Friday, December 27, 2013

A One-Sided Conversation About Money

"Hey, Buddy, what can I do for you?"

"No, you can't have a hundred dollars."

"Why do you need a hundred dollars?"

"You've already got a video game."

"How can it be too old? You kept going on and on about how new and great it was when you got it."

"Five years ago?!"

"Wow, that doesn't seem that long ago."

"What about your birthday money?"

"I guess you need to decide between a Lego set and a Nintendo DS2."

"Sorry, 2DS."

"Yes, I know it's because different from the DS3."

"Whatever, 3DS."

"You don't need to keep correcting me. 3DS or DS3, it doesn't matter to me."

"Because you don't have one."

"Fine, you don't have the 2DS."

"Well, you could earn the money."

"By working."

"Shoveling driveways or mowing lawns."

"I know. I didn't mean right now. You'd mow in the summer."

"By February?! How many times do you think you're going to shovel the driveway?"

"There's no way I'm paying you 50 bucks to shovel the driveway!"


"No, you go down. If I say 10, you say 18, not 22."


"No, yours needs to be higher than twelve."

"Do you even know how to haggle?"

"Right, and then when I say ten, you say 'ten for that, you must be mad!'""

"Sorry, that's an old joke from a movie."

"No, Mommy won't let me let you watch it."

"Okay look, if you and your sister shovel the driveway, I'll pay you each six dollars."

"If it's just you, I'll give you fifteen."

"Because you guys will end up throwing snow at each other, and I'll have to go out and reshovel."

"You could also shovel the neighbors' driveways."

"No, you can't borrow his snow blower."

"Because you're 11 and you need to learn what real work feels like."

"I don't need one."

"Because I have you and your sister and two shovels."

"They take up too much space in the garage and I'm not old enough to need one yet."

"When I'm in danger of having a heart attack from shoveling the driveway."


"Mommy worries too much. I'm in great shape."

"A snow blower costs at least $400. I could get you two DS2s and save the space in the garage."

"Whatever, 2DS."

"All you need is your shovel, warm boots, and warm gloves, and you could knock out three driveways in a couple hours. Charge $15 each, and you're almost halfway to your 100 bucks. How much is a DS2?"

"Whatever. That's ten driveways total. You could shovel our driveway ten times, which would take about two winters given the snow we've been getting, or you could shovel five neighbors driveways twice this winter, which is not out of the question."

"Depends on how bad you want that DS2."


"You can't be choosy about whose driveways you shovel. You take what you can get."

"That's not a good reason not to shovel their driveway."

"You won't even be in the house."

"No, you won't be able to smell it from outside."

"You should probably go knock on a few doors now before the next snow falls and line up your customers."

"So they know you're coming to shovel the next time."

"No I won't go with you."

"Because I don't need a DS2"


"If you keep saying that, I'm going to charge shovel rental fees."

"No, I'm just kidding. You don't need to tell her."

"Because she'll make me shovel the driveway."

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Rudolph And the Christmas Therapist

"I'm tired of letting people walk all over me, Doctor."

Rudolph stared at the painting above Dr. O'Hanlon's head, trying to focus on the moment. The psychologist had been trying to get him to "live in the moment, not the past," so Rudolph always focused on something in the room during their sessions to keep himself grounded.

"What do you mean by that?" asked Dr. O'Hanlon.

"I just get so caught up in the Christmas spirit that I don't want to stand up for myself, because I don't want to be seen as selfish or ungrateful."

"What does that have to do with letting people walk all over you?" Dr. O'Hanlon is like a dog with a bone, thought Rudolph. Say something casual, and we spend the whole hour on it.

"It means that even after people are cruel to me, I'll do what they ask if they're nice."

"Why do you think that is?"

"Because," Rudolph sighed, "I hope they were moved by the Christmas spirit, and have turned over a new leaf."

"People only change like that on TV, Rudolph. You know that. It's why Clarice left you for Fireball. It's why Coach Comet continues to bully you."

"But I helped save Christmas! Why doesn't that make any difference?" Rudolph's nose glowed brighter whenever he got angry. It glowed constantly during his last weeks with Clarice, even though he tried to hide his feelings. The day she told him she was leaving him for Fireball, he accidentally burned down the kitchen.

"Because people are fickle. They're happy with what you can do for them today, but tomorrow is another matter."

"I should have just stayed on that Island. I was happier there."

"We've been over this. You can't blame yourself. You were a kid seeing the world through a kid's eyes." Rudolph's eyes brimmed with tears. "You trusted your parents to take care of you. You thought Santa, the living symbol of unconditional love, would accept you. And yet everyone rejected you because of your difference."

"I know. They teased me and hated me for it. Even my own parents were ashamed of me. Then, when they're in a tiny spot of trouble, and everyone's all 'Oh no! We have to save Christmas!' Then they all coming crawling to good ol' Rudolph, like I'm just supposed to forgive and forget?"

Rudolph swiped at his eyes and swore. "It was great at first. People congratulated me, slapped me on the back. They even gave me a medal. But then the teasing started again. First it was like they wanted to show they were at ease with my defect—"

"It's not a defect, Rudolph. We've talked about this," said Dr. O'Hanlon. "What did we say?"

"I'm not weird or defective, I'm wonderfully different," intoned Rudolph.

"Right. Remember, the words you use about yourself have an impact on your self-image."

Rudolph blew his nose on a tissue, and threw it into a garbage can when it caught fire. Dr. O'Hanlon kept a metal garbage can nearby for this reason. They watched until the fire went out.

"Like I was saying, first it was just friendly teasing. Pretty soon, it turned mean. By spring, Comet was leading the charge again. I was supposed to be one of Santa's trainers, you know, Comet's assistant. But he belittled me in front of the other trainers, and even the new recruits.

"Then the other trainers started playing practical jokes on me in my own house. Doing things like putting a leather cap over my nose when I was asleep and then stealing all the light bulbs. Did you just laugh?"

Dr. O'Hanlon coughed loudly. "No, no, I'm sorry. I've, uh, I've got a cold. It's pretty bad."

Rudolph studied the therapist for any hint of a smile. O'Hanlon took a drink and coughed some more for show. "You mentioned that you only feel it during this time of year, but it sounds like this goes on all year round, and yet you still work on Christmas."

"I know. I can't help it. Every year, I promise myself I'm going to quit. I'm not going to put up with it anymore. And every year, I still put on that harness and take to the sky."

"It sounds like you need to ask yourself which is more important, one day of happiness or 364 days of utter misery. And since we're out of time, we'll have to discuss that next week."

"In two weeks," said Rudolph, getting out of his chair. "I'll be working next week."

"That's right. I'll see you then. And merry Christmas."

Rudolph snorted and lit up the hallway that led back outside.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

My Wife Got Me Shoes for Our 20th Anniversary. I Love Them.

All I got for my 20th anniversary from Toni was a pair of TOMS shoes. And they may be the coolest thing ever, because they showed how much she understands and knows me, and was willing to do a lot of work — a lot of work — to make them happen.

Two of my favorite writers are Kurt Vonnegut and Hunter S. Thompson. They're the ones I talk about constantly. The ones whose books I keep quoting when I give talks, and whose writing advice I keep stealing. I also like Ernest Hemingway, but like all other humans, I only have two feet.

There are artists who specialize in painting TOMS canvas shoes with personalized, individual designs. Artists like Decker Yazzie, a Native American artist in Ogden, Utah and owner of Soul2Sole. Toni contacted Decker and told him what she wanted.

She wanted two individualized shoes, painted with words and images symbolic of my two authors. She spent months researching these two, learning what things they were known for, searching for images that represented them. Images like HST's Gonzo Journalism fist or Vonnegut's birdcage and asshole drawings from Breakfast of Champions. She also found some of their well-known phrases, like Vonnegut's "so it goes." She also learned what kinds of typewriters they used (HST, a red IBM Selectric; Vonnegut, a Smith-Corona Courier).

