Wednesday, June 30, 2010

And I Raaaaaan, I Ran So Far Awaaaaaay

Note: This one might be more for me than anything, but you’re all welcome to come along… Also, I'll do better on Friday!

As mentioned the other day, I've won some awards in the past. Now, I've never won anything truly major -- except for that Nobel Peace Prize I won for brokering a peace treaty between Charlie’s Angels and the Hell’s Angels -- but one of the awards I won was for running Cross Country my senior year of high school.

I never intended to run Cross Country.

I actually loved football, but my size in high school -- roughly that of a twig -- was not terribly conducive to the cause. It wasn't until I was in my mid-twenties that I started playing soccer. As such, my autumns were pretty open with regard to sports.

In the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school, I was moved into a new school district. I went from a relatively large school to one of those small ones where everyone knew and grew up with one another.

My final class of the day for that first semester was Physical Education. On the first day, we didn't actually do much of anything, except stand around and maybe get measured or something. (Admittedly, I'm not positive about getting measured, but I know there was a lot of standing around.)

Being a shy dude anyway -- new school or no new school -- I was just standing off to the side, minding my own business and probably thinking some of the weird thoughts I share with you guys. (“How unoriginal was the person who named the fruit ‘orange?’ I mean, yeah, I get that the fruit is that color and there is an obvious connection, but he/she couldn’t come up with anything better? Not even putting a letter in front of ‘orange?’ We could be eating zoranges. How cool would that be? Man, they really missed the boat on that one.”)

[Yeah, I know… I was lame. Let’s move on, people.] (“Did he say ‘was’?”)

While standing around, one of the guys from my class came up to me and we had the following exchange:

New Kid from New School: Hey, you're new here, aren't you?
Me: "Uh, yep." (While thinking: "Obviously, since the rest of you all know each other.")
New Kid from New School: Can you run?
Me: "Uh, yep." (While thinking: "One foot in front of the other, preferably faster than slower. What un-handicapped kid can't handle that?")
New Kid from New School: You should join Cross Country.
Me: "Okay."

(Let it never be said that I am un-agreeable!)

So I joined the Cross Country team.

We ran.

Coach Pritichard, assuming you are one of the billions of Ducks Out Of A Row readers, stop reading now! (Well, I don't mean "reading in general." If nothing else, I like to think of myself as someone who promotes literacy, and as being not an advocate of an alliterate society. So stop reading just the rest of today's post and come back again on Friday when we tackle the lowering of society's bar for entertainment. Thank you.)

Sometimes, we stopped at the bakery and got free cookies.

Anyhow, the summer in between junior and senior years, I ran twice. On the same day.

I had received a random call from a teammate asking if I wanted to go for a run. I was up for it. (See my note about being agreeable somewhere up there.) So we hit the roads running. When we got back to our starting point, most of the other guys from the team were there. They said "Hey, we're going out for a run, wanna come with?" So I went for a second run. And that was my "off-season training."

Well, during season, I somehow managed to drop a fairly significant amount of time. I don't remember the specifics, but it was more than enough to win the "Most Improved" award for our team.

When presenting the award at the end of the season banquet, Coach Pritchard made sure to mention that "John must have really busted his ass in the off season." And you know what? For those two runs, I certainly did.

Friday’s topic: Here we are now, entertain us!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Awards Ceremony

Alright... If you aren't already aware of this, I was issued an award from Lydia Kang the other day. (Thank, you again, Lydia!!)

On Friday I wrote about winning the award and my acceptance speech, etc. If you haven't already read it, you might want to take a minute and do that, so you don't get lost and all.

Don't worry, we'll wait...

Some of you guys were diappointed that I didn't have/include any pictures. I actually got a lot of hate mail about it. My mailbox was stuffed with "letters" -- apparently that is how people used to communicate when they still lived in caves -- deriding me for doing too much telling and not enough showing*.

* That is a shout out for all my writer peeps out there. Respect. Wes'side. A'igth.

Now, there weren't any photographers around, unfortunately, so I hired a professional artist to do an authentic rendering of my day in glory. This is what Vincent Van Gogh drew for me...

Personally, I think he nailed what is widely being regarded as "the single greatest day in history." (I can't remember who said that, but it was probably someone really important and possibly not me.)

(Keep your eye out for that Van Gogh fella. He's bound to be a mover and shaker in the art community some day.)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Must See TV?

