Friday, August 18, 2017

What Does Your State Hate?

I'm a little offended, Indiana. Apparently, you hate bloggers.

I'm a blogger!

I lived in Indiana for 45 years, made my career out of blogging, and yet my home state hates bloggers? I even blogged for the state of Indiana, for crying out loud!

I guess I can't take it too personally. Massachusetts hates Eli Manning as an individual. There are 6.8 million people in Massachusetts and apparently they all hate Eli Manning. My state just hates people who do my job.

But Eli isn't the only one who has a whole state hate him. South Carolina hates Edward Snowden, Delaware hates Casey Affleck, and the entire state of Florida hates workout couples.

I can get behind that last one. People need privacy when they're sweating, grunting, and accidentally farting.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania hates people who use money clips, and Kentucky hates people who ask you to help them move. Both are odd things to hate, but not as weird as Missouri's hatred of people who believe in aliens.

People in Texas also hate aliens, but I don't think they mean the same thing.

This data comes from the dating app Hater, which matches people based on things they hate. You vote on over 3,000 topics, telling the app whether you hate, love, like, or dislike something. Then you're matched with other hard-to-please people based on what you both find abhorrent.

Targets of your bitter loathing can include "biting ice cream," "Vladimir Putin," "starting an Instagram for your dog," and "butt selfies."

Founder Brendan Alper got the idea for Hater based on a 2006 University of Oklahoma study that found people are able to bond more effectively over things they hate than things they like.

In other words, the enemy of my enemy is having dinner with me Saturday night.

Still, you have to wonder what kind of relationship is born out of discovering things you mutually hate. I'm sure it makes for interesting conversations during the first weeks of a relationship — Do you hate jellyfish (New Jersey)? I really hate jellyfish! — but a relationship based on the mutual hatred of stupid stuff is going to get old after a while.

"I hate waiting in line (Vermont)."

"Can we just talk about something else?"

Of course, not everyone hates the same things or to the same degree. That's going to lead to some mismatched relationships.

"Do you hate porn? I totally hate porn (Utah)."

"I think we should break up."
A few weeks ago, Hater compiled the most hated items for each state, as decided by their few hundred thousand users, and released a map showing what each state hates the most.

The things that each state hates vary wildly. They're not even regional preferences. Some states hate people, some states hate things, while others hate activities, and still others hate ideas.

For example, Illinois hates biting string cheese, Idaho hates asking for directions, Oregon hates spin class, and Virginia hates dabbing pizza grease with a napkin. But Nevada hates feminism, California hates fidget spinners, and South Dakota hates friendly reminder emails.

And Montana hates going to the gym. I was born in Montana, although we left when I was two. But I can tell you that particular hatred gets into your DNA at a very early age.

As far as individual people go, only a few were named outright. Massachusetts hates Eli Manning, South Carolina hates Edward Snowden, and Delaware absolutely despises Casey Affleck.

And Hoosiers hate bloggers, so those of you who swiped down on that can just bite me.

Meanwhile, Texas hates sleeping with the windows open, because it never gets below 95 degrees there. Also, Texas snakes are 15 feet long and can climb in though second story windows.

Oklahomans say they hate hearing the latest gossip, which I think is a lie. But they are troubled about Marjorie Peacock's drinking because they smelled whiskey on her breath at church. And also they're worried sick about Kenny and Shelley Ann's marriage on account of they heard Shelley Ann went dancing at The Root with a younger man she says is her cousin, but they were dancing awfully close for cousins, so it's not actually gossip, just concern for other people.

Lastly, Rhode Island hates Middle America. Look, Rhode Island, you're the Vatican City of the United States. There are 1.05 million people who live there, and nearly 1 million people who live in central Indiana, so it's not like you're anything special.

So you snooty Swamp Yankees better climb off your high horse, or we'll tell Virginia you dab pizza grease with a napkin.

Photo credit: Hater Dater app (Used with permission)


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, August 11, 2017

The Debate of the Ages: Cake or Pie?

Hey Karl, cake or pie?

"There's pie?" asked Karl. "Never mind, I'm on Atkins right now. So, no carbs."

No, there's no pie, I said. Just answer the question: cake or pie?

"If there's no pie, then why are you even asking?" Karl plonked his beer on the bar. We were at First Editions for a slam poetry tournament. Kurt knew a few of the competitors so he made me come to this little struggle of the sonnets.

I didn't quite understand what was happening. How can poetry be competitive? And why was everyone snapping?! I've never quite understood poetry, and the snapping just made it worse.

It's a simple question, Karl. Which is better, cake or pie?

"Kid, of all the idiotic questions you've asked me, that has to be the idiotic-est. There are so many more important things we could discuss, and instead you give me 'cake or pie.'" Karl waved at Kurt to bring two more beers. "I don't want to even dignify that with a response."

Oh, it's a very important question, I said. I've seen people get into shouting matches over it.

"Well, it's a stupid question because the answer is obviously cake."

I knew it! I pegged you as a cake guy the first time we met. Because everyone knows pie is the superior choice.

"You're delusional, Kid. What about birthday cake? You can't beat birthday cake. But no one has ever heard of birthday pie."

True, but do you eat pumpkin cake at Thanksgiving?

Karl crossed his arms. "Maybe."

Liar.

Sugar Cream Pie - the closest thing to Heaven on Earth.
"Okay, but have you ever seen a naked woman jump out of a pie?"

I can honestly say I have not. Of course, I've never seen a naked woman jump out of a cake either, except for that stupid Steven Seagal movie.

"Besides, there are so many kinds of cakes. Chocolate cake, angel food cake, and my favorite, lemon cake with vanilla frosting."

But there are just as many different flavors of pie. Cherry, raspberry, and what's more American than apple pie? Don't forget lemon meringue.

"I hate meringue," groused Karl.

You can't beat warm cherry pie with ice cream.

"You can have cake and ice cream," said Karl. Kurt hovered nearby, pretending to wipe down the bar.

