But What About Bikes? Three Cycling Actions That Need to Be Deflated

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Driven in part (every pun intended) by the readership of the June 27 PRDude post offering strategies for the new Chicago electric scooter pilot program, I was prompted to address a similar topic: Thoughts on that other two-wheeled/non-motorized personal mobility mode — the bicycle.

Here, I put the focus on what I believe are three improper and downright dangerous cycling practices that need to be eliminated.

But first, a little history.

From the images that accompany this post, you can deduct that I am a cyclist. Not a daily bike commuter, just a weekend and sometimes-after-work cyclist. The road bike pictured here is a Raleigh Grad Prix I purchased with the money earned working at the Bravco health and beauty aids store in the early 1970s.

I obtained this 23.5 inch cycle from Turin Bicycles, which then was located on Clark Street in Lincoln Park.  I recall the price was $115. It’s still a sweet machine and all original except for the seat, fork, gears, tires and rims.  Okay, so the frame, brakes and handle bars are still original. But I have very fond memories of the miles logged on this bike, even the falls that resulted in a broken nose, a broken wrist and large gash on my right shin.

Now to my suggestions.

Here, I’ve identified three cycle actions that need to be discontinued for the betterment of cyclists, as well as pedestrians, motorists and society in general.

  1. The Overly-Connected Rider.  There’s a time and place to check that email, Instagram or Pintrest account. Riding a bicycle is not one of them.  What would compel a cyclist — or a motorist for that matter — to divert attention to a hand-held device while riding around town is beyond puzzling. It’s downright dangerous. Furthermore, the practice is stupid. If you need an incentive to put that handheld away while cycling, consider this: It’s illegal to talk on the phone or text while bicycling and the penalty is $20-$500.
  2. “Look Ma, No Hands!” Yes, it may appear really cool to ride with no hands, but only until you need to brake or swerve to avoid a pothole or another road impediment or getting “doored.”  I’ve witnessed “no hands” cyclists peddling along quiet side streets and busy arterial thoroughfares like Western Avenue. And, I’ve observed a “hybrid” of sorts: The no-handed rider engaged with a handheld.  Why is this practice considered acceptable?
  3. Put the Brakes on Fixies. As I understand it, a fixed-gear or “fixie” bicycle has no freewheel component — meaning one can’t coast on a fixie. And, some lack brakes.  Let me repeat: Some fixed gear bikes don’t have hand brakes, requiring the rider to skid to come to a stop. Please explain how this type of cycle, which is designed for a velodrome, should be allowed on a public right-of-way.

If fellow cyclists need to refresh safe cycling practices, the Illinois Secretary of State produced this excellent “Bicycle Rules of the Road” document.

On this spectacular Sunday in Chicago, we’re planning to hitch our bikes to the car rack and bike one of the North Shore trails. Will be alert for a no-handed cyclist on a fixie checking his or her handheld.

 

 

 

 

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What the LinkedIn Workforce Report for May 2019 Reveals to Me

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

According to my profile, I have 1,085 connections on LinkedIn, which I believe is pretty good. In the interests of full disclosure, I really haven’t met, collaborated on a project. or communicated in person with a sizeable number of these connections.

Image courtesy of LinkedIn.

Regardless, LinkedIn is a platform I visit daily to monitor visits to my profile, participate in groups and to learn.

One more factor behind why I appreciate LinkedIn: It’s generally void (at least during my visits) of troll-centered, profanity-laced, celebrity-driven, mean-spirited and outright idiotic posts and messages often found on Facebook and Twitter.

Last week, I learned the folks at LinkedIn produce a monthly Workforce Report, covering the U.S., the U.K. and India.

After scanning the May 2019 U.S. report, which I found to be an excellent compendium of analysis and insight and today’s workforce, I focused on Table 1. Here, the data presented was on hiring shifts — or from another perspective, job growth by industry.

These three industries recorded the “most notable hiring shifts” in April when analyzing non-seasonably adjusted year-over-year statistics:  Hardware & Networking (15.3% higher); Corporate Services (14.9% higher); and Public Administration (14% higher).

But in “fifth place” and among the five categories — and with a double-digit increase — was Media & Communications, which saw an increase of 10.1%. (For the record, Wellness & Fitness nudged out the aforementioned with an 11% increase.)

So, what’s my interpretation of this impressive showing by Media & Communications — which according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics includes jobs in public relations?

1. Businesses, governmental bodies and non-profit organizations continue to recognize the value skilled (and I hope ethical) communicators bring to modern society.

2. Job growth in this sector should remain robust and competition will be strong to recruit and retain solid performers.

3. Ongoing education will be needed to keep new communicators (and more “seasoned” ones like me) up to date on new developments in the years ahead.

