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Showing posts from 2007

Goodbye, Mayor Peterson

Bart Peterson, the now-former (as of Jan. 1, 2008) mayor of Indianapolis, was interviewed by Brendan O'Shaughnessy of the Indianapolis Star today about his accomplishments and plans for the future. He was optimistic about the future, and not bitter about his time in office or his loss to Greg Ballard. But I think some of his true feelings leaked through in one of the interview questions:
Q: What's still to be done in the city?A: The greatest challenge facing the city, in my view, is that the legislature is about to reconvene.We'll miss you, Bart.

Gobbledygook, Drivel, and Tripe in 2007

Gobbledygook, Drivel, and Tripe in 2007
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

When I fled back to the private sector, after nearly 18 months of working for state government, I remembered how much I had not missed the business doublespeak that is the very lifeblood of Corporate America.

"In the coming calendar year, we shall endeavor to synergize clicks-and-mortar relationships by leveraging granular e-markets."

Sort of makes me miss the simple, easy-to-understand days of state government.

(I used the online BS generator at www.dack.com to create the above sentence. Unfortunately, real people talk this way too.)

But there are other people who feel my pain, like England's Plain English Campaign (PEC). The PEC is a language consulting company and gobbledygook watchdog that has railed against gobbledygook for 29 years. Each December, PEC gives out awards to people, companies, and government agencies who have used either poor or great communication. Awards include the …

Erik Deckers as a Simpsons character

This is what I look like in the Simpson's Springfield. You can create one of these at the Simpsons Movie web site. Go to the main page, select Create Avatar, and then register. Click on the different characteristics you have, such as a dashing goatee and stylish glasses, and voila! You're a Simpsons character.

Pretty handsome, don't you think?

(Warning: If you use Mozilla Firefox, this is a time to pull out Internet Explorer instead. It has trouble with the Shockwave graphics. Even using IE Tab doesn't fully work.)

Please Excuse Erik From His Column This Week

I fired up the Way Back Machine for this one from March 2006. It's one of my favorites.

Please Excuse Erik From His Column This Week
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2006I wrote my first note to a teacher last week.This may not seem like such a big deal to most of you, but to me, it was the end of a 33-year wait.Ever since I walked into kindergarten with a note from my mother, I dreamed of writing a note to one of my children's teachers.My mother used to write my notes whenever I was sick or needed to be excused:"Dear Mr. Jenkins, Please excuse Erik from gym class today.He is still suffering blurred vision and a ringing in his ears from the last time they played dodgeball.I have spoken with little Melody's parents, and they apologized for her cheap shot.Imagine, hitting your own teammate in the back of the head!Please explain to the entire class how displeased I am, and ask them to remember that Erik is a sensitive boy whose feelings should be respected.&qu…

Things Not to Do in College

Things Not to Do in College
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

People who have known me for a couple years know me to be thoughtful and deliberate in my reactions to a situation. I carefully measure my response, weighing the pros and cons, before finally saying what I think.

People who have known me for several years just spit a mouthful of coffee all over their monitor.

I have not always been the careful, deliberate person I am today. I was more of the shoot-first-get-a-friend-to-apologize-later type. Although this approach usually got me into trouble, I could occasionally get a small victory. But nine times out of 10, it was the trouble thing.

One victory stands out in my memory though, not so much for its sweetness, but because I could have gotten thrown out of grad school. (Okay, it stands out more for its sweetness.)

I was in the Speech Communication program at Ball State University, studying interpersonal communication. It happened in one of the classes taught by my fa…

I Don't Believe in the Little Drummer Boy

I Don't Believe in the Little Drummer Boy
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

Christmas is a time of traditions. Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and Erik curled up in the corner in a fetal ball, sobbing "pa-rum pum pum pum." To help explain why he does this, we're doing another Laughing Stalk tradition, reprinting his annual Christmas column.


Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. My birthday, my anniversary, and any other time people give me presents are also big favorites.

