Friday, June 29, 2012

If You See a Fin, You Must Not Swim

If You See a Fin, You Must Not Swim

Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from 2001 about why he won't ever go in the ocean again.

Summer 2001 is quickly becoming the year of the shark, as several shark attacks in Florida and the Bahamas are being reported in the media.

The most recent attack happened this past Thursday when the Associated Press ran the story "Shark Bites American in the Bahamas." I may not be up on the lingo of today's teenagers, but I'm pretty sure it hurts like mad to be bitten in the Bahamas.

In July, 8-year-old Jessie Arbogast's arm was bitten off by a seven foot bull shark in knee-deep water near Pensacola, Florida.

And just a couple of weeks ago, doctors amputated the left leg of Wall Street investment banker Krishna Thompson, after he was mauled by a shark while swimming at a resort beach on Grand Bahama Island. Thompson managed to free himself from the shark and drag himself to the shore.

On Tuesday, Thompson's wife Avemaria, and noted celebrity lawyer Johnnie Cochran said on NBC's Today Show that they were considering legal action against Our Lucaya Beach & Golf Resort. They accuse the resort's lifeguards of not helping Thompson until after he was out of the water.

Cochran said during the interview, "We're certainly investigating the circumstances. We think this is a preventable tragedy, you know, and we're looking at the [resort]. They had a duty, it seems to me, to warn their patrons when they attract [sharks] there. . . There's the role of the lifeguards, and whether or not the lifeguards failed to respond adequately."

There's an old joke about a lawyer who has to swim through man-eating shark infested waters to save his two companions, a priest and a doctor. The sharks descend upon the lawyer to devour him, but stop in time, and instead make a pathway to safety for him. The priest exclaims that they have just witnessed a miracle, but the doctor corrects him and says they have just witnessed professional courtesy.

You can imagine my surprise when I heard the Thompsons had hired Cochran, who defended OJ Simpson at his murder trial. Isn't it a conflict of interest for Cochran to be involved in a lawsuit involving other sharks?

Cochran has some pretty big Bahamas to blame the Our Lucaya Resort and call the attack "a preventable tragedy."

The only thing that truly made it preventable would have been a red flashing neon sign that said "DON'T SWIM IN THE FREAKING OCEAN! SHARKS LIVE THERE! DIDN'T YOU SEE JAWS?!" Also, if he had taken a vacation in Iowa instead.

I feel pretty sorry for Thompson after his encounter with such a ruthless, cold-blooded, man-eating killing machine. But I feel worse because his leg was bitten off by a shark.

Cochran is predictably using typical sleazy lawyer tactics by shifting the blame from his client (who shouldn't have put himself into that situation in the first place) to Our Lucaya Resort for the behavior and actions of an animal who pretty much runs on auto-pilot when it comes to eating. That's all a shark does: it swims and it eats. It doesn't even sleep.

However, the Our Lucaya resort defends its lifeguards and says they actually saved Thompson's life. "Our guests who witnessed the rescue from the beach are continuing to recognize the lifeguards, shake their hands and pat their backs for their exemplary efforts," general manager Eric Waldburger told the press on Friday. And since shark attacks usually happen quickly and without warning, there was nothing the lifeguards could have done to help Thompson in the first place.

Cochran's contention is that the lifeguards stood by and failed to rescue Thompson as he dragged himself to shore as his leg bled profusely. But what could they do? The shark had already done the damage when it clamped down on Thompson's leg, and Thompson freed himself by punching and striking the shark. All of this happened 15 feet from shore.

I feel badly for Thompson. He's lost his leg in a random attack by an animal that, when it attacks people, does so because it mistakes them for fish. There's no one to point fingers at, and no one to blame. Not the shark, not Our Lucaya Resort, not even Krishna Thompson. But leave it to Cochran to see if he can generate some publicity and legal fees from it.

Now the real feeding frenzy is about to begin.

