As a kid, we always received daily newspapers. We’d get the Worcester Telegram in the morning, the Clinton Daily Item, and the Evening Gazette at night. Of course, much like the rest of America’s newspapers, they’ve gone through massive upheaval with the onset of the digital age. The Item and Evening Gazette don’t really exist anymore. The Telegram seems to be holding on somehow. Interesting side note: I had a girlfriend my junior and senior year of high school whose father was the Managing Editor of the Worcester Telegram. I thought that was so cool! He’s now in the “New England Newspaper Hall of Fame.”
My mom would read through the newspapers each day, and I would only be allowed to read them myself after she was finished with them, but as soon as she put them down, I picked them up and combed through. I’ve always loved the physical newspaper and even now, I receive the Boston Globe and New York Times on Sundays, delivered to my porch.
Back then, I thought of newspapers as actual authorities – balanced reporters doing the hard work to inform Americans of important news and local information. My, how times have changed. Today I harbor no “good old days” notion that the press back then wasn’t somewhat influenced or coerced by large corporations or government entities who needed to steer Joe Smith on Main Street in one direction or another. Of course, it happened back then and there’s plenty of evidence to show it, but today it’s getting really hard to trust any mainstream media outlet.
You should really read The Twitter Files. Dare I say it might be the craziest and most important thing you’ll read in years. I won’t spoil it all for you because it’s a whopper, but in short, government agencies have been strong-arming and partnering with Twitter and other social media outlets to totally shape the content you see on social media platforms to the government’s narrative. Social Media literally took direction from the government on whose accounts to ban, where to slap “fact check” labels, etc. It’s nauseating…and fascinating. If Elon Musk has done one good thing, it’s releasing all this information to longtime journalists who are not beholden to mainstream media anymore. These aren’t cranks either – we’re talking about Matt Taibbi at TK News and Bari Weiss crew at The Free Press – people who in the past wrote for national publications (Rolling Stone, New York Times, etc) and do not pull any punches against Republicans or Democrats. They are truly part of the only real “free press” we have left. You would be well served to subscribe to their Substack news feeds, which you can sample before you buy. I pay for both now after sampling their output for a couple of weeks. They are interesting, talented, serious, funny, they break real news – and they serve YOU.
And The Twitter Files? Good luck finding out about it in any national mainstream publication. They won’t touch it for the most part. They’re just as much in bed with the government. And listen, I’m not some far left or far right nut job, ok? I’m a pretty normal person that is curious, into news and I want it straight, without influence from meddling and shape-shifting entities and organizations. TK News and The Free Press give that to me (and you) far more than the mainstream press and tv news do. I dare you to read TK or Free Press and tell me otherwise! Which isn’t to say that the New York Times or Boston Globe are BAD newspapers. There is plenty of good content in both. But there’s also plenty of content that I now am forcing myself to question. And that’s not good.
Here’s a couple of good recent tidbits from The Free Press’s last newsletter:
? Latest from the Twitter Files: The Twitter Files—internal documents, emails and chats involving the past Twitter regime—continue to show how the U.S. government sought to silence its critics. The latest, from Matt Taibbi, shows that Adam Schiff, a Democrat and the head of the House Intelligence Committee, specifically asked the social network to ban a journalist, Paul Sperry. Even Twitter employees, usually perfectly happy to censor the politically inconvenient, balked at this.
Nellie Bowles, The Free Press
? Of course this is happening in the U.S.: A new law in California paves the way for doctors to lose their license for “dissemination of misinformation or disinformation related to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.” That sort of behavior is now considered “unprofessional conduct.”
Longtime TGIF readers know my stance, but for all the newcomers: Misinformation and disinformation are real phenomena. But most of the time these days the words are political terms applied to any information a ruling clique doesn’t like. Often, it’s used by progressive journalists who want to see various voices censored on social media.
In the case of Covid, many, many very real facts were considered mis-and-disinfo. Like: The vaccine does not prevent transmission of Covid. That was considered fake news, verboten. Had this law been in place you would have lost your medical license for saying it. In that case, people saw with their own bodies that, although vaccinated, they were very much coughing. But thanks to this new law that muffles doctors, who knows what we won’t know going forward.
