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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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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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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Have Yourself a Lonely Little New Year

Posted on: Thursday, January 18th, 2024
Posted in: Unplugging | Leave a comment

Kayaking alone can be cool. Living and aging alone can feel more like slow drowning.

As a season, winter brings on more staring, sitting, pondering. So perhaps the squall of loneliness articles appearing all over is just cold coincidence. But maybe not. Without question, a storm of cultural shifts is causing folks to go it alone: Social media; screen dependence; political division; busy-ness; growing single statuses, more. It’s rather sad.

As a successfully sometimes-single person who previously spent decades giving my children wide wings (once we were done nurturing deep roots), I know the feeling of isolation. I also see it in my parents, people their age, and aging communities. These things REALLY become relevant when people are, like, disabled, dying, getting dementia, or unable to leave their residence.

Check out these headlines and subheads that recently fell in front of me:

  • Home alone: America’s crisis of isolation…Modern life downplays the importance of neighbors. (by Seth D. Kaplan, LA Times)
  • Where has community gone?…We need to interact with people different from ourselves. (by Kris Potter, of South Haven, MN)
  • Aging ‘Solos’ Need Support (by Katy Read, Star Tribune)
  • What a big difference small talk can make…Don’t be a stranger. Say something. (By Deborah Malmo, of Plymouth, MN)

I could summarize the articles. But the headlines rather speak for themselves and, frankly, it’s kinda distressing. Suffice it to say that this quiet, lurking issue will only worsen. People are living longer. The percentage of elderly living alone keeps growing. And the social hubs of the past (church, local cafes, family gatherings) keep decreasing in popularity and availability.

  • We, Robot?

Naturally, technology provides the problem yet sometimes a potential solution. An AP article by Terry Spencer details a “chatty” companion robot in testing mode that converses, “jokes, plays music, and provides occasionally inspirational quotes.” And…“leads exercises…gives reminders to take medications and drink water.” Host video calls and contact rellies and doctors? CHECK!

The thing sizes up like a small table lamp, yet remembers discussions, interests, and previous chats, whether about weather or … the meaning of life.

This professional unplugger recoils at such prophetic possibilities. And yet, if a cyborg can lessen loneliness, that’s a cautious sign of hope.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Happy (?) Solstice!

Posted on: Friday, December 22nd, 2023
Posted in: SoulTrain, Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

This installment of the Snow Art Series is titled Solstice Rosy Sunshine.

Why the (?) in Happy Solstice headline? Well, lotsa reasons, including that the day is DARK, the weather can be frightful, and it portends the start of winter. Still, the day is full of hope and reasons to festivate. (Or just unplug and meditate.) Stonehenge was built 5,000 years ago by Solstice fans, and people throughout the N side of the globe have commemorated in countless creative (and sometimes shocking) ways since the Pagan days.

My 2023 commemoration stayed simple. Some sun-colored roses offer reminders of brighter days ahead, while taunting a frozen (and slippery!) lake for a backdrop. Fortunately, the day was unseasonably warm enough to assure that the roses survived the photo shoot unscathed—though I was prepared for them to become sacrificial blooms.

They’re inside now. The earth has tilted. And we’re only 6 months til the longest day…and a full year until we can commemorate the dark daze yet again. I may not be ready, but I won’t miss out. Happy Solstice!

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FOTOFRIDAY: Reflections on a Balmy Fall

Posted on: Friday, November 17th, 2023
Posted in: SoulTrain, Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

Punny or not…No season brings deeper or more colorful reflections than fall.

Fall is a great time to travel—a ‘shoulder season’ when the tourists are usually back home yet the tourism bizzes are still humming but without irksome crowds and lines. The weather can be lovely if you choose the right place and have some luck. And autumn in most climes brings a free show of color and natural transformation.

And yet…fall is a good time to be home too. ESPECIALLY this year, here in MN, where we were gifted with drought-busting rains but also more sunny, warm days than I can count. Record-breaking stuff! The lake is full; the neighborhood pontoon party is still afloat. Chores got done without the panic of stinging snow or frozen fingers. We’ve been blissfully blessed.

Oh yeah, the other shoe WILL drop. Hard and cold. And soon, like, next week. Still, as I watched with envy while friends flew off to autumnal BreakAways in Italy, Nashville, and beyond, I also rejoiced in the epiphany that, often, the best place to travel is your own lovely yard.

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Remember Golf? It’s Back in Swing!

Posted on: Tuesday, August 15th, 2023
Posted in: HR FYI, Unplugging, Work/Life Hacking | Leave a comment

The 9-5 weekday workweek is fading away like a fine drive.

Golf in America has been through many, uh, rounds. Up, down, in, out, back again. But since Covid, people are spending more time on the links than ever. And much of it is on weekdays—when workers used to wallow in cubicles, not strut on greens.

It brings new meaning to work/life hacking!

  • Stanford study + geolocation proves the putt-point

Stanford and others have dug into the dirt on the golfing renaissance, with astounding findings like this…

278% more people are playing golf on Wednesdays at 4pm than before C-19

In Cali, visits have almost doubled on TU, W, and TH

Weekday rec goes beyond golf, and includes gyms, malls, tennis, hair, more

I remember golf booming—along with camping, bonfires, and other outdoor activities—during that lonely pandy period. Heck, I golfed plenty myself, and often with my children who were unexpectedly stuck at home. Heaven! (Even if my golf skills can include ill whiffs.)