To get myself into the Christmas spirit, I like to listen to Christmas music. So I hit the department stores around mid-August to hear "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Jingle Bell Rock." But while I appreciate the Christmas cheer, I'm amazed the sales clerks haven't killed anyone by the middle of November.

I'm a big fan of the classics, "Jingle Bells," "Silent Night" and the Sex Pistols' "Have Yourself a Merry $…

Sit on Santa-bot's Lap

Sit on Santa-bot's Lap
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

Microsoft killed Santa Claus.

Okay, they didn't kill the real Santa, but an automated Santa chat-bot they had set up last week. The Santa-bot was an agent on their Live Space website and MSN Messenger program. Children could ask Santa some questions and tell him what they wanted for Christmas, and an automated program would give the appropriate responses.

But according a story in to the London Register, the virtual Santa got into some real trouble when he was chatting with two girls, 11 and 13 years old, who offered him a piece of virtual pizza.

"Eat it!" they told him.

"You want me to eat what?!?" Santa-bot responded. "It's fun to talk about oral sex, but I want to chat about something else..."

I promise I'm not making this up.

Microsoft tried to fix the Santa-bot earlier this week, but it didn't work. And so Microsoft, well, killed him. Sort of like the end of Old Yell…

Indianapolis Independent Coffee Shops website

Attention Indianapolis coffee lovers (that's anyone in Indy who loves coffee, as well as anyone who loves coffee from Indianapolis). There's a new way to find Indianapolis coffee shops online: www.indyindiecoffee.com. This is a Google interactive map that lists all of the independent coffee shops in the Indianapolis metro area. Special thanks to Doug Karr for helping me with this project. (He even created the cool logo.)

The map lists all independent and small chain coffee houses, and leaves out all Big Chain coffee shops. It even shows you which shops have free WiFi (green markers), and which ones don't (blue markers).

Eventually, we hope to add a community blog similar to I Choose Indy's, which is where this map first found voice. On our blog, people can write about their favorite coffee houses, an owners' section, where the different house owners can give out important information to their patrons, such as the price of a latte, whether they have live music, their …

No More Three-Card Monte for You, Kid!

No More Three-Card Monte for You, Kid!
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

When I became a dad, the last thing I ever dreamed I would worry about was my kids and gambling. Sure, they would gamble whether they made it to the bathroom in time, (they've won more than they lost), or whether they could sneak candy without being caught (they can't).

But I never figured I'd have to explain the basics of wagering to an 11-year-old girl. Or the problem with gambling with a church youth group.

My oldest daughter recently went duckpin bowling with the 5th and 6th grade class of our new church. Before she left, I got to do something that filled me with both pride and a foreboding sense of dread: I reached into my wallet and handed her eleven dollars.

Pride, because we have taught her to be responsible and mature about money, and this was her chance to show it. Dread, because I had just established a dangerous precedent, and I was staring down the barrel at her impending tee…

The Knights of Ni. . . er, Moleskine, Spirit and Ale

I am now a member of the Knights of Moleskine, Spirit and Ale, an Indiana-based group of people who love, well, Moleskine, spirits, and ale. I am known as Sir Erik of Ritter, and have been granted all the rights and privileges of a Knight, because "Sir Erik embodies all that's noble about being a Knight and a Hoosier."

Wow, sure beats what the Knights Who Say Ekke Ekke Ekke Ptang Zoo Boing were going to do for me. Big thanks to my fellow knights, and especially Sir Hook of Warrick for admitting me into this august band.

Didn't They Have it in Blue?

Didn't They Have it in Blue?
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

Erik is out of the office this week for the holidays, so we're firing up the Wayback Machine, and reprinting this column from 2001.

As I write this, it's the last week of November, and there are only 26 days to finish your Christmas shopping. And if you haven't even started your shopping, then you've wasted the other 100 days the retailers inflicted on us when they started playing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" back in August.

