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A One-Sided Conversation About Money

"Hey, Buddy, what can I do for you?"

"No, you can't have a hundred dollars."

"Why do you need a hundred dollars?"

"You've already got a video game."

"How can it be too old? You kept going on and on about how new and great it was when you got it."

"Five years ago?!"

"Wow, that doesn't seem that long ago."

"What about your birthday money?"

"I guess you need to decide between a Lego set and a Nintendo DS2."

"Sorry, 2DS."

"Yes, I know it's because different from the DS3."

"Whatever, 3DS."

"You don't need to keep correcting me. 3DS or DS3, it doesn't matter to me."

"Because you don't have one."

"Fine, you don't have the 2DS."

"Well, you could earn the money."

"By working."

"Shoveling driveways or mowing lawns."

"I know. I didn't mean right now. You'd mow in the summer.…

Rudolph And the Christmas Therapist

"I'm tired of letting people walk all over me, Doctor."

Rudolph stared at the painting above Dr. O'Hanlon's head, trying to focus on the moment. The psychologist had been trying to get him to "live in the moment, not the past," so Rudolph always focused on something in the room during their sessions to keep himself grounded.

"What do you mean by that?" asked Dr. O'Hanlon.

"I just get so caught up in the Christmas spirit that I don't want to stand up for myself, because I don't want to be seen as selfish or ungrateful."

"What does that have to do with letting people walk all over you?" Dr. O'Hanlon is like a dog with a bone, thought Rudolph. Say something casual, and we spend the whole hour on it.

"It means that even after people are cruel to me, I'll do what they ask if they're nice."

"Why do you think that is?"

"Because," Rudolph sighed, "I hope they were moved by …

My Wife Got Me Shoes for Our 20th Anniversary. I Love Them.

All I got for my 20th anniversary from Toni was a pair of TOMS shoes. And they may be the coolest thing ever, because they showed how much she understands and knows me, and was willing to do a lot of work — a lot of work — to make them happen.

Two of my favorite writers are Kurt Vonnegut and Hunter S. Thompson. They're the ones I talk about constantly. The ones whose books I keep quoting when I give talks, and whose writing advice I keep stealing. I also like Ernest Hemingway, but like all other humans, I only have two feet.

There are artists who specialize in painting TOMS canvas shoes with personalized, individual designs. Artists like Decker Yazzie, a Native American artist in Ogden, Utah and owner of Soul2Sole. Toni contacted Decker and told him what she wanted.

She wanted two individualized shoes, painted with words and images symbolic of my two authors. She spent months researching these two, learning what things they were known for, searching for images that represented the…

Reflection on 20 Years of Marriage: What Baseball, Bitsy Hatteberg, and My Wife Have In Common

In Michael Lewis' 2003 book Moneyball, Scott Hatteberg, the former catcher with the Boston Red Sox, had been acquired by the Oakland A's, and was told he was going to play first base, a position he had never played before. Scott was so nervous, so afraid, that he asked his wife to start hitting ground balls to him, just so he could get used to the position.

Mrs. Scott Hatteberg listed herself at five foot one, 100 pounds. She wasn’t built to hit in the big leagues. She didn’t even look capable of grounding out to first base.

Bitsy had noticed something about her husband. Even though he’d been in the big leagues for five years, and had been the starting catcher for the Boston Red Sox, he had never really thought of himself as a big league ballplayer. The other players volunteered their autographs to fans before games. He never did, not because he didn’t care to, but because he was worried they wouldn’t know who he was. He doesn’t admit this; she senses it’s true all the same. An…

When Are You Going to Write a Real Book?

"Hey, Kid, when are you going to write a real book?" asked Karl.

Excuse me? I said, not sure if I'd heard the deranged curmudgeon correctly.

"I said, when are you going to write a real book?" he shouted.

I heard you, I heard you, you crusty old fart.

Karl chuckled into his beer. He enjoys baiting me like this. We were sitting in The Tilting Windmill, my favorite Dutch themed bar, watching the Dutch men's curling team compete in the European Curling Championships.

What do you mean, a real book? I've written real books.

"Oh yeah? Since when?"

I've written four books and I'm working on my fifth right now.