Nellie Bowles, The Free Press
? Vaccine-skeptical, sit this one out: When Damar Hamlin, a football safety for the Buffalo Bills, got hit in the chest and collapsed on the field, who was ready to jump in and opine but the vax skeptics. On Tucker Carlson, there was speculation that Hamlin was suffering vaccine-induced myocarditis.
Obviously there are vaccine side effects that were under-reported and lied about, but that does not mean anyone with an injury or anyone who dies young was killed by Pfizer. Just like progressives see a twinge in their ankles as #longcovid, the conservative vax skeptic movement is a hammer looking for nails.
Nellie Bowles, The Free Press
So…who do you rely on for the truth? Who do you trust?
I made a passing reference to this in my last post and perhaps I’ll spill out a bit more here and there in the coming months, but high level, I’m doing some work on myself. Trying to create a vision for my post-50 years. It’s a very interesting exercise. I like to think of it as a productive mid-life crisis, right? I’m not out there dropping cash bombs on sports cars, I’m investing in myself.
I know that if I want to have a lot of post-50 years, I have to take care of myself physically. This has to be part of my vision. Some of my more recent posts talked about my weight, which has been a consistent 175-180 for the past 3 years. I’m not trying to increase or decrease that. Cardio wise I feel good about myself, as I walk 1-2 times per week and play ice hockey three mornings per week. The one area that I need to lean into is strength. I have definitely felt a slight degrading there as I age and I want to address that, as it’s important in these years in order to maintain and set myself up for best possible outcomes.
The problem is that I find it to be incredibly boring. In fact, I find anything with the exception of hockey boring and monotonous. And my brain – which I truly believe has some small level of undiagnosed ADHD – is not good at maintaining and sticking with things that are boring and monotonous for me. With hockey, it’s still something I really enjoy and have done all my life, so there’s a confidence and still genuine interest there. The gamifying of exercise is a real carrot for me.
Weightlifting, which I need to start doing again, is not gamified. It is basically lifting heavy stuff, counting to 10 or 12, then waiting a minute and doing it again. And again. I have a weight bench right in my basement because I know I am not a “go to the gym” guy. Tried that. The weight bench I have provides myriad options for strengthening all muscles. And through the years I’ve been on and off with it. For the past 2 years, I’ve been in off mode.
So I look to you, my reader(s) – how can I make strength/weightlifting more exciting or competitive for myself where I will stick with it and hopefully bank some good solid (upright) years on my life? This New York Times piece from yesterday talks about the importance of mixing cardio and strength training, so I gotta get on it. Help!
Well here we are, another new year. Each year it seems like I say to myself “wow, another year, how did that happen” or “damn, this year went by so fast.” I was on a walk with Stephanie yesterday and we talked about 2022, but tried to keep it focused on the good things that happened. There was a lot of good, sprinkled in with some struggles. That is called life. And now I’m saying to myself “Electric word, ‘life’, it means forever and that’s a mighty long time….”
Anyway, I’m listing some (not all) of my 2022 highlights below, in no particular order. Yesterday’s walk will come into play here.
Grateful for Reading: At the beginning of 2022, I made a vow (dare I say resolution) to read more books than I did in 2021, and I did that. The bar was low, as I only read 3 books in 2021 and I suspect that may be a low point in my reading life. This year I read 11 books. I will list 10 of them here:
“Going There” by Katie Couric – excellent, honest memoir, she isn’t afraid to expose her weaknesses (or strengths)
“The Moth in the Iron Lung – A Biography of Polio” – very interesting look at Polio, though the end was unnecessarily preachy about vax avoidance
“Fighting My Way to the Top” by Shawn Thornton – I met him on several occasions for work stuff, super nice guy. Good story.
“Lights Out” by Ted Koppel – really made me think and assess a few things. See here.
“When Crisis Hits Suburbia” by Ted Riely – read this after reading Koppel book. A little over the top about “prepping” but also some sound advice
“The Nineties” by Chuck Klosterman – foremost pop culture writer on watershed moments in the decade. A gas to read.