Toni then double-checked and triple-checked all the images, made sure she labeled them correctly, and sent them off to Decker. To make sure she had the right images, she even sent them in separate emails to keep the authors straight. Then, when she sent the shoes, she printed a page for each author and sent them with the shoes to Decker. She said, "do your thing. Put images for each of them on each shoe," and Decker unleashed his artistic fury on them, even doing some of his own research about the book covers and titles. He even added their birth and death years on the backs of the shoes.

The end result is I have a Kurt Vonnegut left shoe and a Hunter S. Thompson right shoe. Which makes sense, since Vonnegut was more of a liberal, while HST was more of a right-ish libertarian.

Now, while other people have fist names — names they give their fists so they can "do my talking for me" — I'll have feet names.

Say hello to Kurt Vonnegut and Hunter S. Thompson.

I'd better learn karate first.

Jack: Well I'm gonna let St. Patrick and St. Michael do my talkin' for me!
Jack's Dad: You'll have to get through Tip O'Neal and Bobby Sands first.
Eddie: You call those fist names? Say hello to Bono and Sandra Day O'Connor.
Jack: Those are the stupidest fist names I've ever heard.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Reflection on 20 Years of Marriage: What Baseball, Bitsy Hatteberg, and My Wife Have In Common

In Michael Lewis' 2003 book Moneyball, Scott Hatteberg, the former catcher with the Boston Red Sox, had been acquired by the Oakland A's, and was told he was going to play first base, a position he had never played before. Scott was so nervous, so afraid, that he asked his wife to start hitting ground balls to him, just so he could get used to the position.

Mrs. Scott Hatteberg listed herself at five foot one, 100 pounds. She wasn’t built to hit in the big leagues. She didn’t even look capable of grounding out to first base.

Bitsy had noticed something about her husband. Even though he’d been in the big leagues for five years, and had been the starting catcher for the Boston Red Sox, he had never really thought of himself as a big league ballplayer. The other players volunteered their autographs to fans before games. He never did, not because he didn’t care to, but because he was worried they wouldn’t know who he was. He doesn’t admit this; she senses it’s true all the same. And she doesn’t particularly like it. It isn’t that she wants baseball fans to know who her husband is. She wants him to know that they know who he is. And so, from the end of December to the start of spring training, in the drizzling rain, with her daughters wailing that they want to go home, she whacks big league ground balls at her husband.

Ten years later, this story has always stayed with me, because it describes my wife, Toni.

She believes in me.

In the 20 years we've been married, she's supported me, pushed me, and cheered me on, with anything I've ever done. I truly would not be where I am without her love and support.

I can look back over my accomplishments and work and see her touches on everything. The times when she stayed up late with me while I was working. The times when she kept the kids quiet so I could sleep. When she told me she was proud of me on the days I wanted to quit. When she counseled me to take, or avoid, opportunities. It all adds up, and I've been pleased with what her influences have brought over the years.

I've been thinking about Bitsy Hatteberg lately, because Toni and I are celebrating our 20th year of marriage today. Today at 11:35 am EST, we will have been married for exactly 20 years on the nose.

240 months.

7,305 days.

175,320 hours to the minute.

It's been 20 years of love and support, and helping me achieve my dreams, while I love and support her to help her achieve her own.

Even as she builds her own singing career, I do what I can to support her and cheer her on. I don't know if I'm doing it as well as she does, or if I'm doing enough. But if I can "be her Bitsy" half as well as she has been mine, she'll be a star.

Ultimately, my success hasn't just come from me pushing myself, it has come from Toni pushing herself. As I try something new, it means new ideas and new experiences for her as well. It means learning the things I learn, so she can continue to guide me down the right path.

It means, sometimes, she has to whack big league ground balls to me, when I'm still trying to learn about them myself.

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Friday, December 13, 2013

When Are You Going to Write a Real Book?

"Hey, Kid, when are you going to write a real book?" asked Karl.

Excuse me? I said, not sure if I'd heard the deranged curmudgeon correctly.

"I said, when are you going to write a real book?" he shouted.

I heard you, I heard you, you crusty old fart.

Karl chuckled into his beer. He enjoys baiting me like this. We were sitting in The Tilting Windmill, my favorite Dutch themed bar, watching the Dutch men's curling team compete in the European Curling Championships.

What do you mean, a real book? I've written real books.

"Oh yeah? Since when?"

I've written four books and I'm working on my fifth right now.

"Those aren't real books, Kid."

What the hell are you talking about? They were published by real publishers, I have physical copies of the book printed on real dead trees, and they occupy a physical space in the world. How are those not real books?

"Those are nonfiction books," said Karl, dismissing my accomplishments with a wave of his hand. Karl has written 18 mystery novels, so he tends to dismiss most writers with a wave of his hand. I flagged down the bartender. Two Gulpeners, please, Marieke. Put them on his tab.

"Those are 10 bucks apiece, Kid!"

Hey, look who's a real accountant, I said. Marieke set the two beers down. Karl reached for one, but I grabbed them both. No, you stick with Grolsch, Mr. Fancypants Real Author.

"Come on, Kid, you know they're not real books."

Why? Because they're not fiction? Because I didn't write about the human condition and middle-aged angst? Because my stories don't involve cranky police detectives who break all the rules and their plucky young, attractive partners chasing down sociopathic killers—?

"Hey!" Karl gets annoyed when people make fun of his books.

Because my books aren't about zombies and vampires fighting for the love of a pirate maiden?

"Now I'd read that."

Actually I would too, but that's not the point. You're a book snob.

"How am I a book snob?"

Because you think that nonfiction books aren't real.

"But they aren't. Neither are romance novels. Real writers produce fiction that tells the truth, bringing ideas and philosophies to light through the characters' stories."

Dude, come on. In your last book, the killer cut the ears off his victims as trophies. What kinds of ideas and philosophies are those?

"I didn't say they were all sound philosophies. But I think fiction writers tell the real truth, and provide a benefit to the reader."

Are you kidding me? My second book was about how to find a job. It helped people find work! How is that not a benefit? Besides, most "real book" writers are literary fiction authors who look down on genre fiction writers like you.

Karl took a drink from his beer and thought. I polished off my first Gulpener. I had considered giving him the other one, but after this little revelation, I wasn't feeling very generous.

"But where was the actual truth in your books? The character development? We weren't drawn into the lives of the characters the way you are with real books.—"

Would you stop saying 'real books?'

"Fine, the way you are with fiction. There's nothing that makes the reader feel inspired."

You're not even a real writer then. The 'real writers' only produce literary fiction. Christopher Moore writes comedy novels about vampires and sea monsters. James Patterson has become the number one writer in American churning out suspense thrillers. Hell, even Shakespeare's work was written for contemporary commoners; now we treat it like it was written on silk scrolls only to be read by royalty. And you write about police detectives who chase down cannibalistic ear slashers.

"What are you saying?"

These writers aren't known for their literary fiction. They all wrote stories that appealed to the masses, and yet they're all highly successful.

"You think I'm successful?" Karl brightened a bit.

Successful enough to buy me two 10 dollar beers.

"So why don't you give fiction a try? What's stopping you?"

I worry that the kind of book you want me to write will attract the kind of people I don't want to be around.

"Now who's being a snob?"

Hey, it's a real concern. I haven't even written it, and I'm already stuck with you.

"Two more Gulpeners, please," Karl said to the bartender.

No thanks, Karl. I don't think I can—

"They're not for you, Kid, they're for me. Put them on his tab, Marieke."

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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Friday, December 06, 2013

I Won't Shave My Beard For Anyone

I skipped Movember last month. Actually, I've skipped Movember for the last 10 years.

No, that's not a typo. Movember is the men's health nonprofit organization that brings awareness to male reproductive health — prostate cancer and testicular cancer, plus mental health — by urging men to grow a mustache in November.

Or moustache if you want to be all French about it.