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 latest 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, June 28, 2012

IndyCar Approves Lotus' Request to Modify Engine. Finally.

From the IndyCar Media Department:

INDYCAR this week approved Lotus' request to modify homologated parts to improve performance of its 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 engine pursuant to engine technical regulations established before the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season.

At mid-season and again at the end of the year, manufacturers whose engines are statistically more than 2½ percent deficient in power may, at the discretion of INDYCAR, make improvements to components to be homologated. Alterations are intended to put the engine within the 2½ percent window, and they will be introduced on only new engines being sent to the track.

Manufacturers must present data to support their case, which is reviewed along with relevant data collected by the sanctioning body's engine support engineers. Manufacturers provide which components they seek to modify, along with projected gains and their scheduled introduction.

Lotus' first modification is scheduled to be introduced at a July 2 test at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with the No. 78 Lotus-HVM Racing car driven by Simona de Silvestro. Subsequent modifications are scheduled to be incorporated for the Honda Indy Toronto onJuly 6 -8 , the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma (Aug. 26-28) and the Grand Prix of Baltimore (Sept. 2 -4 ).

INDYCAR director of engine development Trevor Knowles said Chevrolet and Honda have been apprised of Lotus' modification schedule. Old parts remain homologated until 2013.

The engine rules will be stable through the 2016 IZOD IndyCar Series season, with any corrections or modifications decided by INDYCAR after consultation with the INDYCAR Engine Committee.


While the timing of this event will help de Silvestro salvage a season that would otherwise see her sitting in the pits, it's unfortunate that they didn't arrive at this decision until well after the Indianapolis 500, when de Silvestro and Jean Alesi were both black flagged for too-low speeds. I still think Lotus needs to apologize to de Silvestro, Alesi, and their teams' sponsors for saddling the two drivers with sub-par engines.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

IndyCar to Reintroduce Push to Pass for Remaining IndyCar Street Races

Received from the Media Center from IndyCar:

INDIANAPOLIS (Wednesday, June 27, 2012) - Push to pass will return to the IZOD IndyCar Series for the five remaining road/street course events on the 2012 schedule, beginning with the Honda Indy Toronto on July 6 – 8.

The overtake assist feature, introduced to the series in 2009, allows a driver to add turbocharger boost and additional RPM with the press of a button on the steering wheel to complete a pass.

"It will be similar to what it was in the past because we know that model worked," said Will Phillips, vice president of technology, INDYCAR.

The additional boost is added for a pre-determined amount of time which will be determined by INDYCAR depending on the circuit. The sanctioning body will also determine the total amount of time available, recharge time and any delay in the system prior to each activation, though the engine manufacturers may adjust the settings below the requirements to optimize their engine's performance.

Push to pass will not engage until a certain throttle position is reached and will disengage if the driver lifts or presses the button again.

As part of the introduction of push-to-pass, the base turbocharger boost level will decrease to 150 kPa. When the system is engaged, the boost increases to 160 kPa on the 2.2-liter V6 engines supplied by Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus.

Teams will have the opportunity to test the system during the event weekend on the streets of Exhibition Place before the Honda Indy Toronto.


Indy 500 fans may remember Push to Pass as being the little go-faster booster button the drivers had to give them a little more get-up-and-go during the race. Useful for passing the driver in front of you. I just wish I could get one for my own car.

It's also interesting to note that this won't be used on any more oval events. Of course, there's only one on September 15, but still it's pretty interesting. (Okay, it's really not.)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Internet Rescues 9-Year-Old Blogger From Bureaucrats

Internet Rescues 9-Year-Old Blogger From Bureaucrats

It's a hard lesson that every bureaucrat, government official, and school administrator learns the hard way. When you stop someone from doing something that's popular, the Internet will rise up and smite you like the fist of an angry god.

The latest victim of god-fist smiting is the Argyll and Bute City Council in Scotland, which had banned 9-year-old Martha Payne from taking photos of her school lunches for her NeverSeconds food blog.

