Wanna Travel? Beware of Weather!

Posted on: Wednesday, June 26th, 2024
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, Travelog | Leave a comment

IMG_9666.jpegWelcome to Okoboji (Iowa), a legendary chain of lakes known for deep blue water, relaxation, and (frankly), outsized fun. A terrible flood is happening there. But for these girls, the party must go on…

I’ve been taking BreakAways to Okoboji all my life, sometimes several times a year—and including living and working there some college summers. So my love for the place runs deep.

Unfortunately, so does this year’s flooding—the worst since 1993, or the worst ever? Doesn’t really matter; the destruction and stench defy historical comparisons, also due to the overbuilding that has happened there and everywhere. Which results in more ruin, more dock boards floating everywhere, and more million$ in damage and cleanup. I can’t even envision the rebuild that lies ahead.

Of course, my beloved Okoboji is just one of dozens (countless?) locations getting slammed in the Midwest. Places I’ve known, lived, loved. One tries not to get too bummed out. But, dang, floods are just such a sloooow-acting, cruel catastrophe.

All to say, although the US airports broke customer records over Memorial Day weekend, remember this warning: Travel at your own risk. Nature is angry and turning many getaway dream trips into nightmares. Not to mention laughing at my summer Okoboji escape plans.

So watch the weather. Pack and prepare for the unexpected. Have a Plan B.

And keep the faith.


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BITN: Apple Crush Flops; Voice Notes Soothe; Credit Goes Crazy

Posted on: Thursday, June 6th, 2024
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, Spendology, Unplugging, BITN, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment


This post features some thunderous rants. But know that there’s usually a rainbow—or two—at the end of the storm.

  • Apple iPad ad blows it

UNPLUGGING. That’s where it’s at…I write from my MacBook Pro while my iPhone buzzes beside me. But seriously, playing piano, reading a book on a hammock, creating art with your hands—these things are the REAL BreakAways that calm the nerves and soothe souls. Apple should embrace this.

Most folks have a love/hate relationship with Apple. But the loathing side hit a fresh low with the recent release of the iPad Pro TV ad. Just watch it. A hydraulic (that must represent iPad) crushes all kinds of creative and playful items: TV, camera, paint, games, guitar, record player, books… BOOKS!

The obvious message is if you buy a new iPad pro, you don’t need those things any more. In fact, let’s just destroy them. Pundits, professors, and celebrities have, well, crushed the ad. More attention for A? Yes. But, man, what a BAD look!

Sure, Apple makes creative tools, and owns that niche. But can you have too many toys and tools? Can Apple replace paint? Not to mention—retro is (as always) COOL! Smash record players and 35mm cameras at your own risk, cuz kids these days LOVE that stuff. They’re hotter than hula hoops—and probably the iPad, which represents only 6% of Apple’s sales.

6%! On a 1-100 scale, Professor Kirk would, charitably, give this ad about a 6. That = Failure.

  • Voice messages gains popularity as option to text (burnout)

In another bite from the Apple tree, in 2014 Apple added the voice message as part of the text message menu. It didn’t catch on fast, but now gets increasingly more usage—and has become included in most SM and messaging platforms—according to a recent WashPost story by Tatum Hunter.

SOUNDS good to me. Texting, while initially cool and efficient, has become (for these eyes) a burden. An ever-growing responsibility that one simply cannot unplug. At least for long.

Some say the podcast revolution helped us remember we DO like the sound of human voices and harbor some attention span. And some of us remember when a (real) phone ringing—and the conversation with the person on the other line—was exciting, even sacred, sometimes scary.

The voice message can serve as an in-betweenie to the text and the phone call—which, for some, has become verboten and invasive. Travel much? Hope so—and that you TALK to strangers wherever you go. Heck, talk to strangers at the corner bar or supermarket!

And by all means, talk to your screen ‘friends,’ including via the voice message tool. You’ll enjoy the nuance, the deeper info, and the REALness that misspelled words and emojis usually fail to convey.

  • Credit card debt reaches “severe” level

Debt is going through the roof. Too bad, because roofs are getting terribly expensive. Credit card debt has jumped to $1.12 trillion from ‘just’ $1 trillion only a year ago. Younger people are harder hit. And higher interest rates don’t help. OPINIONATED QUESTION: Why are credit card companies allowed to charge 18-28 percent interest? OPINION: That’s Mob-like extortion.


Meanwhile, banks make big bucks. Folks go broke. Wall Street loves it. And the rich get richer, while the rest of us keep handing them bags of money. Cards make up only ~6.5% of consumer debt, but hit struggling people the hardest. Some say it’s a bubble, ready to burst. And you know who ends up paying for the mess when they explode? Probably not the CEO of Chase.

