Friday, December 09, 2016

The Deckers Family, Inc. 2016 Annual Report

To: All members of Deckers Family, Inc.
From: President Dad
RE: Yearly Evaluation Report

Dear Shareholders, Partners, and Employees of DFI:

It has been six years, since I have submitted an annual report for your review. In fact, it's been so long that my title has changed from President Daddy to President Dad. This was actually a sad day for me and CEO Mom, because it meant that our junior staffers had long surpassed their probationary period, and were now moving into their own positions of responsibility.

I also had a feeling of predictions gone wrong when I read in our 2010 report that DFI had moved to its "permanent headquarters" and that "we have no plans of moving." And yet, the old adage, "the only thing that is constant is change" holds true, because we since moved to Orlando, Florida, to our new semi-permanent headquarters.

I say "semi-permanent," because the last several years have shown that making plans for permanence is optimistic at best, and foolish 95 percent of the time. But I have begun planning for our eventual departure. For example, after abandoning yet another garage workstation — this time, a 17 linear foot hand-built L-shaped work station — our new garage workstation is completely portable, which means when we move again, I can take it with us.

I'm also pleased to see the Senior Manager and Assistant Manager of Daughter Operations (SMDO, AMDO) are amenable to sharing their workspace again. As we have sought to downsize into a more lean operation, we've managed to eliminate a lot of our excess inventory, especially old and outdated electronics, uniforms, and even recreational items. This has enabled the SMDO and AMDO to merge departments with a minimum of fuss. CEO Mom and I appreciate your cooperation.

One area of special commendation is the amount of resources the Coordinator of Son Operation (CSO) consumes as he expands his operations. Despite his rapid vertical expansion over the last few years, his total resource consumption has been relatively small.

I recently mentioned during a board meeting that I consumed easily twice the resources when I was the Senior Manager of Son Operations in a previous venture in the mid-80s.

Later, after I went freelance for several years, the Assistant Manager of Son Operations took over the entire department, and his resource consumption equaled and even exceeded my previous years' performance. So we applaud DFI's SCO for expanding operations at a minimal cost.

Despite having a smaller headquarters, all members of DFI have managed to keep their personal workspaces fairly clean and organized. It has helped immensely that we have streamlined our overall inventory footprint, which means there's much less to clean and organize than when we first opened DFI in northern Indiana.

Special thanks to CSO for taking over outside grounds management. Your willingness to oversee this area, especially in the middle of summer, have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated.

The corporate cafeteria is still a problem, however, which is understandable, since we all use it. But we could keep it cleaner throughout the day, if the CSO would just remember to empty the dishwasher each morning.

(On a side note, let me warn our junior staffers: If CEO Mom points out that you left items in the cafeteria sink, don't point out her own cafeteria items around the house. This is apparently a sensitive issue, and I have been called into several lengthy meetings after forgetting to heed my own warning.)

Acting Chief of K9 Security, Sophie, was promoted to Chief of K9 Security in 2012, after CEO Mom pointed out that we didn't have the budget for an additional member of the department, and this was as good as we were going to get. So Sophie is serving as Chief of Security as well as Chief Morale Officer, and her pay has been increased to a nice dog biscuit each afternoon.

One area of concern we have is that while all three junior staffers are learning more job responsibilities, CMO Mom and I are not quite comfortable with the AMDO and CSO exploring temporary external partnerships.

The SMDO has enough experience and seniority that she has begun exploring some options, but we encourage wisdom and patience while she considers what's available. And of course, senior staff reserves the right to veto any potential partnership that can be damaging to SMDO's overall performance and well-being.

Also, President Dad has promised to block any transfer of SMDO to another company for a number of years, especially if the new venture does not have the financial stability and maturity to succeed on its own.

Deckers Family, Inc. has been in Orlando for over a year now, and while I was resistant to the change, I'm pleased to see that everyone has easily made the adjustment to the new location and climate. I'm looking forward to what 2017 can bring us as a company.





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, December 02, 2016

Helicopter Parents May Ruin Childhood Christmas

It's Christmas time, and you know what that means! It's time for parents to drive themselves deeper into debt by buying their children's happiness and getting them into a good college. Their biggest purchases are usually in mad pursuit of the year's hottest toy, designed to bring minutes and minutes of joy before the kids get bored and start thinking about their birthdays.

In 1983, the big toy was Cabbage Patch Kids, and there were riots at several retail stores as crazed would shove, hit, kick, and even whack each other with baseball bats, over the plush toy.

In 1996, it was Tickle Me Elmo, and parents spent as much as $1,500 for a $29 toy. Again, people rioted. Two Chicago women were arrested for fighting, and a Walmart clerk in British Columbia received a broken rib and a concussion when 300 people trampled him to get an Elmo.

Because nothing celebrates the birth of the Prince of Peace like clocking some jackwagon over a child's toy.

This year's must-have-toy-or-Aubrey-won't-get-into-Harvard is the Hatchimal. It's a furry animal that hatches from a plastic egg, and grows and develops mentally, as a kid plays with it. The toy retails for $60, but some parents are paying as much as $500 so as not to disappoint their children. Because, as everyone knows, life is never full of disappointment and sadness.
The Hatchimal goes through three stages of life, and sings "Hatchy Birthday" at each new stage. They go through the fourth and final stage when the kid gets bored and quits playing with it, usually around February. Parents can then get the Li'l Griever's Five Stages of Sadness decorating kit. (Viking Burial accessories sold separately.)

Typical of any good toy craze, Spin Master, Hatchimal's maker, has run out of the toys, and is making more, which they expect to have in early 2017. They're not very happy about the profiteering, and are encouraging people to pre-order the new batch, and get rain checks that they can claim in January.

Meanwhile, some parents who weren't lucky enough to snatch a Hatchimal for little Oliver or Wicker are putting off important life lessons of supply-and-demand and bitter disappointment, and are instead writing apology letters from Santa.

