Friday, August 11, 2017

The Debate of the Ages: Cake or Pie?

Hey Karl, cake or pie?

"There's pie?" asked Karl. "Never mind, I'm on Atkins right now. So, no carbs."

No, there's no pie, I said. Just answer the question: cake or pie?

"If there's no pie, then why are you even asking?" Karl plonked his beer on the bar. We were at First Editions for a slam poetry tournament. Kurt knew a few of the competitors so he made me come to this little struggle of the sonnets.

I didn't quite understand what was happening. How can poetry be competitive? And why was everyone snapping?! I've never quite understood poetry, and the snapping just made it worse.

It's a simple question, Karl. Which is better, cake or pie?

"Kid, of all the idiotic questions you've asked me, that has to be the idiotic-est. There are so many more important things we could discuss, and instead you give me 'cake or pie.'" Karl waved at Kurt to bring two more beers. "I don't want to even dignify that with a response."

Oh, it's a very important question, I said. I've seen people get into shouting matches over it.

"Well, it's a stupid question because the answer is obviously cake."

I knew it! I pegged you as a cake guy the first time we met. Because everyone knows pie is the superior choice.

"You're delusional, Kid. What about birthday cake? You can't beat birthday cake. But no one has ever heard of birthday pie."

True, but do you eat pumpkin cake at Thanksgiving?

Karl crossed his arms. "Maybe."


Sugar Cream Pie - the closest thing to Heaven on Earth.
"Okay, but have you ever seen a naked woman jump out of a pie?"

I can honestly say I have not. Of course, I've never seen a naked woman jump out of a cake either, except for that stupid Steven Seagal movie.

"Besides, there are so many kinds of cakes. Chocolate cake, angel food cake, and my favorite, lemon cake with vanilla frosting."

But there are just as many different flavors of pie. Cherry, raspberry, and what's more American than apple pie? Don't forget lemon meringue.

"I hate meringue," groused Karl.

You can't beat warm cherry pie with ice cream.

"You can have cake and ice cream," said Karl. Kurt hovered nearby, pretending to wipe down the bar.

Sure, but you don't normally serve it warm. But when you get a bite of warm pie and cold ice cream together, there's nothing better.

"What about cheesecake?" Karl said with annoying air of triumph.

I would counter with Indiana's official pie, the Wicks Sugar Cream.

"Oooh, I'll give you that one. Wicks makes a mighty fine pie." Karl took a drink from his beer, and listened to the poet up on stage talk about a broken heart. I had lost track of which broken-hearted poet was currently performing.

"How about pancakes?" said Karl. "You can't beat pancakes on a cold winter morning."

I've got it, I said. Pi.

"We've been through this," said Karl. "What kind of pie?"

Not pie, Pi. The Greek letter. The mathematical symbol. Three-point-one-four-one-five.

"That doesn't even count."

Sure it does. You can't spell 'pie' without Pi. And if I want to calculate the circumference of your birthday cake, I'll need to use Pi.

Karl stared at me, mouth open. I'll tell you something else, I said. Kurt stopped pretending to wipe down the bar and moved closer. Pi contains the secrets of the universe, I said.

"You're drunk, Kid."

I ignored him. As you know, Pi is an infinitely long number with no end. We could try to calculate the end of Pi on the most powerful computer ever made, and it will run to the end of time without ever reaching the end.

Now, if we were to assign each one- and two-digit number to a letter, we could find patterns in that infinite string of letters. Those patterns would form words, and those words would lead to sentences, and those sentences would become stories.

And with that infinite string of words, we can find your name and my name in there. We can find the secret recipe for Coca-Cola, or the Colonel's 11 secret herbs and spices, or the Wicks sugar cream pie recipe.

I pointed up at the stage. We can find that woman's poem, the words to your favorite song, or a version of every Shakespeare play where the word 'forsooth' has been replaced with 'Sweet Jeepers.' We can even find the kind of cake you had on your twelfth birthday and a list of everyone who came to your party.

I leaned in closer. Karl and Kurt did too. And the one thing we'll find, over and over again, ringing like a bell in all that infinity, is the most important phrase you'll ever say.

"What's that?" Karl whispered.

Erik was right all along, I said. Erik was right all along.

The crowd snapped its approval.

If you think this is a dumb question, ask some friends this question and ask them to defend their choice. See what happens and tell me about it in the comments below.

Photo credit: Sarah Stierch (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

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, August 04, 2017

My Application for NASA Planetary Protection Officer

Dear NASA,

Our planet is a fragile orb in a hostile galaxy. We face threats both here on Earth — climate change, the lizard people who live at the center of the planet, plastic grocery bags — as well as threats from "out there."

Whether it's asteroids, alien invaders, or the monster from "Cloverfield," we are rather vulnerable, given our reliance on 20th-century technology and a child's understanding of the threat that aliens present.

But a steady diet of movies, old Omni magazine reprints, and TBS' new comedy hit, "People Of Earth," I'm well aware of the lurking menace we face.

To that end, please find my application for the brand new post of Planetary Protection Officer at NASA.

I feel I would make a perfect candidate for the position, because of my varied experiences in planetary protection studies. My résumé is attached, but I would like to draw your attention to a few important details.

First, I have an outstanding record playing Space Invaders, both the original standup arcade, and later, Atari console game. I became an ace at shooting up through my own shields, and I was often asked by my sister to help her get that last guy.

I was also a dab hand at Asteroids, and am confident that a small crew and I could keep our planet safe from large, medium, and small space rocks. While I could easily fly a manned spacecraft, I believe a smarter strategy would be to develop a series of ships that could be controlled from Earth and deployed in sets of three.

I have also given some thoughts to several strategies and tactics I would develop during my tenure as PPO.

One is to train and equip elite ground troops to be deployed should aliens ever launch a ground attack. I've studied the tactics of Tom Cruise in "Edge Of Tomorrow" and Ellen Ripley from Aliens, and I believe if we were to equip our soldiers with those body suits with forklifts for hands, as well as machine guns on their shoulders — like War Machine from Iron Man 3 — we could give those little green bastards a run for their money.

I would also ask NASA scientists and leading physicists to develop hand-held phaser blasters, similar to those seen in Star Trek and Star Wars, and the plasma blaster from Predator. I realize the U.S. has enough guns that we could probably just drop the entire stockpile onto an invasion and wipe it out, but we may need them later since the battle is never over until you see their mother ship crashed in the desert.

Plus, the guns may be damaged by the alien blood, which as you know, is acid.

While we could use normal firearms, I worry about accuracy and reloading. Pistols are notoriously inaccurate, and semi-automatic rifles are only slightly more so, especially over a long distance. But phaser blasters have an endless energy supply and the bolts fly faster than bullets. If nothing else, a soldier would only have to press the trigger and fire a continuous laser to cut the invaders in half.

Of course, war should only be a last resort, and we should never ignore the lessons that Gene Rodenberry taught us through Star Trek. We should always seek the diplomatic solution first. After all, the aliens may actually only be an exploratory contingent, and eagerly blasting them into atoms may doom us all.

So I would also propose that we put a portion of our annual budget into developing a communications strategy. Since music is a universal language, I would assemble a crack team of musicians including Justin Bieber, Nickelback, and Skrillex to communicate musically with any alien ships that make contact with us.

If they manage to prevent our first intergalactic war, that would be wonderful. But if we're truly about to be invaded, I at least want to go to my own death knowing they died moments before I did.

Finally, while we're probably a couple centuries from cloaking technology — unless you know something I don't — I propose a similar solution that I call Project Disappearing Elephant.

We would collaborate with David Copperfield, who made the Statue of Liberty disappear in 1983, to place a series of mirrors around the planet to make it "vanish." I've taken the liberty of reaching out to Mr. Copperfield's people, and am awaiting a return call.

