Friday, February 28, 2014

Diary of a Flu

Erik is out sick this week, so to commemorate his illness and rub it in a little, we're reprinting this particular column from 2005.

6:00 am - Stupid alarm clock. I really — oh jeez, I feel awful! Body aches and I think I'm going to faint. Where's the snooze button?

6:09 - Stupid alarm clock. Need to — oh no. Have the flu. Gaah, legs ache horribly. Can't even — Gaah! Room won't quit spinning.

6:10 - So freakin' cold in here. Must have fever

6:15 - Realize can't think in complete sentences. Personal pronouns and denominators dropped indiscriminately.

6:20 - Is this sign that fever is burning brain? Will I be silent witness to own mental deterioration as brain slowly parboils inside skull?

6:25 - No! That's stupid. I always hallucinate when I get the flu.

6:26 - There, see? I said "I." Not going stupid after all.

6:30 - Need to call the office and tell them not coming in.

6:45 - Did I actually call office, or just think that?

6:50 - There. Left a voice mail that I'm not coming in.

6:55 - Did I actually call office, or just think that?

7:00 - That should do it. Voice mail is so great. Inventor of voice mail should be given parade and a medal. Will organize that as soon as am well again.

7:05 - Did I actually call — oh wait, yes I did.

7:06 - This is awful. Need drugs or herbs or healer from Dark Ages with jar of leeches.

7:07 - Honey, wake up. I'm sick. Can you get me some Motrin?

7:10 - I'm so cold. It's freezing in here. And I'm out of blankets. Where's my stupid Motrin?

7:15 - Honey, I'm sick. Where's Motrin?

7:16 - What do you mean I didn't ask for Motrin?

7:17 - Never mind, I'll get it myself.

8:30 - How did I end up on floor? So cold.

1974 - Mommy, can I go play with Doug? He got a new bike and he said I could ride it.

9:30 - Still on floor. And it's freezing. And dark. Where's Motrin?

9:32 - Slowly our hero and his intrepid band made their way toward the land of Motrin. Their quest was to return the Ring to the Crack of Doom. Only way to stop horrible aching in joints.

9:35 - Think I'm in bathroom. If I could open my eyes a little further, I could tell. But that hurts my head. Ah, think I found the Motrin.

9:40 - Uh-oh. What happens if a guy takes Midol? It doesn't say anything on the stupid bottle about side effects. Should call poison control center.

9:45 - Never mind. Can't be that bad. I already feel like I'm going to die, so what's the worst that can happen?

9:50 - Have sudden urge to walk on beach with my mother and talk about personal freshness.

10:30 - How did I end up on bathroom floor? Was in bed just a few minutes ago. Feel awful. Better call office and let them — never mind. Did that already.

10:45 - Better go downstairs. Check on children.

10:50 - Wheee! Sliding down stairs face first is fun. I'll have to do that again later when I'm not so cold.

11:00 - Must be dead. Hear Mister Rogers voice calling me to other side. Wants me to be his neighbor.

11:05 - Wait. Am on living room couch. Kids watching Mister Rogers.

11:10 - If I'm so sick, how do I have the presence of mind to write all this down?

11:15 - Because I'm a writer. It's such a terrible burden to be such a creative genius. We're on all the time. Even when sick, I can still be funny.

11:20 - Two dogs walk into a bar. First one says "Ow my nose!"

11:21 - I crack myself up. Have to remember that for column.

11:30 - Oh no. Mister Rogers is over. Barely have strength to snap with him at end of show. Feel like crying whenever he says — oh goody, Teletubbies is on.

11:45 - Gaah, Teletubbies are on me! Get 'em off! Get 'em off!

11:46 - Oh wait, it's just the children.

11:47 - Kids, Daddy is sick. Can't crawl on me like that. Must stay on couch.

11:50 - Yes, I know I'm not using personal pronouns. You don't need to correct me about that, you're only four. And since when did you grow wings?

12:30 pm - Am still on living room couch. Don't know where wife is.

12:31 - Kids, where's Mommy?

12:38 - What do you mean, she's sick? She can't be sick. I need help. Tell Mommy I'm sicker.