Martha had been taking photos of her school lunch, make comments, giving each meal a rating, and asking her readers to donate money so she could give it to Mary's Meals, a nonprofit that feeds children around the world.

After the ban was lifted a few days later, Martha's little blog had more than 6.5 million visits, and raised nearly £100,000 ($156,000) to build a school kitchen in Blantyre, Malawi, where children at the Lirangwe Primary School will be fed for an entire year.

But let me back up a bit. Martha, who lives in Lochgilphead, Scotland, had been blogging about her school lunches, and writing whether she had liked them for a few weeks. But administrators didn't like the photos and descriptions, even though she never actually complained about the lunches.

On a 10 point scale, most of her ratings were around a 9 or 10, with a couple of 5s. She always said what she liked about lunch, and in many cases, talked about how the lunches cheered her up, made her happy, or how she kept asking for fruit and vegetables.

In short, she was being a typical kid, saying what she liked and didn't like, and sharing her opinions with anyone who would listen.

The town council bureaucrats were being typical town council bureaucrats, determining what other people could do and not do, and forcing their will on anyone they could.

The problem was, what is an innocent blog post to a child is a scathing exposé to an adult. They didn't like how the food looked, because apparently they thought the food looked unappetizing or unappealing.

Hey, if the picture of the shoe fits. . .

The council was especially upset by a story in Scotland's Daily Record newspaper with the headline "Fire the Dinner Ladies." In a written statement, the council said the story was apparently causing "unwarranted attacks on its schools catering service," because Martha's blog "misrepresented the options and choices available to pupils."

Having looked at Martha's blog myself, I can tell you that if anything, Martha was very nice and polite about her lunches, gushing over many of them and saying how much she liked them.

When I was a kid, we didn't like our school lunches. It wasn't just because it was fashionable to complain about the food, it was because it was nastiness in a foil-covered box.

At my school, North View Elementary School in Muncie, Indiana, we had "satellite lunches." That means the lunches were prepared elsewhere and then taken to schools all over the city. We received a hot pack and a cold pack, and every day was an adventure in mediocrity and blandness.

So, looking at Martha's meals, I can see why the administrators would think the food looks nasty.

Because it looks nasty.

If anything, they should be embarrassed by what they're serving, not complaining about the photos. But bureaucrats will be bureaucrats, and so they ordered Martha to quit taking pictures, which meant she had to shut down her food blog.

What they didn't count on was the whole Internet smiting thing. The Internet rose up, sent countless emails and tweets to Argyll and Bute, telling them what bullies they were and how dare they stifle the creativity and happiness of a little girl.

So the Argyll and Bute council did what most bullies do: they quickly backed down in the face of a larger force. It didn't hurt that council leader Roddy McCuish also ordered officials to lift the ban.

"There is no place for censorship in this council, and never will be whilst I am leader," McCuish told the Associated Press.

If you're in a position of authority or leadership, there are a few simple rules you need to remember:

1) The Internet hates bullies, especially when those bullies make children stop doing things that are nice.

2) The Internet is like the psycho teacher from the Karate Kid. "THERE IS NO MERCY IN THIS DOJO!"

3) If you make little kids stop doing nice things because you think they cast you in bad light, the Internet will rise up and, without mercy, cast you in a bigger, badder, more uncomfortable light.

In short, the Internet is to cute children like a mama grizzly is to her cubs. If you get between the mama and the cubs, bad things will happen.

Especially when the bear posts photos of you on her food blog.

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 latest 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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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Indiana Fever 84, Chicago Sky 70 - A Twitter Recap

My family took me out for a great Father's Day today (Saturday) by taking me to Cincinnati, Ohio, where we ate at Moerlein Lager House, right across the street from the Great American Ball Park, and right on the very site of Riverfront Stadium, the Cincinnati Reds home stadium from 1970 - 2002

But when it was over, and since the Reds were out of town, we had to race back to Indianapolis in time to see our other favorite summer sport, the WNBA.