Teams of men — called Mo Bros — will grow mustaches as a way to bring awareness to, and raise donations for, Movember, which then sends funds to different education campaigns, research groups, and support groups. Last year, they raised $147 million, registered 1.1 million participants worldwide, and started 2.7 billion conversations about men's health.

It would be like if women didn't shave their legs for October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Or grew mustaches. Which would definitely draw attention to their cause, although it would start very different conversations.

Men's health awareness is definitely a worthy cause and one that I wholeheartedly support. I believe in the mission of Movember, and support them in their hirsute endeavors.

I just can't participate.

It's not that I object on moral grounds. I just don't want to shave my mustache.

To participate in Movember, you must start on day one with a clean-shaven lip. Which means losing the one I've got.

I realize it's not a fancy one. Not like the guy who constantly wins the Best Beard contest by separating it into stalks and putting so much gel on them that his beard looks like an octopus that OD'd on Viagra. It's not even a thick Magnum P.I. mustache that all cops and firefighters are required to wear, including the women.

It's just your average mustache — not too thick, not too thin. Sort of the middle-management-living-in-a-suburban-neighborhood kind of mustache. But it's mine. I've had it since I was 17, back when it looked more like a child's connect-the-dots game.

I have not shaved my mustache for nearly 29 years. I haven't shaved my goatee for 22. I have had my chin whiskers longer than I've known my wife, and that's going way back. I have had my facial hair for so long, I don't even remember what I looked like without it.

There has been only one time that I ever considered shaving it off. When we first got my oldest daughter (we adopted her when she was one year old), she was afraid of my beard. She wouldn't look at it or come to me, and whenever I tried to hold her, she would lean away from me.

"Do you think I should shave it off?" I asked my wife that night.

"No, she'll get used to it," she said.

I wasn't too sure, but I thought I'd try it for one more day and then, if she was still afraid, I'd shave it off and let it grow back while she got used to it.

When we saw her on the next day, she still looked suspiciously at me, like something was going to fly out of it. So my wife talked to her gently, and tugged on my beard.

"Look, it's hair. You can pull it." She tugged at the hair on my head, and then on my beard again. She grabbed my daughter's hand, ran it through my hair, and helped her make a fist around it. I made some fake noises as she pulled, which made my daughter smile a little.

Then they reached down for my beard together and grabbed it. My daughter tried to pull away, but she had a clump of my beard in her sweaty fist. I made some more fake squawks as she pulled, which made her smile a little more.

Then it occurred to her that this was a fun little game. She shook off my wife's hand, got a better grip, and yanked. I squawked for real that time.

Oh yes, this was absolute fun. We had to pry her fingers off so I wouldn't get whiplash. From then on, she loved my beard, and whenever I held her, she would often grab it and yank my head around by my chin.

After that, I never had the desire to shave again. Even when we adopted my other daughter, and later, my son, I knew they would get over their fear of the beard. We did it the same way too. Grab a hand, shove it into my beard, help them grab a fistful, and yank.

Even on day one, you could spot the Deckers' kids —they were the ones cackling like mad at someone else's pain and misfortune.

Listen, Mo Bros. I may believe in your cause and support your great work. But if I wouldn't shave my goatee for three of the most important people in my life, I certainly won't shave it for you.

Besides, I've almost gotten them to quit yanking on it.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Can't. . . Breathe. . . Need. . . Air

Neckties are a funny thing.

People love them or hate them. They wear them proudly, as a badge of success. Or they struggle under the weight, like the chains worn by Jacob Marley, Scrooge's dead business partner.

First introduced as the cravat by King Louis XIV of France, ties made their way to England, and on to America. They were originally worn by wealthy gentlemen, but were soon worn by any man who wanted to appear well-dressed.

Neckties are said to symbolize power, success, wealth. They are also said to symbolize oppression and strangulation of middle management. They're even said to be a phallic symbol, which is why I never wore a tie tack.

Now they're the cause of a sex discrimination complaint filed by a British government employee.

Ian Jarman, who works for the Department for Work and Pensions in Birmingham, England, is filing an official complaint against his employer for sex discrimination, because they're forcing him to wear a tie at the office.

Jarman has gone tie-less at his Job Centre Plus office (official motto: "In England, we spell it 'centre.'") for 26 years. But ever since a new dress code was introduced, he has been forced to wear one. He has already had two disciplinary hearings for failing to follow the new code, and risks losing his job if he goes without a tie again.

Jarman told a BBC interviewer he's upset because "Women are allowed to wear an open shirt and trousers, many even wear a t-shirt. If I wear an open shirt without a tie, it's a disciplinary offence for which I could potentially get the sack — it's sex discrimination."

However, a spokeswoman from the DWP disagreed. "The dress code was introduced in April to give a more professional appearance to staff who deal with members of the public," she told reporters, dressed provocatively in a Cate Coles green and russet evening dress. "We require a smart and professional image from all of our staff, but there is no specific requirements for women."

"See? See?!" shouted Jarman, pointing his finger accusingly at some female co-workers wearing sleeveless t-shirts with "Neener Neener Neener" printed on the front.

"It is ridiculous. I have done this job for 26 years without wearing a tie and it has never affected my ability to do the job," said Jarman, who believes a person's clothing has nothing to do with their professionalism.

Many strippers may disagree with Jarman's idea of clothing and job performance, he does have a point. If an organization makes a rule for one sex, but not the other, that's discrimination. Requiring a man to dress a certain way without making similar rules for women is unfair. And those rules would result in a lawsuit if the tables were turned.

I've spoken with a number of companies that don't have specific dress codes for women for fear of sexual harassment lawsuits. Instead, they require "professional/appropriate dress for women; suits and ties for men," which creates problems for people like Jarman.

And thanks to some gender fashion confusion over the years, certain male fashions have become acceptable for women to wear, causing even more problems for men.

In the '80s, I lost count of the women wearing men's sport coats with the sleeves rolled up because it looked "kicky." But, short of a fraternity prank gone horribly wrong, you'll never see men wearing dresses on a regular basis.

Don't get me wrong. It's not my place to dictate fashion for anyone. I would never tell a woman what she should or shouldn't wear. This will change when my daughters become teenagers.

However, I'm struck by the double standard of what is "acceptable" fashion: men would be laughed at and even arrested if they ever wore a dress in public, but women are free to wear suits and ties if they like. Some would argue this is fashion discrimination and extremely unfair.

Not me, of course.

I wear pants. Very rugged, extremely macho pants. Pants that have a charcoal grill in the pockets. Pants that can be used to put out small house fires.

I would never consider wearing a dress. Not to make a statement against fashion and gender inequality. Not to show solidarity for Ian Jarman in his fight against sex discrimination. Not even if I just wanted to feel pretty.

They just make my butt look big.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Mistaken Identity Leads to Wrong Haircut

Last week, someone stole my haircut, and left me theirs.

No, seriously. A case of mistaken identity led to me getting a buzz cut like I haven't seen since I was seven and my mom gave me a summer crewcut.

I went to my local men's hair care place. I won't name it, but will say they often show televised SPORTS while a stylist CLIPS your hair. They also store your name on the computer, along with the kind of haircut you usually get. Sort of like haircut records.

There were several other men waiting for their turn, so I signed in and sat down. Ten minutes later, a stylist — I'll call her Betty — walks out and calls "Erik?"

A guy next to me says, "Yes, that's me." He stands up and walks back with Betty.

Betty, I found out later, asked the guy, "Is your last name Deckers?"

"Yes," he said.

I should have been suspicious from the very beginning. It turned out this man wasn't named Erik at all. He was a fake.

His name was actually Eric, which is completely different. Note the disreputable 'C' in his name. I should have been tipped off, because he had shifty eyes that made him look like he was casing the joint. Men who spell Eric with a 'C' have a suspicious look about them. But I always assume the best of people, and I thought nothing of his sinister behavior.

After several minutes, the other Erik/Eric left, looking pleased with himself, like he had received a special gift that wasn't meant for him.

Betty came back out. "Erik?" I stood up.