There are two sample versions of the letter online for parents to use. One is an IOU, a promise that the child's Hatchimal will be arriving soon, once Mama and Papa Hatchimal can find a little free time in front of a warm fireplace, play a little smooth jazz, drink a little wine. . .

I can live with this. My family and I have often done the IOU thing before. Print out a photo of the gift, and wrap it in a big box, with an explanation that the gift will arrive soon. It's not a great solution, but it teaches patience.

But other parents are helicoptering their children into maladjusted adulthood by writing apology letters from Santa, explaining that he can't get any more Hatchimals, and he's very sorry, but he won't be delivering their fondest Christmas wish at any time at all ever.

Cheese balls!

Don't get me wrong. I love Santa Claus. He visited our house for years, when my kids were still young enough. But we had a rule that Santa didn't give the cool presents, we did. If anyone was going to get credit for giving a cherished childhood toy, it was going to be us. And if we couldn't get a particular present, we didn't scramble for it. We didn't spend half the mortgage on a single toy, and we didn't blame Santa for our unwillingness to have our children feel a single negative emotion.

These helicopter parents are so afraid of their children feeling sad for even one second that they're too cowardly to tell them no. Instead, they pile the blame on Santa's shoulders, along with the mountain of organic gluten-free educational toys he's bringing to their already-entitled children.

Hopefully Santa knows some good young adult therapists, because this will no doubt come up a few times before the parents walk their children across the stage at their college graduation.

If you want your kids to learn to cope with life's disappointments, tell them that Santa can't do everything. Tell them he'll bring the toys he thinks will suit them, not the copy-and-pasted toy catalog they sent him.

Better yet, toughen your kids up with a little emotional blackmail. Use this as a teaching opportunity, as well as a way to get a little peace and quiet for yourself.

"Dear Wicker and Oliver, I didn't get you a Hatchimal because you haven't been very good this year. Your incessant bickering and whining gives your parents a headache. Suck it up and try better next year. I'm not kidding, Santa."

Photo credit: 'Santa's Portrait' byThomas Nast, published in Harper's Weekly, 1881 (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, November 25, 2016

Oxford Dictionaries' Word of the Year is a Lie

The Oxford Dictionaries, makers of one of the world's heaviest dictionary (137.72 pounds), has released its word of the year, as well as the other words that made their shortlist, for the annual recognition. These are the words that "had an impact on 2016, for better or worse," said the dictionary's website. "(They) reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the past twelve months."

The 2016 word of the year is "post-truth," which the Oxford Dictionaries defines as "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."

In other words, people choose to believe opinion and emotion more than actual science, evidence, and their own senses.

Like the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

While the idea of post-truth has always been around, it's only in the last 12 months that we've really seen it surge. If you have a basic working knowledge of American politics, you know that's true.

Well, you believe it to be true, based on actual observations and science, but could be convinced otherwise.

Now, in a post-truth world, mainstream media sources like The New York Times, Washington Post, and the network news carry as much weight as the National Enquirer, your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving, and "some guy I know who read about this online." It's a sad day when a large majority of people decide to ignore two newspapers of record and three decades-old news programs in favor of PatriotInMomsBasement.com.

So thanks to the presidential campaign, as well as the British "Brexit" vote, for bringing about this post-truth world.

Speaking of Brexit, that term made the short list after British nationalism, racism, and Islamophobia won out in that country. Brexit politicians manipulated their own post-truth rhetoric and played on the emotions of their voters, who "demanded their country back."

Immediately following the vote, many British "leavers" expressed their shock and surprise at the vote. They said theirs was a protest vote, and they thought Brexit supporters were just some strident fringe element, and that sanity and normalcy would prevail. They didn't realize their protest vote would have such a dramatic effect on the future of their nation.

Now these Bridiots are bregretting their vote and bremoaning their fate. Looks like they're going to have to be adults and live with their bristake.

Speaking of which, "adulting" made the short list as well. It's defined as the "informal the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks."

The term is used by new adults who aren't big fans of their new responsibilities, like doing their own laundry, paying bills, or going grocery shopping and not loading up on Cap'n Crunch.

Don't feel bad. I've been doing those things for almost 30 years, and I still don't like it.

Another word on the short list is "coulrophobia", even though it's an older word, dating back to the 1980s, when Stephen King wrote his clown horror story, It.

The Oxford Dictionaries says coulrophobia is "an extreme or irrational fear of clowns."

First of all, it's not extreme or irrational. It's an extremely rational, acceptable, and well-deserved fear. If a bunch of miscreants want to dress as creepy clowns to frighten normal, decent people, it is not irrational to chase those creepy clowns into the woods with a machete or Lord Humungus' car from The Road Warrior.

But my favorite word on the shortlist is "hygge," a Danish word that means "a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being."

The word is pronounced HYOO-guh, as in "hue," or HOOG-uh as in "sugar," and it's grown in popularity here in the United States, as well as the UK, in response to the bitterness surrounding our political campaigns. It's also different from "yuge," which is apparently some kind of New York word that means "bigly."

Hygge is not the only untranslatable word to enter the English language. The German word "schadenfreude," which means the enjoyment we get at someone else's misfortune, is another one.

But after all the screaming and finger pointing has died down, and everyone has settled into their homes for the holidays, I hope you have your own hygge, free of politics and Facebook, with friends and family who truly care about you.

So put on a sweater, light your candles, and get yourself a nice big bowl of Cap'n Crunch. We're done adulting for a few days.


In the original version of this piece, I referred to Oxford Dictionaries as "the Oxford English Dictionary." This is incorrect. Oxford Dictionaries is run by a different team with different editors, data, etc. Hat tip to Grant Barrett of A Way With Words, the premier language and grammar radio show on NPR for catching that error.


Photo credit: Nightscream (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.

