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Posts Tagged ‘Fairborn Daily Herald’

Living in the family museum

In Health, Opinion, psychology, Senior Lifestyle, Uncategorized on February 7, 2016 at 7:57 pm

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOAlthough there is a lot of talk about millennials returning home to live with parents, the majority of Americans still move away from their family home. As a teenager, most people long for independence to explore different worlds, expand careers and so on while at the same time freeing themselves from the obligations and responsibility associated with living close to parents and immediate family.

But that wasn’t me. Yes, I had the same desire to see and experience the world, but I seemed to need a grounding to make it work properly for me. I did move away from my hometown for brief periods during college, a few years for work and the like. But for the majority of my life, I’ve remained within just a few miles of my family farm, where my father still lives.

12674271_10153643748619342_101686889_nFor the last two decades, my family music group has called our family farm “home” and that’s where we practice and produce our shows. But it wasn’t until I began helping to care for my mother in 2009 that I ended up having to spend far more time in the home where I grew up than one might think is usual – or psychologically healthy.

My mother passed in 2011 but, a few years later, I had to repeat that effort as my dad’s health made it necessary for us to assist him as well. Fortunately, not to the degree Mom needed help, but once again the situation required me to be at his house several days each week.

My family home is pretty much as it always was with minor changes here and there. But to me it seems simultaneously totally familiar and completely foreign. My job makes it easy for me to work remotely, but there’s a constantly present, underlying distraction.

I’m not entirely sure it’s psychologically healthy to be in this situation sometimes. I’m surrounded by the past every day, as if my dad’s home is a museum with dusty, disorganized exhibits displayed out of context and unvisited.

Growing up, our family home was always a bit of a sanctuary for me, a place the difficulties of the world didn’t penetrate. Today, it can sometimes seem more like a workplace. There’s something disquieting occasionally about walking the halls in what used to be a nurturing home but that now serves another purpose.

Of my siblings and me I am the only one to have grown up in the house. Still, it can still feel very strange to be there now. Today, Dad occupies only certain rooms, but once upon a time the whole house rang with laughter and music, as the smell of homemade food wafted throughout. Now I walk through the dark, silence wondering where the years went.

Maybe it’s having come so close to losing my brother to a serious illness last summer that has triggered some of these deeply buried thoughts. But, whatever the reason, they’ve come blasting to the surface like a volcanic eruption.

Mostly I’m troubled by the fact that my father is so very alone in the world now, having outlived everyone close to him save his children. Within just a few years of each other he lost the aunt who raised him, his brother-in-law who was like a little brother to him, and, most tragically, my mother.

There’s no one left of his generation except a sister, who lives a few hours away, a half-brother whom he doesn’t know very well, and a couple of school friends he speaks to on the phone. These are problems he has that I can’t fix.

Someday, because of my birth position in the family, I’ll likely be the only one left of my mother, father and siblings. I can’t replace what Dad’s lost, so I spend my time with him trying to give him a good quality of life in the present. But there are days when we both sit melancholy and remember the past in the quiet emptiness and solitude of our family home.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at gerydeer.com

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Combating fear and terrorism at the holidays

In Crime, history, Local News, Media, National News, News Media, Opinion, Politics, psychology, sociology, Technology, Travel, Uncategorized, World News on November 19, 2015 at 11:05 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOAs the holiday season begins, bad guys around the world are watching and willing to do anything to disrupt safety and security. In the shadow of the Paris attacks in which 129 people died and more than 350 injured, it’s hard not to worry that another strike is just around the corner.

The level of anger and hatred leveled at peace-loving people is almost incomprehensible. But what can we do, as individual Americans, to remain safe and keep the terrorists from spreading fear?

For the most part, remaining diligent about safety should be a common sense concept. But, surprisingly, many Americans are complacent about their place on the global stage. But it’s only a matter of time before ISIS and similar groups manage to hit an American target on a massive scale, just as al Qaeda did in 2001. In other words, we’ve been lucky.

As the White House plans for the reception of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing terrorism themselves, many conservatives are debating the idea that the inrush of refugees may include planted ISIS terrorists. Although this is certainly a legitimate concern, my guess is, however, they already have people on the ground here in the States, recruiting American young people on our own soil.

