Sabbatical Shuffle

D-Day Clock; Long Covid; Living P2P

Posted on: Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, BITN | Leave a comment

Have we entered dystopian times? This skull—and some other sources—seem to think so.

BreakAways in the News (BITN) is back after a short sabbatical. Thanks for your patience…

The interns continue to pile up clippings that relate to our attempts to BreakAway from the things that ail us (more on that shortly) and leap into leisure, calm, and getting away from IT all. Here’s out take on a few of the latest news bits…

  • We’re 90 seconds from … THE END

A Peter Sellers movie? Monty Python, perhaps? No, it’s a thing. The Doomsday Clock, as set by the Atomic Scientists, recently was turned forward from 100 seconds to 90 seconds. Until midnight, AKA the end of…time.

The D-Day Committee (which includes experts in all things nuclear, climate, global health, etc.) meets twice a year, as they have since 1947. And their optimism keeps waning. Consider this: At one point, the clock was 17 minutes from midnight! That was in 1991, at the end of the Cold War. Who knew we were living in such blissy times?

Naturally, they are concerned about the Ukraine invasion, nuclear escalation, disease, and climate hell. Our takeaway: Don’t postpone joy. Know your priorities. And do what you can to live as though there is no tomorrow.

One of these days, if this clock is at all timely, that could be true.

  • Long Covid continues to shorten careers (and lives)

To some, Covid was a hoax—perhaps something akin to the Doomsday Clock. To others, Covid lives on, and not in a good way. According to a recent New York study, 18% of Long Covid patients were still unable to return to work 1 year after becoming ill. And more than 75% of them are younger than 60.

Have you noticed the nonstop stories (and Help Wanted signs) re worker shortages lately? Prognosticators continue to blame the usual suspects: Early retirement, The Great Quit, demographics. All have truth, but as Harvard professor David Cutler puts it, “Covid is not over, and it won’t be for some time.” Cue the Help Wanted sign.

Thus, the BreakAway lobbyists will continue to fight for health benefits and practices, seeing yourself as a citizen of Planet Earth (rather than a party of 1), and…again…chasing your dreams while we still can.

  • 64% of Americans nearly broke 

Nearly 2/3 (64%) of Americans admit they are living paycheck-to-paycheck. That’s up 3% from the end of 2021. And more than half who make more than $100K also belong to this crumbling club.

Once again, the pandemic comes into play. Despite the government’s generosity during that time, people slipped backward. Meanwhile, inflation has come back with an ugliness not seen since the 70s. And yes, some of us remember that time—and the sight of parents fretting over the stack of bills late into the night.

So save some of your money and save yourself, please. BreakAway’s simple 11 Commandments of Fiscal Fitness will help. And the payoff may be even better than that sabbatical in Spain; you will help fight back against yet another killer illness: Stress.

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11 2023 Resolutions for Better BreakAway Living

Posted on: Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, Unplugging | Leave a comment

Finally, something we all agree on: It’s a new year! So for starters, let loose your inner artist. You’ll feel better and everyone will love it!

Lose weight? Too old and tired. Work out more? Been there, done that. Keep a cleaner house? Who cares!?!

Try some simpler, sillier ways to seek sanity this year and BreakAway from the daily grind, the dark daze of winter, and that post-holiday ennui. Though not all bold, brash, or breakthrough, they may help you have a livelier year and be a better YOU!

