Friday, April 26, 2013

When Baseball and Love Collide

It was a stereotype in movies and TV when I was growing up: new fathers showed up at the hospital with a tiny baseball glove for their day-old sons, secretly hoping they could play catch out in the hall before they all went home.

Even today, dads still want to play catch with their sons and daughters in the backyard before dinner. They sit in front of the TV with their young children and introduce them to baseball. They haul the entire family to the ballpark, to impart their love of the game, and instill the loyalty of their favorite team.

They buy tiny baby baseball hats and tiny baby baseball jerseys, and the kid grows up loving their dad's team, before they ever really have a chance to exercise their own decision making skills.

As Roger Angell said in his essay, "Three for the Tigers," everything dads do in their lives, they do so their sons will go to ball games with them.

So what do you do if it's mom who loves baseball?

And mom and dad love different teams?

From the same city?

Parents of mixed baseball loyalty in cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles — assuming The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are really from Los Angeles, and not, you know, Anaheim.

Parents of mixed-team marriages face a lot of uphill battles when their loyalties are divided. Either the couples become loud and obnoxious every summer, or an awkward silence settles over the dinner table at game time, especially when both teams are playing at night.

It's worse during interleague games, when the two teams face off against each other. Oftentimes, bragging rights for the household are on the line.

My brother and his wife face this struggle in Chicago as they raise their 1-year-old daughter. He grew up a rabid White Sox fan, while his wife and her family are lifelong Cubs supporters. I can tell you, there were some loud and serious discussions when she first informed her family of who she intended to marry.

(Not really, but I like to imagine there were.)

"How can you do this to us?" they hissed. "He's a. . . White Sox? White Sock? White Sox? What's the singular of Sox? Forget it. He's a damn Southsider! How could you bring that guy into our house?! He's a Veeck-head! Freaking Bill Veeck and his damn rent-a-players!"

"But I love him? We can get past that. We'll make it because we love each other more than baseball!"

"Love? You don't just marry a man for love. You have to know he's dependable. You have to know he'll be a good father to your kids. How are you going to raise the kids, when one follows the true Chicago team, and the other one is a. . . damn Sox? (Sock? Sox? Still doesn't sound right.)"

"We'll let them cheer for both teams, and when they're old enough, they can decide for themselves."

"Let them decide? Oh, that's rich! You can't let them decide. Raise a child up in the way of Ryno Sandberg; even when he is old, he will not depart from it."

"I don't see why we can't teach our children to respect both teams, and love both teams."

"Because there is only one true baseball team! All the others are fakes. As my father used to say, as for me and my family, we will watch the Cubs."

"I can't believe you're being so close-minded about this. I'm going to marry him, and if you keep pushing me like this, I may even become a White Sox fan myself!"

"You wouldn't!"

"I'm an adult! I can cheer for whoever I want!"

"I'm only glad your grandfather's not alive to hear you talk like that."

Meanwhile, on my brother's side, everything was pretty cool. The family was more liberal and open-minded, and even though his father had tried to teach him in the way of the Cincinnati Reds, my brother chose his own path to the White Sox when they all moved to Illinois.

And now their daughter is being taught to respect and love both teams. She has tiny baby caps from both teams, tiny baby jerseys from both teams, although my brother watches more White Sox games on TV with her.

Of course, she also has an uncle whose undying love for the Cincinnati Reds may cause some complications as she grows older.

"Johnny Bench, defend us in the playoffs; be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the St. Louis Cardinals."



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, April 19, 2013

Hit Any Key to Flush

Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting an article from 2003. While Microsoft USA originally denied the story, it was later revealed to be completely true. Coincidentally, this column helped him discover a plagiarist at a newspaper in Ontario, Canada.

Bringing new meaning to the slogan "Where would you like to go today?" Microsoft announced their plans to make toilets with web access.

I swear I am not making this up.

The new web-enabled toilet — called the iLoo — is being developed by the MSN division of Microsoft in Britain, where a toilet is called a "loo." The iLoo would be stationed in public toilets at British summer festivals, making its first appearance at the Glastonbury Festival in June.

And while some people may appreciate the seamless integration between technology and basic bodily functions, others aren't so wild about it.

"iPoo on iLoo" said one computer weblog.

The iLoo will have a wireless keyboard and height-adjustable plasma screen in front of the seat so iLoo users can sit and surf at the same time.

Will iLoo users be called iLosers?

There will also be a Hotmail (MSN's email service) station, complete with waterproof keyboard and plasma screen on the outside for those waiting in line.

There was no word whether the keyboard inside the iLoo would be waterproof.

MSN UK spokesman Matthew Whittingham called it the first "WWWC" referring to the European term for toilet: WC, or water closet.