1:00 - Ewww, you're right. She's sicker. Tell her she can clean it up when she's better.

1:30 - Do you know how to call Grandma? Good. Call Grandma and have her pick you guys up because Mommy and I are sick.

1:35 - What do you mean, Grandma got you 30 minutes ago? Then who have I been talking to?

1:40 - Gaah! Teletubbies! Teletubbies are on me!!

4:00 - I'd better call the office and tell them I'm not coming in.

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, February 21, 2014

Winter Swish-Whack, Take That, Week Two

It's week two of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia — also known as Vladimir Putin's Happy-Fun-Time-Papers-Please-Come-With-Us Sports Extravaganza — and it's time for another round of the Swish-Whack, Take That awards.

I give these awards every Olympics, summer or winter, in honor of US fencer Mariel Zagunis who, in 2004, won the country's first fencing gold medal in 100 years, but was only given 90 seconds of coverage on NBC. The awards are given to athletes who win gold under amazing circumstances, despite the odds, the critics, and even the fates working against them.

I'm giving the first Swish-Whack, Take That to that dottering old German speedskater, Claudia Pechstein, who, at the rickety old age of 41 years, 362 days, skated in her sixth Winter Olympics and finished fifth in the 5,000 meters race with a time of six minutes, 58.39 seconds. It would have been her seventh Games, but she missed the 2010 Olympics after a hinky blood result (she never actually failed a drug test, but was found guilty on circumstantial evidence).

Pechstein — who is four years younger than me — was actually in medal contention midway through the race, but she grew tired over the last few laps, and stopped to take a nap. Even so, she still beat her opponent, Yvonne Nauta, a 22-year-old Dutch skater, by three seconds. She was also less than three seconds away from taking the bronze.

There is no truth to the rumors that bronze medalist Carien Kleibeuker of The Netherlands wakes up at night, screaming, "Nay, Pechstein! Nay!"

At forty-two, still a medal contender, and skating on the world stage when most other skaters would have retired, the German Federal Police sergeant hasn't ruled out skating in Pyeongchang, China in 2018.

"Why would this be the end? I'm not going away," she told reporters. "I am still the best in my country and I am the oldest which isn't good for the young ones."

Maybe I should call Pechstein's award Swish-Whack, Oh Snap!

The next Swish-Whack, Take That goes to another geezer, 40 year old biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen of Norway. The man who has 52 Olympic and world championship medals picked up his 13th medal and eighth gold in the biathlon mixed relay this past Wednesday.

Just like Pechstein, this was his sixth Winter Games, although his first Olympics was in 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway; Pechstein's was 1992 in Albertville, France. But the Grand Old Man of the ski-and-rifle set is still showing the youngsters how it's done.

The third Swish-Whack, Take That goes to French snowboarder Pierre Valutier who won Olympic gold in the snowboard cross event on Tuesday.

With a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

That's right, Vaultier won gold with the the very same knee injury that knocks NFL quarterbacks out for an entire season.

"Right now I feel alright," Vaultier told reporters. "If I can continue (with the injury), then I think I will. There is nothing sure yet, I will meet my surgeon afterwards and we will talk about that. Right now I feel okay and even better with a gold medal."

Vaultier currently plans on going through rehab for four weeks and then playing quarterback for the Washington Redskins.

Finally, since this year's awards have already taken a bit of a political turn, I'm going to follow it up with another. I'm giving one more SWTT to the protestors, activists, and athletes who have told the world about their disagreement with Putin's anti-gay propaganda laws.

Last week, I awarded it to all the athletes who wore rainbow-themed items at the Opening Ceremonies. And the athletes and activists have successfully defended their title for another week.

That's because the International Olympic Committee is now considering adding an anti-discrimination clause to all future bid rules based on Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter.

According to a Reuters story, Principle 6 says "sport does not discriminate on any grounds, including race, religion, politics, or gender." Critics of the IOC said the organization has turned a blind eye to Putin's blatant discrimination, and now the Committee is considering the anti-discrimination rule as part of their Agenda 2020 initiative.