But will this last, I wondered? Maybe so! Why? Because people are taking their time back!

  • Daybreak trend soars beyond the course

Lisa M. Kreiger’s article (San Jose Mercury News) also tells of lunches, dates, bike rides, family outings, and more happening on what used to be strictly Company Time. We at BreakAway practically weep with joy (as opposed to our tears on the course) that folks are taking their shot at prioritizing what matters.

And guess what? The economy is doing just fine, thank you.

Have we really redefined that delicate but often brutal work/life balance scale?

“It’s the little things, like having lunch with my husband on the back patio.”

~ Tina, Project Manager

  • What goes around becomes a round (Insert eyeroll emoji)

Way back in history, like, maybe only 100 years ago, before the industrial revolution (and later, the corporation/office-obsession explosion), people got their work done on their own schedules and terms. Think: Farmers. If that’s really happening again, we BreakAway mavens may be out of work soon.

Except…most people still work too hard and too often hit their most coveted long-term travel dreams into the rough. So we’ll keep preaching what we practice. And practicing what we preach.

Getting your life back? Good for you. Wanna escape to Thailand for 3 months…maybe check out their golf courses?

Hey, you’ve gone from all-day sales meetings to teeing off on Tuesday afternoon. So why not give it a shot!?!

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FOTOFRIDAY: Forgotten Photos Fire Foggy Memories

Posted on: Friday, June 9th, 2023
Posted in: Travelog, Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

Where? Vegas, of course. Why? Vegas, of course. (And…for the memories, thanks…)

A few nights ago, I found myself at home alone with the puter in my lap. A rarity, as I become ever-better at seeking real interaction and unplugging. A flash hit me: I’ve hardly looked at the 1,000s of photos I’ve taken since 1-1-23. And I’ve taken trips to picturesque places. This pic came up, from a fancy eatery in LV—and reminded me why we take the pics. The room, the dinner, the smells, the views, the company…all came back.

Note to self: Take more, better, remind-ful pix! (And don’t forget to look at them, even if it means screens…)

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Top Doc Says SM Putting Kids @ Risk!

Posted on: Wednesday, May 24th, 2023
Posted in: Unplugging | Leave a comment

Skip the Apple store and ditch the iPhones. Take your kids fishing, swimming, hiking, singing, gardening… 

Seems like this story should be older than dial phones by now. Still, when a ‘public advisory’ hit Tuesday that social media poses risks for children, we knew the quiet controversy had hit the top. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy stated that policy makers, tech companies, researchers, and parents need to “urgently take action.”

While admitting that SM can have benefits, the warning nonetheless includes that “there are ample indicators that social media can also have a profound risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.” The report also cites evidence that the developing brain may undergo changes—not good ones.

The American Psychological Association also declared its first SM guidance this month. Unfortunately, the responsibility for any changes ultimately falls primarily on parents. And having experienced endless education debates in which some arguers insist that all kids’ problems should be fixed by the parents, well, know that such simplistic approaches don’t work. Parents are busy, stressed, sometimes separated, and of course too obsessed with their own phones.

Our children have become unknowing participants in a decadeslong experiment.

~ U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy

The report is disturbing. Pile this on top of virtual pandemics of youth anxiety and depression (no doubt related), and there’s much to worry about.

But what can we do? Besides worry? If you have access to children (ha), based on my parental experience (which, in some ways, never ends), here are 11 top-of-mind simple suggestions…

• Take them fishing (see photo above, snapped today)

• Play ball—any ball, balloon, or stick will do

• Read books & stuff aloud daily, anywhere and everywhere

• Cook with youth; they still love knives!

• Practice routine bedtimes

• Bed means no media. No media in the room. Period!

• Participate. Sports, music, arts, clubs, classes…

• Give back—via church, volunteering, helping others

• Resist the urge to keep up with the Jones kids and their top-tier tech toys

• Set an example…by setting your own phone down loudly and often

• Take vacations and breaks and epic BreakAways.

I hope anyone who cares makes their own list. And lives by it (is life on screens even real life?). And be tough. After all, this crisis is a dang tough—and crucial—battle for the future.

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FOTOFRIDAY: The many colors of Carmel

Posted on: Friday, May 12th, 2023
Posted in: Travelog, Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

This young explorer seems delighted to be in magical Carmel. Who wouldn’t be?

I snuck away for a late winter vakay last week. To charming, colorful Carmel-by-the-Sea, on the coast of NoCal. The weather did NOT offer that tropical glaze that we Northerners crave when winter won’t end. But the stunning beauty of the place quieted any complaining. As did the unique boutiques, the friendly folks, and the laid-back vibe.

My tech tools and toys took an overdue unplugged break, too…except of course for some irresistible pictures like this one.

Oh, to be a carefree boy once more, like this lad lost beside the sea. Then again, one often feels forever young when ambling a pristine beach and observing a fearless, curious seeker. A future BreakAway artist? No doubt!

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