Sure, but you don't normally serve it warm. But when you get a bite of warm pie and cold ice cream together, there's nothing better.

"What about cheesecake?" Karl said with annoying air of triumph.

I would counter with Indiana's official pie, the Wicks Sugar Cream.

"Oooh, I'll give you that one. Wicks makes a mighty fine pie." Karl took a drink from his beer, and listened to the poet up on stage talk about a broken heart. I had lost track of which broken-hearted poet was currently performing.

"How about pancakes?" said Karl. "You can't beat pancakes on a cold winter morning."

I've got it, I said. Pi.

"We've been through this," said Karl. "What kind of pie?"

Not pie, Pi. The Greek letter. The mathematical symbol. Three-point-one-four-one-five.

"That doesn't even count."

Sure it does. You can't spell 'pie' without Pi. And if I want to calculate the circumference of your birthday cake, I'll need to use Pi.

Karl stared at me, mouth open. I'll tell you something else, I said. Kurt stopped pretending to wipe down the bar and moved closer. Pi contains the secrets of the universe, I said.

"You're drunk, Kid."

I ignored him. As you know, Pi is an infinitely long number with no end. We could try to calculate the end of Pi on the most powerful computer ever made, and it will run to the end of time without ever reaching the end.

Now, if we were to assign each one- and two-digit number to a letter, we could find patterns in that infinite string of letters. Those patterns would form words, and those words would lead to sentences, and those sentences would become stories.

And with that infinite string of words, we can find your name and my name in there. We can find the secret recipe for Coca-Cola, or the Colonel's 11 secret herbs and spices, or the Wicks sugar cream pie recipe.

I pointed up at the stage. We can find that woman's poem, the words to your favorite song, or a version of every Shakespeare play where the word 'forsooth' has been replaced with 'Sweet Jeepers.' We can even find the kind of cake you had on your twelfth birthday and a list of everyone who came to your party.

I leaned in closer. Karl and Kurt did too. And the one thing we'll find, over and over again, ringing like a bell in all that infinity, is the most important phrase you'll ever say.

"What's that?" Karl whispered.

Erik was right all along, I said. Erik was right all along.

The crowd snapped its approval.

If you think this is a dumb question, ask some friends this question and ask them to defend their choice. See what happens and tell me about it in the comments below.


Photo credit: Sarah Stierch (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, August 04, 2017

My Application for NASA Planetary Protection Officer

Dear NASA,

Our planet is a fragile orb in a hostile galaxy. We face threats both here on Earth — climate change, the lizard people who live at the center of the planet, plastic grocery bags — as well as threats from "out there."

Whether it's asteroids, alien invaders, or the monster from "Cloverfield," we are rather vulnerable, given our reliance on 20th-century technology and a child's understanding of the threat that aliens present.

But a steady diet of movies, old Omni magazine reprints, and TBS' new comedy hit, "People Of Earth," I'm well aware of the lurking menace we face.

To that end, please find my application for the brand new post of Planetary Protection Officer at NASA.

I feel I would make a perfect candidate for the position, because of my varied experiences in planetary protection studies. My résumé is attached, but I would like to draw your attention to a few important details.

First, I have an outstanding record playing Space Invaders, both the original standup arcade, and later, Atari console game. I became an ace at shooting up through my own shields, and I was often asked by my sister to help her get that last guy.

I was also a dab hand at Asteroids, and am confident that a small crew and I could keep our planet safe from large, medium, and small space rocks. While I could easily fly a manned spacecraft, I believe a smarter strategy would be to develop a series of ships that could be controlled from Earth and deployed in sets of three.

I have also given some thoughts to several strategies and tactics I would develop during my tenure as PPO.

One is to train and equip elite ground troops to be deployed should aliens ever launch a ground attack. I've studied the tactics of Tom Cruise in "Edge Of Tomorrow" and Ellen Ripley from Aliens, and I believe if we were to equip our soldiers with those body suits with forklifts for hands, as well as machine guns on their shoulders — like War Machine from Iron Man 3 — we could give those little green bastards a run for their money.

I would also ask NASA scientists and leading physicists to develop hand-held phaser blasters, similar to those seen in Star Trek and Star Wars, and the plasma blaster from Predator. I realize the U.S. has enough guns that we could probably just drop the entire stockpile onto an invasion and wipe it out, but we may need them later since the battle is never over until you see their mother ship crashed in the desert.

Plus, the guns may be damaged by the alien blood, which as you know, is acid.

While we could use normal firearms, I worry about accuracy and reloading. Pistols are notoriously inaccurate, and semi-automatic rifles are only slightly more so, especially over a long distance. But phaser blasters have an endless energy supply and the bolts fly faster than bullets. If nothing else, a soldier would only have to press the trigger and fire a continuous laser to cut the invaders in half.

Of course, war should only be a last resort, and we should never ignore the lessons that Gene Rodenberry taught us through Star Trek. We should always seek the diplomatic solution first. After all, the aliens may actually only be an exploratory contingent, and eagerly blasting them into atoms may doom us all.

So I would also propose that we put a portion of our annual budget into developing a communications strategy. Since music is a universal language, I would assemble a crack team of musicians including Justin Bieber, Nickelback, and Skrillex to communicate musically with any alien ships that make contact with us.

If they manage to prevent our first intergalactic war, that would be wonderful. But if we're truly about to be invaded, I at least want to go to my own death knowing they died moments before I did.

Finally, while we're probably a couple centuries from cloaking technology — unless you know something I don't — I propose a similar solution that I call Project Disappearing Elephant.

We would collaborate with David Copperfield, who made the Statue of Liberty disappear in 1983, to place a series of mirrors around the planet to make it "vanish." I've taken the liberty of reaching out to Mr. Copperfield's people, and am awaiting a return call.

I read on your website that for this position, the ideal candidate will have "advanced knowledge of Planetary Protection," which I have demonstrated. He or she should also have experience overseeing nationally significant space programs, and have" skills in diplomacy that resulted in win-win solutions during extremely difficult and complex multilateral discussion."

