Friday, April 29, 2016

Save Boaty McBoatface, Replace Robert E. Lee

Democracy may suffer a staggering blow this week. Despite overwhelming support from an enthusiastic public, the will of the British people may be silenced by a single civil servant.

A new £200 million science research vessel has been named Boaty McBoatface by 120,000 Britons who voted online to help decide what to call the science ship.

Except not everyone likes it, and one man has the power to sink the name.

Tory Science Minister Jo Johnson has indicated that, despite overwhelming public support, he wants to veto Boaty McBoatface.

Why? The name is so wonderful, I added it to my word processor's user dictionary.

Science Minister Johnson — who I shall now call Grumpy McGrumpface — says it's not suitable and serious enough. More importantly, says the U.K. Daily Mirror, he may be too embarrassed to tell the Queen about it.

That's a good reason to trample democracy: you were embarrassed because you had to say the name to the Queen of England.

It could have been worse. Some of the entries included RRS Onion Knight (from Game of Thrones), RRS Capt'n Birdseye Get Off My Cod (named after a fictitious mascot for Birds Eye frozen fish), and my personal favorite, RRS I Like Big Boats & I Cannot Lie.

I would fly over to England just to watch the Queen declare, "We christen thee. . . I Like Big Boats & I Cannot Lie."

Instead, Grumpy McGrumpface is missing a golden opportunity to use this to his ministry's benefit.

Back in 2007, Greenpeace held an online contest to ask people to name a whale they were going to tag, track, and research in an effort to stop the Japanese government from hunting 50 humpback whales that year.

Over 150,000 people voted, and 78% of the votes went to "Mr. Splashy Pants." There were so many voters, Greenpeace's servers nearly crashed several times.

However, many whale lovers were angry that more beautiful whale names weren't used, presumably like Rainbow Unicorn Peace Farts, or whatever unkempt hemp-smoking hippies think are beautiful names for whales.

For Greenpeace, this was a golden opportunity. Never before had so many people taken such an interest in their whales. They used this chance to educate people about whales and whale research. Better yet, they started fundraising to these voters. And the resulting publicity even convinced the Japanese government to stop their hunt.

Now the British government has a chance to garner national, and even international, interest in science, and to introduce more children to careers in science.

There are 120,000 people who are interested enough to vote for the name, and millions more are following the saga from around the world. People actually care about Boaty! Think about what this means.

You could have Boaty news updates on the BBC, Where's Boaty? games for children, and even have Boaty McBoatface become a character on the children's show, "Thomas the Tank Engine."

I would totally watch "Thomas the Tank Engine" if Boaty were on it.

You could get people interested in science just by allowing a science vessel to have a silly name. But if you're going to ignore the crowd's wishes because you're too embarrassed to tell Her Majesty, you might as well name it "Who Gives a Feather?"

Because if you veto the popular choice, no one will give the tiniest feather about this boat or the Science Ministry.

And I think you know I don't mean "feather."

Speaking of changing unpopular names, the Austin, Texas school board finally decided they didn't want to honor second place any longer, and will rename Robert E. Lee Elementary School. Naturally, this has upset a lot of people who are proud to honor a man who fought to keep human beings as property.

So, in a burst of community pride and dangerous optimism, the school board has asked the general public for suggestions. The plan is to accept nominations and votes, and submit the top three names to the board for a final vote.

Fifteen pages of names were suggested, including Coach Tom Landry, Garfunkel, Bleeding Heart Liberal Elementary, and of course, Boaty McBoatface.

The Adolf Hitler School for Friendship and Tolerance Elementary received eight votes, although I'm not sure if the name was a dig at the General Lee haters or supporters.



The three top vote getters are Elisabet Ney Elementary (15 votes), Harper Lee Elementary (30), and Donald J. Trump Elementary (45). Actually, Robert E. Lee Elementary still got 34 votes, but something tells me he won't make the cut. Again.

So what are both groups to do? On the one hand, the will of the British people is to give a boat a silly name, which can lead to increased interest in science.

On the other hand, the will of Austin's angry bigots is to rename a second-place racist's school after a woman-hating racist.

I'm counting on both institutions to make the smart choice that improves education, and teaches children the importance of acceptance and inclusion for all.

People who think that's a bad idea can go feather themselves.

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, April 22, 2016

You're Never Too Old to Have Fun

A recent Twitter poll from ESPN's "His & Hers" asked the question, "(Is it) OK for a grown man to bring a glove to a baseball game?"

Grown men get paid millions of dollars to play a kid's game played by children around the world, and you're wondering whether I can bring a ball glove to the game?

Let me ask a different question: Is it okay for people to dress up as their favorite superheroes at a comic book convention?

