Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Out of the tree of life I just picked me a plum

I woke up this morning and, as usual, I was completely fabulous, so I thought I'd go for a stroll in downtown London Paris New York Cleveland and take some photos.


That's a grocery store--really.

Of course I went inside.
Hey! How come no one asked for mine?

Halle Building oh HELL YEAH

Two people talking.

Hello East 14th Street. You forgot to put my name on the marquee again.

Snowy path and I love it.

Thanks for saving me a seat.

 I used to work in the wedding cake building and so did the Goat.

Big cats roaming the wild streets of Cleveland.

No patio seating today.

Hey there, sport, bring the VeeDubs around, would you?

I love you so ...

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Friday, February 20, 2015


Ravenna Miceli and Steve Pappas in oWOW's temporary studio

Back in the 1970's, John Gorman was the program director of WMMS, which he rescued from the brink of failure and then transformed it into one of the most successful radio stations in the country.

I grew up on Gorman's WMMS. All of my buddies listened to it all of the time. No other radio station in Cleveland could touch it. We all loved 'MMS. It was the soundtrack of our lives.

WMMS, like most commercial terrestrial radio, has gone so far down the tubes it's practically unlistenable.

Humble hostess (lower left) and associates in 1981.
WMMS was playing in the background

Hence, last week, when Gorman slipped me an tipping me about the launch of his new all-digital radio station oWOW, I was thrilled. He agreed to a studio tour and interview two days before his formal presser.

Fresh Water photographer Bob Perkoski and I met with Gorman and the crew Tuesday. We had a blast. I wrote the article as soon as I got home and it went live Wednesday morning. You can read my coverage here.

Oh, me droogies, how the honey did flow.

We absolutely were the first ones to break the story and it got referenced in one radio insider site after another. What a gas it was to see link after link after link and to see other writers paraphrase my work. At least one just plain stole my copy. The only kick in the ass is that while untold droves of people read those blurbs, people rarely click over to a source story.

Yeah, yeah. We get street cred just the same.

This might be the best part of the whole thing. Today, I tuned into oWOW and, me droogies, you are in for one helluva treat. Remember when music radio was great? When you crushed on the DJ's and imagined they were spinning that one song just for you? Or when you loved the stuff you never heard as much as the standards?

The spirit of WMMS is back and I can finally give all of you a real piece of Cleveland. Just hop on over here and click on the "listen now" tab. Just don't forget where you first heard of oWOW (which was, incidentally, a year and a half ago).

Cleveland rocks indeed.

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Monday, February 16, 2015

The evolution of war

1942 headline

If you have an inkling to unearth the front page of a newspaper from the early 1940's, you will find yourself in a different America.

I've been obliged of late to peruse a lot of news copy from 1942 on, particularly the Cleveland Press and Plain Dealer (PD). The front page of the PD's Nov. 20, 1944 issue contains no less than 20 headlines. Save for one, they all pertain to WWII. Some examples:

Metz Falling As Nazi Front Cracks

Geilenkirchen Taken; French Enter Alsace, Enemy Dropping Back

War Summary

British Women Fighting

Conversely, on the PD's Feb. 15, 2015 front page, there is no mention of Afghanistan. Obviously our military action in Afghanistan and WWII are not comparable. Same goes for our media consumption. There was no television news during WWII. You had the paper and the radio. And to be sure, the War was priority number one. That's because nearly every family had a young man participating in it. They had some skin in the game, literally.

The vast majority of today's Plain Dealer readers don't care much about Afghanistan. It's not their war. They "support" the troops as long as their kid doesn't have to be one of them. I wrote about this insidious disengagement last Memorial Day.

Incidentally, going to see American Sniper does not make you a patriot.

1941 ad clipping
During my research, I found it hard to separate fact from WWII propaganda. Numbers don't add up. Language is politically incorrect. All of it told a story ... and another and another. Perhaps in a future post, I'll write about how you can watch the middle class vanish when you study old newspapers through the years. For starters: they used to be crammed with labor news.

But that is not the point of this post. This is about Obama's formal request for Congress to authorize the use of military force in the war against ISIS.

I have my disappointments with Obama, but I am squarely behind this move (too bad it's six months late). Critics call the request too vague. I laud that very quality. Because while I don't think it's going to wake the somnambulant American public, perhaps it will compel the braying donkeys and lumbering elephants to battle over the specifics of how we shape our engagement in this miserable mess. Perhaps it will foster ownership outside of the White House and Pentagon.