Oxford Dictionaries' Word of the Year is a Lie

The Oxford Dictionaries, makers of one of the world's heaviest dictionary (137.72 pounds), has released its word of the year, as well as the other words that made their shortlist, for the annual recognition. These are the words that "had an impact on 2016, for better or worse," said the dictionary's website. "(They) reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the past twelve months."

The 2016 word of the year is "post-truth," which the Oxford Dictionaries defines as "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."

In other words, people choose to believe opinion and emotion more than actual science, evidence, and their own senses.

Like the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

While the idea of post-truth has always been around, it's only in the last 12 months that we've really seen it surge. If you have a basic working knowledge of American politics, you know that's true.

Well, you believe it to be true, based on actual observations and science, but could be convinced otherwise.

Now, in a post-truth world, mainstream media sources like The New York Times, Washington Post, and the network news carry as much weight as the National Enquirer, your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving, and "some guy I know who read about this online." It's a sad day when a large majority of people decide to ignore two newspapers of record and three decades-old news programs in favor of PatriotInMomsBasement.com.

So thanks to the presidential campaign, as well as the British "Brexit" vote, for bringing about this post-truth world.

Speaking of Brexit, that term made the short list after British nationalism, racism, and Islamophobia won out in that country. Brexit politicians manipulated their own post-truth rhetoric and played on the emotions of their voters, who "demanded their country back."

Immediately following the vote, many British "leavers" expressed their shock and surprise at the vote. They said theirs was a protest vote, and they thought Brexit supporters were just some strident fringe element, and that sanity and normalcy would prevail. They didn't realize their protest vote would have such a dramatic effect on the future of their nation.

Now these Bridiots are bregretting their vote and bremoaning their fate. Looks like they're going to have to be adults and live with their bristake.

Speaking of which, "adulting" made the short list as well. It's defined as the "informal the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks."

The term is used by new adults who aren't big fans of their new responsibilities, like doing their own laundry, paying bills, or going grocery shopping and not loading up on Cap'n Crunch.

Don't feel bad. I've been doing those things for almost 30 years, and I still don't like it.

Another word on the short list is "coulrophobia", even though it's an older word, dating back to the 1980s, when Stephen King wrote his clown horror story, It.

The Oxford Dictionaries says coulrophobia is "an extreme or irrational fear of clowns."

First of all, it's not extreme or irrational. It's an extremely rational, acceptable, and well-deserved fear. If a bunch of miscreants want to dress as creepy clowns to frighten normal, decent people, it is not irrational to chase those creepy clowns into the woods with a machete or Lord Humungus' car from The Road Warrior.

But my favorite word on the shortlist is "hygge," a Danish word that means "a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being."

The word is pronounced HYOO-guh, as in "hue," or HOOG-uh as in "sugar," and it's grown in popularity here in the United States, as well as the UK, in response to the bitterness surrounding our political campaigns. It's also different from "yuge," which is apparently some kind of New York word that means "bigly."

Hygge is not the only untranslatable word to enter the English language. The German word "schadenfreude," which means the enjoyment we get at someone else's misfortune, is another one.

But after all the screaming and finger pointing has died down, and everyone has settled into their homes for the holidays, I hope you have your own hygge, free of politics and Facebook, with friends and family who truly care about you.

So put on a sweater, light your candles, and get yourself a nice big bowl of Cap'n Crunch. We're done adulting for a few days.


In the original version of this piece, I referred to Oxford Dictionaries as "the Oxford English Dictionary." This is incorrect. Oxford Dictionaries is run by a different team with different editors, data, etc. Hat tip to Grant Barrett of A Way With Words, the premier language and grammar radio show on NPR for catching that error.


Photo credit: Nightscream (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, November 18, 2016

Castigat Ridendo Mores: What's In Your Motto?

Do you know your state's motto?

Not the bumper sticker slogan that your state's tourism department paid an out-of-state marketing agency $100,000 to create.

No, seriously, $100,000. A couple years ago, the Indiana Office of Tourism Development spent $100,000 to come up with "Honest-to-Goodness Indiana," which a lot of people hated. And who could forget Massachusetts' $300,000 slogan, "Massachusetts . . . Make it Yours" back in 2002?

Those expensive marketing slogans aren't actually associated with a state's founding philosophy and guiding belief. That's what the state motto does.

A state motto is something that's usually been around ever since the state was founded. And it's frequently written in Latin, which means most people don't know what it actually means.

For example, a lot of people think Alabama's motto is "Sweet Home Alabama," but that's just the state slogan, which they've had since 1951. It's also the Lynrd Skynrd song of the same name, which you started humming when I said "Sweet Home Alabama."

It turns out, Alabama's state motto is "Audemus jura nostra defendere," which is Latin for "Don't even try it, we're heavily armed."

Actually, it means "We dare to defend our rights," which sounds like they're picking a fight with Mississippi, whose motto is "Virtute et armis," or "By virtue and arms." So I'm picturing Mississippi and Alabama shooting it out in a Stuckey's parking lot next weekend.

Of course the two states' mottos are much tougher talk than Texas, the state where every person over 12 wears six shooters on their belts.

Texas wants you to think their motto is "Don't mess with Texas."

It's not. It's really not.

Their state motto is "Friendship."

Awwww, that's so cute! It's almost as good as "Land of unicorns and kittens." Or "If our name had an I, we'd put a heart over it." Or "Texas: the X is a kiss."

Sorry, Texas, I'm just messing with you.

Except "Don't mess with Texas" was an anti-littering campaign created by the Texas Department of Transportation in the late '80s. The campaign became so successful, it's been used in countless TV shows, movies, and it's even the motto of the USS Texas submarine.

Of course, the USS Texas is not the best ship in the US Navy. Because the best ship is friendship. (If it weren't unprofessional to write a winky face emoticon in this column, I'd put it right here.)

Speaking of not messing with states, New Hampshire has quite the chip on its shoulder with "Live free or die." It originally came from General John Stark, New Hampshire's most famous general in the Revolutionary War. In 1809, he wrote to some former comrades, "Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils."