Is it okay for grown adults to go into the woods and play "War" with paintball guns?

Is it okay to wear a jacket that looks like a NASCAR driver's uniform?

Is it okay to sing along in the car?

Yes, yes, yes, and yes. You should be able to do what makes you happy, and if that means taking a baseball mitt to accomplish a childhood dream, then godspeed, little slugger.



So I tweeted back, "Absolutely! Every boy dreams of catching a big league ball. Every man who says he no longer wants to is a damn liar!"

Or he's so boring that no one wants to be around him, let alone take him to a baseball game.

We all still remember our childhood dreams. Not what we wanted to be when we grew up, but those tiny hopes and far off wishes, like catching a big league baseball and meeting your hero to have it signed. Like sharing the stage and jamming out with your favorite band. Like growing up and getting a real job so you could buy as much candy and pop as you could fit in your rocket race car.

If we didn't remember those dreams, then things like baseball fantasy camp, karaoke, and Type II diabetes wouldn't exist.

But we need to do the things that make us happy, even if they're the far off dreams we had when we were little kids. Because playing baseball with your heroes when you're too old to bend over and field a grounder is fun. Because singing along in the car with your favorite band from high school is still a blast. Because going on Saturday errands by yourself so you can sneak a chocolate malt is fun.

Think back to what you loved as a kid. Does it still appeal to you? Do you get excited when your favorite childhood TV show is on? Do you smile when you see something you loved as a kid? Or do you frown and say, "that's all behind me now" because you believe life is meant to be endured, and not enjoyed?

Paul the Apostle wrote to the church at Corinth, "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things." Except the other apostles called him Captain Bringdown behind his back, and he wasn't invited to very many parties, so there's a lesson there for all of us.

Too many people place too much importance on being an adult. I've been an adult for a long time, and frankly I don't see what the big deal is.

Adults work at jobs they hate. They buy houses they can't afford. They put themselves in debt to buy things they never use. And then they stress about losing it all.

I would think if this was your life, you'd want to have some childish fun just to get a break, because being childish and laughing at something immature is sometimes the only way to cope.

Nothing beats nailing one of your kids with a Nerf dart gun. Or watching reruns of your favorite 70s sitcoms, and being reminded of what made you laugh when you were 10 years old. It's a great stress reliever, and it reminds your Inner Child that all is not lost.

I recently posted on Twitter, "If you don't smile, even a tiny bit, at a clever booger joke, I don't think we can be friends." I had some great responses from several people who let me know that, despite their adultness, we could very definitely be friends.

It made me feel good to know there were other people who could still have a good time, despite pressures by our stuffy society to conform to unsmiling standards of blandness

It also made me glad I picked the friends I have, because I can't wipe them off on the couch.



You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Would You Rather Always Be Late or a Jerk?

Some days, I worry about society, because otherwise-normal people seem to want to be mean for the sake of being mean.

I recently wrote an article on my work blog about a trend I've noticed where people complain on social media about others who are late. Not just occasionally late, but chronically, habitually, constantly late.

I saw one tweet that said, "People who are habitually late are either arrogant, stupid, or both. #Respect."

I responded, "I would think #respect also means not calling people arrogant or stupid."

"Not if they're habitually late," he replied.

I don't think I'd like working with this guy.

Other people have also called their tardy colleagues rude and selfish.

So I wrote an article about how, rather than taking an all-or-nothing view of people, we should try extending grace and forgiveness, a concept you may have heard mentioned on Sunday mornings.

I urged my readers to figure out a way to get the late-comers to change, rather than boldly declaring this person to be of little to no value to humanity.

More importantly, I said, if people are regularly late to meetings with you, maybe it is a matter of respect. As in, they truly don't respect you.

Because you call them rude, arrogant, selfish, and stupid.

I urged readers to be an adult and communicate like one: explain how you're bothered by their lateness, and help them find a way to solve this problem.

Except the idea of grace and forgiveness seemed to be a foreign concept to many readers, because they argued that chronic lateness to business meetings was unacceptable, and still referred to people in harsh terms.

Now, I have always believed in the importance of timeliness, and I even mentioned this in my article. I hate being late to anything, and will always let someone know if I'm running behind, but I'm rarely late to my meetings.

For the last few years, I often had one-on-one meetings at coffee shops and I was nearly always early for them, mostly because I wanted to choose the cushioned bench with my back to the wall, while the other person sat on the hard chair.

I also used to work for an organization that believed "early is on time, on time is late." That meant if we showed up when a meeting started, we were late; we needed to be in your seat, ready to go, at the prescribed time, and I had that habit drummed into me early on.

I understand that timeliness shows respect for the other person, and that you have a sense of responsibility and integrity. I'm not proposing we should let people be late, or that we should hold them to lower standards.

