Friday, August 31, 2012

What the Heck is an All-Skate?

Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from the TRUE start of the century, 2001.

My oldest daughter has done something completely horrible and utterly impossible.

She has asked me to take her roller skating. Apparently she overhead her mother talking with her aunt about the great and wonderful times they had at skating parties when they were kids, skating to "Copacabana" or "YMCA". My daughter thought this was something we should do.

"No, Honey. Daddy doesn't like roller skating."

Here comes the lower lip. "But Mommy said we could go roller skating."

"Oh, she did, did she? Why can't you just go with Mommy? I'm sure she just meant you two."

"But I want you to go," she whimpered.

How can you say no to that? Maybe if I just tag along, but don't actually go out on the floor. . . No, no, what am I saying?!

What my little angel doesn't understand is that some people — namely me — have emotional scars from childhood that prevent them from roller skating as adults.

I used to enjoy roller skating as a boy, and attended every skating party my elementary school held. There was just something about skating parties, the flashing lights and music, the disco ball, and racing out onto the floor when an "allskate" was called, or trying to find a girl who wasn't repulsed by me when the DJ cruelly called "Okay, couples only."

At that age, we boys were painfully aware that the girls could just as easily skate with each other as they could with us. However, the boys would never partner up, thus forcing us to sit out of the couples skates like a bunch of ten year old losers.

As I entered my early teens, I stopped skating because I didn't want to draw attention to myself, This was odd, since I spent those same years trying to draw attention to myself by making bad jokes and rude noises.

I haven't grown out of phase either, clinging stubbornly to tradition.

I also still don't like skating.

I mean, how much fun can you have skating in a big circle to Eddie Money's "Two Tickets to Paradise" wearing skates that 500 other people have stuck their sweaty feet into? But that apparently isn't cool. The really cool people took their own skates to the rink.

They're "cool" in the same way that wine geeks bring their own wine to restaurants.

One skating party, I was wearing my new blue hoodie my mom had just gotten for me, and one for my sister, with our names on the back. I was cool! I was hip! I had my name on the back of my sweatshirt, and no one else did!

As I skated, my friend David skated up next to me.

"Who's Lisa, your girlfriend?"

"No, my sister." What a dork. I'd known this guy for five years, and he knew my sister. "Why?"

"Because you're wearing her sweatshirt."

My ears roared as I took off the offending sweatshirt and stared. Sure enough, there was my sister's name on the back in big white shiny letters that whistled and waved at all my friends so they would notice that I was wearing a girl's sweatshirt.

Of course, the evening could only get worse. A neighborhood bully, Steve, decided to harass me for the rest of the evening, and started chasing me around the rink.

While I may have been smaller and geekier than Steve, I was also smarter — which wasn't that hard — which I could actually use to my advantage for once.

Steve would come screaming across the rink on an intercept course toward me, like an 11-year-old fighter plane on skates. At the last second, just as he was reaching his dirt-encrusted fingers out for me, I juke quickly to the left, sending him crashing into the wall.

This only made him madder, and he chased me a little faster. When I figured out he wasn't smart enough to change his tactics, I began skating closer to the wall so he wouldn't have to to relax and hit it harder while I skated out of the way. This went on for nearly an hour before he finally realized he wasn't going to catch me, and gave up.

I finally stopped skating in middle school when I realized it wasn't nearly as cool as it was when I was 10, but I look back on those days a little fondly, and wonder a little if I'm missing anything by not taking my daughter skating.

But only a little. I'll let her mother take her and I'll watch from the sides.



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

British Bureaucrats Ban Paper Fasteners

When you think of dangerous office equipment, what comes to mind? A pointy letter opener? A paper cutter? A 29-cent ballpoint pen? An industrial-sized paper shredder and you're wearing a tie? Or maybe a heavy duty stapler and an administrative assistant who's sick of your crap?

If you're part of the Manchester (England) NHS Trust, it's metal paper fasteners.

Yes, paper fasteners. Those dagger-like strips of metal that are pushed through holes in office paper, and then folded and clipped, to create an official report.

According to a story in the Metro UK, officials at the Manchester NHS (National Health Service) declared that they would no longer use paper fasteners after a staff member received a small cut on their finger from one.

It's important that we understand that these are paper fasteners, even though the original story had said "paper clips," and the entire western hemisphere went bat crap crazy that yet another British bureaucracy would ban something so useful, ubiquitous, and un-dangerous.

Personally, I think the original ban was on paper clips, and when all of England howled in outrage, the officials had to find a way to not look that stupid.

Of course, it didn't help that when they originally sent out their memo — "Due to recent incidents, NHS Manchester has decided to immediately withdraw the use of metal paper fasteners." — they included a picture of a paper clip to show what they were talking about.

