April 22, 2013
The Career Reset Button
After graduating with a mass communications/journalism degree back in 1998, I spent the next decade and change working in professions that were conducive to a degree of such worthlessness. Namely, I wrote for newspapers, trade magazines, online startups and pretty much anyone who required freelance writing/editing work.
In other words, I spent a lot of years sitting behind the warm glow of computer monitors, which can insulate a person from the realities of day-to-day existence that takes place beyond the world of computers. This is why so many newsroom people have such strong opinions about automobile emissions but at the same time can't explain how the Caribou Coffee they're drinking made it from a Bolivian coffee field to their desk.
Likewise--around the time my wife got it in her head that she wanted to open a furniture, home decor and design store a couple years ago--I genuinely didn't know or care how such a store would go about procuring inventory. I was comfortable in the knowledge that there would be a furniture genie that blinked its eyes and filled the store when inventory started to run low.
Imagine my surprise when I learned--upon my wife actually following through and opening a store--there is NO SUCH THING AS A FURNITURE GENIE! No, it turns out that some unfortunate person has to go out and pick up furniture acquisitions and bring it all back to the store. I was even more surprised to learn that--in the case of our store--that unfortunate person is me.
If our store dealt in brand new furniture, this wouldn't even be an issue. With brand new furniture, my wife would place an order with a company, and a week or so later a semi would pull up to our store and deliver her order--which is the next best thing to a furniture genie. But, no, our store distinguishes itself by housing unique secondhand furniture pieces, which my wife purchases from all over the state, and then I'm sent all over the state to pick up those purchases. For a guy who spent the last decade sitting stationary behind a desk, this has been a jarring career change.
And it's been a jarring career change largely because my wife doesn't take into consideration where she sends me to pick up furniture. Oh, sure, the antique armoire she purchased awhile back was a great deal, for example, but she's not the one who had to travel into the bowels of one of the worst neighborhoods in the Twin Cities to pick it up. In retrospect, the reason it was such a good deal was because no one else dared to enter that particular demilitarized zone.
Perhaps one of the most memorable furniture pick-ups to date took place in a sprawling, dilapidated building that had once been a mattress factory. This huge facility was so run down, it was downright terrifying. While the outside looked like something from Soviet Russia, the inside was a disorienting maze of cavernous warehouses and maddening dead ends.
Yet, despite it's general end-of-the-world emptiness, there were pockets here and there where rooms were still being utilized for . . . things. There was, for example, one warehouse in that facility where a seminar was taking place about sexually transmitted disease awareness and prevention. I'm not kidding. There was even a desk set up outside the warehouse doors with a basket filled with free condoms. I actually stood there for a minute or two, just staring at that basket, wondering "Where in the HECK is the furniture I'm supposed to pick up in this crazy building?!!!"
All things considered, this store has marked a drastic career shift for me, but I have a newly found appreciation for how certain businesses go about acquiring inventory, which was something I never learned in ANY of my journalism classes.
April 02, 2013
Game On. . . er Off
Apparently, the new Minnesota Vikings stadium, which was shoved towards state taxpayers not unlike an oversized pill into an unwilling dog's mouth--IT'S FOR YOUR OWN GOOD! JUST TAKE IT! YOU'LL LIKE IT!--has bumped into a bit of a funding hiccup.
Specifically, Minnesotans aren't gambling via e-Gaming recklessly like we were projected to be doing at this point. Not even close, in fact. Not even from the sun to Neptune in proximity.
Electronic pulltab gambling, or "e-Gambling" to use the parlance of our times, was anticipated to make up a huge financial chunk of the public "contribution" towards constructing a stadium in which large men will transport a ball back and forth for our amusement.
As the term implies, e-Gambling would replace pulltabs, thus obviating the irritating step of snapping back cardboard to confirm you've lost money and allowing you to use a tablet touchscreen to more efficiently dispose of all that unwanted income.
It makes at least some logical sense, when you think about it. After all, if there's one thing that comes to mind about the Vikings, it's staring at a screen, waiting for something good to happen, but being routinely and perpetually disappointed.
Unfortunately, we Minnesotans are nothing if not a pragmatic bunch of penny-pinchers. It's almost as if we have the audacity to spend our money on things like food, and clothes and mortgages, and other such frivolities.
Thus, the charitable gambling projections have fallen desperately short, although I have to admit whoever came up with the term "charitable gambling" is wicked good at marketing two completely contradictory words. It's like saying "voluntary cancer" or "enthusiastic colonoscopy."