I read on your website that for this position, the ideal candidate will have "advanced knowledge of Planetary Protection," which I have demonstrated. He or she should also have experience overseeing nationally significant space programs, and have" skills in diplomacy that resulted in win-win solutions during extremely difficult and complex multilateral discussion."

To that end, I'm the father of three older children. And I've read the Star Trek book, The Kobayashi Maru, seven times.

Finally, I understand the position will require frequent travel. Can you tell me whether that's within the country, or will it require international travel? Or will there even be a need for off-planet travel as well? Another plus in my favor is that I don't suffer vertigo or get car sick. Also, I have a new passport.

I look forward to your reply. Thank you.

Photo credit: FitzFox (Pixabay, Creative Commons)

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, July 28, 2017

How Did We Survive Bad Parental Advice?

When I was a kid, I was convinced parents and teachers gave terrible advice. When it came to dealing with playground issues — bullies, being teased, being picked on — they had no clue what was going on in a kid's world or how to handle certain problems.

Now that I'm a parent myself, dealing with my own kids' problems, I realize their old advice is still pretty terrible.

Remember "if they tease you, it's because they like you?" I heard it in the first grade when a girl told on me for teasing her.

I thought, "Eww! No, I don't." and I quit because I didn't want anyone to think I actually liked her. But we all realized that was patently absurd and no one ever believed it except for the teachers who kept saying it.

Teachers continue to perpetuate this idea despite it being a) false, and b) dangerous. Not only are you telling the teaser that this is how to tell someone you like them, it teaches the other person that being picked on is an acceptable demonstration of love. Teach a kid this is acceptable, and this is how you end up getting stalkers in your bushes.

Besides, what happens if I retaliate? Is that the beginning of a courtship? What if I stab the other person with my compass? Does that mean I like them back? I don't want to send any mixed signals or anything.

Of course, the friends who made fun of me weren't doing it because they liked me. They thought the plaid pants I was wearing in the third grade were hysterical.
However, those kids weren't my "real friends," because as everyone knows, friends who judge you because of your clothes are not your real friends.

Apparently, my real friends were some secret plaid pants-wearing nerd cabal who met every week to play Dungeons & Dragons, but I never actually met them.

This "not your real friends" business was never very comforting. Of course, kids will tease each other about their clothes. It's what kids do. They're rotten little turds who don't know you're supposed to hide your true feelings behind a frozen mask of civility.

But they tease because they're just jealous. Apparently, that's the only reason kids are mean to other kids. According to my mom, it's because I was smart, handsome, and loved to read. (Hey, just because her advice was bad doesn't mean she was wrong about everything.)

And also my pants, apparently. They were jealous of my pants. Not every kid got to wear pea-green-and-burgundy plaid pants, so I was special. To hear my mom tell it, these kids would run home after school, fling themselves on their beds, and sob and wail that they didn't have pants like mine. My pants gnawed at their very soul, and they hated me for it.

The dumbest piece of advice I heard was how to deal with bullies.

"If someone is picking on you, just ignore them and they'll go away."

Clearly, someone has never dealt with bullies. They don't go away because you don't react. They continue picking and punching until they get a reaction, which is what they want. They're patient in their cruelty and they'll punch you over and over until you finally acknowledge them.

Don't believe me? How many times will a little kid shout "Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!" before he gives up and goes away?

Trick question. The little turd won't shut up ever. I've been in restaurants where the mom is talking and is ignoring her kid or just hasn't taught him what manners are. Either way, the kid ain't going away no matter how hard she pretends he isn't there.

The only thing worse than a parent not understanding how bullying worked were the teachers and principals who were either unsympathetic or unwilling to listen. There were a couple times I got punished for fighting when it was basically just some bully beating the crap out of me.

I mean, I can see getting in trouble if both of us were whaling away on each other. But when it's just one kid repeatedly punching another kid, there's no reason the second kid should face any kind of punishment.

Ice cream was not an unreasonable expectation.

But the principals and teachers were as unsympathetic as prison guards. They would claim they had to "be fair" and couldn't show favoritism. Except it's not favoritism when you only punish a bullying A-hole for being a bullying A-hole. That's justice.

You don't prosecute both the burglar and the home owner, or the car jacker and the car owner. But this notion of "fairness" in punishing both the bully and the victim was one of the dumbest things any school administrator could have done.

Or maybe they just really liked me.

Photo credit: Thomas Ricker (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

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, July 21, 2017

The Olathe, Kansas State of the City Address

My fellow Olatheans, it has been a wonderful year, after a whole string of wonderful years. And as your mayor, I am proud to deliver my state of the city address in this year of our Lord, 2037. It's hard to imagine that we would go from the nation's 193rd largest city to its 10th largest in just 20 short years. And it's all thank to our wonderful beaches!

(Cheers and laughter.)

Who knew that a simple article from could have been the focal point of the world-changing growth of our city. Those of you who moved to Olathe in the last 20 years may not know our history. We used to be the fourth largest city in Kansas with a population of 135,000, and things were fine. They were just fine.

(Cheers and applause from the old-timers.)

Those of us originally from the Midwest know that feeling well. We like it when things are Just Fine. But then that Wallethub article was published, and it changed everything. Now we're the largest city in Kansas, and Kansas City is now a suburb of Olathe!

(Wild cheers from the crowd.)

In that article, "Best Beach Towns to Live In," Wallethub examined various cities with beaches, and ranked them in terms of affordability, weather, economy, and quality of life. And our tiny beaches next to Lake Olathe and Cedar Lake ranked higher than Miami Beach, Florida. Wallethub ranked us at number 20, and Miami Beach at number 27! We even finished beat Newport Beach, California.
Well, folks around here thought it was all a mite amusing. Surely this was written by some intern who had failed basic geography, or at least had never been to the ocean before. It was good for a few laughs, and I can remember being in college at Kansas State University and making jokes about it. We had fun on Twitter that day, I can tell you. You folks remember Twitter, back in the good old days?

(The crowd murmurs fondly in remembrance.)

Except it turns out other people took it seriously. They began moving to little Olathe to pursue the beach life. The beaches got bigger, and people began putting up little bamboo hutches with grass roofs to serve drinks and food. Then there were a couple restaurants. My father started his restaurant empire by opening Turf's Up, the first Midwestern beach-themed restaurant. That was quickly followed by a series of nightclubs and bars that drew the nighttime beach crowd, and we never looked back.

Pretty soon, the city was overrun with beautiful rich people who were attracted by our glamorous beach life. It wasn't too long before people began flocking to little Olathe for some of that beach life. Even Jimmy Buffet's last three albums have all reflected the Kansas beach attitude: Wichita Dreamin', Last Mango in Iola, and Far Side of Missouri.

We had fashion shows, you started to see Ferraris and Lamborghinis everywhere, and there was a Cuban music revival, even though we only had two Cuban families, and they were former baseball players who just never left.

In my six years as mayor, we've swapped baseball teams with Miami, which sparked a wonderful rivalry. These days, everybody gets excited about the games between the Miami Royals and Olathe Marlins, and we call it the Battle of the Beaches.

The Kansas City Chiefs finally changed their historically racist name to the Olathe Breakers, and every year, we look forward to the Beach Bowl between the Breakers and the Dolphins.

Finally, the Kansas Heat is in the middle of their seventh season in the NBA's Western Division. Of course, some of that Miami Heat luck followed them up here, because they're currently fifth in the division. I guess some things never change.

Olathe continues to prosper thanks to our beaches, our businesses, and our people. Property values are growing, we have more condos per capita than even New York City, tourism is one of our primary industries, and our unemployment rate is 3.5 percent, compared to seven percent for the rest of the country.

