Saturday, February 27, 2010

Happy little ducks

It's been a while since my last post and the public is clamoring for more Ducks (read as "I've received one email asking 'where are the ducks?'") (the email may or may not have come from my brother...).

So, by public demand, more Ducks!!

Since my last post, Holland, Michigan (home of the row-less ducks...) has been declared as the second-happiest city in America. I'll bet that my youngest brother is reading this and saying "Nuh-huh," to which I offer this eloquent rebuttal: Uh-huh!

I also need to say "Take that Honolulu!! You might be a tropical paradise with gorgeous beaches and fabulous weather and fresh pineapple and... wait a second here. Why the hell aren't you happier?"

Of course, Boulder, Colorado is probably taunting us as well. Well played, happy people of Boulder. Well played, indeed.

Given Holland's apparent abundance of happiness, I find the following, completely true and in no way altered, interaction rather humorous. Note: The key to this interaction is the fact this takes place in a city which is only trumped by one other (the impossibly happy Boulder, CO) in levels of happiness.

Setting: Subway on River Ave. Holland, MI.

Me: I'd like spinach, tomatoes, green peppers, and black olives on that. Thank you.
Kid Behind Counter (in monotone, unhappy voice): Is it ever going to stop snowing?
Me: Well, it's Michigan, so probably not.
KBC: God hates us all.

I didn't know what to say to that. Truth be told, I STILL wouldn't know what to say to that and I've had some time to think about this (and trust me, I've given the incident plenty of thought...).

Link to happy article found here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cats and dogs... no ducks.

There's an old saying about how this is a "dog eat dog" world. Well, perhaps if dogs had something better on the menu, it wouldn't need to be that way. With that in mind, I present the photo to the left (aka, "evidence to the superior intellect of dogs").

That is our cat. In case the picture isn't particularly clear, that is also our dog's food dish. We did not put her in there as a photo op!

I'm still trying to figure out how, exactly, I became a cat guy. Once upon a time, I was super manly. It was me and my dog. We watched a lot of sports, drank a lot of beer (more me than the dog), licked ourselves in unimaginable places (more the dog than me), and did cool guy stuff (even though my dog is a girl dog).

Okay, fine, I've never been "super manly." Yes, I like sports and drink beer sometimes, but I don't hunt or build things or watch Dancing with the Stars. You know, cool guy stuff. Instead, I enjoy writing and intellectual pursuits and playing soccer. Heck, the fact that I blog probably says something. I mean, it seems like 90% (and that's probably low...) of my fellow bloggers are not men.

This isn't to say that I'm effeminate, though. My wife says that I'm a good mix. I'm not super obnoxious, but not over-the-top with my feelings. Sure, I weep profusely when I watch The Notebook, but what straight guy doesn't? [silence, interrupted only by the sound of crickets chirping]

Anyhow, I've always been a "dog guy," but then a couple years back my wife came home from picking up her son from his friend's house. When she came through the door, I was greeted with "Don't get mad at me," as an aside, I rarely get mad at anything except stupid drivers and establishments like large corporations or the gov't, "but we now have a cat."

I think I scratched my head and said "Huh."

Somewhere along the line, the cat thought the dog's food dish was as safe a place to park her furry little behind as any other. I guess she proved herself right, since she's still around.

Eh, the odds are pretty good the cat will come back up at some point or another, so consider this her introduction...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"Ugh," said the Duck in disbelief...

Yeah, I just might not be as bright as advertised (unfortunately, I don't advertise myself as being that bright to begin with...).

Note: I'm really tempted to end this post on that note and leave the millions (or dozens... on a good day) of my readers scratching their heads. Eh, perhaps I should elaborate...

Alright, the reason for the lack of brightness on my behalf has to do with not checking my pre-set settings before asking people to comment if they came here via Facebook or Twitter. My sister informed that she had tried to comment, but wasn't able to. Apparently, my settings were such that one needed to have a Google ID in order to comment.

Ugh, says the author while smacking his forehead with an open palm.

Well, I guess I need to make up for this with some entertaining content, so be sure to come back for my next post and see what I'm going to bring to the court!!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The greatest thing since Ducks...

If I could take credit for only one thing in this world, it would be inventing sliced bread. For some reason or other, sliced bread is still the mark of greatness in this world.

You know how pissed I would be if I was a great inventor like, for example, Thomas Edison?

Thomas Edison: Hey, Bill!

Bill: Yeah, what's up Tommy?

T.E.: Guess what I invented?

Bill: What's that?

T.E.: I've invented artificial light. This glass bulb will create light long after the sun has set. Now humanity will be able to increase productivity, be safe from all those candle-related fires that happen all over the place, and finally have a symbol that represents an idea in someone's head, especially in cartoons.

