kid, my dad traveled often for business. He’d come home with the usual souvenirs he probably grabbed at the airport (my dresser was full of “Visit New Hampshire” type shirts) and would tell us about the cool places he had visited in between appointments. 

If we were lucky, there’d be a trip to the Fotomat, and in a few days, we could look at some grainy pictures of wherever he’d been. But no matter where he went, when pressed for a favorite part of the trip, he’d always give the same answer: the flight. 

It was the one place no one could reach him. It gave him time to read, think, whatever. Sometimes he’d spend the entire flight looking out the window and daydreaming, with only his thoughts and imagination keeping him company.

We like being distracted. Since the earliest days of aviation, airlines have been happy to help us with that. Food, playing cards, In-Flight Entertainment; the list goes on. 

If you’re of a certain (ahem) age, you may remember the introduction of the Airphone on airplanes. They were bulky, cost a fortune, and were mainly used to tell people… you were calling them from an airplane. Movies were played on monitors that dropped down from the ceiling.

Today there are screens at every seat and 100’s of hours of content to pass the time. The advance in technology is nothing short of amazing, really. Airphones are long gone, but who needs that when you can iMessage everyone?

Put another way, you can spend an entire trip not ever thinking about the miracle of flight, or having to notice the view unfolding 30, 000 ft. below you. You can be as busy in the air as you are on the ground. Or not.

Yesterday I took my first post-pandemic flight. I had all kinds of plans to get things done; a pile of things to read, a decent-sized to-do list, phone stuffed with podcasts, etc. 

About 15 minutes in, I decided not to do any of it.

Instead, I read a little, looked out the window, and let my mind wander. 

It’s still the best IFE there is.

02. July.2021

When I first moved to the Midwest I found an apartment that had one of those wall-mounted heater/AC units you see in hotels. I thought I was getting a steal. Growing up in Portland, a lot of people didn’t have A/C. It rarely really gotthat hot, so it never occurred to me that this was standard issue in other parts of the country. 

In her latest edition of The Profile, Polina Marinova Pompliano is writing from the road. She talks about how her grandfather marvels at things most of us never notice like the way tile is laid out in the buildings they visit. 

It’s an engrossing story, with an expected arc about how travel changes us, realigns our priorities, etc. But she really got my attention when discussing perceptions and how traveling shatters any illusion of what normal is.

Here she is talking about travel expert Rick Steves: 

“Steves once said that people who don’t travel often think their way of life is the norm (ie: Americans say the British drive on the “wrong” side of the road. No, they just drive on the other side of the road). “

This past week, Oregonians (at the west coast in general) had their illusion of “normal” shattered when temps soared over 110. Those are numbers seen in other places. In Phoenix…in Death Valley…in Riyadh.

Temps like that test the limits of human endurance anywhere. But in a place whose average temps are 40 degrees cooler? Where for many people having A/C really means an underpowered window unit and an intricate maze of box fans? 

Not Great, Bob. Another all-too-honest update on… | by Matt Anderson |  Struck | Medium

Next week, I’ll return home to Oregon for the first time in over 3 years. I won’t be there long—it’s never enough, really— but it’ll be good to see my family, Mt. Hood, and smell the Pacific Northwest air. 

I’ll be staying with mom, a proud owner of one of these Rube Goldberg HVAC contraptions. So far, she says she’s managed. I hope so. 

I also hope this isn’t a new normal for them.

On to the good stuff:


  1. In the writing world, “killing your darlings” is often dished out as advice. Austin Kleon proposes relocating them instead. 
  2. A good read: Jonathan Malesic on the rise of Substack, and what it may/may not mean for journalism going forward.
  3. Jon Gruber weighs in on the plea from Apple workers to continue working remotely. Gruber’s take is hot enough to bathe in, but in a lot of ways, I think he’s on the right track here. To be clear, there is definitely merit in the idea of working remotely. I’m also mindful that living in Silicon Valley doesn’t come cheap or without a long commute. At the same time, these sorts of employee petitions reek of entitlement. As Gruber notes, Apple’s new “three days on site” policy wasn’t a request for comments — it was a decision.” I’m open to the idea that mine is a generational reaction, and one from someone whose job has to be done in person. I just think a little intellectual honesty would’ve gone a long way here. I’d love to hear where you fall on this
  4. A good tweet:Colleen @Coll3enGmy mom and I were driving and I decided to call my grandma and my grandma was like “hey sweetie I can’t talk right now, your mom’s at my door” and i was like “grandma I’m driving with my mom right now” and my grandma just said “oh darn you caught me, I just don’t want to talk”June 26th 202112,469 Retweets215,489 Likes
  5. Here’s a YouTube clip of someone literally doing nothing for 2 hours. It has over 5 million views as of this writing. I’m not sure what to do with that.
  6. Ear Candy: Paul Westerberg’s Eventually
  7. This is why we can’t have nice things: TSA resumes self-defense classes amidst a surge of in-flight incidents
  8. This week, United Airlines announced amassive order for 270 new planes. It also plans to hire 25000 people over the next few years.
  1. Another good tweet (or thread) from a first-time watcher of Ted Lasso. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but it’s an easy series to fall in love with. Season 2 kicks off on July 23rd.
  2. RIP Frank Bonner. The man who brought WKRP’s Herb Tarlek to life left us earlier this month. His nonstop schmoozing of the “big guy,” running paycheck pools, or trying to win the hearts of Bailey and Jennifer might’ve made you cringe (he’d definitely get canceled today). But underneath that veneer of sleaze was a solid teammate. Tarlek always struck me as the kinda guy that might’ve tried to get you to take the bad square in an office pool, but would also lend you a (very loud) coat without being asked. The world’s a better place with people like that in it.

Thanks for being here,

Kevin—

What caught your attention this week? Got a rant or rave? Let me know in the comments or send me an email. I read all the responses. You can also read more of my work on Medium, and connect with me on Twitter.

04. June.2021

Several orders of magnitude more than what you’d need

Photo of Michigan's Porcupine Mountains.

Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains. Photo by author.


“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is a quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”

— Mary Anne Radmacher 

I assure you I’m not turning this into a “tales from the office” sort of newsletter. But if you’ll indulge me in one more story from my workplace, I want to share the story of my friend Richard Hulsizer. 

The airlines were a second career for Richard. He joined us after having just retired from the United States Post Office. He and his husband dreamt of seeing the world; joining us at (then) Northwest was their way to do it. 

If you’ve ever been a manager/supervisor/whatever you learn to quickly assess whether or not someone will be a good fit on your team. In a line station like mine, those good and bad qualities can be magnified— in case of conflict, there’s simply nowhere else to go.

He fit right in from the start and was the kind of person you are happy to see show up on your gate. Hardworking, sure, but also friendly, and frankly funny as hell. I should also note that he was a great baker and would bring cookies in often. 

I should also note that I ate more than my share. 

I’d like to have ended this story with another retirement party, replete with balloons, cake, and hugs. This isn’t that story, though. For Richard, there was no second retirement or years spent on exploring the Greek Isles. Instead, I am writing this on the 11th anniversary of his death due to a workplace accident. This was not a “good death” (whateverthehell that means), and it wasn’t quick, either. 

I mention this to share a few points:

First, every action has a consequence. Sometimes they’re good, and sometimes not, but nothing happens in a vacuum. 

Next, it’s easy to become complacent at work, and at home. Many of you may be going back to the office for the first time in a while. Even if you’ve been going in through the whole pandemic, please—if even just for today— make a concerted effort to move through your shift with intention. That extra second or two could make all the difference. 

Third; dreams deferred are dreams unrealized. People re-prioritizing their life in the wake of COVID is a popular topic these days, and there are no shortage of think pieces and/or hot takes plastered all over the ‘net. It’s easy to let real life get in the way—I’m as guilty of it as anyone— but no one’s promised tomorrow. 

Also: If someone in your office brings cookies in, make sure to thank them, even if you don’t eat them.

5 Things I’m Into This week #13

My weekly series is now a teenager. Who’d have thought?!