Hey peeps! I know it's late, but I had my writers group tonight and needed to work on the piece I was presenting during the day. Of course, it is still Monday and I never attached any specific time caveat to my promise... Go ahead and check, all you legal fanatics. [Ducks is huge with the "legal fanatic" crowd, I assume.]

Anyhow, here we are. Yep.

They say that showing up is 80% of success. (Actually, "they" is "Woody Allen.") I have to disagree. I'm here, but it still feels like this is requiring a lot more effort on my behalf than just 20%.

Of course, the Ducks is all about giving a very cliched 110%. (So maybe I need to contribute more like 30%.)

You know, NBC's television show "100 Questions" must have taken that Woody Allen quote a little too much to heart. ("Genius segue!" says the masses. "Thank you," says I.)

On Friday, I had promised the revelation of one of the worst shows I have ever seen. "100 Questions" takes the cake. (Who really offers cake as a prize? If so, that is an incredibly lame contest. I mean, they should be serving cake as the prize is handed out. At least, that's how civilized people do it. Anything less is cruel and unusual.)

Now, back in 1997 -- for all you hip young kids, the world was still around back then -- I remember watching one night of NBC's Must See TV with my college roommate at the time. For those keeping score at home, it was Baloo (once again, not the Disney character).

Well, we watched some show between Seinfeld and Friends (or whatever) and it might have entailed a restaurant or pizza place of some sort, but after it was done, we established that -- in spite of the not-so-subtle cues from the laugh track -- there was literally no point which made us want to smile or laugh.

It was so bad that Baloo wore black for a month thereafter. I started listening to The Cure and lost my zest for life. Later I got my zest back, as is recorded in the award-winning documentary "How Stella Got Her Groove Back." (As you probably suspected, that movie is about me.)

100 Questions tops the magnitude of the suckage that was "that one other show." (I have no idea what it was called and only remembered just now, while writing this, that it had something to do with a restaurant.)

For a tv show to be watchable, you probably shouldn't hate all the characters so much that you want them to die horrific, violent deaths. The writers of 100 Questions do not understand this complicated premise.

Also, good acting -- or at least "acting better than that found in most kindergarten plays" -- would probably help. Now, acting is a skill and I'm not saying that I can do it better than the actors featured on the show. I'm just saying that I hope they were doing it pro bono.

There must be some silver lining to the show, though. I mean, there isn't much in life that is all bad. Actually, this calls for a list!

List of Things That Are All Bad
  • Torture: Never acceptable
  • Rape: See Torture
  • NBC's 100 Questions: Zero goodness

Okay, so maybe it is all bad. The production values of the show are exceeded by videos found on YouTube and created by men and women without Hollywood budgets.

I follow some very talented individuals here in the blogosphere. I don't mean to exclude anyone, so please do not misconstrue this list as comprehensive, but: Kathryn (From the Inside... Out), Moooooog35 (Mental Poo), Sara (Sara Spelled Without An H), and the Straight Guy/Gay Guy team (Gay Guy / Straight Guy) are all incredibly hilarious.

If NBC was smart, and I don't mean to imply that they aren't (but they did greenlight "100 Questions"...), they would have hired those guys to write something decent for that show.

Wednesday's post: Heroic High School Cross Country Exploits

Editor's Note: It's late, I'm tired and I will possibly edit this in the morning. I apologize if this post isn't up to usual Ducks quality, but the aforementioned tiredness has certainly played a role in that. I'm taking a self-induced pay cut over it. (Let's see, 50% of 0 is...)

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Award-Winning Ducks!

Not a lot of time to waste today, kids, so let's get right to it!

First, and most importantly, Lydia Kang (
The Word Is My Oyster) has given Ducks Out Of A Row an award! (Specifically, the one up there.) Thank you kindly, Lydia.
"Speech! Speech! Speech! Speech!" [Uh, that's you guys. Feel free to join in if you haven't already done so.] [I hope you are reading this at work right now and started chanting that at your computer. That would be awesome and it'll make for a great story for your co-workers.]

Hypothetical Co-worker of Loyal Ducks Reader: "Hi, honey."

Hypothetical Co-worker of Loyal Ducks Reader's Spouse: "So, how was work today?"