"Those aren't real books, Kid."

What the hell are you talking about? They were published by real publishers, I have physical copies of the book printed on real dead trees, and they occupy a physical space in the world. How are those not real books?

"Those are nonfiction books," said Karl, dismissing my accomplish…

I Won't Shave My Beard For Anyone

I skipped Movember last month. Actually, I've skipped Movember for the last 10 years.

No, that's not a typo. Movember is the men's health nonprofit organization that brings awareness to male reproductive health — prostate cancer and testicular cancer, plus mental health — by urging men to grow a mustache in November.

Or moustache if you want to be all French about it.

Teams of men — called Mo Bros — will grow mustaches as a way to bring awareness to, and raise donations for, Movember, which then sends funds to different education campaigns, research groups, and support groups. Last year, they raised $147 million, registered 1.1 million participants worldwide, and started 2.7 billion conversations about men's health.

It would be like if women didn't shave their legs for October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Or grew mustaches. Which would definitely draw attention to their cause, although it would start very different conversations.

Men's health awareness is…

Can't. . . Breathe. . . Need. . . Air

Neckties are a funny thing.

People love them or hate them. They wear them proudly, as a badge of success. Or they struggle under the weight, like the chains worn by Jacob Marley, Scrooge's dead business partner.

First introduced as the cravat by King Louis XIV of France, ties made their way to England, and on to America. They were originally worn by wealthy gentlemen, but were soon worn by any man who wanted to appear well-dressed.

Neckties are said to symbolize power, success, wealth. They are also said to symbolize oppression and strangulation of middle management. They're even said to be a phallic symbol, which is why I never wore a tie tack.

Now they're the cause of a sex discrimination complaint filed by a British government employee.

Ian Jarman, who works for the Department for Work and Pensions in Birmingham, England, is filing an official complaint against his employer for sex discrimination, because they're forcing him to wear a tie at the office.

Jarman has g…

Mistaken Identity Leads to Wrong Haircut

Last week, someone stole my haircut, and left me theirs.

No, seriously. A case of mistaken identity led to me getting a buzz cut like I haven't seen since I was seven and my mom gave me a summer crewcut.

I went to my local men's hair care place. I won't name it, but will say they often show televised SPORTS while a stylist CLIPS your hair. They also store your name on the computer, along with the kind of haircut you usually get. Sort of like haircut records.

There were several other men waiting for their turn, so I signed in and sat down. Ten minutes later, a stylist — I'll call her Betty — walks out and calls "Erik?"

A guy next to me says, "Yes, that's me." He stands up and walks back with Betty.

Betty, I found out later, asked the guy, "Is your last name Deckers?"

"Yes," he said.

I should have been suspicious from the very beginning. It turned out this man wasn't named Erik at all. He was a fake.

His name was actually Er…

Evil Henchmen To Strike, Issue Demands

Dear Dr. Sinestro:

Due to the unwillingness of management to meet our reasonable demands, or to engage in rational, non-violent discussion that does not involve lasers, the minions of the Sinestro company have no choice but to organize a strike which will begin at exactly 12:00 midnight, Monday, December 2, 2013, and continue until we can reach a reasonable agreement on several core issues.

The strike is being organized by, and will have the full support of, the Amalgamated Union of Minions, Lackeys, and Henchmen, Local 287. We have also been offered assistance by the International Federation of Gun Molls, the Alliance of Sidekicks and Junior Partners, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. Our minions have received strike kits, and we will receive strike pay to replace our already-meager salaries — one of our core issues.

We have also taken the regretful, but very necessary step of filing charges of unfair labor practices with the California Labor Board. While our original fili…

Stupid Spy Versus Stupid Spy

Have you ever been making out with someone, stolen a quick glance to see what they're doing, only to realize they're also stealing a quick glance?

Of course you haven't! Who does that?

I'm, uh, only asking for a friend. His name is, uh, Johnny Macintosh.

Back in the 1980s, comedian Rich Hall wrote several books called Sniglets, and he called this situation "glantics."

You couldn't really point out that you knew the other person was looking, or that you knew that they knew that you knew, because it would completely ruin the moment.

Or so I've been told.