Here are 5 things of value I wanted to share with you this week:

  1. There’s always an aviation angle, and here is an awesome board game an airline employee has created. It’s on a crowdsourcing site right now. Definitely check it out!
  2. My playlist this past week. Of course, there’s Daft Punk on it.
  3. Scientists are using drones to take beautiful but alarming photos of the Arctic getting greener.
  4. Coffee is pretty much the last vice I have. Here’s some great news about java and heart health.
  5. Radio Garden is an amazing website/app that lets you spin the globe and listen to radio stations the world over. You can download the app at the Apple Store. Make sure to set aside some time when you check it out. It’s a deep/wonderful rabbit hole.

What caught your attention this week? Let me know in the comments!

5 Things I’m Into This Week #12

406 days.

A little over 13 months after I tore my knee up, I finally stepped back onto the same soccer field. It’s weird to finally do something you’ve spent so much time & energy working toward.

I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t just a little apprehensive on the drive over. The truth is there are 7 exits between my house and the field, and I thought about taking every one of them.

But I’d made it this far, and decided to push through — and I’m glad I did. The game was good (spoiler alert: I’m still a terrible player), but seeing everyone again was amazing. It’s easy to forget how important community can be in one’s life.

Maybe that’s the bigger lesson here? I had a whole story written about perseverance and sticking to one’s goals. At the end of the day, the bigger reward was the sheer joy of seeing my friends again.

On to the good stuff:

1. Scott Galloway made a compelling case for Twitter switching to a (tiered) subscription model. I have to say I agree with him. I think it would go a long way toward making the platform a more engaging — and pleasant — place to be.

2. Ear candy: My playlist for this week.

3. The overarching narrative has been that America narrowly averted disaster on January 6th and that our Republic is somehow infallible. This excellent piece by John Ellis deconstructs that and walks us through the much more alarming “truth” that also exists.

4. Former Montreal Canadien Ken Dryden on how goalies are changing hockey — and not necessarily for the better.

5. What a time to be alive!

What milestones did you hit this week? What grabbed your attention? Let me know in the comments!

5 Things I’m Into This Week #11

We’re in a brutal cold snap here in the upper Midwest, but the sun is out and visibility is clear-and-a-million. It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess.

Here are 5 things that grabbed my attention this past week. Wherever this finds you, I hope you’re safe and warm… Or that it’s at least sunny. 

  1. Seth Godin on why we should aim for more than “just doing our job.” 
     
  2. This week’s playlist. A bit of Sonic Hygge, if you will. 
     
  3. Speaking of music, this past week the world celebrated “International Clash Day,” honoring the seminal band. Rob Janicke breaks down what it is and why it matters.
     
  4. Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines announced that they will extended their blocking of the all middle seats through he end of April 2021. This leaves them as the last American carrier to do so. It’s been well received by fliers — who wouldn’t want an empty seat next to them? — but will that make for any kind of durable loyalty long term?
     
  5. EYE CANDY: James Carrolla is back, and Instagram is better for it. This was my favorite picture this past week.

What caught your eye this past week? Let me know! I read every response.

Onward!
Kevin — 

P.S. Top writers Tim Denning and Todd Brison have opened their Medium Bad-Assery course. Whether you want to start writing, or just get better, this is the place to go. 
I was in the initial class, and it improved my academic/business/social writing. You also get to be part of an amazing community of writers. 
Registration ends soon, but there’s still time to join! 

NOTE: This isn’t an affiliate link; I just got a ton of value out of the course and think you will too.

5 Things I’m Into #10

Hi everyone—

February is always a kind of interstitial space for me. In my mind fall was a lifetime ago, and spring’s just ahead. Usually, I’m coming off a week of chasing the sun, which lets me frame the rest of winter as a downhill sprint. This year, we stayed home, and so everything feels just a little…off. The world is still moving as best it can; I just need to get back in sync with it.

I also spent a good deal of time helping my son comparison shop for a utility trailer. That’s not a sentence I ever thought I’d be writing, but here we are. He runs a lawn care/snow removal company and is ready to scale up. And he’s doing the old fashioned way. No hacks, or other shortcuts; just consistent customer service, and sweat equity. I’m clearly biased, but I’m proud of him.