Tonight saw the Indiana Fever take on the Chicago Sky. Here is my rundown of the game, in tweets:

  • At the @IndianaFever game, nobody sits until the first basket. @ Bankers Life Fieldhouse (This is a long-standing tradition. Even though the statement from the announcer is that no one sits through the tip-off, the practice is that no one sits until the Fever score a basket. A couple of times, this has led to standing up for a couple minutes.)
  • Katie Douglas of the #fever chased down an errant ball, ended up in lap of a fan wearing a fireman's helmet. I think she bloodied his lip. (This wasn't a firefighter in full gear, just a fan in a helment. Still, she clocked him pretty hard.)
  • Good to see a fellow Nederlander, @sloot22, on the #WNBA court, even if she's playing for the #sky. Go #fever! (Love my fellow Dutchies!)
  • Hope @erinphillips13 is doing well with Australian women's b-ball. We miss her at @IndianaFever games. Hope she gets silver at the#Olympics. (Erin returned to the team right after this game, so we'll be ready for anyone until the Olympic break.)
  • @jessdav50 is tearing it up tonight for the @IndianaFever. #fever 29,#sky 32 (Don't know what it was, but Jessica Davenport was tearing it up tonight. She was truly on fire.)
  • Katie Douglas ties it up 37 - 37 with a 3-pointer, with 1:30 remaining in the 2nd quarter. #fever
  • When they announced Swin Cash for the @wnbachicagosky, I thought they said Slim Catfish, and I nearly became a fan for life.#fever (Honest to God, this is true. When they announced the Sky, I thought the announcer said "Slim Catfish." I was so excited, I grabbed the program and checked. Unfortunately no, Ms. Cash's parents were not as cool as I thought. Still, when Cash was up at the free throw line, I kept hollering "Hey, Slim Catfish" to see if I could mess her up. It didn't work.)
  • Halftime, @IndianaFever 42, @wnbachicagosky 38, thanks to two 3-pointers by Katie Douglas in last couple minutes. #fever
  • @JoceyyG Take Motrin, and in 4 hours, take Tylenol. Alternate between them every 4 hours. #fever (I've said it before, the problem the Indiana Fever have is that on Twitter, their #hashtag is "#fever." So, when people are sick, their "I have a #fever" tweets show up in my stream. This advice is what we do for our kids whenever they're sick. Works like a charm. @JoceyyG tweeted me back later and said thanks.)
  • @tksb15 Are you playing in the Olympics this year? #fever (@tksb15 is Tammy Sutton-Brown. She didn't respond, so I still don't know.)
  • @sloot22 of @wnbachicagosky has a sweet jumper. Just nailed a nothing-but-net 3-pointer. #fever 57, #sky 54
  • Erlana Larkins of @IndianaFever has Ruth Riley of the@wnbachicagosky pretty flummoxed at times. #fever (Honestly, I had visions of Tully Bevilacqua as I was watching Erlana tonight.)
  • #Fever's @jessdav50 matches season-high 12 points for 4th time this year ... and shoots bonus ... HITS IT for 13. #Fever leads 57-54. (Jessica Davenport was ON IT tonight!)
  • Sonja Petrovic of @wnbachicagosky traveled so much on that last shot, she got frequent flier miles. #fever #BadCallRef (I'm not one to criticize the refs. . . too loudly. . . but this was a bonehead call. We could all see it.)
  • With her last free throws, @Catchin24 became the ALL-TIME @wnbafree throw leader. Congratulations, Tamika. #fever @IndianaFever (We all applauded this one. Very proud of Tamika for being one of the awesomest WNBA players in the league. And that she's on our team.)
  • Ruth Riley of @wnbachicagosky just got her 6th foul. Out of the game. #fever
  • @Catchin24 with the steal, fast break, and layup to make it 82-67,@IndianaFever over @wnbachicagosky.(See 2 tweets before this one.)
  • @IndianaFever win over the @wnbachicagosky, 84 - 70. Nice job,#fever, well played #sky. (The Sky just sort of fell apart at the end, but they played with heart and class. I always like watching them play.)