It was also adopted as a challenge to the British, who fought another war with the United States just three years later.

Many states have issued similar middle fingers to England, including Pennsylvania ("Virtue, liberty, and independence"), Vermont ("Freedom and unity"), West Virginia ("Mountaineers are always free"), Massachusetts ("By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty"),Virginia ("Sic semper tyrannis," or "Thus always to tyrants"), and Rhode Island ("Suck it, England!").

Virginia's motto is a shortened version of "Sic semper evello mortem tyrannis," or "Thus always I bring death to tyrants." It's believed this was said by Brutus when he stabbed Julius Caesar, although some scholars believe he said, "that'll teach you to sleep with my wife."

Unfortunately, Indiana doesn't have a Latin motto. Ours is just "The Crossroads of America." While it's no "sic semper tyrannis," I always liked it. It means we're the emotional heartland, even though Lebanon, Kansas is the geographic center of our country.

It's also true in an automotive sense: Indiana has four interstate highways that all converge in Indianapolis, connecting us to Kansas City, Toronto, Birmingham, and Washington DC in less than eight hours.

But my favorite state motto is North Carolina's, which we would all do well to follow: Esse quam videri, which means "To be, rather than to seem."

In other words, don't act like it, be it.

If you want to be seen as loving, then be loving. If you want to be seen as helpful, be helpful. And if you want to be seen as a person of action, then act. Don't talk about being loving, don't talk about being helpful, and don't talk about acting.

And don't just talk tough, you have to actually be tough.

Just ask our bestest friends in the whole world, Texas.


(By the way, the Latin phrase in the headline, "Castigat Ridendo Mores," means "laughter corrects morals." According to Mental Floss, "it was coined by French poet Jean de Santeul (1630-97), who intended it to show how useful satirical writing is in affecting social change: the best way to change the rules is by pointing out how absurd they are." I'd like to think Laughing Stalk can perform that function from time to time.


Photo credit: United States Mint/U.S. Government (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, November 11, 2016

Ask Mr. Answer Dad: What Do I Tell My Kids?

Welcome to another week of Ask Mr. Answer Dad, the know-it-all dad who knows everything worth knowing about raising children. If you want to know how to talk to your kids about politics, religion, or sex, Mr. Answer Dad is here to answer all your questions and/or make light of your situation.

Dear Mr. Answer Dad: My 5-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter recently started asking where babies come from. I said they came from my tummy, but they asked how they got in there in the first place. Help me, Mr. Answer Dad. What do I tell my kids? Uncomfortable in Des Moines.

Dear The Monks: Lie to them. Lie to them for as long as you can, until they start public school and learn it on the playground, like we did when we were kids. If you're lucky, your daughter will explain it to your son before he even starts school. Problem solved.

Dear Mr. Answer Dad: My kids went to bed thinking Hillary Clinton was going to be president, and woke up to a Donald Trump presidency instead. What do I tell my kids? Signed, Puzzled in PA.

Dear Personal Assistant: Easy. "Donald Trump is the next president, kids. Now finish your breakfast or you'll miss your bus."

Dear Mr. Answer Dad: I was laid off recently, and have spent the last few days "on vacation" with my family. But we're coming up on the time that I usually go back to work, and my kids will wonder why I'm home. What do I tell my kids? Thanks. Laying on the Couch.

Dear Couch Potato: First, I'm sorry you lost your job. Your boss is no doubt a jerk who will realize she made a terrible mistake, and your absence will leave an empty hole in her soul that she'll try to fill with bad fast food. She'll die sad and alone, and her three cats will feast on her corpse for several days before a neighbor calls the police about the terrible odor coming from her condo.

Wait, what was your question? Oh yeah, telling your kids. Tell them the truth. "I lost my job because they decided they didn't need me anymore. But I'm looking for a new one, and in the meantime, I get to spend more time with you."

Just leave out the part about the cats and your boss' corpse. Also, don't mention you were fired for photocopying your junk.

Dear Mr. Answer Dad: You didn't answer my question earlier. Puzzled in PA.

Dear Public Announcement: How did you get in here? I totally answered your question. Donald Trump is the president. Tell them that. Unless you're planning to move to Canada or New Zealand now, there's not much to tell. Just tell them the truth.

Dear Mr. Answer Dad: I want to move to Canada or New Zealand, but my kids are in a good school and have friends. What do I tell my kids? Signed, Fleeing From Florida.

Dear Flea: Ask your kids, "Have you ever seen snow? How would you like to see it seven months out of the year?" Also, say their friends were talking about them behind their backs. Finally, tell them you're all going on a really long vacation and will come back in four or eight years, depending on how things go here.

Dear Mr. Answer Dad: I think what Puzzled in PA means is, my kids have friends who are gay, in minority groups, in other religions, are from other countries, or are any of the other groups our new president hates. They're afraid of what could happen to their friends. What do we tell our kids? Signed, Waiting for 2020.

Dear 2020: Here's what you tell them: America is still a great country, made up of good people. Not everyone who voted for Trump believes in hatred. In fact, many do not.

Tell them, we will get through this, as a family, as a community, and as a country. It's going to be hard, but we have faced bigger challenges and prevailed. (The other side survived eight years of Obama, so we can put up with four years of Cheeto Hitler.)

And you tell them, 2020, that as long as your kids have their friends' backs, you've got theirs. That you'll stand up for your kids while they stand up for their friends. That you'll stand up for your neighbors and friends who need your help. Spend the next four years teaching them what it means to be be better than the bigotry and hatred shown by a deplorable few. Tell them, 2020, that your family stands for honor and goodness, which are the real American values, and that you will be strong for the people who need you to be strong.

Because it's what they'll tell their own kids one day.