With my part of the world moving full speed into the depths of winter (and a week straight of sub-zero temps), most of us will be hunkering down. It’ll be his time to shine.

It’s all perspective, I guess.

Grab yourself some coffee or tea, and let’s get on to the good stuff:
 

  1. Here are my top 5 songs of the past week. It’s an eclectic mix this week, but that’s a reflection of where I was at.
  2. Making friends can be hard enough as an adult- COVID has just made it worse. This article from David Cain lays out the one small step you can take to change that.
  3. As we ramp up vaccinations, cracks in the system are being laid bare. Distribution is consistently inconsistent and supply is not matching demand. At all.For a logistics nerd like me, it’s vexing. Every nation should be treating this as a wartime effort. We have the people and resources. All that’s missing is the will.I’m encouraged by early signals from the Biden administration, but we’ve got a long way to go. This Twitter thread from David Freiberg is the blueprint I believe gets us the furthest the fastest.
  4. As we make progress on COVID itself, we need to recognize the grief/loss we have all felt on whatever level it may be. That’s different for everyone of course. But reflection, resolve,  and some sort of resolution are critical.

    Even just taking a minute to take stock of things will do wonders.
  5. We all have a personal philosophy. Our ideal for living. Here’s what Thelonious Monk had to say.My favorite: “You got to dig it to dig it, you dig?”
    Sage advice.

Onward up the mountain,
Kevin–

P.S. I would love to hear from you! Rants, raves, whatever’s on your mind. 

5 Things I’m Into this Week #9


While all of us were distracted with “GameStock,” new variants of COVID, and new levels GOP bat-shittery, the new administration was busy getting down to business.

Biden spent most of his first days in office, well, actually, working. He ended the so-called “Muslim ban,” reframed the battle against COVID as a “wartime effort” (finally!), and rejoined the World Health Organization.

Actual, tangible progress. Who’d have thought?

Apparently, not the press. They seemed to have missed the message that grievance culture and performative outrage are out. We’re a tired, angry nation. We don’t need any more gas thrown on that fire. While we’re at it, can someone please tell the NYT we don’t need anymore think pieces on the “aggrieved Trump voter?” It’s over.

We’re back to focusing on what doesn’t matter with the President (tan suit, anyone?). The recent pearl-clutching over Biden’s watch or his bike is annoying but in a small way also kind of a relief.

Given a choice, I’d much rather be debating the security levels of a Peleton than watching a sitting president try to overthrow our entire democracy.

From the always excellent Press Run newsletter:

“The gotcha formula is strange, because wealthy politicians who advocate for the poor should be celebrated, not questioned. By definition, they’re not looking out for themselves, or their one percent tax bracket. Instead, they’re using their positions in power to try to advance an agenda of justice and lifting people up.”

We’re addicted to outrage, and the Fourth Estate is addicted to supplying it, but focusing on “boring” things like policy updates and initiatives would do us all a world of good. No more “both sides-ism,” no more pandering for clicks/eyeballs. Just a speedball of actual information and retelling of facts as they’ve occurred.

We may be addicted to outrage, but this is the best kind of withdrawal.


On to the good stuff:

Ear Candy: I was supposed to be on vacation this week. Actually, I am on vacation, we just didn’t go anywhere. That’s turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Getting up when it’s light and going to bed when it’s dark has been a nice change from my normal schedule. That said, I really missed chasing the sun this year. So I did the next best thing and made a playlist of tracks that remind me of the previous trips we’ve taken, or just help me escape.

Speaking of travel: Last week, I linked to an article about travelers gaming the system. The goal is to essentially fly for free every time. Some of the methods simply take advantage of loopholes in the system (kinda like Gamestop), and some are sketchy at best. This week, American Airlines dropped the hammer on these shenanigans. I can’t link to it directly, but if you go here and scroll down to “Latest Communications,” you’ll find this update:

Translation: “We’re done tolerating this nonsense.”

(H/T to the Cranky Flier blog for sharing this story)

While I’m not yet back in the air, I find still watching shorts about other corners of the globe fascinating. Tik Tok might have had its Sea Shanty thing going, but this short film about actual shanties in England’s PlotLand’s is amazing.