Bill: A symbol for when someone has a new idea? I don't see it, man.

T.E.: Just trust me on that. Anyhow, isn't this the greatest invention ever?

Bill: Well, I don't know about "ever." It's definitely the greatest thing since sliced bread, though.

T.E.: Sliced bread? Are you serious? This is artificial light here. I'm practically making the sun obsolete.

The sun: Hey now! I'm quite sure I'll still be at least somewhat relevant!

T.E.: We'll see about that. [turns back to Bill] Anyhow, sliced bread? Really?

Bill: It does seem like a nifty little gadget you got there, but sliced bread is soooo easy to eat. I mean, it saves me literally hours every day not to slice it by myself.

T.E.: But this is The Eff'ing Light bulb, dude. This thing will revolutionize the world.

Bill: I'm not saying it's nothing novel. Heck, it could be a great little fad, but I just don't see it catching on in the long term the way sliced bread has, you know?

T.E.: Well, I suppose I'm fine with the greatest thing since sliced bread.

[enter Billy Mays]

Billy Mays: How many hours a day do you waste cleaning stuff?

Both guys: Millions!

Billy Mays: Well, what you need is a dishrag-thingy which is super convenient and sure to change your lives.

Bill: Tell me more!

Billy Mays: You need a Sham-Wow.

Bill: THAT is the greatest thing since sliced bread!

End scene.

Yep. If I could lay claim to any one thing in human history, it'd definitely be inventing the pinnacle of human achievement -- sliced bread.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Teaser post (of the interactive variety)

The odds are pretty good that I'll do another ("more real-er") post tonight, but I just wanted to get something out quick...

Before I begin (uh, even though I technically did up there... but I digress), I need to issue a brief statement. I'm going to bet that a vast majority of my posts will begin with the phrase "So I was thinking about it and..." or something to that effect.

Now, that opening phrase might be repetitive, but all my other content is guaranteed to be new every time (or double your money back!). Please don't read only the first seven words and think "Eh, I've already read this and am not going to waste my time reading beyond these first couple of words." Just have a little patience and you will be handsomely (and gorgeously, even...) rewarded.

Anyhow, so I was thinking about it and I'm wondering how you found my blog. Now, anyone who is a follower (and there are currently "only" six of you...) is exempt from this because I have a good idea about you guys (wife, family, friends, and bloggers I am following). It's everyone else who I'm wondering about.

EDIT: For my dedicated followers, feel free to comment if you have something to say, too. I didn't mean to leave you guys out and imply that you weren't allowed to comment!

Why am I wondering about this? Well, I wonder about a lot of stuff. It's just my nature and is a major reason why I write. More specifically, though, I've made mention of my blog and posts on both Facebook and Twitter. I wonder if anyone has been directed here from either of those services.

The other day I was questioning the value of Facebook to me and this will help me know if any of my friends and family who use FB have come here because of my posting on there. If not, it might help tip the scales to "scrap the Facebook account."

So if you would be so kind as to leave a quick comment and how you came to end up in my little neck of the woods, I'd really appreciate it. Thank you kindly!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Romantic Ducks...

It's Group Blog Thursday at the Steph in the City blog and the topic deals with Valentine's Day. My awesomely awesome wife has already surprised me with an early Valentine's Day card and gifts.

Quick side note: Sometimes abbreviating things is a great idea. It can save time, avoid repeated uses of the same phrase, and probably save lives (very un-scientific research supports this!). However, if you are looking to abbreviate Valentine's Day, VD is not the way to go. My second sentence up there almost talked about how my wife "surprised me with an early VD" (and what a surprise that would be!).

Her card was very thoughtful and makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside... when I'm not busy being super manly and doing guy stuff like building things and hunting other things and watching men's figure skating.

Now, my wife is an avid blog reader (well, of my blogs at least...), so I can't say anything with regard to this year's VD just yet, but I'll be sure to touch base on that after.

Anyhow, the moral of the story is that an early surprise is rather nice. The other moral is that there is nothing funny about Venereal Disease... when it happens to you, otherwise it is potentially funny.

Facebook reconsidered

Being completely honest about myself, I am prone to change my mind on things more frequently than John Kerry was noted as doing in the '04 elections. Personally, I don't see an issue with that because opinions must surely change as one receives more information or comes to see things in a different light. Case in point, my thoughts on Facebook.

Just yesterday I was questioning how important Facebook is to me. This was sparked by the fact I tried, rather unsuccessfully, to promote this blog there. Perhaps I simply need to give it more time, but this isn't the only reason I'm reconsidering shutting down the account.

