Saturday, December 26, 2009

Top 10 Overplayed and/or Poorly Covered Stories of 2009

10 - Avatar

Just because it's top of mind and exhaustive media exposure of another medium across all media is annoying.

9. Balloon Boy

As freaky as the chase coverage was, the parents deserve jail time and the story deserves a rest.

8. Octomom

Ah, child exploitation for fame. Also, see #9 and #3.

7. Tiger Woods

So a tiger can be a pig. Worshipped all his life, told he's better than others for the unique skill of smacking a tiny dimpled ball around in the grass with accuracy, the country was shocked. He'll be back quicker than Michael Vick.

6. Unveiled Prejudice

The country united to elect our first African-American president, only to be divided within months by the same old-same old not-so-hidden true feelings festering in so many, masked as partisanship. I don't call it racism because I feel humans are one race. So until Klingons or Vs show up to try and kick our collective yet divided asses, I'll stick with the label "prejudice."

5. Sarah Palin

She is a reality show you betcha. I haven't seen an example of such false idol worship of anyone so unqualified for such a high position in leadership since... I actually haven't seen such a thing in my lifetime. You might want to check her scalp for a tattoo - she'll probably say it's 999.

4. Michael Jackson's Death

The bazillion RIPs on twitter required an asterisk: *Rest In actual Peace in 2011, when the coverage might finally stop. His passing was sad. The continued mining for related stories is pathetic. The Jackson family is no more royalty than the Osmonds or the Osbournes.

3. Jon & Kate

Because a public divorce is so much fun. Television coverage of people who really need to get out of a spotlight that's burned them so many times. It's like a new reality series of staged encounters covering an old reality series of staged events. Hey, there's only one narcissist I want to see with all that coverage: Me.

2. The Economy

No one is better at selective memory than my fellow Americans. Forgetting how we actually got here, after oil-based inflation and a ridiculous run of collective real estate greed, it was America's scapegoat for everything, and another bonus handed to the unethical to continue in their financial gluttony. People also expected President Obama to "fix it!" within his first 100 days. It is tied with America, the scapegoat for everything bad in the world.

1. Health Care Reform

Talk about a selective memory! It's like we didn't learn a single, freaking lesson from the near-collapse of our frail economic structure by blatant exhibitions of pure greed and a horrible misallocation of wealth and power. Ensuring the possibility of all humans, including children, of having access to affordable health care, the one extended service plan we all need, has become a partisan debate of misinformation and flabbergasting support of the broken profit-based health care industry, as well as support for employers who used to cover 100% of employee insurance and offer retirement pensions, who laid off millions this year. It is our national example of Stockholm Syndrome. But it's the actual coverage of the debaters and misinformation rather than the core issues which should be most embarrassing.

I'm just one guy with 10 opinions. What do you think?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

And I Thought eHarmony Matches Were Scary: Bissell PROlite

I just saw this commercial and it freaked me out. Even more so than the Old Navy Super ModelQuins.

It looks like Bissell has fused their vacuum with the actors' spines. Gross!

Besides, cloned slaves just aren't cute. Judge for yourself.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Civil Disunion: So Where Are You Registered?

There are still people that don't know I'm divorced. It's not a huge deal, and my fault really. And it got me thinking.

Mine wasn't played out on television or the tabloids because a) I'm not famous and b) I'm not a self-absorbed asshole (at least when it comes to this). It wasn't really information for public consumption - it also wasn't a secret, but you don't exactly announce these things.

When you first separate, you share it with close family and close friends, but that's it. You're not sure where it's going exactly. It's a long, emotional process, and the last thing you need are the distractions of gossip. It simply isn't something you talk about with a lot of people.

After moving to the formal divorce process, you don't offer status reports. And after filing itself, and it's official, you still don't really announce it. People just hear about it. But not everyone.

So how do you tell people?

Oftentimes I would correct someone when they'd ask about my wife, and then there's that awkward pause, and their need for reassurance it's OK they asked, that they didn't know and that they didn't open up some wound. Sometimes I also felt obligated to explain or give a story: "it was no one's fault really", "these things happen", "we grew apart", "no one cheated", etc. - especially when I felt I was being judged, either by the person or maybe even myself.

Which brings me back to: How do you tell people?

You don't send invitations to a divorce party. Some people do, and I can understand why, but it's not usually considered a time to celebrate.

You don't make an announcement in the local paper like you do for an engagement. I guess you could: Disengagement Announcements with photos of the couple torn in half, but that's just tacky.

And, honestly, you get tired of telling people.

When you get married, you're showered with gifts and money, and you want to tell the world (often to be showered with gifts and money, but really because it's a celebration). When you divorce, you divide up a lot of "pre-owned, gently worn" items, and there ain't no party for you. And, depending on your situation, you may actually need those wedding-type gifts even more after a divorce. And you could probably use some cheering up and reassurance that you're not alone and you're going to be OK. A party (more dinner than frat or sorority style) may be exactly what you should have.

I had to replace (duplicate, if you will) nearly everything: dishes, silverware, furniture, a mattress, linens, towels, a place to live. Here's a new idea, and I can't believe Bed Bath & Beyond or Crate & Barrel actually haven't thought of this: a divorce registry.

You could announce to everyone, with some clever Hallmark-type saying and cute cartoonish image, that you've split up, you're broke and you really like Egyptian cotton towels.

Of course you can’t expect a whole lot, especially if the same people you're announcing this to bought you something nice and expensive like a food processor for your wedding, years ago. So instead of requesting fine china and Waterford crystal, generic plates and pint glasses will do just fine. And maybe register at Target instead of Tiffany’s, or Walmart instead of Williams-Sonoma.

You can let everyone who needs to know, know, and you can set yourself up with something better than a hot plate and a futon when you're starting out. Again. That might have worked in college, but you're probably well into your adult years now and are entitled to some comfort. And as much self-respect as you can maintain.

When there are kids involved, you really need a lot of stuff, especially if they're going to live in two homes. Let them register for things too. Hell, they're the ones who will really deserve some showering.

I make light not to be flippant, but because I survived and it's important to maintain a sense of humor in all situations, especially this one.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Buzz Kill: Death to the Buzz Words

After having some fun with this on Twitter (#AntiBuzzWords), I decided to compile and expand it into a blog. I, like many other people, detest buzz words. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? Maybe if you're trying to impress your boss, or your boss's boss, but the rampant overuse of these words drives me crazy. And they're often used in place of any real thought or communication. I'm guilty of it too, but we have to break the cycle and start using real conversation again.

Here are my top 8 worst corporate buzz words...

  • Empowerment - Yes, leaving me out on a limb to figure this shit out for myself is quite empowering. And when did management begin to think task delegation is akin to knighthood?

  • Proactive - let's anticipate and react before the crisis. Who am I, Kreskin? And that would be preactive, Einsteins.

  • Bandwidth - how much bandwidth do you have? I'm not a freaking modem, I'm a human being! I can't multithread or multitask, or bend the space-time continuum. I'm busy!

  • Metrics - I need the metrics by COB. You mean measurements? Seriously? Let's cut to the chase - you mean you need a bunch of numbers, and you're not really a math whiz, and you're just going to pass them to someone else, who also isn't a math whiz, so how about skipping the metrics and we start speaking English. What do you really want to know?

  • Synergy - combined interactions among different departments and employees to achieve a desirable outcome. Great idea. But first, we just need to fire all the assholes, discourage politics and competition, and set up a healthy environment where employees actually could collaborate with employees at all levels instead of stew in total isolation in their cubes.

  • Holistic - It really means looking at things as a whole system instead of its individual parts (*cringe* "staying out of the weeds"), but it's often implied as looking at a project or issue from multiple perspectives. I love that concept, but let's face it. Most business people are one-dimensional. You know what? You're wholistic. And the only thing you can make out at 50,000 feet is a land mass, and certainly not my house.