As we walked back, she asked, "You get the four all over, right?"

I didn't know what this was. I assumed it was some haircut record code that signified my particular dashing style. Turns out it means using the 1/4 inch guard all over your head.

"I guess?" I half-asked, not sure what to say.

Betty pulled out the clippers and went to work.

When I tell this story, people have asked, "didn't the clippers tip you off to the problem?"

Sadly, no. My hair is thick and lustrous, and often requires an initial clipping just to lighten the bulk, so their scissors can cut more easily.

After a few minutes, Betty said, "I'm nearly done. Tell me what you think."

"Done?!" I thought. "What about the scissors?" I reached up and felt my hair.

"That's a lot shorter than I usually get," I said, trying to hide the worry in my voice.

"What do you usually get?" asked Betty.

"What I came in with, only shorter!"

"Aren't you Eric Demara?" (Not his real last name).

"No, I'm Erik Deckers."

Betty showed me his haircut record: "Eric Demara. 4 All Over."

"Oh God." The blood drained from my face.

Betty could not apologize enough. She explained what had happened, how she had asked the other guy if his last name was Deckers, and blah blah blah, and all I could think was "none of this is making my hair grow back."

But I said nothing. I was in shock.

Then Betty said, "This haircut is on me."

I thought, "No, it's on me, for the next six to eight weeks." I still said nothing.

She asked, "Do you want me to trim your sideburns?"

"No, thank you." I just wanted to get out of there.

"Do you want me to trim your eyebrows?"

"No, because I want to keep them," my brain shouted. But I just said "no, thank you."

When I got home, I emailed the owner, who I've known for a few years, and told him what happened. After a couple back and forth emails, in which he apologized several times too, I asked him not to do anything to Betty. It wasn't her fault.

She did everything she was supposed to, I said. She asked the fake Eric if his last name was Deckers, and he said it was. What should she have done, accuse him of lying? Tell me I was too handsome to get the "4 All Over" and to try something else?

No, in the end, the fault belongs to Eric Demara for not knowing his own last name. If he had just listened, I'd have my regular haircut, and I would be happy.

My biggest regret, other than having the haircut of a retired Army colonel, is that Eric Demara is probably looking in his bathroom mirror right now, thinking, "You know, I look pretty awesome. I'm glad I didn't get my usual stupid haircut."

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Evil Henchmen To Strike, Issue Demands

Dear Dr. Sinestro:

Due to the unwillingness of management to meet our reasonable demands, or to engage in rational, non-violent discussion that does not involve lasers, the minions of the Sinestro company have no choice but to organize a strike which will begin at exactly 12:00 midnight, Monday, December 2, 2013, and continue until we can reach a reasonable agreement on several core issues.

The strike is being organized by, and will have the full support of, the Amalgamated Union of Minions, Lackeys, and Henchmen, Local 287. We have also been offered assistance by the International Federation of Gun Molls, the Alliance of Sidekicks and Junior Partners, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. Our minions have received strike kits, and we will receive strike pay to replace our already-meager salaries — one of our core issues.

We have also taken the regretful, but very necessary step of filing charges of unfair labor practices with the California Labor Board. While our original filing, and the CLB office building, seem to have been devoured by a giant mutant platypus, the case was already entered electronically, and one of their many branch offices will handle the matter. We have been asked by the CLB not to disclose which one until the surviving members of the panel convene to hear our charges.

State labor regulations stipulate that, as a result of our filing, management may not hire replacement minions while the case is being decided. We believe this is a necessary step to take, and that management will realize that we are indispensable to the day-to-day running of Sinestro Corp, and its subsidiary, Facebook.

In the past, our demands have been met with dismissive replies of "BAH!" and "Dr. Sinestro has no need of labor negotiations." Two weeks ago, management even ejected Minion 29164 (aka Ken Sanderson) into the lava pit.

We also strenuously object to management’s ham-fisted reliance on using attack badgers during staff performance reviews, spraying workers with zombie gas to mitigate inter-departmental conflicts, and the use of Minions as human shields while management makes yet another last-minute escape from the Guardians, the Scarlet Paladin, or Captain Liberty.

For the duration of our strike, we will picket the Sinestro Secret Headquarters at 2317 Oak Street (across from the In-N-Out Burger), until the following demands are met:

  • Increased uniform allowance by 30%.
  • Improved safety gear, including laser glare-reducing goggles.
  • Paid holidays off, plus a free day for birthdays.
  • Remove all laser piranha from the 3rd floor water cooler.
  • Death and dismemberment benefits for families, including same-sex couples.
  • Dental.

Striking workers will picket on the sidewalk — which is considered public property; we have also obtained the necessary permits from the city, and they are being kept on file in an undisclosed location — on a 24 hour basis, and will prevent any attempts to bring in replacement workers (scabs) or deliveries of robot replacements.

Further, while we are normally opposed to their cause and everything they stand for, several associate members of the Guardians will provide security for our picket line, in case management employs zombie strike busters to disrupt our lawful gathering.

We believe that our cause is important and just, and we, as employees of Sinestro's Global Empire and Hair Care Products, need to know that the company cares about our health and well-being. We hope for an immediate and peaceful solution (especially one that doesn't involve lava pits), so we may renew a close working relationship with management once more.


Minion 37894 (aka Kelly Larson),
Chief Doomsday Countdown Technician and Shop Steward

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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Friday, November 08, 2013

Stupid Spy Versus Stupid Spy

Have you ever been making out with someone, stolen a quick glance to see what they're doing, only to realize they're also stealing a quick glance?

Of course you haven't! Who does that?

I'm, uh, only asking for a friend. His name is, uh, Johnny Macintosh.

Back in the 1980s, comedian Rich Hall wrote several books called Sniglets, and he called this situation "glantics."

You couldn't really point out that you knew the other person was looking, or that you knew that they knew that you knew, because it would completely ruin the moment.

Or so I've been told.

At the same time, you couldn't just let the look go unspoken, because you were thinking about it, wondering what the other person was thinking. And he or she was wondering what you were thinking. It would get in your head and that's all you can think about, which is saying something, considering what you were doing at the moment.

I was reminded of glantics when I heard the latest story about how Brazil got caught spying on several foreign diplomats, just a matter of weeks after they canceled a presidential trip to the United States after learning our National Security Agency was spying on them.

What do you call that, espiontics? Surveillantics? Staggering hypocrisy. . . antics?

According to a story from the BBC, it was revealed that operatives from Brazil's national intelligence agency, Abin, had been following and photographing American, Iranian, and Russian diplomats. The New York Times said that puts Brazil in an "uncomfortable position."

That's because Brazil had already expressed outrage after we were caught spying on Brazil (and many other countries) by reading companies' and government emails and listening to their phone calls. And now they were caught spying on diplomats working in their country.

In Brazil's case, the NSA had hacked into the computer network of their state-run oil company, Petrobras, so they could monitor emails and telephone calls. In their defense, the NSA originally thought they were hacking into a brassiere manufacturer.

After the news about the NSA broke, Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff postponed a visit to the United States, which we knew several hours before he announced it.

Jose Eduardo Cardoso, Brazil's justice minister, told reporters that the NSA's spying activities were "an affront to Brazilian sovereignty."

But he said that Brazil's spying activities were "completely different." They weren't spying per se, said Cardoso. Rather Brazil was conducting "counter-intelligence" operations so they could "verify whether other countries" were spying on them.

In other words, "I was only hiding in your bushes to see if you would try to hide in my bushes. Your spying cancels out our spying, so that's, like, totes different."

I question the logic of Cardoso's defense, however. If the diplomats in question were easily followed and photographed, then they were either 1) very bad spies, or 2) not spies.

If he's correct though, then Brazil's spy network must consist of four Barney Fife-types and a point-and-shoot digital camera. And their agency didn't so much leak that they were spying on the diplomats, as someone had accidentally left behind a folder marked "Top Secret Spy Plans. Keep Out! This Means YOU!"