Photo credit: The Des Moines, Iowa skyline (Tim Kiser, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.5)


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, November 04, 2016

Canadian Super Baby Attacked by Cheese

Dear hyper-intelligent super baby,

May I call you Juli?

I was sorry to read about your recent injury, when you broke your leg at the Great Canadian Cheese Rolling Festival, in Whistler, BC. That's unfortunate, and must not have felt very gouda.

Sorry! I'm so sorry! I make terrible jokes when I'm nervous.

I'm nervous, Juli, because I read on the CBC website that you filed a lawsuit in October over your injury. I figured a three-year-old who can file a lawsuit is a baby to be reckoned with.

My wife says your dad, Toshihiro Nonaka, filed the lawsuit, but I'm not so sure. The Canadian newspapers all named you as the plaintiff, which means you're more advanced than all other babies in the world.

So I thought I would write to you, since a) a hyper-intelligent super baby will most likely run the world one day, and b) you can probably already read. I'd like to offer some friendly advice and wisdom as you rise to ultimate power.

First, I read that the culprit was a five kilogram wheel of farmhouse cheddar. That's 11 pounds! I'm not surprised your leg was broken. That's the weight of a bowling ball or a gallon of paint, rolling down a hill at 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour. It must have been pretty scary to see it rolling straight at you like some round Muenster.

Monster! I mean monster!

I saw the photos in the newspapers, you laid up in a hospital bed, your little leg in a cast. It was a pretty pink cast, but you were no doubt feeling bleu.

Sorry, blue! I did it again.

I'm sure your parents must be feeling devastated. I'm a father of three, and I can imagine your parents' heartbreak at watching their little girl get hurt when she was just trying to have some fun. As much as your leg hurts now, your parents will feel terrible about it for the rest of their lives.

Some might argue they shouldn't have let you sit so close to the fence, but most parents never assume the worst, although we work to avoid it. We try to walk a fine line between letting our kids be kids, and wanting to protect them from every bad thing.

Even so, bad things do happen, and gruyere — sorry, you were! — one of the unfortunate ones. So I understand why you'd sue the organizers, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Smak Media, and Vail Resorts. Please bear in mind that Vail Resorts did not own the Whistler Blackcomb resort when you got hurt in August.

I read that you were behind the safety net, right where the cheese stretched it and hit you. What are the odds? That was a one-in-a-million collision. Although if you win this suit, it might be a million-in-a-million collision.

No one has actually said what you're seeking in damages, Juli, but if you were in the United States, it would probably be for a few million dollars. People here can be greedy and opportunistic at times. I hope you don't let greed get the cheddar of you.

Better! Oh God, I can't stop!

As you get older, you'll learn that cheese rolling is an old and dangerous sport. And that certain things in life carry a risk, including watching sporting events.

There are stories of people being killed watching car races, getting hit with balls and bats at baseball games, or even being hit by a flying puck at a hockey game. And those are at professional venues where special care is taken to keep spectators safe.

Cheese rolling is no different. In 1990, at the Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake in England, 22 people were injured during the race. In 1997, 33 people were injured, which nearly caused the women's race to be cancelled. Several spectators were also injured at those events, so you're one of the "lucky few" in the world to ever be injured during a cheese-based sporting event.

In fact, it's kind of funny when you think about it, Juli. There are 7 billion people in the world right now, and only a few can say "I was injured at a cheese rolling race." But your case may be truly unique, as the youngest cheese rolling spectator ever to be injured.

I hope you can look back at it and laugh, when you tell it to your family, friends, and cabinet of special global advisors: "When I was three, my leg was broken by a runaway wheel of cheese."

It's nacho typical cheese story.

Photo credit: A race at The Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake on 27th May 2013, author Dave Farrance (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons)

Photo credit: Warning sign for Cooper's Hill Cheese Roll, used with kind permission by John Hudson, owner of the Cheese-Rolling.co.uk website


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, October 28, 2016

The NFL: Everything’s Fine, Just Fine

Minutes from the weekly NFL Disciplinary Committee Meeting, Roger Goodell, chairman.

GOODELL: Let’s get this thing started. I have to be uptown at the Youth Football Awards Luncheon. We’re giving them $500 and a Peyton Manning jersey to their concussion prevention awareness campaign. What’s on the docket this week?

JOHNSON: Oh, the usual: unnecessary end zone celebrations, uniform violation, the National Anthem thing, and domestic abuse.

GOODELL: Let’s start with the easy stuff.

JOHNSON: Odell Beckham made the list again. He was penalized for an end zone dance when he cradled the football like a baby and pretended to sing to it. Two of the other players stood next to him and pretended to shush the crowd.

GOODELL: Ha, Odell cracks me up. Fine him five thousand dollars.

JOHNSON: Except the next time he scored, he held the ball but pretended he was crying. Some of the sports pundits claimed he was making fun of the league’s anti-celebration stance.

GOODELL: Like who?

JOHNSON: Well, Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith.

GOODELL: Those guys are a-holes, but they shout a lot, so they must be right. Five thousand for the first one, and then $15,000 for the second for denigrating the league.

JOHNSON: We also had a questionable call against Cody Kessler, the Browns’ quarterback. The Bengals’ defensive end, Carlos Dunlap, threw him to the turf. The Browns’ fans were livid on social media.

GOODELL: What kind of social media reach do the Browns have?

JOHNSON: Remember the opening crowd shots in the movie, Major League, when it was just the four fans?

GOODELL: Yeah.

JOHNSON: Like that.

GOODELL: Ah, good. Is Kessler a marquee player?

JOHNSON: No, but he did leave the game with a concussion.

GOODELL: No fine. Speaking of marquee players, was Tom Brady involved in anything?

JOHNSON: Well, one of the Steelers taunted him when he sacked Brady, but that was it.

GOODELL: Find that guy and fine him $20,000, and send Brady a fruit basket.

