Friday, December 30, 2011

British Scholars Schooled on Handshakes

British Scholars Schooled on Handshakes

In the days of old, when knights were bold, and fist bumps weren't invented, they made their stands, and shook their hands, and battles were prevented.

That is, back in the Middle Ages, when two knights met and they weren't in the mood to do battle, each knight would extend an empty right hand — preferably their own — to show the other that they were unarmed and did not intend to start swinging a sword around.

The two men would then grip their empty hands, shake them a few times to hear their armor rattle, and that was that. They would then go about their day, sweating inside a form-fitting metal coffin, unable to go to the bathroom properly.

These days, a handshake is more generic greeting with fewer violent overtones. It conveys warmth and friendliness, and is one of those things we were all taught to do when we were very young.

There are even some basic rules about shaking hands: In a social setting, men should let the woman offer her hand first; if they don't, don't offer yours. In business, let the person of higher authority offer their hand first; if they don't, offer yours. Don't offer the dead fish or do the bone crusher. And don't offer your hand to someone who can't shake it, either because their hands are full or they have a disability.

You watched your parents shake hands with other people, friends and strangers. When you were eight, you were told to apologize and shake hands with the kid you fought with at recess. When you played sports, everyone lined up and shook hands with each other after the game.

Even today, professional athletes will gather at center court, center ice, or in the middle of the field, and shake hands with each other. I especially like the way hockey players line up like we did when were little kids, and go through the line, shaking hands with every player.

It actually bothers me quite a lot that professional baseball players don't do this. Like good sportsmanship is not important, or unnecessary. Even football players who were beating the bejeezus out of each other just 30 seconds before will often embrace, and many of them will kneel and hold hands to pray in the middle of the field.

But baseball? Nope, the winning team just congratulates themselves, and the losing team sulks in the dugout. I love baseball, but that's the lowest point of any game.

Still, we've all shaken enough hands in our lives to know the basic rules and etiquette. We don't need any pointers or training on how it's done, right? Especially if you belong to an elite group of very intelligent people.

Or not.

Cambridge University is providing their dons (professors) with advice on the intricacies of the handshake, and the whole thing has the dons shaking their fists.

The Cambridge administrators, who apparently have forgotten that they have some of the smartest people in England on campus, have sent out a directive to its dons, asking them to read handshaking instructions and to take an online training course on handshaking.

"We are not social misfits," one anonymous don told the (London) Daily Telegraph. "We know when to shake someone's hand and when not too. All this seems to be stupid and pointless."

The instructions the dons received said "There is a certain amount of cultural sensitivity relating to handshakes. Suitable body language conveys welcome just as well." The admissions department was worried that the dons would horribly offend some students, like Muslim and women — who do not shake hands — and people with certain disabilities.

Apparently, the advice did not elaborate on "suitable body language" phase, but I'm guessing the loving embrace of a warm hug or a 27-step hip hop handshake were also on the Don't list.

Sally Hunt, Cambridge's College Union general secretary, told the Daily Telegraph, "while I am sure this advice is well-intentioned, academics are grown-ups and are intelligent enough to know when to shake a person's hand or not."

To be fair, I've known a couple hundred academics in my day, and let's just say I'll raise an eyebrow at the whole "intelligent grown-up" assessment.

Still, I do believe that most people, including university academics have more sense than a basket of apples, and know when and how to shake hands with people. Just follow the basic rules we all learned when we were kids, and you'll be fine.

Also, leave your swords at home.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Ghostly Mirrors and Juvenile Husbands

I am not what you would call a brave man. Oh sure, I would protect my family from home invaders, axe murderers, and Jehovah's Witnesses who knock on our door on Saturday mornings ("sorry, no, we're Zoroastrians").

But there are two things that if I am faced with, you will find me shrieking like a 6-year-old girl and racing off in the other direction: snakes and ghosts.

I had to face one of these terrors a couple weeks ago, when my wife and I had a chance to stay at the Story Inn in, well, Story, IN.

Story, Indiana is so small, it's more of an intersection than a town. It has a village green, and one restaurant inside the Inn. If you go to the restaurant, you have to park across town, 50 feet away. And there are anywhere from seven to 15 people who live in Story.

Plus, at least one ghost.

The Blue Lady has haunted the Story Inn for as long as anyone can remember. And for the most part, she confines her activities to only one room, appropriately named "The Blue Lady Room."

Ali, as she's sometimes called — short for Alison, the founder's wife — is sometimes seen wearing a white robe, combing her hair in front of the vanity in her room. Other times, people have reported smelling perfume in the Blue Lady Room, seeing framed photographs knocked off the wall, and seeing wine glasses and cutlery go flying.

"Maybe you'll get to stay in the haunted room," they said at the Visitors Center. I was in Brown County as a travel writer, and I had stopped in to get some information.

"We'd better not!" said my wife, who is more afraid of ghosts than I am, if such a thing is possible.

"I'll make sure they don't stick us in the haunted room," I told my wife, more for my benefit than for hers. I was going to sleep in the car before I stayed in a haunted room.

When we arrived at the Story Inn, they confirmed that we were, in fact, not able to stay in the room, even if we wanted.

"There's already somebody in it," said the lady at the front desk.

"An alive somebody?" I asked.

"Absolutely," said the lady. "I don't believe it's really haunted anyway."

That actually made me feel a little better, especially when she said no one had ever reported any ghostly activity in our room, the Hedrick Room. After a wonderful dinner in the restaurant downstairs, and a quick trip back to Nashville for an after dinner coffee, we returned to our room, where I took a shower before bed.

Afterward, as I stared at the steamed up mirror, I had an idea for a great practical joke to play on the room's next guest: I wrote "BOO" on the mirror with my finger. When the next guest showered, the word would reappear in the steam, and they would think the ghost had been in the bathroom.

I just didn't consider that the next guest to take a shower would be my wife.

"Erik! ERIK!" she half-shouted the next morning, shaking me awake. She was wrapped in a towel, dripping wet, and half-crying. "Did you do anything in the bathroom?"

"No, I've been asleep," I said, thinking that was a rather personal question.

"Did you write anything on the mirror?" she said, more insistently, and more crying-ly.

I realized what she was talking about, and I snickered. "Oh crap! Yes, I did that. I'm sorry."

"That's not funny! I thought the ghost did that!" She nearly cried, so I knew better than to laugh while I was in such a vulnerable position. "Did you do it on purpose to scare me?"

"No, I didn't even think about you being the next one in the shower."

I apologized again, and she called me a bad name and stormed back to the bathroom.

I laughed quietly after she had shut the door, and congratulated myself on what was a rather awesome-if-immature prank. I was a little happy that I got to see the direct results of my practical joke, even if I was going to pay for it later.

Later, after we had packed, and were getting ready to leave, my wife walked in on me carefully wiping off the mirror with a towel.

"Oh sure, NOW you clean it off," she said. "Now that your little joke is over."

"I'm not cleaning it off," I said. "I'm doing it again for the next person in here."

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Let's Whine Again, Like We Did Last Summer

Let's Whine Again, Like We Did Last Summer

Erik is out of the office this week, celebrating his anniversary. In light of the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, we are running this column from 2001.


Pity poor Chubby Checker, the creator of "The Twist." He's got his bloomers in a bunch, because he feels that he -- one of rock and roll's most important figures -- is also one of its most underappreciated.

In a full-page, two-color ad in Billboard Magazine, the music industry's weekly trade magazine, Checker likened himself to Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Walt Disney, claiming that before him, there was no rock-and-roll dance. As a result, Checker doesn't want the same treatment every other inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gets. He wants a statue of himself, in midtwist, alone in the courtyard.

"I want my flowers while I'm alive. I can't smell them when I'm dead," he said in his ad. "I will not have the music business ignore my position in the industry."

To which music pros said, "Chubby Checker? Isn't he a Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor by now?"

No, but he does have his own line of beef jerky.

Checker, who has still not yet been admitted to the Hall of Fame, says that he was the performer who taught people how to stop holding hands, face each other, and dance to rock-and-roll. "Chubby Checker is King of the way we dance worldwide since 1959," he says in his $10,000 Billboard ad, even though his version of The Twist didn't debut until 1960.

What's really odd about his claim is that I remember seeing old 1958-59 film footage of people dancing to Elvis Presley songs without holding hands or facing each other, one year before Chubby Checker supposedly taught people how to remove the poles from their butts, and actually shake their hips to the beat.

Could it be that people were dancing to Elvis before they were dancing to Chubby Checker? Probably. Besides, "King of Rock and Roll" makes a much better tattoo than "King of the Way We Dance Worldwide Since 1959, uhh, I mean 1960."

So if Checker actually does get admitted into the hall, it's conditional: Give him the statue, or he doesn't want the induction. He says that if he's inducted, he'll decline.

