Lauren Mayer: Leaving on a Jet Plane (Or Congress & the Sequester)

Last week’s speedy Congressional action, giving the FAA more flexibility to deal with sequestration-imposed cuts, was hailed by many as a great example of government functioning at its best.  But I’m feeling a little like the little kid who insists the Emperor has no clothes – wasn’t the pain of those cuts supposed to be the point?  I thought the idea was that if the impact were felt across the board, constituents would complain and Congress would act to find a less Dickensian way of resolving the budget disputes.  But apparently that doesn’t apply to frustrated business travelers, or Congresspeople who want to get out of DC as quickly as possible.  Meanwhile, do a google search on ‘heartless sequester cuts’ and it takes 0.41 seconds to get 5,310,000 results.  (I was going to write ‘and you’ll get thousands of results’ but that sounded like an exaggeration so I did the actual google search – yes, the truth can be even more ludicrous than my imagination.)  But of course kids in the Head Start program, homeless people, elderly cancer patients, furloughed federal clerical workers, etc., don’t have the political pull to get the pain of their cuts alleviated.

Don’t get me wrong – I travel frequently and I have spent many frustrated hours in airports coping with flight delays and missed connections, and it’s horrible.  It also reminds me of how plane travel has deteriorated – I still remember the first time I went on a plane as a 7-year-old, flying with my family to see grandparents back east.  My sister and I had new dresses for the occasion, white patent leather mary-janes, and matching little purses, and it felt so glamorous and chic.  (And I’m not advocating going back to that – I still remember how itchy my dress was, and I’d much rather fly in yoga pants and sneakers than in the skirt suit, pumps, and girdle my mom probably had to wear.) (In case you missed last week’s column, or are too lazy to do the math, this was in 1966, not 1956 . . . and yeah, I walked uphill to school both ways, in the snow, in southern California . . . . )

But these days only a few privileged business travelers get anything close to a luxurious experience, and the rest of us shlumps not only have to suffer cramped seats and nonexistent service, but we get our noses rubbed in it because we always have to go through business class on our way back to steerage, adding insult to injury and fostering class resentment.  (I’m always thrilled when I see a whiny toddler as I go through business class . . . )

Of course, you could claim that travel delays are the big equalizer, since even a first class ticket can’t help you if the flight is cancelled.  But if the point of the sequester was to make the cuts so painful that everyone would suffer and we’d have to find alternatives, this latest Congressional move seems completely wrong-headed.  Although it does at least show us that Congress IS capable of quick, decisive action – and fortunately it’s great fodder for comedians.  (Granted, making fun of Congress is as easy as making fun of the Kardashians . . . and I’m not above either!)

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Off the Hook Pranks

If you are almost 50 years old:

Go to a Starbucks where they don’t know you by name. Order whatever you would normally order. And here’s the prank part. Give them a fake name

In a few minutes your drink will be ready and they will alert you —not by your real name but some totally bogus fake name!

It’s hilarious and no one will know but you

jyb_musingsOK. It’s totally lame and not funny at all. But it was a long line today at Starbucks slow service and I spent my time trying to think of a payback

I made up the name “Beauregard Brown.” And when the barista glanced up to ask the inevitable, I responded, “Please don’t ask if you can call me ‘Bo.’ I hate the nickname ‘Bo’….Oh, OK, you can use the nickname ‘Bo’ for my coffee cup.”

She thanked me and smiled like I had done her a great favor by not requiring her to write out the name “Beauregard” on my “tall” (which must mean puny in Seattle) coffee cup.

But tomorrow I will be ready. If it’s really slow service I will tell her I am from KY where we have a lot of hyphenated male first names, like mine: Buearegard-Bob. And let her try to write out the whole first name.

Why I’m a Wizards’ fan — & No, This Isn’t a Harry Potter Post

jason collins



First the Washington Wizards drafted my all-time favorite Wildcat, John Wall. (See this article I wrote abut him.)

And now, one of Wall’s teammates  — Jason Collins — bravely made history today by becoming the first active professional athlete to come out as a gay America.

Bravo Jason!  I am confident his courage will literally save the lives of dozens of American teenagers (particularly African-Americans) who live in fear of bullying about their sexuality. 


Here’s an excerpt from Collins’ statement, in Sports Illustrated:

I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.

I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.

My journey of self-discovery and self-acknowledgement began in my hometown of Los Angeles and has taken me through two state high school championships, the NCAA Final Four and the Elite Eight, and nine playoffs in 12 NBA seasons.