We aren't the only city to benefit from Wallethub's complete lack of understanding of statistical research. Thanks to their staggering geographic ignorance, Cincinnati now has the country's best art scene, the Portland, Oregon theater district is considered an American treasure, and Oklahoma City is now the hot dog capital of the world.

And their latest article means Kansas isn't done growing. The "Best Pizza in the Country" article lists Antonio's Pizza in Manhattan, Kansas as the 13th best, just behind Brooklyn, but ahead of Chicago. So to our friends in Manhattan, let me just say, "hold on for the ride."

Photo credit: Ichabod (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)

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, July 14, 2017

Four Pieces of Sage Advice on Job Hunting

Most of us know the pain and frustration of an extended job search, especially if you were looking several years ago during the Great Recession, when jobs were scarce and companies were going out of business.

Even now, several years later, I know people who are having difficulty finding work in their chosen field, earning a living at their profession. And it occurred to me that some of you may need a little ego boost as you search for the next chapter in your life.

As a veteran job seeker who has applied for hundreds of jobs, thanks to the mocking curse of the online mega job boards, I've learned a few important lessons about patience, tenacity, and how not to be bitter, even when the hiring manager is a know-nothing hamster fart.

Here are a few lessons to share with you about your job search.

If you're a young person, remember that your current job is not your career. I know a 17-year-old kid who searched for a job for several months, hoping to find his dream job, working for a music producer or a music studio.
McDonald's in Kyoto, Japan. Could be worse though. It could be a Rally's.

That job never materialized and he got a job at a restaurant instead. I remember he was disappointed about his fate, so I reminded him that he wasn't going to be at the restaurant forever. In fact, most 17-year-olds' jobs won't last to the next full moon. I had my 17-year-old job for three months which is probably some kind of record.

If you're anything like today's Millennials, you've got a good 20 or 30 jobs ahead of you, so it's okay if this job isn't the one you want. You'll get and lose four new jobs while you're asleep tonight, so don't worry about being stuck.

It's okay to take rejection personally. Rejection sucks. It feels like your very humanity has been rejected. The only thing more painful is being turned down after you proposed on the stadium Jumbotron. (Jeez, what a loser! She kept the ring too. His mom still keeps in touch with her though, even had her and her new husband over for dinner last week.)

Of course, there are plenty of perpetually-employed people who will tell you "don't feel so bad, it's not personal."

These people are idiots.

Of course, it's personal! You've just offered your best self to an employer, told them "this is who I am as a person," and placed your heart on their desk, and that jerk of a hiring manager stomped on it with a pair of golf cleats. How can that not be personal?

Having said all that, it's usually not personal. It comes down to whether they thought you were a good fit for the company. Or if they could hire someone for less. Or if you're in marketing, if the other person was young and pretty.

And since I'm neither, you'd better bet I take that personally! Mouth-breathing hamster farts!

Start your own company. I mean it. If you don't have a job, don't fall for that "my job is looking for another job" nonsense. Nothing will drive you deeper into a depressive funk than spending 40 hours a week applying for jobs online and not hearing anything back. Instead, start a company, or become a freelancer, using the skills you do have.

If you're an accountant, become a small business bookkeeper. If you're in marketing, become a marketing consultant. If you're an electrician or builder, become a contractor.

As heartless as it sounds, employers don't like to hire people who don't have jobs. Never mind they could be bailing someone out of a tough spot. Never mind they could earn lifelong loyalty by hiring someone who hasn't worked in nine months. They just tell themselves, "there but for the grace of God go I," and hire someone away from another company.

So start your own company, get some business cards, and go out and find new customers. At the very least, it makes you look employed to a hiring manager. But at the very best, you'll be wildly successful, get rich, and you can tell those hiring managers what they can go do to themselves.

Finally, just remember that you're amazing. If a company didn't hire you, remember, it's because those people are know-nothing hamster farts. They wouldn't recognize talent and a winning personality if it smacked them upside the head.

Instead, they realized you're a proverbial unicorn of skills and experience, and they're threatened by your brilliance. You set the bar of excellence so high just by breathing that their knees tremble at the mere thought of you.

So if you're having a tough time finding a new job, just know that a lot of people are pulling for you, hoping for your very best, and sending you positive thoughts and energy.

Of course, none of us have real jobs ourselves, so that's about all we can help you with. But we're all pulling for you!

Photo credit: Ben Garney (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

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, July 07, 2017

Which Part of 'No' Don't You Understand?

Erik is out of the office this week partly because of the Fourth of July week, but also because it was his birthday the week before. He retreated to some spa, whining about his "mouth wrinkles," so we're republishing a piece from 2003.

It's not something I like to talk about, but when I was in college I did something I'm not proud of.

I was a telemarketer.

Okay, I was only a telemarketer for about three hours, but still, it was pretty traumatic.

It was my last summer in college, and I was looking for a part-time job. I called a company I found in a classified ad, and I was hired right over the phone. I should have been suspicious when I was hired based purely on how I sounded. There was no application, no background check, and no questions about whether I got disgruntled easily or owned any guns.

The "business" was a single room in an office complex with three folding tables, six folding chairs, six phones, and two windows that didn't open. That normally wouldn't matter, but out of the six people there, I was the only one who didn't smoke. Everyone else was like those smokestacks on anti-pollution ads.
My job was to call local businesses written on a stack of index cards and get donations for the Fraternal Order of Police. I would get paid 50 percent of any donations. But I realized the deck was literally stacked against me when I got all the small businesses, while my boss' buddy got all the big businesses and previous donors.

I coughed and hacked my way through three hours without a single donation and enough smoke in my lungs to set off a fire alarm. So when I left for lunch, I didn't go back.

That experience left a bitter taste in my mouth for a week, although it could have been the second-hand smoke. After that, I've had mixed feelings about telemarketers.

On the one hand, I feel sorry for the people who try to earn a living by calling complete strangers. On the other hand, I hate them.

So I'm torn: do I put myself in their tobacco-stained shoes and be as kind as possible when I say no? Or do I hang up as soon as they stumble over my name and start reading their script?

It's not that I get annoyed that they call me at all. It's that some telemarketers are so pushy they won't take "NO!" for an answer, even when I've said it 37 times.

One guy even started talking louder when I tried to explain that I wasn't interested in new windows for my house because it was less than five years old.

"Alright, you've convinced me. I'll listen," I said.

He stopped talking. "Really?"

"No," I said and hung up.

My problem was solved when the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communication Commission launched the national "Do Not Call" list. You can join it by calling (888) 382-1222 or visiting

But the telemarketers aren't happy that people have registered at (888) 382-1222 or They think it's an infringement on their First Amendment rights.

According to an Associated Press story, Tim Searcy of the American Teleservices Association said ". . . the FCC ignored its obligations under the federal law and the Constitution to carefully balance the privacy interests of consumers with the First Amendment rights of legitimate telemarketers."

What Searcy doesn't seem to understand is that the First Amendment only guarantees the right to free speech, it doesn't guarantee you an audience. Especially at dinnertime. It means I don't have to sit through TV commercials, listen to protest groups as I walk down the street, or read literature shoved at me by radical cult members. And it certainly doesn't mean I have to listen to pushy telemarketers asking me if I'm satisfied with my long distance carrier.

So I have a harsh, but much-needed message for the telemarketers: We. . . how do I put this. . . ? We, uhh. . . we just don't like you.

I'm sorry. It's not you. It's not you at all. It's us. We like our privacy. We need our space. That's why we've registered at (888) 382-1222 or So please don't call anymore. Maybe someday, when we're both older and more mature, we can try again. But until then, we want to talk to other people. So don't call, don't write, and don't send email.