He told the Philadelphia Inquirer: "I say, 'No, keep it, 'cause I'll sell it.' I'll put it up for auction. . . I need to get something special. Money won't do anymore."

If that's the case, then selling the award is probably not a good option.

Checker debuted "The Twist" on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" in August 1960, and says that this is what started it all. "Every generation, in every decade since 1960, when they dance, they do the Chubby Checker," he told the Inquirer.

So should Checker get his own statue?

Absolutely not, says Terry Stewart, president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

"This is a shrine and a home for all artists," he told the Inquirer. "Inside, we honor them all, individually. . . In this pantheon of artists, how do you put one person above the rest? We don't have Elvis out there, or Chuck Berry."

Stewart points out that while the whiny, self-back-patting time traveler is one of the few early rock and rollers not inducted into the hall, most of his contemporaries already are, including Hank Ballard, the singer who originally recorded "The Twist" in 1959.

The story goes that when Dick Clark heard Ballard's original, he had Ernest Evans rerecord it. Evans was later dubbed "Chubby Checker" by Clark's wife, Kari, who was trying to play off Fats Domino's name.

But it goes back further than that, says Chrystelle Trump Bond, the head of Goucher College's dance department. She says Checker didn't originate the idea of solo dancing either (told you!). Rather, solo dancing started in the 1920s with the Charleston and the black bottom, and it evolved into the Twist.

"I don't want to take away from Chubby Checker's contributions, but he's denying all the unsung heroes who did this way before he was born," Bond told the Associated Press.

Turns out the "King of the Way We Dance Worldwide Since 1959" is not only off by a year, he didn't change the way we dance, so much as just improve on it. His signature song wasn't an original, and his name wasn't even his own creation. And his threat to refuse an induction into the hall is a little premature, since he still hasn't made it.

But at least he invented beef jerky.

He did invent beef jerky, didn't he?

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Las Vegas Investigation Press Conference Transcript Regarding Death of Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway


An Interview with Randy Bernard and Brian Barnhart

Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Dec. 15, 2011

The following is a transcript of today's press conference at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway about the investigation of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway race and the death of Dan Wheldon. I received this from IndyCar as part of their media communications. I am reposting it here without comment.

AMY KONRATH: I'd like to introduce our speakers Randy Bernard, chief executive officer of INDYCAR, and Brian Barnhart, president of operations, INDYCAR. Randy, I'll turn things over to you to begin.

RANDY BERNARD: Thank you. Good morning. This morning we released the results of the Las Vegas investigation. It's only been two months since this tragic event, and it's been a very difficult month for everyone in the racing community, as Dan was loved by all.

INDYCAR has undertaken an investigation that includes the compiling of all data to better understand the dynamics of the accident, the performance of the race cars in the accident and the causes of Dan's non‑survival injuries.

This report is to document and summarize the facts ascertains and analysis of the data and information obtained and to make some observations as ongoing racing issues. As past, current and future experiences cumulative, these observations will be a part of a continuous process to improve racing so it's both competitive and as safe as possible.

INDYCAR is grateful for the extensive cooperation for each of the drivers and teams that participated in the event, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, emergency personnel, and the Clark County Office of the Coroner and Medical Examiner.

In 2010, INDYCAR and (Speedway Motorsports Inc.) began negotiations of the possible return of IndyCar to races in Las Vegas. INDYCAR and SMI reached an agreement where the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights would compete at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series race at Las Vegas included 34 drivers. Starting field size is determined upon a number of factors, such as length and width of the racetrack, pit space capability, and tradition, such as the 33‑car field at Indy 500.

Based upon these factors, it was decided that Las Vegas Motor Speedway could accommodate a 37‑car starting field. Although we only fielded 34 cars, the actual occurrence of the October 16th incident by itself does not change this conclusion.

This incident and the consequences could have occurred with any size starting field at any track. However, as Brian will discuss in the investigation findings, the experience with freedom of movement during the October 16th race does create questions whether an IndyCar starting field of any size is appropriate in the future. This will be a topic for further review and investigation based upon the 2012 car dynamic.

Among the 34 entries in the October 16th race, each of the drivers had participated in a previous 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series event, and every team has participated in the Indy 500 in which Dan was a winning driver.

In fact, besides Dan, four other drivers had previously won the Indy 500 at least one time. INDYCAR offered Dan, a defending winner of the 2011 Indy 500, the opportunity to participate in the Go Daddy INDYCAR Challenge at Las Vegas. The INDYCAR challenge provided Dan with an opportunity to earn $2.5 million for himself and $2.5 million for a fan selected through a sweepstakes if Dan was the official winner of the race. INDYCAR held qualifications on Friday, October 14th.

Amidst speculation of Dan's starting position, it's important to note that other seasoned racers were in the rear. The competitors started the race in their respective qualifying positions with the exception of four race cars that were moved to the rear of the field due to penalties and qualifications, a common occurrence in INDYCAR.

As a result, three of these race cars were moved to the rear of the starting field in accordance with IndyCar Series rules. The number 77, Dan Wheldon, qualified in 28th position but was moved to the 34th starting position as part of the promotion.

At this time, I'd like Brian Barnhart, president of the operations division to discuss the findings of the investigation.

BRIAN BARNHART: Good morning, everyone. As Randy said, going in to discuss the findings of the investigative report here, and I'm going to go back and begin with our inspections and on‑track testing. As is customary protocol in INDYCAR, in preparation of any new racing event at a permanent facility, INDYCAR conducts a series of on‑site tests and inspections and an on‑track test to confirm the compatibility of the INDYCAR cars to a racetrack.

The inspections in the test include a review of various facility infrastructures, areas, such as the track fencing, the track surface, the barriers, pit lane, the garages, the medical center, the technical inspection area, the fuel servicing area, the timing and scoring lines, the media center, and race control.

The initial inspection occurred the first week of November of 2010 and was conducted by myself, and Kevin Blanch the technical director of the IZOD IndyCar Series in the presence of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway representatives.

The compatibility and performance testing occurred on November 15th of 2010. The test included two cars and two driver combinations selected by the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone.

One car was driven by Ryan Briscoe of Team Penske. The second car was driven by Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Over the course of the two‑day test, the two cars completed a total of 400 laps with a top speed of 214.456 miles an hour. The test was then followed by private testing at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway by IZOD IndyCar Series teams as well as Firestone Indy Lights teams as the individual teams prepared for the race.

Early in the week of the race and on each day of the event, IndyCar also conducted race‑ready inspections each day of the event. During the event, and more specifically the race weekend, the IndyCar Series cars completed a total of 2,910 laps in practice by the end of the day on Friday, October 14, 2011.

Through all of these laps, the race cars were monitored by IndyCar driver coach and three‑time Indianapolis 500 winner, Johnny Rutherford, IndyCar official observers, and the IndyCar race control and operations team.

With regards to the starting field, as Randy said, the maximum size of a starting field for a race event is determined by numerous factors as IndyCar determines appropriate. These include, event promoter requirements and venue specific characteristics, as well as tradition, as Randy mentioned, with the 33 at Indianapolis.

On the venue specific characteristics, a primary consideration has always been given to pit lane space, because of the minimum pit box dimension required to execute a pit stop due to the turning radius of our cars, keeping in mind that our cars and drivers, the driver has to bring the car to the fuel on pit road due to the thick fuel tank and fuel hose. Because of that combination with the turning radius, we've always required a minimum pit box of 35 feet long.

Based on those parameters there, the Las Vegas pit road could have accommodated 37 cars. We put 34 cars out with pit boxes of 38 foot length.

Another consideration is the racing surface itself. With Las Vegas Motor Speedway being a one and a half mile track, 34 race cars permitted 233 feet of track per car, which is ample space on the racetrack. So there is plenty of room on the racetrack.

Obviously other series race with more cars there, but with the 34 cars of the IndyCar that's we ran that weekend, we had plenty of space on the racetrack for them and ample space in pit road as well to safely accommodate all 34 cars.

The overview of the investigation. We hired a third party investigation review that was arranged for the attention of nationally respected experts. Michael Pepe and Stuart Nightenhelser of Wolfe Technical Services provided independent assurances that the investigation protocol, the evidence examined and reviewed, and conclusions reached are consistent and appropriate to the standard scientific and engineering investigation methods. Michael and Stuart's resumes are attached as Exhibit D in the investigation report.

IndyCar has analyzed data, video, still photographs and the physical evidence to better understand the dynamics of the accident and to document what occurred, including the performance of the chassis and the racetrack during the crash. Members of the investigation team also had interviews with the drivers, participants and team members and participated in meetings with drivers, team representatives and team owners. INDYCAR utilized all the available data, including data from the accident data recorders carried on board each race car involved in the crash, and the on‑board pipe telemetry of the teams themselves, timing and scoring data from the IndyCar timing system, and reports filed by track safety personnel, technical personnel, race control personnel, medical personnel, and information provided by the chief medical officer of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and the Clark County coroner.