It can still happen here ... again.

It can still happen here … again.

Young, mush-brained Americans are being recruited into these terrorist cells in staggering numbers. One report by CNN.com states, “ISIS takes a somewhat secular approach, portraying how much better life purportedly is in the caliphate as compared to the corrupt West.”

The article also offers a reminder that it’s not just American youth who are attracted to the ISIS recruitment process. It also appeals to a wide demographic of people from all ages and socioeconomic ranges.

Additionally, gun control in the U.S. may help reduce domestic terror violence, but taking guns from the hands of law-abiding citizens might actually make ISIS’ job easier by making them bolder. My guess is that one of the few things keeping the bad guys at bay is a “Texas” mentality – the belief that we’re all gun-crazy and packing heats everywhere we go.

While that wouldn’t scare the leaders or group on the whole, those individuals they recruit to actually act would think twice if there was a possibility of not completing their “holy” mission – the deaths of hundreds of free Americans. If the assailant were to be gunned down by a regular citizen before he can detonate his bomb or unload his weapon on innocents, he’d be a failure and dishonor himself.

Americans can’t afford to depend entirely on the federal government to protect them from these threats and should remember the advice of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). On the official DHS website, the agency states, “Citizens should report suspicious activity to their local law enforcement authorities.”

DHS officials urge citizens to be “vigilant for indicators of potential terrorist activity” and watch the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Alerts for information about specific threats. While being vigilant, however, it’s important to be clear on who exactly constitutes “the enemy.”

Clearly, Americans are behind our French allies, in solidarity against a common enemy with no borders, no face, no diplomatic recognition, no motive (except murder) – the enemy could be anyone. But we must keep in mind that “alert” doesn’t mean “paranoid.”

The words “Islam” and “Muslim” are being thrown around in the reports about the most recent terror attacks. We must remember that Muslims are not the enemy – ISIS is the threat. Muslims, like most Christians, are peaceful, law-abiding citizens who are deeply harmed by what these radicals are doing.

History is full of religious extremism, from virtually every major sect on the planet. We’ll never be completely rid of it, but we can do our best to keep it from damaging our society and protect citizens of the free world as effectively as possible.

As a people and a country, America survived 9/11 and we’ll survive whatever ISIS throws at us. But anything we can do to prevent this most recent threat from any level of success is worth the effort and diligence.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com.

 

 

 

Struggling to care for seniors at home

In Children and Family, Health, National News, Opinion, Senior Lifestyle, Uncategorized on September 14, 2015 at 9:33 am

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOA recent article in The Atlantic discussed the question of the difficulty of finding adequate care for America’s senior citizens as more of them are choosing to remain in their own homes as they age. In the article, published April 27, 2015 by Alana Samuels, the author relates the story of her grandmother’s plight to find adequate, affordable home care near the college town of Amherst, Massachusetts.

A shortage of qualified Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) coupled with outrageous hourly fees made the task of caring for her Parkinson’s ridden spouse that much more difficult. The author’s grandmother eventually gave up on agencies and a friend helped out until her husband’s death a couple of years later. It’s a story becoming all too common today.

By the year 2030, more than one quarter of all Americans will be over the age of 65. More than ever, those people are choosing to remain in their homes as long as possible, relying on home health care and the assistance of family for everything from grocery shopping to bathing.

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 9.31.25 AMOver the last few years, a host of “non-medical” in-home care agencies have sprung up all around the country, spread by franchise. Most offer no skilled health care services and little more than baby-sitting. They can help with things like shopping, cleaning and some companionship for homebound seniors.

But, these home care workers are not permitted to help in medical matters, not even to distribute medications, as would a CNA or other state-registered, skilled health care worker. One published estimate by Genworth puts the cost of non-medical home at a range of $10 to $36 per hour. The extreme discrepancy is attributed to variations in region and the type of care required.

One question families should be asking is exactly what could an unskilled worker possibly do that’s worth $36 per hour? Still, most have few options available; it’s either a nursing facility or home care.

Plus, the home itself can be more hazardous than the disabilities suffered by the senior. It may be necessary to modify the home to accommodate “aging in place,” with zero-clearance shower stalls, raised toilets, grab bars, and much more. This also carries added expense and attention to which families might be unaware.