“Devil in a Coma” by Mark Lanegan – a shorter Lanegan book about his time with Covid. I’m still so sad about his death
Hello Molly – A Memoir” by Molly Shannon – summer vaca book and terrific, harrowing journey. I love her.
“Brain on Fire – My Month of Madness” by Susannah Cahalen – frightening, compelling book about your body/brain abandoning you
“When to Rob a Bank” by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner – collection of blog posts from the “Freakonomics” guys. So great
Grateful for Listening: Of course music still plays a gigantic, meaningful role in my life. Here’s a few things I enjoyed this year:
Wet Leg (self-titled) – released early in the year, maybe the most pure fun I’ve had listening to an album in years.
Built to Spill, “When the Wind Forgets Your Name” – so rock solid and dependable, every time. What a band.
Spoon, “Lucifer on the Sofa” – I had not loved their last couple of releases, this one brought me back to them. Rhythmic and excellent.
Deer Tick live at The Sinclair, December 12 – i can’t get enough of this band’s music, especially live. There’s a comfort and happiness with them.
Black Keys “Dropout Boogie” – another remarkably consistent band, gritty, fun, bluesy.
Julia Jacklin “Pre-pleasure” – how she still flys under the radar is stunning to me. One of my favroite emerging talents in years
Pavement live, at the Boch Center, September 28 – I hadn’t seem them in maybe 20+ years, so it was emotional, they’re a top 5 band for me
Grateful for Working I am in my sixth year at Avid as VP of Web & Ecommerce and I continue to be thoroughly stimulated and challenged by work. What more could I ask for? My scattered brain loves bouncing between different things and my current job is perfect for that. I love all the challenges it brings, from forecasting/budgeting to managing a team of 15 excellent people to helping drive and optimize a digital experience for a global buisness. It’s rewarding, befuddling, funny and challenging.
Grateful for a Lot This part is probably the most important. As 2022 progressed, a very interesting thing happened to me. I’ve become more grateful in general for all kinds of things. I’ve really leaned into this. I’ve learned to let frustrations go far quicker than I historically have. If something crazy happens at work, for example, I don’t let negatively linger about it – I remind myself that I am grateful to have a job and if there’s other people involved in some kind of frustration, I just pivot and wish them well in my mind. They may be having a bad day or struggling with something I don’t know about or can’t comprehend. If someone cuts me off driving, same thing. I am here to tell you this works.
Not that I wasn’t grateful before, but I’m discovering that when you really focus on changing your mindset to be more grateful and having a positive vision, it reverberates around your whole life. I realize this is all very “woo-woo” to say, but it’s absolutely true. Be grateful for your family, friends, health and well-being. It truly pays off. Some of this realization has occurred through some work I’m doing on myself in a somewhat formal way but even before that I could feel myself leaning this way. Adjust the mindset. And it’s really worked.
Let’s talk about positive vision for a second. My neighbor sends out an email at the end of every year with a list of his favorite music and I received the 2022 email yesterday (Dec 31). I noticed that Midlake was on his 2022 list. Midlake is a band that is not very well-known that I also happen to love. Back in 2012 one of leaders of the band quit – the band soldiered on – but I’ve been keeping tabs on that musician who left, hoping and waiting ever since that he would make some music on his own. But he hasn’t. And I wrote back to my neighbor and we were both thrilled that we knew someone else who loved Midlake and how we both really wanted this guy (Tim Smith) who we haven’t heard from in 10 years to release some music. And just last night after this exchange, I said to myself that I’m grateful for Midlake still being around and I hope that TIm Smith was ok. This morning at 8:53am, on January 1st, about 14 hours after having that thought, this email showed up in my inbox.
Is this a coincidence that it’s been 10 years since Tim Smith has released any music at all and that yesterday I had this very specific thought and then this email arrived hours after? The practical skeptic in me says yes, absolutely a coincidence. Perhaps the evolving me doesn’t.
Now, I can’t tell you one way or another if anyone has noticed in observing me that I’ve become more grateful, positive, appreciative or perhaps spiritual (and I don’t mean GOD spiritual, I have my issues with formal religion. But I’m not focused on this self-work to enhance how people feel about me. Any perceived improvement in how people view me is (or will be) gravy. I’m doing it for me, because I think I need it. But I can tell you that in 2023 you’ll see some other stuff coming from me that maybe you (or I) didn’t expect. I’m looking forward to it, and grateful that I have the health, mindset, ability and wherewithal to pursue it.