I’ve played for six pro teams and have appeared in two NBA Finals. Ever heard of a parlor game called Three Degrees of Jason Collins? If you’re in the league, and I haven’t been your teammate, I surely have been one of your teammates’ teammates. Or one of your teammates’ teammates’ teammates.

Now I’m a free agent, literally and figuratively. I’ve reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want. And what I want is to continue to play basketball. I still love the game, and I still have something to offer. My coaches and teammates recognize that. At the same time, I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful.

Click here to read his full statement.

The Feministing Five: Krystal Ball


Krystal BallKrystal Ball is someone that we can all learn from. At 29, she ran for Congress in Virgina’s first district. She would have been the youngest woman to serve in Congress ever, if elected. She didn’t win though. During her election, she faced a sexist smear campaign by her opponents on the right who leaked salacious college photos of Ball. (We covered this 2010 edition of sexist double standards here too.) Throughout the whole thing, she held her head high. When others might’ve crawled away from the spotlight, Krystal used that moment to shed light on the inequalities women face in the public sphere. In her response, she wrote:

I don’t believe these pictures were posted with a desire to just embarrass me; they wanted me to feel like a whore. They wanted me to collapse in a ball of embarrassment and to hang my head in shame.

Despite the people that wanted her to hang her head in shame, she did just the opposite. And she’s still speaking up and ruffling feathers. She’s currently one of four hosts on the MSNBC showThe Cycle, where she not only brings a progressive spin to current events, but also, at times, creatively uses her 5-year-old daughter to highlight the need for marriage equality (much to many on the right’s chagrin). She is a great example of someone bravely pushing boundaries, taking risks, and doing things her own way. And most of all, instead of letting negative experiences break her spirit, she uses them to lift herself higher.

And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five with Krystal Ball.

Anna Sterling: Looking back on your experience running for Congress, would you do it again?

Krystal Ball: Absolutely! Was I scared? Yes. Was it hard? Harder than childbirth. Were there some low moments? Of course. But overall, it was actually a fantastic and rewarding experience that made me stronger and that is a source of tremendous pride. I also think it’s incredibly important that as women we share stories not just of our successes but also of our failures. I ran. I lost. And not only was it not the end of the world, but it actually created the opportunity for me to do what I’m doing now. I think a lot of women don’t run for office because they’re afraid of losing. I’m here to say winning is fantastic but even in a loss, nothing is truly lost and much is gained.

AS: What steps do we need to take to end this double standard placed on women? And what advice would you give young women looking to possibly run for office, who are afraid to take that leap because of what could leak in this social media age?

KB: To end the double standard, we have to be willing to call out our friends and our opponents. To me the recent conversation about the President’s calling California Attorney General Kamala Harris the “best looking” Attorney General was quite interesting. There were a lot of men and women who considers themselves to be feminists who defended the President. Now look, there are worse things in the world than being called good looking and I’m not mad at the President or even really offended. But the fact remains that any sort of focus on a woman candidate’s appearance or clothes does in fact undermine her credibility with voters. There’s a brand new “Name it. Change it.” research from the Women’s Campaign Fund, Lake Research Partners, and the Women’s Media Fund that proves this point. So even though this President has in many ways been great for women, it’s still up to us to educate people about the impact even well-intentioned comments can have.

As for young women looking at public office, my advice would be two-fold. First, and this goes for men and women, be thoughtful about what you put out on social media. But second, if there is some stupid party photo from your youthful days out there, don’t let that put fear in your heart or stop you from running. In my race, while it was painful and embarrassing when party photos of me were posted, there was also something beautiful about the number of people of all political persuasions who rushed to my defense. Many told me that the photos just made them feel like I was a real human being. In the final analysis, based on our polling, they didn’t end up hurting me electorally one bit and may have actually marginally improved my vote totals.

Click here to read the entire interview.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Downsizing?

JYB3 and JYB4Is my son simply growing up or am I being “downsized” and “strategically redeployed” in my own home?

Or both?

My son turned 19 yesterday.

I remember as a teenager my best friend and his father would wrestle with each other in their home. It was a way of interacting in a fun and friendly way but could also get intense at times.

My friend told me later that the intensity was caused by his father being challenged that he was being displaced as the “man of the house” or the “stronger man between the two” and that all fathers had ego challenges when this natural turning point occurred with a son. (His father was a psychologist so he got deeper explanations for things than I did)

jyb_musingsI thought it made sense but assured myself I wouldn’t display such insecurities when I experienced this phenomenon with my son.