HCoLDR: "Well, it was fairly nondescript until Kevin started chanting "Speech!" in the middle of the day. The thing was, though, we weren't in a meeting or anything like that. He was just sitting there at his desk, reading some really weird blog about ducks or something, when all of a sudden he began his chant. Slowly, we all joined in. It was like this collective force of sheer camaraderie amongst us co-workers. But then the chanting fizzled as we started to realize that no one in the office was actually going to give a speech. We looked around awkwardly at each other for a bit, and then started crying. Ultimately, we all came together for a group hug."

HCoLDRS: "So it was a typical day at the office."

HCoLDR: "Yep."

[Back to you guys chanting "Speech!"]

Oh, okay. If you insist... It's not like I planned for this, but I'll see what I can do. *Pulls out ten-page speech from apparently very large pocket*

Ahem. It all started in '78. Well, not everything. I'm sure there was stuff prior to that fine year. (Unless people have been lying to me, which we can't rule out.)

Tell you what, I don't have time for the full speech, so let's just give you the Cliff's Notes version: I thank the academy (Lydia, you are now "the academy." Feel free to put that on your resume and business card), describe the tremendous adversity I overcame to get where I am today (Holland, MI), give some motivational b.s. for the youth, and then thank everyone I've ever met... and some I haven't (for example: Shakespeare, Nelson Mandela, Hemmingway, Will Smith, Tony Blair, the Green Bay Packers and the guy who invented jeans, because, well, I love wearing jeans).

Consider yourselves speechified.

So now that I've received this award from Lydia, I suppose I am finally justified in calling myself "an award-winning journalist." Prior to this, my awards were all for high school sports. But I won the awards, and is it so wrong to have included them with every self-description? (When I cook, they make me an award-winning chef. When I drive, award-winning driver. When I sleep, award-winning sleeper. Etc.)

I say "No." (Editor's note: We say "Yes, that is very wrong.")

I say those editors are a real pain in my ass.

Anyhow, I'm now an award-winning journalist. So when you guys are telling everyone you know, encounter and even those you don't know -- as I'm sure you do -- about this little blog that you're hopelessly addicted to, be sure to mention that it is written by an honest-to-goodness award winner.

Alright, here’s the deal. I was going to get to some more stuff today -- one of the most awful tv shows I’ve ever seen, an aforementioned award that I had won, probably something else – but this is already long enough. (Can we all agree on that? Yes, we can!) [I said that in my best Obama voice.]

For those who are new readers: Yes, unfortunately, this is a pretty typical Ducks post, but sometimes the posts are better than others. (You have to admit, it’d be extraordinarily weird if all posts were of the exact same caliber, every single time.) I promise new posts on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. (It occurred to me recently that I should probably mention that somewhere. Maybe the description would be a good place?) Every once in a while I put random posts up, but there is no guarantee on those.

For readers who are both new and not new: I’m going to start giving a very brief preview of the next post, just so you know what is coming up.

Monday’s post: A television show which is certainly not worthy of any awards (except those of the negative, Razzy-style variety). My heroic exploits in high school cross country. Other stuff as applicable.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Justin Bieber Contest (uh, brace yourselves for this one...)

Bet that got your attention, huh! Well, I'm sorry, but there is no J-Bieb contest here at the Ducks.

[Hmmm, should have checked with the ol' lawyer to see about "false advertisement" lawsuit potential before writing that title. Eh, next time...]

Given your newfound education on the lack of Justin Bieber contests here at the Ducks, you are most likely now asking yourselves: "Then why is the title of this post 'Justine Bieber Contest?'"

Well, the "Contest" part should be evident from anyone who read Monday's post (the anagram contest). So obviously that was still lingering in the back of my mind.

The other part comes from having a J-Bieb -- go with it, people -- rambling topic idea the other night.

See, Google, Yahoo! or MSN (I can't remember which, but they all are likely suspects...) had a list of "hot searches" that I stumbled across. Being a man of discernible intelligence, I gathered that "hot" was not literal* and actually meant "popular."

* Quick shout out to Missed Periods who had a very entertaining and highly informative post on the word "literally" last week. Since I'm not opposed to pimping a blog -- or a stranger's ride... even though they usually get pissed and are like "What the hell did you do to my car?" (Some people just don't get art.) -- check out Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares. I highly recommend it... even more than pimping people's cars with or without permission.

Anyhow, one of the hot searches was "Justin Bieber pregnant."