TIP: Shop carefully for your card(s). TRY to pay your balance in full every month. Focus on saving not shopping! And teach your children to practice the same fiscal fitness.

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FOTOFRIDAY: A Little Frank Lloyd Wright

Posted on: Friday, May 10th, 2024
Posted in: Travelog, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

There it is, hiding center-right—one of the most famous houses in the world.

After a light winter—for both weather and travel—I recently escaped to San Fran and Carmel where some parties, friends, and even my son awaited. Yet one of the best reasons to visit Carmel is the ‘Mrs. Clinton Walker House.’ Mr. Wright built it at her request in 1948, aiming to mimic the rocks, sea, and waves, and look like a boat prow setting sail.

Mrs. Walker had requested a house “as durable as the rocks and as transparent as the sea.” The cherry? A Robert Howard mermaid sculpture resting atop the seawall, which was added in 1964. Stunningly beautiful, all of it. Yet the luminous flowers and greenery caught my eye and soothed my winter angst the most.

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SM: New College Major and Major Classroom Headache

Posted on: Wednesday, April 24th, 2024
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, Unplugging, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

Yep, traditional higher-ed institutions will soon be graduating students with degrees in social media. It’s a million times more relevant than Shakespeare, so how could they not?

Within the last week or so, social media has become a headline in so many ways that social media itself can barely keep up.

In Minnesota, the U of M has announced plans to create a social media minor, and already has some classes; St. Thomas (across the river) has had a digital media arts major for some time. Meanwhile, the MN legislature appears close to some sort of ban on cellphones in the classroom (though school districts would create their own policy). And in faraway Washington DC, new legislation to ban TikTok in the USA just sped through Congress.

  • Phones are ruining us

The BreakAway board has, for years (decades?) railed against c-phone/tech addiction, and the ways they have ruined communication, civility, and sanity. These issues have now become so omnipresent that, well, we rarely comment or preach the gospel of Unplugging of late. So while it’s terrific to see the world sorta catching on, let us be the first to say: TOO LATE!

  • Try teaching to plugged-in students

Having taught at two art colleges—during the years that phones and nonstop tech were gradually gaining ground and taking over brains—I can tell you this: It’s not easy. Policies rarely worked, and students were so clever they could practically text with their toes. As a guest speaker in other classes, I’d wander and see most of the students were NOT taking notes on their computers; they were shopping Amazon or perusing the latest posts from Nikki Minaj.

Yet, my writing class incorporated social media writing. (I called the course ‘Contemporary Marketing Writing,’ though the official title was an inherited, tired tangle of verbiage.) The challenge persisted always: Professor Kirk insisted the students write with traditional grammar and punctuation, if only cuz this is college, even though SM rarely bothers with such. At some point, I had to give up! And in truth, my approach was probably dated, if appropriate. #whatevs

  • Will TikTok go away?

In a word, NO. The owners (who are Chinese) can fight the ban in courts. For years. Should it go away? Yes. China is accessing our data, spying on our people, and successfully spreading bogus information to harm our country. This culture critic tires of conspiracy theories. But this is no theory. Even the dunderheads in DC have finally figured that out.

Anyway, polls of kids confirm that if TikTok goes away (which would be toats Debby Downer), they’d just shift to other platforms. And other platforms would probably get better at mimicking TikTok.

  • Ancient Chinese secret

People often quote the ancient allegedly Chinese proverb: ‘May you live in interesting times.’ Well, we do. So interesting that 49% of 15-17 year-olds have experienced cyberbullying within the last year (Pew). So fascinating that excellent teaches are quitting because they can’t compete with phones. So intriguing that our state and national governments are trying to control the chaos through a myriad of laws that will have little or no policing or power.

There’s so much more to say, and maybe we will, someday. But just now, we just wanna ditch this tedious writing nonsense and check our latest Facebook feeds.

Keep the faith.

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FOTOFRIDAY: A Marvy Mini Music BreakAway

Posted on: Friday, April 19th, 2024
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, Travelog, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

His name is Adam Weiner; his band is Low Cut Connie. And yes, I’m a shameless groupie who will go to great lengths (including Iowa) to see their shows.

Do you have bands or entertainers that you are so crazy about that you will do crazy things like drive to Des Moines for a quick over-nighter just to see them perform? I do, at least if their tour is skipping my city. Of course, this would fail to come off as weird if the star were Swift or Springsteen. But in this case, it’s Low Cut Connie—the best band most people have never heard of.

Best stage persona ever and fun-loving troupe ever? Probably! Creativity beyond measure? Absolutely—as their recent movie proves. And his (and their) live-stream performances during Covid were, frankly, far and away the best antidote for the pandemic blues. And live? A few hours with this electrifying ensemble keeps fans giddy and mystified for days.

