Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Who Needs to Know What (Part II), or The Difference Between Should and Is

Instead of writing a 3000+ word post, I've decided to break up my current subject -- "thoughts on the Information Age" -- into a couple of posts. I suppose this notation is for any new readers, since all returning readers had presumably read the previous post and are caught up on the matter. Unless, of course, there are returning readers who read the title of the prior column and said "Part I? Who needs that? I'll just wait for Part II." In that instance, I could see the need to be brought up to speed.

When we left off -- this recap is for everyone who is just joining us today -- the beloved Ducks guy was A) taking on Time magazine, B) taking on Facebook and C) heroically trying to save the village from the clutches of the evil overlord Azromodo, while at the same time taking an internal voyage to discover himself and understand his complicated love/hate feelings towards his estranged twin brother.

"Wait, I don't remember that last part at all!" (Okay, between you and me, that's just to encourage new readers to go back and check out Part I.) "But isn't that false advertising?" (Perhaps, but this is my blog and... Hey, what's that up there! Oh my gosh! I've never seen such a strange thing before!! Wow. Now, where were we? Oh, that's right. You were just telling me how much you love Ducks Out Of A Row and how it's the most important literary creation ever. That's very kind of you to say. Thank you.)

So, if you recall, I think that the Facebook kid is getting a bum rap from Time magazine by being compared to Hitler and Stalin, but that doesn't change the fact that I don't like his invention. I place considerably more weight in authentic relationships and a lot of people view FB as some kind of popularity contest or something. If I remember correctly, I had read an article wherein some people put together a completely made-up profile to see how many people they could get to "friend" it. I don't remember the details, but it was a lot.

Note: In spite of strict Ducks policy not to conduct actual research, I did perform a quick search to find the article, but it was fruitless. (Maybe I shouldn't have been looking for fruit?)

Anyhow, the premise of the Facebooks is to allow family and friends to connect and share information, which is fine and all, but when we start adding friends of friends and people we think we've heard of… then what exactly is the point?

Enough recapping! We have further issues to delve into...

My idea to share thoughts about the Information Age stemmed from two different sources initially (and then was added to by something else I had read in the interim...). The first, obviously, was Time's proclamation of Mark Zuckerberg as "Man of the Year." (Still think they missed the boat by not giving the title to me, but whatevs.) The second was the result of something I was listening to on NPR.

(Yes, I listen to NPR, says the man who sometimes raps old Ice Cube songs, rocks out to Rush in his car, and references: The Baha Men, Dancing With the Stars, Kriss Kross, "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," the 80's film "Twins," Katy Perry, and other random pop figures, movies, shows and songs.)

(Yes, I'm complicated.)

As one would probably imagine, WikiLeaks has been a popular topic on NPR lately (along with the Ivory Coast's disputed presidential election, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and Oprah's new hairstyle.)

The other day, the good folks at NPR had two men discussing WikiLeaks and how transparent, or not, a government should be. I think this is a great topic because it offers the opportunity for a lot of different viewpoints and intelligent discourse, without presenting the threat of being shot like I was back in '95 when I made the claim that Tupac was a better rapper than the Notorious B.I.G. Being the trooper I am, I was back on my horse the very next day, blogging about my experience and then tweeting it to my millions of followers at the time.

I think the two poles -- there are usually poles for any issue -- in this instance are 1) governments should be completely transparent or 2) governments don't need to be transparent in the least. (I'll let you guess which side governments like those in China and North Korea probably fall on...)

From my years of experience at life -- and, let the records show, I have literally decades’ worth of experience at "life" -- the best method is almost always somewhere in the middle of two poles.

That being said, government would be completely transparent.. in an ideal world. Open communication is always the best policy. The complicating factor, though, is the fact that this world is not ideal. There are people out there who simply hate other people and want them to die. This mostly stems from either complete ignorance or misguided faith. But saying that there are "people" is not substantial enough. There are entire governments and/or very large organizations who want others to die.

With reality being what it is -- not all people behave the way they ought to -- governmental secrets need to be kept. I can understand the notion that perhaps exposing secrets can help create open communication, but that is naive idealism. The fact of the matter is that doing so has the distinct possibility of putting lives at risk.

There is no reason to ever unnecessarily put lives at risk. The human experience is certainly richer than "just surviving," but survival is one of the goals. Technically-speaking, there should never be a need to take someone else's life.

(That being said, I fully understand the fact that "should" and "is" rarely seem to agree. Case in point: One should chew food with his mouth closed and not chomp and smack like a horse or make disgusting slurping noises, especially if he has a cubicle neighbor with a blog. But just because one "should" doesn't mean that one "does." Hypothetically-speaking, of course.)

So I disagree with the decision to publish the WikiLeaks information from a security and concern for the safety of my fellow human beings standpoint. Keeping with the title, I don't feel it is right for everyone to know classified information. Yes, it'd be great if we lived in a world where governmental secrets weren't necessary, but I think they are in this particular case.

That being said, there are definitely sources of information that should be available to the general public. These include such vital matters as: financial records, Congressional voting records, court documents and the President's March Madness picks. Beyond that, it'd be great if there wasn't a need to hide military or covert operations from the general population, but that falls in the whole "should" category.

(Just like I "should" be wrapping this up right about now, which I am.)

(Well, every once in awhile "should" and "is" are the same thing...)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Who Needs to Know What (Part I)

This is going to be a two-parter, gang, so buckle in tight. Think of it as an early Christmas/late Hanukkah/[fill-in-the-appropriate-sense-time for whatever-belief-system-you-might-have holiday] gift. Yeah, I know... I am one of the greatest living humanitarians. You're all welcome.

So apparently the Facebook kid barely beat me out for Time's Person of the Year. It was a shrewd move on the magazine's behalf, but one that recognizes the threat Time feels from the media superpower that is Ducks Out Of A Row.

Cue scene.

People from Time magazine and I are standing around. They are looking dapper and bored. I'm wearing an ascot and hip sunglasses, sitting in a bright red sleigh that is connected to eight or nine reindeer, depending on the fogginess of the situation. We are outside a trendy burrito shack on the fashionable eastside of a major metropolitan area. It might be your town, you really aren't sure. But then you look to the distance and see the city's famous landmark and you know that you're home. Then you begin to wonder how you entered the scene or what you are even doing in this section? And what is up with the midstream POV switch?

Uh, moving along...

"He doesn't even lowercase the letters in the blog's name like he's supposed to," say the people at Time, shooting me a "we're not only holier than thou, we're also more judgmental" look.

"You're just jealous," say I, shooting them a "you might be holier and more judgmental than me, but I'm totally rocking these shades" look. (My signature look, pretty much.)

The Time people stand around; perplexed expressions are drawn on their stupid faces from my witty response. (Yes, I sunk to "their stupid faces." No, I'm not proud.)

I give an authoritative nod of my head and fly off in my sleigh. (Well, I am making this seasonal for all of you...)

End scene.

Back to the kid who started the Facebooks... Marky Mark -- as all the cool kids are calling him -- created the social networking site.

(How's that for in-depth journalism, Time Magazine? Take that, suckas! Advantage: The Ducks.)

Now, I have no particular qualms about The Markster, Mark-O-Rama, The Markinator (I could do this all day, folks.). His creation, on the other hand...

Alright, here's the deal. I'm on the Facebooks. I log in every once in a while to see what other people are doing, because I care about them. I've reconnected with some old friends. I post a new status about once every month and a half. It is obviously very, very, very important to me. Some would say "vital to my life," but they would be wrong. It is my life.

Note: Sarcasm doesn't always translate the best via a written context, but I can keep trying for those who are slow on the uptake. No? You're good? Cool.

See, the "keeping up with people" part is something I could very well do with or without the site. I have a phone and email, I'll read letters if someone wanted to go that route. Heck, I will even learn to interpret smoke signals if that's what it takes. I don't need Facebook to do this. (Especially not the smoke signals part.)

Now, I did reconnect with some old friends through the site. I suppose that's a good thing. Not sure if there are any others out there I'm particularly interested in finding again, though. Seems to me that it has kind of run the course with regard to its usefulness in that function.

I have a blog -- hopefully this doesn't come as news to any of you -- so the need to post status updates makes me feel "meh," especially for someone who likes to sprawl while writing (not in the literal sense).

From my perspective, the Facebook kid was named Person of the Year for creating something kind of useless. But, thanks to Wikipedia -- See, I can keep with a theme! -- I found out that the fake Marky Mark (figured I should specify that we aren't talking about the original "Marky Mark" Wahlberg here) is on par with Hitler, Stalin and Al Capone.

Note: Capone was actually never Time's Man of the Year.

Second note: I had already known -- and didn't have to use Wikipedia -- the fact that Hitler had received the distinction. (Bet they'd like to have that one back, huh?)

Basically, Time Magazine is saying that the kid is pure evil.