Hold on a sec. Let's just allow this to sink in for a moment -- Justin Bieber is probably pregnant.

[Who says civilization is on the decline?]

Admittedly, I've seen pictures of J-Bieb, but don't know much about him, aside from his pregnancy. I figure he's got something to do with music, or why else would he be famous? You never hear anymore about kids who are doctors or presidents or Supreme Court justices... It's a shame really.

Now, I could do research and find out what the kid's deal is, but I've determined that we, as a society, already waste too much time looking up dumb stuff. Annoying or not, the Bing commercials kind of hit it on the head with regard to "information overload." I mean, is my life any better now that I know Justin Bieber is pregnant?

Yeah, I suppose you're right... It probably is.

I mean, if nothing else, journalistic integrity is Goal #1 here at the Ducks. Goal #2? Win the FIFA 2010 World Cup.

If that boy is about to have a baby any minute now (and it sounds like this might very well be the case), it is my duty to keep you, the loyal readers, informed. That’s what journalists do and I consider myself to be, if nothing else, the finest journalist since that one guy who was really good at writing and reporting stuff. (I don’t particularly feel like doing the research to look up his name, but you know who I mean.)

Us journalists really need to be on top of current events. We need to keep our fingers on the proverbial pulse of society, in very cliched ways.

And if that means being there when J-Bieb delivers his child into this strange, cruel world… actually, at that point I walk away from blogging and begin my new life as one of those silent, computer-less monks.

[I could totally rock the "earthy-toned robes" look.]

Disclaimer: I mean no disrespect to J-Bieb. From the pictures I've seen, he looks like a good dude. The "Justin Bieber pregnant" thing was just impossible not to comment on, though.

Addendum to the Disclaimer: Actually, it probably says more about the common folk who are conducting the searches than it does about the pop star who is about to give birth.

Editor's note: We regret to inform you that the author was not under any influence at all when writing this post. He just has a very unusual worldview and we sincerely apologize for that. Also, we're not sure why he has taken to rerferring to himself as a journalist. If we find out, we'll let you know.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Anagram Contest

Having just left the longest comment in the history of blogging history, it is time to get down to some serious business...

To keep you all in the loop -- which is always Goal #1 here at the Ducks! (Goal #2? World domination.) -- the comment I left is at the bottom of Friday's post. A lot of you had left comments and I was on a computer sabbatical over the weekend and I didn't want to leave you hanging, so I did that first.

Now, obviously, I am drafting a post. (And with that, everyone is up to speed.)

Today's post is going to be rather random and probably a bit all over the place... unlike, you know, the usual linear logic I tend to follow and all. ("I get it -- he's not being serious. Ha!")

First things, well, "second" or "third" (depends on how many things you've counted to this point)...
We were having fun with anagrams last week. My buddy Baloo (no, he's not actually the bear from The Jungle Book... try and sue me for that Disney!) pointed out that his wife's name – found at bottom of this post, right before the “official rules” and “examples” sections -- forms a perfect two-word anagram.

Admittedly, I have no idea what it is and haven't started trying to figure it out yet. But I'll get to working on it after a while.

So we're going to have an "on your honor" contest. Some people have contests when they reach certain amounts of followers or whatnot. I respect that. It probably feels good to log in and see "Whoa, the entire nation of Canada is following me." (Yes, that shout out is for you, Tara from the Great White North.)

Me? As previously established, I'm not concerned with amounts of followers. Whoever is going to read Ducks is going to read Ducks. Not much I can do about it one way or the other.

(That is not technically correct. I can actually do A LOT to make sure no one reads. If I start posting entirely in wingdings font, that would be a decent start. Or perhaps my readership would go up.)

(“Hey, Betty Sue! I don’t know what this Rowing Ducks guy has done, but I like his new blog style. There’s all sortsa pictures and stuff. Looks real purdy.”)

Anyhow, let me introduce the "not-related-to-how-many-followers-I-have-or-do-not-have" contest. (That's a catchy name.) Without using an anagram generator – that’s where the “on your honor” part kicks in -- the first person to come up with the two-word anagram will receive a (possibly) fabulous prize.

The prize, you ask?

Uh… I'm not sure. It will be something random and lying around my home. In an earlier post, I identified myself as a pack rat, so you know I've got stuff*. The winner will get some of it. A small "some," but some nonetheless!