To that end, I'm the father of three older children. And I've read the Star Trek book, The Kobayashi Maru, seven times.

Finally, I understand the position will require frequent travel. Can you tell me whether that's within the country, or will it require international travel? Or will there even be a need for off-planet travel as well? Another plus in my favor is that I don't suffer vertigo or get car sick. Also, I have a new passport.

I look forward to your reply. Thank you.


Photo credit: FitzFox (Pixabay, 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, July 28, 2017

How Did We Survive Bad Parental Advice?

When I was a kid, I was convinced parents and teachers gave terrible advice. When it came to dealing with playground issues — bullies, being teased, being picked on — they had no clue what was going on in a kid's world or how to handle certain problems.

Now that I'm a parent myself, dealing with my own kids' problems, I realize their old advice is still pretty terrible.

Remember "if they tease you, it's because they like you?" I heard it in the first grade when a girl told on me for teasing her.

I thought, "Eww! No, I don't." and I quit because I didn't want anyone to think I actually liked her. But we all realized that was patently absurd and no one ever believed it except for the teachers who kept saying it.

Teachers continue to perpetuate this idea despite it being a) false, and b) dangerous. Not only are you telling the teaser that this is how to tell someone you like them, it teaches the other person that being picked on is an acceptable demonstration of love. Teach a kid this is acceptable, and this is how you end up getting stalkers in your bushes.

Besides, what happens if I retaliate? Is that the beginning of a courtship? What if I stab the other person with my compass? Does that mean I like them back? I don't want to send any mixed signals or anything.

Of course, the friends who made fun of me weren't doing it because they liked me. They thought the plaid pants I was wearing in the third grade were hysterical.
However, those kids weren't my "real friends," because as everyone knows, friends who judge you because of your clothes are not your real friends.

Apparently, my real friends were some secret plaid pants-wearing nerd cabal who met every week to play Dungeons & Dragons, but I never actually met them.

This "not your real friends" business was never very comforting. Of course, kids will tease each other about their clothes. It's what kids do. They're rotten little turds who don't know you're supposed to hide your true feelings behind a frozen mask of civility.

But they tease because they're just jealous. Apparently, that's the only reason kids are mean to other kids. According to my mom, it's because I was smart, handsome, and loved to read. (Hey, just because her advice was bad doesn't mean she was wrong about everything.)

And also my pants, apparently. They were jealous of my pants. Not every kid got to wear pea-green-and-burgundy plaid pants, so I was special. To hear my mom tell it, these kids would run home after school, fling themselves on their beds, and sob and wail that they didn't have pants like mine. My pants gnawed at their very soul, and they hated me for it.

The dumbest piece of advice I heard was how to deal with bullies.

"If someone is picking on you, just ignore them and they'll go away."

Clearly, someone has never dealt with bullies. They don't go away because you don't react. They continue picking and punching until they get a reaction, which is what they want. They're patient in their cruelty and they'll punch you over and over until you finally acknowledge them.

Don't believe me? How many times will a little kid shout "Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!" before he gives up and goes away?

Trick question. The little turd won't shut up ever. I've been in restaurants where the mom is talking and is ignoring her kid or just hasn't taught him what manners are. Either way, the kid ain't going away no matter how hard she pretends he isn't there.

The only thing worse than a parent not understanding how bullying worked were the teachers and principals who were either unsympathetic or unwilling to listen. There were a couple times I got punished for fighting when it was basically just some bully beating the crap out of me.

I mean, I can see getting in trouble if both of us were whaling away on each other. But when it's just one kid repeatedly punching another kid, there's no reason the second kid should face any kind of punishment.

Ice cream was not an unreasonable expectation.

But the principals and teachers were as unsympathetic as prison guards. They would claim they had to "be fair" and couldn't show favoritism. Except it's not favoritism when you only punish a bullying A-hole for being a bullying A-hole. That's justice.

You don't prosecute both the burglar and the home owner, or the car jacker and the car owner. But this notion of "fairness" in punishing both the bully and the victim was one of the dumbest things any school administrator could have done.

Or maybe they just really liked me.


Photo credit: Thomas Ricker (Flickr, 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, July 21, 2017

The Olathe, Kansas State of the City Address

My fellow Olatheans, it has been a wonderful year, after a whole string of wonderful years. And as your mayor, I am proud to deliver my state of the city address in this year of our Lord, 2037. It's hard to imagine that we would go from the nation's 193rd largest city to its 10th largest in just 20 short years. And it's all thank to our wonderful beaches!

(Cheers and laughter.)

Who knew that a simple article from Wallethub.com could have been the focal point of the world-changing growth of our city. Those of you who moved to Olathe in the last 20 years may not know our history. We used to be the fourth largest city in Kansas with a population of 135,000, and things were fine. They were just fine.

(Cheers and applause from the old-timers.)

Those of us originally from the Midwest know that feeling well. We like it when things are Just Fine. But then that Wallethub article was published, and it changed everything. Now we're the largest city in Kansas, and Kansas City is now a suburb of Olathe!

(Wild cheers from the crowd.)

In that article, "Best Beach Towns to Live In," Wallethub examined various cities with beaches, and ranked them in terms of affordability, weather, economy, and quality of life. And our tiny beaches next to Lake Olathe and Cedar Lake ranked higher than Miami Beach, Florida. Wallethub ranked us at number 20, and Miami Beach at number 27! We even finished beat Newport Beach, California.
Well, folks around here thought it was all a mite amusing. Surely this was written by some intern who had failed basic geography, or at least had never been to the ocean before. It was good for a few laughs, and I can remember being in college at Kansas State University and making jokes about it. We had fun on Twitter that day, I can tell you. You folks remember Twitter, back in the good old days?

(The crowd murmurs fondly in remembrance.)