The fact is that it’s much better, psychologically, and far cheaper for seniors to remain in their own home. But most people caring for an elderly family member cannot be with them all hours – people have to work and care for their own homes and families – and still need outside support.

The first place to start is with the local agencies on aging. Most counties or regions have a non-profit organization such as this to help put families and seniors in touch with needed services such as meals on wheels, in-home healthcare, and more.

Be aware, however, that most services referred by these agencies are self-pay and are not covered by Medicare or insurance. The advantage, however, is that they can generally offer a discounted rate on certain services based on the income of the senior. Contact the local agency for details.

For support on in-home modifications, consult the local builders association for referrals to certified aging in place specialists. Most can provide design and construction information for everything from a simple grab bar installation to more complex additions such as elevators.

Additionally, financial and insurance companies out there might be missing the boat on a potentially golden profit center – “in-home care insurance.” Separate from long-term care or other types of health insurance, this could be a specific product that addresses the far less-expensive options of keeping a senior at home rather than in a skilled care facility. Give it a slightly lower premium and the ability to purchase later in life, and it would likely be less difficult to sell.

Before hiring anyone, caregivers should do their homework. Get at least three references from previous clients and do a thorough Google search on the agency you choose.

Whatever the overall solutions to the home health care problem, it’s clear something has to be done in a hurry. With incidents of elder abuse on the rise in nursing facilities, it’s imperative that families have alternate care options.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com.

Can there be gratitude without God?

In Opinion, Politics, psychology, Religion, sociology, Uncategorized on September 7, 2015 at 11:59 am

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOFor those who live without a God to thank, some kinds of gratitude might seem an awkward concept. So, whom do atheists thank for the world around them? Where is gratitude concentrated when benevolent events occur from what non-believers would accredit to random chance? Well, here are two ways people without a god express their thanks.

First, intransitive gratitude, as it’s become known, is a broad, indirect, sense of thankfulness. The beneficiary is thankful in general for life, health, flowers, bugs, whatever, but the gratitude is directed toward nothing specific.

From a practical standpoint, the concept of intransitive gratitude falls apart upon deeper analysis because it leaves people to a perception that random chance has some kind of purpose behind it, which might as well be called “supernatural” in nature. Suddenly, it becomes something akin to religion.

Perhaps then, a more tangible and less unbalanced concept of gratitude is preferable for those who would rather have it more focused. Most “non believers” direct their gratitude at those individuals they consider responsible for the positive events.

Say, for example, atheist Bob has a great meal at a friend’s house one evening. Obviously, he wouldn’t pray over it, but instead thanks his friend who worked for the money that paid for the food that she then cooked. From Bob’s point of view, there was no deity or other supernatural involvement.

yarpBob could trace that gratitude all the way back to the friend’s parents, who decided to have a child, and on and on. It’s more of a cause and effect concept but with some level of human direction.

For someone like Bob, directing the gratitude at some invisible, supernatural force seems illogical and improper. Instead, he prefers to honor the people directly responsible for the events or their subsequent results. It might not be accurate, however, to call this type of gratitude a “belief” because it has tangible beneficiaries – Bob’s friend, her employer, her parents, and so on.

The devout likely see this practice as sacrilegious, to say the least. For them the only “one” responsible for all the good in the world is the god they worship. He or She or It is responsible for everything, and nothing is random.

But is someone like Bob wrong or is his gratitude misplaced? Is he evil? Is he a heathen? Therein hangs the question, and one that can only be answered by the individual affected. Any prejudice or personal judgment, however, should be left out of the equation.

Indeed, it would be hard to argue against the idea, in the case of Bob’s meal, that the people who grow, package, ship, prepare and serve food, share a fair portion of the responsibility in his enjoyment of it, godly intervention not withstanding. So being grateful to those people would be highly appropriate.

On the other hand, to the logical eye, and without context, someone clench-eyed, bowing over the dinner plate with clasped hands and appearing to be talking to his or herself would seem quite silly. As with so many concepts, it’s all a matter of personal perception.

