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A Tribute to Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

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For the past 24 years, I have labored deep in the computer industry’s marketing trenches, watching in awe from afar, as Steve Jobs and his company, Apple, delivered one breakthrough product after another.

At a couple of jobs, I worked on Macs and admired their superior user experience up close. But through the years, practicality always won out as I bought one PC after another and used a succession of corporate-issue BlackBerrys.

Several years ago, I finally relented and asked for an iPod for Christmas, my first Apple product. Then, a few months later, I bought my first iPhone. I was completely smitten.

A week ago, my iPhone 3G died with a sudden “pop” in the middle of the night, taking with it snapshots of my niece’s wedding from the day before. Cursing the device for expiring at a most inconvenient time, I briefly considered switching to a high-end Droid.

But I went ahead and bought a replacement iPhone anyway. Why? While the Droid may command the lion’s share of the mass market, the iPhone still sets the standard by which all the other devices are measured. Poignantly, one day after the introduction of the iPhone 4S, Steve Jobs has passed away.

Many will rightly pay tribute to Jobs as the preeminent inventor of our digital age  — a man who transformed our world with his intellect, his imagination and the amazing devices he created. However, more than just technology, Steve Jobs leaves behind, through his example, a legacy of how to live and to die fearlessly.

As Jobs famously told Stanford University graduates in his 2005 commencement address, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.

“Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way that I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart,” Jobs told the Stanford grads.

I often think of Jobs’ speech whenever I think about taking the safer, easier and more well traveled route in my career and in my personal life.

At age 56, Steve Jobs died way too soon. But he will be long remembered for the wisdom he shared with the Stanford graduates on that June day six years ago. These wise words will probably even outlast the company he co-founded and endure long after the dazzling Macintosh computers, iPods, iPhones and iPads he brought to life go pop in the night.


Written by Sheryl A. Roehl

October 5, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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Disgraceful: Military retiree benefits could be on the chopping block

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Today’s New York Times brought the startling news that military retiree benefits could be on the chopping block. As the daughter of one of those military retirees, I strongly object.

My father proudly served his country for 25 years in the U.S. Air Force, retiring after tours of duty overseas and across the country. His pension and health benefits were earned and were promised to him in exchange for putting his life on the line and serving and sacrificing for his country. Like other military retirees, he became eligible for a pension only after serving 20 years in the military

Compare that with Congressman Anthony Weiner who left office in disgrace this past June.

Anthony Weiner left office in disgrace after 11 years in the U.S. House. He takes with him a pension of more than $46,000 plus perks.

For serving just 11 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, he can draw a pension of up to $46,224 at age 62 and a portion of that starting at age 56. In fact, members of Congress become eligible for a pension after just five years in the Congress. Yes, five years.

In contrast, the average non-commissioned officer retiring from the military after 20-plus years of service can draw a pension of about $26,000, according to the Times story.

Yes, there’s increased pressure to reduce the debt. I totally get that.

But nobody is talking about axing congressional (or presidential, for that matter) pensions and benefits — or cutting the base salaries of members of Congress ($174,000).

But they are seriously considering cutting the pensions and benefits of our men and women in uniform who served during a time of war? Really? Now that’s truly disgraceful.

Written by Sheryl A. Roehl

September 19, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Military retirees fight for benefit, Fort McPherson commissary to stay open another year

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My Mom and Dad made today's paper

Today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution  (see picture left) carried this story (below) about how Fort McPherson, a local military base, is closing, but the commissary will remain open another year for the benefit of Atlanta’s 53,000-plus veterans.  The article quotes my parents, Mary and Starley Roehl.  Thanks, AJC, for getting the word out to local veterans who thought that Atlanta no longer had a commissary.

Military retirees fight for benefit, Fort McPherson commissary to stay open another year

Grocery at closed Army post is only such facility in the Atlanta area.

BYLINE: Steve Visser
DATE: September 17, 2011 PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Main; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Metro News

Retirees can pack a strong political punch — especially those from the armed forces.

Military retirees, with an assist from their elected officials, maneuvered the Department of Defense into keeping the commissary at Fort McPherson open even though the Army post itself has closed.

Their argument: North Georgia is loaded with military retirees who shouldn’t have to drive two hours to cash in their retirement perk of discounted food for life.