Except it turns out other people took it seriously. They began moving to little Olathe to pursue the beach life. The beaches got bigger, and people began putting up little bamboo hutches with grass roofs to serve drinks and food. Then there were a couple restaurants. My father started his restaurant empire by opening Turf's Up, the first Midwestern beach-themed restaurant. That was quickly followed by a series of nightclubs and bars that drew the nighttime beach crowd, and we never looked back.

Pretty soon, the city was overrun with beautiful rich people who were attracted by our glamorous beach life. It wasn't too long before people began flocking to little Olathe for some of that beach life. Even Jimmy Buffet's last three albums have all reflected the Kansas beach attitude: Wichita Dreamin', Last Mango in Iola, and Far Side of Missouri.

We had fashion shows, you started to see Ferraris and Lamborghinis everywhere, and there was a Cuban music revival, even though we only had two Cuban families, and they were former baseball players who just never left.

In my six years as mayor, we've swapped baseball teams with Miami, which sparked a wonderful rivalry. These days, everybody gets excited about the games between the Miami Royals and Olathe Marlins, and we call it the Battle of the Beaches.

The Kansas City Chiefs finally changed their historically racist name to the Olathe Breakers, and every year, we look forward to the Beach Bowl between the Breakers and the Dolphins.

Finally, the Kansas Heat is in the middle of their seventh season in the NBA's Western Division. Of course, some of that Miami Heat luck followed them up here, because they're currently fifth in the division. I guess some things never change.

Olathe continues to prosper thanks to our beaches, our businesses, and our people. Property values are growing, we have more condos per capita than even New York City, tourism is one of our primary industries, and our unemployment rate is 3.5 percent, compared to seven percent for the rest of the country.

We aren't the only city to benefit from Wallethub's complete lack of understanding of statistical research. Thanks to their staggering geographic ignorance, Cincinnati now has the country's best art scene, the Portland, Oregon theater district is considered an American treasure, and Oklahoma City is now the hot dog capital of the world.

And their latest article means Kansas isn't done growing. The "Best Pizza in the Country" article lists Antonio's Pizza in Manhattan, Kansas as the 13th best, just behind Brooklyn, but ahead of Chicago. So to our friends in Manhattan, let me just say, "hold on for the ride."


Photo credit: Ichabod (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, July 14, 2017

Four Pieces of Sage Advice on Job Hunting

Most of us know the pain and frustration of an extended job search, especially if you were looking several years ago during the Great Recession, when jobs were scarce and companies were going out of business.

Even now, several years later, I know people who are having difficulty finding work in their chosen field, earning a living at their profession. And it occurred to me that some of you may need a little ego boost as you search for the next chapter in your life.

As a veteran job seeker who has applied for hundreds of jobs, thanks to the mocking curse of the online mega job boards, I've learned a few important lessons about patience, tenacity, and how not to be bitter, even when the hiring manager is a know-nothing hamster fart.

Here are a few lessons to share with you about your job search.

If you're a young person, remember that your current job is not your career. I know a 17-year-old kid who searched for a job for several months, hoping to find his dream job, working for a music producer or a music studio.
McDonald's in Kyoto, Japan. Could be worse though. It could be a Rally's.

That job never materialized and he got a job at a restaurant instead. I remember he was disappointed about his fate, so I reminded him that he wasn't going to be at the restaurant forever. In fact, most 17-year-olds' jobs won't last to the next full moon. I had my 17-year-old job for three months which is probably some kind of record.

If you're anything like today's Millennials, you've got a good 20 or 30 jobs ahead of you, so it's okay if this job isn't the one you want. You'll get and lose four new jobs while you're asleep tonight, so don't worry about being stuck.

It's okay to take rejection personally. Rejection sucks. It feels like your very humanity has been rejected. The only thing more painful is being turned down after you proposed on the stadium Jumbotron. (Jeez, what a loser! She kept the ring too. His mom still keeps in touch with her though, even had her and her new husband over for dinner last week.)

Of course, there are plenty of perpetually-employed people who will tell you "don't feel so bad, it's not personal."

These people are idiots.

Of course, it's personal! You've just offered your best self to an employer, told them "this is who I am as a person," and placed your heart on their desk, and that jerk of a hiring manager stomped on it with a pair of golf cleats. How can that not be personal?

Having said all that, it's usually not personal. It comes down to whether they thought you were a good fit for the company. Or if they could hire someone for less. Or if you're in marketing, if the other person was young and pretty.

And since I'm neither, you'd better bet I take that personally! Mouth-breathing hamster farts!

Start your own company. I mean it. If you don't have a job, don't fall for that "my job is looking for another job" nonsense. Nothing will drive you deeper into a depressive funk than spending 40 hours a week applying for jobs online and not hearing anything back. Instead, start a company, or become a freelancer, using the skills you do have.

If you're an accountant, become a small business bookkeeper. If you're in marketing, become a marketing consultant. If you're an electrician or builder, become a contractor.

As heartless as it sounds, employers don't like to hire people who don't have jobs. Never mind they could be bailing someone out of a tough spot. Never mind they could earn lifelong loyalty by hiring someone who hasn't worked in nine months. They just tell themselves, "there but for the grace of God go I," and hire someone away from another company.

So start your own company, get some business cards, and go out and find new customers. At the very least, it makes you look employed to a hiring manager. But at the very best, you'll be wildly successful, get rich, and you can tell those hiring managers what they can go do to themselves.

Finally, just remember that you're amazing. If a company didn't hire you, remember, it's because those people are know-nothing hamster farts. They wouldn't recognize talent and a winning personality if it smacked them upside the head.

Instead, they realized you're a proverbial unicorn of skills and experience, and they're threatened by your brilliance. You set the bar of excellence so high just by breathing that their knees tremble at the mere thought of you.

So if you're having a tough time finding a new job, just know that a lot of people are pulling for you, hoping for your very best, and sending you positive thoughts and energy.

Of course, none of us have real jobs ourselves, so that's about all we can help you with. But we're all pulling for you!