Personally, I wouldn't go that far. Sure, his invention might be pure evil. (Facebook has been described by a truly wise man -- or my youngest brother... either way -- as being one of the signs of the Internet apocalypse. And I pretty much agree.) But I don't understand why Time hates him so much as to compare the kid to murderous dictators. That just seems like a really low blow to me.

Okay, I should stop journalistically reporting on Time's hatred of the Facebooks kid and bring this home for today’s big close...

My problem with Facebook -- and the entire movement of the Information Age -- is that we, as a society, are drastically over-sharing. I'm of the mindset that not everyone needs to know everything. (Keep that in mind for my next post!) Even amongst family and friends, constant contact and communication is not necessarily a good thing. It's kind of like how being a complete hermit isn't healthy, either. Everything in life requires a delicate balance, and personal interactions are no exception.

I understand the concept of social networking, but have a strong inclination toward authentic relationships. I cannot have genuine relationships with 1000’s of people. Technically speaking, no one can. Dunbar’s Law of 150 – which I feel is a valid theory – dictates that the human mind is only able to maintain stable social relationships with a finite amount of individuals. (I’ll let you guess the number…)

When we exceed 150 people in our respective “tribes,” there are likely to be an abundance of social “free riders,” people who use a social network without contributing. With this concept, the relationships cannot possibly be genuine. There has to be give and take in a relationship, and free riders are only going to take

Anyhow, I'm pretty sure that Marky Mark's goal is to connect everyone on earth, but is that really necessary? Does it make sense to have hundreds and hundreds -- or even thousands -- of "friends" in a social network? If 150 stable social relationships is the cap, then what's the point?

To be continued…

Editor’s note: Early on, the writer alluded to this being the first of two posts on the topic. He might have underestimated and there is certainly the potential for a three-part series. We’ll just have to see where he goes with this all. (Trust me on this, it’ll be way more nerve-racking for me than you.)

Writer’s note: Nerve-racking? Pffff. You don’t know what stress is until you’ve braved the north face of K2, you jack wagon!

Editor’s note: He’s never mountain climbed… and I’m going to need some booze.

Friday, December 10, 2010

20 Questions

In my previous post, we were working on constructing a bio for the Ducks Guy (aka, me). All in all, I think we were able to take my life's story and compress it into a couple of paragraphs – Wikipedia-style. That's fine and dandy (as all the cool kids are saying), but it really doesn't get to the core of who I am. Nice job of saying where I came from, no doubt, but not where I am now. So let's do this... chain-email style!

Cut and paste, put in your own answers and send to all your friends! If you do, there is a good chance you'll win the lottery, just like Travis N. of sunny California. He filled out the questionnaire, sent it to all the contacts in his email account and won the state lottery two hours later... without even buying a ticket. But don't be like Walter M.! Poor Wally failed to fill this out and forward to everyone he knows. Two hours later, he was walking down a street in Denver, CO when he was eaten by a shark.
(Maybe it was a pack of wild mongooses? Vicious kittens? Hungry humanitarians?) (Well, if vegetarians eat vegetables...)

So make sure you send this to everyone you ever met! (Not really. We're just channeling the spirit...)

1) What are you currently wearing? Uh, what kind of perverted survey is this?

2) What is the last food you ate? Breakfast was peanut butter on a chewy granola bar, banana and chocolate milk.

3) What is your favorite food? Hmmmmm. Probably something distinguished and culinary... A dish meant for kings... The food they most likely serve in Heaven... Pizza!

4) Who is your favorite Backstreet Boy? Who can pick just one? (Not this guy.)

5) If you could be any historical figure, who would it be? Justin Beiber.

6) What are your top five favorite movies? This is a good one, because I used to have a definite list (Shawshank Redemption, True Romance, The Princess Bride, Get Shorty, and Glory), but there are several movies I’ve rather enjoyed since I last evaluated that list (probably around 2000).

Memento and The Dark Knight both come to mind as deserving consideration. I might have to take out “The Princess Bride” because now that I have finally read the book, the movie doesn’t compare. I mean, the movie is great (well, it was a top-five of mine for years...), but the book is simply fantastic. Let’s also take out “Get Shorty,” because the sequel was awful.

So we have: Shawshank, The Dark Knight, True Romance, Memento and Glory. Probably in that order. The Princess Bride and Ocean’s Eleven – the Clooney/Pitt version – just miss the cut.

7) What was your childhood dream job? President/scientist/professional baseball player. (Preferably, all at the same time...)

8) Did you ever get that job? Kind of… I mean, I pretty much consider myself to be the President and "playing rec league soccer” is very similar to “playing professional baseball” when you get down to it.

9) What is your favorite color? Blue. Some people think there is a correlation between favorite color and personality types. From my end, this holds true. Blue is supposed to be a mellow, peaceful kind of color and I think those are generally good descriptions of me (unless I’m driving or playing soccer...).

10) Most embarrassing habit? I’d need to think about this a little more, but I’m ashamed that I sometimes yell bad things at other drivers. (Always with my window rolled up and never with the intent that they actually hear me.) I would never do anything like that in any other circumstance, but there is a certain impersonal nature with regard to driving. I don’t know the people and they probably don’t know that I’m swearing at them. I still feel bad about it and have worked on – and continue to do so – toning it down.

11) Seriously, what historical figure would you be? (We are not accepting “Justin Beiber.”) Fine, if I had to pick someone from history, I’d be Jack Kerouac. He’s my favorite author of all time (although, Colson Whitehead is closely encroaching that hallowed ground...) and he hung out with quite the characters back in the day. Plus, he played football for his college. So writing and sports? Two loves of mine? Sign me up.

Now, Kerouac died kind of young (47) and in a somewhat grotesque manner (internal bleeding due to vast amounts of alcohol consumed), but I think he got a pretty decent value out of those forty-seven years.

12) What famous person do people say you look like? Well, I get a couple of different answers. Daniel Craig came up a bunch after the “Casino Royale” (James Bond) movie came out. I’ve also gotten: Matthew McConaughey, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Ryan Reynolds, Denzel Washington, Selma Hayek, and Oprah.

13) What is your favorite sport to watch? Professional football, although Dancing with the (not really) Stars is also pretty good. I mean, how can anyone not want to watch “Star” Bristol Palin dancing? (Noah Webster will forever be restless in his grave for our blatant misuse of the word “star.”) Note: I definitely do not watch DWTS. (As far as you know.)

14) What is your favorite sport to play? Truthfully, I love participating in most athletic competition. I’ve been playing soccer consistently for the past six years or so and that has to be near the top of the ranks. But I really love beach volleyball. That would have to rank as #1. Football and basketball are also up there. If I was in better swimming shape (completely different than being in just regular good shape, which – more or less – I am...), I’d have water polo up there. But, alas, I don’t have the swimming endurance at this time in my life.

15) Who is least likely to return this? Um, I’m not really sending this to anyone, soooooo... everyone in the world ties for “least likely to return this.” (Your certificates of achievement are in the mail.)

16) Who let the dogs out? Still trying to answer that myself. (Note: I love the fact that the Baha Men won a Grammy award for that song. I don’t remember what the category was, but they can always be referred to as “the award-winning Baha Men.”)

17) If you could have any superpower, what would it be? The ability to give birth. Actually, no. (Note: I have the utmost respect for all the ladies out there who’ve done that. I have no idea how you all have that kind of strength and willpower.)

My superpower would be the ability to train my pets to be successful day traders, obviously.

I’d walk in the door and say “Tweak Dog, show me how much money you made today.” She’d show me her computer screen and I’d see that she made two-hundred thousand dollars on the day. I’d say “Good girl,” and then give her a treat.

Then I’d say “Kitty Meow, show me how much money you made today.” Kitty would show me her computer screen – yes, all the pets would have laptops – and I would see that she also made two-hundred thousand dollars on the day. I’d pet her furry little head and say “Good girl,” and then give her a cat treat.

Then I’d say “Captain Cat, show me how much money you made today.” The Captain would quickly run under the bed, as she likes to do, and I’d look at her screen. No money. So I’d shrug my shoulders and say “Well, two out of three ain’t bad.”

Yes, that would definitely be my superpower and I’d use my newfound wealth to stop crime (probably) and buy me some Taco Bell. (Even rich folks love Taco Bell... I assume.)

18) How many fingers am I holding up behind my back? What?! C’mon, now! That isn’t even fair. I’m just sitting here at the computer and all I can see is a screen. Any number I give is going to be a guess. Although, if you were standing in front of me in real life, your hands would be behind your back, so it’s not really that different, I suppose. Okay. Eight.

19) Are you a morning person or a night person? I like to think of myself as a person, regardless as to what time of day it is. What a silly question.

20) Have you ever created a list of questions similar to ones that are forwarded around for people to answer and pass along to friends and family in order to have creative content for a blog post? No. (As far as anyone knows...)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Creating a Bio

Pre-Post Note: This is a rather long one, but hopefully worth the read!

