Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Trump effect on NASCAR fandom

Photo credit Autoweek
Academic research can travel many paths. In my most recent published work, I measured and analyzed the dimensions of NASCAR fan perception, related to recent political events tied to the sport of stock car auto racing.

The NASCAR CEO endorsed (at that time) presidential candidate Donald Trump. There was a controversial issue with Confederate Flags at Daytona International Speedway. NASCAR team owners were vocal about their stance against "taking a knee."

Read about Trump, Confederate Flags and NASCAR, click here.

A transition in underway. Historical NASCAR fandom is attracted to on track fights and traditional southern culture. A new faction wants "more diversity" and is negatively correlated with NASCAR as a "macho sport."

It is an important time to explore the state of NASCAR, its public personna related to fans and sponsors.

Can a sport in decline envision, then build a progressive fan base? Let's watch and observe as we head into the 2018 racing season.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Build your low cost commuter/gravel bike

It's the saga of Craigslist. You have a great perfect condition road bicycle to market. You ask a fair price. A few calls come in, most often the caller throws out a low ball offer, maybe 50% of asking price.

You don't need to give the bike away. You may not need the cash.

Consider re-purposing. You already own an excellent commuter and gravel bike. Think your bike is too low end, not good for the purpose?

Wrong. In most cases less expensive bikes are build with heavier parts, which means they are stronger. Heavier wheels = better ability to absorb commuter bumps and gravel roads.

A few simple modifications and you'll be rolling for transportation or logging road expeditions.

Here's my 2011 model Specialized Roubaix. I rode it for several seasons as a serious piece of road equipment. A few buyers offered up a few hundred dollars, so I went in another direction.

1) Added 700 x 28 Continental Gatorskin tires. Gatorskin tires wear like iron and you can trust them in off road conditions. Yesterday I rode the Creeper Trail from Damascus up to White Top, then descended back down. Rough, rocks, etc. I'd go wider than 28, to 32c, if I could. But most road bikes like Roubaix only have enough clearance for the 28's. It's OK, it works.

2) Add a retro over padded seat. We are no longer playing for looks. Get comfy.

3) I'm still running a 27 tooth low gear on the rear cluster. That's enough. A couple of weeks ago I dropped my rear wheel into a crash in a storm grate and smashed the rear derailleur. Note than I had it replaced with a long throw model, so I'm set for a 32 tooth low gear if I choose.

4) Note the minimalist rear pannier rack. It's made by Axiom. Mounts at the rear brake bracket and through the rear axle. This is exceptional, no old school drop out mounts needed. Any hand me down road bike can now go commuter model. I use easy on/off panniers, when I want to carry groceries, clothes, lock, etc. No need to leave anything behind.

5) Topped it off with Shimano SPD style road pedals. This allows me to utilize my mountain bike shoes and have cleat-free walking if needed.

I recently had four bikes (now I'm down to two) but I'll say I ride this Roubaix more than any other. It's solid, shifts clean and strong, and is comfortable. I'm not against the latest in gravel and cross bike models. But for my purpose, at my level of riding, no need to spend thousands. Just a few add-ons and a touch of oil makes for a perfect solution.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Stay strong? Consistency is the key

Several years ago, I purchased a Total Gym. It's the entry level model, priced about $200 at big box retailers.

I purchased mine for $50 on Craigslist.

Small spend, big return using this machine.

Some have called Total Gym an infomercial scam, but I will tell you, that it is not.

The Total Gym allows to pull your own body weight on the slant board. More slant, greater resistance. You create a variety of exercises. My personal workout has nine (9) different variations, 30 reps for eight variations, then 45 reps for the abs.

I own several expensive bicycles. I enjoy them. But when it comes to health and fitness I'll vote for the Total Gym.

I'm not going to the gym, I don't push big plates low rep to exhaustion. I don't plan on circuit training, either.

As we age, strength training is key. That is, strength training and consistency.

That's where I advocate for Total Gym.

Fifteen minutes a day.

