Friday, January 20, 2017

Creative Professionals Don't Work for Exposure

My bank is a bit demanding. They expect me to pay my mortgage with actual money.

Ditto my utilities providers. They provide me with electricity, water, and phone service, and I give them money too.

They're not interested in alternative forms of payment. I can't take 100 gallons of rainwater to my water company, and my cable company won't let me pay my bill with two goats and a chicken.

They certainly wouldn't be interested in providing their services in return for "exposure." That is, I can't just tell my friends and family about the wonderful job my mobile phone provider is doing in exchange for unlimited data each month.

Most companies will donate money as corporate sponsorship for a charity event, sports team, or anything that gives them community and public relations exposure. But that's different from asking a creative professional to do their job for free in exchange for exposure.

Then, exposure is something you die from, because you can't afford your house anymore.

No, creative professionals need to be paid actual money in exchange for the things we do. Asking them to work for free are one of those things that are Just Not Done. It's bad form, especially when the person making the request has plenty of money to pay in the first place.

Marla Maples committed this faux pas this past week, when she asked a professional hair stylist to provide styling and makeup for her and her daughter, Tiffany Trump, in exchange for "exposure" on Inauguration Day.

Maples asked Washington hair stylist, Tricia Kelly, to provide her services in exchange for Maples mentioning Kelly on her social media accounts. They had originally agreed to a $350 fee, but Maples instead asked for the freebie. Kelly was so incensed at what she called Maples' "entitled behavior" that she shared her story with the media.

As a result, Kelly got more exposure by refusing to style their hair than if she had actually done it. Because there are 462,000 Google search results versus Maples' 31,000 Twitter followers.

It's real simple. Asking a creative professional to work for free is like farting in church: it's rude, vulgar, and people will give you the stink eye.


It may seem easy, or like anyone can do it — I'm talking about creative work, not farting — but as a professional writer, I can tell you there are plenty of educated adults who couldn't write a clear set of directions out of a tunnel if you spotted them two tries.

Similarly, I may have a digital camera, and a finger to press the little button, but that doesn't make me a photographer. I have photographer friends who work at their craft, putting in hours of work, even though their actual job only takes one-one hundredth of a second. So I know better than to compare the things I shoot on my my phone's camera to the masterpieces created on my friends' $2,000 laser-guided art box.

Creative professionals meet the true definition of the word. We're some of the best in our field, and people pay us a living wage to actually do that work. We don't work for free, because we have bills to pay and families to take care of.

That means the exposure we're offered is not worth it, because it doesn't actually get us anything useful. I've been asked by new online magazines to write free articles for the exposure.

I told one of them, "I've got tweets with bigger readership than your entire magazine. Maybe you should pay me to tweet about you."

They never responded.

Creative professionals are in a weird place. What we do seems fun. We create, design, and chronicle the things happening around us. We make up stories people love to read, or take pictures and paint paintings of things people love to see. We write songs that people love to hear.

But we don't actually produce anything, like a car manufacturer or restaurant owner, or solve problems like a plumber or a lawyer. So it's easy to think that what we do isn't real, which makes people think we should be grateful to work for free.

Except this is how we make our living. We have certain skills that people want, to solve a problem they have, and they're willing to pay for it. And we have only so many hours each week we can earn that money. So any time we work on things that don't earn money means that we can't pay our mortgages or feed our families.

Think of it this way: imagine I come to you because I needed your professional help. Whether you're a plumber, accountant, cook, or machinist, I want you to take three days off work, completely unpaid, and do that same work at my house. In exchange, I'll tweet a couple times about what a great plumber, accountant, cook, or machinist you are.

Would you do it? Would you give up three days' pay so I would tweet about you?

Of course not, because you have family to take care of and obligations to meet.

But if you're a farmer, maybe we can come to some arrangement. I have some extra goats and chickens I need to get rid of.





You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, January 13, 2017

People From Indiana Now Officially Called "Hoosiers"

Call the neighbors and wake the kids. We're Hoosiers now!

That is, we're officially called Hoosiers by the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO), for whatever that's worth.

According to a recent story in USA Today, Senator Joe Donnelly and former senator Dan Coats had asked the GPO to update its official style manual and change the name of people from Indiana to "Hoosiers." And since they were in the process of updating the manual anyway, they made the change, so now we're really and truly Hoosiers!

No longer do we have to put up with this "Indianians" or "Indianans" nonsense, two names we have railed against as woolly headed and dumb.

It's not that there's anything wrong with having your state name as part of your demonym, a proper noun that refers to people from a particular country, region, or state. In fact, every other state in the country is part of the same sheep-like flock. Floridians, Kentuckians, Illinoisans, and even Michiganians and Wisconsinites.

I also learned that people from Massachusetts are not called Massholes, they're called Massachusettsans. (Guess you learn something new every day.)
A pork tenderloin, our official state sandwich

If you're not from Indiana, you may not understand how important this is. We've always called ourselves Hoosiers, even if the rest of the country only thought it referred to people from Indiana University who were abused by Bobby Knight.

For over 180 years, we've used the term, even though we're not exactly sure where it comes from. We've been using it since at least 1826 when the term first appeared in area newspapers.

It gained popularity in the 1830s when Richmond poet John Finley penned "The Hoosier's Nest," which contained the lines "The emigrant is soon located, In Hoosier life initiated; Erects a cabin in the woods, Wherein he stows his household goods."

Past etymological exploration about the term have turned up stories about mispronunciations of Hussar, the term "Hoshier," surveyors' questions of "Who's here?" and the rather dark question, "Who's ear?"

That last theory was offered by our very own Hoosier Poet, James Whitcomb Riley, he of "Little Orphant Annie" fame. Riley says that back in the day, we Indiana folk were quite the vicious tavern brawlers who would gouge and bite off the noses and ears of our opponents. This was such a common occurrence, said Riley, that a settler might enter a tavern the next morning, spy a piece of humanity on the floor, poke it with his toe and ask "Whose ear?"

