The Time For Doing Is Here

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Forty four dollars and ninety five cents.

That’s how much it costs me to host this blog for three months.

Since it’s an automatic deduction, I pay this amount with my credit card and never think twice about it until an e-mail reminder lands in my inbox. And when it does, I’m reminded of just how little I blog.

Today is Saturday, March 11.

The last time I published a post was January 24. Before that it was January 14.

Before that? January 8.

Three posts in one month would be considered a slog for most bloggers, but it’s downright prolific for me.

I say that fully aware of how embarrassing it is for someone who considers himself a “writer” to admit. If my calculations are correct, it cost me $15 to write each post. One would think I have so much money to burn that I can afford to let this blog languish without new content, but it’s started to get at me lately.

I make a living writing for clients, but I so rarely sit down and write for myself. And in this day and age, where everyone has something to say, what am I waiting for?

It’s gotten to the point where it’s time to put up or shut up. Either I start blogging in earnest, or it’s time to shut it down.

Forty five dollars would pay for a round of golf at a semi-decent course. It would be better to spend my money chasing around a little white ball than it would chasing the dream of being a writer.

But like golf, practice makes perfect.

Or something like that.

 

Social in the Heat of the Moment is Never a Good Idea

As the Trump presidency begins in earnest, in all of its glory, those who oppose him will not hesitate to post news on social media, regardless of whether or not they have vetted it properly.

Exhibit A is a bill that has been introduced via Rep. Mike Rogers that seeks to have the United States discontinue their membership in the United Nations.

This is an alarming proposal on the surface that surely leads to more anxiety from the left, as well as those who believe Trump will bring about the downfall of this country.

Somebody who I adore shared this story on Facebook. The link emanated from the NBC affiliate website in Columbus, Ohio, complete with a headline meant to instill even more uncertainty.

And if you take a minute to read the article, nothing in it suggests the headline is misleading

But like almost everything that will be shared by your friends, it requires a few more steps to discover its legitimacy, which leads me to an invaluable resource: Snopes.com.

Upon further investigation, I found an article on the site that explains this bill has been presented every single year since 1997.

This doesn’t mean this bill won’t come to fruition. But it shows (again) that we need to be sure the news we are sharing is accurate, rather than a knee-jerk post shared in the heat of the moment.

We Must Revel In Our Eloquence

For the past six months, Hamilton: An American Musical has been on repeat in my car.

The musical, written by the uber-talented Lin Manuel-Miranda, combines a lot of things that I love: American history, storytelling, and catchy beats. If you have listened to it (or have been lucky to see it) you can understand why tickets for his last performance were going for upwards of $20,000.

Once you get past getting swept away by the songs and the lyrics, the story that lies at the heart of this musical is the story of Alexander Hamilton, a boy born in the Caribbean, who essentially wrote his way out of poverty to end up in New York where he helped to shape a new country.

After a hurricane hit the Caribbean, he wrote a latter to his father to explain the devastation caused by the storm. This letter was published in the Royal Danish-American Gazette. The letter so impressed those who read it that community leaders took up a collection to send him to the mainland to get a proper education.

Think about that: his writing was so eloquent, those who had the means to do so collected money to put him on a path toward a better life.

Through writing and words, alone, he improved his lot in life and became someone, avoiding a fate (read: early death) that many men in his situation would face.

Get your education, don’t forget from whence you came, and the world is gonna know your name

As we enter 2017, I can’t help but think that we are on a downward trajectory, as far as respect for the written word and proper grammar.

I know very successful people who write Facebook posts and e-mail that my would cause my daughter to shake her head in disbelief. I can’t help but wonder how they advanced so far in life without proper communications skills.

It has gotten so bad that even our soon-to-be president sends out tweets that are riddled with punctuation errors and misspellings, and he is the person who represents our country.

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Has grammar become so unimportant that we won’t even hold Donald Trump to a basic standard? Is it too much to ask that he use spellcheck during one of his early morning tweetstorms? He is the leader of the free world. But he comes across, at best, as a high school freshman when he attempts to use words to express a point.

For all of his perceived failings, President Obama, at the very least, was eloquent in his speech and communication. You may have hated him, but you cannot deny that he understood the importance of how language can play a role in an administration. I feel more comfortable about leadership when they can succinctly tell me what I need to know, rather than ramble on until we lose the thread of the message.

As we prepare for a major shift in how this administration will communicate to us what we need to know, it’s imperative that we understand the importance of communication.

For the past 240 years, this country’s direction has been guided by a written document that has stood the test of time.

It would be a disservice to our founding fathers to ignore the power of writing.

The Thing About Cancer

They say it’s not the cancer that kills you, but the complications that arise from the cancer. The disease is just the impetus. While you are treating it with chemotherapy and radiation, something else sprouts up and gets you. That’s the damned thing about this disease.

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It’s been four months since my wife was blindsided by her breast cancer diagnosis.

No family history. No high risk factors. But she got early-stage one cancer at the age of 36. Thankfully, it was a type highly susceptible to the chemotherapy drugs we have to fight it. My aunt, who is an oncologist said, “Nobody wants to get breast cancer. But if I were to get breast cancer, I would want the kind you have.” Um. Thanks?