How short have projections fallen? Shorter than any expectation of a good Ryan Reynolds movie, to be honest. Early estimates said there would be 2,500 e-Gambling establishments up and running by October of 2012. By late February OF THIS YEAR, there were fewer than 120 such charitable gambling dens.
Many Minnesota media outlets, which aren't known for mathematical prowess, have referred to such a shortfall as "lagging." Those of us with rudimentary division skills, however, tend to notice that's less than ONE HALF OF ONE PERCENT (CORRECTION: 5 percent. But, you know what? That's still really sucky) of projections, even after spotting the projections FIVE MONTHS. But, hey, who's counting?
Thankfully, our elected officials are nothing if not creative when confronted by such an astronomical financial shortfall. They've built in a fail-safe funding mechanism called "taxes" that can be put into effect at a moment's notice to ensure there are adequate dollars in place to ensure construction will proceed on a stadium where large men will be comfortably able to regularly disappoint us stupidly loyal Minnesota football fans.
Because Christian Ponder's worth it. Right? RIGHT?!!!
March 28, 2013
It's for the breast
If you get a boob job, it shouldn't be so big it lifts your tits so high you can see the scar. That goes for women, too.
March 26, 2013
Same Old, Same Old
Apparently, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments about same sex marriage or something. I honestly don't really care. If anything, it says something about our nation that same sex marriage is even being deliberated. In Iran, after all, same sex ANYTHING is deliberated from the end of a rope. So, you know, U. S. A!!!
Again, I don't care if people with the same reproductive bits want to get hitched. Knock yourself out. It's all arguments and vitriol interspersed with blissful moments of undiluted love from the moment you say "I do," regardless of whether you prefer wang or tang.
And, chances are good you'll get unhitched at some point anyway.
What perplexes me is this ongoing, unfolding narrative that maintains same sex couples are somehow more enlightened than us knuckle-dragging Croods who inexplicably prefer partners who are more conducive to the "Male Peg A into Female Slot B" couplings. It's like the whole idea of heterosexuality is somehow passe. A historical throwback with little or no pragmatic use in today's metrosexual zeitgeist.
I'm even further annoyed by the insistence that same sex couples raise children just as well, if not better, than a mother and father couple. I mean, perhaps they do in some cases. I can accept that. Just don't tell me same sex couples are somehow MORE adept in general at raising children.
We all screw up our children in some way. Probably several ways.
The other day, I was having a difficult time putting my contact lenses in after I took a shower, so I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, naked, leaning into the mirror, trying to determine whether my contact lens was inside out or not.
Unbeknownst to me, my 2-year-old daughter had toddled into the bathroom and decided that odd thing dangling between my legs needed to be tugged on, for some reason.
I'm not sure where, exactly, my contact lens ended up--although the shocked flail of my arms could very well have sent it slicing through the window and into the neighbor's lawn across the street--but I think both my daughter and I emerged from the experience slightly wiser as to the pros and cons of a traditional, mixed sex marriage and family.
March 05, 2013
Pope and Change!
Ready or not, we're getting a new Pope!
"But, what was wrong with the old Pope?" you whine, like my 3-year-old son demanding frozen yogurt.
Nothing was wrong with the old Pope, beyond the fact he found himself a tad under-equipped to manage a worldwide staff that can't quite adequately deal with such everyday stresses as NOT indulging in sexual scandals.
I mean, think about it: you've finally reached the pinnacle of your theology career--which has a low ceiling for advancement even in the best of circumstances. You have the robes, the epic hat, the golden scepter of Holy Awesomeness, the bulletproof Tupperware-topped Pope-Mobile and your own personal Sistine Chapel bedecked with frescoes depicting naked people as far as the eye can see. I mean, you've MADE IT. You're the POPE!!
And then the Pope Phone rings and you're informed of another sexual scandal. Again. And again. And again. And, you know what? AGAIN! Suddenly, being the Pope seems less like a direct line to God and more like trying to chaperone a high school dance.
Thus, Pope Benedict XVI unexpectedly tendered his resignation in late February, sparking a firestorm of media speculation and causing the world to stop and ask "What's a Pope?"
Not to worry though! A new Pope is on the way! The Catholic Church, which is known for responding to change at breakneck speed--seriously, they'll break necks before they change--is convening the College of Cardinals at the Vatican even as I write this, and they'll soon be chatting amongst themselves to elect a new Pope.