  • Think Outside the Box - Just as clever as "color outside the lines". Excuse me. What do you call the 4 x 4 x 4 x 4 cloth-walled workspace you stuck me and the other lemmings in? A cube? It's a fucking box. Let me out and I'll start to think again.

  • At the End of the Day - the most overused phrase in any office. At the end of the day, we're just making widgets. Really? Waxing poetic? Bullshit. If you had an ounce of Zen in your body, you'd stop freaking over all the things out of our control, and you'd throw the TPS Reports and rest of the red tape in the recycling bin where it belongs.

And you know this wouldn't be any fun without creating our own phrases. I call them my anti-buzz words...

  • Crater Effect - Impact? Crater effect! As in, how many tectonic plates will shift after the meteor shit storm if we choose to go with your strategy?

  • At the End of the Meeting - Why wait until the end of the day when we can acknowledge right freaking now this project is doomed?

  • Devaluation - A pre-biased assessment of a proposal you know you hate before you even read it. Yay. Ernie's got another idea. Can't wait to devaluate it, big guy! Or, a performance review given by an unpleasable boss who loathes you. Did you get your devaluation yet? Me either.

  • Spynergy - Who needs the truth when you have a full marketing department at your disposal? (And bonus word: spynergistic - something especially spin-worthy.)

  • Factionable - I understand it doesn't meet the timeline, but what if we add more resources? Is it factionable?

  • Inanonymous - Total absurdity with complete deniability and zero accountability.

  • Schemeless - A totally undetectable plan, or even plan for a plan.

  • Preactive - I'd like you to be able to react before whatever "it" is happens, or I'll undoubtedly blame you for not foreseeing "it."

  • Best of Greed - The corporate bible of executive practices.

Your input is valuable. I empower you to share in the comments! Though we're missing face time, it's good to touch base through your BB. Shift your paradigm. Streamline your takeaways and join us in this sea change of diverse contingency planning, and circle back for some low-hanging fruit and a mindshare. It really can be a win-win.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Ortho Home Defense Against Mice Is Overkill

I'm not sure if you've seen the TV commercial for the Ortho Home Defense Max Kill & Contain (TM) Mouse Trap, but I've got a few issues with it.

First of all, "Max Kill"? Dead is dead. No maximum kill is necessary. Honestly, it doesn't even make sense. A minimum kill is still a kill. I'm sure there's a marketing axiom behind the name, just like there must be one behind using a nine-word product title.

I understand that rodents can bring germs into your house and leave droppings. So do your neighbor's kids. I hope you wouldn't dispose of them.

The video for this product on Ortho's web site opens with "learn. do. enjoy." Enjoy? Domestic blood lust? I don't think so.

Don't just take my word for it. Check it out for yourself: Ortho "Instructional" video.

I'm sure you'll be happy to know it's safe around pets, the cute animals in your home you don't feel like killing today.

The TV commercial is especially callous. A happy couple sets a trap, then later tosses it away in the trash, smiling and without a second thought. Come on. You just killed a little field mouse. You don't feel anything?

And that's my problem with this campaign. Preventing disease, I understand. Getting unwelcome house guests out of your home, I totally understand. But killing without remorse, and with enjoyment? It's too much for a marketing campaign, and insulting. Especially when there are kinder alternatives, where you don't have to touch the animal.

I had a roommate a few years ago who kept our kitchen's pantry stocked like a feed silo. One winter, with lots of nearby construction activity, we had a mouse.

I learned of this the first time in the bathroom, when he shot out from the corner and I shot up in the air, screaming like a 1950s housewife straight out of Looney Toons. I didn't actually grab my hem or pearls as I leaped up onto the toilet, but that's only because I was clutching air...and I'm a man. But I'm sure I hit a high C. I was startled, OK?

But I learned a lot from this experience. Mice run along the walls. And they're freaking fast. They're also cute as hell.

I decided I wasn't going to set a classic trap, the French Revolution-inspired guillotine-type that snaps - it's disgusting and cruel. Plus I'm anxious around helium balloons, afraid they may pop. Mouse traps set me into hyper-freak.

I wasn't going to use a slow-death trap with glue. And I wasn't poisoning anything. So I decided to go the live trap route. I found a site online called Havahart that specializes in live traps. I also found out they had local retailers.

I love animals, but I didn't want this guy living in my home, especially while I tried to sleep. So I went to the local hardware store and bought the smallest trap they had, the model #1025. Which I learned, after feeding the mouse for several days and not catching him, was meant for squirrels or raccoons. So I went online and ordered a smaller, more appropriate trap (model #1020 for mice), and had it shipped.

I used a ritz cracker with peanut butter and caught him the same day. I thought he might panic but he was quite calm. I read that if I just let him go outside, which I was tempted to do, he'd most likely find his way back, even from a distance. So I took Mortimer J. Mouse - yes, I named him - in his trap, and placed the trap in a shoebox, and then put him in the front seat of my car, and drove several miles to a park and ride that backed to acres of undeveloped land, not houses. And I let him go.

When I opened the trap, I thought he'd take off like a rocket. He had to be coaxed. He looked up at me, and then took off.

Yes, I thought a hawk would swoop down after my week of effort, but Mortimer was spared. At least for the night.

I didn't kill him. I solved my rodent problem. He didn't come back. And I was able to sleep again, for two reasons. No noises in the wall and no guilt for killing a cute little mouse that was simply looking for some food and some warmth.

Have a heart, Ortho.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The United Hates of Duhmerica

Believe it or not, I welcome an opposing viewpoint. Even when I think I've got a solid idea of what might work, or what's best, hearing other perspectives can shift my thinking or perhaps solidify my position with even more confidence. I just prefer that it be an informed viewpoint. Repeating sound bytes and bullet points makes you sound...lazy. Dropping f-bombs and populist insults makes you sound angry and, quite frankly, moronic.

Instead of doing the research, assessing multiple viewpoints, and coming up with possible solutions, or even your own thought-out opinion, it's just easier to quote someone else, and in just a few words.

What really boils my blood is when someone jumps onto an issue to express poorly masked hatred. The recent "march" in Washington on September 12th is a perfect example. "Taking our country back" is offensive, threatening and ignorant language. Taking it back from whom? Ourselves? Perhaps a coup? You want to fix something? Get involved, and not just from your Facebook account.

Rallying against immigration? Step back a generation or two and many of us were immigrants. Step back a few more, with the exception of the true Native Americans, and all of us were, none of us invited, or worse, brought over against our will - not exactly a hallmark of freedom.

Listening to the interviews and anger that day just made me sad. Myopic, angry "Christians" who only see color, whether it be white vs. any other shade or red vs. blue, and actually seem giddy with the chance to express these views as if they're universally accepted or true, is disgusting. And until you have a sit-down with God on YouTube, I'd refrain from criticizing the spiritual beliefs of others that don't coincide with yours.

Giving lunatics a stage is probably the saddest of all. Not because they're not entitled to express their opinions. Because they don't actually represent basic American thinking: left, center or right. I don't believe Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, or Jebediah Moran Clampett reflect the majority of Republican thinking. So how about some intelligent articulation by someone who does?

When I face a new issue at work (in management-speak an "opportunity"), we don't come up with two diametrically opposing views and see who wins. We also don't craft an 1100-page solution, filled with ridiculous, unrelated caveats. And we don't ask this first: "Whose idea is this?" We look at the issue from multiple perspectives, identify various scenarios, weigh the pros and cons, and then put an action in place. I'd like to see more of this in our own US government.

When someone makes the statement: "I don't want the government running health care," there can be many valid reasons behind that statement. But I rarely hear what they are, or what we should do instead. Personally, I don't want to leave it to insurance companies, because I don't believe they have the patient first; they can't, they're profit-based. And I don't want to hand it over entirely to the federal government, but state-run oversight with our current insurance-based anarchy has its own problems. Centralized coordination, with protections and oversight, may actually save lots of money, and lives, in the long run.