The other day my youngest brother mentioned that he needed to put together a bio for a new website and was wondering what he should put in it. Unfortunately, he asked his snarky, oldest brother who initially came up with "Tall?" This was followed by such useful suggestions as: "Patriotic. Not an evil-doer. Low-life. (Actually, don't use that last one...)"

Ultimately, I did send him something more practical and then gave him a final edit, since I do tend to be quite helpful in real life (as opposed to how I am in fake life).

Anyhow, this got me thinking... I need to put together a new bio here at the Ducks. And by "a new bio," I naturally mean "a bio," since I really don't have one. I added an "About Me" section, but really haven't done much with it. (Well, let's be realistic here... I've barely had time to make any new posts for a while. This labor-of-love of mine doesn't bring in any income, which means that it takes a backseat to other endeavors.)

So today we are going to help the Ducks guy put together a bio!! (Everyone cheers wildly.) (Um, if you aren't cheering right now, you might want to start or you'll feel like a loser. Just sayin'.)

Note: We are going to do this while skipping the phrase "obsessed with Justin Beiber."

Note to the previous note: Okay, I know I mention that kid in every other post, but it has more to do with my obsession about everyone else's obsession with him. (At least, that's what I tell myself.)

Moving on...

I am the quintessential INFP, using Myer-Briggs personality typing (MBTI), so maybe we should look there for some content? Let's see. "Creative." Check. "Original and individualistic." Check. "Extremely, totally, very ridiculously good-looking." ("Wait it doesn't say that at all in any INFP profile," they all say. "Shush," I say in response.) Check.

Okay, here's the problem with using INFP stuff... I could just cut and paste the entire description of an INFP and it would fit. But doing so would describe any INFP and I'm more than just that! (Take note of the "original and individualistic" part above.)

Quick digression: If you are familiar with MBTI and know your type, please leave a comment and let me know what it is. I'm rather curious about this. If you don't know, you should take the test (link to a free source found in
the very first Ducks post). It can help you understand A) yourself, 2) others, D) how you relate with others, E) how to solve conflict with others. All in all, highly valuable stuff. I use it all the time to try and understand where other people -- especially those who see the world completely different from me -- are coming from. Seriously, cannot recommend it enough.

Back to me!

Well, a good bio typically includes a bit of background, right? I was born in Milwaukee, lived in WI until I was 18, at which point I came to MI to go to college. I've been here since. A good bio also includes interests, so let's think about that a second. Writing is a major one, natch. I coach water polo and play rec soccer. I conduct “Cat Obedience” classes. I teach Vietnamese to affluent Dutch senior citizens. I tinker in the realm of nuclear physics... What's that? You think I just made up these last three? Pffff, as if I'm that creative.

(Oh, you're saying that I clearly identified myself as "creative" four paragraphs ago? *silence as he fruitlessly searches for a rebuttal*)

My bio so far: On a bright, sunny day in the Summer of '78, I was welcomed into the world. Immediately, I went to work developing my personality, crafting my intellect and solving all the problems of modern society. Unfortunately, I had no way of conveying my genius ideas to the large, usually-smiling figures around me, so I cried, ate and slept a lot. Occasionally, I smiled back. Fin.

Well, that pretty much covers the first twenty years of my life. All this hard work is making me want to eat, sleep and cry. Maybe I should call it a day.

Never! Let's pick it back up from the end of that last section.

... I smiled back. I spent the first twelve years of my life in the city of Milwaukee. I walked the mean streets and grew tough and surly. I developed an addiction to candy and booze.

Editor's note: Only the first sentence is true. He was never tough or surly. And he actually preferred fruit over candy. We're not sure about the booze part, though. You have to admit, it would explain a lot.

... The hard knock life I lived later became the inspiration for a Jay-Z song: "H.O.V.A." (You probably expected me to say it was his "Hard Knock Life" song, but that would be historically inaccurate.) My family moved out of Milwaukee, but we pretty much stayed in SE Wisconsin. During high school, I went to classes, swam on the swim team (which makes more sense than "played running back on the swim team" or "swam for the basketball team"), and ran cross country. I also invented a cure for polio. Unfortunately, someone beat me to it.

Editor's note: His cure for polio was "just don't get it in the first place."

... After high school, I spent years studying the bush people in western Michigan. It turned out to be an elaborate research project and later was recorded in my autobiography "How Stella Got Her Groove Back."

Editor's note: "years studying the bush people in western Michigan" actually means "years attending Hope College in Holland, Michigan."

... While at Hope, I was on the varsity swim team for four years. I wasn't particularly fast, but I tried my hardest and hopefully that counts for something. When not swimming or studying, I played a lot of frisbee golf and ate a lot of pizza. (It's rare that I use the phrase "a lot" twice in the same sentence, but it applies in both cases.) During the summers, I worked for a plumbing company, as previously has been mentioned here at the Ducks. School and my summer job both provided an abundance of growth for me. I learned so much in those two different worlds.

Editor's note: No real reason for a note this time. He was fairly spot-on there.

... After school, it took me a little while to find my way in this world. I did start coaching water polo back in 2001. One of my best friends from the Hope swim team took the position of head coach and offered me the chance to become the JV coach. I'm glad he did, because it's actually an important part of my life.

Editor's note to Writer: Hey, aren't you going to mention something about writing? You define yourself as a writer, so you should probably say a bit about that in your bio.

Writer's note to Editor: Normally I loathe you, but that is a good point.

... I am a writer. I realized my love of -- and talent for -- the craft while in college. One of the greatest compliments I ever received came from our campus' beloved Poetry professor, the nationally-recognized Jack Ridl. I received a completely unexpected email from Professor Ridl saying "John, you are a writer." He went on to express his hope that I always continue to write. Ever since, I've constantly strengthened my grasp of the craft and continue to love it. I do a lot of writing in a lot of different ways. (Maybe it's not so rare that I use "a lot" more than once in the same sentence...)

Writing has become quite important to me.

Now, I was well-aware of the fact that becoming a best-selling author is not particularly realistic to expect, so I stumbled for a while trying to figure out how to make sense of the natural talent I've been given and how to use it. It was only a couple of years ago now when I realized that there are so many avenues for writing beyond just novel writing. So I'm working on that. I have a lot to offer in this area and if I don't make use of it, my skills would just be wasted. But that isn't going to happen on my watch!

Let's see, that's a lot about me and how I got here. I'm actually quite a private person, but I feel comfortable with posting all of this. Well, after all, this is MY blog! :)

My bio isn't complete without mention of my family. My lovely little wife is probably even more private than I am -- which is saying a lot! -- so I'll just mention that I love her dearly. I have two stepsons, who are a lot like sons to me now, and two cats, who are a lot like cats to me now. And, of course, there is Tweak Dog, who I rescued about eight years ago.

Beyond immediate family, I have a lot of important people in my life (brothers, sisters, father, grandpa, aunts, uncles, friends, etc.), but that will have to be another post for another day...

(This one is already long enough as it stands!)

Warm regards!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Random Thoughts, Volume 1

In 1993, I lived next door to a kid who was adamant about the fact he was going to be the third member of the hip-hop duo -- soon to be trio (evidently) -- Kriss Kross. I wonder how that is working out for him now. I envision the following scenario:

"Why don't you leave us alone? Yeah, we were a hip-hop act in the early-nineties, but now we just man this taco stand."

"But I'm in the band! I still know all the words to 'Jump!' My clothes are on backwards!"

"Fine... Now start filling those shells with meat."

I read a headline that said something about People magazine's 2010 "Sexiest Man Alive" was a surprise pick. The guy who "won" -- and it feels very wrong to use that particular term -- the "award" -- see my previous comment (it applies here, too) -- is Ryan Reynolds. I have no qualms about him winning this. As a comfortably straight male, I can say that Mr. Reynolds is an attractive dude. So what's my issue? How on earth is he a "surprise" pick? If they had chosen Dr. Stephen Hawking -- surprise. If they had picked some goat farmer from Montana -- surprise. Choosing a good-looking, successful actor? Zero surprise.

I would love to take a nap right now.

The other day it was commented -- in response to my "reinventing Michigan" post -- that a world exists outside the borders of the Mitten State. I don't believe it. Okay, I do believe it and am planning on writing a post regarding international politics. So keep your eyes open for that! (Note: It might entail renaming this planet... but you probably wouldn't expect anything less.)

This is a blog. Obviously, a major component entailed with that fact is that there are no rules. If I wanted to post a single letter or number every day, I could certainly do so. There is no one to stop me. (Mwahahaha) I mean, my readership would obviously go down, but I could do that.

The reason I'm mentioning this is that I am unsure how many random thoughts I actually "need" to write. Are a couple of thoughts good enough? Do people expect more? What's the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow? I don't know the answers to these -- and other -- questions. As such, I'm going to take a nap.

("Wait, uh, doesn't he do most of this from his desk at work?")


Monday, November 8, 2010

Let's Get Political... Political. I Wanna Get Political...