In the meantime, we'll use our caller ID to screen calls from numbers we don't remember. Or we'll dial *77 on our touch-tone phones to reject anonymous calls. (2017 Update: If you have a mobile phone, you can download apps like Mr. Number to block spam callers. Here's the iOS version or Android version)

But we'll think of you often. Especially every five years when our registration expires, and we have to reregister at (888) 382-1222 or

Photo credit: OddibeKerfeld (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

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, June 30, 2017

Millennials to Blame for Killing Napkins

Millennials are blamed for a lot of things these days, and they don't deserve it.

Well, most of it.

Some of it.

I mean, I blame hipsters for a lot of things, like skinny jeans, flannel shirts in summer, and man buns, and I think we can all get on board with that. But I don't blame the entire 18 – 28 year old demographic for everything wrong in society.

Millennials currently outnumber Baby Boomers, and thanks to the laws of attrition, that won't be changing any time soon. Also, Generation X, my generation, is predicted to start outnumbering the Baby Boomers by 2028, which is a little depressing when you think about what that means.

But as the largest population demographic, Millennials have the biggest buying impact on our economy. Ten years ago, they were the biggest influencers on purchasing, but now they've got their own money, and they're starting to decide when and how they want to spend it. And that has a whole slew of industry experts in a tizzy, shrieking that the sky is falling. Again.

So it's not a surprise to see a slew of articles lately that blame Millennials for killing dozens of industries simply by not patronizing them.
For example, last year, the Washington Post reported Millennials are killing the napkin industry for a variety of reasons: they stopped buying napkins in favor of paper towels, because they prefer to use paper towels at dinner. They think paper towels are a better choice than napkins, said a napkin industry expert, because they're ideal for cleaning.

Paper towels, that is. Napkin industry experts are pretty useless for wiping up spills, and you're never sure if you can recycle them.

Also, says Big Napkin, Millennials are dining out more, which cuts into the napkin industrial complex. But they must be eating at fancy places with cloth napkins or they're wiping their mouths on their flannel sleeves.

On the other hand, despite all their dining out, Millennials are also killing chain restaurants like Applebee's, TGI Fridays, and Buffalo Wild Wings by not eating there anymore.

Sure, they went with their parents when they were little, but now that they can make their own big kid decisions, 20-somethings don't want to eat at the boil-in-a-bag, microwave-a-meal restaurants anymore.

They prefer farm-to-table restaurants. They love the phrase so much, they're turning it into a verb. "I wish I could just farm-to-table this chicken."

Okay, not really, but I'll bet it didn't surprise you either.

The point is, Millennials are getting picky about where they eat, what they do for entertainment, and even the things they do to help the environment.

They value experiences over possessions, so they're traveling more and buying less useless crap. So if you're in the useless crap business — which is about half our gross domestic product — you've got problems. Not because it's the Millennials' fault, but that you didn't find a way to appeal to them and their buying habits.

That's the problem. All these industries don't fit into what 20-somethings want out of life. They didn't do their research, they didn't find out what their young customers wanted, they just assumed that if their parents did it, their kids would do follow suit.

Anyone who grew up in the Sixties knows how well that worked out.

They're killing credit, they're killing traditional banking, they're killing the entire lending industry, cry the financial industry experts.

Can you blame them? They're cautious about spending money, because they're underemployed. They're underemployed because wages dropped after the Great Recession. A recession that was created by Baby Boomers at all the big mortgage lenders and banks. They can't find high-paying jobs because corporations are making cuts so their executives can get million dollar bonuses. Which means they're not buying cars or houses, because they don't feel like driving SUVs or owning 4,000 square foot McMansions to store all the useless crap they're not buying.

Except they got college degrees, and loads of college debt, because they were told that going to college guaranteed a good solid job.

Of course, someone should have explained that those degrees shouldn't be in poetry or art history, because corporations don't hire people to write about their feelings or stare at paintings. Said the guy with a Philosophy degree.

They're even killing golf, because they can't afford to play such an expensive sport. Also, because golf is stupid. Plus golf courses damage the environment. But mostly it's stupid.

Remember, these are the same people who want farm-to-table food because they care about an animal's life experience. Why would they support an environmental black hole like a golf course?

If you want your golf course to succeed, forget the Millennials. Go after the rednecks who put diesel-belching pipes on their pickups because Obama wanted to protect the environment. Tell them liberals think golf courses harm the planet, and they'll belch over to the golf course and sign up in droves.

But this blame game isn't anything new. The older generation always blames the younger generation. Go back as far as you can, and you'll see who was to blame for killing live theater, vinyl records, radio theater, Victrolas, pre-movie newsreels, silent movies, Vaudeville, the harpsichord, leeching, and having the vapors.

Sort of makes you nostalgic for the good old days, doesn't it?

Photo credit: Shari Weinsheimer (, Creative Commons 0, Public Domain)

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, June 23, 2017

My New Ken Doll Ideas for Mattel

Barbie's erstwhile, if anatomically challenged, companion Kenneth (Ken) Carson is finally getting a makeover. After Barbie has been redesigned and reimagined dozens of times over the last 58 years, Mattel has released 15 different variations of Ken, in all shapes, sizes, and looks.

Ken will come in three different body types, seven different skin tones, and nine different hair styles, including a man bun and corn rows.

As you would expect, there are already thousands of jokes on social media, especially about Man-Bun Ken Doll, including a couple favorites: "(He) interrupted me to tell me Bernie would have won" and "I'm already tired of hearing about his study abroad to Amsterdam where he just 'fell in love with the culture.'"

Except the Ken dolls don't have cool names, only different styles. There's no "Documentary Filmmaker Ken" or "Snotty Barista Ken." I think Mattel missed a golden opportunity to capture some of our quintessential American archetypes. These are a few of the Ken dolls I would have created.

Urban Lumberjack Ken: Dressed in jeans, heavy boots, and a cozy flannel shirt, and sporting an unseasonably thick beard, Urban Lumberjack Ken looks like he's ready to pick up an axe and chop down the nearest trees, if there were any around. His Twitter bio says he loves craft beer, cold-brewed coffee, and hiking in the outdoors, although he hasn't been on a hike since he was 16. Even then, it was a state park with paved walking paths.

You'll marvel at how baby-soft Urban Lumberjack Ken's palms are. You can even help them stay that way with Ken's callus remover and organic non-scented lotion. Don't forget his never-used antique axe accessory.

Youth Pastor Ken: A dynamic and charismatic leader of a youth group at a suburban non-denominational church. Youth Pastor Ken comes with jeans, untucked v-neck t-shirt, a suit vest, and a fedora. He also sports several Christ-related tattoos, including a "He's In Here" with an arrow pointing to his heart.

And don't forget Youth Pastor Ken's sporty vehicle, a Jeep Wrangler 4x4 with the top down. Press the steering wheel, and you'll hear a random selection of Skillet and Nickelback songs.

Finally, add Youth Pastor Ken's Wife Julie to your collection for that extra drama whenever teenage Barbie's around. Youth Pastor Ken's Wife Julie includes a look of pained understanding at realizing she's married to a 28-year-old man-child.

Frat Boy Dude Bro Ken: This Ken doll figures it's his job to catcall Barbie and make her feel uncomfortable whenever she passes in her convertible or on her bike. This broski with the brewskie could be one of Mattel's great mysteries: Is Frat Boy Dude Bro Ken in college, or did he graduate 10 years ago? Should he be putting the moves on on College Freshman Barbie, or is he a whole teenager older than her? Prolong his secret with a tube of Ken's Crow's-Feet Concealer, secretly shipped to your house in a plain brown box.

Frat Boy Dude Bro Ken is fully posable into 12 different manspreading poses. He can also mansplain about any subject matter to a woman, especially if that's her career or field of study.