Gratitude must be measured and delivered by the grateful in his or her own way. If someone is religious, they’ll likely pray in thanks. For the less rigidly devout, it may be something more informal. Atheists or agnostics may thank the people directly, as Bob did in the example.

Religious or not, it’s important to keep in mind that nothing happens without some human intervention, somewhere down the line, even if not readily apparent. Every decision made by each person has some kind of an effect on the lives of countless others. So directly thanking people for their participation in some good fortune is always a kindness.

Regardless of where gratitude is directed – God, the grocer, a famer, an employer – being generally appreciative of the goodness in life will never be misplaced, even if it’s just within one’s own thoughts.

Remember that good things happen, not to those who wait, but who act. Recognizing good fortune and taking action is just as important as thanks given to those believed responsible.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com

Hackers: The gangsters of the digital age.

In Business, Crime, Economy, News Media, Opinion, Uncategorized on August 24, 2015 at 10:49 am

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGORecently, after watching a news story on the subject, my father, who recently turned 82 years old, asked me about what “hacking” was and why someone would do it. I struggled for a minute to explain it in terms he would understand while still giving him a rudimentary understanding of the technology.

It reminded me of a similar conversation I had with my great aunt in 1999, shortly before the Y2K turnover. At 91, she lived a fairly isolated existence in the Ohio Appalachian foothills and certainly not computer literate. But she was deeply concerned about the Y2K computer bug causing her to lose electricity, water and her savings.

I reassured her that there was nothing to be concerned about, and did my best to explain what was really going on, beyond the media hype, the volume of which was considerable when you take into account she had but one TV channel. However, satisfied with my explanation, she seemed never to give it another thought and the millennium switch came and went without incident.

The fact that she was worried at all was troubling and shows just how influential the media can be in exacerbating a problem. Today, we’re faced with a similar situation, demonstrated by my dad’s concern over hacking. So, just exactly who and what should you be worried about and why?

Hacking costs companies more than $445 billion each year.

Hacking costs companies more than $445 billion each year.

For those who don’t know, “hacking” refers to the act of using specialized programming that identifies and exploits weakness in the security of a computer system in an effort to either steal or expose confidential information, or just to prove it can be done. It is a crime and often the hackers are in another country.

These digital gangsters break in for a variety of reasons, mostly to steal and sell sensitive information, political records or financial information. Without getting into more deep technical and political motives, keep in mind that hackers aren’t interested in getting into your private computer.

Not to rain on anyone’s self-confidence, but you’re just not that important – unless you’re some celebrity or politician – for hackers to waste the effort. There has to be some gain in the end, although it might simply be the act itself, the accomplishment of breaking in.

Some hacked information is sold to other criminals who will use it for their own nefarious purposes. When performed against something like the marital cheating website, Ashley Madison, the hope is that there will be some big name to expose and embarrass. That leaves the potential for some celebrity or politician to pay handsomely to keep his or her name off of the publicized list, essentially using the information for extortion.

Most of the time, the average computer user is not directly at risk, but that said, you could still be vulnerable if a store or bank you frequent happens to be a target. The best advice is to read all correspondence from retailers and financial institutions.

If their systems are compromised, they will contact customers first – very quietly – before going public with the information, so as to limit panic among their patrons. You will be instructed what to do in the event of a hack and how to best communicate with the vendor for further information.

Another way to protect your own information with online accounts, and I can’t stress this enough, is to use strong, complex passwords. Often the data stored for online accounts does not include a visible password, even the website owners can’t help you if you lose it. So the more complex it is, and the more often you change it, the less likely a hacker will be able to gain access to your information even if they get in.

Hacking, as a criminal activity, has created a billion-dollar industry around the world, on both sides of cyber security. More than ever, specialists are being trained to combat cyber attacks and electronic infiltration on every level.

As cyber security becomes more sophisticated, so will the criminals who seek to break it. They are the nameless, faceless equivalents of the modern day Jesse James and John Dillinger. Each generation has its nemeses and cyber criminals are the current lot, intent on wreaking havoc with our digital world.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com.

How secure is your child’s information at school?

In Children and Family, Education, Opinion, Technology, Uncategorized on August 10, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOA high quality digital learning experience for students is something every school strives to accomplish. But as a parent, have you ever wondered just how your child’s educational and personal records are protected? It is possible that schools are unintentionally putting student privacy at risk.