The number 77 car driven by Dan Wheldon has been thoroughly examined as well a thorough examination of the helmet worn by Dan has taken place.

In terms of the crash investigation and kind of walking through what took place, a multi‑car accident involving 15 identifiable cars occurred in turns one and two of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on lap 11 of the 200‑lap scheduled event. The accident began as a result of contact between the 06 of Jim Hinchcliffe and the 17 of Wade Cunningham as they entered the first turn. The 17 of Cunningham spun toward the infield while running in twelfth position. This initial contact was an occurrence common to racing as was each subsequent contact.

That contact was followed by contact among the No. 4 of JR Hildebrand with the No. 17 of Cunningham, as well as the number 15 of Jay Howard. The right front of the No. 4, Hildebrand, made contact with the left rear of No. 17 of Cunningham, triggering a multi‑car crash. The 4 car climbed the left rear of the 17 and became airborne for a brief period of time.

The 15 of Howard made contact with the 17, and then the 15 slid up the racetrack and hit the outside wall with the right side of his car. The 17 then carried on, made contact with the No. 22 car driven by Townsend Bell. The 22 spun and hit the wall with his left side. The 4 car came down almost on top of the 17 and both of them hit the outside wall almost as one with their right sides.

The 4 car of Hildebrand was traveling at 215 miles an hour in traffic prior to the accident. Approximately 1.6 seconds before making contact with the 17 car of Cunningham, the 4 car of Hildebrand reduced his throttle from 100% to 15%. The brakes were applied by the driver of the 4 car approximately 4/10 of a second before impact with the 17. The speed of the 4 car reduced from 215 miles an hour to 201 miles per hour at the time of the impact.

The only available information from the 4 car is the pie telemetry as the accident data recorder was damaged in the accident and did not function properly. The 4 car of Hildebrand was airborne for approximately 125 feet with all four tires off the track. The attitude of the race car was level with the racetrack with the front slightly higher than the back end of the car.

The driver of the 4 car, JR Hildebrand, was transported to the hospital and kept overnight for observation and released the next day. As the chain reaction continued, the impact among the number 14 of Vitor Meira, the number 15 of E.J. Viso, the number 83 of Charlie Kimball, and the number 77 of Dan Wheldon was the next event.

The 77 of Dan Wheldon had achieved a maximum speed of 224 miles per hour on the front straightaway, and had achieved the 24th position in the race. As the chain reaction of the crash increased and more cars became involved, the number 77 of Dan stayed low on the racetrack consistent with an attempt to avoid race cars crashing up against the outside wall.

Several race cars were in a cluster directly in front of the 77, including the 9 of Scott Dixon, the 10 of Dario Franchitti, the 14 of Meira, the 59 of Viso, and the 83 of Kimball. As the 14 began to spin toward the infield, the 14 made contact with the 59 of Viso and the 83 of Kimball. This gathering of cars is directly in front of the 77, and effectively blocked the path of the 77 which was about two race car lengths behind.

Approximately 3.8 seconds before impact, Dan reduced the throttle from 100% to 55%. Approximately one second later the throttle was reduced even further down to less than 10%, and the throttle remained in this position until contact. Dan applied the brakes approximately 2.4 seconds prior to contact, and had decelerated from 224 miles an hour to 165 miles an hour as he made contact with the right front of the 77 on the left rear of the 83. The impact of the 77 and 83 registered 24 G's longitudinal, and negative 23 G's vertical on the accident data recorder of the 77 car.

The 77 became airborne with the nose‑up vertical orientation and began to roll to the right. The right rear of the 77 made contact with the racing surface, and the chassis then traveled rearward first in an upright position toward the safer barrier in turn two.

The 77 traveled in a nose‑up, semi‑airborne state for approximately 325 feet. The chassis of the 77 impacted a post along the right side of the tub and created a deep defect in the tub that extended from the pedal bulk head, along the upper border of the tub and through the cockpit. As the race car passed by, the pole intruded into the cockpit and made contact with the driver's helmeted head.

Dan's injury was limited to his head injury. During the accident Dan appeared to suffer two distinct head forces during the accident. The first head force created levels through a head injury criteria, also known as a HIC number, that normally does not produce any injury. These numbers were determined as after the initial impact with the 83 car, and Dan's car traveled in contact with the racetrack and the 59 car all the way from the initial impact all the way up until hitting the catch fence.

During that crash sequence, the accident data recorder measured 12 or 13 impacts. It is during that timeframe that one of those impacts measured a measurable head injury criteria number for Dan. That is the number that does not normally produce an injury. The number was low enough that that is not an injury‑causing moment.

The second force was a physical force and a physical impact. It is the second force that produced a nonsurvivable blunt force injury trauma to Dan's head.

There was no evidence of mechanical or structural issues contributing to this accident. The SAFER Barrier and the fence system appeared to have functioned as designed during the accident. The impact with the fence that resulted in Dan's nonsurvivable injuries, involved the circumstances of location, direction and orientation that were the chance result of previous interactions.

Obviously, the accident has raised a lot of issues. And moving forward to address some of those issues includes the question around the suitability of IndyCars to race on high‑banked ovals. INDYCAR has assembled a technical committee to focus on the aerodynamic and mechanical considerations related to one and a half mile, high‑banked ovals.

The chairman of the committee is Will Phillips, the IZOD IndyCar Series vice president of technology. The attendees are IndyCar Series team engineers; in addition, representatives from chassis manufacturer Dallara are also invited to attend.

INDYCAR has determined it would not be appropriate to frame its analysis of the suitability of IndyCar Series race cars to high‑bank ovals by looking at tracks of this classification as a general category. In other words, each high‑banked oval has unique characteristics, and each should be considered individually.

The banking itself is not the only geometry taken into consideration. There are a number of factors, including the length and width of the track, the banking, the progressiveness of the banking, the length of the transition, the overall grip of the asphalt, and the coalition of friction.

There are a number of factors that lead and create to a total geometry package and consideration at each track that should be taken on an individual basis, not simply by banking alone.

INDYCAR and CART and Champ Car have successfully conducted many races over numerous years on courses that meet the definition of high‑banked ovals. Due in part to the total geometry of the track, each track has its own unique routes around the circuit that optimize speed and handling capabilities. Most of you know these are referred to as the racing groove. These grooves create restrictions on where a driver can place the car on the track and remain competitive.

Most tracks have a limited number of racing grooves. For example, it's not unusual for ovals to have only one or two racing grooves, including here at Indianapolis. Racing grooves not only restrict drivers' naturally aggressive racing behavior, but make the location of another competitor's car on the racetrack more predictable.

The examination of the video of the October 16th accident demonstrates normal pack racing that is common on high‑banked ovals. However, what was also witnessed was nearly unlimited movement on the track surface under race conditions. This capability of relatively free movement on the track without restraints of natural racing grooves must be attributed to the overall track geometry beyond banking.

Whatever the reason, the combination of the track geometry factors allowed for relative unrestricted movement on the race within the racing pack that had not previously been experienced.

This movement not only allowed for increased car‑to‑car contact, but made it more difficult for drivers to predict the movement of other drivers around them. As a result, the opportunity for this accident was increased. While the accident could have occurred at any track at any time, the dynamic of the current car and the overall track geometry at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway under race conditions appeared to have been causal to this accident.

I'd like to talk further a little bit about that and talk about the difference between and the understanding of how those conditions presented themselves on race day alone. It is virtually impossible for us to replicate race conditions, as much as we do in the feasibility and compatibility testing, as much as we do in practice. Some teams are out working on qualification setups and run by themselves. Some teams are out running in packs.

But you never get an opportunity to run with everyone out there trying to achieve in practice what they do when the green flag drops in the race. In those conditions, the ability of the drivers to race from the bottom of the racetrack all the way up to the wall and run limitless is not a condition we've experienced before.

While we've had pack racing at other racetracks before, such as Chicagoland or Texas or other one and a half mile high‑banked ovals, there is always a limit. You can be two wide or three wide, but at time when's you got to the upper lane of Texas or Chicago, whether it's dusty, the grip level lowered, whatever, you couldn't use the entire racetrack.

What was evident in the Las Vegas event was that the entire racetrack was useable and the lanes were limitless. That was a variable that had not been seen before.

RANDY BERNARD: In conclusion, the accident was significant due to the number of race cars damaged, but more importantly through the nonsurvivable survivable injuries to Dan Wheldon. While several factors coincided to produce a perfect storm, none of them can be singled out as the sole cause of the accident. For this reason, it is impossible to determine with certainly the result would be any different if one or more of the factors did not exist.

The race car being driven at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway has evolved into a race vehicle with an unmatched safety record in Open Wheel Racing. More than 2 million miles have been driven in the IR3 Dallara with this being the first fatality.

The 2012 racing season ushers in an era of a new IndyCar and the opportunity for continued safety advancements. Over the next few days, the new car design is being delivered to a number of drivers and teams for testing.