Don't let the (extremely clever) title of today's post scare you away! This has nothing to do with Democrat/Republican/Whig/Green Party/Vulcan Party/Christmas Party/West Coast Party ('Cuz a West Coast Party don't stop!) bickering or differences or what have you.

This will be a very non-partisan post. (C'mon, you have to know how we do things here at the Ducks...)

If you don't know by now, my modus operandi is "Be a good person first and foremost and believe what you want to believe. I won't judge you for it. I'll keep trying to be a good person myself, so please don't judge me for my beliefs."

Anyhow, today let’s get political… political. I wanna get political… Let’s get into political.

(Yes, I had to Google search for the lyrics to Olivia Newton John’s “Physical.”)

(Yes, I’m a dork.)

For those who aren't already in the know – this would be most people from states not (currently) named "Michigan" -- we elected a new governator here in the Mitten State. (If you are confused, take a quick look at a map of the U.S. The lower peninsula of MI looks like a mitten.)

Well, Governator-elect Snyder said that it is time to "reinvent Michigan" in his "I just won the election, all the rest of you are losers" speech. Being a better judge of talent than Simon Cowell, I realized that the man is onto something. So let's roll with it...

First off, let's rename the state.

"Michigan" is okay and all, but we are reinventing here and there is no sense in doing it half-assed. I think we should put together a committee to look at naming rights. Sports stadiums and halftime shows and even families are receiving corporate sponsorship nowadays, so why not states? (Uh, don't answer that.)

Michigan's economy has certainly -- um, let's be diplomatic -- not kept pace with the rest of the union. (Read that as "I'm pretty sure we have the worst or second-worst economy in the nation.") But once upon a time, this state brought forth The Big Three and Kellogg's and Amway. There is a veritable wealth of industrial history on which the state can capitalize!

Let's see... We'll need something catchy and Michigan-born. Hmmm. Ford made/makes a car called the "Fiesta." Fiestas are fun. A state with tremendous unemployment could use more fun. We are now Fiesta. Mission accomplished!

Since we are reinventing things, my next proposal/reinvention/mandate is a new, new governator. If we're doing this, we should evaluate potential candidates... Madonna was born in Detroit, so she seems like a viable candidate. But I'm pretty sure she's taken to talking with a faux-British accent and we can't have that! I mean, we got rid of those red-coats back in the late 1900's. (Note: I have no qualms about any Brits, present or past. I'm just trying to be historically accurate here.)

Alright, Madonna is a no-go and...

Wait, what's that you say? What about me? Li’l ol' me? Well, I certainly would never have considered something like this on my own, but yes! Yes, I will be the next Governator of Fiesta.

(Note: I truly cannot believe how ridiculous this is already getting... and I still have a couple more points to go.)

As the new Governator -- yes, I officially love, and claim, that word now that Arnie is out of office -- I think it is best for me to alleviate a lot of hostility and conflict amongst my people. I've already considered going up to President Obama – or any other important figure, like Cher -- and saying "Let my people go," but I don't feel as though that will completely help ease the pain and suffering that all these years of conflict have brought upon the people of the state-formerly-called-Michigan.

So this is what I'm going to do: I am officially combining Michigan State University with the University of Michigan. Fans from these schools have given each other a hard time for too long now and it is time to say "enough is enough." I am the man who can do that and, thus, I will be establishing MSUTUOM.

Go MSUTUOM Spartan Wolverines!! (The mascot will be a wolverine wearing the helmet and armor that Sparty had previously worn. Also, he'll drive a monster truck.)

(Note: I swear on my life that I am not on drugs. I didn't even drink caffeine this morning... not that I usually do, anyhow, but we certainly can't blame this on that.)

("So he's just weird?")

(I prefer "creative," but whatever works for you.)

Point #4 of "My 1000 Points of Light" -- I came up with that by myself -- is that we need a new state song. I'm sure that whatever one we currently have is fine and dandy, but "fine and dandy" isn't going to cut it for a state that is currently going into overdrive to reinvent itself! We need something new... something fresh... something by Justin Beiber. (You had to see that coming…)

Admittedly, I'm a little conflicted at this point. I mean, does it make more sense to use one of his existing songs, or should we commission him to come up with something new?

You know what? You are absolutely right; I should write a song for him to record. As the new Governator-elect, it is a high-priority item and I should be the person to tackle it. The buck does stop here -- another J. Neeb original saying -- after all.

Note to J. Beib: Your performing and my song-writing is bound to be the best combination since Michigan State University and the University of Michigan became one school. J. Beib and J. Neeb are going to rock it. As the newest Governator in the union, you have my word that the song will be phenomenal. And, as we both know, politicians don't lie.

Wow, this "being the leader of the soon-to-be-largest-state-by-virtue-of-area" is really tough stuff. I kind of need a nap... but my loyal servants need more from their leader than that! I am not going to let them down.

(Mostly because I'll be jacking taxes waaaaaay up so I can buy lots of things I don't need, like a pillbox hat.)

"Did he just say 'soon-to-be-largest-state-be-virtue-of-area’?”

Ah, good catch. I'm going to merge the state with Canada. It really makes sense because we are both so close in proximity and whatnot.

Note to Canadians: If I wasn't a fan of you guys and your fine nation, I wouldn't want to merge, so please take this as the compliment it is meant to be. Besides, think about how much fun you'll have in our new state of Fiesta!

Given that I'm only a couple of hours into my governatorship, I think that is good enough for now. But I can imagine what you are thinking at this point and I have to agree... Yes, I would make the single best Presidentnator ever! (Time to start rallying the troops.) Let's work to make this happen. (Uh, in 2016. If I remember correctly, the minimum age to be president is 35. I'm 32 right now, so -- unfortunately for pretty much everyone -- the '014 election is out of the question.)

God bless the state of Fiesta! Thank you, all my loyal peeps! Peace.

Editor's note: I don't even know where to begin with my comments on this one... *heavy sigh*

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

So I've Been Thinking...

Obviously, I don't post every day. Sometimes it goes longer than a week for me to update this blog. Case in point, right now. My last post was about a week and a half ago. (And -- I hate to say this -- it wasn't even that good a post by my standards. Sorry about that!)

That being said, I log into Blogger pretty much every day. Whether I comment or not -- mostly not -- I'll check out the blogs I follow and see what is going on. Also -- and I didn't realize I even do this until the other day -- I apparently notice how many followers I have.

I've mentioned this earlier, but once upon a time I was quite concerned with how many followers this blog had. Somewhere along the line, I became wise (or at least, kind of wise). I realized that it didn't really matter. People are either going to read and/or follow, or not. There isn't much I can do about it one way or the other. All I can do is write and see what comes of it. Whoever is going to read or follow will do so as long as I provide reason to keep coming back. So that's what I try to do.

Even though I don't particularly care for any metrics, I do take note.

Why am I mentioning all of this? I lost a follower. I went from 74 to 73 and it got me thinking that it is time to raise the bar here. I need to make some changes and up the content of this little blog. Now, I'm not going to do so to try and draw in new followers -- not that I'm about to discourage people from following either -- but, rather, I'm doing this for you: The loyal and faithful Duck readers.

Well, this all got me thinking -- what could I do to make improvements? My immediate thought was "More Justin Beiber!" Okay, that's a good start. I will definitely have to get my J-Beib groove back. But there has to be more than that, right? (Right.)

I was thinking that it might be good to put up a little section over there on the right for "Best of the Ducks." With regard to this, I'd like some reader feedback -- please leave in the Comments section -- about what posts you guys might have liked. Off the top of my head
this and this were pretty good. This wasn't bad, too.

Alright, so we have a "best of" section and "more Beiber" as the current ideas. Regularly-scheduled posting was another thought I had, but I ran into a wall -- not literally -- with that one because I don't do this for money. As previously mentioned, I have Google AdSense but am not earning anything from that (which is fine with me because my motivation for blogging is that I simply like doing it...). But I have other avenues that allow me to write and earn money. Sometimes, those take precedent over my little blog.

Additionally, I write fiction that I intend to submit to contests or for publication. That takes up writing time, too.

Perhaps one solid article a week would be feasible. It seems like I could probably make it work if I devoted myself to one regularly scheduled column a week and then had the liberty of posting other ones when I had time or ideas. I think that just might work...

So now I'm trying to steer this ship in a new direction. (Don't worry, the ship itself is not changing! Plenty of rambling and goofy musings will be found along the course, I promise.)

("New direction? You mean to imply there was direction before?" they all say.) ("Thank you," I say in response.) (They all scratch their heads.) (Fin)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Rhinos and Spare Change

As you all surely remember from my breaking news regarding Justin Bieber's pregnancy, I love seeing what kind of topics people happen to be looking for on the Internet. Last week, I noticed that "50 Cent Rhino" was a trending topic and felt that this must be addressed.

Clearly, there were two ways of interpreting this search. One: Someone is selling rhinoceroses at deeply discounted prices. (I blame The Great Recession.) OR Two: Rapper 50 Cent is looking to buy a rhinoceros. (How gansta is that?!? "Yeah, yeah. You come around here; I'll strike you with fear. Don't mess with my crew, or my rhino will shoot you. Wut, wut.")