This story was later commemorated by former Indiana inmate and noted ear biter Mike Tyson during his 1997 title bout with Evander Holyfield, where Tyson bit off a piece of Holyfield's ear in the third round of their fight.

But bitten ears and poets aside, many of us are proud to call ourselves Hoosiers, especially now that we've got the full backing of the GPO, and can put this whole "Indianians" nonsense to rest. Donnelly and Coats even said they found the term "a little jarring to be referred to in this way," as did the rest of us.

I remember a few years ago, reading an article written by someone who claimed to be an expert on our fair state. Except she used the term "Indianian" throughout the piece, which betrayed her as a fraud, and she was promptly roasted by angry Hoosiers on Facebook and Twitter.

We Hoosiers may be mild mannered in most things, but call us the wrong name, and we can be royal bastards.

Because we're a proud people. We pioneered our state, we settled it, and we built it. Not like California and Florida, which were built by other people. We did it ourselves. We're often overlooked and forgotten — we're called a flyover state by those haughty stiff necks on the coasts — but we're a state of firsts and onlies. We can claim things that no one else in the world can.

For example, we have the only town in the entire world, Nappanee, to be spelled with exactly two of each letter: two N's, two A's, two P's and two E's.

We have the world's largest ball of paint in Alexandria, the world's largest concrete egg in Mentone, and the world's largest sycamore stump and world's largest steer, both from Kokomo.

We're also the only state that lists the Sugar Cream pie as its official state pie, and the pork tenderloin as its official state sandwich. No seriously, we had meetings about it. We voted and everything.

These are the kinds of things that make us better than other states. Massachusetts has been trying to declare the fluffer nutter sandwich — peanut butter and marshmallow fluff — their official state sandwich, but their legislature has been stuck on the issue for 10 years. A whole decade, and they can't even agree on a damn sandwich that, frankly, sounds a little nasty.

And now we're the first state to have a non-state name demonym. Not those lazy Californians, not the rude Marylanders, and certainly not those swamp Yankees, the Rhode Islanders.

Say it loud, say it proud, we're Hoosiers.

Well, not too loud and proud. Who do you think we are, New Yorkers?



You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, January 06, 2017

You, Sir, Have a Historic List of Banned Words

They say the way you spend your first day of the new year is the way you're going to spend the entire year.

So, laying on the couch with the flu? No, thank you. But that's where I found myself for the first four days of the new year, fighting for my life, teetering at death's door.

In fact, the only thing that kept me going was that Lake Superior State University (LSSU) released their 42nd annual List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.

So I peeled my dadbod off the sofa and staggered to my computer.

Or I nearly did, except "dadbod" is one of the banished words for 2017.

The very first list was published on January 1, 1976, by W. T. Rabe, a public relations director at LSSU, and has been a university tradition ever since.
Writing about the list has been my tradition since 2006, making this the 12th consecutive year I've covered it. This column is also partly responsible for a friend's daughter attending LSSU this coming fall, so I hope the school is appropriately grateful for my efforts.

(Like, say, a nice sweatshirt grateful.)

This is one of my favorite columns to write each year, because I get to tell people to quit using certain words because they're terrible.

The words, not people.

People are fine, for the most part. It's just that some of the words are, well, deplorable in a "bigly" way.

Surprisingly, deplorable did not make the list. But "bigly" did.

Bigly has been an actual word since around 1400. It originally meant "with great force or violently," and was used in the Le Morte d'Arthur tale in 1485. Later, it came to mean "boastfully or haughtily," when Thomas Hardy used it in his novel, Far From the Madding Crowd, in 1874.

However, "bigly" haters, if you're thinking He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named used it in the debates last year, He-Who's son, Eric, confirmed that his dad actually said "big league" during the Republican debates, and not the more archaic and well-read term.

Sort of like that time during the 2000 campaign George W. Bush and Dick Cheney called the New York Times' Adam Clymer a "major league A-hole."

Still, if we're going to kick the year off with a major league banishment, we couldn't do much worse than going after a 600-year-old word. That's some big league stuff.

But the 2016 presidential campaign got a lot of people's dander up. And I'm completely safe in saying that, because LSSU has only put the kibosh on the phrase "get your dandruff up."

This little eggcorn — a misheard rendering of a popular word or phrase — is correctly said as "get your dander up." So I can only conclude that people are tired of hearing about their friends' scalp condition. Either that, or so many people decided to correct this mis-use that it caught the Banished Words committee's attention.

You might say it was their "bête noire." Defined as a person or thing that someone really dislikes, I imagine this 19th century French phrase was just too hoity-toity for some people.

I was surprised the word even made the list, considering I had to look up what it meant. I didn't even know people were using it, let alone overusing it.

My own bête noire was the generally useless, "831," which was probably submitted by people who yell at kids to get off their lawn.

It's a texting abbreviation of the phrase "I love you" — 8 letters, 3 words, 1 meaning. Because nothing expresses the deepest of all human emotions like reducing it to a shortcut.

That's about as stupid as "bae," which was banished in 2015, although I don't think many people got that particular memo. They even skipped the town hall meeting we had about it.

Which is unfortunate, because "town hall meeting" got the chop as well, since most political candidates are too cowardly to do real town halls anymore. I haven't seen a political event where real people got to ask real questions since that episode of "West Wing."

Another presidential campaign word I won't miss is "historic." Every presidential election since I've been alive, and I was born the year before Nixon v. Humphrey, has been labeled historic, and this year was no different, except worse. Of course it's historic! If nothing else, this campaign will be discussed in history class in 100 years, assuming our civilization still exists.

Still, the committee saw fit to eliminate the word, saying historians should consider what's historic, not the contemporary media.

(I don't think the contemporary media is fit to pronounce anything historic, since they usually say "an historic," which is completely wrong. It's "a historic," I shout at my TV. "A historic! You, sir, are an moron!")