You'll regain balance, carry your body well, tighten up loose muscles, and drop some fat.

It's the sort of self-care you deserve, give yourself a gift.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

10 day Total Gym Challenge: Energize and Optimize

I've been posting on my Facebook feed, for the past 10 days. On these concluding remarks, I wanted to share across my ProfWriter blog platform. I had been reading recent research on how slow motion weight resistance is most beneficial. I applied that to my daily Total Gym workout and wrote about it.

Lessons to consider:

1) Do something, every day. My "secret" to fitness at 60 years old is to keep on, keeping on. Left foot, right foot, walk your journey every day. Not all of it will be stellar. Some is mundane. On those days when things aren't well or right, do a little bit. It's mental, emotional, to stay engaged.

2) Fight back. I had a couple of junk food days, bad decision making. Sure, I felt bad. But I focus my mind on resilience. I was also transitioning off a (bad idea for me) low carb diet. It just doesn't work well for vegetarians (I have been one for 17 years). If you look at the ketosis charts, many suggest less than 100 grams of carbs a day. I was trying to do it on protein bars, egg beaters and Swiss cheese. Forget it. I'm back to fruits and roasted vegetables. The strength of body and mind came back in a matter of days. Learn from your mistakes.

3) Help others. We are all working from our own place in life. Some will always be physically and emotional fragile, while others will be more settled. Step in, right where you are, and encourage others. Be compassionate. There is no more important time in society, in recent history, to demonstrate good character and concern for those around us. Show someone you care, it matters. My 10 day "challenge" was about being transparent, so that readers might consider their own fitness and nutrition goals.

4) Experiment. Make tiny changes and see what happens. Walk fast, walk slow. Lift weights with rapid reps, then go slo mo. Feel the difference. Adapt based on what you learn, It's fun, it's advantageous.

5) Optimize for age. Don't look back, to what you once were. I'm a former runner, over 75 marathons, dozens of ultras, nine 100-mile run finishes. Doesn't matter now. I walk, I use the Total Gym. Think of where you stand in life. What's 100% for who you are today? Are you 70%, 80%? I work on the best I can be, with the limits I must accept.

That's it for summary comments comments on my 10 day experience. I'd love it if you came along, maybe for the next 10 days. Tell me, tell others, share and care. Treat others as you would wish to be treated. Can't be better than that.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

University students beware: Job scammers are lurking on LinkedIn

There's a bold new initiative among "employers" that promote jobs on LinkedIn. Many are pyramid-scheme multi-level marketers, or those who offer commission-only retail or phone solicitation sales.

There's no crime in that, running a business and attempting to build it and increase profits. What is close to a crime are individuals who make a concerted effort to trick university students under false guises and misrepresented job titles. Some of these employers are becoming predatory, reaching out through targeted calling campaigns to recruit candidates.

Yesterday, we held our annual Communication Department alumni recognition day at Appalachian State. Dr. Janice Pope (event director) made a concerted effort to bring in recent graduates who could impart insights on job search and school-to-work transition experiences. Some of what we heard was beneficial; other remarks were rather startling.

Event speakers told students to get their LinkedIn profiles updated and professional, so that they would show well to potential employers. But another warning was administered, to beware of scammers that are trying to attract new graduates with attractive job titles. One example was a position entitled "Public Relations Specialist - Entry Level." A graduate stated that she made a trip to interview for the position, only to learn it was a commission only position selling communication devices at big box membership club locations.

When students were asked if they were aware of this employer, over half (in a room of approximately 25) raised their hands. They had either applied, interviewed for, or had been contacted regarding similar positions.

Here's the advice that was given, for students who wish to scam-proof their job search efforts: Always call ahead. Many of the scammer jobs will state no phone calls, but if needed, force the call. Be specific, insist on learning about the form of compensation, the products or services involved with the position, and the specific responsibilities. If the potential employer refuses to take a call and disclose information, don't take the interview.