Imagine for a moment if water was not considered a bare necessity or utility. Delivering water to your home for sustenance, plumbing and bathing is now in a competitive environment where the local provider can charge you whatever they want in an unregulated free market. That would suck.

I don't want everything "government-controlled", but where do you draw the line? That's usually the issue. It's easy to say no involvement. But everyone wants some involvement. Otherwise, we'd all be responsible for fixing our own roads, building our own bridges, removing dead deer from the highways, putting out wildfires, ensuring whatever is poured into our rivers, lakes, streams, oceans and skies is to an acceptable limit that doesn't kill us... I could go on and on and on.

And I believe it would be very hard for any of us to personally deny another human being from care that they need, especially a child, whether they're currently employed, covered, or even a citizen.

Saying we aren't "socialist" doesn't solve anything either. It just tosses around labels and imagery and more misunderstanding. Ensuring all of us have the necessities (food, air, water, shelter, health care, educational opportunities, the abilitiy to compete fairly, protection from enemies, including ourselves, free speech), and that no small, unrepresentative, non-philanthropic sector has too much wealth/power/control, would be OK with me - no matter what you call it.

The purpose of government, and all of the agencies and departments, is to manage the infrastructure, whether local, national or global. And you need organization around those tasks or you end up with chaos.

I could drop f-bombs and insults all day. That's not going to solve anything, and just divide us further. I used to wonder how the hell we ever got into a civil war, where we actually took up arms against each other. I don't wonder anymore. Now I just hope we find a way to address the roots of our anger and find a way to live and work together again.

And remember, when you criticize "the government," which you have every right to do, be specific and conscious of the fact you're criticizing your neighbors and fellow citizens. Teachers, police officers, EMTs, firefighters and our military are all part of "the government." People who bring you your mail, who make sure there's clean water making it to your house, and who ensure, even in a free market, you aren't being taken entirely advantage of in the name of "fair trade."

So stick to your values, and your opinions, but try to listen to the other sides (there are always more than two), get involved, and stop the hating. It's a waste of your energy and solves nothing. Stress too much and you'll end up in the hospital. I just hope you have good coverage.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The New Fall Season - The Ultimate TV Spreadsheet (UPDATED)

Check out my new TV page where I have the new Fall 2010 Schedule PDF and
Fall 2010 TV Spreadsheet: Fall 2010.


To put it politely, I'm a detailed-oriented individual. I enjoy organizing information and love my spreadsheets. I also have a thing about linear thinking: Beginning, Middle, End. I start a book on page 1 and finish at "The End." I don't skip ahead. I don't read chapters out of order.

When I watch a movie, I start from the beginning or don't watch at all. And when I watch television -- and that's all the time -- I prefer to follow the order of every series from episode 1 to the end. For most sitcoms, this isn't necessary and I will break that pattern, especially for fun shows in syndication. But for dramas, there are story arcs, evolution of characters, show history/mythology references and call-backs, etc. The episodes are meant to be watched in order.

Anyhoo, my obsession is your gain. I create a TV spreadsheet every fall, based loosely on a spreadsheet provided to me many years ago by my friend Steve, who also enjoys watching lots of TV.

If you'd like to use it for yourself, or are curious about peeking into the mind of a slightly OCD neurotic like myself, before I get my own episode on A&E (or Syfy), go for it. You can download it from my MediaFire site here for free.

I've taken the time to put nearly every US primetime show (broadcast and cable), with their premiere dates, in this grid.

If you'd like an explanation of how I use it, please read on.

The first tab is called Key. It's just a guide of the items I use to track shows on the seven daily tabs.

The second tab is Channels. This lists the networks referred to in the other grids, with a column for the standard definition channel and the high definition channel. It's pre-populated with the channels for my FiOS service in Howard County, Maryland. All you need to do with this tab is update the blue channel numbers according to your local service, and your channel numbers will automatically appear on the seven individual daily tabs, which I'll explain in a minute.

The third tab is called ComingSoon. I find it quite handy. It's an alphabetical list of shows (also displaying network and approximate air date) that aren't back on yet, like American Idol.

The fourth tab, Premieres, is an alphabetical listing of all shows and their Fall start dates. I skipped the few summer series that are already in progress.

Finally, there is a tab for each day, but they all serve the same purpose. I've broken them out because I despise unnecessary scrolling, unless it's me pontificating in a blog. :-) I find them useful for tracking what's coming up, what I've recorded, what I've seen and missed, and what to catch up on in the reruns, on NetFlix or on DVD.

Let's start with Sunday, the first day of the week, at least according to my calendar. The rows are the TV shows. I provide the title, network, channel (HD for nearly all), start time and stop time (both U.S. Eastern Time).

The columns are the dates. "Off" means it's pre-season. A green block with "HD" in white letters means a new episode is coming up and I want to tape it/watch it. I used to use "SD" for shows that weren't in high definition. Most are now, and gosh, that's really anal, isn't it? If the letters are in red I missed it. If it's a checkmark I've seen it. If it's "---", there was no new episode that night.

The other six tabs work exactly the same way.

These are new sheets for anyone to use. The premiere dates have the first HD block in them. They're accurate to the best of my knowledge.

This should be obvious, but simply delete the rows of the shows you don't care to follow. And, no, I don't watch all of these.

I hope it serves a useful purpose for you, even if it's just the Coming Soon portion.

Perhaps it's all Willie Wonka's fault. If Mike Teavee had a different first name, and wasn't also a cowboy, maybe I would have read more.

Friday, August 07, 2009

What every phone really needs: True Caller ID

I can't live without my Caller ID. It's been around since the late 80s, and I won't bore you with the patents, rollout or history. That's what wikipedia is for. But here's the thing it doesn't tell you: who is actually on the other line. It only tells you where the call is coming from.

No, a killer iPhone app will identify who's actually holding the phone: it's not Steve, it's Steve's mom, who's using Steve's phone because she forgot to charge hers, and Steve is driving and wanted to know what time the show starts. With this app you would know not to say something stupid, like:

"Douche! I told you she was gonna leave you with something after that party. How many times has your mother said, wrap that rascal? What do they treat gonorrhea with these days anyway, ass-wipe? OxiClean?"

"Hellllloooo. Steve?"

How many times have you answered the phone with false confidence, thinking it was who the Caller ID told you it was?

Honestly, after years of old-world-phone-usage conditioning, sometimes I still answer the phone with the anticipatory and upward inflecting "Hello?", where we both pretend I didn't know who was calling. Old habits really do die hard.

But I want this app to do more than use thumbprint analysis, retinal scans and DNA matching. I also want it to tell me if it's calling me with speakerphone on, and who else is in the room.

In fact, it shouldn't just be iPhones. It should be all phones. Especially the extensions at work, which don't tell you your boss, her boss, the VP of Marketing, the EVP of Finance, the CEO, two board members, and three potential clients are sitting next to Chris when she calls you with a question. And she still owes you $10 for the football pool. Then you won't say things like:

"Bitch! Where's my money?! I'm beginning to think you're cheaper than a three-dollar ho, or Jenkins. Man, you'd think a man who makes 400 large would spring for lunch just once. Damn, I even got to pay for his sodas in the cafeteria. Never has 'change'. Probably all tied up in lawyers after we dodged that last SEC investigation. Man, we did more shredding 'round here than Tony Hawk. So whatcha need?"

Come on, geek nation! Before you give us another GPS-potty plotter, hook us up with something we really need on our phones.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Facebook Apps: Caveat Lector!

There is a lot of buzz around this topic, so I won't add unnecessary detail. But I will offer a funny anecdote.