Some student information, such as that disclosed when using digital learning material, may be managed, not internally at the district level, but by what are known as educational technology, or “edtech,” companies. That information can also end up in the hands of marketing companies and other third-party data collectors.

Joni Lupovitz is the vice president of policy at Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that rates the safety of media and technology for students and families. In a recent article on DistrictAdministration.com, Lupovitz says, “Everything is going digital, whether it’s taking attendance, seeing what kids buy for lunch, collecting and storing records, or integrating laptops and tablets into the classroom lessons.”

To ensure every child’s privacy, parents should ask questions such as the following. Does your school outsource edtech services and systems? If so, what are the company’s privacy policies and how do they compare to those of the school district? You have every right to know exactly where your child’s data is being used, who has it and how they manage that information.

schoolroomHow is the wireless computer network in the school system secured? Does the school system provide in-house information technology support or is it outsourced? Who has access to security information? What guarantees are in place regarding the security of any cloud system being used?

Unlike medical record management, legislation governing the management of students’ electronic personal information continues to lag. Even the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), designed to help restrict access to student records, does not adequately address these issues since it only speaks to the improper disclosure of personal information.

If a school utilizes an outside edtech vendor for record keeping or other digital data management, they may be unaware of holes in the company’s privacy agreement allowing them that provider to sell collected information under certain circumstances. School administrators should then be held responsible to maintain control of that information and have a complete understanding of how the data might be used by the vendor.

Beyond the administrative holes in security and privacy, education of the student (and parents) on safe and proper use of technology is sorely lacking. Most people still have no idea of the security risks when using public wireless access.

Parents should also ask about the security of any websites being hosted by the administration where school information is readily available. Is private data, such as performance or attendance records, easily accessed? Is the data encrypted and to what extent? Be sure to read any privacy paperwork provided and make sure it’s well understood. If not, ask!

Parents must take the time to visit any and all websites managed by the school and familiarize themselves with the layout and information offered there. Sadly, better security usually means more expense, so there is every possibility that substance (good security) gave way to style (a prettier website).

If your child has a smart phone, laptop or other portable technology and utilizes the school’s Wi-Fi system, you may want to reconsider. Public Wi-Fi, even in a school, is insecure and should never be used to access personal or private information like banking, private email, or any other sensitive data.

Whenever a user logs into a website or online account through a public wireless system, there is a risk of breech. Without getting into the techno-babble of how it works, suffice to say that hackers “tag” certain Wi-Fi access points to collect data as people log in. This can happen at schools just as easily as anywhere else.

The take-away from all of this is that parents should be diligent in their understanding of how technology is used at school, whether it’s data management by the administration or Internet access by their child. Schools have an obligation to transparency, especially with regard to student records.

Further Resources:

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/kids-action/issues/privacy-and-safety

http://www.districtadministration.com/article/asking-edtech-vendors-tough-questions

http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/students.html

http://www.education.com/reference/article/what-educational-technology/

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com

 

 

Fragile life, one to a customer.

In Health, Local News, Opinion, Science, Senior Lifestyle, Technology on July 18, 2015 at 12:59 pm

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGORecently, I was reminded again of just how fragile life really is for us. The human body is an amazing bit of engineering. Each of us is comprised of a mass of carefully balanced electromechanical systems that may seem at times indestructible but at others so delicate that the slightest damage could be catastrophic.

The adult body is supported by 206 bones, around 6 quarts of blood, a pair of lungs, two kidneys, about 20 feet of intestines, one heart and stomach, and 31 pairs of nerves. But for all of this, and more, the most important component is the brain, the body’s control center.

The human brain is incredibly resilient, resisting failure through high fevers, concussions, and countless other kinds of injuries. But, like an electronic circuit board, the brain’s delicate electrical system can “short out,” causing failure in other areas of the body, sometimes without warning.

Last week my brother, Gary Jr., was complaining of numbness in his right arm. He was having trouble gripping things or using simple tools. He worked through it, but over the next several days the symptoms advanced to become Parkinson’s – like tremors, causing his arm and hand to shake and flail.

IMG_3857

Gary Deer Jr. with brother Gery (left) and father Gary Sr. just prior to surgery.

