The Big One-Seven

Happy 17th wedding anniversary!

Thanks to a brief family trip last weekend to Steelers Training Camp I decided to take a vacation from posting. This week I’m going to steer clear of media talk for the most part. Not that things have been quiet on the media front.

Between a major acquisition announcement, Facebook offering millions to get publishers back on the platform, and continued questions on how online platforms handle hate speech, I have a lot of opinions. But this week I want to focus on something more personal – which speaks to my personal privilege, I know.

This week I want to focus on something more important to me personally. Today, August 10, 2019, is my 17th wedding anniversary. I guess technically it mine and Angela’s 17th wedding anniversary. It’s impossible to do this alone.

Angela Jake Volcsko – August 10, 2002
She’s adorable, but my head is massive!

Yup, the big one-seven.

Okay, so it’s not one of the more notable anniversaries, but if you know me you know that’s also right on-brand.

It still feels weird that we’re only married 17 years. It feels like much longer – which I do not mean in a negative way at all. We started living together the year prior to getting married, so I’ve reached the point in life where my time spent living with her has eclipsed the time I lived with my parents, siblings or anyone else.

That feels like an important milestone to me.

Through the years we’ve moved a lot. More than most military families I would venture to guess. For reference, from the time we moved in together, July 2001, through when we moved into our current home in May of 2015, we moved 12 times in 14 years.

During that time the longest stretch we stayed in one home was from April 2006 to May 2008 in Wooster, OH. Otherwise we never stayed in the same place more than a few months.

And despite musical tastes that are … different, we’ve seen a fair share of concerts.

While my first choice in concert attendence wouldn’t be Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift in Greensboro, NC, 2011

The Avett Brothers

The Avett Bothers in Bethlehem, PA

or Mumford and Sons

Mumford and Sons, Camden, NJ, 2013

(twice)

Mumford and Sons, Camden, NJ, 2018

I did enjoy seeing them all with her.

Plus, I’m sure she’s not really that interested in sitting on a hillside in the summer heat watching grown men practice football.

Not once

Steelers Camp, Latrobe, PA 2013

Not twice

Steelers Camp, Latrobe, PA 2016

But three times

Steelers Camp, Latrobe, PA 2019

But whether we are interested in these things, or whether they are our first choice of entertainment doesn’t really matter. We enjoy these things events with each other because it brings us closer together.

That’s why, if you check my Spotify playlist, you’ll find songs from all of the musical acts, as well as others we’ve seen together. None are my first choice in music, but hearing them makes me smile because their music makes her smile.

So, here’s to the next 17 years. Hopefully with more concerts and sporting events – and a hell of a lot less moving.

Happy anniversary, Angela. I love you!

Weekend Media Threads, July 13, 2019

I wanted to be what when I grew up? Time to pivot Weekend Media Threads.

No matter how old I get I’m always asking myself the same question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” When I was in elementary school or younger I recall considering three options: a Catholic priest, an Air Force pilot, or a football player. Looking back at the three now and thinking of the person I’ve become, two of those are absolutely hilarious.

This could have been me.

Sometime in middle school my interests changes and I wanted to be a comic book artist. Or a comic strip writer/artist. I guess that’s kind of the same thing. In high school my love for the arts evolved beyond just comics and I wanted to be an ‘artist.’

When I began my college career, the style of artist I wanted to become was a photographer. More specifically, I wanted to be a war photographer.

I could have been so pretentious.

However, this was just prior to the digital age and everything was still being done on film. I quickly realized that having photography as a major was, let’s say, cost prohibitive. So I went down the hall to the computer lab and learned to be a graphic designer. I eventually received my bachelor’s degree in the arts with a focus on graphic design from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.

Flash forward 18 years and now I’m working in digital media operations. Overseeing website builds, app development, content distribution, online advertising yield, etc. You can argue that this is adjacent to graphic design by way of user experience and interface, but in reality I haven’t been a designer – or ‘artist’ – in well over a decade.

What’s even more amazing is that in high school I would have told you that there is no way I would ever work on a computer, let alone in a field called ‘digital media.’

Gasp! I was an artist!

I was all about ‘traditional’ art forms. Computers were nothing more than a fad.

During one Christmas gathering I even argued with my aunt Peggy about it. She suggested I should consider computers as part of my career path.

The nerve of her!

I insisted I would never become victim to such technology. I would be a traditional artist forever.

Forever!

Turns out she was right.

To be fair, at that point in my life I hadn’t experienced the internet. It’s not that I’m so old that the internet didn’t exist as a consumer product at the time. It’s more that in the mid-90’s the internet wasn’t available like it is today. Not to mention computers were still very expensive, and wasn’t something my family could afford.

Just check out this sweet rig you could get for $1,995. 850MB hard drive with 8MB of RAM – this will be the last computer you need!

Borrowed from the Fuzzy Notepad blog.

For comparison, this is the equivalent of buying a for $3,350 today. Here are some Alienware options you can buy today for around that price.

You might be asking, what is the point of all this in my Weekend Media Threads post? What does this have to do with media? Basically I’m trying to work out what I want my blog to be when it grows up.