You can even have him duke it out with his more enlightened rivals, Stay Woke Ken and Slam Poet Ken. Warning, do not leave Frat Boy Dude Bro Ken alone with Barbie's drink while she goes to the ladies' room.

Gym Rat Ken: Gym Rat Ken sure is buff! We're not sure what he does for a living, because it seems like we always find him pumping iron in the gym or flexing and posing in the mirror. With just a baggy pair of gym shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt that's ripped from armpit to waist, Gym Rat Ken is in peak physical condition even though he can't fully put his arms down at his side.

Gym Rat Ken comes complete with tribal tattoo on his right bicep, a 2-pound bucket of muscle bulk powder, and an unlabeled tube of "special muscle cream" Comically huge dumbbell set sold separately. Gym Rat Ken can also double as Frat Boy Dude Bro Ken just by putting on his favorite Big 10 University baseball cap on backwards.

Startup Entrepreneur Ken: New Ken is all about new careers. Rather than working a typical 9-to-5 like the other toys, Startup Entrepreneur Ken wants to be his own boss, pave his own way, and make his own fortune.

Help Ken live his passion with the Startup Entrepreneur Ken's co-working space expansion pack, complete with his very own standing desk, giant Starbucks coffee cup, and laptop computer covered with stickers from tech conferences and music festivals he's never actually been to.

Startup Entrepreneur Ken even has his own mobile app, the Marketing-to-English Translation Dictionary. With one touch, you can convert the random phrases Ken uses, like "full marketing stack" and "frictionless onboarding strategies" into proper English that real people use.

And finally, there's my own personal favorite, Suburban Barbershop Ken, who's there to clip off Man-Bun Ken's man bun once he finally realizes he's a grownup. Which won't be for another 20 years.

Photo credit: Mattel (Used with permission, Mattel Newsroom)

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.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

On the Eighth Day there was Breakfast

Occasionally I'll accept guest posts from friends and fellow humor writers. This guest humor piece is from my friend, Randy Clark, who is branching out from his normal business writing into creative nonfiction and humor. I'm pleased to share this story with you.

It was the eighth morning of a ten-day excursion into the Southwest. My wife and I were meandering our way towards Phoenix for a flight back to Indianapolis. We overnighted in Flagstaff, Arizona staying in one of those roadside inns named by putting an adjective in front of their function, like Well-Being Motel or Amenity Inn. I awoke before my wife. The Happy Hotel had a complimentary breakfast. It was open from 6 am until 10 am. It was 5:40. I brushed my teeth, washed my face, and quietly headed to the lobby, leaving my wife resting peacefully. I’d bring back coffee.

The lobby/breakfast area was packed. There were folks everywhere. As I tried to make my way to the coffee, I was cut off, nudged, and ignored. I heard Excusez-Moi and guttural grunts—I believe some were directed at me.
Randy is also a singer, in addition to being a writer.

After grabbing a cup of joe, I found a seat in the lobby of this L-shaped breakfast hall. I had eyed a USA Today on the table next to a plush black leatherette lobby chair. I picked up the newspaper and read the news of the day. The headlines included the aftermath of Trump’s European tour and Tiger Woods mugshot.

As I quietly sat and read the paper a man came over and without saying a word, or making eye contact, picked up the large foyer chair next to me and moved it alongside of a couch where two companions sat. He didn’t know if I had a purpose for the chair. I could’ve been saving it for my wife, I wasn’t, but I could have been.

Across from me was a table of five friends speaking loudly with food dangling from their lips as they all chewed and talked simultaneously. The breakfast area was self-serve as well as self-clean, and although there was a trash receptacle next to the table of the full-mouth-talking clan they left their mess of saliva moistened crumbs for someone else to dispose of.

At another table, a young couple with a cute toddler ignored their son as he threw fistfuls of baby squeezed scrambled eggs for three feet in every direction.

Still others jostled past people as if they weren’t there, and stood in front of the coffee blocking access as they slowly deliberated which cream to use, French raspberry or vanilla grape.

I perused the paper. As I finished scanning each section, I placed them on the table perpendicular to each other. When I was done I went for a second cup of coffee, grabbed one for my wife, and headed back to the room.

It was our tradition that I’d bring her coffee and then we’d return together to eat. Not today. She’d had eight days of Cheerful Roadside Canteen breakfast and wasn’t prepared for the food, or the crowd.

I returned for a breakfast of hard tater tots, greasy sausages, and what I hoped were scrambled eggs with at least a bit of warmth remaining. Hey, it was free. Don’t judge.

At the dining hall I saw the chair had been returned to its rightful place, the tables (and floors) were clean…and the USA today I had left scattered on the table was neatly stacked. Maybe, I shouldn’t be casting stones.

It was a lesson in humility. As I was judging those around me and smugly back-slapping myself for being a superior person, the truth was I wasn’t much different. I was as selfish as the next person. I left the newspaper not as I had found it, but in disarray. You could argue that my offense was less intrusive than some of the others, but that’s not the point. The point is I was inconsiderate of my fellow human beings.

The eggs were cold, the sausage was hard, and the tater tots burnt, but only slightly. I finished my plate. Like I said, it was free.

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, June 16, 2017

Toilet Paper Prank Sinks High School Kid's Graduation

I was your normal, average kid growing up in normal, average Muncie, Indiana. I wasn't a goody two-shoes, but I wasn't a troublemaker either. Oh, sure, I was obnoxious, but show me a teenage boy who isn't.

Usually, when I got in trouble, it was over something harmless, like staying out too late or going to a rated R movie when I was 14 and lying about it to my parents. (Only to be caught later, because I was not very good at being devious.)

Even my pranks were harmless. Like stealing For Sale signs out of someone's yard and putting them in someone else's. We got my band director, Mr. Pritchett, that way a couple times.

My pinnacle achievement was sticking five or six signs in his yard over Spring Break. (I don't think he ever found out who did it, and I'm hoping he doesn't read this.)

The last day of the year was always Senior Prank Day, but a few of us — Mike, Chris, Jon, and me — wanted to be first. We decided to pull our prank the night before, so it would be waiting when everyone showed up the next morning. And I wanted to top my previous record.

We spray painted "EAT ME" on a bed sheet and "borrowed" 15 or so For Sale signs from a local realtor's office. We stuck the signs in front of the school, and Mike and I climbed onto the roof and hung the sheet in front of the building. We also tied a dead possum next to it.

(We spotted it on the way to the school and picked it up. Don't ask.)

Then we all went home, except for Jon, who had to drive past the school once more. Which is when he got stopped by the cops. Which is how our dean got the first inkling about the culprits.

The next morning, when we showed up, everything was gone. It had already been cleaned up, and no one witnessed our victory! That's when things began to fall apart.

Jon was called into the office immediately, and asked who had pulled the prank. He admitted to it, and was threatened with being banned from graduation that night if he didn't name his co-conspirators. So he named Chris.

Chris got called into the office and was offered the same deal. So he named me.

I realized we were all done for, so I thought, "Screw it," and nailed Mike.

Bingo! That was the guy the dean had been gunning for. For four years, he'd had Mike in his sights but could never make anything stick, and now was his chance to come down on him hard.

He banned Mike from graduation.

An hour later, Mike's mom was screaming at the dean about "calling a #&%$! lawyer," when he caved and rescinded his ban.

I don't remember what happened to the others after that, but I was grounded for an entire month, including my 18th birthday. I also had to take the signs back to the realtor, who thought the prank was brilliant and said if I had called him first, he would have loaned them to me.

Live and learn.

I was reminded of my little prank none-of-your-business years later, when I read about a kid who was banned from crossing the stage for his graduation. (Tonight, as I write this, in fact.)

Hayden Anderson of Virginia Beach, Virginia and some unnamed friends unfurled 250 rolls of toilet paper around the high school, but only Hayden was found out. He was banned, not because of his role in the prank, but because he wouldn't name his accomplices.