For those into Facebook, especially those who are bored and enjoy being offered silly activities to pass the time, change your Facebook settings. Instructions are in an article here by Lee Mathews.

You see, every time you take a quiz, offer a virtual lemon meringue pie, or ask others to join a cause like Save the meerkats from religious persecution, you use a third-party application - one that's written outside of Facebook. And when you click Yes after they ask for access to your account, they get access to everything, including your friend list and photos.

The original blog post that brought this issue to light was written by Cheryl Smith, whose picture was used in a Hot Singles ad, that popped up on her husband's Facebook page. She wasn't stepping out and he wasn't looking. You can read her blog here.

I learned of this (third-party) Facebook issue after my sister got a Hot Singles ad with my picture in it. Besides the obvious gross out factor, she did what most people would do: she posted a comment on her Facebook status, which brought everyone into the joke - kind of like getting pantsed again in front of my dorm (true story). Anyway, it was quite funny, and equally creepy.

Note to self: post this kind of stuff for the world next time and maybe you'll finally get that blog traffic you've always wanted.

Caveat Lector! (May the reader beware!)

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Independent Thoughts on Independence Day

I freelance articles that are meant to be humorous (at least in my opinion) and from the male perspective (mine, certainly not all men) for Why Hasn't He, a dating/relationship advice web site run by two lovely people, Tamsen Fadal and Matt Titus. "Why Hasn't He" is in reference to two of their books: Why Hasn't He Called and Why Hasn't He Proposed.

I recently received a comment on my post about Valentine's Day from Alexis, who said "Just curious as to what men think of fourth of july."

That's an interesting question. In all my musings, I hadn't really thought about that. Until now. I can't speak for all men, but I'll share my thoughts since you kindly asked.

They love fireworks, especially setting them off. There's usually a stash they acquired on a fishing trip down south and have kept in the garage all year just for such an occasion. Safety isn't a factor since the Constitution protects them from harming themselves, right? Some think amnesty is automatically provided when local laws and covenants are broken after they set off fireworks for three consecutive nights, usually after consuming a lot of beer. I'm not one of them. (The fireworks part - I loves my beer.) Personally, I'd like to set off a few M-80s in their nightstands so they know what it feels like for my dogs - petrified.

Many think, Yay! A three-day weekend. Let's get together with family and friends. Take a three-day trip somewhere. Maybe have a cookout. Get something done around the house. I am one of them. That doesn't mean something gets done around the house or I hold an actual cookout. I always have great plans before the weekend starts.

Some think, I only need to use four days of vacation and with two wrapping weekends I'll get nine days off! If I'm staying local, sometimes I'm one of them. If I'm traveling, definitely not - too crowded by everyone else with the same genius idea.

Many are very patriotic and enjoy displaying their patriotism wearing flag-inspired clothing or a festive combo of red, white and blue. I'm usually not one of them, not because I'm unpatriotic but I'm really an autumn and prefer deeper browns and blacks.

Flags are displayed everywhere, whether small and handheld, a window sticker on the car or apartment window, next to the front door, tattooed across one's back or, for the true diehards, on the flagpole in the center of the front lawn with decorative landscaping and a concrete bench for times of reflection. There's something very spiritual and connecting for men and flying a flag. It's hard to explain but it feels very...strong yet respectfully silent. Or, perhaps planting a flag is how a male dog feels after marking a hydrant.

Maybe John Oliver will do a great piece on The Daily Show about celebrating our independence from Great Britain - his interviews are hilarious, especially of Americans - this time I would hope while he's traveling in the UK. Which reminds me: Remember if you're an American traveling overseas, the rest of the world is working and not celebrating the holiday. I know that sounds obvious but since I walk to my mailbox on every holiday and forget the banks are closed, it isn't a stretch to be wondering why I can't see the fireworks from my hotel window in Stuttgart.

I do wonder if it's a big breakup day for couples, when people reflect and might say, "This ain't working for me. Time to claim my independence!" Martina McBride's song "Independence Day" will be played quite a bit for its title, but the lyrics can offer real inspiration to those who need freedom from a bad relationship.

Some of us enjoy watching the Will Smith classic Independence Day (it's only 13 years old but I consider it a classic), which will be broadcast continually across the cablesphere (did I just make up a new word?) all weekend long. It's the Fourth's equivalent to It's a Wonderful Life. This year, it's on E! Entertainment and is the subject of #ScriptChat, a weekly Twitter chat amongst writers.

But I'm fairly certain most men are just happy in the fact there are no greeting cards or gifts required, and we won't hear "I can't believe you forgot me on the 4th!"

Um, here's a sparkler?

Postscript 2009: Governor Sarah Palin announced her intention to resign as governor of Alaska yesterday, without offering any real details. It sent the country in a frenzy of speculation and sniping from both sides of our inadequate two-party system, and is a sad distraction to the holiday weekend. Regardless of her reasons, the timing reminds me of that f'd up attention grabber we all seem to have stories about who has to one-up any event (birthday, retirement, wedding, even funeral) refocusing attention on themselves by what they wear, what they do or, most often, just by what they say. I say ignore her and the arguments for at least today, and let's enjoy ourselves. And, yes, I appreciate the freedom I enjoy to say whatever I want, even if we agree to disagree!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Wait Your Turn

"Wait your turn" is something we are all taught as children. It's a simple way of saying, think about others before yourself; be cool, you'll get your chance.

I believe if everyone remembered to follow this simple practice, our days could be less stressful and even happier.

This can apply to many different situations:

  • Getting in  Line -  like at an airport, where the entry gate is obvious (that big ass door with the gate number above it, and the airline employees standing adjacent), and so is the line behind it. Why form your own merge lane?

  • Driving - just like in the Pauli exclusion principle in quantum theory, two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, so don't force your way in, especially when there's plenty of room in back of the line.

  • Parking - the exercise will do you good, so let the close spots go. Also, don't pretend you didn't see the pedestrians coming. What's a few more seconds?

  • Entering a Building - hold the door for others, just because you should.

  • Career - if you're just graduating high school or college, you're not meant to immediately be making six-figures with your own home, new car, and every amenity know to Engadget. Take your knocks like the rest of us and enjoy the journey - it would be quite boring if it really was all handed to you. And if you've been in one for a while without advancement (meaning you've missed your turn, or several of them), reassess your strategy and your company. Maybe it's your turn for a change to something better.

  • Politics - if your party isn't in power (White House or Congress), start working on finding new solutions that work and a viable opposing candidate for the next election, rather than whining, spewing venom, or spinning information to make everyone look bad, including yourselves.

  • Love - it usually happens when you stop looking for it, so don't rush to the finish line, especially with someone who isn't running the same race.

If you can think of it as you are always exactly where you are supposed to be, why would you try to get somewhere else before you're meant to? Leave that to cats, who never remember why they rushed into that room anyway.

A few weeks ago, I was late and hurrying into work. I came to a stop sign and crosswalk. I noticed a young woman was jogging towards the intersection, so I waited and waved her across. As I drove off, I looked in my rearview mirror and noticed a car heading the other way, rather slowly. Perhaps they were lost. But I also wondered if they had noticed the same jogger. She was running through a large park & ride lot (which was full of cars but not people because it was after 10 AM) and towards a park that is very active on evenings and weekends but virtually empty during the workday. I watch way too much TV and couldn't get the nefarious what-ifs out of my head. Then I thought about the concept of angels among us.

I'm certainly no angel, or even a religious person, but the further I drove, the further I felt compelled to turn around. I was already running late and still wanted my morning coffee, but I couldn't shake the idea of leaving someone, even a stranger, vulnerable.

In addition to serving as corporate tethers, that's what cell phones and blackberries are for anyway. So I turned around. She was long gone and so was the car. And there were a few moms with kids at the playground. As I headed back to work, I saw her jogging up towards the shopping center, back into the population.