In fact, just looking at the pictures makes me wanna jump in the car and cruise to wherever they’re rockin’ tonight…

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FOTOFRIDAY: All You Need is…Tickets!

Posted on: Friday, March 29th, 2024
Posted in: Travelog, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

LOVE is all you need—along with an outdoor escalator, some Roman architecture, and a couple of elevated sculpture repros.

Funny. The Beatles broke up nearly 60 years ago. Yet they show up often, probably more than they did in their heyday. I would LOVE to see Cirque de Soleil’s LOVE. But, unless you’re a VIP or BIG gambler, getting a ticket is nearly as impossible as a Beatles reunion. So I settled for this Fab Four photo while wandering the streets of Las Vegas a few months ago.

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U.S. Youth Tank Happy Index

Posted on: Monday, March 25th, 2024
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, Unplugging | Leave a comment

Are we getting rusty at pursuing happiness? Yep. The younger you are, the more you feel your life is in the tank.

WashPost, CBS News, and myriad media reported last week on the 2024 World Happiness Index Report—released to help mark the United Nations International Day of Happiness. So how are we doing? As my Grandma would say, “Not so pretty good.” We fell from 15th to 23rd in a single year. And most alarming: Those under 30 are bringing us down, man.

Here are a few factoids to digest…

Americans under 30 rank #63 out of 143 countries.

Those of us over 60 do dang well—we rank 10th.

2024 marks the first year that the USA has ever fallen from the top 20.

Other countries also show a downward spiral for youth, including Canada.

Young females report even lower numbers than young males.

  • Hey “KIDS,” what seems to be the problem?

Call them early achievers? … Youth’s glum numbers resemble the pothole that usually trips people up in midlife years. But …kids these days… well, they grew up embracing the things that this website routinely blares are ultimately not good for you. Even if they feel pretty good at the time. Bad metaphor: Having fun sex with someone who’s infected with stuff.

Theses researchers don’t say much about the issues of those under 30, but I will: C-phone addiction; SM damage; rampant polarization throughout our (un)fair country; broken families; problems with money, debt, work satisfaction; and unrealistic expectations.

To be fair to youngsters, we do seem to live in a time when almost everyone is complaining about something almost all the time. But how sad that the fountain of youth has been poisoned by this darkness. Gosh, haven’t they heard about the roaring 20s!?!

  • Help is out there, and I mean out there

So what to do? Limit the phone and tech use, impossible as that sounds. Go outside and soak up nature, rain or shine. Hang out—in the flesh—with people you like. Focus on family; if yours is absent, seek or create another. Take long Breakaways; if that’s not feasible, take short ones. Chase healthy living, including exercise, diet, sleep, the usual. Look for beauty and create more. And above all, just try to have FUN.

  • Those dang Scandinavians

Finland, Denmark, Iceland, and Sweden make up the top four, while Norway proudly places 7th. As a person of ~95% Nordic ancestry (who has spent time there), this showing is no surprise. They get lotsa things right. Those who disagree (like the politicians barking about socialism), must not care about happiness. Which also requires an open mind!

Hey, America, it could be worse: Poor Afghanistan sits on the bottom of all lists. Ponder living there when you’re feeling like this land bums you out.

And above all, keep the faith.  : )

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FOTOFRIDAY: Beware of Crashing Buildings

Posted on: Friday, March 15th, 2024
Posted in: FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

These random office buildings in downtown San Francisco, shot in March 2022, were already showing signs of emptiness.

Years ago, before I lived in big cities, skyscrapers and architecture fascinated me. I took hundreds of pictures, had a photo exhibit, and incorporated the images into MA projects. Time passes, and so there were years of wearing suits and doing business in such monoliths. The exterior beauty remains, but the inner reality may be scary.

Some say the next big cra$h in this country will likely happen due to all those buildings going empty during Covid, and now remaining mostly cavernous and quiet due to hybrid working, downtown crime, and many more reasons. Smart businesses are pulling out.

The banks that hold those assets, loans, and notes are in for a brutal bust. And when that happens, we’ll all pay the price. Did we really need all those larger-than-life structures? Probably not. But in this country, bigger means better, right? Stay tuned…

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FOTOFRIDAY: Where’s Caitlin?

Posted on: Friday, March 1st, 2024
Posted in: FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

U of Iowa women’s basketball superstar Caitlin Clark finally—finally!—tries to leave the court after another record-breaking game, a gaggle of interviews, and umpteen autographs.

Yes, sports (and our appetites for them) have gone over over-the-top. Nonetheless, I defend the mania as a mini-Breakaway option, a suspenseful entertainment, and (we hope) an inspiration for the get-off-your-butt movement.