At this time of year, those who have earned degrees in public relations, advertising, marketing, journalism or some integrated communications discipline should be positive about job prospects. My advice:

  • Follow your passions and your interests if possible when seeking a place to work.
  • Pursue jobs with agencies and in the corporate sector, but also consider non-profit and associations.

Finally, a note to the folks in the Wellness & Fitness industry: Watch out because we communicators ain’t far behind.

 

 

 

 

A “Novel” Approach to This Post

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Poetry. Drama. Short stories. Non-fiction works.

As I humbly learned, writing a novel can prove fleeting at times. Image courtesy of Academic Help.

All these forms of the written word challenge the writer of literature, commentary and criticism. But it’s the novel — that extended extended genre of fiction — that truly provides the examination and demonstration of the writer’s skill, dedication, drive and passion.

It’s with first-hand experience that I make this assertion.

Last week, I completed the “Novel Writing Workshop” course, another educational step toward earning a master’s degree in English.  Completing the course, however, did not equate to completing my novel.

Ah, the sound and connotation of those words, “my novel.” Yes, I am underway with an extended work of fiction, and I plan to complete a draft by August.

Hold me to that.

In my class, I was one of six fledgling novelists. Some already had works published, others were well into stories that spanned genres (a young woman growing up in a foreign brothel, a surreal account of spirits interacting with people), topics (detective tales, a search for a missing child) and continents (from North America to Asia.)  Me, I created a protagonist who to my knowledge has not been used before: A building engineer. From Chicago, as you’d expect.

More on my story soon.

Every class I’ve taken these past six semesters has culminated in gaining knowledge and understanding of the written word. And, all have improved my cognitive skills.

To summarize, here’s what I learned over the past 14 weeks:

  • First Person.  Writing in first person is harder than anticipated. I launched my work taking the narrator’s point of view, but the instructor and classmates wholeheartedly suggested I move to the third person omniscient. I did, and it really made a difference in the narrative.
  • Accepting Criticism.  At first I was somewhat stunned by critical comments, leading to defensive replies: “What do you mean there’s not enough conflict? Why do you find the dialogue too dense at times? So, what the heck does understanding temporal distance and free-indirect discourse have to do with writing a novel?” Every writer receives criticism; I learned to accept feedback and move on.
  • Map Out the Complete Storyline.  Before class started in early September, I drafted a two-page synopsis of sorts, but I really didn’t craft a solid plot or a conclusion. That led to a roadblock, one I’ve since overcome.
  • Point of View Characters. There can only be so many “POV” characters in a work for it to be intriguing and make sense. I learned to restrict this perspective to my protagonist and the guy who’s the villain.
  • Trust Your Instincts.  In light of the aforementioned, it will be my name below the title of the work. When the manuscript is completed, the results will be based on what I think is right.

And now, a sample. Here’s the first paragraph of the work:

“For Myron Jezmanski, here’s how it goes when everything is right, when nothing unexpected gets in the way, when he can count on the day being like the day before, and the day before that, and there’s no crap or nonsense that he has to deal with and he can close his eyes and just be thankful for what he’s built, what he has, and what he’s earned. First, the dog is still asleep when he awakes at 5:30 a.m., which means Myron doesn’t have to let him in the yard until he’s had a shower, coffee – one-half teaspoon of sugar only — and a bowl of Cheerios with fruit – dried fruit in the wintertime, fresh fruit when it’s in season. Hell, if he’s going to pay $4.99 for a pint of strawberries in January. If they’re out of Cheerios, he will eat his wife’s granola, even though he really doesn’t see the big deal in granola.”

What do you gain from these 157 words about my protagonist? Stay tuned for more.

By the way, the title of my novel is “The Way It’s Supposed to Be.”

 

 

What I Learned While on the Road — 877 Miles* Later

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Well, the BP Motor Club Trip Planner I requested noted that our itinerary would total 877 miles. But side journeys, and getting “lost” a few times added to the total.

Here’s what I’m referring to: For spring break 2019, Susan and I took a road trip — Chicago through Indiana, to Louisville, Kentucky; west from Louisville, back through Indiana, to Carbondale, Illinois; then back to Chicago.

Why? I’ve never been to Louisville, and I’ve been been to the far southern part of my home state of Illinois. So, what happened?

Here are some recollections in words and a few images.

A stroll through Old Louisville offered an uninterrupted presentation of (mostly) well-preserved or restored stone homes.