"It (Principle 6) is not something that is specifically looked at but if there is a groundswell of opinion it could be," IOC President Thomas Bach told Reuters.

A groundswell of opinion like that coming from various protestors and advocates who were arrested during the games. From politicians who spoke out against Russia's Draconian laws. From athletes who risked being carted off just for wearing a rainbow button or pin.

Last week, they received the award for standing against bigotry and hatred. And they're getting it again because the IOC, the lumbering dinosaur of unchanging tradition, has heard them and will do something as a result.

Because if anyone can get the IOC to change their mind about something, that definitely deserves an award.

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, February 14, 2014

Swish-Whack, Take That Awards for 2014 Winter Olympics

You can't go anywhere without hearing about the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, so why should this column be any different? Regular readers know that during every Olympic Games, Winter or Summer, I give out the Swish-Whack, Take That awards to athletes who defy the odds, give the performance of their lives, and in general thumb their noses at critics and complainers.

The award is named for US fencer Mariel Zagunis, who won the U.S.' first fencing gold in 100 years in 2004, but was only given a 90 second highlight on NBC's coverage. I've given the awards out every Olympic Games ever since.

But she still won't follow me on Twitter.

The first Swish-Whack, Take That goes to all the athletes, Olympic committees, and even uniform designers who are thumbing their noses at Vladimir Putin's anti-gay propaganda laws.

In the Opening Ceremonies alone, the Greek athletes, the very first to enter the Olympic Stadium, wore rainbow-fingered gloves, presumably so they could better show off the middle one to Putin. The German team's uniforms were one big flashy rainbow, while athletes from all over the world wore various ribbons, buttons, and stickers to tell Russia and the rest of the world that Putin's law was ridiculous.

Swish-Whack, Take That number two is an unprecedented one, because it goes to a multi-national corporation, Coca-Cola. Their "America the Beautiful" commercial, which originally appeared during the Super Bowl, has been flying in the face of racism ever since it first showed.

The first time it aired, racists and bigots flooded Facebook and Twitter, decrying the use of "foreigners" and "those people" singing the song of freedom in "their language."

So I give this award gladly to Coca-Cola for refusing to bow to the pressure of a narrow-minded right wing who thinks our song should only be sung in English.

You know, English? The language that's a veritable melting pot of words from German, Spanish, French, Korean, Arabic, and Hindi.

Just like our country.

Swish-Whack, Take That number three goes to British snowboarder Jenny Jones, who secured her country's first-ever Olympic medal on snow by winning bronze in the slopestyle event. Past UK medals have come from figure skating, bobsled, and skeleton, making this their first ever snow medal.

Jones started snowboarding when she was 16 at a dry slope in Churchill, England. A dry slope is a ski slope that uses artificial ingredients, rather than real snow. She enjoyed it so much, she worked as a chalet maid so she could do it more often, but on real snow.

Because snowboarding wasn't very popular in Britain, Jones was one of only a few snowboarders for her country, so she traveled with women from other European countries to different competitions. And here she is 14 years later, giving Britain its first snow medal.

I'm calling the next award the Sniff-Hack, Wipe That award, because it goes to Polish ski jumper Kamil Stoch, who climbed out of a sickbed to take the gold, winning Poland's first individual medal since 1972.

Stoch told reporters he had woken up Sunday morning with a headache and a fever. He said the doctors "did everything they could to bring me to life, and I made it. They did a good job."

He flew 105.5 meters in the first round, 103.5 in the second, and amassed 278 total points, which was enough to put him on the center podium. When you've spent years of your life training and competing, all leading up to this moment, you don't let a little thing like a headache and fever keep you from it. But more impressive still is doing it better than everyone else who's well.

The final Swish-Whack, Take That award goes to all the women ski jumpers who competed in this year's Games, flying through the air at 55 miles per hour, to land over 100 meters away from their initial point of takeoff.

Just like in military combat, women ski jumpers have never been allowed to compete in the Olympics, because they told the sport was too risky, and that even the jarring landings could damage their fertility. (I'm guessing that was a while ago.)