At the emergency room, doctors first thought he’d had some kind of stroke and he was admitted for further tests which revealed some type of mass on the lower left part of his brain. At this point, they’re still not certain whether the spot is a tumor or some kind of infection, but any type of stroke has been ruled out.

During the first day at the hospital, he experienced several seizures similar to those caused by Epilepsy, each more invasive than the last; violent shaking of one side of the body, garbled speech and periods of unconsciousness. Medication settled the seizures but doctors are still waiting to figure out how to treat the lesion on the brain. Hopefully there will be something positive to report later on, but for now we wait.

Until his arm went numb and the tremors started it seemed like there was no warning to all of this, high insight revealed that the clues were everywhere. Most of his early symptoms were easily dismissed as fatigue or previous injury.
He had been more tired than usual in recent weeks, even falling asleep during conversations. He was having trouble with the right arm before as well, but attributed those issues with a car accident he’d been involved in a few months earlier.

So the point here is, if something seems out of the ordinary don’t wait until it turns into something more to get it checked out. At this point, there is no way to know if earlier detection would have made much difference for my brother, but, assuming a full recovery – and that’s the only outcome I can imagine right now – it might have helped decrease the yet to be known long-term effects.

For a guy in his early 60s, my brother is in relatively good health, having only ever gone to the doctor for severe cases, such as pneumonia or to be checked out after that car accident. Even though he eats like a teenager on a diet of hot dogs, popsicles and soda pop, he is usually energetic and on the move. Still, this thing snuck up and bit him when he wasn’t looking, as many serious illnesses tend to do.

Sometimes it’s hard to accept your own mortality or imagine that something the size of the end of a ball point pen could cripple you or end your life. We are incredibly fragile creatures. Gary Jr. and I joke often that we each should have died several times over from events we’ve experienced in life – a truck crash, lightning electrocution, something – but I never imagined either of us being taken out by something so small.

I survived serious health issues from birth, so I don’t play games with life – extreme sports, drinking, smoking, etc. – and this is one example of why. So if you’re experiencing odd symptoms, or don’t feel like yourself for whatever reason, don’t wait. Go get checked out. People need you more than you might realize.

Update: July 18, 2015 – My brother’s case has changed since this column was first submitted. Surgery on July 15th revealed no tumors or cancer but instead a serious bacterial infection which created a tumor-like abscess in the brain. The infectious mass was removed but the overall infection will have to be treated with intravenous antibiotics for several weeks followed by many months of continued antibiotic therapy. At this time, he is still in the hospital but recovering and is expected to be released soon to home care.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com.

A favorite book can comfort and enlighten.

In Books, Entertainment, Opinion, psychology, sociology, Uncategorized on June 23, 2015 at 1:58 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGONot too long ago, I published a Deer In Headlines column on the subject of how, as a writer, I’m frequently asked what books I read and why. Since then, I realized that I have a tendency to re-read certain books that I’ve enjoyed over the years and I know that most people do the same thing.

Click to watch the TV interview of this topic from Living Dayton, WDTN-TV2.

Click to watch the TV interview of this topic from Living Dayton, WDTN-TV2.

So, it had me wondering, in a world with countless literary choices, why we often choose to go back to an old favorite, rather than boldly going where we’ve never read before. After a little research and some asking around, I learned that the reasons we sometimes revisit the same bookshelf are more complicated than I first thought.

For starters, humans are creatures of comfort, at least to some extent, and many of us read because it was one of the ways our parents made a connection when we were very young. Reading was soothing, like an old blanket you wrap up in before bedtime and have a hard time parting with once it’s tattered and threadbare.

Gery holds copies of "Flights of Fiction" - one of his favorite books. Produced by the Western Ohio Writers Association.

Tradition might be another word to describe this idea too. Personally, I like to read Charles Dickens’, “A Christmas Carol,” at the holidays every year – time permitting – as one of my own traditions. It’s a story that never fails to entertain and enlighten, and I always take away something new.

If a certain book imprints on you from a young age, you’re likely to go back to it again and again for the sheer level of reassurance it brings you. A familiar story can be calming and offer a welcome escape from the daily rigors of life or just a fun adventure into another world.