JOHNSON: One of the Colts’ third-string linebackers wants to commemorate his grandfather, who died heroically saving 30 orphans and puppies from a burning building, all while shielding the American flag with his body and filing a legal motion to prevent illegal dumping of toxic chemicals in a community swimming pool. He wants to wear a small patch at next week’s game.

GOODELL: No way. That will interfere with our Reebok sponsorship.

JOHNSON: Keep in mind, this is actually a one inch patch that will be worn underneath his jersey where it won’t be seen by anyone at all.

GOODELL: Hell no. Send the lawyers to the locker room to personally seize the patch and set fire to it. And then fine him $10,000 dollars for even asking.

JOHNSON: We’ve got a lot more players kneeling during the national anthem.

GOODELL: Well, we still don’t have a clear majority opinion in this country. NFL Opinion Research said Facebook is pretty evenly split on it, so we’ll leave that one alone until we’ve got a clear and definitive winner.

JOHNSON: A lot of fans believe Colin Kaepernick should be fired, have his salary stripped, and have his life completely ruined because he won’t stand. Some of the owners are even saying it.

GOODELL: Yeah, but it’s a freedom of expression issue, and we can’t be seen as oppressing the rights and expression of our players. They’ve got just as many rights as everyone else.

GOODELL and JOHNSON both laugh.

GOODELL: Oh man, I almost said that with a straight face. Look, fans are going to be upset either way, but most of them don’t buy tickets or jerseys. And the ones who keep buying Kaepernick’s jerseys are setting fire to them, so we still make money. Either way, I’m glad the NFL is being seen as leading the charge for open and frank discussion about this one small issue. It makes people stop talking about Tom Brady.

JOHNSON: And finally, Josh Brown the Giants’ punter, is back in the news. There are new reports that he has been abusive to his wife over 20 times over the years.

GOODELL: Didn’t we suspend him for a game earlier this year for this?

JOHNSON: Yes, back in August.

GOODELL: The whole game?

JOHNSON: Absolutely.

GOODELL: Huh. And that wasn’t enough for people?

JOHNSON: Apparently not. Many of our female fans are screaming for blood. Even our male fans are accusing us of being insensitive to domestic violence.

GOODELL: Seriously? We already give 11% of our pink gear sales to breast cancer awareness. Isn’t that enough sensitivity?

JOHNSON: They claim the two issues are completely separate.

GOODELL: Alright, suspend him for two more games. It worked for Ray Rice, didn’t it?

JOHNSON: Actually, the Giants already fired him. He’s off the team. And Ray Rice hasn’t played since he was suspended in 2014.

GOODELL: Wow, that seems kind of harsh. Alright, fine him 50 bucks, and let’s see if we can’t get those guys back to work. I don’t see what people are so upset about.



Photo credit: Keith Allison (Flickr, 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, October 21, 2016

Would You Eat Broccoli if it Tasted Like Chocolate?

What's the difference between broccoli and boogers?

Kids don't like to eat broccoli.

I don't blame them. I hate broccoli.

There, I said it. I hate broccoli. I don't like it, I don't like the way it tastes, and I avoid eating it whenever possible. I'm like that episode of West Wing where President Bartlett didn't like green beans, and the green bean farmers of America clutched their pearls in despair.

(Just to be clear, I don't eat boogers either.)

It's not that I'm opposed to eating vegetables. Not even resistant. It's not like I refuse to eat vegetables. It's just that when I'm given the option of eating them versus not eating them, I don't always make a mature choice.

Sorry, ever. I don't ever make a mature choice.

I mean, when you have a choice between a salad and a cheeseburger, I think most people would like to choose the cheeseburger. And those who don't are lying.

That's not to say they will actually choose the cheeseburger, they would just like to. I'd bet there are even some vegans who still sigh and gaze fondly off into their childhoods when they think about cheeseburgers. With bacon. And the cheese is a little drippy. And the bun is shiny. And there's some burger grease running down your wrist.

But what if you could taste that delicious wonderful cheeseburger, without actually having to eat it? My wife would be thrilled; she worries about me.

What if you could make your salad taste like a cheeseburger, or broccoli taste like chocolate?

According to a story in The (London) Daily Mail, such a device now exists. The Taste Buddy is a small electronic processor, with some wires connected to an electronic tab nearly an inch wide. You place the tab on your tongue, where it will heat up or send weak electrical currents that stimulate specific taste receptors, and certain foods will taste sweet or salty, even when they're not.

By doing this, you can trick your taste buds into thinking that normally terrible and repulsive foods, like broccoli, are sweet like chocolate, or that your cauliflower tastes like a cheeseburger.

Professor Adrian Cheok of City University of London, who led the team of inventors, is excited about what this could mean for the health of its users, especially those users who would choose cheeseburgers over broccoli. He said they want to eventually expand its capabilities and target the other flavor receptors of the tongue, sour and bitter.

The article mentioned a fifth taste receptor called Umami, which was added to the list of taste sensations in 2009. But the name sounds stupid, so I won't discuss it any further.

In the meantime, researchers are also working on — Seriously, Umami? Ooh mommy?! It sounds like something invented while meditating over their bowl of granola and turbo flax. Who says ooh mommy, except maybe a little kid trying to get her mother's attention?

"Ooh Mommy, there's a pony!"

"Ooh Mommy, I want a balloon!"

"Ooh Mommy, my broccoli tastes better than my boogers now!"

(To be fair, the word is actually Japanese in origin, but I had already written those jokes by the time I learned that, and I wanted to keep them.)

The article said it could even one day be possible to make people think that tofu tastes like steak. I don't think I could go for that, no matter what it tasted like. I've eaten tofu, and it's got a mouth feel of congealed snot. The only thing that will get rid of the taste of tofu away is broccoli.

But maybe I'm cooking the tofu wrong. Another method I could try is to sauté the tofu in Irish butter, with minced garlic, shallots, some freshly ground pepper, and then throw it in the trash.