INDYCAR has concluded that prior to the racing and returning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, further testing is appropriate to evaluate the dynamic of the race car and the specific geometry to this track, which is why they'll not be part of the 2012 schedule.

While the new car design is expected to continue the safety and performance evolution, there was nothing found in the performance of any of the race cars participating that was a factor in causing this racing incident.

Dan Wheldon was instrumental in the testing and development of the new car and the safety and innovations that it represents. INDYCAR is committed to safety, and this report is an interim step to INDYCAR's ongoing efforts to improve Motorsports safety. This accident and its consequences is another reminder of the risk associated with racing, regardless of efforts to make it safer.

Our thoughts, our prayers and deepest condolences of IndyCar and Open Wheel Racing community continue to go out to Dan's family.

Q. Being familiar with significant racing cars on a global level, I can absolutely tell you that if a driver was to hit anything hard, without a doubt, in INDYCAR, in my opinion is by far the safest car to hit anything hard, which is a reflection of the developments from IndyCar over all the last 20 years because of what you learn in accidents. I just have one question, Brian. The initial impact from the post that made the mark on the tub was not the nonsurvivable injury. Do you know what his head actually hit that did actually cause the nonsurvivable injury?

BRIAN BARNHART: Actually the post is the cause of the nonsurvivable injury. The initial impact that took place and created the hit number of the injury criteria number that developed as the 77 rode along the racetrack and the 59 car after the initial impact before getting to the fence.

The second head force that Dan experienced was with the post, as the post due to the location, the orientation and direction, the exposure of the cockpit to the post, that created the nonsurvivable injury.

Q. It appears the posts are on the track side of the fence at opposed to here in Indianapolis where the posts on the grandstand side of the fence. Did the fence design with the posts on the track side contribute to the injury in this accident?

BRIAN BARNHART: The fence appeared to perform as designed. From a fencing standpoint, there is no indication whatsoever that had the fabric of the mesh been on the inside that the outcome of this accident would have been any different. While we can envision some scenarios where the fabric being on the inside would be beneficial, in this case, it simply doesn't appear that it would have made any difference.

So because of that, our preference is for the fabric to be on the inside, but it wouldn't have made any difference on the outcome of this accident.

Q. Brian or Randy, looking at this report now and what stands out the most from what you can learn from this moving forward? It seems to be maybe as you guys described it, the increased or unrestricted movement by the cars that it's maybe something you can use later on here?

BRIAN BARNHART: That is the saddest part, obviously. When you have a tragedy like this, it's disappointing, but sometimes the only thing good that comes out of it is improvement in the future.

Obviously, we've lost a very dear family member in Dan, and our thoughts and support are always going to be with Susie and the Wheldon family. As you say, the best thing we can do is take this situation and try to learn from it and move forward.

I think what we're going to learn, and again, safety is an evolutionary process. The 2012 car has been under design for about 18 months, and many components of the IR3 have carried over into the 2012 car design, as well as several areas of improvement that we're looking for as the continued evolution of that safety.

There will be changes made. Some of them are pretty small and may seem insignificant, but they actually can have huge effects, and that includes looking for a standardized location on the steering system of a warning to the drivers of an unsafe condition on the racetrack. We're looking at improving the head surround system to make driver extrication on their own or from a safety team member easier.

I think one of the things that's going to come out of it that's going to be a big deal for us is as we talked about extensive testing to do our best to replicate race conditions. To identify the overall track geometry at any track where we are looking to run IndyCars to come up with the best understanding of the aerodynamic package, the technical specifications to allow us to race there as well as we possibly can.

Q. Do you want to go back to Las Vegas? And what will you need to learn in the testing sessions with the new car that maybe will be different or make you feel more comfortable about going back there?

RANDY BERNARD: I'll answer the first part of that and turn the technical part over to Brian. I think that Las Vegas is a great city as a resort destination. I think our fans, our sponsors, everyone likes and loves Las Vegas. It's a great place for a race, but I don't want to go back there if the conditions aren't right and it's not safe for our race cars.

BRIAN BARNHART: As far as going back, I think what we're looking to do, you get to a point where you don't want to get to the limitless racing capabilities that we had at Vegas. So I think what we're going to try to do is identify an aerodynamic package that makes it more challenging for the drivers.

What we had in Vegas was a situation where the track and the conditions and the combination of the overall geometry and the restrictions we had to put in place for the cars to control the speed created limitless racing lines.

It wasn't a challenge to these highly talented drivers. I think what we have to create through this extensive testing is a limit. They have to know that there's a line that they can't cross. I think that will restrict and make the racing better as we look down the road and returning to Las Vegas.

Q. You had three cars get airborne. Can you ‑‑

BRIAN BARNHART: Actually we had four.

Q. With a blocked track, new cars, old cars, is it safe to say cars are going to get airborne in that scenario where wheel‑to‑wheel contact comes into play?

BRIAN BARNHART: Obviously one of the thing that's we're focusing on with the 2012 car, and this has been in play long before the October 16th accident, we have always been looking at ways to reduce the interaction of wheel‑to‑wheel contact with Open Wheel cars. That will continue.

In answer to your question, there is no degree of certainty we can say that the 2012 car would behave any differently. We are making those changes in an effort to reduce the interaction of wheel‑to‑wheel contact and improving that situation. But, again, that is something that takes time and is an evolutionary process.

Q. I may be missing something here, but back to the positioning of the posts. If Davey Hamilton got tangled up in Texas, Kenny Brack did as well, and Dan himself also, but you're saying the positioning of the post isn't significant. If it isn't, why would you not then put the mesh on the track side so at least you eliminate getting tangled up in the posts? Would Dan have survived if the post were on the other side of the fencing?

BRIAN BARNHART: As I said, it does not look like the positioning of the mesh fabric would have changed the consequences of this accident at all. While we see some potential scenarios where the fabric being on the inside would have some benefit, there are sometimes when forces are so great that you have to remember that meshing, that fabric is the box wire fencing that is there to protect and keep the small debris pieces from flying into the grand stand.

The small fabric is not there to retain a car. That's the object of the post and the cables. The fabric of that meshing is there to protect the smaller debris pieces from going in, and the location of that fabric wouldn't have changed the outcome of this race at all. As we said, our preference is for it to be on the inside.

Q. Randy, after the Reno air tragedy and then our State Fair tragedy here, I had a discussion with a promoter who said, insuring these outdoor events could become a major issue. Is it ever a concern of yours that this incident was so high profile that insuring your events like this could become a significant issue?

RANDY BERNARD: If you look at the history of auto racing, this has always been something that could happen. I think if you look at the history of it, it continues to get better and better. As Brian has alluded to, it's about the evolution of the race car and how we can continue to work on making it safer. That's what our goal is. Part of this investigation was that. But what can we do to make that race car and our races safer?

Q. With the investigation now complete and your planning for 2012 now being completed, what is the timeframe for that?

RANDY BERNARD: Yes, first of all, we'd like to see that race schedule out by today or tomorrow.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the testing that you're going to do at other high banked tracks at this point, Texas and those kinds of places?

BRIAN BARNHART: Well, obviously, the production of the race cars is one of the paramount first things to go. At this point in time we've only had two chassis out on the racetrack. We've had a Honda powered car and a Chevrolet powered car out. I think one of the things that's paramount to this testing is getting more cars out on the racetrack to do our best to try to replicate the race conditions and get a better understanding of the track geometry and aero packages for the racing at those venues.

Several teams will be taking delivery of this car this week. I think we have 15. And Will Phillips is here with us, and he can address that. But I think the first delivery of 15 or 17 cars is scheduled over the next few days. That will be a good thing for us to get more cars on track. We absolutely plan on testing to get a better understanding of those dynamics at each venue we run.

Q. You mentioned in the testing that Briscoe and Dixon did about 214 at Las Vegas, and that reminded me of what happened in Texas in 2001. Kenny Brack went testing 218, 220, and they went back and didn't race, but they practiced and qualified at 230, 235. You mentioned that setting a limit for the new car, a line they can't cross. How challenging is it going to be to get guys to go out and push that limit in testing and get them to go 225 in testing instead of 214?

BRIAN BARNHART: I think it is a challenge. That is one of the byproducts that comes out of this. They'll have an understanding of the requests and requirements to be on track as well as Firestone in picking the tires.

I think the importance of it, and one of the things that a demonstrator of the increase in speed was getting more cars out on the racetrack, obviously the draft becomes pretty critical. If you look in traffic, JR was only running 215. Dan's running 224. There is a nine mile an hour spread, and they were all in the same pack. Some of that is explained by the drafting aspect and component of being in race condition.

And you don't get that when you only have two cars doing the feasibility test. I think it is something you've identified. Something we'll have to do is get more cars on there and expect something more from the teams and the drivers in terms of the performance parameters we're setting to make sure we have a full and clear understanding of what our expectation is while we go back and race.