In what can only be called a major fit of global irony, reports about the Brazilian "counter intelligence," which Abin confirmed, were leaked to the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper. Abin later received a bouquet of flowers and box of chocolates with a note that read, "Dear Brazil, Now you know how it feels to get ratted out. Suck it, hypocrites. The United States."

Actually, the U.S. State Department was pretty okay with the whole "counter intelligence" thing. Maybe it's because they weren't in a position to actually point any fingers at anyone, maybe it's because they were secretly filling out mail-in cards for bedwetting cures and adult magazines.

"As we have indicated in the past, all nations gather foreign intelligence," said the U.S. State Department, without rolling its eyes. "So we're still good, right? I mean, you can't say what we did was bad and what you did was okay. That's totally hypocritical, bro."

I don't agree with the NSA spying on its own citizens in an attempt to keep us safe (we're still supposed to have our civil liberties) or other countries (they have their sovereignty). But I also don't believe Brazil's "counter intelligence" claim that they were only checking to see if they were being spied on.

Save the lame excuses for when your wife catches you "interrogating" her best friend.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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Friday, November 01, 2013

Tater Tillers In a Tizzy Over Term

Erik caught a cold from his family this week, and is lying in his deathbed, pointing an accusing finger at all of them. As we await his return next week, we're reprinting this column from 2005.

In this age of Political Correctness and perpetual victimhood, someone somewhere is always complaining about certain words or phrases.

"I don't know if I feel comfortable with that term," is the battle cry of the PC whiner.

Then they express concern over the word "battle cry," because of its violent overtones.

And then wonder why they were picked on by playground bullies.

The latest PC whiners are complaining about couch potatoes.

British potato farmers are concerned that the term "couch potato" is doing irreparable harm to their tubby tuber. They're afraid the image of a slovenly fat guy slumped on his sofa, watching Baywatch reruns will have a negative impact on the image of a potato as a healthy food item. So they're demanding the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) strike the offending term from its pages.

This past June, 30 British tater tillers protested outside Parliament to publicize their efforts at reforming the image of their cash crop.

A couch potato is defined by the OED as "a person who spends leisure time passively or idly sitting around, especially watching television or video tapes." A British potato farmer is defined as "a bunch of whiny crybabies with too much time on their hands."

"We are trying to get rid of the image that potatoes are bad for you," said Kathryn Race, head of marketing at the British Potato Council (official motto: "No, not a council for British potatoes.")

Actually, no one has ever said that potatoes are bad for you. Eating deep-fried slices of potatoes every day for 30 years is bad for you, but that's a different story.

The last time the British Potato Council made the news was after a much-publicized street brawl with the British Lightly Breaded and Deep Fried Fish Council, which caused fish and chip sales to plummet nearly 60%.

The protesting spud studs seem to have generated some strong interest in their cause. Not only has Nigel Evans, Member of Parliament for the Ribble Valley in Lancashire, offered legislation in support of the anti-couch potato movement, but Antony Worrall Thompon, an alleged British celebrity gourmet chef, was also at the protest. "Potatoes are one of the UK's favorite foods — not only are they healthy, they are versatile, convenient, and taste great too. Life without potato is like a sandwich without filling," he told reporters.

He then held his hand up to his face like a phone and said, "Call me, Food Network!"

Recliner manufacturers are also joining the protest movement. Earl Roosevelt, Chief Marketing Officer for Lazy Guy Recliners, actually ran across the street to speak to a reporter, pausing for a brief rest on the way.

"We don't see why couches should get all the attention. Reclining easy chairs have long been a place for people to kick back, relax, and spend evenings and weekends watching TV."

He then fell to the ground, gasping for breath.

Reporters also spoke with French potato farmer Jean-Claude Meunier. He was unconcerned about the entire affair, since the French term for couch potato is actually American.

"Hey, we're just glad you guys quit saying 'Freedom Fries,'" Meunier told a reporter from the Washington Post.

Race did concede, "Of course it is not the Oxford English Dictionary's fault, but we want to use another term because potatoes are healthy."

The campaign is also backed by nutritionists who say the vegetable is low-fat and is high in vitamin C. They also believe cookies are a "sometimes food," so I don't trust them.

"(Couch potato) is a very derogatory term, which potato growers find very offensive, and I can see why," said Worrall Thompson. "The potato is very healthy. It should be part of a balanced diet."

It's good to see British potato farmers tackling important issues, like whether the word potato is being used to mean someone who's slothful and lazy.

I'm glad the 4000 members of the British Potato Council think striking "couch potato" from the dictionary is so much more important to the planet than, say, getting large shipments of potatoes to Sudan and Ethiopia, or other parts of the world where people are starving.

Thank you, British Potato Council for making us aware of how damaging and harmful the term "couch potato" is, and not, you know, helping people who actually need it.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Long Island Middle School Bans Childhood

It seems Weber Middle School on Port Washington, Long Island hates children and wants them to get fat.

Earlier this month, the school banned footballs, soccer balls, and baseballs. They also banned games of tag and cartwheels unless an adult supervisor is present.

School administrators cited an overinflated, unreasonable fear of serious injuries, despite the fact that nearly every child in the history of the world has survived playing tag, doing cartwheels, and playing with footballs and soccer balls.

According to a story on CBS 2 News' website, they told students no more football, "hard soccer balls," baseballs, lacrosse balls, and that adults had to watch the kids play tag or do cartwheels, because as everyone knows, no child has ever been injured while an adult watches disinterestedly from several feet away.

However, to show that they still understand that children need to burn off energy, they allowed soft Nerf balls, because "the softer foam balls put students in the best situation to cut down the chance of getting injured."

Apparently they're not concerned about foam poisoning.

Port Washington schools superintendent Kathleen Maloney told CBS 2 they created the policy because they felt the community's helicopter parents weren't doing enough to ruin their own children's lives, so administrators decided to see if they could ruin everyone's.

Actually, what she said was "Some of these injuries can unintentionally become very serious, so we want to make sure our children have fun, but are also protected." Then she cackled, "everything I just said was true except for wanting our children to have fun."

But the Weber students aren't taking this lying down. At least not until administrators force them to sleep in those slime-filled pods from "The Matrix."

"I think we need the soccer balls, the footballs and everything, so we can have some fun," one student told CBS 2.

School administrators say that without protective gear, such as helmets and kneepads, children are more likely to get injured. This may be true, but no kid wants to go through childhood wearing a helmet and protective harness whenever they leave the house like Phillip the hyper hypo kid from Saturday Night Live.

"Children's safety is paramount, but at the same time, you have to let them live life," said Ellen Cohen, a Weber parent. Many parents echoed Cohen's sentiments, and said this was yet one more case of interfering lawyers wringing their hands about liability issues, instead of letting kids do the one thing that comes naturally to them: mildly injuring themselves.

Or as Arthur Caplan and Lee Iger wrote in Forbes, "(t)he idea that attorneys should decide what goes on during recess is akin to asking accountants to decide what would be the best way to spend your money at an amusement park."

But it's only going to get worse before it gets better: several school districts from Long Island have already been in touch with the school, possibly considering banning childhood from — and raising fat kids in — their own schools.

As the years continue to waddle by, there is less and less incentive for kids to go outside, thanks to 500 channels of TV, epic-length video games, and helicopter parents who won't let their precious snowflakes go past the driveway, kids will only continue to get fatter.

And no matter how many times First Lady Michelle Obama tells us to Just Say No to cheeseburgers, kids who don't engage in physical activity when they're young won't know how it's done when they're adults.

It's an ongoing problem. Schools cut physical education because George W. Bush didn't want to leave any kids behind. The problem is now many of them are too fat to keep up. Then schools started cutting down on games like kickball and football, because kids might get hurt. And now they're coming after balls and harmless games and activities.

To top it off, you get doctors like Salvatore Pardo who, on one hand, think kids shouldn't play unless they have helmets and body armor, and on the other, scratch their cotton-filled heads and wonder why there's a childhood obesity epidemic.