As I hugged my son good night last night, I noticed he was taller than me. Finally. I mentioned this to him and he said matter-of-factly, “Yeah, I know.” And didn’t show the slightest bit of remorse or need to reassure me of my dominant male role in the family.

I felt like asking him if he wanted to wrestle me. But just didn’t have the energy at that moment.

Erica & Matt Chua: He Said/She Said — What Do You Miss Most From Home?


Mexican food.  Bet you thought I was going to say family and friends, but seriously…imagine life without Mexican food.  You can’t, can you?  Living in the great USA you think Mexican food is a God given right.  I fell into believing that the hardest part of eating Mexican food would be choosing if I wanted guacamole with that.  Then I went to the ROW, that evil “Rest of the World” that doesn’t border Mexico and found that getting an OK burrito, fajita, or quesadilla is impossible.  Here is my open apology to Mexico for taking it for granted.

Dear Mexico,

I hope you are doing well.  I hope that you’ve been moving on and, as much as it hurts to say, I hope you’ve been as good to others as you were to me.  I think about you constantly, there is nothing that compares to you.  I miss your smell, how you made me feel when we were together, even when you made me sick to my stomach.  I miss how you celebrated my birthday with a giant sombrero and “all-you-can-drink” birthday shots.  My heart burns with desire for you today the way it did when I tried to drink your “special sauce” straight from the bottle.  Mexico, I want you back in my life.

I know I’ve done so much to hurt you.  I shouldn’t have blamed you for my party-ending flatulence, that was my fault, I know I have lactose issues, I shouldn’t have ordered más queso.  Even then I knew that the New Year’s debacle wasn’t your fault as I claimed, I made the choice to drink a mug of tequila.  Too many things I’ve blamed on you and for that I’m sorry.  I’m an adult and I have to take responsibility for my choices because Mexico, I want you back in my life.

Mexico…we have so many memories together…we should make more.

I’ve changed, I understand how much joy you brought to my life.  I miss the feeling of your massively thick burritos in my mouth.  I miss the sizzle of the chicken on the make-my-own fajita platter.  I miss your spice, your flavor, your mariachi, even if I am upset with you the day after.  Please don’t make me beg, because I will.  Please don’t make me watch soccer, because yes, I’m willing to even go that far.  I’ll do anything you ask to have you back.  Please, Mexico, come back to my life.



Unlike trying to come up with my favorite place in the world this question is much easier to answer, the thing that there is no replacement for anywhere in the world are the people I left behind.  I miss my family and friends back home more than any kind of food, activity or place.    It seems that everyone who embarks on a long journey, regardless of the reason, becomes more aware of what is most important to them and what they value.  Family and friends have always been important to me, but being away from them for so long has made that even more clear.

Read the rest of…
Erica & Matt Chua: He Said/She Said — What Do You Miss Most From Home?

Saul Kaplan: Innovate By Hacking Capabilities

Capabilities are the amino acids of innovation.  They are the building blocks that enable value delivery.  Innovation is a better way to deliver value and is often the result of repurposing existing capabilities.  Locking capabilities into rigid organization structures and proprietary closed systems gets in the way of unleashing new sources of value and solving many of the important challenges of our time.  Innovation is about hacking capabilities.

A capability is simply the power to do something and is comprised of three elements, people, process, and technology.  You might have the capability or power to make a mean western omelet.  You possess the skill (people) thanks to hands-on training from mom, a recipe (process) handed down for generations, and a great cook top range, non-stick pan, and spatula (technology).  Hacking the capability is easy.  A Google search for western omelet recipes yields almost 25 thousand hits.  That’s more variety than a lifetime of Sunday brunches.  To stretch the analogy a western omelet capability can also be combined with other capabilities to open a cool restaurant, launch a cooking blog or cable television show, or to commercialize a new cooking utensil.  Innovation happens when we enable random capability collisions resulting in new and unexpected ways to deliver value.

Saul KaplanPerhaps a more relevant and timely example of the power and potential of hacking capabilities is Microsoft’s Kinect. Microsoft introduced Kinect on November 4th as a product extension to its Xbox franchise.  Kinect adds a very cool capability for Xbox game players by getting rid of the hand held game controller and turning players into their own controllers.  It lets players ‘be the controller’ with gesture recognition technology. On-screen menus are navigated by voice and hand waves.  Game avatars are manipulated through body gestures.  Microsoft and cool haven’t been used in the same sentence for a long time. Kinect is cool.