AMY KONRATH: I want to thank everyone for joining us today. We'll have copies of the press release and the full investigation report as you exit. Those will be posted to media and also emailed out. Thank you very much for joining us.

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Friday, December 09, 2011

School Principal Screwed By Zero Tolerance

School Principal Experiences Zero Tolerance

An elementary school principal got to experience Zero Tolerance first hand, and decided he didn't like it.

Jerry Bostic, was the principal of Brookside Elementary School in Gastonia, North Carolina, until this past Wednesday, when he was told he either had to quit or be fired for wrongly suspending a student.

He chose to retire.

Bostic was the victim of his own form of Zero Tolerance, after he suspended 9-year-old Emanyea Lockett for two days for calling a teacher "cute." Bostic said it was a form of sexual harassment, and suspended the youngster for making "inappropriate statements."

To be fair, the school said Emanyea said "fine" in a suggestive tone, and not "cute," but even so, this is still nothing more than an hyper-dramatic overreaction on their part. You typically don't see finger pointing hysterics like this except from a campaign manager in the final months of the presidential election, not from someone in charge of a bunch of unruly children. But I repeat myself.

In the original suspension letter, the school also says that Emanyea used other inappropriate language to describe other students, which they further used to justify their overreaction.

"What’s in that letter, what they accuse him about — if that’s true, I should have been notified about it," Emanyea's mother Chiquita Lockett told WSOC TV, Charlotte's ABC affiliate. "And if so, then I would have seen where a suspension would have taken place."

But the Gaston County school system thinks Bostic overreacted, and blame him completely for the national furor that arose after stories appeared on cable news, as well as numerous blogs and Twitter messages. They issued a statement exonerating young Emanyea, saying there was no sexual harassment whatsoever, and that they "regret this situation happened." They also said they would send an official letter of apology to Emanyea and his parents.

Then they threw Bostic under a yellow school bus, and told him that his 44-year career as a Gaston County educator was officially over.

Bostic told the Gaston Gazette newspaper that he was given one hour to choose between quitting, being fired, or demoted to an assistant principal. So he chose to quit.

"I made a mistake, but I’ve worked for Gaston County Schools for 44 years and (Gaston County Schools Superintendent) Reeves McGlohon could (not) have cared less," Bostic told the Gazette. "One mistake in 44 years. And I’m not given the benefit of the doubt."

So, a kid says one word — cute, or fine — and you throw him out of school, but you're not given the benefit of the doubt?

While I don't think a two-day suspension is quite the same thing as an end-of-career firing, I'm surprised that Bostic thinks he should have been given the benefit of the doubt when he couldn't give it to a little kid.

That's Zero Tolerance for you. It's a harsh, unforgiving mistress, that just claimed one of its own enforcers.

Zero Tolerance is the Draconian rule that says a student will be suspended or expelled if they bring any weapon or any drugs to school. And not just guns and pot. Students have been ZTed for carrying lunchroom knives and Motrin, without any chance of appeal or benefit of the doubt. They have been thrown out for sharing a hug, sharing a Midol, and leaving a replica baseball bat in their car.

Bostic told the Gazette he wanted to apologize, but was told he could not. "I've had the best of evaluations my entire career and because of some syndicated columnist in New York or California, I don’t have a job."

Let's see if I can remember some of the answers I heard when I was a young student:
You've got nobody to blame but yourself. If you hadn't put yourself in that situation in the first place, this wouldn't have happened. If we make an exception for you, we have to make an exception for every principal. It's all fun and games until someone ruins their reputation.

I'm conflicted on this issue. I'm completely sympathetic to Bostic's plight over losing his job in such an unfair manner. But I think he's getting a well-deserved taste of his own medicine after he suspended a little boy over a single word that wasn't even a bad word.

I wish this would help other school administrators realize the horrible problems of Zero Tolerance, and get them to eliminate it before it claims them in the same unfair manner.

You know what though? I'm sure they'll be "fine." I have no doubt.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Corporations Are Sociopaths [INFOGRAPHIC]

Corporations Are Sociopaths
Created by: Online MBA Programs

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, December 02, 2011

Leonardo da Vinci's Diary

Leonardo da Vinci's Diary

I recently heard a story on National Public Radio about Leonardo da Vinci's "To Do" list, related by historian Toby Lester in his new book, "da Vinci's Ghost," and how the Renaissance Man used to organize his thoughts. Whenever something caught his eye, said Lester, da Vinci would scribble a few notes, or start sketching his ideas in his notebook.

That's because da Vinci believed it was useful to "constantly observe, note, and consider" the things he saw around him. And many of those notes and sketches resulted in his some of the most famous paintings, drawings, ideas, and inventions that we still know and use today.

I've done the same thing for years, although not with the same effect and accomplishment as the industrious Italian. Most of my long-lasting contributions are boob jokes, and not even very good ones at that.

But I also have one thing that Lester doesn't have. And that's an old copy of one of Leonardo da Vinci's diaries, which I have translated into English. These are a few of the highlights.

September 19, 1487 — One of my assistants told me about some guy in the next village who was born with four arms and four legs. Totally have to draw this guy. No one's going to believe this at all. Not even sure I do.

November 4, 1487 — Found the four-armed guy. His name is Wendell. He really does have four arms and legs. Was hoping he'd have two heads or something cool like that. But no, it's just the one guy with an extra pair of limbs. Dude runs like a horse though. Watched him outrun a group of villagers on horseback. Of course, he can't fight at all, although a slapfight by a four-armed man is pretty hilarious.

June 13, 1488 — Had an idea for a flying machine. Been watching all these birds, and started sketching some ideas. I'll have to get around to building one of these things. Would be very useful for flying from home to the office. I'd need to figure out a way to launch the machine though. Maybe a giant crossbow. . .

March 15, 1492 — Was just fired by Ludovico from the Big Horse project. Was supposed to cast a giant horse statue made out of bronze, but Michelangelo torpedoed the whole project. Put a bug in Lou's ear that he didn't think I was up to the task.

I really hate that damn Michelango! May paint a picture of his sister just to get him back. She's not that pretty, so it'll be kind of funny to show it around. She's got a pretty smile though. Nice white teeth, which is pretty rare around these parts.

August 12, 1492 — Just heard that Chris Columbus is heading off to find the New World, wherever the heck that is. Laughed for 10 minutes when I heard it. That guy couldn't find his ass with both hands and a torch. He once got lost on his way home from the inn down the road from his house. His wife's dumber than he is though. Heard he was going on this voyage just to get away from her. Bet he'll be back in six weeks, having discovered Amsterdam.

January 5, 1505 — Well, it took me 13 years to finally get around to it, but I finally painted stupid Mikey Angelo's sister. She's kind of cute in a way, but her teeth were awful. She was missing half of them and the other half looked like they had been pecked at by woodpeckers. Blargh. Just told her to keep her mouth shut while I painted. This was a problem, since Michelangelo's family is a bunch of mouth breathers. She had to take a huge breath every 90 seconds, which just made the whole thing take longer. Could have had this done in three days, but it took me six weeks. Oh well, it's not that great. I'll probably just give it away. Not like it'll be worth much.

July 3, 1508 — Just heard Michelangelo was "asked" by the Pope to paint the Sistine Chapel. I don't know who the bigger moron is, Mikey or Pope Julius. Mike's a great artist and everything, but he's more of a sculptor than a painter. I mean, I painted the Last Freakin' Supper, which Pope Pius III loved, and Mike gets to paint an entire chapel? Jerk. He'll probably slap something up in a couple of weeks and be done with it. Would have been nice to be asked though. Of course, I'd have stuck Wendell up there. That'd be kind of awesome.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Christians, Tip Your Waitstaff

Christians, Tip Your Waitstaff

Anyone who has ever waited tables for a living, knows what it's like working for tips. A standard tip is 15% of the total bill, drinks included. That means if a bill is $75, you'll get about $11 for a tip. If you work four tables per hour on a busy weekend, you'll do okay. Not great, but okay.

But if you work at a place where a bill runs $30 for a table (or less), you'll make half as much. If you make $5 per table, you're going to have trouble making a decent living. You'll barely be making a living wage — about $500 per week, if you're consistent — which is fine if you're young and single and have three roommates, but it's an awful way to make a living if you're older or have a family.

So you can imagine one server's delight when he saw what he thought was a $10 bill sticking out from underneath a plate after he had finished serving a group of people. He was rather excited, because $10 is a decent tip.

You can also imagine his disappointment when he pulled out the bill and found that it wasn't real money at all.

Rather, it was a religious tract made to look like a $10 bill. On the back, it said "some things are better than money, like your eternal salvation, that was bought and paid for by Jesus going to the cross."

No money, no actual tip. No socially acceptable form of gratitude to show the appreciation for what the server had done for them. Just a religious tract that is otherwise handed out to people for free.