The two groups of people who are supposed to make sure kids have a fun childhood are now the same two groups responsible for ruining it. The whole point of childhood is to play and have fun, not to waddle through life wrapped up in bubble wrap and a parent's terror.

Because if Weber Middle School and these other school districts have their way, we'll have so many fat kids in the United States, the planet will tilt on its axis and send us spinning into the sun.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Press Releases and Perennial Rivalries

(Kansas City, MO)—The Rose and Crown Nursery, Kansas City's leading garden center, is pleased to announce the arrival of their brand new, never-before-seen heirloom tulip species, the Tulipa Mendacem, just in time for the fall planting season.

"We're very excited about Tulipa Mendacem," said Adelia Blanda, owner of the Rose and Crown. "This is a very special flower we helped develop over the last four years, and we're introducing it to the world this week."

Blanda says the new tulips promise to be brighter and more vibrant than any others available in the greater Kansas City area.

(Kansas City, KS)—Thea's Tulips, Kansas City's number one garden center, today announced the arrival of their new species of tulips, Tulipa Dolus, making them the first ever nursery in the United States to create their own species.

Miriam Dumalis, owner of Thea's Tulips, said, "Regardless of what you've heard in local gardening news, we have developed the first and only new species of tulips in the last 23 years. We worked closely with leading botanists from Cornell University to develop Tulipa Dolus, and they have assured us that no one else is even close to creating another species."

According to Dumalis, the Tulipa Dolus has been in development for five years.

(Kansas City, MO)—The Rose and Crown Nursery, which has been voted metro Kansas City's best garden center for the last eight years, continues to correct erroneous propaganda about their new Tulipa Mendacem.

"I don't know what kind of cow fertilizer other people are spreading, said Adelia Blanda. "We have been working with Dutch botanists from Leiden University on our new flower, although our original research started in our own labs six years ago."

Blanda has consulted an intellectual property attorney, and is considering legal action against any fraudsters and con artists who try to pass off ordinary tulip bulbs as a new species.

(Kansas City, KS)—Thea's Tulips, which carries more roses, orchids, and lilies than any nursery in the metro Kansas area, says they can provide documented proof that they began their initial tulip breeding research seven years, eight months, and 26 days ago.

"Any claims by other so-called garden centers to have a new tulip species must be sniffing their own non-organic chemical fertilizer," said Miriam Dumalis, owner of Thea's Tulips for the last 19 highly profitable years.

Dumalis said they have applied for a patent on the Tulipa Dolus and have already secured a place of honor at Holland's Tulip Time Festival next May.

(Kansas City, MO)—The Rose and Crown Nursery, champion of the Twin Cities' Arbor Day Softball Tournament, says that just because a nursery carries a lot of different flowers and plants doesn't mean they're able to sell them all before the season ends.

"There are some garden centers whose compost is a lovely smell of roses, orchids, and lilies," said Adelia Blanda, award-winning owner and designer of Thea's Tulips, which she inherited from her mother Thea 23 years ago. "We're actually going to skip Holland's festival next year, because it's too small. Instead, our new species will be the featured flower at the world's largest tulip festival, the Canadian Tulip Festival in Gatineau, Quebec."

(Kansas City, KS)—Thea's Tulips, which doesn't give a hoot about softball because they prefer a more genteel pastime, instead spends its days working with elite clientele who, if KCMO were on fire, would not cross the river to spit on it.

"There may be plants and flowers available on that side of the river," said Miriam Dumalis, who worked hard for everything she has and was never given her business on a silver platter. "But that doesn't mean they're any good. I can't tell you how many Rose and Crown customers have asked us, begged us, to haul away their dead plants two weeks after being planted by Rose and Crown's so-called 'gardeners,' who must have been drunk when they were planting."

(Kansas City, MO)—The Rose and Crown Nursery thinks Thea's Tulips is a haggard old witch who grinds up its customers and sells them as badger repellent. Like everything else they sell, the badger repellent clearly doesn't work, since Thea's staff continues to show up at work every day.

"Seriously, there are stories about customers who go in to complain about their constantly-dying flowers, and are never heard from again," said one source who wished to remain anonymous because she was in fear for her life.

(Kansas City, KS)—Harpy.

(Kansas City, MO)—Shrew.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Are You Phubbing Me?

Have you ever been sitting with a friend or family member while they constantly check their phone, send texts, tweet, or post Facebook status updates? Of course you have.

You've been "phubbed." Your friend or family member is "phubbing" you.

At least that's what Macquarie Dictionary of Australia (official motto: "Yes, we have dictionaries in Australia.") and the McCann global marketing agency wants you to call it. Macquarie and McCann are working together to spread the word around the globe through a year-long guerrilla marketing campaign.

I phub, I will phub, I have phubbed.

(The more I look at the word, the more I keep pronouncing it puh-hub.)

The Macquarie Dictionary wants to make people aware of how important language usage is, and for us to understand what it takes to create a new word. So they created the word "phubbing" with the help of lexicographers, poets, and authors during a consortium, because if anyone can create a catchy new word, it's a bunch of word nerds trying to reach consensus on a committee.

Macquarie then asked McCann to helped them push "phubbing" out around the world. McCann built the website, created a Facebook page, and launched a PR campaign to reach out to reporters about the Stop Phubbing campaign whenever anyone wrote a news article about mobile phone etiquette.

There are a lot of articles about mobile phone etiquette, since people are typically rude about using their phone when they're with family. Or I think that's what my wife told me the last time we were out to dinner. I think she even told me to put down my "phubbing phone."

See, it's catching on already.

McCann has had a lot of success, placing stories all around the United States, Latin America, Great Britain, and Australia.

They even set up a voting system, asking if people were for or against phubbing. As of the latest count, 81% of respondents were against phubbing. The remaining 19% haven't yet looked up from their phones to see that their friends left an hour ago.

But according to an article in AdAge magazine (official motto: "No, not adage, Ad. Age. Two words!"), while everyone knew McCann was behind the campaign, no one knew Macquarie Dictionary was the one pulling all the strings.

The AdAge article said Macquarie wanted people to understand "the importance of words to explain social phenomena — and the importance of having an updated dictionary that captures those words."

This falls into the problem many people have with dictionaries. Are they "proscriptive" or "descriptive?" Do they tell you how a word should be used, or should they inform you how other people use a word? Are they the arbiter of what is correct, or are they a "mirror to society?" In this case, Macquarie wants to be proscriptive, and to get people to use this new word (and then buy the dictionary that has it).

Of course, many people wonder why they need a print dictionary in the first place. They're big, heavy, and not much use beyond looking up words or throwing at zombies. Even then you have to choose between a heavier, deadlier dictionary that has all the words you need, compared to a lighter dictionary that's easier to throw, but doesn't have the impact of the larger one.

Also, it doesn't contain words like "witzelsucht," which means "feeble attempt at humor."

As in, "this week's column is one giant witzelsucht."

It looks like the print dictionary is going the way of the dodo. The Oxford English Dictionary said in 2010 that they will no longer produce a print version, while the Macmillan Dictionary stopped printing last year. (The Andwife companion dictionary ceased publication in 2003.)

The benefits of an online-only dictionary are numerous: they can be updated more frequently, errors can be fixed as soon as they're spotted, and they're more likely to be unabridged, which means your kids can look up dirty words more easily.

Sure they could just use the regular Internet to learn those words (plus a whole lot more interesting things), but having a dictionary gives the words a certain academic panache that you just don't get with something as pedestrian and unreliable as

But despite McCann's best efforts, "phubbing" doesn't seem to be taking off. Until this week, I wasn't even aware that "phubbing" was a word. Or that Macquarie had a dictionary.

Or what witzelsucht meant. Until now, I just thought it was the pet name Mrs. Steinbacher, my high school German teacher, had given me.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on


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Friday, October 04, 2013

Florida Boy, Common Sense Suspended Over Finger Gun

There's a great scene in the beginning of the 1997 movie, "Bean." Mr. Bean, played by Rowan Atkinson, arrives in the Los Angeles airport from England. When Bean, who's got the maturity of an 8-year-old, sees some armed police officers, he pretends he's similarly armed by making a finger gun and sliding it in and out of his jacket.