Nothing happened. No heroics required. I wasn't needed at all. Or, perhaps, because I turned around, my simple actions had a ripple effect that changed events that could have unfolded differently. Who knows? But I felt I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What's Your Rapper Name?

I've always wondered what my handle would be if I were a rapper. I tried the online rap name generators and quickly dismissed them: Trick P, Dog Mikey M Sledge and Money Rhyme??? So lame.

I think it's better to pick a simple theme and just have some fun.

I could go with my pasty complexion and general lack of coolness: Vanylla HotTay or Soylicious

My typical mood: MC Kurmudgeon

My impulse purchases: Thug Snuggie...or maybe Snug Thuggie

My favorite sci-fi characters: O.B. Juan

My favorite sci-fi profanity substitutes: FragNetic

My rock-hard abs: Dough-boy  Ripple

My career goal: Certified PMP in the house!

My ailments: Hay-Feevah

My video game prowess: Axe Kickah

Or my age: Busta Hip

My multi-ethnic heritage...
Greek: Hiphopodopolous
Italian: Vinny Vedivici
Irish: Little Big Da
English: PubKrawler
Scottish: GaelForce Tiger
Welsh: Stone Kold Castle Chiller
French: Roi de Fromage
German: RocktoberFest

My mad skills of exaggeration and inaccuracy: 9 Inch Nail

And when feeling especially sacrilegious (remembering that God laughs in any faith):
Wiccedy Wiccedy Wiccan
Ur Nex Messiah
Elijah's Chair Sitter
Karma Zootra
Big Belly Wizdom
All 4 72 Ladyz
AgnosticFronter or ItzAllGood

I'll keep adding more until I get bored...

What's yours? Comment here or share on Twitter. Be creative!!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

How Did You Do In Your First 100 days?

Imagine you put everything on the line for the hardest job in the world. The kind of job that one can only dream of, but no one truly wants. A job that brings unimaginable stress - the kind that can kill you and will definitely age you five years for every one. A position where nearly every decision is monumental - decisions that can have ripple effects that aren't apparent for years, but are analyzed and reanalyzed, criticized, and held to standards no single human could ever truly attain.

Every word you say is recorded, repeated, paraphrased, interpreted, spun, taken out of context or simply fabricated. Every slip, simple or significant, is instantly echoed audibly, visually, in print and immortalized, often in late-night monologues.

You've gone through the longest, most grueling interview process ever. You've asked your spouse and your kids, who only want you to be happy and successful, to follow a path with you that will change their lives forever. They must give up everything for you for the next 1,461 days. In a world where they have to deal with constant worry for your safety as well as their own, and learn to handle unrelenting criticism, ignorance and pure hatred with grace. And where everything they wear, do and say is recorded, repeated, paraphrased, interpreted, spun and taken out of context.

A job where you're expected to clean up whatever mess was left by the last guy, within an arbitrary timeframe.

A job where half the "company" is hoping you fail, declaring every misstep a catastrophe they had predicted all along, tearing away at your self-confidence while pretending to be cordial yet talking behind your back to anyone who will listen, often with disdain, a closed mind and even anger. And the other half is just hoping you don't fuck up, and from a safe distance.

I was lucky to remember anyone's name and find the john without needing a map in my first 100 days. In fact, very little was expected of me other than knowing who to fear, learning the company acronyms and continuing to show up.

Give him a break. At least he's trying.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Getting TwitFaced on Social Networking

Warning: This stuff is addictive, and I'm actually starting to love it. Twitter and Facebook - they're not for everyone (some people think this is the stupidest stuff in the world), but they're welcoming to all. I'll be honest - originally I was pretty cynical, mostly because I didn't understand the potential of these various tools, and I'm always too cool for school (especially when I use dated expressions).

My friend Jessie has been into social networking for years, preaching the benefits, especially for businesses and marketing - now the rest of the world is catching up, including me. I didn’t really connect with the term at first - I knew there were online communities beyond chat rooms, a lot of narcissistic profiles on MySpace (got my own), dating sites, etc. But I didn't really see the potential and had a pretty negative impression and reluctance to join. Plus I'm a latecomer, not an early adopter - my first iPod was 4th-generation even though I was into WAVs before MP3s, and I bought my first mac last week. So let's just say I'm not a version 1.0 kind of guy.

But my attitude about social networking really changed when I learned you could control the access and I started connecting with family, friends, people with the same surname, colleagues, and even made some new friends. And I started participating - how much or how little is really your choice.

I'm not an authority so you can get real information from a better source, but I believe MySpace was originally for music before it became the personal profile site (I still use it for music). I thought Facebook was the same thing but learned it's quite different, and a lot of fun. Twitter is for micro-blogging or broadcast text messaging.

There are several features I don't like but I ignore them. Some folks have plenty of time but I doubt very seriously if I don’t take a quiz to see what kind of 80s Porn Star I am, or return the virtual biscuit, holiday greeting or drink, that anyone will be offended. And quite frankly, I don’t have time to worry about it.

Now, I'm especially enjoying Twitter. A post, or tweet, is brief. Say it in 140 characters or less. Here's one today from one of my personal heros, Al Yankovic, who tweeted: "I have to wonder what kind of names the band REJECTED before they settled on "Hoobastank." Gold.

This week Twitter made headlines when folks realized Ashton Kutcher was on his way to reaching 1 million followers before CNN Breaking News. As the numbers got higher they made a bet: donate mosquito nets for World Malaria Day (10,000 by the winner and 1,000 by the loser). And he won.

It isn't all about celebrities, but they're fun to follow and you soon learn they are (and always have been) regular folk. Actually, everyone in the community is on a level playing field. You can follow anyone and they can follow you.

As a writer, I am also always looking for a way to bring readers to my blog. The problem is there are millions of them out here and they don't cost a dime to start. I realized that one simple tweet of “This $hit is funny!" with my blog's URL by someone like Ashton Kutcher could bring me traffic I could only dream about.

But it's not all about self-promotion. You can read along or jump right into conversations with journalists, musicians, celebrities, smart folks, goofy folks, your friends or total strangers. You don’t have to book an interview. You don’t have to move to LA. You don’t have to have credentials...just an opinion and some decorum. Personally, I enjoy those who post a few tweets a day so I can also keep up with others. Minute-by-minute diaries I tend to avoid.

You can follow the hot stories, search on new topics, and read a history of one’s tweets if they spark your fancy. One of the powerful things about Twitter is the quickness at which information is shared, and the quickness a community responds - often in a charitable sense. You can tweet a simple text message from your cell phone and it's automatically sent to your followers. Which is why information can be shared so quickly - there are literally millions of on-location correspondents.

Here is a sample of the twitter accounts I follow:

Tina Fey - the one I aspire to be (see Tina Fey Comedy Litmus Test)

Nathan Fillion - loved him on Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, Firefly and now Castle. I enjoy hearing what he's up to and stuff he's doing for the show

Decemberists Singer Colin Meloy - artists always have a fresh perspective

George Stephanopoulos – I enjoy the Greek thrown into the messages he receives, and his polling of the community for good questions for his guests

Rainn Wilson - who doesn't love a fellow geek who also happens to be on The Office?

Ellen DeGeneres - she's always funny and loves animals, and I love her

Jason Goldman and Evan Williams - a direct line to folks that make Twitter happen

Dr. Isis the Scientist - Science!

NY Times best-selling author James Rollins - maybe some day I'll have a similar bio

Big Peter - my marathon-running Canadian cousin who's also a CBC writer - Big only refers to age (I have two cousins with the same first name) - Sorry cuz!

Steve - very active media and tech guru, colleague and friend

Kevin Rose - founder of and was a regular on one of my favorite shows The Screen Savers - he's like my smarter younger brother

Ryan Seacrest - great behind the scenes American Idol schtuff and is very active with the community

Liana Maeby - she posted a great blog article to Create your own NPR name. Mine is Michabel Klido. I found Liana through Colin Meloy. Connections. Cool.