This Tuesday will be her last chemotherapy treatment. She has had to go every three weeks for six rounds. I’ve heard of other patients going every week. So, in that regard, I think she got off light. Still, it’s chemotherapy. It makes you feel like shit, you lose your hair, and your body has a difficult time battling even the common cold when levels are at their lowest in the days following treatment.

But, again, my wife seems to have gotten off easy. She never had any bouts of vomiting or periods where she couldn’t get off of the couch. Overall, this chemotherapy treatment has just seemed like an inconvenience, rather than something that could potentially save her life. It feels weird to say that when you’re talking about a loved one battling cancer, but that is just how it feels.

In less than a month, though, she will undergo a double mastectomy to (hopefully) ensure that the cancer doesn’t come back, since this type is very aggressive. And I have a feeling that this is when we will feel the full brunt of what this disease is capable of doing. It’s easy to go to a cancer center and sit in a chair and watch crappy daytime television while your body is pumped full of chemo drugs. It’s quite another thing to have both breasts removed and be incapacitated for weeks on the couch while you rely on others to help you do basic things like bathing. But that is the going rate for curing cancer nowadays.

If you would have told me four months ago that this would be our situation in early 2017 after receiving the diagnosis, I think we would have gladly taken it. Less than two weeks after the first treatment, our oncologist was confident the tumor was gone. That goes back to the fact that this type of cancer was treatable. But like a course of antibiotics, you have to see the treatment through to completion. So my wife will bravely go under the knife in less than 30 days to have healthy breast tissue removed from her body in the hopes that we never have to encounter this God damn fucking disease ever again.

Getting cancer in your 30s is not fair, but my wife has handled it with a fight and determination that I always knew she possessed, while I sat by and watched in awe.

The least I can do for her is help her take a bath.

Fake News Was Harmless. Until It Wasn’t.

Just because something we read on the internet isn’t classified as “news” doesn’t make it any less dangerous than fake stories that try to be passed off as real.

A few years ago, two images were making the rounds on the web. In fact, I bet you saw these images on your Facebook feed.

One image showed a picture of the crowd during the announcement of Pope Benedict’s election. As you can see, there only a few mobile devices in use.

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The image below shows the crowd during Pope Francis’s election, eight years later. Notice the difference?

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Someone put both of these images together to show how, in a few short years, the use of mobile devices to capture events went from practically non-existent to practically necessary.

And, indeed, the pictures do a great job of illustrating this point.

These pictures hit a chord with social media users, who shared them, perhaps ironically, with their social media communities to backhandedly admonish us for relying so much on technology (I guess).

Two separate events. One location. One message. Powerful.

Except there was one problem: The first image was taken at Pope John Paul II’s funeral procession, not the anointment of Pope Benedict. As the Washington Post puts it, the moods for these events could not have been more different, so it’s understandable that, perhaps, less people were inclined to use their devices, even if they brought them with them.

[Editor’s Note: In 2005, Facebook had yet to open to the public, Twitter wasn’t even an idea in Jack Dorsey’s head, and both Instagram founders were still matriculating at Stanford. So, to share these photos as proof that technology has boomed since ’05 sort of misses the point because even if we had devices back then capable of taking images as we do now, there was nowhere to post them. But that might be another blog post.]

Of course, nobody actually took the time to deem both images genuine because, well, what was the point of it? Who has time to fact-check what they post to someone through a medium as innocuous as Facebook? Who cares if the image is misleading if the message is solid.

We shared the image to show how quickly things can change in eight years, with the actual purpose of the event secondary. But in doing so, we set a dangerous precedent that haunts us to this day.

Most would argue that posting something like this, even if it’s false, is harmless becuase it still conveys the message we want to convey. But that’s how most terrible things start: with something harmless.

What started as teens in Macedonia trying to make a buck by writing and sharing fake news has gotten to the point now where a man walked into a restaurant in Washington D.C. a few weeks ago and fired a rifle because of something he read online.

This man believed the pizza place was a haven for a child abuse ring. The main point of the conspiracy theory, dubbed “Pizzagate”, is that high-level politicians are involved in secretive child abuse and trafficking ring.

The source for this theory? A single white supremacy Twitter account citing unnamed NYPD sources.

We have now entered a time in the course of human evolution where a single anonymous tweet causes a man to arm himself and try to get to the bottom of the case on his own, just in case it is true.

And just last week, conspiracy theorists have named other pizza parlors as participants in the cover-up, even though this is the most ridiculous conspiracy theory I’ve ever heard.

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As we prepare to endure a Trump presidency that will come with its own set of challenges, we now take on the added responsibility of ensuring that the content we share on social media is accurate, to the best of our abilities.

We can no longer afford to post content now and ask questions later.

As we’ve seen with Pizzagate, there are very real (and very dangerous) repercussions attached to what we share with our friends on Facebook and Twitter. While it may not seem like a big deal to post without doing the proper research, there is always someone out there who is ready to take erroneous action.

If you want to know what you can do to help to ensure we don’t fall down a black hole of conspiracy fodder and untruths in a post-truth world, taking five minutes to do the proper research is a good place to start.