At the same time, you couldn't just let the look go unspoken, because you were thinking about it, wondering what the other person was thinking. And he or she was wondering what you were thinking. It would get in your head and that's all you can think about, which is saying something, considering what you were doing at the moment.

I was reminded of glantics when I heard the latest story about how…

Tater Tillers In a Tizzy Over Term

Erik caught a cold from his family this week, and is lying in his deathbed, pointing an accusing finger at all of them. As we await his return next week, we're reprinting this column from 2005.

In this age of Political Correctness and perpetual victimhood, someone somewhere is always complaining about certain words or phrases.

"I don't know if I feel comfortable with that term," is the battle cry of the PC whiner.

Then they express concern over the word "battle cry," because of its violent overtones.

And then wonder why they were picked on by playground bullies.

The latest PC whiners are complaining about couch potatoes.

British potato farmers are concerned that the term "couch potato" is doing irreparable harm to their tubby tuber. They're afraid the image of a slovenly fat guy slumped on his sofa, watching Baywatch reruns will have a negative impact on the image of a potato as a healthy food item. So they're demanding the Oxford English …

Long Island Middle School Bans Childhood

It seems Weber Middle School on Port Washington, Long Island hates children and wants them to get fat.

Earlier this month, the school banned footballs, soccer balls, and baseballs. They also banned games of tag and cartwheels unless an adult supervisor is present.

School administrators cited an overinflated, unreasonable fear of serious injuries, despite the fact that nearly every child in the history of the world has survived playing tag, doing cartwheels, and playing with footballs and soccer balls.

According to a story on CBS 2 News' website, they told students no more football, "hard soccer balls," baseballs, lacrosse balls, and that adults had to watch the kids play tag or do cartwheels, because as everyone knows, no child has ever been injured while an adult watches disinterestedly from several feet away.

However, to show that they still understand that children need to burn off energy, they allowed soft Nerf balls, because "the softer foam balls put students …

Press Releases and Perennial Rivalries

(Kansas City, MO)—The Rose and Crown Nursery, Kansas City's leading garden center, is pleased to announce the arrival of their brand new, never-before-seen heirloom tulip species, the Tulipa Mendacem, just in time for the fall planting season.

"We're very excited about Tulipa Mendacem," said Adelia Blanda, owner of the Rose and Crown. "This is a very special flower we helped develop over the last four years, and we're introducing it to the world this week."

Blanda says the new tulips promise to be brighter and more vibrant than any others available in the greater Kansas City area.
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(Kansas City, KS)—Thea's Tulips, Kansas City's number one garden center, today announced the arrival of their new species of tulips, Tulipa Dolus, making them the first ever nursery in the United States to create their own species.

Miriam Dumalis, owner of Thea's Tulips, said, "Regardless of what you've heard in local gardening news, we have developed th…

Are You Phubbing Me?

Have you ever been sitting with a friend or family member while they constantly check their phone, send texts, tweet, or post Facebook status updates? Of course you have.

You've been "phubbed." Your friend or family member is "phubbing" you.

At least that's what Macquarie Dictionary of Australia (official motto: "Yes, we have dictionaries in Australia.") and the McCann global marketing agency wants you to call it. Macquarie and McCann are working together to spread the word around the globe through a year-long guerrilla marketing campaign.

I phub, I will phub, I have phubbed.

(The more I look at the word, the more I keep pronouncing it puh-hub.)

The Macquarie Dictionary wants to make people aware of how important language usage is, and for us to understand what it takes to create a new word. So they created the word "phubbing" with the help of lexicographers, poets, and authors during a consortium, because if anyone can create a catchy n…

Florida Boy, Common Sense Suspended Over Finger Gun

There's a great scene in the beginning of the 1997 movie, "Bean." Mr. Bean, played by Rowan Atkinson, arrives in the Los Angeles airport from England. When Bean, who's got the maturity of an 8-year-old, sees some armed police officers, he pretends he's similarly armed by making a finger gun and sliding it in and out of his jacket.

The police, who believe he has a real gun, surround him and point their guns at him. They order Bean to slowly remove the gun and lay it on the ground. He carefully pulls out his finger gun, sets it on the floor, and steps back. Since he never really had a gun, they send him on his way.