And how does the College of Cardinals elect a new Pope? By throwing their votes into a fire to create smoke, so an expectant crowd awaiting outside can see the smoke billow from a chimney, of course! It's just like U.S. elections, in other words, except the U.S. allows dead people to vote, too.
For many of us, the idea of hiring someone by throwing votes into a fire may seem somewhat unusual but, I guarantee, anyone who has sat in on a job interview would LOVE to see smoke issue from a chimney informing them THEY'RE HIRED!
At any rate, the world remains Pope-less--without Pope--for the time being and the media is doing it's best to ask the most important questions that need to be asked during an interim wherein a worldwide religion is without a spiritual leader. Specifically, the media wants to know: "What will the old Pope do now?" Seriously, that's what the media's been asking.
Without even consulting Wikipedia, I can tell you what the old Pope will be doing. He'll be busy NOT BEING THE POPE! I mean, the guy was THE POPE, for crying out loud. I don't imagine he has a lot more on his career bucket list. Although, it would be rather entertaining to see him sit in on a job interview for a Wal-Mart greeter position.
WAL-MART MANAGER: *clicking pen* So, Mr. . . "The XVI" is it? Do you have any experience greeting people?
POST-POPE POPE: Well, I WAS the Pope. I oversaw a few well-attended masses.
WAL-MART MANAGER: Uh. . . huh. Let me just write that down here: M-A-S-S-E-S. Got it. Do you have any objection to wearing a uniform every day?
POST-POPE POPE: I. . . THINK I can manage that.
WAL-MART MANAGER: Great. Oh, and can you provide your own vehicle?
POST-POPE POPE: That shouldn't be a problem.
WAL-MART MANAGER: It sounds like you'd make a perfect addition to our Wal-Mart greeter team! Welcome aboard!
POST-POPE POPE: You know what? On second thought, you can kiss my ring, pal.
February 26, 2013
A woman walks into a furniture store with a parrot on her shoulder.
No. Seriously. That JUST happened. Not a living parrot, mind you. It was clipped to her shoulder, on a spring, and it was clearly pining for Fjords, but it was a parrot. The woman quite obviously wanted me to notice the parrot and SAY SOMETHING, but I just smiled and asked if she had any questions. She didn't buy anything, OF COURSE, and she left, apparently miffed, apparently miffed that I didn't take the stuffed parrot conversational bait.
February 19, 2013
I believe a HOLY CRAP is in order
February 11, 2013
And Now, An Overdue Fisk
Prepare yourself for one of the more unintentionally ironic editorials in recent memory, starting with the lead sentence:
Forget about the privacy concerns, the onslaught of ads, the annoying design of your profile page.
Keep in mind that was written by a newspaper columnist. While this editorial is essentially a diatribe against Facebook, that lead sentence perfectly describes what's wrong with 95 percent of newspapers online.
If people are slowly turning away from Facebook, it's not because the company has overreached or gone over to the dark side.
It's because we've come to realize that people are boring.
People. Newspapers. Take your pick. People have been turning away from newspapers in droves, well before Facebook came onto the scene, but that inconvenient bit of inconvenience apparently escapes this Boston Globe columnist.
Surely you've noticed this yourself, as you've scrolled through updates about vacations and restaurant meals, plus notices about how many of your friends are currently playing Candy Crush Saga.
Try writing that a different way: Surely you've noticed this yourself, as you've paged through newspaper sections about vacations and restaurants, plus obituary notices and pointless games like crosswords and Sodoku.
A survey released last week by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 61 percent of Facebook users have taken a "Facebook vacation," for reasons that had little to do with how the company behaves. "Too busy" was the most common complaint, followed by "just wasn't interested" and "it was a waste of time."
Aside from being the same complaints most people unsubscribing or not subscribing to newspapers would voice, I have to wonder whether Pew actually surveyed 61 of Facebook users. Seems high. Like, suspiciously, ridiculously high. But, we're not treated to any methodology or sampling tactics here. We're supposed to take it on faith that 61 percent of Facebook users (worldwide, presumably) are just up and taking a break. Gosh, far be it for a newspaper to provide incomplete context. That's something you'd expect, I don't know. . . Facebook friends to do, or something.
"It's a reckoning moment," said Lee Rainie, the director of the Pew project. "People are making little mental calculations about how much time do I want to devote to this, what's the quality of the material I get from my friends?"
