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 Amazon.com, 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 Amazon.com, 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 Amazon.com, 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?"

"Yes?"

'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.

"Huh?"

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."

And?

"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 Amazon.com, 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 Amazon.com, 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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