I am hopeful, dear reader, but I'm also fearful that this country has become so huge and calcified, it may be beyond governance.

From sea to shining sea indeed.

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Erin O'Brien misses Herman Cain

Folks, I'm starting to get a little worried over here. The noise we get from the fringe right is one thing, but we seem to be moving toward a new level of crazy and incompetent and it's getting ever-closer to the main stream.

You may have run across these news items, but I wanted to round them up just the same and give them some collective impact.

Let's start with Mr. Jeb Bush. This man was Governor of Florida for eight years, yet he did not have the wherewithal to properly vet some punk's twitter feed and past radio performances. Then there's this fiasco, wherein Bush put droves of personal information online, then blamed the State of Florida for not redacting it before he made it public.

So a man who has the audacity to charge $100,000 a head for a little sup and face time can't hire someone to page through content he's about to make public? Or check a lousy twitter feed?

Too bad Dubya and/or Poppy didn't get it through ol' Jebster's thick skull that you have to be really careful when you're running for Prez.

Then we have Rand Paul with this: "I've heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines."

No that he's ever seen this evidence first hand or anything like that. Nope. He's only heard of these tragic cases.

Not to be outdone, Mr. Walker in Wisconsin refused to acknowledge evolution.

“That’s a question a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or another," said Walker. "So, I’m going to leave that up to you.”

Completely unsubstantiated statements that could put kids at risk and failure to acknowledge what science has proven over and over and again?

I guess someone needs to give these guys some direction.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Fiber optic 101

John O'Brien's 1993 Mac Color Classic

So this is what it's like behind the scenes.

Today's Fresh Water features a story I wrote about Cleveland's digital renaissance, the centerpiece of which is a 100-gigabit per second (gbps) information superhighway coming to our Health-Tech Corridor by the end of the year. The article does not focus on that, but instead on a handful of grants that will enable some smaller fiber optic projects. My interviewee for the piece was Brett Lindsey, an executive with OneCommunity, the organization that's led the charge behind 2,400 miles of fiber optic cable that's already been installed within 24 northeast Ohio counties.

It is not possible to describe how tolerant and patient Lindsey was during our 25 minute interview and how idiotic I felt upon reviewing it, but after Lindsey's lay description, a bit of research and the writing of the article, I finally understand what the hell is going on.

I do not care if I am the only one who didn't understand it before, I'm explaining it here (I just hope I got my math right).

We pay Cox Communications about $50 a month for Internet service (the miserable blood sucking vampires), which is thusly described on the bill:

Essential Internet Service
Download speeds up to 5 Mbps

Five megabits per second, eh?

Dig this:

1,000,000,000: gigabit
1,000,000: megabit

Mac hookups, 1993, left and 2015, right
Hence, when information travels at one gigabit per second (gbps) through a fiber optic network, it's moving 1,000 times faster than information traveling through a coaxial cable at a megabit per second (mbps). That's because fiber optic cable transmits information via light pulses. My coaxial cable transmits information via a radio frequency signal. So when someone says that fiber optic internet is LIGHTning fast, it's not just an expression.

People, data along the Health-Tech Corridor will travel 20,000 times faster than it does here at the Offices of Erin O'Brien.


In 1993, my brother John paid $1,400 for a then-state of the art Mac Color Classic, which featured an expansive four-megabyte hard drive and a processor that operated at a staggering 16-megahertz. Think that's bad? I'll never forget how we all gathered 'round Dad's first four-function calculator circa 1972. That mysterious and magical machine cost him $400.

I am not kidding.

So it took 20 years for a Mac hard drive to increase by a thousand fold. As for the fiber optic installations in the United States, most are in the nonprofit and commercial sectors.

How long until there's a digital Festivus for the rest of us in the residential sector?

"It's going to be a long process," said Lindsey during our interview. "It's going to take billions of dollars invested across the country to make that happen."

1993 Mac info panel
For those readers who just audibly sighed, there is hope. After all, Netflix and Google reeeeaaaally want to sell us expensive streaming plans. And it's already starting in Austin, Texas and even Chanute, Kansas.

To put this in perspective, my guess is that it will look a lot like the cable television roll out of the 1980's since it means actually connecting a network of cables. Maybe it's closer than you think. You can check here.

Until the United States catches up to countries like South Korea, I shall chug along with my laughable connection knowing my kid will be able to tell her kid what life was like back when she was a kid and internet service was only five megabits per second.

Got buffering?

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