Sunday, August 30, 2009

Adventures in conservative talk radio, continued: I listend to Rush...briefly.

On August 18th, a friend challenged me to listen to 2 weeks of conservative talk radio, instead of NPR. I'm on day 12.

Managed to catch a bit of Rush Limbaugh on my way back from a work meeting the other day. Just enough to hear him say how much he hopes Obama fails, because Obama's failure will be good for America. Also to hear him say that the communists are coming to take your freedoms.

I have 3 more days on this journey, and I'm determined to stick it out. But I will freely admit that I am not persuaded by the talking heads of talk radio. I have learned some things (especially about personal finance). But I have also had some fairly scary revelations about the increasingly wide gap between right and left in this country. It makes me sad.

More later.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

We don't have to follow the rules...

Does it strike anyone else as odd that, at a conference of arts managers, who spend our days finding ways to tell our patrons to be quiet, turn off of their cell phones, and unwrap their hard candies, that we have bowls of hard candy sitting on all our conference tables, and we unwrap them during our speaker's presentations? How is that not rude?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Adventures in Conservative Talk Radio: Day 3

On August 18th, a friend challenged me to listen to 2 weeks of conservative talk radio, instead of NPR. I'm on day 3.

Things I heard on the radio today:

"Thank you, Senator. Your are one of our good guys."

"What do we have to do to get people to acknowledge this ideological war?"


I am noticing a trend: the use of military words applied to discussions about politics - war, fighting, battle, skirmish, etc. When I listen to NPR again, I'll be on the lookout for these words.

Here's my blatantly stereotypical statement of the day (thanks to my shopping buddies for helping me figure it out):

When conservatives think you are being an idiot, they will likely tell you so. Bluntly.

Liberals will do it subtly and diplomatically, leaving you wondering if you've just been told you're stupid, or if you missed the point entirely.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Adventures in Conservative Talk Radio, Day 2

On August 18th, a friend challenged me to listen to 2 weeks of conservative talk radio, instead of NPR. I'm on day 2.

Observations from today:

1. Liberal or conservative, I will cry

I will admit to welling up, on more than one occasion, when listening to some reports on NPR. Usually they involve soldiers, or the occasional Story Corps feature where two people unabashedly and without embarrassment proclaim their love and respect for one another. It's a given; give me a story like that and I will dissolve into a sentimental puddle, sitting alone in my car until I can dry my eyes.

Today, though, during the Dave Ramsey call-in show, I lost it when some poor woman came on the show to ask for financial advice. She talked for a bit, then dropped the bombshell that her husband had died a month ago at the age of 42. Dave (or whoever was taking the calls), immediately stopped her and told her kindly that he didn't want to give her a 30 second answer so could she hang on and he'd talk to her during the break. I thought this was the ultimate exercise in sensitivity; taking her off the air to give advice in private. However, after the break, he BROUGHT HER BACK! And this woman told all us listeners her financial and life story. I wish, how I wish, that he had counseled her in private. But it was clear that she wanted to air her grief in this manner. And who am I to judge.

2. I have some pretty stellar liberal friends. When I shared this odyssey of conservative talk radio this morning, many of them said "oh, sure, I do that all the time. I try to make sure I'm listening to both sides." Many even had station recommendations for me. That's pretty cool.

Another day tomorrow. Anyone know how I can listen to Rush outside of his 11am to 2pm slot?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I will likely regret this...

So, the facebook conversation about liberal vs. conservative continues. It started with health care, moved on to Big Brother, and now it's moved to the bias of the media. They won't win the debate, and neither will I; there are no winners in a debate like this. It's all just opinion.

But, that cop out of a cliche aside, I have been challenged. To listen to 2 weeks of conservative talk radio instead of NPR. Gasp, horror!

Side note: I listen to NPR for a max of 30 minutes a day - just while driving. I don't watch network news, or PBS. If I read the NY Times, I try to read another paper to get the opposite viewpoint. Just putting this in perspective.

But I've decided to take up the challenge. It'll be an exercise in really, truly listening, and in trying to quell my judgmental side. I'm not going to listen more or less than I usually would and I may sneak an NPR fix in there now and then. I may not make it. But I will give it my best shot.