At least I did until LSSU banished "you, sir."

Because it's from a more civilized era when we settled disagreements with duels and discourse, not Internet bullying by Cheeto-fingered post-truth trolls. Which means we're probably too uncivilized to use it properly.

Fair enough. They banned "post-truth" too.

I just wish they could do something about the trolls.


Photo credit: LSSU Administration Building, where I like to think all this magic happens. Bobak Ha'Eri (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, December 30, 2016

We Need Some Better Words in the English Language

We have nearly a quarter of a million words in the English language, and yet I can't help feel we have some we don't need, but are lacking some others.

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) contains 171,476 words currently in use, another 47,156 obsolete words, plus 9,500 more derivative words. New words are being added all the time, but lately, the quality of the words being added makes me weep for civilization's decline.

For example, in September 2016, the OED added "squee," "cheeseball," and "moobs" to their lexicon.

Moobs? Seriously, moobs? How could the OED, that honorable and erudite repository of the English language, add the portmanteau of "man boobs" to their 20 volume set? Centuries from now, long after our civilization has fallen, archaeologists will find an old copy of the OED, carefully examine it, and discover the entry for "moobs."

"This explains everything," they'll say sadly, shaking their heads the way we do when we hear stories about doctors who put leeches on sick people.

You want more from a body that pursues its work with such nerdy passion that they need 20 volumes to hold the entirety of our language. You would hope the editors — I always imagine them wearing caps and gowns, like the dons at Oxford College — would scowl at the term, and strike it completely.

It's such an ugly word, my spell checker won't even recognize it, and I'm not about to add it.

But alas, the OED is a descriptive dictionary, not a proscriptive one. That means they tell us how language is currently being used, not how it should be used. They describe the language around us, they don't proscribe its proper use.

Which means telling your third grade teacher, "Nuh-uh, it's in the dictionary," after she said "'ain't' isn't a proper word" proved nothing.

The F-word is in there too, but that doesn't mean you should go to your grandmother's 90th birthday party and shout "Happy f---in' birthday, Grandma!"

I recently found a list of "untranslatable" foreign words on UrbanAdventures.com that sounded so lovely and agreeable, I think we should start using them on a regular basis.

I also laughed at the use of the word "untranslatable," since what followed every word was, literally, their translation.

We've got words like this already, like "Schadenfreude," which is that feeling of malicious glee at someone else's misfortune. Like when some jack wagon in a Mercedes flips you the bird and cuts you off in traffic, only to get a ticket five minutes later.

One of the words UrbanAdventures.com recommended was "Resferber,"a Swedish term that refers to that excited mix of anxiety and anticipation right before you leave on a trip. I know that feeling all to well. I could never sleep the night before we were supposed to drive 1,000 miles south to Florida, starting at 4:00 A.M.

That usually went away about two hours later when the kids were fighting in the back seat because they couldn't go back to sleep, and I couldn't keep my eyes open.

Once we got to Florida, I experienced "Badkruka," another Swedish term. It refers to someone who is reluctant to get into the water when swimming. This is understandable in Florida; there are things in the water that will eat you.

You're better off just staying on the shore, and enjoying the "mångata," or the rippled reflection of moonlight on water. And that can be enjoyed anywhere, especially a swimming pool at night, safely away from sharks and gators and sea monsters.

And if we already use Schadenfreude, then we need to add another German word to the mix: "verschlimmbessern." It's a verb that means to make something worse when you're trying to improve it. It's a painful word that makes me very uncomfortable.

I don't mean the word itself. That would be stupid.

I mean the act of verschlimmbessern. Imagine bumping into a friend you haven't seen for a while, and asking her when her baby is due, only to find out that she's not pregnant.

Your embarrassed stammering digs you further and further into a deep hole that you can't escape, and your only hope is that lightning will strike one of you at that very moment. You finally manage to break free, but not until you've upset her terribly and undone years of therapy and self-esteem work.

That's verschlimmbessern. And it's the plot of every episode of Frasier and The Office, which is why I hated those shows so much.

I realize that with nearly a quarter million words in the dictionary, there are bound to be some stinkers and disappointments. But that doesn't mean we have to be limited to what's available in their dusty pages. There are plenty of great words in the rest of the world too. And if we could just start using some of them in everyday conversation, I would just squee with delight!


Photo credit: MrPolyonymous (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)


You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Learning to Fly

Erik is out of the office this week for the Christmas holiday, and so we're reprinting a column from December 2005.

It was a question on a discussion card to make car trips and bad dinner parties go faster: Would you rather have the power to fly or become invisible?

Your answer is supposed to provide some insight about who you are as a person.

For example, a lot of people who choose invisibility tend to do so for less than ethical reasons. They would spy, sneak, and do mischief if they could do it unseen. But the flyers talk about saving time, avoiding traffic, and experiencing the freedom that soaring through the air can bring.

I'm a flyer.

Not in a plane though. It's just not the same. I've never had the dream of flying my own plane or becoming a pilot. Flying in a plane isn't like flying like Superman. You don't experience the wind in your hair, or the sense of speed. Also, the food sucks, and I'm right in front of the kid who won't stop kicking my seat.


I want to be the Superman-type flyer who takes off and shouts "Erik Deckers awaaaaay!" I would soar through the air, hair blowing in the breeze, playing tag with birds, buzzing through the clouds.

I've wanted to fly since I was a kid, when I first tried to become airborne in my living room. Like most people my age, I learned important life lessons from TV. And at four years old, I had learned several important things about the way the world worked.

Like if I rolled a piece of paper into the shape of a rocket, it would fly when I set it on my front porch (it didn't). Or if I ate a lot of spinach, I would immediately grow huge muscles like Popeye (I didn't). Or if I flapped my arms, I could fly.