When 2022 started, I set a very simple goal to read more books than I did in 2021. With that in mind, I jumped right in, and on January 1, 2022, I purchased “Lights Out,” a book authored by longtime ABC News Correspondent Ted Koppel. The subtitle is “A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath.”
In short, Koppel’s book scared the shit out of me. The over-arching theme is, “what happens when the power grid in the USA is attacked?” It wasn’t IF; it was WHEN. Because it has already happened, don’t let little old Jeff’s words sway you. Here’s part of the description of the book:
It isn’t just a scenario. A well-designed attack on just one of the nation’s three electric power grids could cripple much of our infrastructure—and in the age of cyberwarfare, a laptop has become the only necessary weapon. Several nations hostile to the United States could launch such an assault anytime. In fact, as a former chief scientist of the NSA reveals, China and Russia have already penetrated the grid. And a cybersecurity advisor to President Obama believes that independent actors—from “hacktivists” to terrorists—have the capability as well. “It’s not a question of if,” says Centcom Commander General Lloyd Austin, “it’s a question of when.”
So that’s scary. Here’s more:
Imagine a blackout lasting not days, but weeks or months. Tens of millions of people over several states are affected. For those without access to a generator, there is no running water, no sewage, no refrigeration or light. Food and medical supplies are dwindling. Devices we rely on have gone dark. Banks no longer function, looting is widespread, and law and order are being tested as never before.
Crazy! By the way, this book was written in 2015. We are now close to 8 years later, and in the big picture, more needs to be done in terms of advancements to protect the power grid. In the last month alone, we’ve seen two pretty major attacks on power grids: one in North Carolina that took out electricity in 45,000 homes and one on Christmas day in Washington state, affecting 14,000 homes. Christmas without power. Damn. The question that many are asking is if these are small dry runs for a significant attack soon. Nobody knows. Over 100 attacks on the electrical grid in the USA occurred in 2022. That’s the most in the last decade.
We all have experienced a loss of power, typically for a few hours or maybe one day. Manageable. But ask yourself what would happen if it was a week? Or two weeks. Or a month. The US has three major power grids across the country, but thousands of substations take power wholesale from “the big three.” These little substations are more susceptible to attacks because they don’t have the budget or sophistication to protect themselves, which is what we are seeing. With larger budgets, brainpower, and security, the big three are tougher to penetrate but not foolproof. It’s natural – and it’s scary.
So I read the Koppel book, which you should read. I arguably spiraled a small bit after that, buying another book about protecting yourself from a long-term power outage. I’ve thought about a generator, but I’m not sure I’m there quite yet. Some of the advice was sound, with good instructions on basic things to have on hand in the event of a prolonged outage. So I did put a bin together of those basic recommendations and they are all sitting in a large Rubbermaid container in my house. Other advice was paranoid bordering on insane – like talk to your neighbors and set up an agreed-upon high ground in case of attack. That’s kinda ridiculous. I’m imagining myself walking around to my neighbors, knocking the door and trying to get alignment on a high ground in case of attack. I laugh to myself at what they might say when they close the door after that conversation!
A few of you have messaged me over the last month wondering why you don’t see comments right away when you submit them in response to one my posts. In a world of instant gratification, I understand why it can frustrating or odd, or make you think that the comments engine doesn’t work. There is an explanation for this – for every real comment posted, there are literally 100 posts of spam. Some of them are just stacks and stacks of porn links or other strange websites, but others try to “fool” the spam filter.
So I’ve basically set up any and all comments to line up for review before I let the real ones through. That’s right, I comb through all the chaff to find the wheat. Just for you! So don’t fret if you post a comment and don’t see it – I try to check a few times a week and if yours is a legit comment, I will green light it.
But since I’m here, I thought it might be fun to give you a sample of some of the comments that don’t make the cut. Lots of them make zero sense. I obviously won’t cite the “commenter” since they are probably not human anyway. Here we go:
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