Note to 50 Cent: Please don't steal my lyrics. They are under a completely legal and totally verifiable copyright -- as far as anyone knows -- and you can't use them... unless you pay me great sums of money. Yes, I'm willing to sell out. Think about how you'd be the first rapper to mention having his rhino bust a cap in some fool. Consider the possibilities and have your peeps get with my peeps and we can be peeps, as the late Notorious B.I.G. once kind of said. (Uh, I hope you weren't one of those guys who had a problem with Biggie. I don't know who was hating who and shooting each other because of where they happened to live and really important differences like that.)

Note to my loyal readers: I am nothing, if not an expert on what is "gansta." But I'm sure you've probably been able to figure that out for yourselves.

So I did some fact checking (for a change...). Apparently there is an organization -- eBlockwatch -- devoted to raising awareness over rhinoceros poaching. (Well, it is quite possible they are devoted to other things, as well.)

I have to admit that I love the fact that the name of the group is "eBlockwatch" and they are defending rhinos. I mean, how many rhinos are there on a typical block? Now, I live in the boring Midwest, so perhaps they are quite common in larger, more metropolitan areas.

Maybe they are fashionable pets for the social elite in Hollywood? (I believe Paris Hilton has a miniature one she dresses in pink and carries in her purse.) I read an article that centered on the fact that the auto industry is running into an issue that the younger generation is not seeing cars as much as status symbols as previous ones had. Perhaps these young punks are now displaying social superiority by how many rhinos they have?

Who knows? All I'm saying is that the name "eBlockwatch" makes me think of something similar to a local neighborhood watch. But I digress...

eBlockwatch has found a rhinoceros that had been shot nine times and is still standing. This is quite similar to our beloved 50 Cent. He was capped nine times and is still standing. (I believe that exhausts the list of "Things 50 Cent Might Have in Common with a Rhino," unless the rhino is a multiplatinum rapper who parties like it's yo' birfday. If that does happen to be the case, they are practically twins. Think Schwartzenegger and Devito in the classic '80's movie.)

As such, the group wants Fiddy (as his birth certificate reads…) to adopt this rhino.

Now, as has been previously established, I’m not one to tell someone to do something or how to go about living his life. In this instance, though, I’m breaking my own rule. (I tend to be rather rebellious to myself.) 50 Cent, just adopt the gansta rhinoceros, let him pack some heat, and then rap about it.

Do it for the rhino… Do it for your fans.... Do it for those who barely have any cents.

Just don’t forget my big royalty check!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I Want to Win Me Some Cookies!!! (And so should you.)

Pre-pre-post note: I love the term -- that I probably invented -- "pre-post" because it seems like it should be a contradiction (pre-op and post-op are WAY different... ask any patient), but it makes complete sense -- to me, at least, which is important -- in a blogging context. It's what happens prior to the actual post, the meat and potatoes of what I feel the need to ramble about.

Pre-post note: Okay, the other day I ended my post with a disclaimer that "the next one will probably be better." Well, you know how they say that the best way to make God laugh is to tell Him your plans? I might have actually made mention of my plans and now they've changed. I'm still working on the other post, but there is a pressing matter that needs to be addressed...

I want to win me some cookies.

So I'm addressing the pressing matter in this post, which isn't the other one, the one you haven't read yet because it's not ready, but might very well be in the near future. Um, so anyhow...

One of your fellow Ducks readers is having a contest at her blog. Now, I don't "pimp" just any blog or contest that comes up. I mean, there are literally trillions of blogs out there, and literally quadrillions of people who don't know how to accurately use the word "literally."

(Note: There was a fantastic post at Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares about this topic. I'd recommend checking it out. I also recommend such things as: dancing in the rain, breathing and sending me lots and lots of money.) (Uh, I don't have time to find the actual post... but I did look at least a little bit for it.)

What is this pimp-worthy blog?, you are (probably) asking.

(Note: I think we should move to enter "pimp-worthy" into the common vernacular. Who's with me? *sounds of crickets chirping, as a lonely tumbleweed rolls by* And why is there a tumbleweed rolling through this office? Get me the facilities guy STAT!!)

Anyway, Karen G., resident blogger over at
Coming Down the Mountain: From Reclusive Writer to Published Author is having a contest (that link will take you to the post with the contest on it). I will give you three guesses what the prize might be...

Nope, not jam. Try again.

No, not a giraffe. That would be kind of cool, except for figuring out where to put the darn thing. (Also, if you have a dog or cats or mongooses -- mongeese? -- the other pets might get jealous of the fact that your newly-won giraffe can eat all the leaves that are really high up.)

Definitely not Walter Mondale.

*sigh* Fine, I'll just tell you: Karen is giving away a dozen gourmet cookies that she makes fresh!! (Waaaay better than winning Walter Mondale.)

(Note to Wally M.: I assume you are an avid Ducks reader, so I should probably clarify that I mean no offense. You're probably a decent fellow and all -- uh, assuming you are still alive, which I didn't fact check -- but cookies is a better prize. I mean, I think I'm an alright guy -- generally kind-hearted, sort of bright, fantastic ability to ramble -- but I openly concede the fact that cookies are a way better prize than I'd be. So please, Wally, don't take offense. We still cool? Good. Peace.)

If you'll kindly take note, these are not just a package of Oreos or Chips Ahoy or what-have-you. These are gourmet. We're talking the real deal here, folks. As such, I simply must recommend that you stop by (link found
here) and enter the contest... even though it means more competition for me. (See, I told you I was generally kind-hearted.).

As you shall see, you receive one entry for being a follower (check!), one for leaving a comment (check!), one for posting about the contest (check!), one for Facebook posting or Tweeting the contest ("check!" coming soon), and one for adding up how many points you have ("check!" coming soon).

So you can earn up to five chances to win some deliciousness and how often does that happen in life?

Literally “never.”

Editor’s note: It is not often that our fearless writer finds himself needing to use the plural form of “mongoose.” Just thought that should be noted.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

This is going to be a random one...

So earlier today I was rapping Ice Cube's "It Was a Good Day" -- as I sometimes do -- when I was reminded of the job I used to have during the summers when I was in college.

I worked for a plumbing company and it was pretty much the most awesome job I've ever had.

(Note to Human Resources in the rather unlikely event you are reading this: I mean, "most awesome job besides the one I currently have." Of course.)

(Note to loyal readers: My feelings about my job haven't changed. Still a reputable position at a fantastic company... still not what I'm meant to do. To that end, though, I've actually submitted my resume and cover letter to the American Cancer Society and filled out their online application. Given that my mother was a cancer victim, I would be very enthusiastic about working for the ACS.)

My technical title for the summer job was "Shop Kid," but I preferred to think of myself as "Head of All Operations Not Being Performed By the Important People." My duties included: putting together "orders" of fittings and whatnot for the plumbers, loading up plumbers trucks in the a.m., delivering parts and whatnot to job sites, minor truck maintenance, and pretty much whatever needed to be done. (There was a fair degree of "whatnot" involved.)

There was also a lot of driving around the city of Milwaukee and Southeastern Wisconsin, which was cool.

On my third day, I was riding shotgun with the "More Senior-ed Ship Kid" on our way back from a job site. We were on the freeway, about fifteen minutes from the shop, when MSSK asked me to look in my rear view mirror and see if I noticed anything. I saw the trailer, along with our skid mover (picture one of those construction vehicles that looks like a mini-bulldozer, only with wheels instead of tank treads...), but nothing out of the usual on my end.

MSSK looked back into his rear view mirror and saw sparks flying all over the place. So we pulled off to the side of the interstate. One of the wheels from the trailer had popped off.

Fortunately, no one was hurt and this could have been a lot worse. But it didn't stop me from asking "what am I getting myself into?"

Well, it turned out that was just a freak accident. The owner of the plumbing company quickly invested in a heavier duty trailer and no more wheels were lost on the interstate. (So that was good.)

Anyhow, somewhere along the line we had a couple of new Shop Kids enter the fray. One of them -- let's call him Andrew (because that was his name) -- was a good guy, but dude was kind of crazy.

Quick note to verify that last claim: On one occasion, we were in the yard behind the shop, breaking down a crate that PVC pipe fittings came in. Andrew accidentally got a little bit of dust or dirt in his eye and freaked out. By "freaked out," I naturally mean "took a wooden plank and smashed it in half with his forehead." All because he got something in his eye. (I'm no doctor, but I don't consider that to be normal behavior.)

Afterward, he mentioned that he was very sensitive about being able to see... because he felt that ants were positioning themselves to take over the world and he was going to need his vision to fend them off. (I wish I was creative enough to have made that up.)

Well, one day -- when Andrew wasn't busy smashing lumber with his head -- we were talking about music. Specifically, rap music.