After a steady TV diet of Superman, Scooby Doo, and Bugs Bunny, I had become convinced that if I tried hard enough, I could fly around the house, floating a few feet above the floor. It was just a matter of speed and willpower. They could do it on TV, so I should be able to do it myself.

I chose the highest point in the house — the arm of the sofa — and leapt into the air, holding my arms out like Superman. I thumped to the floor. Superman technique: failed.

Next up, the Scooby Doo technique, which meant I needed to flap my arms. I remounted my launch pad and tried again, flapping furiously. Still nothing.

I tried several different flapping styles, long armed, bent arms, hands only, but no luck. All it earned me were some sore feet and a request from my mother to kindly "KNOCK OFF THAT DAMN JUMPING!!"

I settled down and pouted while I watched Scooby Doo, disappointed that my aerial vision would never be realized. They had been cut short by gravity and a mother who didn't share a young boy's weird dreams.

That is, until I discovered the answer right there on my television. The solution to my previous failures. I watched as Scooby picked up two sheets of paper, flapped them, and actually stayed aloft.

It was my Eureka moment.

I grabbed two pieces of clean typing paper from my dad's office — used paper isn't very aerodynamic — and resumed my position on the launch pad.

I gripped my new wings exactly like Scooby had, leapt off, and flapped like mad. This was it! It was working! I would slip the surly bonds of Earth and touch the face of — THUD!

Failure.

I sat back down in front of the TV and finished my show, devastated. Television had betrayed me. I never tried to fly after that, the dream all but dead. But as I share this story now, I realize what I was doing wrong.

In the cartoons, the characters stay airborne as long as they never look down. As soon as they do, they immediately drop. This was my error. I had been watching the ground! And in doing so, I was reminded of where I was, which caused gravity to take hold.

So I'm inspired to try again. I've got my own paper — four sheets of card stock, since I'm a grown-up now — a pair of pilot's goggles, and I'm heading up to the highest point of my house for one last attempt at glory.

In fact, when they make a movie about my victory, that's what they'll call it: Thirty Feet to Glory.

I'll see you when I land.



Photo credit: Richard Schneider (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)



You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, December 16, 2016

An Open Letter to the Well Actually Guy

Dear Well Actually Guy,

"Well, actually, women do it too."

See, you're already doing it. I can't even say four words without you opening your mouth and well-actuallying all over everything.

What is wrong with you, Well Actually Guy? How did you become that one annoying guy on Facebook who responds to every opinion with "Well, actually. . ."

"Well, actually" you'll explain the punchlines of jokes.

"Well, actually," you'll argue about a single statistic in a news article for hours.

Well Actually Guy likes to point out when things are technically correct, even though those details are not important to the discussion. In fact, Well Actually Guy likes to throw in these minor technical corrections as a way to derail a story, or call an entire philosophical argument into question.

We should call it "wagging," or use the hashtag #WAG. As in, "Did you just #WAG me?"

"Well, actually, I don't start my arguments with the phrase 'well, actually.' So that means I'm not a Well Actually Guy, right?"

No, it does not mean that. You can be a Well Actually Guy without saying the words; it's the appropriateness and timing of your response that make you a Well Actually Guy.

For example, at this time of year, Well Actually Guy reminds us that many astronomers and historians believe Jesus' birthday was in April. It's not actually important to the peace and goodwill the season is supposed to engender, he just wants to make sure everyone knows The Actual Truth.

"Well, actually, aren't we supposed to be like this all year round? So what does it matter?"

See what I mean? Well Actually Guy can never leave anything alone. He has to put his Cheeto-crusted fingers all over stuff because 1) he has an opinion on everything, and 2) he doesn't understand the phrase "it goes without saying."

Well Actually Guy drives the speed limit in the left lane. He informs the cashier that it's "12 items or FEWER." He orders a white chocolate mocha at Starbucks and then explains how white chocolate isn't actually chocolate. For five minutes.

Well Actually Guy has three different flavors of Axe body spray.

In its purest essence, "Well, actually" is a form of gas lighting, which is a form of emotional abuse where the abuser tries to minimize the feelings and experiences of another person. It comes from Patrick Hamilton's 1938 play, The Gas Light, about a man who tries to convince his wife that she's going insane in order to cover up a crime.

"Well, actually it's not always used by emotional abusers."

No, you're right, Well Actually Guy. It's not just used by emotional abusers. It's also used by socially tone deaf people who seek to belittle the experiences of others in order to score debate points, or force their way into a discussion that has absolutely nothing to do with them.

Such as saying "Not All Men," whenever a woman talks about a time she was assaulted, abused, or afraid for her safety.

When someone shares their cancer diagnosis with friends, Well Actually Guy will tell a story about the time his grandmother had it.

Well Actually Guy reminds us that parsecs are a measure of distance, not time.

Well Actually Guy defends his neckbeard with a well-rehearsed recitation of other famous neckbeards throughout history.

Teen Vogue recently called out Donald Trump's gas lighting of the CIA, after the agency said the Russians interfered with the presidential election. His transition team said in a statement, "these are the same people who said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction."

Except it doesn't change the fact that the Russians interfered with the presidential election. And by gas lighting the CIA, Trump's team can minimize the damage of this story without actually defending themselves.

That's the modus operandi of Well Actually Guy.

Well Actually Guy counters every example of wrongdoing with another "Oh yeah? Well, your guy . . . " story of wrongdoing by the opposing side. Because nothing erases sin quite like the debate skills of a five year old.

When your car gets broken into, Well Actually Guy asks if you locked your doors.

Well Actually Guy responds to an African-American father's fear for his son with #AllLivesMatter, and an article about crime statistics.

The problem, Well Actually Guy, is you don't understand that some discussions are not about you. You need to learn that when someone shares their deepest fears or greatest pain, it's not your chance to correct them.

It's time to sit back and listen. Quietly.

Well Actually Guy just reminded me that it's "scents." He has three "scents" of Axe body spray.