The police, who believe he has a real gun, surround him and point their guns at him. They order Bean to slowly remove the gun and lay it on the ground. He carefully pulls out his finger gun, sets it on the floor, and steps back. Since he never really had a gun, they send him on his way.

We've gotten a lot dumber in the intervening 16 years.

Eight-year-old Florida student, Jordan Bennett, was suspended from school for "simulating a gun with his finger." They kicked him out for pointing a finger and sticking up his thumb.

Miley Cyrus simulates "personal intercourse" with a foam finger on MTV's Video Music Awards, and not only can we not stop talking about it, but her album sales are through the roof.

Jordan said he was playing cops and robbers with his friends, and he pointed his finger gun at one of them and made "pkew! pkew!" sounds. So the principal suspended him immediately, citing their Zero Tolerance policy against all weapons, real, replica, or even invisible.

Yes, the Osceola County (Florida) school district has a policy that "prohibits students from playing with invisible guns."

"Look out! He's got a finger! Where the hell's the pretend SWAT team? I need somebody with a rock on the monkey bars NOW!"

Zero Tolerance just keeps getting worse. Last month, two 12-year-old boys in Virginia were supsended until the end of the school year for playing with airsoft guns in one of the boy's yards as they waited for their bus. School officials there said their zero tolerance policy extended to privacy property, which I'm sure had privacy advocates and libertarians in an uproar.

It also puts Virginia in the lead for stupidest decision of the year. But don't worry, Florida, you still have plenty of time to mount a comeback. It'll be like handing Peyton Manning the ball with eight minutes to go in the 4th quarter when the Broncos are down by one point.

I agree that the issue of violence in schools is a pressing one. There have been too many school shootings in the last 10 years for this to be taken lightly. Actual weapons of any kind should not be allowed in schools. (And yet some schools in Georgia are considering putting AR-15-type rifles in their schools in case a gunman starts attacking their schools.)

However, I think school administrators should be able to use some common sense judgment to make a distinction between a real gun that fires real bullets and a little boy's finger.

Even the Osceola School Board chairman thought this was stupid. Chairman Jay Wheeler told WFTV 9 News, "You got to treat it with a grain of salt. At the same time, I think that getting a parent involved if there's a real concern is the appropriate thing."

The parent in question is Bonnie Bennett, Jordan's mother, who thinks the whole thing was blown out of proportion.

"He didn't threaten violence," she told WFTV. "He didn't utter words that were inappropriate. He made a sound and used his fingers and that was it."

And it wasn't even that finger either, which will get you in trouble, but apparently won't get you suspended.

But we're not taking the whole situation into account, said Dana Schafer, a spokesperson for the school told WESH 2 in Orlando.

"It's not just a threat of finger guns. The principal looks at the totality of the incident, what occurred before, during, and after, and whether other students felt threatened," Schafer said.

I'm guessing that what happened before is a kid said "let's play cops and robbers. You be the robber!" Then they pulled out their finger guns and started going "pkew! pkew!" After, they argued about who shot each other and that "you're dead! No, you're dead!"

As to whether a child felt threatened, show me a kid who feels threated by a finger gun and I'll show you a kid who'll be living with his mother when he's 40.

Maybe instead of playing cops and robbers, Jordan and his friends should have played Reformed Criminals and the Group Therapy Counselor.

Or maybe the whole problem could have been averted if the Harmony School had been allowed to put sticks in their schools that could be used as pretend rifles.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My new book, The Owned Media Doctrine, is available on Amazon.


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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Indiana Fever Advance to Eastern Conference Finals

The Indiana Fever have advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, after sweeping the Chicago Sky, 2 – 0, in a best-of-3 series. The first defeat happened this past Friday night when the Fever rolled over the Sky, 85 – 72, in front of a seriously-lacking hometown crowd. My kids and I watched the game on TV, and we were surprised by the lack of a crowd at the game.

We had a chance to watch the Fever on Sunday at Banker's Life Fieldhouse. My son and I were on a travel writing trip in Bloomington, and we were given the tickets at the last minute (courtesy of the Indiana Fever), so we cut our trip short, raced home, and ended up missing the first few minutes of the first quarter.

I had been communicating with Fever PR guy Kevin Messenger during the last home game of the season, asking him whether the team was looking more forward to facing Chicago or Atlanta in the first round of the finals. He said the Fever were 3 – 1 against the Sky in the regular season, but both teams were plagued by injuries for most of the encounters, which had a lot to do with the record. He said the team actually preferred the player-to-player matchup against the Atlanta Dream, even though the team was 1 – 3 against them.

It looks like the team may get their wish, since the Fever will play the winners of the Dream-Washington Mystics series. (My money is on the Dream to make it through to the Eastern conference finals.)

But tonight, I just felt bad for the Chicago Sky. This was their first playoff appearance in team history, and it showed. It showed in their inexperience, their nerves, and in their execution. They actually looked a little worried and tentative. For the Fever, on the other hand, this was old hat for them. They're used to postseason play. And last year's team, the team that won the finals, had nearly every player back this year. This is a stellar team, and I fully expect to see them in the Finals again this year.

Three Fever players were in double digits — Tamika Catchings (18), Erlana Larkins (14), and Shavonte Zellous (10) — while Catchings and Larkins both had double digit rebounds, with 12 and 11 respectively. It was Catchings' 20th career double-double in the playoffs, which is a WNBA record. This was also the fourth time the Fever have had two double-doubles in one playoff game.

Everyone else on the team managed to score several points, including players like Layshia Clarendon scoring 9 points, which is one of her highest point totals of the season. Unfortunately, Jasmine Hassell had no points and only 1 rebound. I'm still waiting to see her blossom soon. I was especially surprised that they let Jessica Breland go when Katie Douglas came back, and then brought back Hassell. Given Breland's productivity on the court, she seemed like the most obvious choice. But as I've said to my kids, there must be some hidden diamonds that coach Lin Dunn sees and knows she needs, so we're going to wait and see if Dunn and her staff can mine it and bring it out of her.

Of course, it's not a Fever game if the refs don't screw up at least one call, and they had a couple of doozies this time. Nothing too bad — it's not like football where a blown call can result in a touchdown unfairly gained or lost, and a game can be lost. The Fever more than recovered, and put the occasional errors behind them.

Of course, there were a couple penalties they probably deserved. . .

(That tweet got Shavonte Zellous to follow me! It was a proud day.)

Update: The Atlanta Dream have beaten the Washington Mystics and will face the Fever in Atlanta on Thursday. This is another best-of-3 series, and the winner goes on to the finals.

So, this Thursday is a matchup of one of the Fever's biggest rivals, the game that brings the most yells and screams from a Fever crowd. Whether we're watching it live or watching it on TV, we'll be watching every second of every game until the playoffs are over or until the Fever go home.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My new book, The Owned Media Doctrine, came out in September 2013.


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Friday, September 20, 2013

Karl the Curmudgeon Hates Crickets

"Did you hear that?" asked Karl, leaning forward in his deck chair, eyes wide, searching.

Hear what? I asked.

"Listen," he hissed. "Crickets!"

Oh, I thought that was the laugh track to your jokes tonight, I said. Karl told me to what I could do with myself.

It's just crickets, man. What's the big deal?

"It's not just crickets, Kid. It's that cricket. Right there." He jabbed a finger at his yard. We were sitting on the back porch at his house. He had grilled a couple of steaks to celebrate the launch of his latest mystery novel, "Naked Came The Jaybird," and now we were sitting in the dark, drinking beer, and listening to the night noises.

Which Karl hated.

"It's just that one cricket, "he said, looking around as if the offending insect was about to stand up and identify himself. "He's been chirping like that for the last four nights. I can't find him, can't get him to stop." Karl rubbed hard at his face.

