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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Sunday, September 08, 2013

Indiana Fever Make Playoffs For 9th Consecutive Year

Banker's Life Fieldhouse went more than a little crazy on Saturday night when they defeated the Connecticut Sun, 69 – 60, and made the playoffs for the 9th consecutive year. Tamika Catchings had her usual all-star night, with 15 points, six rebounds, and four steals to help the Fever clinch a guaranteed fourth-place in the Eastern conference. If they stay in fourth, they will most likely face the Chicago Sun (assuming the Atlanta Dream doesn't surprise everyone in the last week of the season).

Erlana Larkins nipped at Catchings' heels with 12 points and six rebounds, and Jessica Breland had her own 12 points and nine rebounds. In fact, Breland's nine rebounds were the team high last night. Only Sun forward Mistie Bass did better in the whole game, with 11.

(Update: Jessica Breland was released on Thursday this week, after Katie Douglas was cleared to play. She will return to Friday's game against the New York Liberty. While everyone has missed Douglas, I wish there had been a better way to keep Breland around. She's been outstanding for the team this year. Hopefully she'll be back.)

Other notable performances of the night, Briann January netted 10 points and Karima Christmas scored 9. Shavonte Zellous was notably quiet with 7 points and 3 rebounds.

All in all, it was a low-scoring game, but enough of the Fever players were sharing the load that they were able to hold on for the win. Compare that to the Sun, who had three players in double digits (Kelsey Griffin, Tan White, and Renee Montgomery), while everyone else scored 8 or less.

My hope for the playoffs? The Fever stay in fourth place, and Chicago holds on to first place. My daughter tells me the Fever have beaten Chicago 3 out of the 4 times they've played this year, which gives me hope that the Fever will advance to the second round of the playoffs. The Dream have given the Fever some problems, and Indiana is 1 – 3 against the Dream, which could spell an early exit from the playoffs this year.

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 06, 2013

The Dinner Club

"Sorry we're late," said Allison, sitting down. "The sitter was late, and Andy couldn't find his phone."

"Yeah, I left the goshdarn thing in my car," said Andy. He and Allison chuckled at his absent-mindedness.

"No problem," mumbled Claire, well into her third glass of wine.

"Don't you think you've had enough," said Bender, reaching for Claire's glass. She jerked away.

"I'm fine!" She took another sip. "I just had a pretty stressful day at work."

"How's work going, Claire?" asked Allison.

"S'fine," said Claire. "We're putting together a defense for our client the chem manufacturer against some whiny farmers who say our fertilizer is poisoning their drinking water, or some crap."

"I thought they were going to settle that," said Bender.

"Since when do you care about my work?!"

"You told me the client was going to settle for a couple mil just to make the problem go away. Now they want to fight?"

"Yeah, they got some new hotshot CEO who decided to take a stand against nuisance lawsuits. He's more worried about his bonus, because his $7 million salary isn't enough. Stupid schmuck'll be tossed by the board before next Christmas."

Andy glanced nervously at Bender, "How's work going for you, buddy?"

Bender ran his hands carefully through his slicked-back hair. "Well, thanks to Obama and that damn Dodd-Frank law, we got government regulators crawling all over the place. I was on a conference call with Barclays Bank in London all morning, trying to work out this big project—"

"I don't think everyone wants to hear about the life of an investment banker. Dear." said Claire.

"Didn't realize the life of a corporate attorney was more compelling."

"Andy got a promotion last week," said Allison, breaking the tension.

"Oh yeah? What are you now, senior VP?" asked Bender.

Andy chuckled. "Oh no, nothing so grand. I'm the district sales manager for my seed company. I cover the whole state, plus part of Iowa."

A waitress stopped at their table. "Can I get anyone another drink?"

"Yeah, honey, I'll take another Johnny Walker Black. This time, make it a double. And she'll have another." Bender pointed at his wife who gulped the last of her wine.

"Diet Coke for me, please," said Allison.

"For me too, please," said Andy.

"Where's Brian?" asked Allison.

"Right here," said a voice behind them. "Sorry, guys. We had a big problem at work. We're launching an upgrade for our privacy app, and two of my developers were arguing over some user interface issues. I had to soothe a couple of fragile egos and had to promise them week-long cruises if they got everything fixed in time for the launch party in L.A. next week."

"Really? You just hand out cruises to your staff like that?" asked Bender.

"Oh sure. Product launches are always a hairy time because everyone's working 16, 18 hour days. In fact, when we're done here, I'm heading back to make sure they haven't killed each other."

"Oh my," said Allison. "Is it serious? In my Sunday School class, they'd get a time out."

"No, it's fine. Some of these code monkeys can be a little territorial. By the time we finished, they were turning on the juice again."

"Well, that's good. It's always nice when everyone gets along."

"Hey, you'll never guess who I saw today," said Brian. "I stopped at the Starbucks near my office and Vernon was sitting at his usual table with Carl, grousing on about 'kids these days.' He saw me get out of my car and said, 'I guess there really is money in being the brain.'"

"Which car were you driving?" asked Claire.

"The Ferrari. I had a meeting downtown, and I don't like taking the Hummer into the city."

"Gee, I wish I had that problem," said Andy. He and Allison laughed. "We could take the family to church in style, instead of Allison's minivan."

"Andy, I keep telling you, I'd love to have you come work for me," said Brian. "We're doing some great, exciting stuff, and I think you'd be perfect as the sales manager for our educational sales line. We'll have an open slot at the end of Q4."

"Oh, I don't know," said Andy. "I enjoy what I'm doing. Seed sales is really exciting. I get to be outdoors, visit customers around the state—"

"And Iowa," added Allison.

"Plus it's not so stressful. Your business really sounds stressful."

"It's not that bad," said Brian. "We've got the break room with air hockey, an Xbox and Playstation 3, and two refrigerators filled with Red Bull. We bring in a chair masseuse every week. Plus, if things get too bad, we'll send you and Allison on a cruise."

"Oh, at least think about it, Andy," said Allison.

"Alright, let's have lunch next week, and we'll discuss it," said Andy. Claire scrambled out of her chair and lurched toward the bathroom.

"Chicks cannot hold their wine," said Bender, holding his hand up for a high-five. "Am I right, Brian?"

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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