I will also admit to being a passionate U of Iowa fan, as I grew up in the Hawkeye state, had some terrific time at the school, and limit my emotional attachment to only 3 teams: The Iowa Hawkeyes (most any sport), the MN Twins, and whatever team my kids are playing for.

Still, my personal excitement and pounding heart was NOT prepared for the rock-show atmosphere of the sold-out IA/MN game last night. All to see Caitlin Clark, who’s broken just about every record, shot women’s sports to a way higher level, and did NOT disappoint.

She scored IA’s first 12 points in 4 possessions—never missing a shot—including the one from the center logo. She racked up 33 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. And she embraced her role as a role model, teammate, and good sport with grace and smiles.

Not bad for a 22-year old who grew up just a few hours of Iowa City. Best of all, she inspired and made hundreds (thousands?) of dreamy, screamy young hoopers happy. Me too!

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BITN: Debt Rits Roof; Homey Gap Years; Retirees Reeling

Posted on: Monday, February 26th, 2024
Posted in: Spendology, Work/Life Hacking, BITN | Leave a comment

Are ‘kids these days’ lazy, entitled, and floating? Or are they truly having a hard time finding financial independence? To find out, jump in and read on…

BreakAways in the News has been on, well, on a BreakAway for a while. As usual, we partially blame the interns—who are still discovering their inner work ethic, fascinated by their phones, and often taking advantage of our generous mental-health leave bennies. (And some still live at home!)

Speaking of mental health…though it’s true that travel is BACK—just check out airfare prices—it’s also true that behind that bright & shiny first-class section, the overall financial health for Americans is rather dark. Here are 3 quick stories designed to keep us aware and inspire that commitment you toasted to on 12-31-23 for better fiscal fitness…

Covid brought much grief and angst, but also some pennies from heaven (AKA Washington, DC). Well, those days are gone. Inflation has raised the cost of everything, student loans are again (over)due, and credit card balances have hit a record $1.13 trillion. All together now: OUCH!

What’s more, savings has also declined dramatically. Duh. Ironically, lots of lucky Americans are simultaneously enjoying a booming stock market and impressive increases in their home value.

But both payoffs are often out of way out of reach, including for the kids of comfortable parental units. For more about that (adult) kid in the basement, read on.

  • 1/3 of offspring 18-34 living at home

For those of us of a certain age (OK, Boomer), the notion of crashing for months (years?) with the parents was unthinkable. Oh sure, it happened to some people, but not for long. My parents gave me deep roots and giant wings; I flew the coop and, though I visit often, I never moved in again. Yes, I’m proud of that. And a bit agog at the current kiddo hospitality boom.

But I get it: It’s the stupid economy, yet again. In a recent column, Michelle Singeletary (the wonderful personal finance writer/author for the Washington Post) laid bare the realities of the current live-with-the-‘rents trend. And frankly, with some mature boundaries and conversation, it’s not such a bad thing. Ponder these factoids, mostly courtesy of PEW…

• 64% of the young adults say the arrangement has helped their financial situation

• 69% state the level of involvement with their parents in their lives is about right

• 68% look to their parents for advice on their money management

Ms. Singeltary (who is of course an expert in these matters, and admits to having 3 adult progeny at home) asserts that success for all can be found in this acronym:

“Make sure they have a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based) plan.”

In other words, there are RULES! Like…Everyone cooks. Rent is free so long as debt is disappearing and saving is happening. Parents get to ask questions—and scream real loud if the kid fails to save yet takes exotic vacations and club-hops like Warhol in the 70s. That’s just enabling, although Andy did NOT live at home and could support himself nicely. (He was also infamous for his frugality; his diaries detail every penny he spent, every day.)

The irony here is that if the adult offspring messes up, you gotta kick ‘em out. What then, dear columnist? I dunno. And as the dad of 2 kids—who are welcome here as long as we co-exist SMARTly—I hope not to find out.

MPR economist and author Chris Farrell recently outlined the rather dire future many Americans face as retirement draws nearer. For starters, 1 in 4 don’t even know how much they have saved. Topping that: A huge percentage are in jobs that provide inadequate retirement benefit opportunities.

Farrell and cronies offer these few ideas for hope…

Increase the benefits of Social Security (which most people rely on)

Have the US government offer low- and middle-income citizens a government-run 401K program

Encourage employers to turn bad jobs into better jobs with improved pay, advancement opportunities, and retirement plans

  • $ makes the world go ‘round (or not!)

Debt crises. Kids unable to launch. Wannabe retirees running on empty. We all hope to avoid such crushing woes, right? And use a part of our well-earned savings to reward ourselves with travel, free time (it’s FREE!), and self-care.

When in doubt, consult BreakAway’s 11 Commandments for Fiscal Fitness.

Quiz Tuesday. Please save yourself. And thanks for listening.

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