What's unfortunate is that no one was really surprised by the ban. There was an underlying "just when you thought they couldn't get any stupider" subtext to the whole thing, but there was not a lot of surprise at the decision.

I mean, this is the part of England where mail carriers are not allowed to ride bikes because of a risk of back injury; humping around a 70 pound bag of mail apparently carries less risk. And a school in south Manchester banned real soccer balls last fall, after a child was hit by one, because up to that point, no child had ever been injured on a British playground by anything ever.

The funniest part of all is that these paper fasteners — or clips — have been banned in hospitals, surgeries, and medical clinics.

The same places where they have needles, bio-hazardous waste, x-ray machines, scalpels, saws, and seriously heavy drugs.

Given the staggering number of things that can kill you inside a hospital, the executives focused on a thin piece of metal that, if you really worked at it, could give someone a small cut. Meanwhile, they still have not banned things that stab, cut, slash, amputate, cause cancer, shock you, crack your chest open, drain your blood, stop your heart, or stop your brain.

Also, you can still use pens.

One NHS staffer told the Metro UK, "I can only assume top brass think that they’ve employed idiots who need nannying through the working day."

Another one said, "We should just be lucky the safety memo didn’t run to two pages, that might have proved a bit tricky."

The Manchester NHS is just another organization in a long line of bureaucrats who examine a single issue within a vacuum, and don't stop to consider the stupidity of their decision, or think about how it will sound when they're done.

Banning paper clips — excuse me, paper fasteners — is about as silly as banning paper because it causes paper cuts, or pencils because you might poke yourself. There is always something that can cause damage to some part of the human body.

As I sit at my kitchen table writing this column, I can see seven things that could cause something more serious than a small cut. But no one has ever warned me about the dangers of accidentally maiming myself with computer cords, pens, coffee mugs, or a wireless mouse.

So I'm left to wonder why the Manchester NHS felt it was necessary to ban a small piece of steel (or a smaller piece of wire, if the original stories are to be believed), because one person in the entire history of the Manchester NHS cut themselves slightly on it.

I wonder if anyone has ever thought about banning British bureaucrats on the grounds that they're a danger to themselves and others.

All this outraged howling is giving everyone a sore throat.



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Final 2012 Swish-Whack, Take That! Awards

I thought the Swish-Whack, Take That! awards were done for 2012. But after I submitted last week's column, the final weekend of the Olympics began. And I saw some Swish-Wackiness that made me realize it ain't over until the last racer crosses the finish line.

The first SWTT goes to American BMX racer, Alise Post, racing in her first Olympics. During the semi-finals, on the final rhythm hills — the small hills the racers take two at a time — Post landed on her bike wrong, sailed over the handlebars, and planted her face and helmet into the up-slope of one of the jumps.

"Honestly, I couldn't tell you what happened," she told the Washington Post. "It's really a blur. I'm just glad, I guess, that I'm physically OK."

Post may have had the sense knocked out of her in the crash, but it also knocked out the quit. She was so dazed, she tried to get on her bike, fighting the two Olympic officials who tried to help her off the track.

Once she realized she couldn't ride, she began crawling toward the finish line, rose to her feet, and staggered toward the finish line. One official put his arm around her for support, and Post walked the rest of the race, without her bike, barely aware of what was going on.

The second Swish-Whack, Take That! goes to South African runner, Oscar "The Blade Runner" Pistorius, the double amputee runner with carbon fiber blades for legs. Pistorius raced in the 2004 and 2008 Paralympics, receiving four golds and a bronze.

There was some controversy over whether Pistorius should be allowed to compete in the Olympics, because people thought he would have an unfair advantage over the non-disabled athletes.

In other words, it's not a disadvantage when he's in the Paralympics, but when he's competing in the regular Olympics, it's unfair.

Here's how non-advantageous the blades are: Pistorius' fastest time ever for 400 meters is 45.44. The world record is 43.18, set by American Michael Johnson in 1999. Last week, Manteo Mitchell ran a 46.1 on a broken leg. If Pistorius had an advantage, he would have broken the world record already, or at least been more than .7 seconds faster than a guy who broke his leg during a race.

Pistorius was allowed to run, and anchored his South African team in the 4x400m relay final. They came in last, nearly seven seconds behind gold medal winners, Bahamas. But the fact that he ran impressed me deeply.

So, in honor of his groundbreaking achievement and lion's heart, I'm renaming Oscar's Swish-Whack, Take That! the Swish-Swish-Swish-Swish! award.

Compare these two accomplishments to American Morgan Uceny, from Plymouth, Indiana, who was tripped in the final lap of the 1500m final race, and ended up face down on the track. Uceny was understandably distraught. She had also tripped during the 2011 World Championships, where she had also been a gold medal favorite.