  1. Get crafty. Kids love to make things. You’re still a kid at heart, right? (See photo above: $1 Store candle holder, epoxy, shiny stuff. Voila!)
  2. Make beauty. Maybe your downtown has gone dystopian. But your yard, home, and office can easily be a place of grace. Noticing beauty (it’s everywhere) feels good, too.
  3. Start a zenny hobby. A favorite writer of mine carries on about birds, seasons, nature. He’s turning me into a laid-back birdwatcher. Who knew!?!
  4. Try a brainy hobby. Some say our brains start rotting as we get older. I can attest! Maybe it’s time to join the legions of cross-puzzlers, or at least tune into Jeopardy now and then!
  5. Save some bucks. How? There are countless, EZ ways! Cancel spendy apps and subs. Cook your own (or chase happy hours). Drive less. Skip Taylor and support local entertainers (She’ll still love you).
  6. Eat better. The bunnies know. Carrots are good for you. And there are a million ways to cook them. Remember: Fast food isn’t good…Good food isn’t fast.
  7. Party better. Oh sure, some of those beers (etc.) have fewer cals and carbs. But hey! There’s a beer revolution going on! And new bars and eateries that need support. Life is short; drink decent wine.
  8. Caretake loved ones. Ask for same. We need each other—the most important thing we have.
  9. Resist the screens. FACT: Just about everyone you know spends more time on screens than the year before. Help us break that tragic trend. Reality is 3D. So…
  10. Go outside. THEY say that your mental health bumps up measurably with just 30 minutes a day outdoors. You’ll feel refreshed, and the birds will notice you.
  11. Escape to somewhere new. A recent Daddy Date with my daughter to a nearby small town was delightful, eye-opening, and just plain fun. Next up: A dessert? An island? A campground?

Hope to see you there. And … Happy New Year!

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8 BILLION? Travel While You Still Can…

Posted on: Thursday, December 15th, 2022
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, Sabbatical Shuffle | Leave a comment

Dark daze ahead? Probably. So take that trip sooner than later.

Many times, when someone returns from vakay or BreakAway, I’ve asked the cliché question, “So what was the best part about __________?” Usually, the answer is, “The people!”

That’s great. And it means that you did more than sightsee, museum-hop, and imbibe. It also suggests that, with any luck, people every are awesome. I mean, friends have even offered that answer after visiting some countries that we Americans tend to fear and loathe.

  • People rock…but does Planet Earth want 8B?

Yet, how often have you travelled somewhere that you know—and maybe have been able to visit all your life—only to experience shock at how crowded the place has become? The development, the cars, the lines, the destruction of nature. I honestly can’t think of anywhere I know well (and like) that has escaped this unfortunate fate.

So sometimes I don’t want to go those places as much. And when possible, I schedule carefully to avoid crowds and chaos.

The planet groans every time it registers another birth.

~ Paul Simon, Born at the Right Time

One wants to avoid being nostalgic. What’s the future in that!?! So my conclusion is: GO. Now. Take the kids, the SO, your friends. Make the best of it and find your quiet spaces. Oh yeah, I’d like to start a movement called STOP THE BUILDING. But since that rarely works, see that dream destination before the water is polluted, the cottage is a condo high-rise, and the people are packed in like smelly sardines.

The world population was ~ 3B when I was born. And at the time, ZPG (Zero Population Growth) had traction, especially among Tree Huggers. We’ve almost tripled. The trees are falling.

But if you are kind and curious, people everywhere will still hug you. And will still be the best part of your journey.

Keep the faith.

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TM Has Become THE BreakAway Buzzkill

Posted on: Tuesday, December 6th, 2022
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, Sabbatical Shuffle | Leave a comment

Want to be one of these euphoric fans? You need to master Ticketmaster. Good luck with that…

Ever wonder why rock stars suddenly smash a perfectly good guitar? It’s because they failed to get tickets to a show they really wanted to see because of Ticketmaster. They’re not alone. I see a LOT of live shows. And also have too many smashed guitars.

Taylor Swift is coming to town, and it’s the hottest ticket in, like, forever, dude. Lucky for me, I didn’t even TRY to get a ticket, though I would like to be there. Just thinking about trying to score nearly provokes an anxiety attack. How can they be so inept? So inconsiderate? So blatantly carefree about how much everybody hates them?

Yep, they’re even getting sued by fed-up fans. Standing O for that!

As written up countless time in this here blog, live music is about the best BreakAway around that doesn’t require a suitcase. Heck, it’s PROVEN by SCIENCE to be even better than yoga!