Until recently the grocery at the south Atlanta post was scheduled to close Sept. 13. The DOD in July closed the larger commissary at Fort Gillem in Forest Park. Both McPherson and Gillem were part of a base closure program.

“It was going to close but then it was extended,” Rick Brink, spokesman for the Defense Commissary Agency, said of the Fort McPherson facility. “These things can be fluid. Retirees love their commissaries.”

Retired Lt. Col. Craig Allen, who lobbied to keep the commissary open, suspects a barrage of email directed at Washington from the estimated 53,000 military retirees that live around metro Atlanta helped his cause.

“I don’t think there was an organized campaign … just individuals,” said Allen, of Marietta. “I think with the elected officials getting involved, writing letters to various people, I think that is what kept it open, as well as the publicity.”

Allen said military retirees can save 30 percent shopping at the commissary. “To me that is big savings,” he said. “We go to Publix and Kroger and we can’t believe how much everything costs.”

Retired Lt. Colonel Starley T. Roehl and his wife Mary, of East Point, have used the commissary since he retired from the Air Force in 1968 and settled in the metro area in 1983. He said they couldn’t have handled driving to Fort Gordon in Augusta, Robins Air Force Base south of Macon or Fort Benning near Columbus to grocery shop at those base commissaries.

Mary Roehl said the prospect of the commissary’s closing spawned hoarding by shoppers on her recent trip to Fort McPherson. “One woman had eight packages of frozen wings,” she said. “I counted.”

Georgia congressmen had lobbied the DOD to keep the McPherson and Gillem commissaries open until a $23 million commissary — approved in 2009 but not yet funded — could be built at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta.

The DOD in late August agreed to keep the McPherson commissary open for one year, though it has not committed to keeping it open until one is built at Dobbins. Entry is through the Lee Street gate.

“It became quite clear that North Georgia has to have a commissary,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Not having a commissary in North Georgia is not acceptable.”

Written by Sheryl A. Roehl

September 17, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Santa Monica’s No-Exercise Zone: Get Off My Traffic Island!

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OK, folks, it’s high time for what we call a “brite” in the news business: That’s the fluffy, light-hearted story that either makes you chuckle, smile or shed a little, sentimental tear.  It’s the perky counterweight to the typical murder-and-mayem and doom-and-gloom stories that dominate our news. 

So to brighten our dreary days, here comes a  New York Times story (“Santa Monica Journal: Where the Traffic Median is a No-Pilates Zone“) straight from the People’s Republic of Santa Monica, California. It’s just the kind of entertaining story that puts everything in perspective: On the East Coast,  we’re wringing our hands over the gloomy economic news (and the years of deregulation that have helped get us into this mess). And, meanwhile, some of our sun-drenched sisters and brothers on the West Coast are actually getting all worked up over working out. Now that’s something I can get behind!  

So what’s the fuss all about?
It seems Santa Monica is now strictly enforcing a regulation against exercising in traffic medians. Yes, traffic medians. Reportedly, hordes of littering, loud and sweaty boot camps of exercisers are intent on building up their already buff bodies in the grassy traffic medians of this coastal community. And this does not sit well at all with the slumbering neighbors who have to look out their windows and hear all these toned bodies tromping past their multimillion-dollar homes at all hours of the day and night.

Arrested for doing sit-ups? Only in California…
So the police have cracked down on these obsessively fit lawbreakers by slapping them with a $158 fine. One man was even “arrested” after he refused to cease-and-desist doing his sit-ups in the grassy traffic median.  It just goes to show you the lengths that Santa Monicans will go to keep fit, stand up to City Hall — and make a name for themselves on TV and YouTube.

Years ago when I was living in Southern California, I heard someone call this costal paradise the People’s Republic of Santa Monica. My first reaction: This slam came from a right-wing inlander who just didn’t appreciate the charm of this left-of-center, bohemian beach community. But now I see that Santa Monica came by its nickname honestly. Anyhow, this story sure gave me a good laugh at a time when there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot to laugh about. Thank you, New York Times (and thank you, Santa Monica for being your goofy self)!

Thumbs at Rest: Will Obama Give up the CrackBerry Habit?