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 latest 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, June 15, 2012

Does Anyone Buy Ties for Father's Day?

Does Anyone Buy Ties for Father's Day?

Father's Day is coming up. You can tell by the nagging, formulaic ads seen everywhere, "Don't get Dad a tie this Father's Day." Tie makers' sales probably plummet this time of year, because no one has bought a tie on Father's Day since 1973. We've all been bullied into thinking that anyone who gets Dad a tie probably also gave Mom a bunch of headless roses on Mother's Day.

Father's Day is the day we celebrate our dads to thank them for bringing us into existence, and teaching us important things we need to function in life, like riding a bike without training wheels, or understanding why the Designated Hitter rule is stupid.

And it gives rise to one crucial question that everyone asks on the third Sunday of June:

Is it Father's, Father's, or Fathers Day?

I've become convinced that Father's Day — it's possessive, because it's the day for your dad — is in some ways more about assuaging guilt than anything else. And I say this about both dads and their families.

Here's what's supposed to happen: the children bound into their parents' bedroom, bearing burnt toast, runny eggs, and watery coffee. They shower dad with hugs and kisses, and thank him for being the bestest, most awesomest dad in all the world. And tell him all the plans they have, like taking him out to lunch (which he'll pay for), going to see a movie the whole family can enjoy (which is code for, "kids will love it, grownups will want to set themselves on fire"), and then they'll all come home for grilled hamburgers and hot dogs (which he'll cook).

Here's the problem: assuming this picturesque scenario does occur, there's always at least one person who thinks, "Oh crap, it's Father's Day."

Who thinks it depends on how the rest of the year went.

If the dad is a caring dad, who showers his family with love and affection all year long, who goes to family friendly movies (and silently cries at the end), who shares in the household chores, then he's the one lamenting the arrival of Father's Day, because it's the one day he was hoping he could have all to himself.

To watch a baseball game on TV and fall asleep on the couch. Go out for drinks with the guys. Go to a restaurant and eat a steak without comments about cholesterol. Instead, it's just another regular day, only he gets presents.

But if the dad works a lot, pursues his hobbies on the weekend, and only gets to see his kids a couple hours a day (or every other weekend plus Wednesday nights), then it's the rest of the family having the "oh crap" moment, because they forgot to get anything for him, and all that talk about lunch, movies, and hot dog dinners are the best they could come up with, since he doesn't want another gas station car freshener like last year.

I say all this as a geek dad who revels in his family, spending as much time with them as possible, and teaching them family traditions that will carry on to the next generation, like how to mow the lawn, shovel the driveway, and how to work the TV and make breakfast so I can sleep in on Saturday mornings.

And I actually enjoy Father's Day, because the day really is all about me. I get to be the reason for the stuff we do, rather than doing something "the whole family will enjoy."

When I was a kid, I remember arguing with my mom about "why isn't there a Kids' Day?!" thinking that we never got a special day to celebrate our stuff.

"You do!" shouted my mom. "It's every day of the year."

I always thought that was pretty dumb, until I had kids of my own. Then I saw what my wife and I do for them, and watch the things they get to do. And I realized my mom was right, every day IS kids' day.

As parents, we all watch the shows they want to watch, eat the foods they can/will eat, take the vacations they'll enjoy, and buy the cars they'll be safe and comfortable in. We don't do things for ourselves, because we do them for our kids.

So this year, like every year, I'm going to make sure that Father's Day is my bestest, most awesomest day ever. We're finally going to do all the stuff I wanted to do, like watch a baseball game together, eat whatever I want for dinner, and take a long — uh oh, I forgot to get my dad a present.