Photo credit: Ben Garney (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, July 07, 2017

Which Part of 'No' Don't You Understand?

Erik is out of the office this week partly because of the Fourth of July week, but also because it was his birthday the week before. He retreated to some spa, whining about his "mouth wrinkles," so we're republishing a piece from 2003.

It's not something I like to talk about, but when I was in college I did something I'm not proud of.

I was a telemarketer.

Okay, I was only a telemarketer for about three hours, but still, it was pretty traumatic.

It was my last summer in college, and I was looking for a part-time job. I called a company I found in a classified ad, and I was hired right over the phone. I should have been suspicious when I was hired based purely on how I sounded. There was no application, no background check, and no questions about whether I got disgruntled easily or owned any guns.

The "business" was a single room in an office complex with three folding tables, six folding chairs, six phones, and two windows that didn't open. That normally wouldn't matter, but out of the six people there, I was the only one who didn't smoke. Everyone else was like those smokestacks on anti-pollution ads.
My job was to call local businesses written on a stack of index cards and get donations for the Fraternal Order of Police. I would get paid 50 percent of any donations. But I realized the deck was literally stacked against me when I got all the small businesses, while my boss' buddy got all the big businesses and previous donors.

I coughed and hacked my way through three hours without a single donation and enough smoke in my lungs to set off a fire alarm. So when I left for lunch, I didn't go back.

That experience left a bitter taste in my mouth for a week, although it could have been the second-hand smoke. After that, I've had mixed feelings about telemarketers.

On the one hand, I feel sorry for the people who try to earn a living by calling complete strangers. On the other hand, I hate them.

So I'm torn: do I put myself in their tobacco-stained shoes and be as kind as possible when I say no? Or do I hang up as soon as they stumble over my name and start reading their script?

It's not that I get annoyed that they call me at all. It's that some telemarketers are so pushy they won't take "NO!" for an answer, even when I've said it 37 times.

One guy even started talking louder when I tried to explain that I wasn't interested in new windows for my house because it was less than five years old.

"Alright, you've convinced me. I'll listen," I said.

He stopped talking. "Really?"

"No," I said and hung up.

My problem was solved when the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communication Commission launched the national "Do Not Call" list. You can join it by calling (888) 382-1222 or visiting DoNotCall.gov.

But the telemarketers aren't happy that people have registered at (888) 382-1222 or DoNotCall.gov. They think it's an infringement on their First Amendment rights.

According to an Associated Press story, Tim Searcy of the American Teleservices Association said ". . . the FCC ignored its obligations under the federal law and the Constitution to carefully balance the privacy interests of consumers with the First Amendment rights of legitimate telemarketers."

What Searcy doesn't seem to understand is that the First Amendment only guarantees the right to free speech, it doesn't guarantee you an audience. Especially at dinnertime. It means I don't have to sit through TV commercials, listen to protest groups as I walk down the street, or read literature shoved at me by radical cult members. And it certainly doesn't mean I have to listen to pushy telemarketers asking me if I'm satisfied with my long distance carrier.

So I have a harsh, but much-needed message for the telemarketers: We. . . how do I put this. . . ? We, uhh. . . we just don't like you.

I'm sorry. It's not you. It's not you at all. It's us. We like our privacy. We need our space. That's why we've registered at (888) 382-1222 or DoNotCall.gov. So please don't call anymore. Maybe someday, when we're both older and more mature, we can try again. But until then, we want to talk to other people. So don't call, don't write, and don't send email.

In the meantime, we'll use our caller ID to screen calls from numbers we don't remember. Or we'll dial *77 on our touch-tone phones to reject anonymous calls. (2017 Update: If you have a mobile phone, you can download apps like Mr. Number to block spam callers. Here's the iOS version or Android version)

But we'll think of you often. Especially every five years when our registration expires, and we have to reregister at (888) 382-1222 or DoNotCall.gov.


Photo credit: OddibeKerfeld (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, June 30, 2017

Millennials to Blame for Killing Napkins

Millennials are blamed for a lot of things these days, and they don't deserve it.

Well, most of it.

Some of it.

I mean, I blame hipsters for a lot of things, like skinny jeans, flannel shirts in summer, and man buns, and I think we can all get on board with that. But I don't blame the entire 18 – 28 year old demographic for everything wrong in society.

Millennials currently outnumber Baby Boomers, and thanks to the laws of attrition, that won't be changing any time soon. Also, Generation X, my generation, is predicted to start outnumbering the Baby Boomers by 2028, which is a little depressing when you think about what that means.

But as the largest population demographic, Millennials have the biggest buying impact on our economy. Ten years ago, they were the biggest influencers on purchasing, but now they've got their own money, and they're starting to decide when and how they want to spend it. And that has a whole slew of industry experts in a tizzy, shrieking that the sky is falling. Again.

So it's not a surprise to see a slew of articles lately that blame Millennials for killing dozens of industries simply by not patronizing them.
For example, last year, the Washington Post reported Millennials are killing the napkin industry for a variety of reasons: they stopped buying napkins in favor of paper towels, because they prefer to use paper towels at dinner. They think paper towels are a better choice than napkins, said a napkin industry expert, because they're ideal for cleaning.

Paper towels, that is. Napkin industry experts are pretty useless for wiping up spills, and you're never sure if you can recycle them.

Also, says Big Napkin, Millennials are dining out more, which cuts into the napkin industrial complex. But they must be eating at fancy places with cloth napkins or they're wiping their mouths on their flannel sleeves.

On the other hand, despite all their dining out, Millennials are also killing chain restaurants like Applebee's, TGI Fridays, and Buffalo Wild Wings by not eating there anymore.

Sure, they went with their parents when they were little, but now that they can make their own big kid decisions, 20-somethings don't want to eat at the boil-in-a-bag, microwave-a-meal restaurants anymore.