MSN UK's marketing manager Tracy Blacher said, "People used to reach for a book or mag when they were on the loo, but now they'll be logging on."

Aside from Blacher's gaffe in mentioning "logging on" when referring to an Internet-based toilet, Microsoft may be taking the whole Internet thing a little too far.

"The Internet's so much a part of everyday life now that surfing on the loo was the next natural step," Blacher told reporters.

No, the next natural step is to surf the Internet in the car, in a phone booth, or through a cerebral implant lodged firmly in my brain, NOT in the toilet.

I can only imagine the planning meetings. Several sleep-deprived MSN executives were sitting around a conference table, trying desperately to come up with a new idea, and discarding the outrageous or impossible ones, like creating an operating system that doesn't freeze up or crash every 30 minutes.

Finally, one young executive, eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep, leaps to his feet and shouts "I know! Let's take a computer and stick it in — are you ready for this? — a PORT-A-POTTY!!"

Sounds great on paper, but I don't think Microsoft has considered all the drawbacks.

For instance, I'm one of those people who absolutely must wash their hands before leaving a bathroom, and I cringe whenever I see someone leave a public restroom without washing first. So I absolutely refuse to open the door without using a paper towel.

Problem #1 with the iLoo? Hygiene and cleanliness. Unless the iLoo keyboard comes with those disposable plastic covers, I'm not touching a keyboard that hundreds of other users touched after they. . . you know. Call me crazy, but I don't want to use the same computer other iLosers with poor personal hygiene and poor aim have had their germ-infested hands on.

MSN officials say they're also trying to get toilet paper imprinted with web addresses for users to visit. This is Problem #2, and it's a two-ply.

First, no self-respecting company should pay to advertise on toilet paper. They should be worried that iLosers will instead use their ads to make their feelings known about the company. So, if Microsoft is hoping to generate revenue from the iWipe (my term), they'd better not hold their breath. Although since the iLoo will be in a public Port-A-Potty, maybe they should.

Second, if they do get advertisers, it will probably be companies who pay to put their competitor's logos on the toilet paper, relying on the implied message of using that company for bathroom hygiene. If I were a politician, I'd gladly pay to put my opponent's face on a few thousand rolls of toilet paper.

While I applaud MSN UK's innovation and attempts to integrate the Internet more fully into our lives, they may be going too far. I'd rather see computer screens on a refrigerator, useful for finding recipes, or maintaining shopping lists. Web-enabled televisions, with the computer processor built right in would be a big seller. Even installing the Internet and a GPS finder in a car is a great idea, as it would make getting lost nearly impossible. But putting the Internet in a bathroom is crossing the line.

After all, it's the one place where we should all be unplugged.

(Note: I would like to take a minute and recognize the complete luck at my prediction in that next-to-last paragraph — the Internet and GPS finder in a car. You can do this to some degree with GPS and Internet radio, but the new Google driverless car is a few years from being commercially available.)

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, April 12, 2013

27 Things Every Dad Should Know or Have

Fellow humor writer Jenny Isenman recently offered her list of 40 things every mom needs to know by the time she's 40.

That got me to thinking about all the things that dads need to know, do, or have by the time they're 40. So here's my list, gleaned on my last 16 years of being a dad, and 45 years of being a son. But there are only 27 items, because Guys are simple and don't require as much stuff. Plus, I tend to ramble, and didn't have the space to get 40 items.

By 40-ish, dads should know, do, or have:

1. Three hammers. If you build stuff, you know that one hammer is not enough. If you live in a condo or apartment, then two hammers is acceptable.

2. A socket wrench set. You should also have a spark plug socket, even if you can't find the spark plugs in your car.

3. You should know how to find the spark plugs in your car.

4. Build something, whether it's a spice rack, a workbench, or an entire house.

5. Teach your kids to build something.

6. Teach your kids basic first aid, because you've never actually built anything before.

7.. Play catch with your kids, sons or daughters.

8. Take your kids to a baseball game.

9. Take your kids to another sporting event. It can be any sport you want, but every dad should still take his kids to a baseball game.

10. Instill in your child at a very early age the love of your favorite sports team. There is nothing wrong with making your child think you will love them less if they cheer for a division rival. (Note: Actually, that is very wrong. Please don't do that.)

11. Don't cringe when people call you "sir." They've been calling you that since you were 30.

12. Build a bookshelf. Bonus points if they're evenly spaced and level.

13. Fire a gun. You don't have to be a hunter, but you have to have pointed a firearm at something and pulled the trigger. Even if you're opposed to guns, go to a firing rang and squeeze off a few rounds, so you at least know what you're opposed to.

14. Go fishing. Bonus points if you actually catch something. More bonus points if you filet it and cook it.

15. Go camping. In a tent. Not an RV. Despite what the commercials say, sleeping in a hotel room on wheels is not camping.