Needless to say, the guy was offended. It is a socially accepted practice that if you go out to a sit-down restaurant, you leave a tip. That's the way the restaurant industry works. Servers get paid around $2.65 per hour, and need tips to pay their rent, keep the lights on, and eat real food.

This server was so angry, he took pictures of the tract, and posted it to a photo sharing blog, including, "I have never been more atheist."

When you steal from a server — because that's what you do when you don't tip at restaurants— it does not help him find Jesus when you drive him further away from Jesus.

Christians and church-goers do not have a reputation for being great tippers. In fact, we have a reputation for being awful tippers. So much so, that waitstaff at restaurants everywhere hate working the Sunday lunch service.

Why? Because they work just as hard and bust their butts just as much on Sundays as they do every other day. But they make a fraction of what they make those days, because when people start flocking to restaurants after church, they swarm in like a plague of locusts, eating everything in sight, and leaving nothing.

As someone who has waited tables, I can tell you that every dollar makes a difference in that server's day. For some, it's the difference between paying rent or being late. It's the difference between eating real food for dinner, or eating Ramen noodles, or some days, eating leftovers from the restaurant kitchen again.

And when you can make more working lunch on a slow Monday than on a busy Sunday, that's pretty pitiful. It does not say much about Christians, when we are constantly being admonished to be generous and giving.

"We don't believe in people working on Sundays," is a common excuse from the non-tippers. If they really believed in people not working on Sundays, they wouldn't go out to eat and create the demand.

Waiters and waitresses work hard for a living. They slog out hours and hours of backbreaking work, carrying food out to people who barely acknowledge their existence, praying they don't screw anything up, all in the hopes that the people will show a little bit of monetary gratitude.

It's very simple. If you don't believe in tipping, don't eat at sit-down restaurants; eat the food where you can order it from your car. If you can't afford a tip, don't go out to eat. That is the way the service industry works, and if you can't go through life without screwing someone out of their wages, don't go. Period.

Because the non-tipping Christians are giving the rest of us a bad name. And if you're trying to teach people about the man who taught generosity and giving, you're failing miserably.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook.---Like this post? Leave a comment, Digg it, or Stumble it.

Friday, November 18, 2011

You Want Me to What Your WHAT?!

You Want Me to What Your WHAT?!

Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from 2003.

There's a great scene in "Monty Python's Life of Brian" where Stan (a man) announces to his fellow members of the People's Front of Judea that he wants to be a woman, ". . . because I want to have babies."

"But you can't have babies," declares Reg, the PFJ's leader.

"Don't you oppress me!" shouts Stan, who also wants to be called Loretta.

"I'm not oppressing you, Stan -- you haven't got a womb. Where's the fetus going to gestate? You going to keep it in a box?"

It's one of the funniest moments in the entire movie, and I laugh every time I think about it. Can you imagine a man who wants to be a woman just so he can have babies? Everyone knows that men don't have the plumbing to become pregnant, right?

Uhh, everyone DOES know that, right?

You'd think so, but apparently everyone DOESN'T know that.

According to a story in the London Daily Telegraph, this important piece of information has completely escaped an unnamed 34-year-old British man. He asked a doctor for a cervical cancer screening (also known as a "pap smear"), but the doctor refused on the grounds that men don't have a cervix. The patient lodged his complaint two years ago, after the doctor refused to put him on a recall list for cervical screening.

Apparently, the Exeter Primary Care Trust, which is part of England's National Health Service, didn't know men don't have a cervix either.

Once again proving that HMOs are a really bad idea, and that bureaucrats should not make medical decisions, the PCT has summoned the doctor to a formal hearing over his refusal to perform the exam. However, in an attempt to be more patient friendly, the PCT did agree to the patient's request to be re-registered with a female name.

British National Health Service officials will not reveal either of the patient's names, although they categorically deny that it's Michael Jackson.

I'll die a happy man if his new name is "Loretta."

The PCT also issued a statement saying "Loretta" has asked for a number of "complex issues" to be reviewed concerning his care and treatment by "Doctor Reg."

"In this instance a range of issues are being considered, and the hearing is not solely about the availability of cervical screening."

A spokesman for the PCT also told the Telegraph, "We have received a complaint as you described and as required, under the NHS complaints procedure, we are investigating along with other complaints from the individual."

Other complaints?! You mean "Loretta" had other problems the doctors refused to address? Like painful cramping and menopause?

Although "Loretta" has fathered a child, he believes he is a hermaphrodite (people who have both male and female genitalia). However, doctors have examined him and can find no evidence of spare parts.

"Loretta" has also requested full DNA testing and a blood toxicology screening, although he will not say what, if any, symptoms he has to justify the tests.

One of "Doctor Reg's" colleagues said he was "worried that the PCT is so falling over backwards to be patient friendly, that it has gone too far the other way. Silly things are starting to happen."

According to the BBC's website, "Loretta's" claims will be heard at a closed hearing, and will have an independent chairman who will sit with lay members in deciding the doctor's fate. (I'll let you make your own jokes about the committee membership.)

Although no one mentioned what possible decisions the committee will reach, one can only hope they will agree that performing a cervical examination on a man is not only unnecessary, but quite impossible.

The wife of one of the other doctors told The Telegraph that her husband would be "pleased to hear from anyone, medical or otherwise, who could teach him the correct way to carry out a cervical smear on a 34-year-old male.

She also offered a compromise that could put this entire situation behind them. She suggested that "Doctor Reg" perform the requested procedure, assuming a PCT representative could "indicate the necessary part of this gentleman's anatomy, and (is) able to give the learned medics a clue as how they could access it."

I'm no doctor, but I think they could probably access it through the same general area where the PCT keeps their brains.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook.

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Diary of a Straight Day (With Apologies to Domenick Scudera)

(This is in response to Domenick Scudera's brilliant "Diary of a Gay Day." This is in no way making fun of gay people, but rather, a satirical, eye-rolling look at how my lifestyle is positively viewed by heretofore mentioned politicians, marketers, and Hollywood types. I fully support Scudera's lifestyle, his 16 year relationship, and his right to one day marry his "gay, homosexual, male lover." I recommend you read Domenick's piece before you read this one.)

I live the straight lifestyle. The lifestyle that is held up by politicians, marketers, and Hollywood as the ideal lifestyle. For those who are unfamiliar with my lifestyle, this is a typical day:

6:00 am. I wake up, ready to start my day. I choose to be straight today, as I have chosen every day for the last 44 years. After all, why would I choose to subject myself to nasty jokes, mean-spirited putdowns, discrimination, and even beatings and murder, all for the sake of "love"?

6:30 am. I take a straight shower. I know it's a straight shower, because the workmen who installed it were also straight. (I think this also makes it a Mexican shower.) The water is hot and appropriately softened, not like water for gay people. I don't know what water for gay people is like.

7:00 am. I have a straight breakfast of sausage and eggs — two symbols of fertility if there ever were any. I eat a banana, but I cut it into pieces so I don't look like I'm going down on it. I am flooded with emasculation imagery as I try to avoid eating a banana "gay."

7:30 am. I drive to work in my straight car. It was marketed to me and my wife as a "family car." It's for people who have children, presumably by procreation, like straight people are wont to do. My wife and I have children, we have a family car. Therefore, we are a family.

However, our children are adopted. We did not procreate them, we got them from other countries. Gay people can also do this. Does this mean we're actually gay? Does it mean we're not a real family? Some people think gay people should not adopt children or marry. These people also think that white people should not have black or Hispanic children. I hope the marketers who thought we are a family don't take the car away from us.

8:00 am. I arrive at my straight office, and go "straight" to work. Promise to get projects done for clients straightaway. Have a a straight shot of espresso to get the juices flowing. Stick to the straight and narrow to avoid distractions.

9:30 am. Exchange manly jokes with my partner, Paul. When I introduce him to other people, I have to clarify that he's my "business partner," so people don't confuse him with a "gay, homosexual, male lover" kind of partner.

At work, I edit straight articles about straight things, like construction equipment, cigars, luggage, and lasers. We also write articles about shopping, although I have a woman write about those, so people don't think I like shopping. Man, first bananas, and then shopping. Being straight is hard; being gay must be so easy.

1:00 pm. Lunchtime. My straight, not gay, also married business-partner-not-life-partner and I go out for a working lunch. I order a hamburger and French fries, because that's what a "real man" eats. Not salads or tofu.

2:00 pm. Straight back to work. I work to pay for my insurance so that if I'm ever in a straight hospital, my straight wife can come visit me because she's allowed to. She can even make end-of-life decisions on my behalf, even if we had only been married two days previously.

6:00 pm. I return home to my straight, heterosexual female wife, who is legally my spouse, and our children. I reflect on the fact that just a few centuries ago, she would have actually been considered property. And she was granted the right to vote just 93 years ago. And is still fighting for equal pay. But we are a family, because politicians, marketers, and Hollywood have told us we are.