Re-reading a book you once read in your youth can also offer a different perspective. Life experience can change how we view ideas or motivations first encountered at a much younger age. Going back to that book you read in high school English class might just take your understanding of its meaning to a new level.

Plus peeling back the layers of the author’s work with a more mature perspective can even help you learn more about yourself. One article I read on the subject referred to this concept as, “cheap, effective therapy.”

When others talk about a book you’ve already read, you may discover that there are elements of the story you might have missed the first time around. Going back over it again on a quest to uncover those points for yourself can turn a good read into a great adventure, even if it’s not your first trip through the tale.

There are many other reasons why we re-read our old favorites. We may like the author or just enjoy the book for no readily apparent reason. Whatever your impetus, dust off that old copy of your favorite novel and give it another look. In case you are wondering, here are two of my favorite re-reads and a bit about why I choose to go back to them time and again.

I seem to repeatedly choose, “Microserfs” by Douglas Coupland. This is a fictional story, set in the early 1990s, about a group of Microsoft programmers who broke away to go out on their own while dealing with life’s road blocks. I always find it inspiring and I can easily relate to their desire to be part of “version one point zero.”

Another book I revisit regularly is, “Hit Man,” by Lawrence Block. There are four books in the “Hit Man” series, but I always go back to the original. The main character is, as the title suggests, a killer for hire. But the way Block presents him to the audience as somewhat mile mannered and tells the story of his rather violent occupation is intriguing and thoughtful.

I have others, but these make the point of how varied our favorites can be. Just like old movies and TV shows, favorite books have a meaning in our lives. Sometimes it’s just good to go back and visit that world, whether it’s over the rainbow or just down the street.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com

What happened to real news?

In Business, Entertainment, Media, News Media, Opinion, Sports News, State News, Uncategorized, World News on June 5, 2015 at 11:38 am

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOIn my long, diverse career, I have had the privilege of meeting and working with some of the best news and media people in the business. I have provided content for Pulitzer Prize-winning publications and even earned some award nominations myself, in part thanks to my association with so many talented colleagues.

But, and I admit it freely, there are times when I am thoroughly embarrassed to be a member of the media in any capacity. Most recently, I feel that way regarding the nauseating, continuous coverage of the Kardashian “family” and their talentless train wreck.

I just don’t get it. Am I missing something here? I keep hearing them referred to as “superstars,” and, for the life of me, I can’t think of any reason they have even come close to earning that moniker.

But my point here is not to rant about these ridiculously out-of-touch people, but to ask my colleagues, what happened to the news and stories about real people? The world is filled with incredible stories of success, survival, family, and even plenty of dysfunction, if that’s your thing, so it’s not like there aren’t better subjects out there.

91389965_36f4f323cc_oBear in mind, I’m not referring to tabloids, celebrity blogs or grocery store gossip rags, but media outlets who claim to have journalistic integrity and brag about their commitment to bringing real news to the forefront. My favorite example of this kind of hypocrisy has got to be CBS, which now uses the social media hashtag “#newsisback;” really guys?

Recently, CBS News social media and even their morning show, which is advertised as, “responsible, intelligent information,” reported details about a Kardashian baby announcement. First, who cares? Second, can someone explain to me how something like that qualifies as “real” news?

One of CBS’s early morning competitors, NBC’s Today Show, can’t seem to get enough of the ridiculous Kardashians. This is primarily because E! Entertainment Television – which carries the Kardashian reality show – and NBC TV are both owned by NBCUniversal.

But, although I think they spend too much time on this nonsense, they get a bit of a pass because their program is more entertainment than news. That is, the format allows for more light-hearted stories, entertainment information, and so on.

However, in the case of CBS This Morning, if they are going to spend their ad budget slamming competitors while claiming to be the leading news resource, they need to put their money where their mouth is, so to speak. If the producers and executive bean counters (because that’s who makes the real decisions) want to actually “be” the news leaders, they need to drop this stuff and stay focused. Let the cable entertainment shows promote this junk and give the audience what you promised.

As mentioned before, looking more closely, you find that media giants like CBS and NBC are connected to all manner of media, from publishing companies to film studios. The news programs are used to promote these endeavors and make more money.