I began after work. Some findings:

>Rush Limbaugh does not have an IPhone ap. Or if he does, I can't find it. How am I supposed to listen then, since he's only on when I'm working? (Rush is my friend's favorite)

>There are a lot more commercials on KFAY than than there are on KUAF. And they all seem to be funded by the Ad Council.

>Possible aha moment: I reacted very badly to a rant by the host of a call in show. Initially, I objected to how he took a caller's question and turned it into a 5 minute diatribe filled with generalizations about "the black community" that made my blood boil. However, I have to ask myself - is this how conservatives feel when listening to NPR? Do they see a story researched by reporters as having the same level of bias that I see in that host ranting after a listener call-in? Am I comparing apples to oranges? I have to admit the only call-in show I've ever heard on NPR is Car Talk...

Something to ponder. We will see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Who says real life isn't funny?

Several observations today made me laugh:

1. I don't think people with straight hair can understand this feeling. You get up from your desk after working for a few hours, and head to the bathroom. You're washing your hands, looking down, when suddenly you are seized by fear; "Oh my god. I haven't looked at my hair this morning. What if it's gone crazy on me and I didn't know it?" You slowly, agonizingly meet your own eyes. Phew. Only a few curls are sticking either straight up or in the wrong direction. That can be fixed, and mostly ignored. Dodged another bullet.

2. This afternoon, a man fishing by the pond was very intent on his casting. The pond isn't very wide. All I could think of was what would happen if he sent a beautiful cast spinning through the air...and caught it on the opposite bank of the pond.

3. Men constantly complain that women talk too much. Tonight I sat on my balcony for 15 minutes listening to the new guys downstairs talk without stopping. The occasional "ding" told me they were also receiving text messages. Their voices never faltered. And I'm pretty sure they were talking about absolutely nothing. At least when we women get together, we talk about important stuff. Like clothes. And men.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Banking and healthcare - bringers of enlightenment?

Two unrelated things have happened to me in the last few days, and as a result, I've gained some blessed clarity.

Incident 1:

Two weeks ago I paid a $3.58 (don't ask) credit card bill - only to find out the next day that I actually paid the WRONG account (I did this online and got the cards mixed up). But then I looked at the card I'd paid the $3.58 to and realized that I'd closed that account 5 months earlier. Natually, I called the company and asked what was going on. The man on the phone informed me that yes, the account was closed.

Me: So it's closed, but it accepted a payment?
The man: Oh yeah, we'll take money whenever, even when it's closed.
Me: Well, that's really...stupid. (Yes, I said this. The guy basically ignored me and offered to transfer the money to another account. Pretty good customer service. I should have apologized for being a jerk, but I didn't. Karma will get me for that one)

So that account is closed. But they'll happily take my money. Wow.

Incident 2:

An innocent facebook post the other day has embroiled me in a spirited online debate with some conservative friends of mine, and I must say it's been enlightening. I posted a remark about how I don't understand the vitriolic levels of fear and hatred being attached to the healthcare debate. I was informedthat it's not really health care causing the trouble. It's a deep-rooted fear that Big Brother/The Government is out to take away our personal freedoms.

The debate has been good for me. It forced me to find some fact-checking websites where I could search for the reality amid the media and poltical quagmire. I realized that one point made by a friend, which I initally dismissed as fear-mongering, has some legitimacy. Always good to be reminded that it's easy to get sucked into the easy answer.

However, I gained a much bigger personal insight from all this. Basically, what I realized is this:

In my head, Big Brother (that thing we're supposed to fear) is not the government. Big Brother is the company that will happily take my money in an incorrect payment, but if I were to mistakenly charge something on a closed card, deny the charge. Big Brother are the web companies that track my every online move and someday, could use that knowledge against me. Big Brother are the companies that pay executives millions while laying off thousands of "average" Americans and running their companies into the ground, resulting in my hard earned investments being cut in half. And so on. I'm more scared of unchecked greed than I am of our current government's political agenda.

This doesn't change anything in anyone's world other than mine. But it's a thorny issue that thankfully, makes a little more sense now. I'm grateful for these small favors in this messy, complicated world of ours.

Disclaimer: Lest you think I'm naive, I realize that the President I voted for is in the White House, and my political party is in power in Congress. In this highly polarized political world, it's natural that I have less fear than I did, say, for the previous 8 years.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How do you define "politics?"