Nothing like skipping over important details like methodology or sampling, when you can just ask for a quick quote from a Pew director.
This is, in some ways, a significant milestone in our growing relationship with social media.
If you say so, Boston Globe columnist who is basically plucking crap from her butt.
Early complaints about Facebook centered on the fact that interactions were fake: hand-picked, overglossed, idealized personal statements that were bound to make your friends feel insecure, and vice versa.
See also: The Letters to the Editor section of most major newspapers. The irony meter is just whistling off the charts here.
But now that we're all familiar with the Facebook mask, the problem might be that our posts are too real, and that reality isn't worth our time.
Wait. So what is it? A mask? Or reality? You can't have it both ways.
Earnest efforts to promote unplugging, such as the annual Screen Free Week, are gaining traction, and Facebook's policies have done their part to diminish our trust. But it turns out that our own inanity is also a powerful force.
Where is the proof the annual "Screen Free Week" is gaining traction? Again, are we just supposed to take the writer's incomplete word on that? And, while I won't disagree that Facebook's policies are annoying and trust eroding, they're no more egregious than the omnipresent sign-in and sign-up screens that have become the norm for most online newspapers. You can't tell me they're using that sign up information for altruistic pursuits like kissing baby seals and giving polar bears tummy rubs.
Not that it's time to fear for Mark Zuckerberg's welfare. Facebook is used by a mind-boggling 67 percent of adult Americans online, including your mother, your father, your great-aunt Hilda, and your long-lost friend from high school with a political vendetta. The fact that we're now settling into a mature routine is actually a sign of how intertwined our lives are with our feeds -- and how much we feel an obligation to take part.
That whole paragraph completely flies in the face of everything that appeared before it, including the Pew number of "61 percent of Facebook users are taking a break." So, nearly 70 percent of people online use Facebook, but maybe, possibly, 61 percent of those are taking a break from Facebook--which, by the way, never explains what "a break" entails. I took a break from Facebook over the weekend, so does that lump me in with this 61 percent? It's like saying "60 percent of the time, Facebook users take a break every time."
As much as I grumble, after all, I still feel compelled to dip into the Facebook universe every few days, posting photos of depressingly minor life events -- Attention, world! My child went to the dentist! -- or scrolling down the news feed and "liking" 15 items in one sitting. I'm marking my presence, like a dog. If I lay off the site for a few days, I invariably miss six birthdays and feel like a jerk. If I stay away for longer, I worry I'll miss big news.
As much as you grumble, indeed. So, you hate Facebook, but you can't stay away, because you're a dog. Or something. As for missing "big news," you presumably work in a newsroom with an AP and Reuters feed. . . I think you'll catch the big news. Facebook won't miss you.
Every new medium eventually finds its purpose. Twitter works great as a news aggregator and wisecrack-sharing platform. Pinterest is a gallery for home-decor ideas. Facebook has become the accepted repository for information about births, deaths, and traumatic family events. It's also reasonably good for mobilizing social movements and conducting virtual yard sales.
This is simultaneously rich in irony and deeply perplexing. So, she doesn't care for Facebook much, but she thinks Twitter is GREAT?! She likes Pinterest, but seems oblivious how much cross-over there is between Pinterest and Facebook. Then there's just so much she leaves out about what Facebook is used for. I use it for. . . wait for it. . . a wisecrack-sharing platform, for example, and repository for self-deprecating humor and general silliness. On the professional side, we use Facebook to promote our store, thereby sidestepping the traditional avenue of. . . newspaper advertising. To have this columnist explain Facebook, you'd think it consists entirely of people telling the world about dead grandmas. It's almost like she doesn't know what she's even writing about.
For photos of kids and vacations? Well, there's this nifty thing called paper. A few weeks ago, we finally took down our display of holiday cards, those cheery family photos that Facebook should have rendered obsolete. They still feel more valuable than the average digital post, precisely because they're worth the cost of bulk printing and a stamp, and because they require the physical act of opening an envelope.
Or, here's a thought: do both. There's nothing stopping you from sending cards with cheery family photos AND posting those same photos to Facebook. In fact, I would estimate roughly 70 percent of photos we received in the mail I also saw on Facebook. The world can handle both without going into some sort of photo-absorbing meltdown.