The morning after, Hayden was escorted to the principal's office by security guards — in my day, you were just called down and you went — where he was asked about his accomplices.

Unlike the four of us, Hayden wouldn't rat anyone out, and so his principal suspended him for three days, banned him from graduation, and will mail Hayden's diploma to him. According to a story on, Hayden said "those are his best friends and he can't give them up."

"Taking away his privilege to walk on that stage, to me that's just wrong. He earned that right," said Nick Yarrington, who says Anderson is more than a best friend, "he's a brother."

Now, I'm no police detective, but I think if the school wanted to get some answers, they might want to lean on Nick Yarrington a bit. But what do I know?

In the end, I was able to walk across my graduation stage. We all were. But I sometimes wonder what would have happened if we kept our mouths shut. Would anyone else's mom screamed at the dean about a lawyer? Mine wouldn't. I would have been kept out of graduation and told I was lucky it wasn't worse.

To tell you the truth, I don't remember much about graduation these days. Sure, it was fine at the time, but I couldn't even tell you where my high school diploma is now.

I think Hayden has made the better choice, and he's going to remember the day he was true to his friends and refused to back down from a pencil-pushing bully. If anything, that's the most important life lesson Hayden's high school could have ever taught him.

Photo credit: Chase Urich (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

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, June 09, 2017

Letter to my 16 Year Old Self

Dear Young Erik,

It's probably pretty weird to be hearing from your adult self. If you're reading this, it either means I'm hallucinating, or that you invented time travel. (If you did, invest in a company called Apple Computers sometime in the next five years. Tell Dad too. As much as you can. Don't ask, just do it! Trust me.)

You probably have a few questions for your future self. First, yes, you're married. You have three kids. Yes, you've done that. And that too. Yes, you still have all your fingers.

Your hair? Uh, let's just be happy you still have all your fingers.

I'm writing to you, Young Erik, because I just read an article that said that we're pretty much destined to be the kind of people we were when we were 16 years old. That the way we reacted to situations and people as teenagers will influence the way we react to situations and people when we're older. In fact, this article said we do it more than we're actually aware of. And I wanted you to know I didn't blame you. Actually, things are pretty good here, so don't screw this up.

If only that were true for our physical shape though. Do me a favor, and try to cut out soda by the time you're 21. Okay, 25. Okay, 30, but only on special occasions. Like with rum. Or pizza.

Also, don't eat so much pizza.
Otherwise just keep doing what you're doing, keep the friends you've got, and go to college. Don't run off and follow the Grateful Dead or anything stupid.

Or do. I don't actually know what would happen if you did. Hell, maybe you'll end up rich selling Mexican cotton blankets to a bunch of Deadheads.

Ooh, nope! No, don't do that. I just checked with the time machine, and you absolutely must not follow the Grateful Dead. Not if you want to keep all your fingers.

Also, pay attention in school a little more. At least in algebra class.

Don't worry about being popular though. I remember that we never actually liked the popular kids, and we were fine hanging out with the not-so-popular kids. So don't feel too bad. It's actually for the best. Besides, we had fun.

You've no doubt already figured out that most of the popular kids were jerks in high school. Believe me, they did not get better! I wouldn't worry too much about them. Let's just say they didn't change the world as much as their mommies and daddies said they would.

On the other hand, you were spot on in predicting the incarcerated kids.

Of course, this also means you and your plucky band of band nerds are going to pretty much stay the same. Except somewhere in your 20s, you're going to trade your French horn for a fountain pen and join a plucky band of word nerds instead. That's why you spelled it "clique" earlier and not "click."

Once a nerd, always a nerd.

But you're going to have a much better chance of making it as a professional writer than you are a professional French horn player. Even now, in the 21st century, there's not a lot of demand — by which I mean "absolutely none" — for a professional French horn player.

It's true about the way social interactions guide us as adults though. Even today, when I'm out meeting other people or going to networking events, I can still spot them. The little cliques of former jocks, rich kids, theater kids, troublemakers, burnouts, science geeks, band nerds, and the loners. They still all find each other, even as adults, and they hang out together.

So I wanted you to know that everything, for the most part, has turned out okay, and that you should keep doing what you're doing. Be a nerd. Keep doing the weird stuff that no one else does. Read the books no one else likes. Buy comic books and listen to New Wave music. Play the sports no one else plays. (Just try to keep playing them once you turn 40. Seriously.)

And I'm serious about investing in Apple.

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, June 02, 2017

Men's Feelings Get Hurt Over Wonder Woman

Men have become a lot more delicate and precious than I remember when I was growing up. In the '70s and '80s, real men never spoke about their feelings, never shed a tear, and never said a word when something was bothering them.

These days, some men get their feelings hurt, their bowels in an uproar, and their panties in a bunch over the tiniest incident that might prick their frail masculinity, they'll raise such a fuss you'd hardly recognize them as men.

I don't mean man-bun yoga boys or urban lumberjacks who've never actually held an axe. I'm talking about the so-called men who lost their ever-loving minds over an all-women's screening of Wonder Women at the Alamo Theater in Austin, Texas on opening weekend.

It was innocent enough. One theater decided to do something special for one showing on one screen for one day. They even had female ushers, projectionists, and other theater staff.

But to hear the protests, you'd have thought DC had decreed that, like the island of Themyscira, no man would ever be allowed to see Wonder Woman.

When the story hit the news, precious men everywhere were apoplectic. "How dare they?!" they thundered. "That's discrimination! That's sexism! You're leaving us out of your thing because of our gender. That's not fair!"

And women everywhere rolled their eyes and said, "Yep, we know all about that."

I don't see the problem. Why shouldn't women get their own showing? For one thing, it's a superhero movie starring a woman. It's the first female-led blockbuster action film. It was directed by a woman. And the message of the movie is women can be badasses.

But mostly I didn't see the problem because I'm not threatened when a group of women wants to do something for themselves. My sense of masculinity does not shrivel up with the empowerment of women. I do my thing, and they can do theirs.

But some men refused to accept this. They whined to Alamo Theater that there weren't men-only screenings of Demolition Man, Iron Man, or Man of Steel.
If they really wanted to see it so badly, they could have waited for a day and gone to that very same theater and watched the very same movie in the very same seats, assuming they had been vaccinated against girl cooties.

Instead, they created a bigger problem for themselves. Alamo Theater's decision was so popular, thanks to all the media attention, they have started doing women-only showings in some of their other theaters across the country, as well as additional shows in their Austin theater.

This is what's called the Streisand effect, so named when Barbra Streisand sued, demanding they take her house off their website because she didn't want people seeing it online.

Before the lawsuit, the photo had only ever been seen six times, including twice by Streisand's lawyers. After the lawsuit hit the news, it was seen 420,000 times in the first month.

And that's what the precious male snowflakes have done. They pouted so much about a single two-hour block of time that this may just become a national movement.

One of the things I've always appreciated about the males of most species is that they'll step up and protect their herd/pride/troop/family. When a younger male tries to encroach on his territory, the alpha male will fight the incomer and run him off. Then he'll strut around the watering hole that night and brag to his buddies, "You see that kid try to throw down with me today? I totally kicked his ass."

You can even see this behavior among human men. We posture and strut and show off for each other and our women, challenging each other's masculinity and prowess. We get bigger trucks, bigger guns, louder engines, louder stereos, anything that lets us shout our barbaric yawps from the rooftops of the world, "I'M A MAN! HEAR ME ROAR!"

But let 200 women see a movie by themselves, and those guys turn into whiny children fighting over the last juice box.