If you're anti-social networking, you can skip the interactions and just get one tweet a day from places like Woot for their deal of the day or Amazon MP3 for discounted music.

I know the phrase "power of the Internet" seems cliche, and I've been on it for nearly 20 years, but it still surprises me. I have a blog that reaches hundreds of people and it's hosted for free, even if I start to reach hundreds of thousands; I'm reconnecting with friends, family, classmates and colleagues; and I'm informed on the issues that concern me with pre-linked email contacts to my local government representatives, governors, U.S. senators, and federal department heads, with my own contact information pre-filled.

And with the integration of wireless and portable devices, it's really starting to shine. Where this is going one can only imagine. Yeah, there's an app for that.

Wanna follow me? I’m GothamCityGeek - official Twitter account for someone you don't know but might like to. Humor blogger nerd guitarist rocking the midlife. Does speling count?

Of course one of my problems is having something interesting to say (much like in my radio days when the mic was on and I wasn't). Here's your chance, funny man. The world is listening. Tweet like a pro. "Why isn't it twit?" Yeah, that was lame. I'll work on it. Bet you can do better!

Friday, April 10, 2009

In This Economy…Bite Me

Is it just me, or are we blaming everything on the economy?

It’s bad enough that employers take advantage of people during this time with a virtual license to screw – kind of like we did to ourselves in the last real estate boom. Seven-figure-income earners, who can certainly weather a storm like this, make the bold decisions to stop hiring, cut staff, freeze pay, enforce furloughs, and expect employees to be grateful simply for the employment.

Many states like mine (Maryland) hire employees at will, meaning employers can eliminate anyone’s position (that isn’t under a contract) on a whim. And if you want your severance pay you just have to sign here and agree to leave (no one was fired), not sue anyone, and won’t work for any competitors.

Bite me.

Of course pointing any of this out while you’re still employed could be career-ending, so don’t try this at work.

And don’t get me wrong. There are many people truly suffering, or have been blind-sided (often unfairly) and are just trying to make ends meet. I’ve been laid off a few times and it sucks. Even when it isn’t your fault, it’s a betrayal and total blow to your psyche.

If you’re trying to retire and banked on stocks and your 401K, like we’ve all been told to do for eons, my heart truly goes out to you. But for many of us, it’s the idea of losing your job or your income.

A lot of us are suffering losses that are only on paper (stocks are down, 401K is in the tank, your overpriced house is under market value) – but the losses aren’t realized unless you trade those stocks, cash in your 401K or try to sell your house. Otherwise, in time, theoretically they’ll all recover and continue to rise in value. Hence, no real loss.

But it’s beyond the unemployment, the workplace, the banks and financial theory (which I believe is predicated upon keeping fat, rich, white people fat and rich – they’ll be white no matter how much money they make). It’s the constant bombardment of the same message, without anything new to offer.

The media (left-leaning elite liberal or fair-and-balanced-right wing) is hoping this "story" lasts longer than Octomom’s 15 minutes (which is up to about 492 hours, and that's just on television). Honestly, I think we’ll be out of the recession, through another golden era and into a new recession before we’ve heard the end of that family.

At least I haven’t heard “from Wall Street to Main Street” today.

The ECONOMY, if we’re all honest here, is something most of us don’t really understand. We understand our personal economy: what’s in my checkbook, how much do I owe, and that I live paycheck to paycheck, or maybe scam to scam, or on Daddy’s trust fund (turns out Daddy in many cases was just other people’s money).

But it’s in or on everything – news, commercials, radio, print, billboards, graffiti…it’s even making it into the scripts of sit-coms and television dramas. And it's non-stop. It is also, quite conveniently for some, the ultimate scapegoat:

At work…
--Johnson, we have to let you go. It’s the economy.

--But, sir, our stock is up and my team grew our core revenue 12%.

--OK, it’s your hair and I never liked you. Tah tah.

On the highway…
--License and registration. Do you realize how fast you were going, sir?

--I’m sorry, officer. I just can’t pay attention to things like speed-limit signs, school zones or the safety of others. You know, in this economy…

Even at home…
--Jasmine, why haven’t you finished your math homework? It’s time for bed.

--Well, mom, you know, it all seems so pointless, in this economy. What will be left for me when I graduate? Maybe I should just get a job now before you and daddy piss everything away. I can always go back to the third grade later, right?

OK, Jasmine actually has a point. For now, I’d just really love one day without hearing “stimulus package” innuendo or the actual word “economy”.

Last one, I promise…
--Mark, were you just kissing that other woman? Have you lost your freakin’ mind?!

--Come on, Peggy. Since the firm shut down, I’ve been adrift. I’ve lost my masculinity, my self-esteem, my edge, my moral compass. In these economic times, I feel totally emasculated.

--Moral compass? You were an investment banker.

--Point taken. But you do understand, don’t you?...Is that loaded?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

45-year-old Male Presenting with Chest Pains

Reading those words on my own chart in a hospital I had no intention on visiting last Monday brings a flood of thoughts and emotions: fear, mortality and embarrassment. Suddenly the economy, the futility of partisan politics and the AIG hate-fest are meaningless. OK, it’s not a chart on a clipboard like on TV, it’s on a computer screen, but it has the same effect.

A week earlier I pulled a trapezius muscle. Not from working out, playing sports or aerobatic heroics. No, from self-induced whiplash when I accidently hit the cold water in the shower and got a quick ice splash on my back. Like I said, embarrassing. To compound things, because that's what I constantly do, I also strained my neck and back performing an exercise incorrectly I was given by my chiro.

I felt like an idiot, because that's what I constantly do, so my plan was to take some Advil and walk it off, at least figuratively. The pain started to fade (that false sense of quick rebound healing like when I was younger), then came back with a vengeance. By Thursday night I’m not sleeping – I can’t find a comfortable position no matter how I sit or lay. And my breath is shallow because it hurts to inhale (like with bruised ribs after missing a payment to Citibank).

So I try to see my doc on Friday but they’re all booked up. I schedule an appointment for Monday and take some more Advil. By Sunday, I’m a zombie – the no sleep thing is catching up – so I go to a clinic (my vitals are fine), get some muscle relaxants and finally get some rest.

I decide to keep my doctor's appointment on Monday afternoon because the relaxants may be knocking me out but the pain is rock solid. It’s radiating straight through my chest, like William Tell aimed too low and a little to the right. No shooting pain down the arm, no pressing weight on my chest, no indigestion. This is not a heart attack.

They check my vitals as they always do and the blood pressure is up (it's never up) and my pulse is 100. What? 100? Wait a minute, it was fine yesterday and it's never been that high.

They immediately give me an EKG. Great, shirt's off for the ladies, while I'm sitting down, before I've worked off the winter weight. Yes, even in situations like this I can't shut down my vanity gene.

My doctor says my EKG is normal. Whew! But that’s just a snapshot in time so it isn't exactly reliable. And because of the pulse rate and difficulty breathing, she's a little concerned about a pulmonary embolism. A what? Where’s Wikipedia when I need it? It’s probably nothing but still best to get it checked out. Getting a stat CAT Scan at a regular lab is about as likely as [insert fast economic turnaround joke here]. Would I like an ambulance, to call a friend or to drive myself to the ER. The latter is not recommended. Thanks, Regis. I think I'll phone a friend.

Here’s my real problem: I’m an analyst and have an eye for detail. I give so much information during a doctor's visit I confuse even myself. But the pain is real, my heart rate is elevated, and I'm getting unexpected stressful news. I'm on my way to the hospital instead of the office. Now I'm starting to panic. Good lord, what if none of this pain has to do with my hypersensitive startle reflex and poor direction-following? What if there is a blockage of my pulmonary artery caused by a clot that dislodges and embolizes (travels) to the arterial blood supply of one of my lungs? (OK, I wasn't thinking that - I looked this shit up when I got home). But no wonder my pulse is elevated.