Photo credit: Graham Lavender (Flickr, Creative Commons)


You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, December 09, 2016

The Deckers Family, Inc. 2016 Annual Report

To: All members of Deckers Family, Inc.
From: President Dad
RE: Yearly Evaluation Report

Dear Shareholders, Partners, and Employees of DFI:

It has been six years, since I have submitted an annual report for your review. In fact, it's been so long that my title has changed from President Daddy to President Dad. This was actually a sad day for me and CEO Mom, because it meant that our junior staffers had long surpassed their probationary period, and were now moving into their own positions of responsibility.

I also had a feeling of predictions gone wrong when I read in our 2010 report that DFI had moved to its "permanent headquarters" and that "we have no plans of moving." And yet, the old adage, "the only thing that is constant is change" holds true, because we since moved to Orlando, Florida, to our new semi-permanent headquarters.

I say "semi-permanent," because the last several years have shown that making plans for permanence is optimistic at best, and foolish 95 percent of the time. But I have begun planning for our eventual departure. For example, after abandoning yet another garage workstation — this time, a 17 linear foot hand-built L-shaped work station — our new garage workstation is completely portable, which means when we move again, I can take it with us.

I'm also pleased to see the Senior Manager and Assistant Manager of Daughter Operations (SMDO, AMDO) are amenable to sharing their workspace again. As we have sought to downsize into a more lean operation, we've managed to eliminate a lot of our excess inventory, especially old and outdated electronics, uniforms, and even recreational items. This has enabled the SMDO and AMDO to merge departments with a minimum of fuss. CEO Mom and I appreciate your cooperation.

One area of special commendation is the amount of resources the Coordinator of Son Operation (CSO) consumes as he expands his operations. Despite his rapid vertical expansion over the last few years, his total resource consumption has been relatively small.

I recently mentioned during a board meeting that I consumed easily twice the resources when I was the Senior Manager of Son Operations in a previous venture in the mid-80s.

Later, after I went freelance for several years, the Assistant Manager of Son Operations took over the entire department, and his resource consumption equaled and even exceeded my previous years' performance. So we applaud DFI's SCO for expanding operations at a minimal cost.

Despite having a smaller headquarters, all members of DFI have managed to keep their personal workspaces fairly clean and organized. It has helped immensely that we have streamlined our overall inventory footprint, which means there's much less to clean and organize than when we first opened DFI in northern Indiana.

Special thanks to CSO for taking over outside grounds management. Your willingness to oversee this area, especially in the middle of summer, have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated.

The corporate cafeteria is still a problem, however, which is understandable, since we all use it. But we could keep it cleaner throughout the day, if the CSO would just remember to empty the dishwasher each morning.

(On a side note, let me warn our junior staffers: If CEO Mom points out that you left items in the cafeteria sink, don't point out her own cafeteria items around the house. This is apparently a sensitive issue, and I have been called into several lengthy meetings after forgetting to heed my own warning.)

Acting Chief of K9 Security, Sophie, was promoted to Chief of K9 Security in 2012, after CEO Mom pointed out that we didn't have the budget for an additional member of the department, and this was as good as we were going to get. So Sophie is serving as Chief of Security as well as Chief Morale Officer, and her pay has been increased to a nice dog biscuit each afternoon.

One area of concern we have is that while all three junior staffers are learning more job responsibilities, CMO Mom and I are not quite comfortable with the AMDO and CSO exploring temporary external partnerships.

The SMDO has enough experience and seniority that she has begun exploring some options, but we encourage wisdom and patience while she considers what's available. And of course, senior staff reserves the right to veto any potential partnership that can be damaging to SMDO's overall performance and well-being.

Also, President Dad has promised to block any transfer of SMDO to another company for a number of years, especially if the new venture does not have the financial stability and maturity to succeed on its own.

Deckers Family, Inc. has been in Orlando for over a year now, and while I was resistant to the change, I'm pleased to see that everyone has easily made the adjustment to the new location and climate. I'm looking forward to what 2017 can bring us as a company.





You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Helicopter Parents May Ruin Childhood Christmas

It's Christmas time, and you know what that means! It's time for parents to drive themselves deeper into debt by buying their children's happiness and getting them into a good college. Their biggest purchases are usually in mad pursuit of the year's hottest toy, designed to bring minutes and minutes of joy before the kids get bored and start thinking about their birthdays.

In 1983, the big toy was Cabbage Patch Kids, and there were riots at several retail stores as crazed would shove, hit, kick, and even whack each other with baseball bats, over the plush toy.

In 1996, it was Tickle Me Elmo, and parents spent as much as $1,500 for a $29 toy. Again, people rioted. Two Chicago women were arrested for fighting, and a Walmart clerk in British Columbia received a broken rib and a concussion when 300 people trampled him to get an Elmo.

Because nothing celebrates the birth of the Prince of Peace like clocking some jackwagon over a child's toy.

This year's must-have-toy-or-Aubrey-won't-get-into-Harvard is the Hatchimal. It's a furry animal that hatches from a plastic egg, and grows and develops mentally, as a kid plays with it. The toy retails for $60, but some parents are paying as much as $500 so as not to disappoint their children. Because, as everyone knows, life is never full of disappointment and sadness.
The Hatchimal goes through three stages of life, and sings "Hatchy Birthday" at each new stage. They go through the fourth and final stage when the kid gets bored and quits playing with it, usually around February. Parents can then get the Li'l Griever's Five Stages of Sadness decorating kit. (Viking Burial accessories sold separately.)

Typical of any good toy craze, Spin Master, Hatchimal's maker, has run out of the toys, and is making more, which they expect to have in early 2017. They're not very happy about the profiteering, and are encouraging people to pre-order the new batch, and get rain checks that they can claim in January.

Meanwhile, some parents who weren't lucky enough to snatch a Hatchimal for little Oliver or Wicker are putting off important life lessons of supply-and-demand and bitter disappointment, and are instead writing apology letters from Santa.