That all changed when U.S. ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson became the very first Olympic women's ski jumper to fly through the air. While they didn't fly as far as the men, the silver medalist, Daniela Iraschko-Stolz of Austria, had a second jump of 104.5 meters, which was only one meter shorter than men's gold medalist, Kamil Stoch.

So congratulations to women ski jumpers everywhere for finally overcoming the silliness that has kept them from risking an "agony of defeat" crash just like the men have risked for over 90 years. Now they're free to crash just like the men.

Next week, more from Swish-Whack, Take That awards from the 2014 Winter Olympics.

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, February 07, 2014

1 In 5 Women Disappointed With Proposal

A recent study says that one in five women are hard to please and will go through the rest of their lives being sorely disappointed because they didn't marry a rich husband who catered to their every whim.

Actually, I'm paraphrasing a bit.

The study by Vashi, an online British diamond store, says that one in five women were disappointed by their marriage proposal. The other four are perfectly happy and well-adjusted women with reasonable expectations of life and their spouses.

According to the London Daily Mail (official motto: Classier than the National Enquirer because we have a British accent), 21 percent of engaged, married, or divorced women were disappointed when their man popped the question, but didn't say anything, and now wish they had.

The top five disappointments were: 1) a too small ring, 2) no ring at all, 3) not proposing on bended knee, 4) a proposal that wasn't very "special," and 5) not asking her parents' permission for their daughter's hand in marriage.

Thirteen percent of those surveyed said they were so disappointed by their proposals that they wanted to cry afterward.

Similarly, 29% of the men wanted to cry after their girlfriends said yes, because they realized what materialistic shrews they were marrying.

The statistic that really jumped out at me and made me despair for future generations are that more than a third of the women said that "an engagement ring matters because it is a symbol of how much their partner loves them."

Because nothing says "I'll love you forever" like spending thousands of dollars on a precious stone harvested by child laborers in third world countries.

But why should men have to do all the buying and giving? Why are women the only ones who receive a gift? Don't the men deserve the same kind of consideration?

When my wife and I got married, she gave me a beautiful watch because we (mostly me) thought it wasn't fair that only the women received something. As a modern couple fast approaching the 21st century, we didn't want to be bound by 19th century thinking.

Plus I really liked that watch.

Now, I'm not saying the practice of proposing marriage is outdated or unnecessary. It's completely necessary. This is a story you're going to tell to your friends and family, children and grandchildren over the years. You don't want that story to be "we were watching the game at O'Malley's Sports Bar, and had just finished a couple of burgers. He leans over to me at halftime, stifles a oniony belch, and says 'so, you wanna?'"

Just remember, the proposal is only the first step in the rest of your lives together, and it doesn't matter whether it's a major event, a quiet question asked in private, or someone saying "uh oh" as you both stare at a pregnancy test pee stick.

If you're disappointed, say something. You've got years and years to coach your future husband on how to understand you and sweep you off your feet. He's also got years and years to coach you on the same thing.

If you think the ring was too small, there are no rules that the woman can't chip in. You're going to be combining incomes anyway, so you might as well start now.

And if you're complaining because the proposal wasn't as expensive and extravagant as you've dreamed of since you were a little girl, then you just need to dump him, because something tells me you're going to be too spoiled and demanding for him to make you happy in the first place. Break up with him now because your divorce five years later will be expensive.

Similarly, while I think three of the "five disappointments" are made by shallow princesses who will spend their entire lives bitter and angry, I'm completely with them on number two.

I say that as someone who actually made his marriage proposal without a ring. I didn't have any money, because I was a poor graduate student at the time, and I couldn't afford it.

So I asked her in private, we then drove up to meet her family so I could ask their blessing, and we ended up taking a detour and buying the ring on the way.

Now that I think about it, I managed to nail four of those five disappointments right off the bat (I didn't do number one, the too small ring, since she helped me pick out "the right one"), which means I may have made the worst proposal in the entire history of marriage.

If you'll excuse me, I have to go buy some more jewelry. Which says "I'm sorry for 20 years ago" more, a diamond tiara or crown and scepter?

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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