Since the beginning of dirt, it remains one of the most exciting, sacred, and coveted BreakAway experiences around for millions…billions?…of people. Few rituals can take you so far away from whatever ails you, bond you with an instant tribe of like-listening besties, and (usually) take you back home to reality in a matter of hours.

Whoever is responsible for passing out those communion wafers better respect the cosmic power they hold. And the easy money they can make by simply not f*cking up too bad. TM fails at all of it. ALL of it! (Except for the making money part. In$ane amounts, increased exponentially since TM and Live Nation inexplicably were allowed to merge in 2010.)

Can you say (and lose at) MONOPOLY?

How bad is it? A Rolling Stone expose on the concert industry (TM) found that only ~25% of the tickets sold directly even get into the average Joe/Jane’s hands. The rest? Brokers, bots, crooks, reselling platforms… And oh, by the way, guess who owns and runs one of the biggest of those? TM.

So…TM is going to sell you tickets, complete with all sorts of huckster-ish presales, secret codes, $$$$ credit card front-of-line perks—things that sucker fans into thinking they have a fair and real shot to get good seats at a fair price. But that rarely happens any more. When it does, call it dumb luck. And enjoy the show. Cuz next time? Who knows?

(Let’s not even mention their fees. We’d run out of swear words immediately.)

And yet, long before official sellout—and sometimes before tix even go on sale—jump online, and there are thousands of seats for sale. Many of them by TM or some subsidiary (or some exec’s nephew). For insane prices. It ain’t right.

It’s not the first time we gullible, innocent consumers have been snookered big-time. But it’s one of the worst. And no one is doing anything about it. Oh sure, a few senators face the camera (not the music) and say, “We really oughta fix this!” Then they go back to fund-raising, or free lunch, or whatever they’re (not) doing.

{CONFESSION: I once saw a US senator come in late to a big, sold-out show. With a posse of about 20 people. Take primo seats. And look so-o-o-o bored and out of place. They left early…and were followed out by thousands of livid, glaring faces. I’m still grossed out.}

Meantime, as fans with a credit card, we keep fighting for a seat, screaming into the abyss, and then maybe somehow showing up at the show to have a blast anyway. Because (in my case in recent years) we’ll do almost anything to see McCartney, Madonna, Simon, Springsteen…once more or maybe for the first and only time. After all, they are the musical gods that have provided the soundtrack to our lives.

{Insert commercial: PLEASE generously support your local artists and venues. I mean, I saw a GREAT show in a dive bar for…FREE…last week. Everyone was happy, including the performers. Their pay? Whatever we threw into the empty pitcher that got passed around.}

Something—everything!—is wrong this pitcher. I mean picture. I’m glad I don’t have a daughter with her heart set on seeing Taylor. But my heart goes out to the millions of parents in that position. Your kid may fault you. But TM is to blame. We deserve better.

This concludes today’s rant. Stay tuned for the encores.

Rock on and thanks for listening…

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FOTOFRIDAY: What Are You Thankful For?

Posted on: Friday, November 18th, 2022
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

A year ago, I travelled to Portland, OR to watch my daughter play college soccer. THANKS to other parents, I was driven to the out-of-town game, introduced to tailgating under tarps in the rain, and screaming into frosty air throughout 2 wins in 2 days. Thanks, folks!

Funny: As I stumbled on this picture today, I had to dig into (what’s left of) my memory. Where were we, again? (A coffee shop on the way to Willamette.) Why are there other references to our soccer team? (Other parents must have gotten there first.) What am I thankful for? (My post-it says: Jesper and Elsa.)

The world is crashing and burning with things to worry about. Fortunately, “there is so much to be thankful for” also. In this season of thanks, remember to say “thank you” often. And remember to go through your old photos now and then. You’ll be thankful you did.