Rather, I don't think we should fly into a frothing rage just because an acquaintance is frequently tardy. Get annoyed? Yes. Let them know it's unacceptable? Absolutely. Call them selfish and stupid? Not at all.

So, if your response to this idea is "being on time is just good manners" or you want to tell me about how your industry or company places a high value on being on time, you're missing the point, and I don't believe you actually read this far. You stopped after the third paragraph, and just started mouthing off about how I don't understand how real business works.

(Not you, of course. If you've read this far, you're a good and thoughtful person who deserves many riches.)

At least, that's what happened to my original article. A lot of people argued about respect and responsibility and missed the actual point I was trying to make: if people are habitually late to meetings with you, maybe you're the problem.

If their timeliness shows their #respect for you, then you've got your answer.

They don't.

Except no one disputed that. They glossed right over it. No one said, "Actually, I'm a very nice person." No one said, "I reject your premise entirely. I'm a damn delight."

It was almost as if they agreed that, yes, we are unpleasant and mean. Yes, no one likes us because we call them names. But we shouldn't have to change because they're late, and therefore, are more terrible than we are.

In the end, there are more important problems we face, many more hills to die on than dealing with people are are regularly late.

Like why are you having so many damn meetings in the first place? Get back to your desk and get some actual work done!

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Kicking the Cheeseburger Habit

I have a dining problem.

Not an eating problem. A problem with the things I choose to eat at restaurants.

Most of my healthier-than-thou friends will no doubt shout, "See! I knew it! He's finally hit rock bottom, and he's ready to seek help!"

Not even close.

I don't have a problem, everyone else has the problem.

("See? Classic denial. 'It's everyone's else's fault but mine.' Let's stage an intervention!")

I'm ashamed to admit it, being a creative professional who appreciates new experiences and events: my family thinks I'm boring and predictable when it comes to my restaurant food choices.

Predictable? I shudder to think that I'm predictable. I prefer "oddly quirky, but mostly harmless."

My sin is that I have a few favorite dishes that I order over and over when we visit a new restaurant.

Well, one favorite dish.

My go to meal is a restaurant's signature cheeseburger, extra crispy French fries. Unless they have tater tots. I'm a sucker for tater tots. (The one in the photo is the Boogie Monster from Boogie Burger in Broad Ripple, Indianapolis.)

That's not predictable, is it? Careful, yes. Steadfast, of course. Predictable? Hardly.

It's basic research. A cheeseburger is the standard by which I judge that restaurant. If they can't even master a simple cheeseburger, how bad will the rest of the food be?

A cheeseburger is difficult to master in its simplicity. Sure, it's just a piece of ground beef with a slice of cheese, but you'd be surprised at how hard it is to do the simple things well.

And if they do a great job on the cheeseburger, then why bother trying anything else? They've mastered one of my favorite sandwiches, so why abandon a sure thing? I don't get to eat at restaurants that often, so I want something I truly enjoy, which means going back to my favorite.

But my family doesn't understand this. They hassle me about the childishness of my cheeseburger, hand me a children's menu, and ask me if I want Pirate Pete's chicken planks or a peanut butter and jelly "sammich."

No, but I do want to color the menu and help Pirate Pete find his way through the maze.

I'm not the only person who does this. Everyone has a favorite restaurant dish. Whether it's the chicken nachos, the pasta bolognese, or the blue plate meatloaf special at their favorite diner, all of us have a go-to meal when we're not really sure what we want to eat.

Speaking of food ruts, what's the point of restaurant meatloaf? I never understood going to restaurants that advertise home-cooked meals. The whole point of a restaurant is to get something you don't normally eat. And we don't normally get half-pound cheeseburgers with bacon, a fried egg, and barbecue sauce at my house.

We eat meatloaf; we had it tonight, in fact. We have spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole, and pot roast. So we avoid places that specialize in home-cooked meals. If I wanted a home-cooked meal, I'd eat at home, and do the things I normally do.

Like sneak a bowl of Cap'n Crunch after everyone else has gone to bed. Restaurants frown on patrons breaking in to eat cereal after they've closed.

Furthermore, I don't order a cheeseburger at fancy restaurants. There, I'm willing to try just about anything. I'll get salmon, steak, or a pasta dish. If we go to a French restaurant, I'll try the duck, and escargot for an appetizer. If we visit a German restaurant, I'll go for the schnitzel or sauerbraten. And if we're at a South American restaurant, I've been known to eat tripe.

See, that's new and adventurous. That's not boring. I've eaten frogs legs, for Pete's sake! I AM NOT PREDICTABLE!