8:00 pm. We watch TV tonight, so we can immerse ourselves in the comforting images of heterosexuality, both in commerce and entertainment. We see young heterosexual married couples who have procreated babies struggling to decide which diaper to buy. We see how we are bad mothers and fathers if we do not buy certain toys for our children. We are encouraged to buy family cars so our children will be safe.

The TV programs themselves all show straight, heterosexual people having struggles with their straight, heterosexual lives. A straight married man is tempted by a straight unmarried woman with large breasts. Another straight woman is having a straight affair on her straight husband. Scantily clad straight teenagers try to score straight unprotected sex. Two straight 30-somethings try to fight the straight sexual tension between them and pretend they do not really want to have loud, straight monkey sex on the coffee shop table. A gay character appears. Jokes about being gay ensue to show everyone is okay with him being gay. A lot of jokes about the straight, heterosexual male father figure then ensue. Hey, what the hell did we do?!

9:00 pm. Bed time for the children. Our wonderful, straight (so far) children. I worry that one day they may choose a different lifestyle than the one we are teaching them to choose.

11:30 pm. We retire to our straight, heterosexual bed, confident that we have made the right choice once again to remain heterosexual. No one derided our choice. No one discriminated against us. No one beat us up or murdered us. We smile knowingly at each other, secure in our choice for the day, and in the knowledge that we will probably make the same choice again tomorrow.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Karl the Curmudgeon Journals His Feelings

Karl the Curmudgeon Journals His Feelings

"Kid, do you keep a journal?" asked Karl the Curmudgeon. We were sitting in István's Hungarian tavern, watching the Hungarian Cup finals, as Bajai had just tied Lombard Papa, 1-1.

No, not really, I said. Why do you ask?

"Oh, nothing really," he said. "I used to keep one a long time ago, and found that I was missing it. So I picked up a new notebook last month and started writing in it again."

What made you do that? You never struck me as the introspective type.

"Very funny. I just wanted to start keeping track of things I was doing and thinking," he said, draining the last of his beer. He waved down the bartender, Béla. "Two more Sopronis, kérek."

I drained the last of my beer as Béla set down two beers. So what do you write about? I asked.

"Well, yesterday I wrote about a meeting I had with a publisher. The day before that, I wrote about a woodworking project I was building. And a couple weeks ago, I was journaling through some feelings about—"

Stop! I shouted.

"What?" Karl asked, annoyed.

Did you just say 'journaling through some feelings?'

"Yes, so?"

'Journaling through feelings?"


'Journaling though feelings?'

"Yes, Kid. Journaling through feelings. What's wrong with that?" he plonked his beer down on the bar.

Oh so many things, Karl. So many things. For one thing, 'to journal' is not a verb. It's not a verb any more than 'poeming' is a verb, or 'columning,' or 'fictioning,' or even 'essaying.'

"Essaying is so a verb," Karl snapped.

Yes, but it means to attempt or to try. It does not mean to write an essay. And journaling does not mean to write in a journal any more than writing on a piece of paper is called papering.

"So what do you call writing in a journal?" he demanded.

Writing in a journal. Just like writing in a notebook or writing on a napkin. You're not notebooking or—

"Alright, alright, I get it. You hate 'journaling.' Anything else your majesty wishes to voice his displeasure about?"

Well, I'm not real wild about the whole 'through feelings' thing either.

"What's wrong with that?"

For one thing, Karl, you're sixty-four years old. You're the grumpiest, curmudgeonliest, and manliest sixty-four year old I know. You've got a beard like Hemingway, and you swear like a sailor. The only thing I've ever known you to do 'through feeling' is what you say when you've had way too much to drink. For you to say you're 'journaling through some feelings' is just about the wimpiest, panty-waisted thing I would have ever expected you say.

"I still don't see what's wrong with that. I think expressing my feelings is perfectly fine. In my generation, we were taught to hide our feelings so we didn't look weak. But the weak ones are the men who hide their feelings because they're afraid. The strong ones show their emotions."

That's absolutely true, and I won't disagree with you. But to say you're 'journaling through your feelings' is something I would expect some tree-hugging granola-headed hipster to say as he sips on a cup of goddess energy-infused herbal tea, not a rough-and-tumble grizzled word-slinger like you. You're the kind of guy who writes about feelings, not 'journals through them.'

Karl thought about this for a moment, taking a sip of his beer, and then scratching his chin, burying his finger up to the second knuckle in a beard so thick it would make Giants pitcher Brian Wilson weep in shame.

"So do you think I should quit?"

No, absolutely not. What you're doing is important and valuable, and it might be useful in court one day.


Nothing. It's important and valuable. It's something you can share with your children or grandchildren, and it helps you remember some of the cool stuff you did years afterward.

"You got that right," beamed Karl. "I've been writing about all kinds of cool stuff for the last several weeks."

Like what?

"Well, before you so rudely interrupted me, I was going to tell you about how I was journal— I mean, writing about the feelings I experienced after this new movie I saw."


"Well, I don't know if I should tell you now."

I promise, I won't make fun of you. What were you writing about?

"Well, I just saw the latest Twilight movie—"

That's it, I'm out. Give him the check, Béla.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, November 04, 2011

Twitter is Not Ruining Language, Schools Are

Twitter is Not Ruining Language, Schools Are

British actor and secret linguist Ralph Fiennes made headlines a couple weeks ago when he said that Twitter is ruining the English language.

Speaking at the British Film Institute London Film Festival, Fiennes — who has appeared in such movies as "Clash of the Titans" (he played Hades) and "Harry Potter" (Voldemort) — is blaming the erosion of the language on "a world of truncated sentences, soundbites, and Twitter."

Yeah, right. As if. Whatever, dude.

According to an article in Forbes Magazine, Fiennes told the audience, "Our expressiveness and our ease with some words is being diluted so that the sentence with more than one clause is a problem for us, and the word of more than two syllables is a problem for us."

Ask Ernest Hemingway about writing with short words and short sentences. It worked for one of America's greatest writers; it can work for the rest of us.

But I take issue with Fiennes' assertion. Twitter is no more responsible for the decline of language skills than television, music, and texting.

Er, that is, I mean, uhh — okay, TV, music, and texting have a lot to do with it. But not all. And not Twitter.

While I'm curious how and why Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes — yes, that is his real name, including Twisleton; I'm going to use it, because it has more than two syllables and I don't want to "dilute" his name — considers himself enough of an etymologist and linguist, as well as a social media expert, to know whether Twitter is having any effect on the language at all, I do agree that our language is undergoing a spine-shuddering evolution, equivalent to a tortoise suddenly growing wings.

(And if you're counting, that last paragraph contained 86 words, 10 clauses, three independent clauses, all contained in one sentence.)

But what especially irks me is that Ralph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, who says he does not use Twitter at all, blames Twitter for the language's decline. It's like a vegan telling you how to grill a steak.

Personally, I blame our educational system as a whole. We've put so much emphasis on math and science, thanks to No Child Left Behind, that reading takes a back seat to the left-brained subjects.

Twitter is not the problem, it's the twits who tied federal funding to school performance, which gave short shrift to students on one of the most important skills they'll need just to get along in life: a grasp of the English language.

I even blame the education system for continuing to foist grammar and language myths on unsuspecting students, like "never end your sentences with a preposition" or "don't split infinitives." Both rules were erroneously created by Latin scholars in the 1700s, and continue to be taught by schools what don't know no better.

Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes told his fellow actors and theatre folks, "you only have to look on Twitter to see evidence of the fact that a lot of English words that are used, say, in Shakespeare's plays or PG Wodehouse novels are so little used that people don't even know what they mean now."

Of course, Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes has never looked at Twitter, so it's not like he actually knows how, or even if, it's to blame. And from the research Mark Liberman, professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, has done, it looks like Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes doesn't have his Shakespeare or Wodehouse facts straight either.

According to the Forbes article, Liberman did some computerized text analysis of Shakespeare's "Hamlet," ten popular Wodehouse stories, and the 100 most recent tweets (at the time) from the Daily Pennsylvanian, Penn's student newspaper, and found some rather surprising results.

The average word length for Hamlet was 3.99 letters per word, 4.05 for Wodehouse's stories, and 4.8 for the Daily Pennsylvanian's tweets.

In other words, a bunch of Twitter-using college journalists who are trained to write short words and short sentences use bigger words than the authors Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes says we're all falling short of.

Frankly, it's an unfair comparison to begin with. Shakespeare is, well, Shakespeare. He's the bar that no one could ever hope to even come close to. P.G. Wodehouse, one of my favorite English authors, favors long, twisted sentences and complex words, but he too is one of England's greatest. It's like calling a high school baseball player a failure because he can't hit like Babe Ruth.