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New Carousel Pics Show BreakAway Extremes

Posted on: Thursday, October 27th, 2022
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, Travelog, Unplugging | Leave a comment

Extremes are hot these days—as in climate change, political divides, and BreakAway photo exhibits. Please take a glance at the lovely new photo pairing in the carousel above. Today we add another pair of opposites that somehow attract.

  • Some like it jam-packed

This photo from just another day at the MN State Fair demonstrates the other-worldly peace and joy that many folks feel from large crowds (other than, perhaps the sheriffs). The Fair routinely attracts 200,000 warm bodies a day. In similar scenes, the Penn State ‘White Out’ football game last Saturday hosted 110,000 fans. In one stadium.

These gatherings are hardly alone, and keep good, crowded company with music festivals, religious events (the haj attracts ~2.5 million pilgrims) and celebrity spectacles (think: Pope, Queen, funerals).

Most people, if asked, would say they don’t love crowded spaces. And yet we not only rush toward them when inspired, we achieve a profound sense of both escape and belonging. One that often costs a lot, requires ample planning, and may take days to recover from. Yet the memories and euphoria far outweigh the hassles.

  • Some like it solo

This charming picture of my daughter, chilling on a Caribbean beach, shows the other BreakAway extreme. Who doesn’t need to unplug, be alone, and seek some P&Q now and then? On this day, the beach was nearly empty, providing an idyllic spot to meditate while surrounded by nature and beauty. Far, far away from home and distraction.

How else do people elude the world’s relentless noise and masses? We could never count the ways, there are so many. But fishing comes to mind, as I often see their mellow and placid selves floating by. Others run, bike, swim, ski. Many unplug to read, write, garden, play music, or just…sit.

“Sit” is another word for meditating. When I see this pic of my daughter, I feel serenity.

As did she. I hope you do too—whether you find it via a BreakAway into swarms of like-minded people. Or choose to slip away into your quiet, happy space. Or both!

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Travel Fights Hate Better than lululemon

Posted on: Monday, October 24th, 2022
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

“Welcome…We expect you to…We will not tolerate…”

Today’s post dips into many of the topics we’ve been wading in of late: Advertising, wordsmithing, photographic messages, escapism, cultural chaos, and of course, travel. Please dive in and discuss amongst yourselves.

  • When life gives you lulu…

When I found myself escaping to the mall yesterday, I found myself taken aback by this sign at the entrance of lulu’s boutique of lemons. On the one hand, high 5s for the aggressive, stern stance. On the other hand, really? I mean, I’ve received unprovoked stinkeye for walking into rooms hosting folks from rednecks to blue bloods. But a trendy yoga gear store?

I felt guilty, though un-charged.

  • Words matter

After kicking it around for a while, the BreakAway Woke Committee flashed the yellow card at Ms. Lemon. Lulu’s marketeers likely loved our mild warning; it was yellow, after all.

We take our writing, if little else, seriously here at BreakAway. And delicate nuances that always deserve extra consideration are tone and voice. Does lulu’s verbiage feel inviting? Inclusive? Encouraging and moving? Statements of aspiration or mission can be great, and should strive to guide and inspire. You want to get such things right.

Does this feel right? Maybe to their customers, which skew white and middle/upper class (though I doubt it). That’s not me, not exactly. And the only thing I ever bought at LLL was a discounted (but still $$$) backpack. The zipper immediately broke—with no returns on sale merch. So maybe I’m still sour…lemons.

But still, let’s strive, dear readers and travelers, to preach our messages and change the world with graciousness, welcomeness, and positive voices.

As George Clinton (the King of Funk) says (and he knows way more than the lemon crew about shaking your booty), “Free your mind…and your ass will follow.”

  • Moral of the story 

I asked myself about two favorite, oh-so different, places I love to escape to: The Caribbean and Italy. I pondered: Would you see such a sign there? Highly unlikely. Do they have issues about race, class, and tolerance? Yes. Is saying “We expect you” and “We do not tolerate” a great way to start the conversation about (to quote Rodney King)…”CAN’T WE ALL GET ALONG?