I enjoy doing commentary on media, but I want it to become something more. Personally, the blogs or newsletters I enjoy most are the ones that have some kind of personal bent to them. For example, John Dick, the CEO and founder of CivicScience, sends a weekly email newsletter that generally starts with some personal story before he talks about what they are seeing via their poll data each week. It’s something I look forward to on Saturday morning.

That’s the direction I want to take this blog. In addition to being more interesting, I think it will be a cathartic experience for me. Maybe I’ll learn to let my personality and personal opinions out a bit more.

So my intention is for this post to be my pivot point. Maybe I’ll come up with a better title each week, start with something more personal, then throw in some interesting links or commentary about the week in media – depending on time.

In between my weekend posts I’m going to try and do some shorter posts during the week when I find something interesting and want to share and comment.

If you enjoy my blog, or have suggestions, please leave a comment, DM me on Twitter, connect with me on LinkedIn, or contact me however you know how and let me know. I would love to hear from folks.

This week’s links

Digiday: ‘Newsletters as puzzle pieces’: How The Economist uses email to reduce subscriber churn

‘Hard to justify investing resources’: Publishers still cautious on IGTV efforts with lack of ads

CNN: Billionaires are saving journalism. Yes, that’s right

MediaPost: The News Project Powers ‘CalMatters’ Relaunch

Weekend Media Threads June 23, 2019

No media this week, just a fun time in LA.

Due to a much longer than planned travel day on Saturday, this is going to be a shortened version of my weekend media threads, and won’t have much in regards to media. The reason being, my family and I were on vacation this is week in Los Angeles visiting my brother, John. He relocated from Pittsburgh to LA a few ago and this was the first time we’ve had a chance to visit him in his new home.

It was also the first time that I’ve been on the west coast. I’ve been in the western time zone, Las Vegas to be specific. But never all the way to the coast. As was the case, we decided to fit as many tourist-type visits as possible. Combine that with an unexpected stop in Chicago due to an electrical failure on the flight home, and it was a very long week – but not in a bad way.

Needless to say, I’ve had very little time to think or read about media this week. No, most of my reading this week was fiction. Just something to kick back and enjoy my time with family. So instead of talking media, I thought I would share some images of our time in LA.

Enjoy!

It is no exaggeration to say these scooters are everywhere. I walked three quarters of a mile and counted 95 that were in some state of non-usage. Also, that’s my brother, John.

I do love street art.

La Brea Tar Pits

Universal Studios Hollywood.

Culver City.

Griffith Observatory.

Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier.

And finally, The Getty Center. I’m still in awe of the views from here. Stunning.

Eastern State Penitentiary

I recently visited Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia with my family. Although we didn’t see any ghosts, and can’t find any that we captured in our photos, I want to share some of the photos we took while we were there.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but thinking back on it, the visit was a sobering experience. Just knowing that I was walking on ground where God knows what horrors occurred, and now I’m touring it with my family. It gave me chills to think about.

We were there for just two hours, more than enough time to see the bulk of the site, but not enough to listen to all of the exhibits. However, Eastern State Penitentiary is a model still in use today around the world, and in a lot of ways was the start of the industrial prison complex in the United States (a point that is reinforced in many of the exhibits present), and I was left numb by the end of the two hours.

The exhibit that hit me the most is the feature on Prisons Today. The rate at which we incarcerate people in the United States when compared to every other county in the world is staggering. Take 12 minutes and watch the video below on how we got here.

To learn more about the site, and the current exhibits, visit the website
easternstate.org.

Father’s Day 2018

I woke up on this beautiful Father’s Day morning thinking about my grandfather who passed away in 2008. He was a child of immigrants, his father was born in Czechoslovakia and his mother Hungry. He fought in the Korean War, and spent most of his life working in the cemetery where I spent much of my childhood and teenage years.

I’m aware of his many failings and struggled mightily. He was not a nice man, some have described him as evil. He was an alcoholic. He was violent to those around him, including his wife and kids, and in all likelihood suffered from mental illness.

He had a presence about him when he walked into a room. Depending on your perspective – or time of day – it was respect or fear. You knew when he walked into a room, even if you didn’t know him.

It’s sad to say, but as the person I have become, I don’t think I would associate myself with him. It’s not that I think I’m better than he was, it’s that I came to learn just how severe his transgressions were.

Some things you can’t just simply forgive then forget.

However, as the child I was, he instilled in me important values that made me the person I am today. You see, his struggles and transgressions have become family legend, but so have his work ethic, problem solving, grit and tenacity.

He never had much, which, looking back, was by design. But he knew how to get the most out of what he did have. I remember him working long days, sometimes through the night to get the job done.

No matter what the obstacle was, he would always figure out a solution.

That’s what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I know it’s hard to look past the bad that people do. But as a child I was too young to understand everything else. I could only see the good in people.

On this Father’s Day, 10 years after my grandfather’s death, this is what’s on my mind. I’m thinking about the fathers and grandfathers who shaped me and how they are shaping the lives of my children.

And it makes me wonder, how am I shaping the lives of my children and, if we’re so fortunate, their children?

You can probably guess that my grandfather was a bit of a recluse, so I don’t have many pictures of him. The only one I could find was from Christmas 2006, just after my youngest son, Charlie, was born.

If memory serves, this was the last times I saw him before his passing.

Me, my two sons, Elijah and Charlie, my dad (standing), Randall, and my grandfather, Andrew.