Awesome Old Louisville. Quick: Name what this Kentucky city on the Ohio River is most noted for. Most people would cite bourbon, baseball bats, KFC and that famous horse race. Let’s add the Old Louisville historic district — a 45-block, 1,000 home treasure of Victorian architecture — to the list. Our three-night stay in a VRBO apartment on Brook Street gave us a first hand perspective of this neighborhood comprised of former mansions and other stately edifices located between downtown and the University of Louisville. I would start my day with a stroll and was always rewarded with seeing something new, something intriguing.

Yes, there are big lakes in Southern Illinois, like Crab Orchard just outside Carbondale.

Outstanding Cuisine in a College Town Setting. Tremendous Thai food and sophisticated entrees in small town Carbondale, home to Southern Illinois University? True. We were advised by a friend to dine at Thai Taste, a popular restaurant a three-minute walk from our hotel. He was right: Exceptional Asian cuisine that was not at all modified to fit American palates. I still have fond memories of the egg drop soup and pad kee mao. Another evening we preferred to go a bit more upscale and had dinner at Newell House, a bistro with entrees that would rival the new eateries that have gained a foothold in restaurant-laden Logan Square. Our meals were served by concerned and engaging staff and were far less expensive than comparable places in Chicago.

This silver sedan was our land ship across prairies, over rivers and through small towns.

The Catharsis of the Road. My average drive most weeks consists of a four-mile round trip to the grocery on Saturday morning. My “hot rod” 23-year-old Toyota Camry serves well for that kind of short trip, but we were on the road for six days and splurged on a rental car — a new Ford Fusion Hybrid. Getting behind the wheel of this modern machine was inspiring, whether we were cruising down an interstate freeway at 70 miles per hour, driving through a sleepy town or navigating the seemingly endless series of switchbacks on our way to Little Grand Canyon in the Shawnee National Forest. Having Serius Radio with options like Little Steven’s Underground Garage, jazz and country made the miles along the often flat, barren landscape enjoyable.

These days it’s hard to totally detach and disconnect, even while supposedly on vacation.

On our trip, I viewed Facebook posts from friends enjoying spring break in places as far reaching as Italy and Morocco, and closer to home like Miami and Phoenix. Our six-day jaunt across three states was not what one would consider exotic. It was a simple road trip through the American heartland at the end of a long winter.

Yes, we drank bourbon in Louisville, toured Churchill Downs, walked trails and visited the SIU campus. But this trip demonstrated to me that a modest adventure can be rewarded and enriched when the travels are closer to home … if you can find the extraordinary in what some would consider ordinary.

*When I dropped the Fusion off at the nearby Avis rental site, we had driven 1,087 miles. What we did on those extra 201 miles off the prescribed route might be been the best part of the journey.

Homelessness: The True Image of a National Emergency

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

The concept of a “national emergency” dominated media coverage in recent weeks, driven by President Donald Trump’s decision earlier this month to demand federal funding to build the wall on the nation’s southern border.

This controversial use of presidential power certainly raised questions, primarily:

  • Is there, indeed, a crisis along our border with Mexico in terms of illegal entry, drug smuggling and other criminal activity?
  • Does this president, or any president, have the constitutional authority to declare a national emergency and demand federal funds without Congressional approval?

Perhaps there have been true national emergencies taking place here in the United States for a prolonged time in our history; but, they just don’t make headlines.

Note the image within this post. This lady shared a CTA Blue Line car with me, other Chicagoans and visitors one morning this week.  Most passengers on this train probably were headed to work, school, an appointment or home.

From what’s depicted here, this lady was probably going to none of the above.

Look closely, she’s there, behind the glass partition, wearing a brown jacket and maneuvering a cart loaded with sacks containing what’s likely her worldly possessions.

As she was about to exit at the Jackson station platform, I handed her some cash, about what I would spend on two beers these days, minus tip.

She paused, smiled, said thank you and put the bill in her pocket. I sensed dignity in this lady by the way she looked at me, responded to my offer and effectively moved her cart and belongings off the el car and onto the platform.

I hope the President or someone within his administration recognizes that homelessness is a true national emergency, and it’s taking place in many, many other cities and towns across the nation. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, more than 550,000 in this nation are homeless.  Here in Illinois, more than 10,000 experience homelessness.

After my encounter with the lady, I continued on with my work day, then I headed home.

My regret is that I all I did was give this lady some money. My hope is that she finds a true home someday soon.

Does Anyone Else Question Why Jussie Smolette Hired a Public Relations Firm?

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

As of this writing, the afternoon of February 15, the story involving the reported attack here in Chicago on actor and vocalist Jussie Smolette has taken almost as many twists and turns as the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Image of Jussie Smolette courtesy of Wikipedia.

If you’re interested in following the story, this report from CNN chronicles what’s taken place to date.