We've gotten a lot dumber in the intervening 16 years.

Eight-year-old Florida student, Jordan Bennett, was suspended from school for "simulating a gun with his finger." They kicked him out for pointing a finger and sticking up his thumb.

Miley Cyrus simulates "personal intercourse" with a foam finger on MTV's Video Music Award…

Indiana Fever Advance to Eastern Conference Finals

The Indiana Fever have advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, after sweeping the Chicago Sky, 2 – 0, in a best-of-3 series. The first defeat happened this past Friday night when the Fever rolled over the Sky, 85 – 72, in front of a seriously-lacking hometown crowd. My kids and I watched the game on TV, and we were surprised by the lack of a crowd at the game.

We had a chance to watch the Fever on Sunday at Banker's Life Fieldhouse. My son and I were on a travel writing trip in Bloomington, and we were given the tickets at the last minute (courtesy of the Indiana Fever), so we cut our trip short, raced home, and ended up missing the first few minutes of the first quarter.

I had been communicating with Fever PR guy Kevin Messenger during the last home game of the season, asking him whether the team was looking more forward to facing Chicago or Atlanta in the first round of the finals. He said the Fever were 3 – 1 against the Sky in the regular season, but both teams were plagued…

Karl the Curmudgeon Hates Crickets

"Did you hear that?" asked Karl, leaning forward in his deck chair, eyes wide, searching.

Hear what? I asked.

"Listen," he hissed. "Crickets!"

Oh, I thought that was the laugh track to your jokes tonight, I said. Karl told me to what I could do with myself.

It's just crickets, man. What's the big deal?

"It's not just crickets, Kid. It's that cricket. Right there." He jabbed a finger at his yard. We were sitting on the back porch at his house. He had grilled a couple of steaks to celebrate the launch of his latest mystery novel, "Naked Came The Jaybird," and now we were sitting in the dark, drinking beer, and listening to the night noises.

Which Karl hated.


"It's just that one cricket, "he said, looking around as if the offending insect was about to stand up and identify himself. "He's been chirping like that for the last four nights. I can't find him, can't get him to stop." Karl rubbe…

Indiana Fever Playoff Scenario; Fever to Play NY Liberty Tonight

From the Indiana Fever PR folks and their pre-game notes:

A Fever win over the Liberty would be its fourth win in six games while sending New York to its fifth straight defeat. A loss would be Indiana’s second in-a-row.

Indiana is playing for the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Eastern Conference playoffs. Indiana has been eliminated from No. 2 seed consideration following its Tuesday loss to Washington.

Scenarios: If the Fever ties with the Washington Mystics (15-17), Indiana would win a head-to-head tiebreaker by virtue of its better conference record (currently 10-10 vs. 8-12). Both teams close the season against New York and Connecticut. A three-way tie for second place in the East still exists. In that scenario, Atlanta (17-15) would earn the No. 2 seed, by virtue of a better record (6-3) against the other two teams. Washington (4-5) would take the No. 3 seed and Indiana (3-5) would be seeded No. 4. Atlanta wins a two-way tie between the Fever and Dream, by virtue of the Dream’s …

Quiz Time: Guy, Gent, or Schlub?

A disturbing trend of male-ness is growing in this country, one that threatens to overwhelm all other forms of maledom, like a rampant fungus.

The Schlub.

We met Metrosexuals in the mid-90s, learned that Real Men Don't Eat Quiche in the early '80s, while Manly Men made a comeback in the early 2010s, mostly as a backlash against the Sensitive Man who became popular in the 90s. And the well-heeled Gentleman makes a quiet appearance any time there's a new James Bond movie, or suits make yet another comeback.

But the Schlub has always just sort of been there. The boring, bland suburbanite with all the excitement and verve of an oyster.

Which are you, a Guy, a Gentleman, or a Schlub? Take this easy quiz and find out.

1. It's time to buy a new car. You've done your research, talked to your friends, and test driven a few likely candidates. What are you going to buy?
a) A pickup truck with 4-wheel drive and all-terrain tires.
b) A high-performance sports car, preferably …