Before you ask, no I'm not starting late. The fact that I'm starting before the end of November is a major accomplishment for me. So here they are, the Laughing Stalk Christmas Shopping Tips.

1) Do your shopping in the middle of the week, during the day. Everyone but you is at work. Even your boss is at work, so you don't run the risk of bumping into him or her while you make your purchases. Tell your coworkers you have meetings all day, and hit…

'Twas the Month Before Christmas

'Twas the Month Before Christmas
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

The holiday season is right around the corner, and the stores have had their Christmas decorations out since late July. So we trot out a Laughing Stalk tradition, the annual reprinting of 'Twas the Month Before Christmas.

'Twas six weeks before Christmas, and all through the town
Halloween decorations were just coming down.
I went to the mall, for a weekend reprieve
And saw such a sight that I could not believe.

The place had gone crazy, the mall was just packed.
With new clothes and new toys and cheap plastic sacks
The store owners were praying and pulling their hair,
Desperately hoping we'd spend money there.

When in one of the stores there arose such a clatter
I thought to myself "Now what's the matter?"
Away toward the noise the crowd flew like a flash
And knocked an old woman right onto her butt.

The cheesy green lights and the canned Christmas music
Made me realize not a darn thing…

Pimp My Blog

If anyone visits my blog, they can see that I don’t like commercialism. I don’t put ads on my blog, I don’t write about anything that’s not a humor column. But when Doug Karr of the Marketing Technology Blog said I could possibly win $1,000 just for blogging about a few companies, well, naked greed wins out over ideals every time. They say every man has his price, and mine is $1,000. If I win, I'm buying a new Macintosh Powerbook to replace my aging and decrepit Mac G3 tower.

Pimp my Blog #1 - Doug Karr's Marketing Technology Blog

The Marketing Technology Blog – Doug blogs about marketing technology. Not the act of marketing technology stuff, but rather using technology for marketing. So if you’re in the online marketing world, add this one to your feeds list. He posts nearly every day. And he’s the one hosting this contest. Doug is also helping me promote the new IndyIndieCoffeeShops.com, an online map of independent coffee shops around Indianapolis. Thanks Doug!

Pimp my Blog #2 - Formspring

Formspring – I’ve tried creating online forms before, and they’re a royal pain in the hinder. You’ve got to label each text box, and then match it up with the html code. And God help you if you don’t know html. FormSpring lets you create forms on their website, and then post it on yours. They have both free and paid service.

Pimp my Blog #3 - PPC Hero

PPC Hero – It’s not about the old PowerMacs, but about Pay-Per-Click. If you want to make money off your website or blog, PPC Hero (sponsored by Hanapin Marketing in Bloomington, IN) is the place to visit. Learn about AdWord optimization, search marketing, and advanced strategies.

Pimp my Blog #4 - Search Engine People

Search Engine People – When my brother-in-law and I put our company’s first website up, we had the “we built it, they’ll come” mentality. I learned quickly that this just wouldn’t cut it. So I quickly taught myself about search engine optimization (SEO). This was back in the days of keywords, meta tags, and all kinds of tricks and techniques that search engines now ignore. If you have the time to do your own SEO, then go to it. It’s actually pretty easy if you have the time. If you don’t, then call Search Engine People. They’ll help you with positioning (getting the right terms), conversion (getting visitors to take the next step), and then tracking (counting the results).

Pimp my Blog #5 - Wrike Project Management

Wrike – Are you still keeping track of your projects with pen and paper?! You probably have so much crap on your desk, you’ve knocked your abacus off twice. Visit Wrike for online project management. It’s a web-based application that lets you do all of your project management on your desktop. No, the other desktop.