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(President-Elect) Obama at rest with BlackBerry (and Axelrod)


November 16, 2008


Dear Mr. President-Elect Obama:


Say it ain’t so! From one BlackBerry addict to another, I feel your pain (as another Democratic president used to say with faux emotion). There, on mobile.nytimes.com, I read the words on the tiny screen in the palm of my hand and almost dropped my precious BlackBerry on the floor: “Say Goodbye to BlackBerry? Yes He Can, Maybe.”  This, on page A1, of The New York Times.


Yes, it’s sad but true: Your #1 New Year’s Resolution is you will have to surrender your BlackBerry, sir. Apparently, after you take the oath of office in front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2009, it will be way too risky for you to carry a BlackBerry and send text and email messages. Not because you have to worry about pick-pockets stealing the thing mind you: Unlike other Washingtonians who have to fear losing their wallet, purse or mobile device on the Capitol’s  streets, you’ll never to worry about that again because you’ll have Secret Service agents at your side every moment of every day for the rest of your natural life. 


The problem actually comes down to system security and presidential privacy: Hackers could hack into your email. Worse, every presidential email could be subject to public viewing and press snooping one day. We can’t have that now, can we?


Maybe this Presidential thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, after all. You’re facing two wars, the worst global economic meltdown since the Great Depression, rising unemployment, $700 billion in boondoggle government bailouts, the Detroit automakers and a long line of CEOs begging for bailouts for their own companies, the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, a ballooning federal deficit, and on and on the list goes. 


Mr. President-Elect: Between us, America and the entire world seem to be having a collective nervous breakdown — and you can’t even bum a damned cigarette. That’s because Michelle made you quit your three-Marlboro-a-day habit. Since then, we hear you’ve been chewing Nicorette gum to deal with the withdrawal symptoms. Poor thing. 


You truly have my full sympathies, Mr. President-Elect. You truly must be the most cool-headed man alive.  Just that short list from the even longer list of problems you will confront would be more than enough to send most mortals jumping off the nearest bridge. Lighting up for a sneaky smoke or two on the sly wouldn’t even begin to touch the anxiety level most of us mere mortals would have just thinking about being in your shoes. 


So now you have another addiction to kick, and addiction it is. According to a Rutgers University study, BlackBerry devices are so addictive that people may need to be weaned off them with addiction treatment similar to that given to drug users.

Now what are your poor thumbs going to do when their BlackBerry has been snatched away from them, Mr. President-elect?  Although, if the campaign is any indication, we think you’ll deal with the withdrawal better than most. McCain hurled every insult at you during the campaign, but you just smiled on that debate stage, looking cool and collected and way more presidential than your wizened opponent. Meanwhile, McCain had survived torture and years of imprisonment in Vietnam, but he couldn’t even contain his obvious rage at you for having the audacity to run against him and kick his butt in the process.  


Anyway, despite your campaign cool, we know it’s going to be even more stressful as president. So when the going gets a little tough, we came up with a few suggestions. Think of it as a little advice to guide you down that long, rocky road of CrackBerry recovery.


Idle thumbs are the devil’s workshop: You’d better replace your CrackBerry addiction with a new habit for your thumbs. You know, Bill Clinton played the sax well enough to appear on SNL. Yeah, right, he did a lot of things we’d rather not think about. But anyway, how about taking up an instrument, too?


 Since you don’t need to keep Condi Rice as your foreign policy tutor as W. did for eight long years of failure and more failure, you could instead appoint her to a new cabinet post — say, Special Assistant to the President for Music Education. I think she might do well as your presidential piano teacher.  


Just think: Condi could teach you to play “Hail to the Chief” to keep your spirits up and amuse yourself during those problem-laden late nights in the Oval Office. It’ll be fun  learning Condi’s play list, starting with Mozart Piano Concerto in D Minor. I hear “Rahmbo” Emanuel, your political fixer and chief of staff, was a killer ballet dancer back in the day at Sarah Lawrence College, so maybe he could dance around the room in his stocking feet, keeping time to the music as it swells to a full forte.


For those frustrating days when you can’t seem to get no R-E-S-P-E-C-T, you can pound away that Aretha Franklin standard. Then, working down Condi’s play list, there’s Kool and the Gang’s ‘Celebration’ when you and “Rahmbo” are finally able to push that first big bill through the Congress.