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 latest 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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Wednesday, June 13, 2012


From IndyCar's Media office


INDIANAPOLIS (Wednesday, June 13, 2012) - INDYCAR, the sanctioning body for the IZOD IndyCar Series, announced today its scheduled Aug. 19 race in Qingdao, China, has been cancelled.

"We wanted to give the China race every opportunity to move forward and be successful, but INDYCAR has been notified by the promoter that the event is cancelled for 2012," said Randy Bernard, CEO, INDYCAR. "We were informed that the promoter was trying to move the event to a different date and location. After ongoing discussions regarding alternative dates, as well as doing our due diligence in exploring alternate venues in China, the promoter cancelled the event. A decision had to be made to allow INDYCAR and its participants to plan accordingly for the second half of the season."

INDYCAR announced plans for its inaugural race in China on Nov. 10, 2011. Bernard said INDYCAR is "not closing the door" on opportunities for a future race in China.

Bernard added that INDYCAR is investigating a possible replacement event that will keep the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule at 16 races.

"We are working with our promoters that host events in the second half of our calendar to keep them apprised of how the date of a potential new race could impact our current schedule," he said.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Indiana Fever Fall to Connecticut Sun, 89 -81

We were looking forward to a hotly contested Indiana Fever game (get it, "hotly" contested; "Fever"?), as they were riding the crest of a four-game winning streak, with a home game against division rivals, the Connecticut Sun.

But luck was not with our ladies of the hardwood this night, as they played hard, and they played rough, but in the end, they were not able to overcome the dominating, almost rough, play of the Sun.

But not only were they outmuscled by the Sun, they were missing a few key players. For one thing, Erin Phillips was out of the country, playing and practicing with the Australian National team. For another, Tamika Catchings was missing for several crucial minutes where the Sun went on an 8-point run with no response from the Fever. (Catchings was incapacitated by an errant elbow from teammate Tammy Sutton-Brown. It was a complete accident, but I'm sure Catch had a few choice words for TSB at the end of the game.)

Katie Douglas and Catchings played hard the entire game, and it looked like the Fever would pull out win #5. But there were more than a few times that the Sun capitalized on crucial errors, as well as some shots that the Fever just weren't able to make. Plus, there were a couple of missed calls by the officials. To be fair, it happened on both sides, so the bad calls against the Fever were evened out by bad calls against the Sun. None of the calls gave a serious edge to either team though, so the Sun's victory can be attributed to their hard play, and the missed opportunities by the Fever.

My family's next game is on Thursday, July 5 against the San Antonio Silver Stars.

A few favorite tweets from my Twitter stream during the game:

I've thought for a long time that @szellous1 of the @IndianaFever would make an awesome pirate. #fever

Jeanette Pohlen having a couple of moments of big-time hustle. @IndianaFever

JustSaw @JustHeather on the @IndianaFever scoreboard. #fever

Tamika Catchings is getting hammered this game. She's been punched, elbowed, pushed, and tripped. @IndianaFever #fever

We received free tickets for the game from the Indiana Fever in exchange for writing this blog post.


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Friday, June 08, 2012

I Like New York in June. How About You?

I Like New York in June. How About You?

I've been in New York City this week.

Anyone who knows me knows that this is a big scary stretch for me.

While I've liked living in the huge metropolis of Indianapolis (population 830,000) for the last six years, it's much, much smaller than New York City (population 1 kajillion; the US Census says 8.24 million). I'm not a fan of big cities, and I especially don't like super big cities, because I always feel overwhelmed.

It's so bad, that one Chicago-based friend who helped me find my way around here this week, kept referring to me as her "Country Mouse."

I grew up in Muncie, Indiana (population 70,000), and when I was 24, moved to Syracuse, Indiana (population 2,800) for 12 years. For us, traveling to "the city" meant going to South Bend or Fort Wayne. It meant the occasional trip to the giant metropolis of Indianapolis. And on more than one occasion, to the entirely different planet of Chicago.