But Uceny never got up. She sobbed on the track for several minutes, even after the race ended. She had to be helped off the track, where she sat and cried some more, before quietly slipping away unnoticed.

I can understand Uceny's anguish. I have been in a place where lifelong dreams crashed because of one tiny misstep. So I'm not saying she shouldn't have been devastated. I've been there, and it's awful.

So much I wanted her to stand up. I wanted her to show the world that Americans don't quit, that Hoosiers don't quit, even when we lose. We get up, we run, we walk, we stagger, we drag ourselves to the finish line.

These Olympic games have featured some exciting and inspiring stories of people who have an indomitable spirit.

Like Hamadou Djibo Issaka of Niger, the gardener turned rower, who was so new to the sport, he couldn't even row in a straight line. Or 400 meter swimmer Jennet Saryyeva of Turkmenistan who finished 35th out of 35 swimmers, almost a minute behind 34th place, and still set her national record. Or Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang, who injured himself during a 110 meter heat, and hopped along the side of the track on one foot to finish his race, stopping to kiss the last hurdle, and then had his hand raised in victory by Balazs Baji, a Hungarian hurdler.

These athletes are the inspiring stories of the Olympics. They got up, they kept going, kept kicking, kept hopping. They finished.

So the athletes who finished dead last, but never quit, get the biggest, shiniest Swish-Whack, Take That! of 2012.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Olympic Swish-Whack, Take That! Awards, Week 2

It's week two of the 2012 Summer Olympics, which means it's week two of the Swish-Whack, Take That! awards. I give these to an athlete after an extraordinary, odds-defying, nose-thumbing performance that silences critics, doubters, and complainers. The award is named for US fencer Mariel Zagunis who won America's first fencing gold medal in 100 years in 2004, and then successfully defended it in 2008.

As we always do, everyone is trying to figure out the best athlete in the Olympics. Is it Michael Phelps who won his 22nd Olympic medal? Is it Usain Bolt who broke the sound barrier during his 100m gold medal run? Or is it Gabby Douglas, the first African-American gymnast to win the all-around gold?

No, it's American sprinter Manteo Mitchell who ran his leg of the 4x400 relay on Thursday morning's qualifying heats. That's the first round of the relays, and that's when "sprinters" from North Korea, Micronesia, and Lichtenstein all try to finish sometime before lunch.

For America to go out on that round would be humiliating, and nearly impossible. But it's not that Mitchell ran his 400 meters that's impressive.

It's that he ran his last 200 meters on a broken leg.

Mitchell said he was running and his left leg felt out of sorts. Then there was a loud snap followed by a lot of pain. So much pain that Mitchell said he was "in tears every step." But he continued on and finished with a time of 46.1 seconds.

That's not just slow, that's Liechtenstein slow.

Then the angry tweets started coming, questioning his commitment and his effort.

Ah, social media. Where else can a chair-planted butterballs complain about an athlete's results when they couldn't run 400 meters without stopping for a rest?

Mitchell wins a renamed Swish-Whack, Oh Snap! award for not giving up, running on a broken fibula, and making sure the U.S. qualified so they could continue to compete for the gold. If he doesn't receive a medal when the rest of the U.S. wins one, then they all need to chip in and get him a coffee maker or something.

Golden girl Gabby Douglas hardly needs a Swish-Whack, Take That award, since she won the all-around gold, as well as the team competition, but she still gets one for standing tall and putting the haters in their place.

Douglas was catching a lot of grief from the social media circuit — there it goes again — about the state of her hair during the Games. Hair for African-American women is a serious subject, which is why many people thought they should comment, because, you know, it's everyone else's business what an Olympic hero's hair looks like half a world away.

I know how frustrated she must be, because as the father of a black daughter, my wife and I have been on the receiving end of a lot of unsolicited and unwanted advice because we let our daughter wear her hair the way she wanted.

I'm giving Gabby a Swish-Whack, Take That! award because she put everything into wonderful perspective, and everyone in their place.

"I'm like, 'I just made history and people are focused on my hair?'" Gabby said. "I'm going to wear my hair like this during beam and bar finals. You might as well just stop talking about it."

So, thank you, Gabby for rising above the haters and complainers and reminding people that there are more important things to remember, like making Olympic history, and making your country proud.

The final Swish-Whack, Take That! award goes to former Today show co-host, Ann Curry, who lost her job in June, and was replaced weeks before the Olympics.

NBC, who has already been crucified for their poor Olympics coverage, had said Curry would be in London to report during the Olympics, but we had only seen her once before during the games. She showed up at the Today show on Thursday during the second hour to do a story on a still photographer.

Because when you think "Olympic spirit," you think of a guy with a camera and a lens the size of a toilet bowl.