When you travel, you have no choice but to get along…to open your mind to new people, new viewpoints, new ways of living. And they open their doors to you: In my experience, most (if not all) destinations proudly accept you. And tolerate you. And welcome you warmly…with curious and generous hearts. I’ll say it:

People who travel a lot, assuming they get out and experience things, grow more open minds. And hearts. Thanks to their hosts. (What kind of a host is lululemon?)

Journey pilgrims are also always dreaming and scheming their next big (or small) Breakaway. They want their hearts to grow three sizes more, like the Grinch.

They go home grateful, spiritually moved, and more hopeful for humanity. That can be a rare feeling these days. lululemon must agree, or they might not post such a sharp but blunt “welcome” sign.

  • Go with good intent

Having said all THAT, may their sign somehow be making the world a better place. I think that’s their objective. Insert 🙌 (raised hands in celebration) here.

“Love is the answer.” ~Todd Rundgren (rock star)

“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” ~Jesus (Jesus Christ, Superstar)

Keep the faith. (breakawayguy)

My boy learning about fishing from lovely Caribbean locals with love in their hearts…

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REWORKING: Take Off Your (Work) Clothes!

Posted on: Tuesday, October 11th, 2022
Posted in: HR FYI, Sabbatical Shuffle | Leave a comment

Bye-bye dressy-ness; the post-pandemic workplace dress code has gone decidedly informal.

According to Bloomberg, heading back to the office after the pandy BreakAway has inspired a lot of women to kick the high heel habit. And dress more for the home office than the executive suite. Makes sense, because heels never made much sense anyway. Neither did neckties, but we wore them because, “You never get a 2nd chance to make a 1st impression.”

I recall enduring that choke for about a million impressions, though the splash of color added a certain je-ne-sais-quoi to otherwise drab days and settings. Having never tried heels, I can only imagine that for most feet, high heels hurt! Sorry, ladies; it wasn’t my idea.

  • Sneaking into new fashions…

Meanwhile, white sneakers are in—so learned one young lady who, says the article, showed up in heels to impress the execs she was meeting with…only to find that they were all clad in white tennies. Which begs the questions: Why are they called sneakers? Why are they called tennies (unless you happen to be playing tennis)? And why white? And after Labor Day? How terribly tacky!

I don’t mean to be flip here. After all, the article points out that many women suffered serious injuries when returning to the office in heels after two years of flip-flops at home. (To say nothing of the many men who gagged in neckties.) “The body doesn’t like any kind of abrupt change,” states a famous podiatrist. Amen to that. Returning to the office is abrupt change enough: Perhaps “dress to impress” has officially left the building.

  • What is casual dress, anyway?

There’s plenty of press about the shift (or is it a pivot?) in attire as people gradually, and probably begrudgingly, ditch their jammies for, well, not heels, but for whatever the new clothing ethos is. Some, I know, love showing off their $300 trendy t-shirt from the boutique on the North Loop. Others might be perplexed, especially if they already had a work wardrobe buttoned down. As one friend told me,

I tried casual and failed. Now I’m back to my suits and ties. I look better and it’s just easier. Think I’m overdressed? So sue me…

The point here remains: The world of work is changing so much, so abruptly and randomly, that even “what should I wear?” has taken on new meaning. And baggage. That’s probably a good thing, even if we all endure some new awkwardness.

In my case, this raises a new issue: What shall I do with all my neckties? I mean, I shipped ~100 to someone who works in a church and was happy for some freshies. Yet I kept a bunch that are beautiful, may come in handy, or were designed by Jerry Garcia. Silk art, maybe?

Oh well, I have a big closet. And as Jerry said, “In my world, everything is legal.”