I was in New York once before, when I was 20, and frankly the entire experience had frightened this little Country Mouse enough that if I had never, ever set foot in New York again, it wouldn't be long enough.

Except I had a chance to speak at a rather important conference. And anyone who knows me knows that I will go to great lengths to be the center of attention, including traveling to — if TV is to be believed — a great big city where horrific murders are committed every week and somber-looking-but-attractive police officers investigate these gruesome murders.

While I'm sure some of the TV victims were New Yorkers, it was always my luck that the episodes I caught had tourists as the murder victims. This is also true of detective shows in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Miami. This is why I don't travel to New York, LA, Vegas, or Miami: because I'll become the dead body of the week on some stupid cop show.

So I was more than a little nervous coming back to New York for this conference. But my friend reassured me that, yes, in fact, New York is very safe, and I have nothing to worry about, and that ever since Rudy Giuliani was mayor, the whole city has been cleaned up and is safe to walk in.

"I even feel safe walking just about anywhere in Manhattan," said one young woman who was a dancer. Considering she was about the size of a peanut, I started to feel a little silly.

By the end of my first day here, and after enough teasing about being from the "little town" of Indianapolis — to be fair, we're the 12th largest city in the U.S. — I decided I would walk from a party back to my hotel.

During my first time here, I walked nearly seven miles in one day (not knowing that one city block equaled one-tenth of a mile), and nearly peed myself when a plainclothes police officer leaped out of an unmarked car at a corner, pointed his gun at some guy around the corner from me, shouted a few curse words at him, and then ran down the street after him. This was something you only expected to see on TV, and it happened 30 feet from me. I crept up to the corner, peeked around, and saw the cop (I figured out it was a cop) handcuffing a guy who was planted face-first onto the hood of a car.

But as I've walked around New York this week — everyone walks here, because cabs are expensive and traffic is always heavy — I saw Times Square, I saw restaurants I've seen on TV, and I even saw where The Avengers battled the Chitauri in the Avengers movie. They've really recovered nicely from the battle; you can barely see where it happened.

"This is kind of a cool city," I told my City Mouse friend.

"See, I told you!" she said. She had lived here for a year and a half, and has lived in Chicago for five years. She loves her big cities, and thinks I need to stretch my comfort level.

This week has changed my attitude about New York. I've met some cool people, seen some great sites, and can understand why some New Yorkers mistakenly believe that this is the greatest city in the world.

It's still Indianapolis, but I can understand the error. We have two car races, a football team AND a basketball team, and the Super Bowl was here. Also, we have the pork tenderloin.

But I will give New York a lot of credit. It's a great city, and I definitely want to come back again. But can you do something about the traffic? It's a little noisy.

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 latest 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, June 01, 2012

Hopefully Now Allowed By AP Stylebook

Hopefully Now Allowed By AP Stylebook

Hey, Karl, did you see what the Associated Press Stylebook announced about 'hopefully' last week?

"No, Kid, what's that?"

They said they would no longer object to using the word 'hopefully' at the beginning of a sentence, rather than making people say 'I am hopeful' or 'It is hoped that.'

"Are you kidding me?!" thundered Karl, plonking his empty beer mug down on the bar. We were at Milton's, a literary bar, where Karl had performed admirably in the week's Tuesday night political poetry slam. He plonked again in displeasure. Karl is a serious word snob.

Sadly, no, I'm not, I said. They said it wasn't really necessary to do anymore.

"Why the hell not?"

Unfortunately, the rule has just fallen by the wayside. They said it has become a victim of 'common usage,' the idea that so many people were using it that the English language has once again grown and evolved to allow it as a rule. They made the announcement, and it caused quite the uproar online. A lot of people have refused to accept it, because they still think it's wrong.