Eventually, Cheok and his colleagues hope to fit the Taste Buddy into normal dining utensils and drink cans. That way, when you sit down to your fifth meal of broccoli in as many days, you don't have to have to futz around with this small box on your table.

But trust me, if it made broccoli taste like chocolate, I'd wear a car battery around my neck.

Instead, you'll just grab your special spoon, switch it on, and power through as much chocolate-flavored broccoli as you want. I just hope other scientists are inventing a set of goggles to make my broccoli look like a sundae.

And maybe a small kitchen incinerator for the tofu.


Photo credit: Quadell (Wikimedia Commons, GNU Free Documentation License)



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, October 14, 2016

Love Letter Marketing

Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from 2005, mostly because we don't think anyone is reading these things anyway.

One day this past spring, I was lying in my hammock, drinking a beer, and relaxing. I was just starting to nod off, when I heard a quiet "ahem."

I opened my eyes and spotted my young neighbor, Jeremy, who had nearly finished the 6th grade, and was considering the leap to 7th grade in the fall.

"Hey, Mr. Deckers," he said. "Taking a nap, huh?"

"No flies on you, lad, although I wish you had a better sense of timing," I said. "What services may I bestow upon you, young Jeremy?"

"Huh?"

"What do you want?"

"I need some advice. Mrs. Deckers said you were pathetic with girls when you were my age."

"Oh she did, did she? Mrs. Deckers didn't even know me back then. How would she know about my past performance?"

"She said you were pretty hopeless until you met her. I figured that if you were that dorky, but you still got married, you must have done something right."

I couldn't fault the young man's logic, but I was going to have a word with Mrs. Deckers later.

"So what do you need?"

"I need some help with a love letter. I'm trying to get Caitlin Herrera to like me." He held out a neatly folded piece of paper. I looked it over and immediately identified his problem. It looked like something I would have written at his age: 'Dear Caitlin, I like you. Do you like me? Sincerely, Jeremy.'

I turned it over. "Where's the rest of it?"

"That's it. It's short and to the point."

"It needs serious help."

"What's wrong with it?"

"Well, it lacks finesse. And style. And grace. And a clear call to action."

"A what?"

"A call to action. It's what we marketers use to get a prospective client interested in buying our product."

"I don't want to sell her anything," said Jeremy, "I just want to get her to like me."

"Then you came to the right place. I've been a professional marketer for years."

"I don't think this is the kind of help Mrs. Deckers had in mind."

"Mrs. Deckers—!" I said, then I looked around quickly, and lowered my voice "—isn't here right now. You want my help in getting this girl to like you? This is going to help you."

I grabbed a pen from my pocket and started scribbling notes on his paper.

"First you need a USP."

"What's that?"

"Universal Selling Proposition. It's what sets you apart from your competitors."

"My what?"

"The other boys. Now, your USP tells Caitlin why she should pick you over them." I scribbled a few more notes.

"What about an Attention Getter and Benefit Statement?"

Jeremy said he had no clue what that was.

"What's one positive thing Caitlin would get by choosing you?"

"I have my own ten speed bike."

"Good, but that's a feature. A benefit is what she gets. How does your bike help her?"

"I could give her a ride somewhere."

"Excellent." I scribbled more notes. "Now we need a call to action. Research shows that giving a respondent a call to action increases your chance of a positive response."

Jeremy could only nod silently. I scribbled some more. "What do you think of this?"

'Dearest Caitlin, You have captivated my soul with your sparkling eyes and ruby smile. Be my love and we can fly anywhere your heart desires. If it is in your heart to say yes, please ask Gretchen to tell Kevin. I yearn for you, Jeremy."

He eyed me suspiciously. "Are you sure about this?"

"Absolutely."

"Is this how you got Mrs. Deckers?"

"No, that's a whole other story. Now rewrite this in your own handwriting and give it to Caitlin."

Jeremy still looked unsure, so I started to lecture him about word-of-mouth marketing when he said he heard his mother calling and ran off.

A few days later, Jeremy interrupted another nap.

"What happened?" I asked. "Did it work?"

"Well, yes and no. Caitlin is already going with Tyler Marlowe and he nearly beat me up."

I offered my condolences, but he held up his hand.

"But," he continued, "she showed it to her friends, and now three girls like me."

"Wow, referral marketing. I'll bet you're pretty excited about that."

Jeremy put on a pair of sunglasses. "You bet. Now I need to do drop in some variable data so I can A/B test a few iterations. I can up my response rate 20 percent if I gear the copy toward specific buyer personas."

I've created a monster.

Photo credit: The Love Letter, Johannes Vermeer (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain in both the country of origin (The Netherlands) and the United States)


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, October 07, 2016

Talking About Hurricanes and Power Outages

"Okay, nobody panic. We prepared for this."

"Of course we paid the bill!"

"You did pay the bill, didn't you?"

"I never doubted you."

"Well, they asked, and that made me wonder."

"Buddy, go see if the neighbors' lights are out."

"There, see? Either the power is out on the street, or everyone on the block didn't pay their electric bill."

"No, of course not. What are the odds of that happening?"

"Well, no, I don't actually know. That's something your grandfather would know. He taught statistics."

"No, I'm not going to call him."

"Because the power is out!"

"Of course I charged it. There's just no point in wasting my cell battery just to call my dad."

"Because he won't actually know the odds of 10 families not paying their electric bill on time."

"If you want to know, you figure it out."

"No, don't look it up!"

"And don't ask Siri. She won't know either."

"Because she's just a voice-activated computer program. Besides, it wastes battery power."

"Sweetie, don't play games on your phone."

"I know Netflix is out."

"Because the power is out."

"Were you even listening before? We paid it."

"Look, the hurricane knocked out the power. That's it."

"So don't waste your battery playing games."

"Yes, the batteries are charged up. But those are for emergencies."

"Not having Netflix is not an emergency."

"No, Buddy, we don't have a battery for the TV."