Pimp my blog #9 - Vontoo

Vontoo – Ideal for the work-from-home entrepreneur or small business. Vontoo is a Create-Send-Track personal voice messages, You can send permission-based voice messaging to any phone in the U.S. or Canada, specifically tailored to the recipient’s interests. The Memphis Grizzlies used Vontoo to sell tickets for an upcoming game. They made 6,000 calls and increased their Return on Investment by 4,000% (yes, that’s 4 thousand).

Pimp my Blog, #10 - GoCollege.com

GoCollege – “The student’s reference to finding money and getting the most out of college education.” These guys will help you choose between the different colleges and universities, show you how to get into college, help you find money to go to college, and even show you how to survive once you get there.

I Can't Believe It's Not Deadly

I Can't Believe It's Not Deadly
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

What is it about zero tolerance that turns school administrators into zombies who enforce their rules with all the compassion and understanding of a German prison guard?

"Nein, you may not haff two potatoes, only one!"

Whenever a ne'er-do-well student breaks the no drugs/no weapons rules, they are usually -- and rightly so -- suspended or expelled from school. But "zero tolerance" means "absolutely no tolerance whatsoever, even at the risk of our common sense."

Fourteen-year-old Amber Dauge of Moncks Corner, South Carolina fell victim to this kind of clenched-up tunnel vision when she was expelled for bringing a knife to school. You'd think she brought a 12-inch survival knife that would make Rambo squeal with delight. But no, it was a butter knife.

According to the Charleston (South Carolina) Post and Courier, on October 3, Amber made toast for breakfast, and dec…

You're Doing a Heck of a Job, FEMA

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency committed the unpardonable sin of faking a press conference about their performance at the southern California wildfires, by having their own public affairs (public relations) employees pass as reporters and lob softball questions at the FEMA Director, Vice Admiral Harvey Johnson.

Johnson replaced disgraced director Michael "You're doing a heck of a job, Brownie" Brown, the guy President Bush praised on national TV a few days before firing him for blowing the government's Hurricane Katrina response.

Believe it or not, lying is a big no-no in public relations. Unfortunately, it's something the Bush administration has gotten good at -- hiring PR professionals to create news broadcasts and pass them off as real, paying columnists to write good things about them, and now this.

The pretend journalists asked only easy questions to shine FEMA in the best possible light. Bu…

Interview With an Ex-Vampire

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

With Halloween fast approaching, there has been an increased popularity for all things vampire. Numerous news stories and magazine articles have been written, and even National Public Radio's Diane Rehm devoted an entire show to the legend of Vlad the Impaler, the man known as Count Dracula.

So I decided to catch up with the fanged fiend to see what he thought about his renewed popularity. Here's a transcript of my interview.

Erik Deckers: So, Count Dracula--

Count Dracula: Please, call me Vlad. Whenever someone says "Count Dracula," I look for my father.

ED: All right, Vlad. You've been enjoying a media comeback of sorts. What's this doing for your career?

CD: Not as much as you think. Unfortunately, a lot of these stories have a "where are they now" flavor, like I'm just some washed-up has been still trying to hang on to the glory days. I keep expecting VH-1 to show up to do a "Behind the Blood…

Good Thing His Name Isn't McDonald

Good Thing His Name Isn't McDonald
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

Not many people know it, but there are two Erik Deckers in the world. The other Erik Deckers is a real estate agent in Belgium, while I, well, live here. At least that guy gets to live in a foreign country.

Several years ago, my Belgian counterpart and I exchanged a few emails, and we promised not to step on each other's career toes. I wouldn't sell real estate, and he wouldn't write humor columns.

Seems easy enough. Neither of us have ever had any problems with being confused for the other. No one writes angry letters to him about boob jokes, and no one has ever asked me about an apartment in Brussels. Neither of us has ever been confused for the other.

If people are smart enough not to confuse two people with identical names, they're smart enough not to confuse businesses with somewhat similar names. Right?

Not if you're a lawyer.

Case in point: Restaurateur Ty Morton recently open…

Just Don't Drop It

Just Don't Drop It
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

Brain: General, we've got an emergency. Arms and Chest are reporting massive strain and burning.