Microsoft predictably launched Kinect with it’s deeply ingrained proprietary product mind set.  You could buy Kinect as a bundle with an Xbox or as a separate component to attach to an existing Xbox for $150.  While Microsoft views Kinect as a product the global geek community views it as a capability.  To geeks, Kinect is a powerful capability screaming to be hacked and repurposed for exciting new uses beyond its use as an Xbox extension.  Hackers view Kinect as an interesting voice and gesture recognition platform complete with sophisticated cameras, software, and sensors with the power to detect movement, depth, shape, and position of the human body. What a bargain for only $150. It’s a hackers dream.

Read the rest of…
Saul Kaplan: Innovate By Hacking Capabilities

White House Correspondents’ Dinner 2013: The politics of celebrity

Terrific piece about politics and celebrity by POLITICO’s Glenn Thrush — and not just because he calls me “affable.”

I must also clarify: While, contrary to much of the political establishment, I believed that Ashley Judd would have been the stronger candidate against Mitch McConnell, I do believe that Alison Lundergan Grimes can beat him, and I hope that she ultimately decides to run:

Jonathan Miller, an affable Harvard law graduate, former Kentucky state treasurer and onetime Democratic gubernatorial candidate, is one of Ashley Judd’s biggest fans. But he has a little trouble recalling any of her movies.

“Kiss the Girls”? Not so much. “Norma Jean and Marilyn”? No. “A Dolphin’s Tale”? Doesn’t ring a bell.

“‘Sisters’!” he says, conjuring Judd’s NBC series, “I remember that from the ’90s. … That was good.”

It wasn’t star worship that impelled Miller to become a driving force behind the unsuccessful push to draft the Kentucky-bred actress and liberal activist to challenge the powerful incumbent Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, for reelection in 2014. It was about money and power. In that respect, Louisville isn’t much different from Hollywood or Washington.

Democrats and Republicans dismissed the candidacy as a distraction and a joke, but Judd’s celebrity, Miller knew, translated to instant cash and cachet. Kentucky Democrats, he reckoned, could save millions they would otherwise have to spend on get-to-know-you advertising to increase their candidate’s name recognition by having someone famous, like Judd, on the ticket. The local and national media would be all over the race, drawn to the irresistible storyline of the lissome, earnest liberal facing down a five-term Machiavelli in wire rims demonized by Democrats as an arch-obstructionist.

“Celebrity was a large part of why I thought Ashley would have been great,” said Miller, who thought the choice of local Democrats, Kentucky’s low-key, 34-year-old Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, would almost certainly fall to McConnell.

“It’s a constant struggle for an ambitious candidate to make news or raise money. Name recognition would have been the most obvious advantage for Ashley, but the more important benefit is the free media attention,” he added. “Sure, they’d go after her as a member of the Hollywood elite. But the esteem for politicians around here is so low, people are less likely to hold that kind of thing against her. I mean no one could accuse her of being a regular politician. …

“She was a celebrity, but she was also an outsider. Nowadays, being an insider is worse.”

Judd’s flirtation reflects Hollywood’s through-the-looking-glass relationship with politics — no longer merely fodder for story lines but a forum for their own aspirations. A new generation of celebrities is more attracted to policy than publicity — a younger, unapologetically liberal group of activist-stars inspired by the examples of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the 2008 campaign.

Click here to read the full piece.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Stages of Follicular Development in Men

jyb colonelI remember as a child–maybe at about age 6 or 7 –my mom let me start brushing my own hair to get ready for school. I was proud of my independence signified by my responsibility for the hair on my head.

As I grew older, about ages 13-14, I graduated to a new level and had to start shaving my peach fuzz-like growth on my upper lip.

A year or two later, another step still— as I began shaving not only my entire lower face but shaving daily.

Jew-froAnd then as I aged into my 20s and early 30s the next phase of follicular development: I began having to shave my upper neck daily too. And occasionally ask my wife to shave the back of my neck

And then….and then….

I still brush my hair, shave my entire lower face and upper neck and occasionally ask my wife to shave the back of my neck…but as I have moved into my 40s now additionally trim my eye brows every two weeks and even check my ear canals once or twice a month for errant hair growths.

What’s next?

No. On second thought, I don’t want to know.

Krytsal Ball f/t her daughter Ella: Hillary for President?

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