Ultimately, I question the masculinity of those men who are upset by this all-female screening. If you were truly masculine, you wouldn't be threatened by it. You wouldn't be threatened by a group of women wanting to see a movie without you. It's not like you were clamoring all this time to see "27 Dresses" and "Steel Magnolias." (If you really want us to believe this is about equality, demand an all-male screening of "Steel Magnolias.")

You would already believe in your own strength and your own fortitude, and you wouldn't be intimidated by anyone. You'd say, "Meh. I still have every other superhero movie ever made."

But if you really want to make a statement for male equality, take a few hundred of your burliest buddies down to the Alamo Theater, and buy up every single ticket for next weekend's screenings of Wonder Woman. That'll really show 'em.

And don't forget the all-dude movie candy, Mike & Ike.

Photo credit: Unsplash (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)

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.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Missing Out on the 101st Indianapolis 500

I should be in Indianapolis right now, but I'm not.

I should just be sitting down to an early lunch, on the 3rd floor of the IMS Media Center, but I'm not.

I'm not in Indianapolis this year, for the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500. I'm in Orlando, Florida, where I moved in 2015. And this year, my road to Indianapolis was filled with too many obstacles to even make it there.

And so, for the first time in eight years, I missed my sunrise shot of the IMS Pagoda. I missed my early breakfast. I missed seeing people already drunk — or maybe still drunk from the night before — in the infield. I'll miss hearing the traditional songs. I'll miss Mari Hulman George giving the all important command. And I'll miss seeing the most exciting motorsports event of the year.

My first year at the 500, back in 2009, was so eye opening. I had never watched the race, only listened to it on the radio. Growing up in Central Indiana, you couldn't see the race on TV, so I had no idea what it looked like. And finally seeing everything live shattered the images I had built in my mind about what it all looked like.

That first year, I was nervous walking around Gasoline Alley, getting interviews with the different drivers and crew members, taking photos. There are certain rules journalists must follow, and I didn't want to run afoul of them and get blacklisted. But I was also a little awestruck by being at the one place that my family recognized and revered for so many years.

My first ever interview was with Justin Wilson, who was racing for Dale Coyne Racing. He was a true gentleman and he answered all my questions. I think he could tell I was nervous, and he was very gracious and understanding, and he put up with my rookie nonsense. He became my favorite driver that day, and I always hoped he would win the 500. I was devastated the day he died. My dream had been to help write his autobiography when he retired.

The Race on the Radio

It was a Memorial Day tradition when I was growing up that we would work outside in the yard on race day. We'd listen to the race — it took three and four hours back then — and work out in the yard, burning our skin to a nice, stinging pink, and imagine what the race track looked like. My mom and stepdad would cheer for Rick Mears, but hope for the best for AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti.

I finally got to meet Rick Mears a few years ago, and told him what he meant to my stepdad, Tom. He thanked me and said he appreciated it.

I also got to meet Howdy Bell several years ago, at a networking event. I heard him before I saw him, and thought, "I recognize that voice!" We always heard him, in Turn Number 3, hollering about one pass or another. Then I saw him every year at the race, and even gave him some advice on running his website. (Howdy is also a wedding officiant, and is available to perform at your special day.)

When I lived in northern Indiana, I could have watched the race on TV, but I didn't. I saw a few minutes of it one time, realized it looked nothing like what I had imagined, and so I shut it off. I went back to doing what I had always done. I sent my family off to church and lunch at my in-laws', and I sat and listened to the race on my radio. Although, I did it indoors, where it's nice and air conditioned.

But this year, I'm going to do something I've never done. I'm going to sit and watch the Indianapolis 500 live on my television.

It won't be the same, and so I'm already making plans to get back there next year.

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, May 26, 2017

I Wish My Sandwich Artists Would Listen Better

Would you just listen to me for a minute? I mean actually focus on what I'm saying. Stop what you're doing, look at my face, and watch my mouth make these words. Process them in your brain, consider what I said, and then respond appropriately.

That's probably something my wife has said to me more than once, I think. But it's also something I want to shout at every sandwich maker I ever engage with.

I go to an unnamed local sandwich shop almost every Thursday night for dinner, because that's when I write this column. I won't say which one, but it rhymes with "Scrubway."

I step up to the counter and place my order: "Footlong spicy Italian on white bread with Provolone. And could you toast that, please?"

Maybe I'm saying it wrong. Maybe I have a funny accent and I'm hard to understand. Or maybe a 14 word request is too complicated, and I should break it into three-word chunks. Because that's invariably what I have to do.

The "sandwich artist" — they call them "sandwich artists" at, uh, Scrubway — pulls out my bread and asks, "Did you say spicy Italian?"

"Yes," I say, and he adds the meat.

"What kind of cheese? Was it Swiss?" asks the guy.

"No, Provolone. And toast it, please."

"Did you want this toasted?" asks my "sandwich artist."

Not a sandwich from either anonymous sub place
Sure, that's a good idea," I say, and the artist beams with pleasure at thinking of this all on his own.

I'll give him credit, he's good on the vegetables. They're all good on the vegetables.

"I'll have lettuce, tomato, onion, black olives, and pickles. Plus a little mayo and Sriracha."

And they nail it every time.

But then we're back to not listening. When everything else is done, I ask for "all the dry stuff" — salt, pepper, oregano, Parmesan cheese, all of it.

Now, these same people have made my sandwich on Thursday night for over a year. They're all veteran sandwichers. And I ask for my sandwich to be made the same way. Every. Single. Time.

But when I say "all the dry stuff," one guy always asks, "So, salt and pepper?"

"Yes," I say.

"And oregano?"


"And Parmesan?"

"Isn't that part of the dry stuff?" I ask.

"Well, yeah."

"Then I want it," I say.

I even explained it to him once. "I know what's in the dry stuff because I order it every time. So when I say 'all the dry stuff,' I mean all of it. Just add it all. Okay?"

"Okay," he agreed, and I felt like we bonded a little bit.

And then I had to explain it to him all over again the following week.

The only place more infuriating — again, not naming names — rhymes with "what the smell is wrong with you, Jimmy John's?!"

Sometimes, the whole family will want subs for dinner, but we're in the mood for this other place. So I order five sandwiches for us, and the sandwichers very carefully set each sandwich on the counter. Then they look at me, all pleased, like a dog that's dropped a dead animal at my feet.

"Can you put those in a bag?" I ask. They stare at me like I've sprouted an extra head, and it's ordering more sandwiches in Latin.

"You know, so I can carry them?" I say. Do they expect me to tuck them under my arms like Paul Bunyan carrying a couple of trees?

"Help yourself, Chief," a sandwicher told me once, no doubt the Employee Of The Month.

Now, a normal Jimmy John's sack is only large enough to hold four regular sandwiches. I know this because that's all I can fit whenever I "help myself." But every time I persuade them to do it for me, they always try to cram in that fifth sandwich.

"It won't fit," I say every time. But they shove and twist, and twist and shove, and either smash the sandwiches or tear the bag.

"Huh. It tore," said one guy, genuinely surprised.

"That's because they only hold four sandwiches." He offered me the torn bag of sandwiches.

"Could you just put them in two bags?" I sighed. He looked at me like my extra head was now wearing a new hat and singing "I Feel Pretty." He handed me my sandwiches in two bags, looking pleased with himself again.

The problem isn't with the people themselves. They're smart and capable, and they're nice kids, they just don't listen. They don't pay attention to what's being said to them, and they don't think about the next step.

While I appreciate people who "live in the moment," I don't think that moment needs to be a three word burst of what I want on my sandwich. I would like it if they could pay attention for 30 seconds and retain an entire 14 word order longer than a couple laps around the ol' goldfish bowl.

So, just listen to me for one whole minute, and we'll both be happier with the experience.

Because I want chips with that.