"For one thing, it would be pretty big. "

"Well, I didn't feel like spending several hundred dollars just to watch TV."

"Yes, and the Apple TV."

"No, you can't watch it on your laptop."

"The wifi is off."

"Yes, we paid our cable bill!"

"For one thing, the wifi router runs on electricity."

"No, we need the cable box."

"I know the rabbit ears would work."

"Because the — you know, go ahead and get them. They're in the garage."

"The flashlights are on the entry table."

"I put new ones in yesterday."

"Check in the green tubs. I think it's in the one marked 'Electronics.'"

"No, I'll let him figure it out."

"Got them? Great, now just unplug the cable from the TV."

"That's right. And that cable goes into the TV."

"Remote's over there. Your sister has it."

"Don't shine the light in her eyes."

"Not in my eyes either."

"Really? Why do you think that is?"

"Because the TV runs on electricity."

"Yes, the whole house runs on electricity."

"No, Honey, you can't call your friends."

"What good are they going to do us? They're in Indiana. Safe, dry, hurricane-free-for-six-billion-years Indiana."

"Because I don't waste you to your battery right now. We may need it to communicate during an emergency."

"Look, it's really simple, you guys. No calls, no Netflix, no FaceTime, no Skype, no texting, no games, and no Netflix."

"I know I did. You weren't listening when I started."

"No, no Hulu either. That chews up the data plan."

"We need to conserve the power for a real emergency. Not having a TV is not a real emergency. We can read, play games, or just talk to each other."

"You could always go to bed."

"Then find a book."

"Man, it's getting warm in here."

"Yes, I know the power's out!"

"Oh God! We don't have any air conditioning! This is terrible. Quick, go outside and see if you can plug the battery pack into the AC unit."

"I don't know. Ask Siri!"

"I'm not kidding around! This is a real emergency! Where's the fan? Someone plug the fan in."

"What do you mean, it won't work?"

"Did you pay the bill?!"


Photo credit: Satellite image of Hurricane Earl approaching Belize on August 3, 2016. Taken by Naval Research Laboratory Monterrey, NASA (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, September 30, 2016

We're Being Invaded by a Horror Of Clowns

Halloween is coming, and I'm not looking forward to it. It's the second biggest holiday, bumping up against Christmas for the "Most Obnoxious" awards.

It's also the time of year when costume stores stock unveil their two most popular costume styles: Zombie and Slutty.

No longer satisfied with someone just being a nurse, a firefighter, or a circus ringmaster, they offer instead Slutty Nurse, Zombie Firefighter, or Slutty Zombie Ringmaster.

Haunted houses are over the top as well. When I was a kid, haunted houses were usually just mazes made in our grade school gym, where teachers dressed like the Wicked Witch of the West and the Werewolf to jump out to scare us.

Now, haunted houses have monsters with such disgusting special effects that even the Walking Dead makeup artists are grossed out.

It's not just enough to have a werewolf with a leg bone clutched in its hairy paw. Or a zombie with gray skin and wild hair. Now, we've got demon-possessed killer pirate zombies with eyes hanging out of their sockets, skipping rope with their previous victim's small intestine.

I miss Halloweens of my youth, when our biggest frights were urban legends of pins in candy and razor blades in apples (neither of which ever actually happened). Now, we're being invaded by the monsters Wes Cravens would spawn if he were the queen of a monster bee hive.

And that's still not enough. This year, we're facing new monsters. Reports are coming in from all over the country of scary clowns, like Pennywise from Stephen King's horror novel, "It." Most of them are seen around wooded areas, often trying to entice children to come into the woods.

The media has reported sightings in Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.

It's also against the law in Florida to wear a mask and intimidate someone, so there's a good chance the clowns will have to pay a hefty fine, right after they've been arrested for being serial murderers.

Plus, Florida has the stand your ground law, which someone's going to remember the next time they spot one of these creatures.

Other states may not have a stand your ground law, but that's not stopping people from taking matters into their own hands. One North Carolina clown decided retreat was the better part of valor, after he was chased into the woods by a bystander with a machete.

And if the bystander was Danny Trejo of the movie, "Machete," I'm guessing he didn't get very far. Most of him, anyway.

Another scary clown in Kentucky was arrested for wearing a mask in public and disorderly conduct. And seven clowns have been arrested in Alabama, two adults and five juveniles. They face felony charges of making a terrorist threat.

There was even recently a sighting of two clowns together in Brevard County, Florida. Kelly Reynolds of Palm City told MyNews 13 that her dog ". . . stopped and started growling. They were standing right back there" — she pointed at a nearby fence — "two of them, staring at me."

The fact that two of them have been sighted together means they're beginning to gather in packs, or what experts call a "horror" of clowns. It's only a matter of time before they're brave enough to try to bring down a summer camp or school field trip.

"They are deranged," said Reynolds.

She may have said it, but we were all thinking it. A 2008 study at the University of Sheffield in England found that most children didn't actually like clowns. Dr. Penny Curtis told the BBC back in 2008, "We found that clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable."

This was Stephen King's thinking back in 1986 when he wrote "It." And now look at what he's unleashed.

Meanwhile, professional clowns who like to ruin children's birthday parties are already upset with the scary clowns. They say they're giving regular clowns a bad name.

Randy Christensen told ABC News, "People dressed as horror clowns are not 'real' clowns. They are taking something innocent and wholesome and perverting it to create fear in their audience." He's the president-elect of the World Clown Association (official motto: "Giving you nightmares for the next 60 years").

Another professional clown said he didn't appreciate what these clowns are doing, because he has worked hard to be the kind of clown that children can "respect and look up to." I think not being a professional clown would be a start.

Given the time of year, we're going to see more and more of these scary clowns, skulking around wooded areas, trying to frighten people, and giving normal clowns a bad name. I've even been seeing this orange, pumpkin-headed clown on TV for the last several months.

That one scares me most of all.


Photo credit: Graeme McClean (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.