"That damn thing is going to drive me crazy, Kid."

Have you tried stomping on him?

"Two nights ago, my neighbor nearly called the police because he saw me out here in my robe, marching up and down that part of my yard, trying to stomp the damn thing. He was worried I'd gone off my meds."

I've worried about that for years. What about spraying insecticide?

"No can do, Kid. She won't let me." Karl jerked his thumb at the house. "She" was his youngest daughter, Alexis, the family's organic vegan anti-chemical evangelist who was currently living at home because her Gender Studies degree from her small liberal arts college was proving to be less attractive to employers than she had previously thought.

What about spraying it with water?

"Tried it. I'm also not supposed to leave the water on all night either, apparently. I haven't slept well for the last three nights."

Surely Alexis must be suffering too.

"Of course not. She said it reminds her of fall evenings at college. She's even taken to sleeping with the window open so she can 'feel closer to Gaia.'" He made air quotes with his fingers.

A second cricket joined in, thinking it must be a party.

"Shut up you f---ing crickets!" Karl shouted and threw a few empty beer bottles toward the noise. We heard from inside, "Typical male behavior. Using violence and befouling the earth to beat nature into submission."

Ah, I see Her Nibs is home tonight, I said to Karl. I had been on the receiving end of more than one of Miss Alexis' rants before. They were about as shrill and incessant as the crickets, except the crickets stopped at sunrise.

"Yes, she is," Alexis called from the kitchen window. "And she can hear you."

Karl and I grimaced at each other. Hey, Lex, I said. Night off from the coffee shop?

I heard her mutter something about her father's disreputable drunken friends as she stomped off. I was counting that as a win.

Hey, I'm not drunk, I called after her.

"Kid, I don't know how much longer I can take this. That incessant noise just won't let up. It's like an ice pick in my skull."

It's not that bad, I said. She'll find a real job soon, and get a place of her own—

"Not that, the crickets." He paused. "But yeah, that's pretty bad too."

He drained the last of his beer, and cocked back to throw. "Dear Lord, please guide my hand so that I may end my torment."

So you're asking God to help you kill one of God's creatures?

"He'll understand."

I thought you were agnostic.

"Kid, I'm desperate. I haven't slept well in 72 hours."

I guess there are no atheists on porches, I said. Karl threw his bottle and it bounced off the side of the house. The chirping stopped. "Touchdown!" he shouted, throwing his arms up.

"What happened to my crickets?" Alexis shouted from her upstairs window. "I can't sleep without my crickets."

"Sorry, honey. It was God's will."

"You're agnostic."

"There are no atheists on porches," he answered, stealing my joke.

The crickets started back up again.

See? I said you weren't that funny.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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Friday, September 13, 2013

Indiana Fever Playoff Scenario; Fever to Play NY Liberty Tonight

From the Indiana Fever PR folks and their pre-game notes:

A Fever win over the Liberty would be its fourth win in six games while sending New York to its fifth straight defeat. A loss would be Indiana’s second in-a-row.

Indiana is playing for the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Eastern Conference playoffs. Indiana has been eliminated from No. 2 seed consideration following its Tuesday loss to Washington.


  • If the Fever ties with the Washington Mystics (15-17), Indiana would win a head-to-head tiebreaker by virtue of its better conference record (currently 10-10 vs. 8-12). Both teams close the season against New York and Connecticut.
  • A three-way tie for second place in the East still exists. In that scenario, Atlanta (17-15) would earn the No. 2 seed, by virtue of a better record (6-3) against the other two teams. Washington (4-5) would take the No. 3 seed and Indiana (3-5) would be seeded No. 4.
  • Atlanta wins a two-way tie between the Fever and Dream, by virtue of the Dream’s 3-1 series record.

Personally, I want to see the Fever keep fourth place IF the Chicago Sky are in fourth. The Fever are 3–1 against the Sky, but are 1–3 against the Dream. So if the Fever play Chicago in the first round, history is on their side of making it to the second round. If they face the Dream in the first round, I'll be a little more worried.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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Quiz Time: Guy, Gent, or Schlub?

A disturbing trend of male-ness is growing in this country, one that threatens to overwhelm all other forms of maledom, like a rampant fungus.

The Schlub.

We met Metrosexuals in the mid-90s, learned that Real Men Don't Eat Quiche in the early '80s, while Manly Men made a comeback in the early 2010s, mostly as a backlash against the Sensitive Man who became popular in the 90s. And the well-heeled Gentleman makes a quiet appearance any time there's a new James Bond movie, or suits make yet another comeback.

But the Schlub has always just sort of been there. The boring, bland suburbanite with all the excitement and verve of an oyster.

Which are you, a Guy, a Gentleman, or a Schlub? Take this easy quiz and find out.

1. It's time to buy a new car. You've done your research, talked to your friends, and test driven a few likely candidates. What are you going to buy?
a) A pickup truck with 4-wheel drive and all-terrain tires.
b) A high-performance sports car, preferably European.
c) A mini-van for your wife, and you'll get her old one as a hand-me-down.

2. A man's home should be a reflection of his taste, but should also blend with his wife's or partner's preferences. What does your home look like?
a) Traditional colors, hardwood floors, and high-quality furniture. Comfort rules.
b) Modern design, sleek lines, white carpet. Form over function.
c) Isn't the ivy wallpaper pretty? My wife picked it out. She decorated everything in here.

3. A man's home may be his castle, but the garage is the one space he can truly call his own. It's where he goes when he wants to be alone, to putter, to tinker, to think. What do you keep in your garage?
a) All my tools and fishing gear, plus sports equipment from bygone days. Also, the recliner I can't bring in the house.
b) My high-performance European sports car, plus a tool kit I got as a gag gift.
c) My wife's doll collection. She even decorated the garage.

4. It's the weekend, and you and your family want to spend some quality time together, so you're going out to dinner. Where do you go?
a) To that new pizza place you've heard good things about.
b) Drop the kids at the in-laws and go out for French or sushi.
c) But the kids had Chuck-E-Cheese last week. Do we have to go there again? Fine, but I get to drive the new car.

5. Since it's dinner out with your family, you can wear your favorite outfit. What do you pick?
a) Favorite jeans, a t-shirt from your favorite band or sports team, and a baseball cap. And since you're at a restaurant, the hat is facing forward.
b) It's after 6:00 pm. Expensive slacks, dress shirt, and a sport coat. What am I, a farmer?
c) Your favorite vacation and weekend outfit: Baggy knee-length shorts and a short-sleeve button-down plaid shirt, plus your phone on your belt, and a Bluetooth headset in your ear to look cool.

6. The waitress comes to your table and asks you what you want to drink. You ask for:
a) A beer list. You pay particular attention to the local microbrews.
b) The sommelier's recommendation with tonight's special.
c) Regular Coke with a lemon, because it's the weekend, and you deserve to splurge a little. But tomorrow it's back to bottled water.

7. You're having a dinner party with some friends you don't see very often. Who do you invite?
a) Frat brothers from college, Moose, Wolfie, and Thumbs, and their wives.
b) Scintillating conversationalists from the arts, business, and the local university.
c) Some women your wife knows from her Mommy and Me group, and their families.

8. What are your favorite shoes to wear when you're just going out to run a few errands or hang out on the weekends?
a) Hiking boots.
b) Cole-Haan or Armani loafers.
c) Whatever your wife bought on sale at Kohls.

9. It's family movie night. What kind of movie do you choose?
a) It's a toss-up between a comedy and a superhero movie.
b) An art film that will expand everyone's horizons and teach them to appreciate other cultures.
c) Trick question. Every guy with kids becomes a schlub on family movie night. It's all Disney all the time.

How did you do? Give yourself 1 point for every A, 2 for every B, and 3 for every C. If you scored 10 – 16, you're a Guy, a real man's man. 17 - 23 points, a Gentleman through and through. 24 - 30, Schlub city.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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