General: What is it this time? Control's not back on his bike again, is he?

Brain: Not unless he's adopted a new riding technique.

General: Check that attitude, soldier, or I'll have you doing Mad-Libs for a month.

Brain: Yes, sir. Sorry, sir. I mean, this is a new sensation.

General: Control isn't having heart trouble, is he?

Brain: Heart reports all clear, General.

General: See if you can raise Arms.

Arms: Arms here, General. We're doing a lot of pushing and straining, but it doesn't seem to end.

General: Are you doing push-ups?

Arms: Not sure, sir. We're not pushing Control's total weight, but it's still pretty heavy.

Brain: Sir, Eyes are reporting a type of bar that's moving toward and away from them.

General: Oh, good God, don't tell me. . .

Brain: Yes, sir, I think Control is li…

But Can He Do Jazz Hands?

But Can He Do Jazz Hands?
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

I was in high school when the NCAA implemented its now-famous Title IX sports massacre, which brought parity to men's and women's collegiate sports. But as a male athlete, I hated the way the universities brought the parity about. They slashed men's sports across the board so there were equal numbers of men's and women's teams. By the time they were done, there were more casualties than Freddie Krueger's visit to a summer camp counselor convention.

The better choice would have been to increase the number of women's sports, rather than eliminate men's sports. Killing the dreams of young male athletes is not equality; creating new opportunities for young female athletes is.

"But there's not enough money," the universities wailed, including my alma mater, Ball State University. "We have to cut the sports that thousands of young men have dedicated their lives to!&quo…

A Moving Experience

A Moving Experience
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

"Can someone please open the door?"

"Thanks, Sweetie. I appreciate it."

"No, I'm sorry, you can't help me move."

"Because this box is heavy."

"They're all heavy."

"You can't climb into the moving van either."

"Because I don't want to trip over you."

"Because we're trying to get all the boxes out of it."

"Yes, and the furniture."

"Because we're moving into a new house."

"Because we like it."

"No, there's nothing wrong with the old house. We just don't want to live there anymore."

"Because we like this one better."

"Because it's -- no, Buddy, put that down."

"No, you can't help."

"Because it's too heavy."

"Yes it is. Look, you can barely carry it."

"Fine, take it downstairs for me."

"I thought so. Just set i…

Wait, Don't I Know You?

Wait, Don't I Know You?
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

Last year, after one of my staff left the state government agency where we worked, I received an email from Human Resources, telling me this person had been "separated from employment."

Separated from employment, as if the two had been physically attached. Not quit, left, fired, let go, departed, or moved on to greener pastures. No, this was one of those stupid euphemisms that people use to make things sound less bad than they really are. It was probably thought up by the same morons who came up with "right-sizing" to replace the already moronic "downsizing," which replaced "massive layoffs so our executive team could get their bonuses."

I left my own job a few weeks ago, and I'm sure my boss got an email telling him I was separated from employment. It sounds like a divorce, which in a way, I guess it was.

You spend a large part of your day at work, there's a sense…

YourCheatingHeart.com

YourCheatingHeart.com
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007Is there someone special in your life you want to spend every waking moment with? Someone you think about constantly? Someone who gives you butterflies in your stomach? Someone you’re afraid your spouse will find out about?There’s no need to fear, Ibila is here! Now, if you need to sneak around on your spouse, there’s a company who can help you. The French web-based company provides alibis for cheating spouses to help avoid those nasty questions of “where were you last night?” and “what’s that thing on your neck?”Ibila, which is “alibi” spelled backward, was started six months ago by Regine Mourizard, a former private investigator and mother of two. She helps people run around on their spouses by creating fake documents and phone calls, and anything else needed to pull the wool over their unsuspecting spouse’s eyes.You may remember a few months ago, when I wrote about a breakup service created in Germany for the ex…