Books: I recently finished “The Creative’s Curse” by Todd Brison, and Essential by The Minimalists (not affiliate links). I cannot recommend these enough. If you are in any way creative, Brison’s book is a must-read. If you are looking to clear out the white noise in your life, pick up Essential.

Both have me feeling a little better about the world, and the path I’m on.

In the meantime, here’s a quick read using packing for a trip as a metaphor for the baggage we carry around in our lives. The takeaway: Don’t overpack.

Eye Candy: I might not be able to use my passport, but I can be a tourist in my own town. Sometimes from the comfort of my own couch. This Instagram Account never fails to make my part of the world seem like a Wonderland. Maybe ‘cause it is.

Onward up the mountain,

Kevin—

5 Things I’m Into This Week #8

It’s a new day in America, and we can all collectively exhale. Watching the inauguration this week, I felt real joy and hope. I was asked what I liked best about the speeches.

My response:

“I think what impressed me most about yesterday’s speeches was what they lacked.

There was no bile or name-calling.
There was no finger-pointing.
There were no attempts at rallying people by focusing on what they’re against.

Instead, we listened to calls for civility. For coalition. For concord. It was refreshing–and it wasn’t lost on me that yesterday was the first time in days that we saw the sun up here.

The ceremony itself seemed to recognize today’s(?) America. I don’t know if I can articulate that well. It was nice to see traditional things like nods to heroism (take a bow, Eugene Goodman), but also a blend of august and novel. “Stars and Stripes Forever” got played, and someone in the audience was wearing Jordans. A 22 yr. old stopped us in our tracks with her evocative words, and Bernie became a meme. I hope that all makes sense.

 I’ve always thought what makes this crazy experiment of ours great is the people. America isn’t a corporation. It’s not it’s geographic borders. It’s us. All 330M of us. The last 4 years saw the worst of us surface. The next 4 will bring out the best in us. 

On the morning after the 2016 election, my family was returning home from a vacation in Pensacola. When you fly space-available, you get an early start, so there we were driving in the pre-dawn silence. As we crossed the Three Mile bridge, I looked over and saw my wife had tears running down her cheeks. Yesterday, she posted a picture of our flag waving in the sun. Yesterday felt less like a ceremony and more like healing.

Scott Galloway keeps telling his audience that “Everything that’s wrong with America can be fixed by what’s right with America.” Yesterday felt like the clarion call to get rolling on that, and it’s what I liked best. I’m excited.”


And I hope you are too. We’ve got work to do. Let’s get rollin’!

On to the good stuff…


Everything falls apart. On some level, we all know this, yet failures still surprise us. This week my shoulder decided to stage it’s own revolution. A much more typical—and much less painful— example can be the stuff we own. We all know quality > quantity, and most of us are aware of planned obsolescence. Maybe the better way to go is to simply own less stuff. Fewer things, less stuff to maintain. Perfect.

We’ve all spent the last year far more isolated than we wanted. Learning to make sourdough and DuoLingo can only make up for sop much of that. Here’s a beautiful short film about someone that chooses to embrace solitude every year caretaking at a seaside hotel over the winter.

Some day soon, we’ll all be traveling again. In a previous issue, I shared the 1st part of a great historical recap of United Airlines’ storied history in Cleveland. Here’s Part 2, covering the 1970-80’s. It’s a wonderful read, even if you’re not as into aviation as I am.

In the modern era, there are no shortage of people looking to hack carriers’ frequent flier programs. The goal is to never pay for a flight. Some tactics are legal, and some are…kinda sketchy. This Rolling Stone profile of one of the masters makes for a fascinating trip.

I’m currently obsessed with this clip from an Italian marble quarry. Watching the precise signals required to harvest huge chunks of rock is strangely appealing. The marriage of man/machine/earth is breathtaking.

Onward up the mountain,

Kevin—

P.S. Not for nothing, if we ever vote on changing our national anthem, “Stars and Stripes Forever” gets my vote. It’s a hill I’m totally willing to die on.

P.P.S. I’d love to hear what you think about this week’s list. Rants, raves, or anything in between. Let me know in the comments, and share widely!