I mentioned that I owned Ice Cube's "The Predator." (For those of you -- and this is probably a vast majority -- who are sitting there -- or standing or lying down, I suppose -- wondering what one thing has to do with another in this particular post, "It Was a Good Day" is one of the tracks on that album.) ("Oh," they all say in unison.)

Andrew immediately got out of the skid mover and started -- and I mean this in the most literal way possible -- ROFL'ing. (For everyone older than 17, that stands for Rolling On the Floor Laughing.)

"Cracker owns 'The Predator'," Andrew kept repeating, in between hysterical laughs. (I guess it probably wasn't apparent until now, but he was -- probably still is, I'd guess -- black.)

(I call myself "white," so hopefully no one gets their panties in a bunch about me not using "African American." I don't have a racist bone in my body.)

And you know what? This cracker did own "The Predator." Word.

On that note: "And today I didn't even have to use my A.K.* I got to say, it was a good day."

*A.K. is a reference to the AK-47 assault rifle. When I don't have to use one of those, you best believe my day was better than average.

p.s. This one was rather random, but I think my next one will be better.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Let's Build Something Together vs. You Can Do It, We Can Help

So on my way in to work today, I was trying desperately to get my Rush "Different Stages" cd to play. (The stupid cd player kept popping the disc back out and cursing at me.) (Only half of that really happened.)

Note for my billions of older readers: A cd is a lot like an EP/LP record except: smaller, not black, no visible grooves, one side, a needle would seriously mess it up, etc. Basically, it's round, like record, with a hole in the middle and contains music. Other than that, they aren't "a lot" alike.

Note for my billions of younger readers, from the MP3 Generation: Get a job, you young punks.

2nd Note for my billions of younger readers, from the MP3 Generation: A cd is a lot like an MP3 except: more tangible. Well, actually they aren't anything alike. If you don't know what a cd is, go ask your parents.

Anyhow, I was forced to listen to the radio for a bit while I wiped the back of the cd on my pants. (Not for fun. Sometimes it helps and that's pretty much what I was going for with the wiping.) Whilst listening to the FM, I heard back-to-back commercials for both Lowe's and The Home Depot. (I had a strong desire to build something. Then I remembered that a carpenter I'm not. I am absolutely horrible with trying to figure out how tangible things will fit together and I'm much better suited to words and whatnot. So I developed a strong desire to blog about it. Annnnnd here we are.)

Now, this got me wondering if it was intentional that the programming manager put these respective commercials next to each other. ("Eh, let's have them duke it out -- head-to-head -- and see who is truly the mightiest home improvement store... in the greater Muskegon area.") (Note: I don't necessarily live in "the greater Muskegon area," but that is where 101.3 -- The Fox Rocks! -- is apparently based.)

Furthermore, I started wondering if the first commercial (Lowe's) would be more effective, because it seemed to be a much higher quality commercial -- Note: I don't own stock in Lowe's or anything like that. I mean, my sister worked there like four years ago, designing kitchens for peeps, but she's been out of that game for a long time. -- or if the second commercial would be more effective on account of it being the last one the listener heard... assuming said listener didn't turn off the radio just after listening to the Lowe's commercial.

(Listener: "Wow. This is a fantastic commercial for Lowe's. I'm going to turn my radio off and head right there.")

Or, I suppose, the possibility exists that people started their cars the exact moment the Lowe's sales pitch had finished and were only influenced by Home Depot's less-good-than-Lowe's commercial. (The phrase "less-good-than-x" is trademarked by me. Don't try to use that piece of high caliber writing without my written consent. Thank you.)

So maybe they headed right to The Home Depot!

As such, I'm left wondering which home imporvement store stood to benefit more from this metaphorical cage match between the industry heavyweights.

I suppose that, much like the amount of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, we'll never know.

(Yeah, I think about really odd things from time to time.)

(You already knew that? From reading this very blog?? Huh. I guess I could see that.)

Editor's note: For all the millions of you who are concerned, the writer was ultimately able to get his Rush cd to kick in and, yes, he did rock out to "Limelight" a bit in the parking lot before entering the office. He appreciates your concern.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

$#*! the Ducks Guy Says

Disclaimer: This post uses the S-word a little bit. If that offends you, I'd recommend checking a different blog and coming back when it's safer (which is most posts because I rarely swear here).

Disclaimer Addendum: I mentioned checking out a different blog today for those who are uncomfortable with limited usage of the S-word (and I'm certainly not judging one way or the other...). Well, I thought that maybe I'd recommend a couple worth reading. So if you are leaving here, be sure to stop by
From the Inside Out, Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares, On 'n On 'n On, and/or Karmatic Creations.

Note to the Disclaimer Addendum: You don't need to only check out those particular blogs today. I'd recommend adding them to your reading list and/or following them. (They are some of my faves.)

As a thought, I could have recommended even more blogs, but then we'd be here all day and that couldn't possibly be a good thing for everyone's respective productivity. I mean, if you are one of my many doctor-readers and you were supposed to be saving lives, but instead opted to read a long list of blogs that I recommended, it would be simply tragic for your unattended patients. I couldn't live with that being on my head, so I kept the list short.

You're all welcome.


So someone asked me recently if I remember that I have a blog. (Gotta love subtlety.)

Well, let's get right into it...

Tonight is apparently the initial episode of "$#*! My Dad Says" and I'm quite conflicted. On one hand, it has William Shatner, which is a good thing in my book. On the other hand, it's a TV show based on a Twitter feed.

(Did I really just type "TV show based on a Twitter feed?" Let me check. Yes. Yes, I did.)

(The poor, proverbial little snowball in Hell suddenly has a better chance, because it must be freezing down there now.)

A TV show based on a Twitter feed?! (I apparently cannot write that enough.) Seriously?!

Well, it's actually based on the book based on the Twitter feed, but still...

Is it possible to actually develop a show based on a series of quotes? For the uninitiated, Twitter lets people post snippets of conversation or wisdom or humor, etc. I use the term "snippets" because of the 140 character count limit for Tweets. Although, if you've made it this far on the Interwebs, you probably already know Twitter's story. (And, of course, Ducks Out Of A Row readers are highly-intelligent, well-informed members of society.)

(Not-completely off-topic: My wife loves the term "Retweet" because it sounds like Tweety Bird saying "Retreat!" So this makes me picture the yellow cartoon wearing a soldier's helmet and imploring his troops to find safer ground.)

The guy behind the Twitter feed -- and I have no qualms with this, because it sounds like a fine idea for Twitter -- basically would post "shit" his dad said. Humorous enough premise for a Twitter account, but how did it go from that to a TV show? I know that unoriginality reigns supreme with regard to entertainment in this day and age -- ugh, I've officially become a curmudgeon -- but this is asinine. (Well, if I'm going "curmudgeon," I might as well go "all in.")

The premise is a gimmick that will lend itself to predictability... which is bad entertainment. (Of course, we've set the bar pretty freaking low with regard to entertainment. Am I right, the Jersey Shore cast?) How can any episode be anything other than a matter of waiting to see what kind of crazy shit William Shatner is going to say next? (This particular post is chockfull of sentences I never thought I'd write.) If that's the case -- and I'm firmly entrenched in the belief it will be -- how can this be any good?

(If you have any answers to that question, please feel free to leave them in the Comments section. Or don't, I suppose. I mean, I'm not one to tell other people what to do.)

Now, there's actually a second problem I have with this as-of-yet-unaired show: the title. If they outright called it "Shit My Dad Says," I would probably be okay with that. (The "probably" in that sentence has nothing to do with the curse word, but more on that in a second...) Instead, they make me use the secondary functions of these number keys (which I have to look at because I'm a normal person and do not have all of them memorized, except for the exclamation point... which I know is the first one) to type the show's title.

I'm not sure if I'm alone in this, but I think it is incredibly annoying when the announcer in the commercials for the show reads "Bleep My Dad Says." He seriously says "Bleep," as if we are completely in the dark as to what is actually supposed to be said there. Hate to break it to CBS, but we all know what it means. I mean, what other word that "needs" to be censored makes sense there? The F-word? No. The A-word? Nope. The Q-word? Definitely not!

(Okay, I just threw that last one in there to see if anyone is still reading. To the best of my knowledge, there isn't an actual curse word starting with "q." And if there is, I don't want to know about it!)

If you remember from two paragraphs ago, I mentioned that I'd "probably" be okay with them calling the show "Shit My Dad Says." The reason I had to drop in that caveat is because, obscenity or not, the title really pigeonholes the entire show.

Given that they had to actually develop plots -- hopefully I'm not being presumptuous in believing that they did, in fact, develop plots -- to go with the pearls of entertaining wisdom coming from the old man, why not give the show a new title?

I mean, it's not like the show is a Twitter feed, comprised solely of sayings which are 140 or less characters in length.

Anyhow, I just thought I'd speak my mind about this a bit. Now I need to go tweet my rant.

(No, CBS, my Twitter feed is NOT for sale.)