Here at App State, we strive to give students a competitive university education. In this case, it goes beyond the classroom. As instructors and administrators, we need to stay aware and guide our graduates away from those who might attempt to take advantage of our young future leaders.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Health Care Scare: Americans can't shoot the gap to coverage

Photo courtesy Pixabay.com

Two recent news reports indicate that most Americans will not be able to activate their health care coverage if a medical event occurs.

National Public Radio (NPR) reported that 90 percent of individuals buying insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) choose plans with $3000 deductibles or higher. Deductibles are the amount that the insured person must pay, before the health insurance policy starts to cover medical costs.

It's clear that high deductibles are a disaster for many. A recent study by Bankrate.com indicates 63% of U.S. residents would not be able to cover a $500 unexpected expense.

High deductibles, no cash at home. Consider parents, who receive a call from their son's grade school. The boy took a fall on the playground and has broken his wrist. Once inside the door at the emergency room, most of the $3000 has already been spent.

Lawdictionary.com tells us first, you'll need an X-ray to confirm the bone break, for $150 to $220. Then a possible CT scan could be required, costing another $500 to $1000. Splint or cast setting will add $200 to $400; three or four visits to the doctor will run between $150 and $300.

These projected medical costs are assuming the fracture wasn't compound. If it's a separated bone break, surgery will be required and it will cost several times more to repair the damage.

The scenario is a terrifying proposition, for someone who doesn't have $500 to start the process.

The future of health care is, at the moment, unknown. What is known is that without substantial savings, you can't shoot the gap from deductible cost to policy coverage. That's something for everyone to consider going forward.

"Homecoming" podcast represents the past in radio and the future of advertising


I'd like to consider myself a podcast connoisseur. I have been syncing and listening for several years and was there at the advent of the podcast craze.

Most all podcasts are of the host/guest/interview format. That works for a variety of topics, but it's much like reality TV for the ears. Then, something that was old, became new again. Scripted podcasts that hearken back to the golden age of radio in the 1930's. Inviting, enthralling.

Walter Lippmann would be proud. As he posited in 1922, we listen, then create "The world outside and the pictures in our heads."

If you'd like engage a riveting modern version of audio storytelling at its best, try "Homecoming." It's a psychological thriller from Gimlet Media that features Heidi (Catherine Keener), a therapist who is caught up in a special ops top secret government project that is working to mind-manipulate battle weary U.S. soldiers. She holds a series of sessions with Walter Cruz (Oscar Isaac). Playing the most abrasive boss ever is Colin Belfast (David Schwimmer). Arrested Development’s David Cross and comedian Amy Sedaris are also incorporated into the plot.

(Photos: Getty Images, Andrew H. Walker / FilmMagic,
Bruce Glikas / Film Magic, Jason LaVeris)
What works the best in this podcast - aside from the quality acting - is the sound effects. When you get to part 6, with Heidi on the run, you will understand. I think it's much like the reason I never went to see "The Passion of the Christ" when it caught fire in 2004; I like my own version (pics in my head) better than Gibson's.

I believe our love for media can come full circle. Back to quality, well crafted writing, and actors passionate about the project. And for advertising, you can't know where you're going, until you know where you've been. Think back to the early days of radio. A sponsor was announced as presenter, then recognized at the conclusion, by thanking the audience on behalf of the sponsor. Clean, simple and it worked. We're cluttered now, we weren't cluttered then. Consider the mess we've made of Internet media, the intrusive, I-can't-click-you-away pop ups and ads that obscure us from reaching the content we most want to connect with.

Let's consider starting over. Advertisers, create package deals to sponsor quality podcasts like Homecoming. Craft tasteful intro and close segments for the shows. Instead of pushing your products, consider an end segment where you, as an advertiser, comment on the quality and meaning of the podcast's content and why it's relevant for today's society.

That's an authentic brand association. Supporting the listener experience, not violating it. There were initial reports of a 2017 Homecoming podcast season, but now it is reported the popularity of the series will take it to the TV screen. Truthfully, I wish not. The voices, the sounds, my own visualization as it happens, that's the magic of "Homecoming."