They prefer farm-to-table restaurants. They love the phrase so much, they're turning it into a verb. "I wish I could just farm-to-table this chicken."

Okay, not really, but I'll bet it didn't surprise you either.

The point is, Millennials are getting picky about where they eat, what they do for entertainment, and even the things they do to help the environment.

They value experiences over possessions, so they're traveling more and buying less useless crap. So if you're in the useless crap business — which is about half our gross domestic product — you've got problems. Not because it's the Millennials' fault, but that you didn't find a way to appeal to them and their buying habits.

That's the problem. All these industries don't fit into what 20-somethings want out of life. They didn't do their research, they didn't find out what their young customers wanted, they just assumed that if their parents did it, their kids would do follow suit.

Anyone who grew up in the Sixties knows how well that worked out.

They're killing credit, they're killing traditional banking, they're killing the entire lending industry, cry the financial industry experts.

Can you blame them? They're cautious about spending money, because they're underemployed. They're underemployed because wages dropped after the Great Recession. A recession that was created by Baby Boomers at all the big mortgage lenders and banks. They can't find high-paying jobs because corporations are making cuts so their executives can get million dollar bonuses. Which means they're not buying cars or houses, because they don't feel like driving SUVs or owning 4,000 square foot McMansions to store all the useless crap they're not buying.

Except they got college degrees, and loads of college debt, because they were told that going to college guaranteed a good solid job.

Of course, someone should have explained that those degrees shouldn't be in poetry or art history, because corporations don't hire people to write about their feelings or stare at paintings. Said the guy with a Philosophy degree.

They're even killing golf, because they can't afford to play such an expensive sport. Also, because golf is stupid. Plus golf courses damage the environment. But mostly it's stupid.

Remember, these are the same people who want farm-to-table food because they care about an animal's life experience. Why would they support an environmental black hole like a golf course?

If you want your golf course to succeed, forget the Millennials. Go after the rednecks who put diesel-belching pipes on their pickups because Obama wanted to protect the environment. Tell them liberals think golf courses harm the planet, and they'll belch over to the golf course and sign up in droves.

But this blame game isn't anything new. The older generation always blames the younger generation. Go back as far as you can, and you'll see who was to blame for killing live theater, vinyl records, radio theater, Victrolas, pre-movie newsreels, silent movies, Vaudeville, the harpsichord, leeching, and having the vapors.

Sort of makes you nostalgic for the good old days, doesn't it?



Photo credit: Shari Weinsheimer (PublicDomainPictures.net, Creative Commons 0, 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, June 23, 2017

My New Ken Doll Ideas for Mattel

Barbie's erstwhile, if anatomically challenged, companion Kenneth (Ken) Carson is finally getting a makeover. After Barbie has been redesigned and reimagined dozens of times over the last 58 years, Mattel has released 15 different variations of Ken, in all shapes, sizes, and looks.

Ken will come in three different body types, seven different skin tones, and nine different hair styles, including a man bun and corn rows.

As you would expect, there are already thousands of jokes on social media, especially about Man-Bun Ken Doll, including a couple favorites: "(He) interrupted me to tell me Bernie would have won" and "I'm already tired of hearing about his study abroad to Amsterdam where he just 'fell in love with the culture.'"

Except the Ken dolls don't have cool names, only different styles. There's no "Documentary Filmmaker Ken" or "Snotty Barista Ken." I think Mattel missed a golden opportunity to capture some of our quintessential American archetypes. These are a few of the Ken dolls I would have created.

Urban Lumberjack Ken: Dressed in jeans, heavy boots, and a cozy flannel shirt, and sporting an unseasonably thick beard, Urban Lumberjack Ken looks like he's ready to pick up an axe and chop down the nearest trees, if there were any around. His Twitter bio says he loves craft beer, cold-brewed coffee, and hiking in the outdoors, although he hasn't been on a hike since he was 16. Even then, it was a state park with paved walking paths.

You'll marvel at how baby-soft Urban Lumberjack Ken's palms are. You can even help them stay that way with Ken's callus remover and organic non-scented lotion. Don't forget his never-used antique axe accessory.


Youth Pastor Ken: A dynamic and charismatic leader of a youth group at a suburban non-denominational church. Youth Pastor Ken comes with jeans, untucked v-neck t-shirt, a suit vest, and a fedora. He also sports several Christ-related tattoos, including a "He's In Here" with an arrow pointing to his heart.

And don't forget Youth Pastor Ken's sporty vehicle, a Jeep Wrangler 4x4 with the top down. Press the steering wheel, and you'll hear a random selection of Skillet and Nickelback songs.

Finally, add Youth Pastor Ken's Wife Julie to your collection for that extra drama whenever teenage Barbie's around. Youth Pastor Ken's Wife Julie includes a look of pained understanding at realizing she's married to a 28-year-old man-child.

Frat Boy Dude Bro Ken: This Ken doll figures it's his job to catcall Barbie and make her feel uncomfortable whenever she passes in her convertible or on her bike. This broski with the brewskie could be one of Mattel's great mysteries: Is Frat Boy Dude Bro Ken in college, or did he graduate 10 years ago? Should he be putting the moves on on College Freshman Barbie, or is he a whole teenager older than her? Prolong his secret with a tube of Ken's Crow's-Feet Concealer, secretly shipped to your house in a plain brown box.

Frat Boy Dude Bro Ken is fully posable into 12 different manspreading poses. He can also mansplain about any subject matter to a woman, especially if that's her career or field of study.

You can even have him duke it out with his more enlightened rivals, Stay Woke Ken and Slam Poet Ken. Warning, do not leave Frat Boy Dude Bro Ken alone with Barbie's drink while she goes to the ladies' room.

Gym Rat Ken: Gym Rat Ken sure is buff! We're not sure what he does for a living, because it seems like we always find him pumping iron in the gym or flexing and posing in the mirror. With just a baggy pair of gym shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt that's ripped from armpit to waist, Gym Rat Ken is in peak physical condition even though he can't fully put his arms down at his side.