No. Namaste. Breathe. This is another bone-headed self-injury. I’m fine. Right?

Right. Five hours later, I learn I am fine. I’m more than fine. I'm ecstatic. They ruled out the scary stuff, one at a time:

  • Check my vitals as soon as I get there - I'm already getting better

  • Another EKG - it's all good. I'll take two snapshots in time

  • Blood work comes back great (enzymes that can be released after a cardiac incident are not found, and organ function is normal)

  • Chest X-ray is taken and looks good from both the front and side angles (thank God because I quit smoking in 1996 and I know it’s not a guaranteed get-out-of-cancer card free but we’ve got the big C on both sides of my family; luckily, we don't have heart disease)

  • Just to be safe, let’s rule out that pulmonary embolism with a CAT Scan. We’ll just inject you with a radioactive solution so we can get a good look. Sign here, please. I’m now Peter Parker but my web slingers aren’t yet active (Yes, I tried). Wait a little while and the results are awesome

  • Go home, take it easy, don’t lift anything, here are some meds better than Advil and stay away from the office for three days (bonus!)

So I’m lucky. I have comprehensive health insurance that covers all of this, a doctor who thinks like I do (better safe than sorry), and an incredibly efficient hospital (Howard County General) right up the street. They were fantastic. They moved me through each station, with some waiting in between back in the lobby and not on a metal chair in a cold hallway. They even apologized for the backup. I thought I’d be there all night. I was out in hours. They were fast.

And just for added kicks, I learned while I was in the ER that my company started laying off 10% of our workforce. We knew it was coming, we just didn't know who or when. It didn't help with my stress but honestly, I wasn't thinking about work. If it was me, they could wait to deliver the news. Turns out it wasn't me. Do they have a pill for survivor guilt?

So why do I share all of this? Because I imagine there are people out there like me who feel like a hypochondriac when describing their symptoms, or rule out a visit because of the inconvenience, a busy schedule, warped priorities like work before health, impatience, money, fear or a dozen other rationalizations of why you won't go. Yet we all know it's always best to get it checked out because the alternative just isn't worth it.

Getting older may not always be fun, but as long as I'm getting older and still here, I'm doing something right.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Juno was a friend of mine...Comcast, you are no Juno

Saying the Comcast Town TV commercials are annoying is an understatement; like the incessant claims made by all providers regarding their lightning-fast broadband service, reliability and having the best HD options are overstatements.

If it were my first 100 days in office, I think I’d pass Executive Order #13507: If you pay for cable or fiber optic services, advertisements reminding you nine times an evening where all of your money is really going are prohibited.

The unenjoyable, infectious, seemingly never-ending Comcast Town songs are reminiscent of (but don't come close to) the song performed at the end of the movie Juno. That song I liked. It’s a cover of “Anyone Else But You” by the Moldy Peaches. You can see the Juno scene here:

I won’t embed the Comcast commercials. If you choose to suffer, you shall do so by your own hand here:

Dream Big? I can dream how big my bill will get, you unregulated ba$tards.

Mono-tone-ous TV Ditty
Monolithic corporate greedy
Earned the fate of Circuit City

Next time won’t you sing with me?


[wait...the internet is down the 800 number...punch in my account number (where the hell is my bill?)...hit 1...hit 4...hit's ringing!...false alarm, now in a call is very important to them...yes, I do realize you have a web, I don't want to order Summer Slam...aww forget it]

Town can kiss my ass for free

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Dove Beauty Bars – Now Backed By Fake Science

Have you seen the Dove beauty bar commercial? Not the real beauty campaign. That’s actually refreshing, where they feature normal, natural, healthy body types instead of Hollywood waifs.

No, this is different. The image above, captured from their television ad, appears to be a woman under a black light or special lens of some sort that can highlight a horrible skin ailment caused by soap. But the caption says it’s actually an artistic dramatization. Of what? Cooties? No, it's "soap scum" left by ordinary soap, while Dove leaves nothing.

So you just painted it on to illustrate? Wow. I guess I could just use Photoshop demonstrating my new miracle tanning product and just pop up an "artistic dramatization...results may vary" caption and I'm golden.

Seriously, if you can only demonstrate this through art and not an actual picture, you’re kind of full of crap and really leaning towards false advertising.

I was intrigued, and of course skeptical, so I spent some time on their web site reviewing the science. You can too: Video Gallery

You can see a lovely demonstration of the science behind soap scum with Dr. Christine Lee, who introduces herself as a PhD chemist who works in product development for the Dove brand. So it’s not independent research, but at least they’re up front about it.

The scientific demonstration: soapy Dove is smeared on a mirror and soapy soap is smeared on another mirror. Then each is spritzed with ordinary tap water from a spray bottle, and the soap leaves more "residue" then Dove.

So if I shower and don’t use my hands to wipe off the lather, I may be left with more residue than if I use Dove.

Dr. Lee even describes soap scum as the combination of soap materials from a “normal” cleansing bar with the calcium ions found in hard water.

So was that normal tap water hard? They didn't say.

I looked up hard water on wikipedia. Hard water doesn’t produce lather when used with soap but can produce white precipitate (scum). So it’s not a total BS claim, but it is "stretchy."

If you have hard water problems, perhaps Dove will do you well. I have no hard water problems, or issues with any of my soaps. I actually use Lever 2000 for all my 2000 body parts, made by Lever Brothers, the same company that makes Dove. I’ve also used Caress, also made by Lever Brothers. They also make Lifebuoy. So how could they in good conscience produce these other products that leave a disgusting film? Probably because the whole campaign really is BS.

I’ve used Dove and it’s quite nice, except I’ve found it dissolves down to nothing much quicker than regular soap. Perhaps Lifebuoy can use that in their campaign.

Me? I’m cheap. I’ll risk the scum.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Weather without the Foreplay

I don’t mean to be crass, but think about the way the local weather forecast is delivered in the late evening news. They start to talk about it at the tail end of the first block but never really get us there.

Here’s the basic format: It’s “news” from 11:00 to 11:09, then the resident weather geek with a first name from 1952 like Norm, Stan, or Kip with all smiles tells us what already happened today.

We get what the high and low temperatures were today, when the sun rose and set, and what the dew point was. That’s right, was. So we get what we’ve already experienced unless we decided to stay inside all day with the shades drawn or we work at a casino. That’s not a weather forecast, it’s a recap.

Then they might tease us with some overnight temps, which is the beginnings of a forecast, but it’s not what we’re waiting for. Besides, it’s almost midnight. Predicting the next 12 hours isn’t really that difficult. It’s a fairly accepted concept that it will, in fact, get cooler overnight, regardless of your location or the season.

Then they tell us there’s more to come later in the full forecast. Well that was rather unsatisfying but I’m not going anywhere. So I sit through some commercials and more “news”. Eventually we get to the full forecast. The anchor usually segues with something novel like, “Boy, it was a cold one today, wasn’t it, Charlie? What do you have in store for us tomorrow?” Our favorite Doppler-junkie chortles, reminds us he doesn’t actually control the weather, and sashays over to the green screen to work his magic.

And he works it slowly.

We get the same info we got in the top segment, now with some history. We get the day’s high and low temperatures again, but now with a comparison to what they should have been, the record low dating back to the 1800s and the record high. No Farmer’s Almanac reference? I’m disappointed.

Next we get the current temperature. Well, temperatures. Everywhere. There are dozens of them. Luckily, Byron only has time to mention a few. [Honestly, I do get excited when they name my town – I don’t know why. “22 degrees in Whoville! Represent!”] And just to drag it on even longer, we get what the temps “feel” like. Hmmm. Wind makes us feel colder. But exactly how much colder, Chad? Apparently my tactile senses can’t help me. I need a number.