Editor's note: This dude hasn't updated his Twitter account in months. (Yet somehow he has at least one new follower added every day...) He's absolutely delusional if he thinks CBS is going to be calling.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

You wouldn't like Noah Webster when he's angry...

Noah Webster must be pissed

We'll get to Mr. Webster's current source of anger in a bit, but first I need to offer a sincere apology to Katy Perry (who I'm sure is an avid Ducks Out Of A Row reader).

*clears throat*

Katy, I apologize for the incorrect spelling of "California Gurls" -- your infectious song which has apparently become "my jam" -- in the previous Ducks post. Admittedly, I had never seen the title actually spelled until last night, at which point I realized that I completely dropped the ball. So, uh, my bad and stuff.

Of course, Ms. Perry should probably apologize to Noah Webster. (Or "N-dub" as all the hip kids refer to him. He has a lot of street cred and gets mad love from his fellow ballas and shot callas. He rides with 20" rims on his Impalas. Word.)

(For those who are totally lost -- which could very well be everyone except me -- the "ballas, shot callas, Impalas" bit is from some late 90's rap song. It used to be my jam.)

Anyhow, K-dub -- as all the hip kids are calling her -- should have consulted Webster's dictionary before turning in the song title. I'm thinking that maybe her record label needs to hire people who can spell basic English words (although, they did nail the should-be-trickier "California"...).

Or maybe they should invest in some WhiteOut and go store-to-store and fix all the CD's and cassette tapes and LP's. (Admittedly, I'm not sure what they could do for the digital versions. Maybe wipe out everyone's hard drive and then install a version of the song with correct spelling?)

That leads to this:

Scene: Man at computer, wearing khaki pants, a white Oxford button down shirt and a purple paisley tie.

"Honey, what happened to all of my files? The only thing I can seem to find on here is Katy Perry's "California Girls." And wasn't this spelled differently before?" *starts playing the song* "This is a great jam, though. Who needs all that tax information, anyway?" *starts busting a move*

You know who else should apologize to Webster? ABC. (The network, not the English New Wave band.) Do you want to know why? (Please say "yes." Please say "yes.") Because they are clearly not using N-dub's greatest -- only? -- contribution to modern society. If they were, they could open up to the "S" section and find the definition for "star."

("Where is he going with this?")

Dancing With the Stars in on the ABC network. They have recently released the list of "stars" for the upcoming season. Do you want to know who, apparently, is a star? Bristol Palin.

Say what?

She got freaky with Levi and had a kid. How does that qualify someone as being a star? I'm so confused.

Now, I don't mean to dis on Bristol. She's probably a good kid and all, but "star?" Really?

I think I'm going to start referring to myself as a star. I mean, the word has clearly been devalued to the point where I might as well.

"Nice to meet you. I'm John -- blogging star extraordinaire."

(Note: My calling myself a "star" does not mean I had sex with Levi Johnston and then gave birth to our love child. Let's just cut off that rumor before it even starts.)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

More tomorrow!!

So the ducks had managed to meander away from this blog for a little bit, but I'm working on corralling them and getting back to it. (Perhaps I'll never get them in a row, but hopefully I can keep them contained in my yard!)

The past couple of weeks have been an interesting ride. I've gone from completely losing my groove -- feeling quite aimless, actually -- to finding a new resolve and sense of purpose. I'm not sure exactly how or why my groove left -- well, it didn't leave a note -- but, at the risk of understating, that sucked.

On top of the lost groove, my wife had surgery and my water polo season started up (I coach...), so life had decided to pick up the pace on me, as sometimes it does.

Oh, and there's the day job. (Yeah, the one I hate.) (As previously mentioned, the company itself is absolutely fantastic and the job would be great for the right person, but that person certainly isn't me.)

The job had some definite contribution to my groove packing its little bag and heading for the shore.

But I'm not here to complain. That is not the point! The point is... Well, I'm not sure I really have one yet. (Pretty much, I wanted to get back into this and needed to just jump in.)


Maybe the point is that the Ducks are back. (Picture them rolling into town on motorcycles, clad in black leather jackets and wearing bad-ass sunglasses. Also, they are listening to Katy Perry's "California Girls," which is my current jam.)

More tomorrow!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Making up for Lost Time

After a bit of time off, what better way to jump back into things than with some random rambling?

(If you are listing off better ways... shush!)

A major metric for Internet sites is the amount of clicks a web page receives. This is an important number for generating ad revenue, or it can just be used to keep track of how many people are actually stopping by.

Now, we have an AdSense account here at the Ducks. (We also sometimes use the plural pronoun, even though this is a one-man operation.) If you notice on the sidebar off to the left, there are ads.

(Note: I know that I'm not supposed to tell people to click on them so I can get a couple of bucks, and I'm not, but I think it is okay if I mention their presence, since it's not like they are hidden and I'm only stating the obvious. If any AdSense police are out there and this is wrong, please let me know.)

When I first started blogging -- back in the early 1980's -- I put up the Google Ads with the misguided notion that it would bring me in some money.

("Show me the money!" is what I specifically said to Google.)

(Yes, that line was stolen from me and used in "Jerry Maguire.")

(I am now starting a formal boycott -- as opposed to my "casual" one -- of that movie. Alright, so who's in with me? *sound of crickets chirping*)

(Crickets are evidently quite passionate about boycotting "Jerry Maguire.")

To date, I haven't really made any money from it -- AdSense, not the Jerry Maguire boycott -- and that's okay with me.

So why keep the ads up?

Well, I use it to see how many people are reading -- or pretending to read. (The AdSense Analytics don't do a good job of establishing as to whether people actually read the words I've written, or if they just stop by to see my awesome profile picture. I consider this to be a design flaw and am commissioning super computer genius extraordinaire Bill Gates to fix it.) Somewhere a while back (probably the early 1990's, if I remember correctly), I had taken AdSense off of my blog -- well, it's not like I was making money with it -- but then I lost the ability to see if people were actually reading.

That annoyed me.

Consequentially, the Google ads have been back up since and will remain so forever. ("Forever? Forever, ever? Forever, ever?? Forever never seems that long until you're grown..." Sorry, that was a brief "Miss Jackson" interruption.)

Geez, that's a long-winded way of getting to where I need to go... even for me. (Fortunately, loyal Ducks readers know how I roll.)

So people want other, different people to click on their respective web pages. To accomplish this, they must capture an individual's attention. Admittedly, that is quite difficult to do in this A.D.D. Age, what with the whole Facebooking and Twittering and Ducks Out Of A Row-ing and all. (Note: If you read that in a Bill Cosby voice, it is considerably more enjoyable. Please feel free to go back and do so. I'll wait... but not all day. We've got things to do here!)

Well, I was on a site -- can't remember which one, though -- and one of the things they were trying to draw clicks from was "Celebrities Eating."

This got me thinking... Who really wants to see pictures of celebrities eating? Or, a better question, why? ("I always wondered what it looks like when people eat and I assumed celebrities do it better than anyone else.")

Are there people who think that celebrities don't eat? Do those people consider celebrities to be some kind of miraculous beings, like angels? I suppose I just don't get the whole "fame" thing. I am, as are many of the bloggers around these parts, a writer. To be completely honest, I would love to have my words be read by millions of people. If I made money from it -- unlike the whole AdSense fail I currently have going on -- that would be fantastic. But do I want people to know who I am because of it? No. I simply don't care.

(Heck, I've even wondered about how much true anonymity I would have by using a pseudonym...)

(Note: I understand that the odds are quite minimal, but people do become famous authors, so "quite minimal" means "there's still a chance." Why, yes, I AM an optimist. How could you tell?)

But I'm starting to think that I am not in the majority here in our society. There are so many people who want to be on tv "just to be famous." Why? That makes no sense to me. I mean, let's take a look at those Jersey Shore kids...

[Full disclaimer: I've never actually seen an episode of Jersey Shore and I never will. MTV is probably okay with this because I'm not in the target audience. The fact I have, and use, a brain excludes me from that particular demographic. I base all my JS opinions and whatnot off of articles I read. Is that fair? Eh, probably not. Do I care? No, because I think I get the gist of it. A bunch of "Italian" -- quotes needed because they aren't all of that particular ethnicity -- kids get drunk, hook-up, fight, do laundry, tan a lot, and go to the gym. I'm just not seeing much there worth seeing. "But it's dramatic." I don't care. Shakespeare was a master of drama. So why don't kids try reading MacBeth? "But it's easy drama." Nothing in life that is worth it is easy... except maybe being outside and enjoying a beautiful day. That doesn't take much effort, but is totally worth it. "But, but, but..." But nothing. The Jersey Shore boys and girls might be good people. I'm not saying they aren't. I'm saying that I will never care enough to find out one way or the other. The show is trash. Period. Take the half an hour or hour and do something to make yourself a better person. Get some exercise. Read. Volunteer. Or, if you need some relaxation, watch a tv show that was actually written and created and requires talent. Appreciate the efforts of others. Don't envy a bunch of losers who think they are important because they are on tv acting like idiots.]