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FOTOFRIDAY: Sailing into a Yachty Sunday of Yore…

Posted on: Friday, August 12th, 2022
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, Travelog, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

If the wind is right, you can sail away…and find serenity. ~Christopher Cross

When in San Fran recently, I snapped this pic, and these sailboats blew up a priceless flashback from my memory bank…

Years ago, I found myself in San Francisco on a glorious, sunny Sunday. With friends who lived there, new and old. The two main sailors had been dear friends since Day 1 of college, and had become master sailors as youth on Lake Superior. Both had embarked on major voyages—including one who’d traversed over from Europe with parents and six siblings!

  • SUB: California daydreamin’

Being spontaneous, free-living Cali types, they mused, “What a day! We should go sailing!” So we did, thanks to a boat rental firm they both knew and used. In no time, we were crashing through heavy waves and winds, ditching monstrous barges, and dodging the smart-ass, daredevil windsurfers who would dart in close to splash us (and loved to ride the barges’ tsunamis).

We started deep in the bay, running gradually against a stiff wind toward the bridge and sea. Though we had to be back by dark, Captain G said, “What do ya say, we’ve GOT to get under that bridge, right!?!”

  • Keeping an unevel keel

We all agreed, cheered the ballsy challenge, and braced ourselves. Then we tacked, leaning sideways, back and forth—sometimes barely making forward progress—and confronting evermore angry barges as the bay got skinnier and each beast seemed determined to nonchalantly wipe us out like a rambunctious boy playing with toyboats in the bathtub.

Did we make it? Of course we did. Just as the sun went down, naturally. So we enjoyed a boisterous group hug while staring up at the legendary Golden Gate Bridge, turned the vessel about, and raced back to the marina by dark (almost)—thanks to now having…the wind at our backs.

FOTOFRIDAY parable summary: The bigger the memory bank, the richer the life.

Please keep investing.

Happy sails…

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ReWorking: 4-day Workweek Making Some Steps

Posted on: Monday, August 8th, 2022
Posted in: HR FYI, Sabbatical Shuffle, Work/Life Hacking | Leave a comment

Can you even imagine how a reduction in work hours would pep up employees?

As BreakAway’s ReWorking series continues to examine how US working norms transform in a (post?) pandemic world, today we look at how the 32-hour week has been gaining a smidgen of traction. This news comes courtesy of NerdWallet, probably the best financial advice source out there.

Just ask any FA; they’ll direct you away from their firm’s website and send you straight to the $ Nerds!

  • A Cali bill, a nonprofit foundation, + employer test kitchens

The 4-day week has its cheerleaders. In California, the legislature recently kicked it around, and likely will again. Elsewhere, nonprofit 4 Day Week Global promotes the concept out of Oxford University—and has launched some pilot programs with courageous companies worldwide. And when surveyed, 92% of US employees respond they support the idea, with 79% believing it would help their mental health, while 82% even claim it would make them more productive.

  • But oh, the obstacles…

Yet the questions fly around like irksome flies in August. Most of them are obvious, and might make any CEO lose his lunch…

• What would customers and clients think—would service & sales suffer?

• Who would tend to your emails/texts/zooms/meetings?

• How could this work in a 24/7 plugged-in world?

• Would the time reduction = a pay reduction? If so, who wants that?

• Might this mean 4 10-hour workdays, and how would daycare and other support systems feel? (And could the dog hold its pee/poop?)

  • As always, alternatives abound

NerdWallet and the experts quoted are quick to point toward ways to get some relief if the #32 still lacks magic. Of course, we’ve been preaching about them here for years. But for the sake of reminders, consider these common-sense salves: Take extended weekend BreakAways; try meeting-less Fridays; schedule time periods that are telepressure-free; prioritize at least a few hours a day that are completely work-unplugged.

Will the 4-day week become a thing? Probably not in our lifetime. And yet, I know many folks who have made similar custom arrangements—because they have the power to call shots, they are in family-intense years, or just have a savvy and collegial employer. They offer role-model inspiration and hope.

Year-round 3-day weekends, everyone? Keep the drum thumping and, as always…

Keep the faith.

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