Gym Rat Ken comes complete with tribal tattoo on his right bicep, a 2-pound bucket of muscle bulk powder, and an unlabeled tube of "special muscle cream" Comically huge dumbbell set sold separately. Gym Rat Ken can also double as Frat Boy Dude Bro Ken just by putting on his favorite Big 10 University baseball cap on backwards.

Startup Entrepreneur Ken: New Ken is all about new careers. Rather than working a typical 9-to-5 like the other toys, Startup Entrepreneur Ken wants to be his own boss, pave his own way, and make his own fortune.

Help Ken live his passion with the Startup Entrepreneur Ken's co-working space expansion pack, complete with his very own standing desk, giant Starbucks coffee cup, and laptop computer covered with stickers from tech conferences and music festivals he's never actually been to.

Startup Entrepreneur Ken even has his own mobile app, the Marketing-to-English Translation Dictionary. With one touch, you can convert the random phrases Ken uses, like "full marketing stack" and "frictionless onboarding strategies" into proper English that real people use.

And finally, there's my own personal favorite, Suburban Barbershop Ken, who's there to clip off Man-Bun Ken's man bun once he finally realizes he's a grownup. Which won't be for another 20 years.

Photo credit: Mattel (Used with permission, Mattel Newsroom)




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.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

On the Eighth Day there was Breakfast

Occasionally I'll accept guest posts from friends and fellow humor writers. This guest humor piece is from my friend, Randy Clark, who is branching out from his normal business writing into creative nonfiction and humor. I'm pleased to share this story with you.

It was the eighth morning of a ten-day excursion into the Southwest. My wife and I were meandering our way towards Phoenix for a flight back to Indianapolis. We overnighted in Flagstaff, Arizona staying in one of those roadside inns named by putting an adjective in front of their function, like Well-Being Motel or Amenity Inn. I awoke before my wife. The Happy Hotel had a complimentary breakfast. It was open from 6 am until 10 am. It was 5:40. I brushed my teeth, washed my face, and quietly headed to the lobby, leaving my wife resting peacefully. I’d bring back coffee.

The lobby/breakfast area was packed. There were folks everywhere. As I tried to make my way to the coffee, I was cut off, nudged, and ignored. I heard Excusez-Moi and guttural grunts—I believe some were directed at me.
Randy is also a singer, in addition to being a writer.

After grabbing a cup of joe, I found a seat in the lobby of this L-shaped breakfast hall. I had eyed a USA Today on the table next to a plush black leatherette lobby chair. I picked up the newspaper and read the news of the day. The headlines included the aftermath of Trump’s European tour and Tiger Woods mugshot.

As I quietly sat and read the paper a man came over and without saying a word, or making eye contact, picked up the large foyer chair next to me and moved it alongside of a couch where two companions sat. He didn’t know if I had a purpose for the chair. I could’ve been saving it for my wife, I wasn’t, but I could have been.

Across from me was a table of five friends speaking loudly with food dangling from their lips as they all chewed and talked simultaneously. The breakfast area was self-serve as well as self-clean, and although there was a trash receptacle next to the table of the full-mouth-talking clan they left their mess of saliva moistened crumbs for someone else to dispose of.

At another table, a young couple with a cute toddler ignored their son as he threw fistfuls of baby squeezed scrambled eggs for three feet in every direction.

Still others jostled past people as if they weren’t there, and stood in front of the coffee blocking access as they slowly deliberated which cream to use, French raspberry or vanilla grape.

I perused the paper. As I finished scanning each section, I placed them on the table perpendicular to each other. When I was done I went for a second cup of coffee, grabbed one for my wife, and headed back to the room.

It was our tradition that I’d bring her coffee and then we’d return together to eat. Not today. She’d had eight days of Cheerful Roadside Canteen breakfast and wasn’t prepared for the food, or the crowd.

I returned for a breakfast of hard tater tots, greasy sausages, and what I hoped were scrambled eggs with at least a bit of warmth remaining. Hey, it was free. Don’t judge.

At the dining hall I saw the chair had been returned to its rightful place, the tables (and floors) were clean…and the USA today I had left scattered on the table was neatly stacked. Maybe, I shouldn’t be casting stones.

It was a lesson in humility. As I was judging those around me and smugly back-slapping myself for being a superior person, the truth was I wasn’t much different. I was as selfish as the next person. I left the newspaper not as I had found it, but in disarray. You could argue that my offense was less intrusive than some of the others, but that’s not the point. The point is I was inconsiderate of my fellow human beings.

The eggs were cold, the sausage was hard, and the tater tots burnt, but only slightly. I finished my plate. Like I said, it was free.





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, June 16, 2017

Toilet Paper Prank Sinks High School Kid's Graduation

I was your normal, average kid growing up in normal, average Muncie, Indiana. I wasn't a goody two-shoes, but I wasn't a troublemaker either. Oh, sure, I was obnoxious, but show me a teenage boy who isn't.

Usually, when I got in trouble, it was over something harmless, like staying out too late or going to a rated R movie when I was 14 and lying about it to my parents. (Only to be caught later, because I was not very good at being devious.)

Even my pranks were harmless. Like stealing For Sale signs out of someone's yard and putting them in someone else's. We got my band director, Mr. Pritchett, that way a couple times.

My pinnacle achievement was sticking five or six signs in his yard over Spring Break. (I don't think he ever found out who did it, and I'm hoping he doesn't read this.)

The last day of the year was always Senior Prank Day, but a few of us — Mike, Chris, Jon, and me — wanted to be first. We decided to pull our prank the night before, so it would be waiting when everyone showed up the next morning. And I wanted to top my previous record.

We spray painted "EAT ME" on a bed sheet and "borrowed" 15 or so For Sale signs from a local realtor's office. We stuck the signs in front of the school, and Mike and I climbed onto the roof and hung the sheet in front of the building. We also tied a dead possum next to it.