Holiday cards are one of the last remaining things that we still instinctively send by mail, along with thank-you notes and the occasional party invitation. Right after the Pew Facebook study came out, the U.S. Postal Service announced that it was dropping Saturday delivery, prompting a flood of lamentations -- on social media, of course -- from people who may not have written a letter by hand in years. I, too, will miss the weekend mail, but it's hard to argue with reality. The other day, the sum total of my mail was an electric bill and a flier from Costco.
This woman doesn't seem to quite grasp when she's contradicting herself in glorious fashion, does she? She gets an electric bill and a Costco flier in the mail, but she read all about postal service lamentations -- on social media, of course. Good thing she has editors, I guess.
If someone sent you a snail-mail photo of his kids every day or every week, you'd think he suffered from a personality disorder. But holiday cards are an annual thrill, precisely because they come once a year. Looking for a new, Facebook 2.0 standard for how much we ought to share? It turns out we might have had it all along.
Well, except you can post multiple photos on Facebook at once, in something called an "Album," whereas if you attempted to send an album via snail mail, someone might just think you suffered from a personality disorder. Plus, sending an entire album via snail mail to everybody you know would probably require a loan. Each year. At Christmas.
February 08, 2013
Weather or Not
Remember that snowstorm that went through back in 2001? No, not that one. The OTHER one. No, the OTHER OTHER one. You don’t remember?
If only snowstorms had a name. . .
Well, now they do!
The “Weather Channel”--which has apparently recognized naming hurricanes isn’t enough any more--has decided snowstorms also require their own nomenclature. Seriously, the latest snowstorm to hit the Northeast actually has a name, according to the Weather Channel. You know what it's called? Go on. Guess!!
Yeah, I know, I can’t believe it either.
I suppose I can’t blame the Weather Channel for trying. I mean, there are only so many ways to make weather seem interesting, after all. But COME ON. Hurricanes, at least, are somewhat rare, so naming them makes at least a little bit of sense. Naming snowstorms, on the other hand, is like naming dandruff occurrences.
But, who am I to quibble? I should embrace this new weather-naming phenomenon. If snowstorms are to be named, let’s name ALL weather.
It’s said, for example, “April showers bring May flowers.” So, let’s call every shower “April.” Come spring, we can all sprint into the house and complain about being drenched by April.
“Sorry I’m late for dinner, dear, but I couldn’t see anything because April was all over my face.”
Also, we should do away with sunny and cloudy days, in general. Such mundane days require names. Sunny days are heretofore to be known as “Tony,” while cloudy days are to be referred to as “Samantha.”
We can say a day is partly Tony or partly Samantha, or either day hasn’t entirely yet come out of the closet. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Foggy days should be known as “Greg.” Misty days should be called, er. . . “Misty.”
“The day started out Greg, then turned Misty.”
Tornadoes are a whole other thing entirely. Tornadoes are like hurricanes but, because they happen mostly in the Midwest, nobody really cares. If they only had NAMES.
A tornado ripping through Missouri, for example, is entirely forgettable. But name it RALPH, and people would be talking about it for years.
“Jefferson City got totally Ralphed on,” people would say.
You didn’t know Jefferson City was the capital of Missouri, did you?
A clear blue sky should be known as “Johnny,” while a thunderstorm should be called “Bobby.” A light summer rain should be “Jimmy.” Heat lightning should be “Tommy.” And flooding should be called “Dutch.”
If all those weather events happen during the same day, it should be called a “Cobra Kai.”
Or, we could just go back to calling weather what it is, and tell the Weather Channel to stop trying so hard.
Nemo. . .
February 06, 2013
Back in the Saddle
OK, the reason posting has been light is because I've been writing this
February 05, 2013
Stop. Just. Stop.
It suddenly hit me.
NPR doesn't think that fast. They edit.
February 02, 2013
At Least It's Not Eating Its Own Poop, I guess.
I apologize for the crappy quality of this screen grab. This is a toy that ALWAYS annoys me during every trip to the toy store, owing primarily to the host of unanswered questions it engenders. WHY does this gorilla have a bionic arm AND leg? I mean, it's wielding a Samurai sword, for crying out loud, so you'd think it's at least somewhat proficient enough with a blade to not lose BOTH limbs. Is it the Anakin Skywalker of the simian world? And that's after allowing for the suspension of disbelief of a gorilla holding a Samurai sword in the first place. And WHY is this gorilla using the skull of one of his fallen brethren as a cod piece? And WHY is this gorilla wearing a ratty old tennis shoe? And WHY is that tennis shoe so obviously the wrong size to fit this gorilla?