[A second disclaimer: Monday was my 32nd birthday. Apparently it turned me into a 78 year old curmudgeon.] (Very appropriate that I mentioned Bill Cosby somewhere up there.)

Alright, that is enough rambling/venting for one day.

I’ll probably post again tomorrow. In the meantime, just know that this random dude living in Holland, Michigan is wishing you -- my loyal readers -- the very best!

Editor's note: The whole "Show me the money!" thing didn't happen. He may or may not be boycotting the movie -- it's tough to keep accurate tabs on him (If you hadn't noticed, he's quite strange.) -- but the line is definitely not his. We just felt that should be noted.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Don't Put My Face on the Milk Cartons Just Yet!!


Sorry I haven't gotten a chance to post this week. It's been a rather long one and I just haven't been myself...

I was planning on something special for this past Monday -- would have been my mom's 55th birthday -- but I wanted it to be a tribute of sorts and couldn't get it quite right (read as "exceptional, because she deserves nothing less").

(A little backstory: My mom was a cancer victim. It's been over ten years now, but I still tear up a lot when I think about it, like right now. She was awesome and I miss her.)

So that's what I was going to do. But this evil week had other plans. It managed to suck away all my time and positive emotions and left me as only a sliver of the writer I usually am. I've been a bundle of anger and frustration and depression... and I am not about to pass those along to anyone who happens to read my little blog. (I firmly believe that negative emotions are contagious viruses.)

The massive time suck resulted in a lack of posts more than anything emotional, though. It's just been an insanely busy week. That probably compounded the stress and fatigue I've been feeling...

Fortunately, this week is over and maybe I can recharge a bit this weekend. I'll be back next week.

I hope you have a terrific weekend!!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Skimming the Surfaces

The post that was actually intended for today will be put up tomorrow. Sorry about that peeps, but I'm taking this particular one rather seriously and want it to be "just right." In the meantime...

Got this from's The Sports Guy's most recent "mailbag" -- the dude gets mail from fans and then answers them (but this actually is part of a fan's email and not his response...) -- and thought I'd share with you:

"Dr. Drew has a theory about the impact of reality TV, and that it has created a generation of people who want to be famous, but don't want to put in the work to develop the skills or talent to be famous. Why study or practice or go to acting school or music school, etc., when you can just get on a reality show and be famous instantly?"

You know what I have to say to that? Amen, brother. We are picking up what you're laying down here at the Ducks.

Anyhow, I love the quote and felt it was share-worthy. (So I shared it.)

In other news, we have an oil pipe leak here in Michigan and it's making me sick. Well, I'm not sick from contact or anything like that, but we, as a human race, are being incredibly irresponsible.

Seriously, are we going to learn?

Now, I'm not the smartest man around -- heck, I'm probably not even the smartest person here at this blog -- but I think there are a couple of fundamental problems...

You know what, I have too many thoughts on both of these particular issues -- fame and oil -- and will have to revisit them at a later time. But not tomorrow! Tomorrow's post is altogether different.

Good night, the world!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Keepin' It Short

I know that I can be, um, rather liberal with the definition of "quick," but today's post is actually going to be a quick one. (Just wanted to acknowledge that upfront.)

Semi-related note: So I was going to say that today's post will be "short," right? Well, I was just walking back from the fridge and it dawned on me that some days I feel taller than others. I'm not sure how/why that happens. I started thinking that my jeans are rather long and maybe that has something to do with me not feeling as tall today as I probably did yesterday.

Of course, I also have days where I'll think "Huh, I'm feeling kind of tall right now." The weird -- "weirder" (let's be honest...) -- part is that it's never in reference to being around other people. So I really don't know where that comes from.

(I'm a fairly average height and don't worry about size like some shorter dudes -- Skee Lo, I'm looking in your direction -- might.)

Whoa, that was rather random. Anyhow...

Today's post just isn't "all that." If you're looking for something better -- of the "mine" variety -- check out last Friday's post (if you haven't already).

If you're looking for something better -- of the "someone else, but I could totally see John writing this, too" variety -- check out Kathryn's take on procrastination and group therapy. (Simply a fantastic post. As noted in the comments, I gave it five stars... which is something I rarely do.)

If you're looking for something better -- of the "not even close to anything John would write" variety -- check out Missed Period's take on a lot of words used for the same thing. (Her writing is so much more focused than mine. Plus, she has a lot more to offer education-wise than I do. She has a fabulous way of mixing that in with her humor and it’s always brilliant.)

Monday's post is going to be rather significant. That's all I'm going to say about it for right now, though.

p.s. I'll reply to comments from the previous two posts this weekend. I promise!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

On Inescapable Prison; Facebook

I love being out and about.

(You have no idea how tempted I am to just leave it at that, walk away and keep you guys guessing.)

Anyhow, it's a great activity for someone like me, someone who thoroughly enjoys people watching. I would most likely enjoy that activity even if I didn't fancy myself as a writer. I think people are fascinating. (Well, not all people. I mean, some are complete dullards. Not you, of course.)

But people-watching, by itself, really only incorporates one of my sensory abilities. I am a man of many -- and let's consider five to be "many" -- senses. (Impressed and intrigued, aren't you?)

Now, people-tasting, I've discovered, is not socially acceptable. (Or legal.) Someone probably should have told me a while ago that you can't just start licking people at the store. Would have been super helpful to know…

Uh, same goes for people-touching. Some of it is illegal; some is just awkward (random high-fives, as an example). (What? I thought the cashier did an exceptional job of ringing up my groceries. I felt that was a suitable occasion for a high-five.)

Smelling people is okay -- as long as you aren't sniffing too closely or obviously -- but it's generally better when you can't smell people, unless they are wearing cologne or perfume in a subtle (read as "not gag-inducing") amount. So no issues there, I suppose.

That leaves one last sense for me to talk about... the ability to detect and interpret sound. (I'm totally going to put that on my resume. "So it says here that you can "detect and interpret sound?" "Yep, that's right. So when do I start?") (Note: That's a little funnier if you picture me as Norm MacDonald imitating Burt Reynolds from the classic Saturday Night Live "Celebrity Jeopardy" sketches, especially wearing a giant-sized cowboy hat.)

Editor's note: His note contained a little too many pop culture references in the same sentence. We'll try giving him a shorter leash.

Writer's note to Editor: Shorter leash? Ha! Never!

Actual note to Readers: I apologize for not including a link to the Celebrity Jeopardy sketch. I searched NBC's website, but they don't have one available. Nothing on YouTube, either. (That seems to be the case with most SNL material.) Now, as a thought, I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, it's terribly inconvenient. On the other, our society feels as though we should be entitled to watch/read/listen to anything at no cost. We want it... we want it now... and we want it for free. (That is our new motto, I believe.) So I respect NBC's right to control its own property and fight against that increasingly prevailing attitude. Sure, having a link to that clip might make my little blog better, but the whole "free content" concept screws over a lot of artists. I don’t think that is right. At least, that's my take on it.

Where was I? Oh, that's right... hearing people in public.

The other day, while having a prescription filled, I was fortunate enough to hear two old ladies talking about Facebook. Quite frankly, if you haven't heard a conversation between two senior citizens talking about Facebook, well, then you simply have not lived.

I wasn't around for the start of the conversation, but was still able to quickly ascertain that the one had a male relative or friend or booty call (just making sure you’re reading!) who was involved with "the Facebooks." She was talking about the pictures on there (he apparently showed her how someone had put up unattractive-looking ones), the amount of time people waste doing it and the fact that "once you're in, it's impossible to escape." (Just like prison.) (How fantastic would it have been if she included that?)

Now, this poor old lady believes there is no possible way to leave Facebook. Well, actually you can, but they try to guilt you out of it. ("These people will miss you if you go!" Um, if they don't have any other means of contacting me, then how close were we in the first place?)

I know this to be true because I've looked into it. One of these days, I'm going to get around to cancelling my Facebook account.

I am not a fan of that particular service and only signed up in the first place over some misguided notion that I could use it to help foster a new freelance writing career for myself.

(Yeah, it hasn't been helpful for that purpose in the least. I'm convinced that my friends and family either hate me, or cannot see my messages. Whichever, Facebook is proving to be an epic fail.)

Anyway, I intelligently inferred that the old lady is an avid Ducks reader.

Note to old lady: Yes, Virginia, there is a way to leave Facebook. (I didn't catch your name in the conversation, but you kind of looked like a "Virginia.") And your friend/relative won't have to attempt any Prison Break-style escape, either. He just needs to prepare himself for Facebook's impassioned plea to stay. Tell him to stay strong. Tell him it is, in fact, possible to leave Facebook. And tell him to spend his newfound free time here at the Ducks! Thank you.

(Well, I'm considering that my good deed for the day. I should probably get a merit badge or lots and lots of cash for that.) (Hopefully not the merit badge.)