16. An autographed piece of sporting paraphernalia. Whether it's a baseball, football, basketball, or any other piece of sporting gear, it needs to have a celebrity's autograph. And encased in one of those plastic boxes.

17. You should have a miter saw. (You don't actually need one, I do. My birthday is coming up, and I'm hoping my family will read this and get the hint.)

18. Driven at least one 1,000 mile car trip.

19. Threatened to turn the car around if the kids did not behave, or promised that there will be trouble if you have to stop the car.

20. Stood next to your child's room and hollered for him or her to come shut off their bedroom light.

21. Grilled steak or hamburgers on your grill. Chicken doesn't count. Veggie burgers definitely don't count.

22. Fretted about the thermostat setting. Declared that no one but you was allowed to touch it.

23. Told your kids or wife to "shut the door, we're not heating/cooling the outside."

24. Sat through interminable Disney movie after interminable Disney movie.

25. Cried at every Disney movie. Throw your back out trying to turn away so no one sees you.

26. Gotten a sports injury playing a sport you had no business playing at an age you had no business playing.

27. Have a tattoo. (Note: this is not actually necessary for every dad to have. I just want to get one, but my wife won't let me.)



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, April 05, 2013

Want to Quit Something? Quit Complaining

Pittsburgh high school senior, Suzy Weiss, is bitter — BITTER! — at America's Ivy League schools because she didn't get admitted to her dream college. So she ranted at all colleges in the country in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece.

"For years," she wrote, "we were lied to. Colleges tell you, 'Just be yourself.' That is great advice, as long as yourself has nine extracurriculars, six leadership positions, three varsity sports, killer SAT scores and two moms."

So now Weiss, who was "herself" by not participating in any extracurricular activities, not organizing any charitable events, and not doing any sports, is blaming everyone else but herself for not being the kind of person an Ivy League school wants in their student body.

"I've never sat down at a piano, never plucked a violin. Karate lasted about a week and the swim team didn't last past the first lap," she wrote. "I should have done what I knew was best — go to Africa, scoop up some suffering child, take a few pictures, and write my essays about how spending that afternoon with Kinto changed my life."

That's quitter talk: I should've. I never. I didn't. I quit after a week. I quit during the first lap.

If that's "being yourself," it's no wonder the schools didn't want her. Herself is a quitter. If you can't manage karate class for a year, and can't even swim one lap on the swim team, just how quickly are you going to fold on the first day of classes? Why go to all the trouble of bringing you into a situation that's actually important, when you can't even stick around for the little things?

It's the way you act toward the little things, in the little situations, that tell people how you're going to react when it's important.

If Weiss wants to know why her schools didn't want her, she only has to look as far as her newspaper editorial: I never, I quit, I should've.

How about "I never should've quit?"

No one likes a quitter. I'm fine with losers, I just can't stand quitters. They're sad, depressing, and never have the ability to stay with anything long enough to see if they like it. And you can't count on them to be there when you need them.

I don't mean people who quit something after trying something for years and years, and finally give up because all the fight's gone out of them. I mean the people who try something for five minutes, whine "this is too hard," and then go home.

At least with a loser, they're out there trying. I can respect a loser. I can get behind their efforts. Even the people who lose and lose and lose, year after year after year — looking at YOU, Chicago Cubs! — get respect from those of us who appreciate their determination. When the Indianapolis Colts were 3–13 in 1998, Peyton Manning's first year, they didn't quit. They fought and played in every game.

"Well, at least we were ourselves," was not their rallying cry. They didn't blame the coaches for not making them lift weights. They didn't whine that "wind sprints didn't last past the first 10 yards." They worked hard at their jobs, even when they weren't very good. And the following year, they were 13–3.

In the 2012 Olympics, U.S. BMX racer Alise Post flew over her handlebars during a race, and planted her face into one of the small hills. Dazed, she tried to stagger across the finish line, fighting off the two Olympic officials who tried to help her off the track, until one of them put his arm around her waist, and walked her across the finish line. That's not quitting. That's gutting it out to the bitter end.

When someone like Suzy Weiss is given all the opportunities in the world — well-to-do parents, a good high school, plenty of extracurricular activities — and squanders it all to "be herself," she doesn't have a right to be bitter at the universities who rejected her. She needs to look in the mirror at the one person who is responsible for her complete and utter failure, the one person who kept her from pursuing her dream, the one person who couldn't even stick out karate classes for a single week.

Instead, Weiss topped off her rant with this little gem, "To those of you disgusted by this, shocked that I take for granted the wonderful gifts I have been afforded, I say shhhh—'The Real Housewives' is on."

A TV show where a bunch of whiny do-nothings who have opportunities handed to them by someone else and then complain about how hard life is?

Sounds about right.



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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