There are two sample versions of the letter online for parents to use. One is an IOU, a promise that the child's Hatchimal will be arriving soon, once Mama and Papa Hatchimal can find a little free time in front of a warm fireplace, play a little smooth jazz, drink a little wine. . .

I can live with this. My family and I have often done the IOU thing before. Print out a photo of the gift, and wrap it in a big box, with an explanation that the gift will arrive soon. It's not a great solution, but it teaches patience.

But other parents are helicoptering their children into maladjusted adulthood by writing apology letters from Santa, explaining that he can't get any more Hatchimals, and he's very sorry, but he won't be delivering their fondest Christmas wish at any time at all ever.

Cheese balls!

Don't get me wrong. I love Santa Claus. He visited our house for years, when my kids were still young enough. But we had a rule that Santa didn't give the cool presents, we did. If anyone was going to get credit for giving a cherished childhood toy, it was going to be us. And if we couldn't get a particular present, we didn't scramble for it. We didn't spend half the mortgage on a single toy, and we didn't blame Santa for our unwillingness to have our children feel a single negative emotion.

These helicopter parents are so afraid of their children feeling sad for even one second that they're too cowardly to tell them no. Instead, they pile the blame on Santa's shoulders, along with the mountain of organic gluten-free educational toys he's bringing to their already-entitled children.

Hopefully Santa knows some good young adult therapists, because this will no doubt come up a few times before the parents walk their children across the stage at their college graduation.

If you want your kids to learn to cope with life's disappointments, tell them that Santa can't do everything. Tell them he'll bring the toys he thinks will suit them, not the copy-and-pasted toy catalog they sent him.

Better yet, toughen your kids up with a little emotional blackmail. Use this as a teaching opportunity, as well as a way to get a little peace and quiet for yourself.

"Dear Wicker and Oliver, I didn't get you a Hatchimal because you haven't been very good this year. Your incessant bickering and whining gives your parents a headache. Suck it up and try better next year. I'm not kidding, Santa."

Photo credit: 'Santa's Portrait' byThomas Nast, published in Harper's Weekly, 1881 (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)



You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Oxford Dictionaries' Word of the Year is a Lie

The Oxford Dictionaries, makers of one of the world's heaviest dictionaries (137.72 pounds), has released its word of the year, as well as the other words that made their shortlist, for the annual recognition. These are the words that "had an impact on 2016, for better or worse," said the dictionary's website. "(They) reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the past twelve months."

The 2016 word of the year is "post-truth," which the Oxford Dictionaries defines as "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."

In other words, people choose to believe opinion and emotion more than actual science, evidence, and their own senses.

Like the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

While the idea of post-truth has always been around, it's only in the last 12 months that we've really seen it surge. If you have a basic working knowledge of American politics, you know that's true.

Well, you believe it to be true, based on actual observations and science, but could be convinced otherwise.

Now, in a post-truth world, mainstream media sources like The New York Times, Washington Post, and the network news carry as much weight as the National Enquirer, your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving, and "some guy I know who read about this online." It's a sad day when a large majority of people decide to ignore two newspapers of record and three decades-old news programs in favor of PatriotInMomsBasement.com.

So thanks to the presidential campaign, as well as the British "Brexit" vote, for bringing about this post-truth world.

Speaking of Brexit, that term made the short list after British nationalism, racism, and Islamophobia won out in that country. Brexit politicians manipulated their own post-truth rhetoric and played on the emotions of their voters, who "demanded their country back."

Immediately following the vote, many British "leavers" expressed their shock and surprise at the vote. They said theirs was a protest vote, and they thought Brexit supporters were just some strident fringe element, and that sanity and normalcy would prevail. They didn't realize their protest vote would have such a dramatic effect on the future of their nation.

Now these Bridiots are bregretting their vote and bremoaning their fate. Looks like they're going to have to be adults and live with their bristake.

Speaking of which, "adulting" made the short list as well. It's defined as the "informal practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks."

The term is used by new adults who aren't big fans of their new responsibilities, like doing their own laundry, paying bills, or going grocery shopping and not loading up on Cap'n Crunch.

Don't feel bad. I've been doing those things for almost 30 years, and I still don't like it.

Another word on the short list is "coulrophobia", even though it's an older word, dating back to the 1980s, when Stephen King wrote his clown horror story, It.

The Oxford Dictionaries says coulrophobia is "an extreme or irrational fear of clowns."

First of all, it's not extreme or irrational. It's an extremely rational, acceptable, and well-deserved fear. If a bunch of miscreants want to dress as creepy clowns to frighten normal, decent people, it is not irrational to chase those creepy clowns into the woods with a machete or Lord Humungus' car from The Road Warrior.

But my favorite word on the shortlist is "hygge," a Danish word that means "a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being."

The word is pronounced HYOO-guh, as in "hue," or HOOG-uh as in "sugar," and it's grown in popularity here in the United States, as well as the UK, in response to the bitterness surrounding our political campaigns. It's also different from "yuge," which is apparently some kind of New York word that means "bigly."

Hygge is not the only untranslatable word to enter the English language. The German word "schadenfreude," which means the enjoyment we get at someone else's misfortune, is another one.

But after all the screaming and finger pointing has died down, and everyone has settled into their homes for the holidays, I hope you have your own hygge, free of politics and Facebook, with friends and family who truly care about you.

So put on a sweater, light your candles, and get yourself a nice big bowl of Cap'n Crunch. We're done adulting for a few days.


In the original version of this piece, I referred to Oxford Dictionaries as "the Oxford English Dictionary." This is incorrect. Oxford Dictionaries is run by a different team with different editors, data, etc. Hat tip to Grant Barrett of A Way With Words, the premier language and grammar radio show on NPR for catching that error.