Through Facebook, I was able to find out that a friend of mine will be in town this weekend. He lives in Kentucky and I don't see him very often, so it was good to hear that. Additionally, I'm trying to help a friend out with landing a job and was able to connect quickly with her and say that I put in a recommendation at a place she is applying to.

So perhaps there is some value there... but couldn't I have accomplished the same things with traditional email? I have both of their email addresses and it wouldn't have taken too long.

I'm flip-flopping more than a political candidate on this whole keep/don't keep my Facebook issue. If anyone has any comments, either pro or con, I'd certainly love to hear them. Thanks!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ducks on Facebook

Admittedly, I was hoping to post a bit earlier in the day, but sometimes things just don't work out like we expect them to... or perhaps that is more frequent than "sometimes," huh? Anyhow, I'm here now and the posting shall commence!!

So I was kind of thinking about Facebook. See, some people change their updates and add pictures on a more consistent basis than I do, and this is fine. No one can accuse me of being one of those people who dog on the constant updaters. People do what they do and, as long as it's not hurting anyone, that's fine. That's the way it should be.

But anyone who is a "Facebook friend" of mine knows that I don't update very often. I like to do it every once in a while, mostly if I have something creative or (hopefully) funny to say.

The other day, though, I decided to mix it up and try to promote this blog through that particular social networking tool. I also did a quick tweet about it. One of my Twitter followers (that makes me sound like a cult leader...) said that she liked the name of the blog. I thought it was pretty clever (or I would have called this something else) and appreciated the feedback. It's always nice when we find out we aren't alone in how we see something or other.

Anyway, I'm thinking about basing whether or not I continue to use Facebook on how many comments I receive to this post from my FB friends. If I get enough, then I know that Facebook is a valuable resource. If not, I'll probably close my account.

Now, this isn't to say that I think my friends really aren't my friends or anything like that. I mean, I know that there are people who care about me and love me. I don't question that for a second (and hopefully I'm not delusional in the fact that I don't!!). Rather, this all has to do with Facebook and what it means to me. Perhaps it means more than I think, but we'll see about that.

Also, it's important to note that this isn't some kind of "threat" or anything like that. I don't believe anyone I know has any kind of financial stake in Facebook or whatever. And none of my Facebook friends have only an extremely small number, like five, in their group. If so, I would feel pretty bad about deducting 20% of their friends and making them seem like a complete loser (instead of mostly a loser).

Well, I'll give the matter a couple of days. I want to see how many, if any, comments I receive from FB friends to this post. Additionally, I'll try to monitor how much I feel that social networking tool enhances my life. I mean, I only have the one life and enhancing it should be tres important.

Good night to anyone who happens to read this!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ducks at work!

My last post was a little bland and I apologize for that, but I'm learning as I go along and this will get better (or your money back!). I was thinking about how that last post was too much "article" (without incorporating a lot of facts, etc.) and not enough "column" for my taste. Expect future posts to be more like this...

At the ripe old age of 31, I fear I am becoming a curmudgeon. Kids today, as a whole, frustrate me and I fear the future of our society. And I thought it would take another twenty years before I reached this point!

Now, I don't mind kids. I mean, I coach middle school and high school students and wouldn't do so if I didn't like them. The athletes on my teams can be entertaining, interesting, funny, (sometimes) obedient, etc. Generally, they are a good group of kids, which begs the question - where is the frustration?

Well, some of the frustration comes when I go to the store and have eyes rolled at me by the employees because this mean, old guy is making them actually do work.

Not too long ago, I was at the local mall and wanted a smoothie. The high school-aged employee at Surf City Squeeze was sitting on the counter, text messaging away, and not appearing to be particularly concerned about anything else. Heck, the blenders could have been exploding on the spot and she probably would have continued finding out "wasup" with her peeps. When she finally noticed there was a customer waiting for service, the valued employee sighed loudly, rolled her eyes, and tossed the phone on the counter in a sign of obvious frustration. (Much like Jane Goodall, I'm a pro at reading the language of these strange creatures...)

The Surf City employee may not have come outright and actually said it, but she clearly felt that I owed her an apology for wasting her time... The nerve of me!

Naturally, that wasn't the only occurrence I've ever had with today's youth being upset because they were expected to work at their place of employment, but I just don't have the time to write the novel it would entail to document all those instances.

So part of my frustration with the youth of America (and I can't imagine this won't be an ongoing theme, unfortunately) is the attitude they give when someone actually expects them to perform the duties they are being paid. They need to understand that having a job is more than just getting money... it's also doing the work to earn the money.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get behind the counter and blend my own smoothie so this employee can get back to texting about how much her job sucks.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Phishing attacks

I was just reading an article on regarding phishing attacks hitting Twitter and it got me thinking about security and the Internet. More specifically, I started thinking about how easy it is to go online and forget about the potential dangers which may be lurking out there.