Still, I'm not the only one who does this. I'm not naming names, but certain people I'm married to, will frequently order the same dish whenever she goes to her favorite Thai restaurant. She insists that she only orders it half the time, which is probably true, because I don't go there often enough to see if there's a pattern.

Ultimately, I've reached the age where I've experienced all the major changes I care to experience. It's not that I fear change, I just don't see the point in it anymore. I've changed enough, my world has changed enough, and I want something that's a little stable and reliable. And if a bacon cheeseburger is my anchor to everything that is good-hearted, pure, and true, then so be it.

Just put a fried egg on the burger, and pass me the kids menu.

Pirate Pete needs my help to find the buried treasure.



You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, April 01, 2016

The Crack of the Bat, the Roar of the Children

Erik is out of the office this week, so to celebrate Major League Baseball's Opening Day, we're reprinting a column from 2005, back when the Fort Wayne Tin Caps were still known as the Wizards.

"Okay, is everyone for our first baseball game."

"That's right, Buddy, baseball. Check it out, he says it every time I do."

"Baseball."

"Baseball."

"Okay, that's enough."

"Where does everyone want to sit? Honey, you sit between me and Mommy. Sweetie, you sit next to Mommy, and Buddy, you can sit on my lap."

"Is everyone settled? Okay, now we can watch the baseball game."

"Yes, baseball."

"Baseball."

"Okay, that's enough."

"I could eat. What are you getting?"

"I'm watching the game."

"We actually came here so I could teach my kids about my favorite sport, not stand in line."

"Will you answer every single question they have?"

"A hot dog and a Coke. And peanuts. It's not a baseball game — yes, Buddy, baseball — without peanuts."

"What's that, Honey?"

"The Fort Wayne Wizards."

"Not Lizards. Wizards."

"No, that's their mascot."

"Dinger the dragon."

"A dinger is another name for a home run."

"A home run is when a guy hits the baseball out  — yes, Buddy, baseball —  of the park. He gets to run around all the bases and he scores a run for his team."

"Yes, Honey, they're all happy when he does that."

"That's the pitcher, Sweetie. He throws the ball to the catcher. He wants to keep the batter from hitting the ball."

"If the batter hits the ball, he tries to see how far he can run. He wants to get to as many bases as he can before the other team gets him out."

"Then he has to go sit back down."

"No, he's not in a time out."

"Do you see that guy with the bat? He's batting for the Wizards — no, Honey, Wizards. We want him to get a hit."

"Alright! And it's — oh no, the outfielder caught it, so he's out."

"No, Honey, he's not sad. He gets another turn later."

"Okay, next batter."

"Good cut! Alright! He's on first."

"Because that's as far as he could run."

"No, he's not tired. The other team would have gotten him out if he had kept running, then he would have to sit down too. Once three of our guys get out, the other team gets to bat."

"Eight more times each."

"Shoot, double play!"

"That's when the other team gets two of our guys out at once."

"Well, when the guy on first is — oh thank God, Mommy's here with the food."

"Yes, you can all have some peanuts. Just eat your dinner first."

"No, Sweetie, I don't know who that man is."

"No, I don't know who he's calling a bum."

"That's just what happens at baseball games. People can be jerks."

"Yes, Buddy, baseball."

"Baseball."

"Okay, that's enough."

"So now our team is on the field, and it's the other team's turn to bat."

"No, Honey, Wizards."

"Our pitcher wants to keep their batter from hitting the ball. If he hits it, those other men will try to keep the batter from running too far."

"No, they won't tackle him. That's football."

"Yes, Buddy, football."

"Well, they're supposed to catch the ball and throw it to the man covering that base. Then that guy tries to tag him out."

"No, they won't hit him. That's boxing."

"You'll just have to watch. I'll try to explain it as we go along."

"Ooh, good hit. Now watch that man way out there. He caught it! That means that the batter is out. If he can catch the ball before it hits the ground, the batter is out."

"That's just part of the game."

"Okay, new batter. Let's see if we can keep him from getting a hit."

"Well, no, not us. The team. They're the ones actually playing the game. We're just here to watch."

"Because it creates a sense of hometown pride and camaraderie and — never mind. Just watch the game."

"Excellent! He struck out. That's two outs."

"That means that he missed the baseball  — yes, Buddy, baseball —  three times. Just one more batter and the Wizards are back up to bat."

"No, Honey, not the Lizards. The Wizards."

"Is everyone finished with dinner? Who wants peanuts?"

"Yes, Buddy, peanuts."

"Peanuts."

"Okay, that's enough."


Photo credit: Cory Luebke of the Fort Wayne Wizards, by Mwlguide (Flickr/Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons) Special note: As of this writing, Cory Luebke is currently a pitcher with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.