Photo credit: Nightscream (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)


You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Oxford Dictionaries' Word of the Year is a Lie

The Oxford Dictionaries, makers of one of the world's heaviest dictionary (137.72 pounds), has released its word of the year, as well as the other words that made their shortlist, for the annual recognition. These are the words that "had an impact on 2016, for better or worse," said the dictionary's website. "(They) reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the past twelve months."

The 2016 word of the year is "post-truth," which the Oxford Dictionaries defines as "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."

In other words, people choose to believe opinion and emotion more than actual science, evidence, and their own senses.

Like the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

While the idea of post-truth has always been around, it's only in the last 12 months that we've really seen it surge. If you have a basic working knowledge of American politics, you know that's true.

Well, you believe it to be true, based on actual observations and science, but could be convinced otherwise.

Now, in a post-truth world, mainstream media sources like The New York Times, Washington Post, and the network news carry as much weight as the National Enquirer, your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving, and "some guy I know who read about this online." It's a sad day when a large majority of people decide to ignore two newspapers of record and three decades-old news programs in favor of PatriotInMomsBasement.com.

So thanks to the presidential campaign, as well as the British "Brexit" vote, for bringing about this post-truth world.

Speaking of Brexit, that term made the short list after British nationalism, racism, and Islamophobia won out in that country. Brexit politicians manipulated their own post-truth rhetoric and played on the emotions of their voters, who "demanded their country back."

Immediately following the vote, many British "leavers" expressed their shock and surprise at the vote. They said theirs was a protest vote, and they thought Brexit supporters were just some strident fringe element, and that sanity and normalcy would prevail. They didn't realize their protest vote would have such a dramatic effect on the future of their nation.

Now these Bridiots are bregretting their vote and bremoaning their fate. Looks like they're going to have to be adults and live with their bristake.

Speaking of which, "adulting" made the short list as well. It's defined as the "informal the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks."

The term is used by new adults who aren't big fans of their new responsibilities, like doing their own laundry, paying bills, or going grocery shopping and not loading up on Cap'n Crunch.

Don't feel bad. I've been doing those things for almost 30 years, and I still don't like it.

Another word on the short list is "coulrophobia", even though it's an older word, dating back to the 1980s, when Stephen King wrote his clown horror story, It.

The Oxford Dictionaries says coulrophobia is "an extreme or irrational fear of clowns."

First of all, it's not extreme or irrational. It's an extremely rational, acceptable, and well-deserved fear. If a bunch of miscreants want to dress as creepy clowns to frighten normal, decent people, it is not irrational to chase those creepy clowns into the woods with a machete or Lord Humungus' car from The Road Warrior.

But my favorite word on the shortlist is "hygge," a Danish word that means "a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being."

The word is pronounced HYOO-guh, as in "hue," or HOOG-uh as in "sugar," and it's grown in popularity here in the United States, as well as the UK, in response to the bitterness surrounding our political campaigns. It's also different from "yuge," which is apparently some kind of New York word that means "bigly."

Hygge is not the only untranslatable word to enter the English language. The German word "schadenfreude," which means the enjoyment we get at someone else's misfortune, is another one.

But after all the screaming and finger pointing has died down, and everyone has settled into their homes for the holidays, I hope you have your own hygge, free of politics and Facebook, with friends and family who truly care about you.

So put on a sweater, light your candles, and get yourself a nice big bowl of Cap'n Crunch. We're done adulting for a few days.


In the original version of this piece, I referred to Oxford Dictionaries as "the Oxford English Dictionary." This is incorrect. Oxford Dictionaries is run by a different team with different editors, data, etc. Hat tip to Grant Barrett of A Way With Words, the premier language and grammar radio show on NPR for catching that error.


Photo credit: Nightscream (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)


You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Castigat Ridendo Mores: What's In Your Motto?

Do you know your state's motto?

Not the bumper sticker slogan that your state's tourism department paid an out-of-state marketing agency $100,000 to create.

No, seriously, $100,000. A couple years ago, the Indiana Office of Tourism Development spent $100,000 to come up with "Honest-to-Goodness Indiana," which a lot of people hated. And who could forget Massachusetts' $300,000 slogan, "Massachusetts . . . Make it Yours" back in 2002?

Those expensive marketing slogans aren't actually associated with a state's founding philosophy and guiding belief. That's what the state motto does.

A state motto is something that's usually been around ever since the state was founded. And it's frequently written in Latin, which means most people don't know what it actually means.

For example, a lot of people think Alabama's motto is "Sweet Home Alabama," but that's just the state slogan, which they've had since 1951. It's also the Lynrd Skynrd song of the same name, which you started humming when I said "Sweet Home Alabama."

It turns out, Alabama's state motto is "Audemus jura nostra defendere," which is Latin for "Don't even try it, we're heavily armed."

Actually, it means "We dare to defend our rights," which sounds like they're picking a fight with Mississippi, whose motto is "Virtute et armis," or "By virtue and arms." So I'm picturing Mississippi and Alabama shooting it out in a Stuckey's parking lot next weekend.

Of course the two states' mottos are much tougher talk than Texas, the state where every person over 12 wears six shooters on their belts.

Texas wants you to think their motto is "Don't mess with Texas."

It's not. It's really not.

Their state motto is "Friendship."

Awwww, that's so cute! It's almost as good as "Land of unicorns and kittens." Or "If our name had an I, we'd put a heart over it." Or "Texas: the X is a kiss."

Sorry, Texas, I'm just messing with you.

Except "Don't mess with Texas" was an anti-littering campaign created by the Texas Department of Transportation in the late '80s. The campaign became so successful, it's been used in countless TV shows, movies, and it's even the motto of the USS Texas submarine.

Of course, the USS Texas is not the best ship in the US Navy. Because the best ship is friendship. (If it weren't unprofessional to write a winky face emoticon in this column, I'd put it right here.)