"Because it IS wrong," said Karl. He gestured at Kurt, the bartender, for two more beers. "Kid, I tell you, sometimes I despair for the language I love. People are just screwing it up for the rest of us because they're too lazy to learn the damn rules. Have I ever told you about my high school English teacher, Mrs. Kugelschreiber?"

Frequently, I said.

He continued on as if I hadn't said anything. "Mrs. Kugelschreiber loved language. She loved it like a mother loves a child. And she wanted to impart that knowledge to her students, so we would learn to love it as much as she did. While most kids didn't care about it, I loved it. I loved learning about language from her, I loved reading books, I loved writing." Karl paused and took a drink.

"And do you know how I studied for her class?"

Eagerly? I asked.

"Eagerly!" he enthused, plonking his beer again for good measure, ignoring the spillover. I hear this story every time some style guide changes a small writing rule. "Mrs. Kugelschreiber made me want to be a writer. Without her, I'd be a lifer at the state government, overseeing contracts and capital purchases."

Honestly, Karl, it's not that big a deal. Language changes, rules change. What was considered acceptable back when you were a kid changed at the turn of the century, back when Teddy Roosevelt was president.

"Ha ha, Kid," Karl deadpanned. "How's it feel to kick an old man when he's down?"

Surprisingly, pretty good.

"You don't understand, Kid. This 'hopefully' rule was what separated us language snobs from the language slobs."

You stole that from William Safire, I said.

"Yeah, so?" challenged Karl. "What's he going to do about it?"

Probably nothing. He died three years ago.

"Well crap, this is going to suck," pouted Karl. "He would have been the man to lead the charge against this abomination, this travesty of grammatical justice. Now who will help us fight against these Philistines of foulness?"

Seriously, Karl, don't you think you're overdoing it a bit?

"Not at all. This is an important issue to grammar purists everywhere. The line must be drawn here. This far, and no further"

Really? Now you're quoting Captain Picard?

"Hey, whatever works."

So what are you going to use instead? 'It is to be hoped that?' One hopefully hater suggested that as a 'natural substitute,' but that's about as natural as the red carpet walk at the Oscars. And if you ever use that as a sentence starter, I'm going to shred your entire manuscript.

"Thankfully, it won't ever happen," said Karl. "Because I'm a good writer."

Actually, you're a selective rule follower. You're not even following an entire grammar rule, you're just re-spouting the same nonsense as other misinformed grammar purists. And besides, you just said 'thankfully.'

"Kid, what are you talking about?"

Karl, think about it. Nearly every sentence I've said back to you started with a floating sentence adverb, just like hopefully. The fact that I did it, and you and every other grammar grump have never groused about those words should tell you that this is just a bugbear that people like to flog to sound smart. But the fact is, it should never have been a rule in the first place; it was created back in the 60s, even though it had been acceptable before then. Otherwise, words like sadly, unfortunately, and frequently would have raised red flags for you too. Which means it's not a real rule.

Karl stammered and sputtered, not quite knowing what to say. I had won the argument, and he was going to pout in silence for a little while.

Hopefully it will last for more than a few minutes this time.


Insider Notes

Here's some extra bonus material that readers of my newspaper column don't get.

If you want to read a well-reasoned article about using and not using the word "hopefully," check out the Grammar Girl website. Her contention is that while it is not correct to use it in most instances, there are instances where it is okay to use.

The thing to realize about what the AP has done is they have said they will no longer object to sentences that start with the word Hopefully. What does that mean to you, the regular reader? Absolutely nothing. The Associated Press writes the AP Stylebook, which is a guide that's really only intended for journalists and editors working for the Associated Press. However, most media outlets use it as well, except for some big ones, like the New York Times. The AP does not have any control over the way regular people use language. They're not the arbiters of proper usage. If you don't want to use "hopefully" to start a sentence, you don't have to. No one can make you, including the Associated Press.

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 latest 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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