We, as a society, are at a point where going online is practically second nature. It's incredibly easy to hop onto a computer and be connected to the Internet in a matter of moments. Actually, it's become even easier than that if one considers the fact that this action can take place nowadays from a telephone. (I'll bet Alexander Graham Bell never saw that one coming...)

At the risk of dating myself, does anyone else out there remember how long going online used to take with a dial-up modem? I still cringe at the thought of that worse-than-nails-on-a-chalkboard grating noise those modems would make while trying to connect. Reliable sources tell me that very noise is constantly piped through the PA system in hell...

Anyhow, our need-to-have-it-now society has made Internet use extremely convenient. The true danger of extreme convenience, though, is that we often forget the other dangers involved. This holds true for more than just online computer transactions. Think for a moment about how dangerous it sounds to strap yourself into a 4000 pound steel cage and carom at incredible speeds, along side other 4000 pound steel cages also moving as fast. Yet most people drive on a daily basis without giving it a second thought. Driving is just how we get around.

This isn't to say that people, on the whole, aren't responsible with convenience or the technology entailed. Rather, it is easy to lose sight of the very real potential for danger once we take something for granted. Take your eyes off the road to pick up a dropped cell phone, and you very well could end someones life. Visit a shady website, and you might give away valuable information and fall victim to identity theft.

I suppose that my point with all this is to say that it only makes sense to consider the gravity of our actions, even for tasks which seem mundane. The potential for grave consequences is out there and it is easy to lose sight of that in a world where we are preoccupied with so much else.

So please be careful when using passwords online. Make sure the site you are logging into is the actual site. If in doubt, don't give out a password or any other important information and take a little time to do some research. It might not be convenient, but it could save you from a lot of headache and stress in the long run.

The link to the CNN article is Reports: Phishing attack hits Twitter.

Friday, February 5, 2010

In the beginning, there were ducks…

Welcome to Ducks out of a Row! Pardon the irony, but I’m going to quick line up my ducks and give you a rundown of who I am, what this blog is, and why the ducks aren’t in a row.


I am a writer named John who lives in West Michigan. I’m generally a pretty laidback guy, but I do have my opinions and values. I respect other people’s points of view and am more than willing to listen to someone who doesn’t agree with me. Doesn’t mean I’ll change my mind, but at least I’ll listen and give it some thought. That being said, I have my core values and my fur gets raised if they are violated. It might take a while to get to that point with me, but it is definitely there.

I’m originally from Wisconsin, but came to Holland, Michigan to attend Hope College. That was in 1996, but I am still here. Not sure how much I’ll talk about my family, since my wife is rather private. Well, actually I’m usually quite private myself… in spite of this very public act of blogging. In real life, I am fairly quiet and accurately described as being shy.

Writing frees me, though. It provides liberty I don’t find elsewhere. For anyone who is familiar with Meyer-Briggs personality typing (MBTI), I’m the quintessential INFP and the whole “writing thing” is perfectly in line with that. If you aren’t familiar with MBTI, I’d recommend checking it out. It’s very interesting and can be rather useful in understanding yourself, others, and how people relate to each other.

You can test to find your MBTI personality type
here (only takes a couple minutes…). After that, there are a plethora of sites devoted to breaking down the various types. I’m particularly fond of Personality Page and Personality Pathways, but there are others available (Google “MBTI” or your specific type…).

Ducks out of a Row

This blog isn’t necessarily about my writing, though. If you have an interest in that, be sure to check out
j.m. neeb. Over there I am sort of documenting my journey into the realm of becoming a full-time, self-sufficient writer, but I have more to say than topics just related to that particular trek in my life.

The aim of this blog is to be more of a column. Thoughts, observations, opinions, et cetera. I am still trying to determine frequency. Ideally, this will be a twice-a-week endeavor.

There are a lot of things I would like to say and I think this will be the perfect medium for me to do so.

But why “Ducks out of a Row?”

A lot of times in life, we wait for our ducks to be in a row before we take action. Well, this is a statement from me to say that I don’t care where my ducks are or what they are doing. Heck, right now my ducks are all over the place. Some are playing a high stakes game of dice in the neighbor’s yard. Others are making an impromptu road trip to Vegas in a beat-up ’94 Dodge Aries. And there’s the one who is in a row boat, wearing a
sombrero cordobes and heading to Spain.

The thing is… I don’t care where my ducks are or even what they’re doing. Eventually, they’ll come back. But I’m not about to sit around and wait for them. I’ve done that and found it doesn’t get me anywhere.

So welcome, again, to Ducks out of a Row. I’ll keep writing, so be sure to come back. And if you like what you read, please tell a friend (or family member, co-worker, stranger, enemy…)!