From looking at your FaceBook page, we know that your musical tastes run more toward Miles, Coltrane, Dylan, Wonder, the Fugees, but never mind: I’m sure Condi could somehow work some of those into your twice-weekly piano lessons.


No nail-biting allowed. Many times, people who try to give up one addiction (say, smoking) often end up turning to another (overeating) for comfort. It’s what people in the addiction recovery business call “addiction transfer.” To guard against this nasty withdrawal symptom from your BlackBerry-itis, we’ll have to bring in a couple of D.C.’s finest manicurists for what they call a “mani-pedi.” They’ll coat your fingernails in icky clear polish that will taste so bad that there’s no way you’re going to bite your nails and make sure your cuticles stay in tip-top shape for those camera close-ups.  Besides, you’ll get some TLC and relaxation for those tired hands and feet after a hard game of basketball on the White House indoor court.


If all else fails, try another addiction — Wii anyone? Video games are way more fun than thumbing away on a BlackBerry any day. Besides, it’s something you and “Rahmbo” can do as you’re plotting your next big political maneuver  (your excitable new Chief of Staff definitely seems like a video game kind of guy). Besides, it’ll get your heart rate up a little, Mr. President-Elect: It does seem a little low from all that working out at the gym. 


Here, from Amazon.com, are a few other video games worth the sore thumbs you’ll be sure to get:

  • Call of Duty: World at War: When things aren’t going well with your troop-drawdown plans for Iraq or the Taliban are heating up things over in Afghanistan, you can always de-stress by waxing nostalgic about a  simpler time, during World War II,  when we knew who the enemy was and where to fight them — and they weren’t hiding out in some underground cave in Pakistan.
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed: Cool relations with Congress? Unleash your frustrations by playing this Star Wars video game. What’s really cool about this one is the decisions you make along the way determine the path of the story — kind of like real life, Mr. President-Elect. That’ll help keep you a little humble underneath that oh-so-confident exterior and help keep you laser-focused on a key fact of presidential life: What you do impacts hundreds of millions of Americans and billions and billions of people on the planet. Your predecessor really didn’t seem to really get that — or not until it was way too late. Since you’re so tech-savvy, I’ll put it to you this way: there’s no “undo” key in the Oval Office, sir.
  • Hanna Montana: Music Jam: Since your daughters’ favorite TV show is “Hannah Montana,” how about squeezing in a little quality time with Malia and Sasha between briefings every now and then?  It’ll bring an instant smile to your face as you watch 7-year-old Sasha (a budding singer and dancer) and 10-year-old Malia (who wants to be an actress when she grows up)  “live out their dreams of being a pop star in this exciting musical adventure,” as the description reads.

The New Game in Town:  Come to think of it, I wish the Nintendo or Microsoft people would come up with a video game version of this past election and the presidency to come. Let’s see, the first edition of this video game series could be called “Obama: The Great Unending Campaign” or maybe “Obama’s Excellent Adventure I.”  I’m sure together we could come up with a great name for the video game. You’re great at slogans: that change thing really worked.


Through many ups and downs, thrills and breathtaking fear-mongering, villains and villainesses, it’s been a helluva two-year election ride, hasn’t it, sir? I think this once-in-a-lifetime election would make an amazing video game: The first African-American to run a serious presidential campaign beats off multiple challengers in the primary season and dukes it out for months with Queen Hillary, the establishment candidate, before seizing the Democratic mantle. Then he must overcome a pair of villains, let’s call them McCain and Palin-the-Unable, to finally take the presidential seal. Just think of the future storylines once you actually take office.


Anyway, back to reality and your addiction, sir.  The really good thing is, after a few minutes of playing video games on your Wii, you won’t even miss your CrackBerry. Now that’s full recovery for you.


Join in the discussion.

Click on leave a comment just below the headline for this post, and add your clever, funny and somewhat practical suggestions to help the President-elect kick his CrackBerry habit and deal with his withdrawal symptoms.  Do you have ideas for what to call our fantasy Obama video game? Please join in the fun. 

Written by Sheryl A. Roehl

November 16, 2008 at 2:15 am