Photo credit: jeffreyw (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

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, May 19, 2017

Avocado Toast Destroys the American Dream

Man, Millennials sure love their avocado toast.

Like, pry it from their cold dead fingers love it.

It all started when Tim Gurner, a 35-year-old millionaire real estate developer, told Australia's "60 Minutes," "When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn't buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each."

You'd have thought the government was requiring a mandatory pruning of all man buns, because social media went on a full-on freakout that someone would insult their love of, well, smashed avocado.

"We’re at a point now where the expectations of younger people are very, very high," said Gurner. "They want to eat out every day; they want travel to Europe every year. The people that own homes today worked very, very hard for it. . . They saved every dollar, did everything they could to get up the property investment ladder."

He does have a point about the coffee though, although I don't drink four lattes in one sitting.

So what's his problem with avocado toast? I've heard of it, but I thought it was one of those made-up dishes you'd see on Portlandia. Except it's a real thing, and it apparently costs 19 damn dollars!

Except it doesn't.

I did a little sleuthing (i.e., I Googled a couple bistro menus) and found that unless you live in Brooklyn or San Francisco, avocado toast is around $9 - $10. But if you're in those hipster meccas, you can find it for as much as $16 – $20.

Which only proves that some people will spend money on the stupidest things. (Looking at you, Skymall!)

It's actually pretty good!
So what's so special about avocado toast? Do they sprinkle edible gold on it? Are the avocados harvested from trees guarded by a bank of Komodo dragons? Is it carried to your table on satin pillows by young men and women who have trained for this since birth?

No, but it does prove that some people have more money than sense, even if they don't have a lot of money.

I made avocado toast at home today. The avocado cost $.69 and two slices of bread cost $.26, which means my avocado toast cost $.95 to make. And if I could sell that to unwitting hipsters for $9, or even $19, I'd be able to buy a new house outright in about three months.

The Sanctum restaurant in Orlando charges $9 for their avocado toast. You can choose from fermented sourdough bread, or sprouted grain Ezekiel toast, which is very carefully prepared slices of nasty death. Then they put on smashed avocado, tomato, watermelon radish, black sesame, and sprouts.

Still, even if I skip a once a week treat of $9 avocado toast, that's not going to get me a house anytime soon.

Here in Orlando, an average 3 bedroom/2 bathroom house is around $250,000. In Indiana, it's $200,000, or even $150,000 out in the country. Of course, you won't find many places serving avocado toast out in the country. Most pretentiousness is confined to the bigger cities.

A 20 percent downpayment on a house in Orlando will be $50,000, or 5,555 avocado toasts, assuming you don't tip. If you skip your once-a-week avocado toast, you can save your downpayment in almost 107 years, give or take a few months.

Of course, this makes a case for moving to Indianapolis, because you can make a $40,000 downpayment in roughly 85.5 years, 22 years sooner.

I don't know how quickly real estate millionaire Tim Gurner amassed his first downpayment, but something tells me not eating avocado toast was not his big secret.

Maybe he worked hard and made smart investments. Maybe he and his wife shared a double income. Maybe he got several million dollars from his dad which, like another real estate mogul we know, he managed to turn into a few million dollars.

Regardless, Tim Gurner insulted a group of people he has nothing in common with about a lifestyle choice he knows nothing about, giving advice to people who don't want it.

And that's my thing!

I don't need some Australian rich guy waltzing in here, telling American hipsters that everything they do, wear, and eat is completely wrong and stupid.

That's also my thing.

The guy's already got enough money that he's being interviewed by Australian "60 Minutes" (which is metric "37.28 Minutes"). Meanwhile I can't even get a pizza delivered in that time.

So check your math, Tim Gurner, because it's faulty and completely unreasonable. And check your attitude as well, because if anyone's going to grouse about how a bunch of man-bun-and-flannel wearing hipsters turned a 69 cent vegetable into a $9 breakfast snack, it's going to be me.

But I still think he's right about the coffee.

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, May 12, 2017

Karl the Curmudgeon is Proud of His Stupid Salt Shaker

"Hey, Kid, check out my new salt shaker," said Karl, beaming with pride.

Where? I looked over the table. We were sitting on his back patio for a Saturday night baseball game — my Reds were taking on his Pirates — and he had laid out a big spread of hot dogs, potato salad, beer, and other ballgame necessities, like more beer. He had installed a flatscreen TV in the porch, and we were going to sit outside and eat and drink ourselves silly.

"That thing," he said, pointing at a black plastic obelisk in the center of his table.

That thing that looks like a space-age thermos?

"Yep. It's a Bluetooth salt shaker."

Ha, that's funny. I thought you said Bluetooth salt shaker.

"I did," he said. "It's called the 'Smalt,' which means 'smart salt.'"

That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Sorry, the dultest thing. Who needs a Bluetooth salt shaker? What's it do, tell you how much salt you have left?

"No, no. Check it out!" Karl was excited. I hadn't seen him grin this much since his youngest daughter finally got a job and moved out of the house. "It plays music, it has a light ring, and the light even changes color."
Alright, I admit it. I want one. I even entered a contest to win one.

Why do I need my salt shaker to do that? Why don't we just string some Christmas lights around the porch and use the regular salt like a normal human being.

"Because this is more than just a salt shaker. It's a smart salt shaker."

But it's not a smart salt shaker. It's a speaker with a salt shaker inside it.

"The package called it 'The first multi-sensory device to make the dining experience fun."

Seriously? If you need a salt shaker to make dining fun, you're eating with the wrong people.

"You're here, aren't you?"

Hey, I'm a damn delight, I said. Besides, how much fun can a salt shaker actually be.

"It's not just a salt shaker," said Karl. "It's a multi-sensory smart kitchen device."

What are the multiple sensory things?

"Well, the lights and the sound."

That's it? I said. How is that a multi-sensory device?

"It uses your sense of sight and hearing."

So does my television, but I don't shake it on my scrambled eggs.

"Ah-ha! That's a third sense: your sense of taste," Karl declared.

Oh jeez, try not to look so triumphant about that. It's just sad.

"You have to admit I'm right though."

I admit nothing. Calling something multi-sensory is just puffed up marketing jargon. By that definition, everything is multi-sensory. I can hear and watch my phone. All I need to do is lick it, and I've got the trifecta.

"Ooh, I almost forgot. The Smalt is wired into Amazon's Alexa system, so you can give it voice commands like you do Alexa."

Alexa, schedule a mental competency test for Karl on Monday.

"Knock it off. I'm fine," said Karl.

You know what'd go great out here? A Siri-enabled froyo machine. Maybe a barbecue that streams Netflix. I call it Netflix and Grill.

"You're just jealous because you don't have any cool tech like this back in the 19th century."

Actually I do. I have an Alexa and I have a salt shaker. They're modular, so I can just attach them together with some duct tape. I can even swap it out with the pepper shaker. Bet your Smalt can't do that.

"I don't know. It didn't say anything about pepper in the instructions."

I held my potato salad up to the Smalt. Okay, how's it work? Where's the button?

"Oh, it doesn't have a button," said Karl. "You have to shake it out."

Shake it? How is this a smart salt shaker if I have to shake it like a caveman? Do we have to bang on a log to change the TV channel too?

"No, you preselect the amount of salt you want and then shake it out."

How the hell do you do that?

"You can turn the dial—"

Turn the dial? Do I have to put my stone knife down?

"—Shut up. Or you can ask Alexa to dispense the amount of salt you want."

Why can't I just shake a normal salt shaker and stop when I have enough?

"Because you lack imagination."

I lack imagination? I'm not the one who couldn't imagine life without a $200 musical thermos. If you want music, turn on the giant stereo in your living room and get a $.97 disposable salt shaker from the store.

"But this is voice activated."

So is this: Karl, can you hand me the real salt shaker?

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.