I use the term "politics" quite a bit when talking about the inner and outer workings of my professional life. At least once every five uses, I get a vaguely glazed look in return; it's often accompanied by a polite nod and a quick change of subject. Today, I had an epiphany. It's because I usually use the word outside of the political arena. I'm usually talking about the "political" issues and drama that are a part of human and organizational dynamics. I'm referring to ego clashes, hierarchies, power struggles, etc., not policy-making or elections. But it just seems like such an apt word to describe how offices, governments (city, state and federal) and even friendships sometimes operate. Yet I still get that look.

So I've been pondering if I'm using the word incorrectly, and if I need to find another one. has 6 definitions for "politics" -

The most common: the science or art of political government

Ok. That works. That makes sense. But it's not what I'm talking about.

Aha! How about definition #6: use of intrigue or strategy in obtaining any position of power or control, as in business, university, etc.

That's more like it. But it's still not quite right. Because in my definition, it's not always all about obtaining power or control. It might be about fighting powerlessness. It might be about trying to relinquish control. Or it might simply be looking out for one's own interests.

All of this introspection really proves nothing, other than that I think too much about stuff like this. And that I probably need to find a new word to express the point I'm making. Sigh. But it was such a good one!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

What happened to days 2-5?

Um, so...I got kind of distracted by having fun in Chicago and Madison (slow wireless in my hotel plus my inability to use the mousepad on my laptop didn't help, either), and didn't keep up with my blogging. But, onward!

Days 2&3 of the workshop were fun. Going to Wrigley Field on Day 2 was more fun. I love baseball. I love being surrounded by friendly people who don't need the joy of baseball explained: the man beside us had surprised his bride of 18 years with tickets, the little boy with glasses in front of me wasted no time high-fiving me at the first Cubs home run. I love listening to the ebb and flow of the fans' chanting. Most of all, I love being with a crowd, in a place where you don't have to be quiet, where chomping on popcorn is welcomed, and where I don't have to worry about pissed-off patrons.

The workshop was really interesting. But by day 3, I was D-U-N done with conference-speak/schmoozing. I have determined that I am missing a gene; commonly known as the networking gene, it is found in development directors and most of the people at the workshop. The perfect weather outside didn't help, either, so once the workshop was over I hightailed it back to the hotel, dumped the software geek paperwork and made like a tourist in my jeans and sneakers, strolling through the Grant/Millennium Parks (which is which, by the way?) and along the waterfront. Spectacular. Saw Jersey Boys that night, and the drama of my attempts to get to the theater far outshone the drama of the show. Thanks, Broadway in Chicago, for giving me the wrong address, and thanks (seriously) to my I-Phone for showing me the way. As for the show, I don't get why everyone loves it so much, but I can't deny the music was awesome.

Thursday brought a full day of Chicago fun. I slept in, bought a duck for the Special Olympics Duck Race, and had lunch with a friend at Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, which houses one of the coolest exhibitions I've ever seen. However, my attempts to describe it to people have been met with quizzical incomprehension, so I'm going to simply revel in the fact that I got to see it, and you didn't. Sorry. The Architectural Boat Tour was less than I'd hoped for, and I made a bit of a distance judgment when I thought the cab fare to the Museum of Science and Industry would be cheap. Not so. Also made an idiot out of myself by trying to give exact change to the bus driver on the way back, but hey, I was a tourist. I reserve the right to leave my brain at the hotel.

Friday brought lunch with a friend, and a road trip to Madison. But the big find of the day was Sirius XM Radio - On Broadway. I never realized there were so many obscure shows out there; and it's obvious why they were obscure. Lunch on the Terrace with the fantastic Andrew Taylor, author of The Artful Manager, then a stroll up State Street, then a Mallards game (well, sort of), followed by beer with another friend. Then, up early the next morning for the incredible Madison Farmer's Market. I can't help it; I compare all Markets to the Madison one, and they just don't stack up. For one thing, they are lacking the dozen or so cheese booths that feature samples. Lots of samples. Mmmm.

So, over the week, I got my ration of local cuisine, including deep dish pizza, brats, cheese curds and Spotted Cow, saw a bunch of friends from different walks of life, and remembered why I loved summer in Madison so much. It was a great break. Getting off the plane to icky humidity and the faint smell of manure was a rude welcome home, but I am ready to dive back into the fray. We'll see how long the refresh lasts.