According to the Associated Press, Curry was polite but distant during the on-air banter, and did not return Matt Lauer's "good to see you" greeting and closing. There's no word whether she flipped him the international sign for "bite me."

Curry wins the final award for demonstrating her own Olympic spirit, showing up when she was called, and doing the job she was trained to do, without letting the detractors get her down.

We come to the close of the 2012 Swish-Whack, Take That awards. We call upon the youth of the world to gather in four years in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to celebrate the power of the human spirit, to overcome the doubters, silence the haters, and show the whiners of the world why they need to just shut up when it comes to complaining about athletes who devote their entire lives to their sport.



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, August 03, 2012

The 2012 Olympic Swish-Whack, Take That! Awards

In 2004, I created the Swish-Whack, Take That! awards to commemorate Mariel Zagunis winning America's first fencing gold medal in 100 years. NBC, showing signs of awfulness even back then, aired a 30 second clip of Zagunis' three points, and then skipped her medal ceremony.So every two years, I give out Swish-Whack, Take That! awards to athletes and others who do something cool during the Olympics. You can read about the origins of the Swish-Whack, Take That! awards here.

This week's first SWTT award goes to our very own Mariel Zagunis, who because of her gold medals in both 2004 and 2008, was given the great privilege of carrying the U.S. flag into the opening ceremonies. But that's not why she received her award.

Sadly, she did not win a medal this year, which ended up gaining more attention and being a bigger story than her gold in 2004. So, she gets a Swish-Whack, Take That! because people are now recognizing the sheer awesomeness of what she has done over the last eight years.

The next award goes to Tim "that's 'Sir Tim' to you" Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web. Berners-Lee appeared in the opening ceremonies, seated at a NeXT Computer, just like the one he used to invent the Web. He tweeted "This is for everyone," which was instantly spelled out in LCD lights that the audience was holding up.

Meanwhile, Meredith Viera, who hosted NBC's broadcast with Matt Lauer, said, "If you haven't heard of him, we haven't either." So tens of thousands of Twitter and Facebook users very helpfully told Viera and Lauer who he is and why he's important, using the very tool he created.

And started the #NBCfail hashtag, which has become one of the most popular hashtags of the Olympics.

NBC had previously said in a statement they would not stream the opening ceremonies online because, "they are complex entertainment spectacles that do not translate well online because they require context, which our award-winning production team will provide…"

That's some award-winning context there, NBC. Proud, willful displays of ignorance are always so helpful to the viewing public.

That's why I've created your very own award, just for you. And in the spirit of your coverage, I will announce it only on Twitter six hours after you actually won it.

The third SWTT goes out to opening ceremony producer Danny Boyle and choreographer Akram Khan, because the Berners-Lee fiasco was only the tip of NBC's iceberg of awfulness.

During the ceremony, they paid tribute to the victims of the 7/7 terrorism attacks, which were choreographed by Khan. Not surprisingly, NBC cut away to an interview between Ryan Seacrest and Michael Phelps.

When asked for a response to their callous heartlessness, NBC spokesman Greg Hughes said the next day that "our programming is tailored for the U.S. audience. It's a tribute to Danny Boyle that it required so little editing."

No, it's an indictment of NBC's raging idiocy that the network fails to realize that this is not another episode of "America and Pals." This is a global event where the host country, for just a couple hours, gets to showcase itself to the rest of the world. It's not your place to edit anything, let alone replace a moving tribute with a suck-up conversation between two Americans.

Shame on you, NBC. This is why people don't like you.

This week's final Swish-Whack, Take That! award goes to Phelps himself, after he was criticized by teammate Tyler Clary for his work ethic.

Clary said, "The fact that he doesn’t have to work as hard to get that done, it’s a real shame.
I think the things he could have done if he’d worked as hard as I do would have been even more incredible than what he has pulled off."

Phelps responded by pointing to his ear, indicating that he couldn't hear Clary over the thunderous clanking of his 14 gold and two bronze medals.

Clary continued, "The day that it happens, when I finally beat him, is going to be a huge deal in my mind because it would be complete satisfaction."

But — swish-whack, take that! — Clary has not beaten Michael Phelps in these Games at all. He finished fourth in the only event where he swam against Phelps.

An event where Phelps got another gold.

But today, Clary won his first gold medal in the 200 meter backstroke, an event Phelps did not swim in.

However, he did beat Ryan Lochte, who still owns nine more medals than Clary.

Meanwhile, Phelps has won four more medals in the last five days — two gold and two silver — giving him a grand total of 20.

So tell me, Tyler Clary, what more could Michael Phelps had done if he worked as hard as you? Turned those bronzes into silver and silvers into gold?

Or, maybe if he had worked as hard as you, he would still only have one medal at all.



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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