For example, say some actor has a book coming out by “publisher A,” which happens to be owned by “media company B,” which produces “morning TV show C.” How better to promote the book and subsequent movie and rake in more cash?

Speaking of bean counting, a big chunk of the responsibility for this problem has to lie at the feet of the consuming public because if they weren’t “buying,” the media wouldn’t be “selling.” Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a self-propelling monster because if stuff like this were never aired in the first place, the public would never have seen it to demand more, and the cycle goes on.

I regularly struggle with content myself, albeit on a much smaller level, but I do my best to consider my audience. I ask myself what they would want to know and how my information will help them in their day-to-day lives. So should the big guys.

The production of news media is big business with lots of complex nooks and crannies, and, honestly, no one wants to see how the sausages are made. All I am asking is that news media practice what they preach.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. All Rights Reserved. More at gerydeer.com.

Don’t talk to me about, “life.”

In Health, Opinion, psychology, Religion, sociology, Uncategorized on May 28, 2015 at 11:10 am

Deer In Headlines

Special Edition 

By Gery L. Deer

dih-logo-SE“I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, ‘Where’s the self-help section?’ She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.” ― George Carlin

No kidding, don’t talk to me about life. I don’t have a clue what to tell you. It’d be great if I could suddenly sound like one of those know-it-all high-dollar advice columnists but, really, they’re full of it too.  You’d have more luck following the meaningless advice from inside your next fortune cookie at the local Chinese restaurant.

Advice columnists, TV experts, so-called “life coaches,” or your favorite self-help author or motivational speaker must be infinitely smarter than any of us regular folks. After all, they motivated your money right out of your wallet; genius, wouldn’t you say? In reality, one can tell you what to do about the perils and promises of life except you.

Life is one of those subjects about which I have never felt confident offering an opinion, nor should anyone else. The very idea that anyone has it figured out or could possibly understand the complexities of someone else’s situation is not just ridiculous, it’s a little insulting.

Special, personal hat tip to the late author, Douglas Adams, who helped to put this writer's perspective into focus.

Special, personal hat tip to the late author, Douglas Adams, who helped to put this writer’s perspective into focus.

If anyone could actually manage such a thing, it would mean that there is nothing inherently special or unique about our lives. It implies that everyone lives a sort of cookie-cutter existence, with no peaks, valleys or crevices, and that’s just silly.

Life is complicated. It cannot be sorted out with an hour on the psychiatrist’s couch or because of some nonsense from a self-help book. We all have to iron it out for ourselves. That’s not to say we don’t need some help sometimes, but it’s not going to come from something you saw on an infomercial at 3 o’clock in the morning.

Even religion offers no answer to such multifaceted issues as, “What should I do with my life?” Religion also guts your wallet without providing a single, concrete solution. In fact, without an incredible level of ambiguity, religion couldn’t exist at all.

Your faith may provide you with peace of mind, but leaving everything “in God’s hands,” is a little like letting go of the wheel while barreling down the highway at 70 miles per hour. I’d say He probably expects you to steer. And, to be fair, science has no solutions either.

For those empirical folks out there, Charles Darwin might have been able to tell you how animals changed over the millennia, but he had no clue how the evolution of your life should proceed. Sometimes you just have to work things out on your own.

Life coaches, support groups, psychobabble – it all comes down to the person you see in the mirror. Everyone has an opinion about your life, but before taking it, you need to look at the source of that information. What kind of shape is their life in?

It’s always puzzling when someone takes marriage advice from a friend or relative whose relationships are a wreck.  That’s kind of like asking a demolition derby driver to teach drivers education. They know how, but the results might be less than desirable.

Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) once said, “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” That is probably the best way to look at your world. Occasionally we’re looking too hard for answers to difficult questions with straightforward resolutions. But you won’t find your answers in a self-help workshop or in an advice column.

When standing at a fork in the road, there comes a time when you have to pick a path and start walking. You put one foot in front of the other, get moving and own it, whatever the outcome. If you do that, on your terms, at least you’ll know it was your decision to go left instead of right, to charge ahead instead of turning back. It will be yours, because we are responsible for the paths our lives take and, after all, the journey is the real destination. Make it a good one.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com