Let’s let the media and Twittersphere follow the story and provide the next update. What I want to shed light to another aspect: The hiring by Mr. Smolette of public relations firm Sunshine Sachs.

(An aside: Sunshine Sachs has perhaps the most spare, unassuming and uncluttered website of any communications firm on the planet.  Must say, the site certainly is easy to navigate.)

When I learned of this development, my initial reaction was straightforward and driven by my experience in public relations: Why does the victim of a crime — albeit a celebrity who told police he was attacked by two men who hurled racial slurs, put a noose around his neck and poured a substance on him — need public relations counsel?

Public relations support, as I comprehend the practice, helps take advantage of an opportunity or mitigate a threat.

One could argue that in the days following the reported attack, Mr. Smolette’s account of what took place that night in the Streeterville neighborhood was challenged and therefore he needed the advice and guidance of public relations professionals to help counter media inquiries and preserve his reputation.

And, from the other perspective, Mr. Smolette and his story was grabbing headlines and media coverage — especially here in Chicago — and he retained counsel to respond effectively to what assuredly was a deluge of interview requests.

A quick Google search of the decision to hire Sunshine Sachs revealed digital reports that shouted “Jussie Smolette Victim? He Hired Harvey Weinstein’s PR Firm” and “Best Drama: Jussie Smolette Hires Harvey Weinstein’s PR Team.”

Now, my perspective.  Mr. Smolette certainly had the right and I trust the dollars to hire a national firm like Sunshine Sachs.

However, I remain concerned that news regarding the enlistment of public relations support was brought into the unfolding story may prove damaging to the profession and practice. Note the reference to alleged serial sexual abuser Weinstein in the examples noted above.

What I read into this: Public relations, which should be based on truth and adherence to established ethical standards, is becoming more equated with pop culture and tabloid headlines.

Would welcome your thoughts.

 

 

 

Questions in Search of Answers in 2019

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Will the Mueller investigation lead to more indictments? What will happen in the Middle East once the U.S. pulls out armed forces? Does the recent volatility of the financial markets mean another recession is on the horizon?

Heady questions, yes. So, I’ll let people who are a lot smarter offer projections.

Here, in this final PRDude post of 2018, I pose questions of a much more pedestrian nature. Dull and trivial perhaps to many, but the following topics have been on my mind recently.

Brim Backward Hat Wearing. Initially, I thought the practice of wearing a baseball-style cap or other headgear backwards was a fad. I even addressed the topic in a 2014 post and include a poll seeking answers as to why someone would adhere to this (in my opinion) silly concept.  An online source offers a tangible reason for the occasional reverse-brim option: To keep the brim out of the way while performing a task. Yet, based on anecdotal evidence and regular day-to-day perceptions, the trend continues unabated virtually everywhere and by anyone.

Question: Why the heck do people continue to wear caps backward, especially those with the plastic adjustable device that resembles a racing stripe across one’s forehead? And, furthermore: Why is this “cool?”

“Thank you” to canacopegdl.com for use of this image. It was “no problem” to download.

“No Problem.” No, “You’re Welcome.” Assuredly you’ve been responded to with the colloquial phrase, “No problem,” during interactions with retail clerks or just during everyday conversation. I find this phrase maddening, because it’s eclipsing the proper and more sincere, “You’re welcome.” Through a quick online search, I found a linguistics blog that attempts to address the origin of “no problem,” and I found references of disdain for the phrase’s use going back to 2013.  Plus, it’s equated to the Millennial demographic.  A personal occurrence: Last weekend I called a restaurant to make a dinner reservation. I asked for 7:30 p.m. The lady on the other end of the phone replied, “No problem!”  Why not just say, “Yes, we can seat you at 7:30 p.m.”  Exclamation points!

Question: What factor(s) led to the preponderance of the phrase, “No problem,” in society today?  And, furthermore: When will it stop?

Vape, Vape, Vape That… More than 70 years ago, a country and western novelty song addressed the bad stuff that can happen by smoking cigarettes.  Yes, people still smoke ciggies and cigars today — but use of vaping pens and vapor devices made by companies like Juul Labs (rechargeable via a USB port, I learned) has grown exponentially in the past five or so years. Perhaps you wonder why grown adults (and reportedly lots of kids) inhale from what looks like a thumb drive, then exhale a cloud that would rival that of a dragon.

Question: Will vaping replace cigarette smoking in the immediate future? Furthermore: Who will produce the first pop song that expounds on the joys (or dangers) of vaping?

There.

I eagerly will monitor developments on these three issues in the 365 days ahead.  Your thoughts are welcomed and encouraged.  And now, with 2019 some eight-plus hours away, I’ll have no problem adjusting my baseball cap backwards while I step outside to enjoy a few moments to contemplate and vape.