(We spotted it on the way to the school and picked it up. Don't ask.)

Then we all went home, except for Jon, who had to drive past the school once more. Which is when he got stopped by the cops. Which is how our dean got the first inkling about the culprits.

The next morning, when we showed up, everything was gone. It had already been cleaned up, and no one witnessed our victory! That's when things began to fall apart.

Jon was called into the office immediately, and asked who had pulled the prank. He admitted to it, and was threatened with being banned from graduation that night if he didn't name his co-conspirators. So he named Chris.

Chris got called into the office and was offered the same deal. So he named me.

I realized we were all done for, so I thought, "Screw it," and nailed Mike.

Bingo! That was the guy the dean had been gunning for. For four years, he'd had Mike in his sights but could never make anything stick, and now was his chance to come down on him hard.

He banned Mike from graduation.

An hour later, Mike's mom was screaming at the dean about "calling a #&%$! lawyer," when he caved and rescinded his ban.

I don't remember what happened to the others after that, but I was grounded for an entire month, including my 18th birthday. I also had to take the signs back to the realtor, who thought the prank was brilliant and said if I had called him first, he would have loaned them to me.

Live and learn.

I was reminded of my little prank none-of-your-business years later, when I read about a kid who was banned from crossing the stage for his graduation. (Tonight, as I write this, in fact.)

Hayden Anderson of Virginia Beach, Virginia and some unnamed friends unfurled 250 rolls of toilet paper around the high school, but only Hayden was found out. He was banned, not because of his role in the prank, but because he wouldn't name his accomplices.

The morning after, Hayden was escorted to the principal's office by security guards — in my day, you were just called down and you went — where he was asked about his accomplices.

Unlike the four of us, Hayden wouldn't rat anyone out, and so his principal suspended him for three days, banned him from graduation, and will mail Hayden's diploma to him. According to a story on WTKR.com, Hayden said "those are his best friends and he can't give them up."

"Taking away his privilege to walk on that stage, to me that's just wrong. He earned that right," said Nick Yarrington, who says Anderson is more than a best friend, "he's a brother."

Now, I'm no police detective, but I think if the school wanted to get some answers, they might want to lean on Nick Yarrington a bit. But what do I know?

In the end, I was able to walk across my graduation stage. We all were. But I sometimes wonder what would have happened if we kept our mouths shut. Would anyone else's mom screamed at the dean about a lawyer? Mine wouldn't. I would have been kept out of graduation and told I was lucky it wasn't worse.

To tell you the truth, I don't remember much about graduation these days. Sure, it was fine at the time, but I couldn't even tell you where my high school diploma is now.

I think Hayden has made the better choice, and he's going to remember the day he was true to his friends and refused to back down from a pencil-pushing bully. If anything, that's the most important life lesson Hayden's high school could have ever taught him.


Photo credit: Chase Urich (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, June 09, 2017

Letter to my 16 Year Old Self

Dear Young Erik,

It's probably pretty weird to be hearing from your adult self. If you're reading this, it either means I'm hallucinating, or that you invented time travel. (If you did, invest in a company called Apple Computers sometime in the next five years. Tell Dad too. As much as you can. Don't ask, just do it! Trust me.)

You probably have a few questions for your future self. First, yes, you're married. You have three kids. Yes, you've done that. And that too. Yes, you still have all your fingers.

Your hair? Uh, let's just be happy you still have all your fingers.

I'm writing to you, Young Erik, because I just read an article that said that we're pretty much destined to be the kind of people we were when we were 16 years old. That the way we reacted to situations and people as teenagers will influence the way we react to situations and people when we're older. In fact, this article said we do it more than we're actually aware of. And I wanted you to know I didn't blame you. Actually, things are pretty good here, so don't screw this up.

If only that were true for our physical shape though. Do me a favor, and try to cut out soda by the time you're 21. Okay, 25. Okay, 30, but only on special occasions. Like with rum. Or pizza.

Also, don't eat so much pizza.
Otherwise just keep doing what you're doing, keep the friends you've got, and go to college. Don't run off and follow the Grateful Dead or anything stupid.

Or do. I don't actually know what would happen if you did. Hell, maybe you'll end up rich selling Mexican cotton blankets to a bunch of Deadheads.

Ooh, nope! No, don't do that. I just checked with the time machine, and you absolutely must not follow the Grateful Dead. Not if you want to keep all your fingers.

Also, pay attention in school a little more. At least in algebra class.

Don't worry about being popular though. I remember that we never actually liked the popular kids, and we were fine hanging out with the not-so-popular kids. So don't feel too bad. It's actually for the best. Besides, we had fun.

You've no doubt already figured out that most of the popular kids were jerks in high school. Believe me, they did not get better! I wouldn't worry too much about them. Let's just say they didn't change the world as much as their mommies and daddies said they would.

On the other hand, you were spot on in predicting the incarcerated kids.

Of course, this also means you and your plucky band of band nerds are going to pretty much stay the same. Except somewhere in your 20s, you're going to trade your French horn for a fountain pen and join a plucky band of word nerds instead. That's why you spelled it "clique" earlier and not "click."

Once a nerd, always a nerd.

But you're going to have a much better chance of making it as a professional writer than you are a professional French horn player. Even now, in the 21st century, there's not a lot of demand — by which I mean "absolutely none" — for a professional French horn player.

It's true about the way social interactions guide us as adults though. Even today, when I'm out meeting other people or going to networking events, I can still spot them. The little cliques of former jocks, rich kids, theater kids, troublemakers, burnouts, science geeks, band nerds, and the loners. They still all find each other, even as adults, and they hang out together.

So I wanted you to know that everything, for the most part, has turned out okay, and that you should keep doing what you're doing. Be a nerd. Keep doing the weird stuff that no one else does. Read the books no one else likes. Buy comic books and listen to New Wave music. Play the sports no one else plays. (Just try to keep playing them once you turn 40. Seriously.)

And I'm serious about investing in Apple.




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.