Speaking of not messing with states, New Hampshire has quite the chip on its shoulder with "Live free or die." It originally came from General John Stark, New Hampshire's most famous general in the Revolutionary War. In 1809, he wrote to some former comrades, "Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils."

It was also adopted as a challenge to the British, who fought another war with the United States just three years later.

Many states have issued similar middle fingers to England, including Pennsylvania ("Virtue, liberty, and independence"), Vermont ("Freedom and unity"), West Virginia ("Mountaineers are always free"), Massachusetts ("By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty"),Virginia ("Sic semper tyrannis," or "Thus always to tyrants"), and Rhode Island ("Suck it, England!").

Virginia's motto is a shortened version of "Sic semper evello mortem tyrannis," or "Thus always I bring death to tyrants." It's believed this was said by Brutus when he stabbed Julius Caesar, although some scholars believe he said, "that'll teach you to sleep with my wife."

Unfortunately, Indiana doesn't have a Latin motto. Ours is just "The Crossroads of America." While it's no "sic semper tyrannis," I always liked it. It means we're the emotional heartland, even though Lebanon, Kansas is the geographic center of our country.

It's also true in an automotive sense: Indiana has four interstate highways that all converge in Indianapolis, connecting us to Kansas City, Toronto, Birmingham, and Washington DC in less than eight hours.

But my favorite state motto is North Carolina's, which we would all do well to follow: Esse quam videri, which means "To be, rather than to seem."

In other words, don't act like it, be it.

If you want to be seen as loving, then be loving. If you want to be seen as helpful, be helpful. And if you want to be seen as a person of action, then act. Don't talk about being loving, don't talk about being helpful, and don't talk about acting.

And don't just talk tough, you have to actually be tough.

Just ask our bestest friends in the whole world, Texas.


(By the way, the Latin phrase in the headline, "Castigat Ridendo Mores," means "laughter corrects morals." According to Mental Floss, "it was coined by French poet Jean de Santeul (1630-97), who intended it to show how useful satirical writing is in affecting social change: the best way to change the rules is by pointing out how absurd they are." I'd like to think Laughing Stalk can perform that function from time to time.


Photo credit: United States Mint/U.S. Government (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Ask Mr. Answer Dad: What Do I Tell My Kids?

Welcome to another week of Ask Mr. Answer Dad, the know-it-all dad who knows everything worth knowing about raising children. If you want to know how to talk to your kids about politics, religion, or sex, Mr. Answer Dad is here to answer all your questions and/or make light of your situation.

Dear Mr. Answer Dad: My 5-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter recently started asking where babies come from. I said they came from my tummy, but they asked how they got in there in the first place. Help me, Mr. Answer Dad. What do I tell my kids? Uncomfortable in Des Moines.

Dear The Monks: Lie to them. Lie to them for as long as you can, until they start public school and learn it on the playground, like we did when we were kids. If you're lucky, your daughter will explain it to your son before he even starts school. Problem solved.

Dear Mr. Answer Dad: My kids went to bed thinking Hillary Clinton was going to be president, and woke up to a Donald Trump presidency instead. What do I tell my kids? Signed, Puzzled in PA.

Dear Personal Assistant: Easy. "Donald Trump is the next president, kids. Now finish your breakfast or you'll miss your bus."

Dear Mr. Answer Dad: I was laid off recently, and have spent the last few days "on vacation" with my family. But we're coming up on the time that I usually go back to work, and my kids will wonder why I'm home. What do I tell my kids? Thanks. Laying on the Couch.

Dear Couch Potato: First, I'm sorry you lost your job. Your boss is no doubt a jerk who will realize she made a terrible mistake, and your absence will leave an empty hole in her soul that she'll try to fill with bad fast food. She'll die sad and alone, and her three cats will feast on her corpse for several days before a neighbor calls the police about the terrible odor coming from her condo.

Wait, what was your question? Oh yeah, telling your kids. Tell them the truth. "I lost my job because they decided they didn't need me anymore. But I'm looking for a new one, and in the meantime, I get to spend more time with you."

Just leave out the part about the cats and your boss' corpse. Also, don't mention you were fired for photocopying your junk.

Dear Mr. Answer Dad: You didn't answer my question earlier. Puzzled in PA.

Dear Public Announcement: How did you get in here? I totally answered your question. Donald Trump is the president. Tell them that. Unless you're planning to move to Canada or New Zealand now, there's not much to tell. Just tell them the truth.

Dear Mr. Answer Dad: I want to move to Canada or New Zealand, but my kids are in a good school and have friends. What do I tell my kids? Signed, Fleeing From Florida.

Dear Flea: Ask your kids, "Have you ever seen snow? How would you like to see it seven months out of the year?" Also, say their friends were talking about them behind their backs. Finally, tell them you're all going on a really long vacation and will come back in four or eight years, depending on how things go here.

Dear Mr. Answer Dad: I think what Puzzled in PA means is, my kids have friends who are gay, in minority groups, in other religions, are from other countries, or are any of the other groups our new president hates. They're afraid of what could happen to their friends. What do we tell our kids? Signed, Waiting for 2020.

Dear 2020: Here's what you tell them: America is still a great country, made up of good people. Not everyone who voted for Trump believes in hatred. In fact, many do not.

Tell them, we will get through this, as a family, as a community, and as a country. It's going to be hard, but we have faced bigger challenges and prevailed. (The other side survived eight years of Obama, so we can put up with four years of Cheeto Hitler.)

And you tell them, 2020, that as long as your kids have their friends' backs, you've got theirs. That you'll stand up for your kids while they stand up for their friends. That you'll stand up for your neighbors and friends who need your help. Spend the next four years teaching them what it means to be be better than the bigotry and hatred shown by a deplorable few. Tell them, 2020, that your family stands for honor and goodness, which are the real American values, and that you will be strong for the people who need you to be strong.

Because it's what they'll tell their own kids one day.


Photo credit: The Des Moines, Iowa skyline (Tim Kiser, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.5)


You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.