Saying that Twitter is ruining the English language is like saying actors who go into popular mainstream blockbuster films — like, say, Clash of the Titans and Harry Potter — are ruining the demand for, and appreciation of, great plays like, well, Shakespeare or Henrik Ibsen.

Of course, I've never acted, which apparently makes me completely qualified to make such a statement.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook.

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Monday, October 31, 2011

The Hazards of Halloween

This is a humor column I wrote back in the late 1990s. In honor of the 2nd most commercial holiday of the year, I'm republishing it here.

As October draws to a close, there is an excitement in the air. The leaves are changing color, the days are getting shorter, and parents are racing around, helping their kids through another annual identity crisis. That can only mean one thing:

Halloween is coming!

Or, as Uncle Albert called it, Dress Up Like A Goofball And Go Begging For Candy Day.

For children, this is one of the most exciting holidays of the year. What other time can a kid boldly march up to someone's house and demand candy? Sure, they can do it the other 364 days of the year, but this is the only time the police won't be called.

But for parents, Halloween is one of the least enjoyable holidays. They're constantly bombarded by their children's demands about what they want to be for Halloween, and it's usually the latest, hippest, trendiest, and most expensive costume available.

Child #1: Mommy, I want to be Pokemon for Halloween.

Mommy: But those costumes are $500. Why don't you go as a hobo instead?

Child #2: Mommy, I want to be Sporty Spice for Halloween.

Mommy: Um, Billy, are you sure you don't want to be a cowboy or something?

I realize I may be opening myself up to all kinds of geek jokes by admitting this, but when I was a kid, one of my hobbies was collecting beer cans (empty ones, of course). By an amazing coincidence, my best friend, Eric (no relation), also collected beer cans. And, being the geeky 11-year-olds we were, we got it into our heads that we wanted to be BEER CANS FOR HALLOWEEN!

We were such geeks that we thought dressing up as giant cans of liquid amber refreshment would be the coolest thing ever.

Of course, children today couldn't get away with this, because it would send the wrong message about alcohol. Never mind that nowadays kids dress up like witches, mass murderers, and Britney Spears. But, this was something we could get away with during the hip, cool late 1970s.

Our mothers put their creative minds to work, and came up with the costumes. My mom is a decent artist, so she created a big beer can out of three pieces of white poster board, and a lot of colored markers. She fastened all three of them together into a big cylinder, and came up with an elaborate suspension system made of staples, tape, and an old bed sheet. This way I could wear the costume, and keep my arms free for ringing doorbells and holding my candy bag.

When it was finally finished, I was so proud. I looked so much like a real beer can with an 11-year-old boy sticking out of it, it was uncanny. I beamed with pride as my mother lowered my crowning glory over my head, and I marched down to Eric's house so we could begin our candy gluttony at the spooky hour of 4:30 in the afternoon.

I rang the doorbell, waiting to be greeted by cries of adoration and amazement at my mother's inventiveness. But, when the door opened, I seethed quietly in a helpless rage. Grotesque images of death and maiming raced through my head when I saw what my so-called friend, Eric, had done.

His parents had gotten him a big 55 gallon heavy-duty cardboard barrel, the kind used for high-volume paper disposal. They cut out two small holes for eyes, and painted it to look like a can of Budweiser.


I was so disgusted. Eric looked like a real beer can, while I had suddenly been transformed into some dork wearing a poster board barrel around his stomach.

I quickly shook off these feelings and remembered the reason for the season: to gorge ourselves on candy.

However, my jealousy squelching failed miserably when I noticed something else about Eric's costume:

There weren't any arm holes!

The stupid jerk didn't even have to suffer the indignity of arm holes. He got his little sister to carry his bag for him, then she would just ask "Can you put some candy in my brother's bag? He can't get his arms out of his costume." The neighbors would rave over Eric's costume, then as a polite afterthought, they would ask me what the heck I was supposed to be.

"I'm a beer can too!" I would say with as much pride as I could muster.

"That's nice," they would say in a condescending tone and throw an old carrot into my bag.

Still, greed drove me on. The thought of having a bag full of candy by the end of the evening kept me ringing doorbell after doorbell. But it was getting dark, and time was running out. We still had two more blocks to cover if we were going to beat last year's take.

We decided to jog between houses, and cross the lawns, rather than going back out to the street, so we could cover more ground.

Simple logic dictates that when an 11-year-old kid wearing an upside down 55 gallon heavy-duty cardboard barrel with no arm holes suddenly trips, there is no way he can stop himself.

As we were running across a yard, I heard, "Hey, wait up!" and turned around in time to see Eric trip on the edge of a driveway, say a word most 11-year-olds shouldn't even know, and slam face first onto the driveway.

And as any concerned friend would do, I laughed so hard I cried.

Needless to say, Eric didn't think the incident was very funny and told me so in so many four-letter words as soon as he crawled out of his cylindrical death trap.

Then he said that first word again, and announced that his nose was bleeding. Since we weren't too far from his house, we walked back so he could get patched up (I made him carry his own stupid costume), and then we set out again.

We lost nearly 15 minutes of our candy harvest, and fell short of last year's take, but it turned out to be one of the best Halloweens ever. And I came away feeling a lot better about my costume.

I might have looked less like a beer can than Eric, but I wasn't the one doing half-brainers in driveways because I was too vain to have arm holes.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Campers

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Campers

I think I hate camping.

I say that after having spent one night — 16 hours — camping with my brother this past weekend. I haven't been camping in years, and have been wanting to go for some time, so we scheduled a night in the Moraine View State Park in Illinois.

We figured the fall would be the best time to go, because we would avoid the mosquitoes of summer and the rains of spring. Plus, snakes are out more in the spring and summer, and I hate snakes with a white-hot passion.

We arrived at the park at 4:30, two hours before sunset. I had my sleeping bag, a couple extra shirts and heavy socks. It had been in the 60s, so I figured I was overpacking, especially when Andrew showed up with a big giant backpack and an extra change of everything, plus thermal underwear.

"Oh crap, I forgot my sleeping pad," he said when we got to the campsite.

"Wuss," I thought. Who brings thermal underwear and a change of clothes, let alone a sleeping pad? It's 60 degrees out, we're only going to be here for one night, and we're roughing it for a reason. You don't use a pad to rough it.

Famous last words.

Everything about camping is intentional. Everything we do is for survival. Of course, it's not really that dramatic, since we were only a 10 minute walk from the car. But I began to see how camping is a callback to our ancestors and what they did to survive.

Everything is geared toward surviving to the next morning: setting up a tent to have a safe place to sleep. Starting a fire so to keep ferocious animals at bay. Cooking dinner to have the strength to find more wood and food the next day. And so it goes.

Camping is like the survival sports that became Olympic sports — archery, fencing, winter biathlon, cross-country skiing. We have turned into recreation those things that we used to do just to eat or sleep somewhere safe.

I remembered my young camping days when my dad would set up a heavy canvas tent that was old when Genghis Khan used it while invading Asia, and how we had to get rid of any pebbles and sticks so we didn't sleep on them. We prepped the site and set the tent up in an hour — an eternity if it's cold or raining. Only 90 minutes before sunset, and we still needed a fire.

Since this was a state park, we had to go find firewood that wasn't too soaked from the night before, and chop it to firewood sized pieces. We couldn't cut down any trees, and could only use the wood on the ground. After six tries, Andrew finally got the fire going, and we cooked the bratwursts we had brought with us.

The other problem with camping is that since it gets dark early, and there's no TV, you tend to get bored easily, and bedtime sometimes can't come soon enough. Of course morning can't come soon enough either, especially when you discover that the sleeping bag you bought for your kids truly IS a kid's sleeping bag.

The bag fit my 11-year-old daughter perfectly, but for a 44-year-old grown man, it wasn't even a suitable blanket. I could wrap this thing around my shoulders and it barely made it past my arms. Even wearing two t-shirts, two long-sleeve shirts, and a pullover fleece, I was still cold.

I found that if I stuck my legs in the sleeping bag, and put the sleeping bag under one arm, I could keep the other side on my other arm. Then I pulled my brother's windbreaker over me to keep me warm enough. It wasn't much, but it was enough that I could catch some sleep and not die from exhaustion.

I could have slept like this all night, except the ground was hard, and my hip started to hurt after about an hour, and I had to roll over. Then I had to readjust the sleeping bag and pillow (which was otherwise too small), and then pull the jacket back over me.

The whole process took five minutes, and I had to do it every hour.

This went on for about 10 hours, until I couldn't take it anymore, and I made my brother get up so we could go find something warmer and more comfortable, like underneath an iceberg.

But now, nearly a week later, as my hips slowly heal, the pains of sleeping on the cold ground are fading, and I think I may not hate camping as much as I did on Saturday morning. I may even be willing to give it another try early next spring.

I just need to talk my wife into letting me take our mattress. And the TV.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook now.

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