Well, we’ve discussed the current temperatures we could have ascertained by poking our heads outside in one collective motion, and we’ve illustrated quite effectively that they do fluctuate a few degrees the further north, south, east or west one might travel. Great. What about my drive tomorrow? I need to go to sleep.

But first, the sunrise/sunset and high tide/low tide. Are you kidding me? I don’t set my schedule by the sun - no offense, farmers - or by the moon’s pull on our shorelines - no offense, crabbers, shuckers, fishermen, CSIs (I hear low tide is the best time to find the bodies).

OK, surely now I can plan my morning…Hold up, satellite & radar. Do we really need both? It is some expensive equipment, and they’re constantly bragging about it, so no surprise we’re gonna get some pictures. And we take it all on faith. They could be using Google Earth and Microsoft Paint and we’d be none the wiser.

I’m alright with the images…it’s the science lesson that bothers me. Every single night. High pressure, low pressure, warm fronts, cold fronts. Jiminy H. Christmas. TMI! No offense to the profession. I’m glad you enjoy your job, but Flipper the Moneymaker doesn’t take us back through macroeconomics every time he delivers the DOW closing.

So class is over and finally I can…nope, false alarm. It’s tomorrow’s lite forecast: wake up, lunch time and afternoon. Another slow tease that finally leads into the seven-day forecast. You couldn’t open with that? Really? And they have to whip through it because Sparky still has scores to deliver and they’re running behind, so I have to decipher the graphics (is that lightning, wind or snow on Thursday?).

I think we could get our entire local news in under 30 seconds:

Today there were 8 murders and 3 fires. The economy sucks it. A local, national, or foreign politician did something questionable or corrupt today (probably both). Here’s an outrageous story about a random person you feel comfortable judging but won’t remember in two weeks. Puppies are still cute. In sports, we won! Flash the weather graphic and "Thank you, good night!"

Maybe I really just want to know why everyone follows the same format. Local or network evening or morning news. How about mixing it up? Bring some happy. And not the patronizing, insincere stuff or kitchen segments; just something truly positive.

Simplify the weather and give it to us earlier. Later in the broadcast, you can show us how your past predictions actually fared. Show me last week’s seven-day forecast and how close you were. Give us a real measure of your prognostication skills and we’ll decide who has the most accurate forecast in town.

Idea for April Fools: Replace the extended forecast with tonight’s power ball numbers and see if anyone really notices.

Maybe the truly amazing thing is how much time I just spent talking about the weather, knowing it’s online whenever I want it and there is no reason to sit through a local newscast at all.

George Carlin really nailed the absurd side of weather forecasting as Al Sleet, the Hippie-Dippie Weatherman back in the 70s…

“Tonight's forecast: Dark. Continued dark throughout most of the evening, with some widely scattered light towards morning.”

“Currently it's 70 degrees at the airport, which is stupid because I don't know anybody who lives at the airport.”

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Procrasti-Nation: I want my…I want my…I want my DTV

You’ve seen the ads and messages scrolling on your still-functioning TV screens for a year. Analog television is going away. The transition to digital has actually been in the works since 1996. On February 17th, some television stations will stop broadcasting on analog airwaves and only broadcast in digital. It was supposed to be all television stations but thanks to the DTV Delay Act – that’s right, an act of Congress passed 13 days before the deadline was reached from the last DTV Act of Congress – our government catered to the procrastinators and extended the deadline (again), this time to June 12th.

Broadcast television is a service that doesn’t charge you a dime to watch programming that is broadcast over the air to your home. It’s all paid for by advertising – mostly annoying advertising, but free. Even HD is broadcast over the air from your local affiliate for free. You just need a properly equipped TV.

If you don’t subscribe to cable, FiOS or satellite, and you haven’t bought a new TV since the first Bush administration, and you only get your stories the old-fashioned way, with a rooftop aerial antenna or rabbit ears and tin foil (you probably also don’t realize foil has been made with aluminum for decades), you’re going to see snow on lots of channels until you get an analog-to-digital converter box available from a gazillion different local and online retailers for $50 to $80, and that’s before applying a $40 coupon that’s now on back order because laissez-faire people like you never ordered one (you’re eligible for two) from, or you didn’t use it before it expired. [Apparently when I get really sarcastic, my run-ons run on even more.]

Here are two sites that should be able to answer all of your questions:
DTV Answers

Citing the economy for a reason to extend the deadline for people to prepare is ludicrous. If people have procrastinated this long, adding a few months in an economy spiraling downward to allow them to save up $50 or finally order a coupon changes nothing. They still won’t be ready. Wait until their shit stops working – then, they’ll be motivated.

What does this mean to all of the local broadcasters? Lots of confusion, unnecessary expenses and more red tape. Think about it from their perspective. They have analog equipment that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars that they are replacing. They stopped ordering new parts to maintain this older equipment once they were given the thumbs up to completely dump it on Tuesday. Last week, they were told "Wait a'll need it for another four months...maybe." And who says it won’t be extended again?

I was really hoping analog, digital and satellite radio stations across this apathetic land of ours would unite on the day of the transition and broadcast Orson Welles’ classic radio drama War of the Worlds, just to mess with folks who deserve some messing. But now that prank is vapor because there is no single transition day.

So legislators have really messed things up again, but why should we be surprised? These are the same people who decided the converter coupons expire 90 days after they are mailed. Perhaps 90 days after the actual transition occurred would have been a little smarter.

By the way, my digital HDTV (which required 24 interest-free payments well before the transition) is stunning. I really don’t know what you’re waiting for!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Valentine’s Day: The Hallmark of Manufactured Holidays

This freelance column from January 27, 2009 is no longer available at so I'm re-posting here....

Let me apologize in advance for this sexist rant, but I just don’t like Valentine’s Day and I doubt as a man I’m alone. Honestly, how many men do you know who mark their calendars or ever say “I can’t wait until February 14th!”, unless it closes with “…is over.”

Probably few. Except maybe those currently in a relationship who think six-dollar roadside flowers will guarantee the lay, or the happy hour predators who barely contain their elation when they read the expression “I will not be alone on today of all days” on so many faces.

I enjoy holidays like Mother’s Day (they deserve it every day) and Father’s Day (often the forgotten parent, sometimes for good reason, many times not), and even your birthday when you get to be treated as special (though let’s be honest, you had nothing to do with the actual birth and this should be the day mom is truly honored). But Valentine’s Day? Man, I just don’t get it.

If you’re in a relationship, you’re constantly reminded about what you’re supposed to do: buy jewelry, or flowers and candy (that better be with jewelry). Not exactly a celebration of commitment, monogamy or the hard work of a relationship: they’re just personal, unoriginal gifts intended for one gender, albeit the fairer of the two.

Ah, and then there’s the obligatory dinner out on one of the busiest nights of the year. Restaurants rarely need to take reservations anymore and call-ahead seating is more of a warning for the staff that more people are on their way. I appreciate any opportunity not to have to cook, but I’m claustrophobic in crowds and, again, this is not an original idea. Traditions should be created, not replicated because your calendar, your television, or a national marketing budget dictates it so.

And in all honesty, I don’t particularly enjoy celebrating on a day when so many cannot. If you’re not in a relationship, there’s nothing like a reminder every seven minutes on the tube about what you won’t be receiving, right after the weight-loss commercials they’ve been cramming down our throats like virtual bonbons since Boxing Day (the day after Christmas).

So if you really want to know what men want for Valentine’s Day, it’s a break. But for the love of Pete, please don’t tell us you don’t want anything when you don’t mean it. It’s worth the cards, flowers, chocolate or installment plan not to have to live with the disappointment we inevitably cause by really skipping the holiday this year.

So Happy VD, everybody! Yeah, that’s what it feels like.