Time for a little full disclosure: I do not have anything like gold medallions lying around. There is a Lean Cuisine with some turkey medallions in the freezer, but you won't get that, either. (My wife would be pissed.)

As such, the prize might not be terribly valuable. Or it might. I'm really not sure at this time. What it won't be is the cat. On this, you have my word.

The name to be anagramized is: Kirsten Elisabeth Kohl

Now go! Or read the rules first and then go! (Second choice is better.)

Official rules:

  • First person to post a correct anagram wins.
  • The two-word anagram has to actually work. I will verify this by spelling out the name and crossing off letters. (Yes, you probably assumed that is how I’d do it, but these are official rules and it needs to be spelled out. I mean, it's not like this is some two-bit operation.)
  • The new arrangement must be in English (sorry, but I’m not nearly smart enough to know all the words in all languages…) and cannot be comprised of made up words. So “sabKethst EliKohlenir,” as an example, won’t win you any prize – fabulous or not.
  • Post your answer as a comment. If you don’t have a way of contacting you already on your blog or Google profile, we’ll have to figure something out. If you do, though, I’m quite resourceful and will figure it out. Worst case, you contact me.
  • Baloo is exempt from contest.
  • Kirsten, that goes for you, too.
  • Winner is responsible for paying his or her own taxes on the prize.
  • Contest is only open to U.S. citizens, unless you happen to live somewhere else, in which case you can still participate and win.
  • Prize will be chosen solely by Ducks Out Of A Row management.

    * Examples of stuff I have: Pez dispensers, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel from 9/11/01 (decorated with red Kool-Aid... thus my willingness to part with it), CD's, other stuff, etc. (To keep with my theme of honesty, I’m having a hard time picturing what I all have at home. But I guarantee there is stuff and someone will win some of it!)

Friday, June 18, 2010

The "Un" Post

Do any of you fellow bloggers ever un-follow blogs?

I recently went through and un-friended some people on Facebook. Not that these are bad people or anything like that, but I accepted almost any "friend request" back when I started using the site. (It was the mid-80's, if I remember correctly.)

After a while it was like "Yeah, [insert female name] was on the women's swim team at the college where I was on the men's team and seemed like a nice person, but she never actually said a word to me... ever. Since being a Facebook "friend," she hasn't contacted me or anything. I think she just wants to inflate the number of friends she has."

I refuse to be just a number!

Well, there were one or two un-friendings because I realized that I didn't particularly like the guys. I never should have added them in the first place, but after awhile it was painfully obvious that they were kind of d-bags.

Oh, and the nosy guy from work got the boot. I never have anything bad to say about my place of employment, but my heart is not into my job and my ultimate goal is to leave -- which I'm working on -- but don't need a nosy, gossipy dude to report on it.

There might have been a couple others for various reasons, but I think you get the picture now.

Anyhow, I suppose that I don't feel the need to have 9000 Facebook "friends" who mostly would qualify as "barely acquaintances," you know? I'd rather have a handful of true, genuine people who have authentic relationships with me.

Well, this relates to my little blogging world. (By "little," I mean "internationally-popular, uber successful and pretty much the single greatest blog to hit the world since the invention of
sliced bread.")

We all have followers, both active and lurkers (still hate the term...), and follow blogs ourselves. In a way, it is kind of like having Facebook friends. Some people want to have thousands. I'll take a few, loyal followers any day of the week. Twice on Sundays. (Never got the whole "twice on Sunday" expression, but the popular kids are using it and I'm trying to fit in, so let's roll with it.)

I don't know how, but I started following this one blog in particular... and I'm not sure if I want to continue doing so. See, this blogger has complained that no one follows them -- yes, I realize that the plural pronoun is grammatically incorrect in this instance, but I am committed to staying gender neutral for the sake of true anonymity -- yet they are adamant about not following others or leaving comments, etc.

I've learned that if you want active followers, you need to be an active follower yourself. I'm not saying that you need to go and leave "empty" comments (well, unless you want them in return...), but if you want people to actually read and leave conversational comments, you should probably do the same.

This other blogger wants to take without giving and I don't think things work out like that.

Does it take time and effort? Hell yeah. I probably spend too much time reading and commenting on blogs I follow. But the ones I keep up with are interesting and I happen to like interesting stuff. (Yeah, I'm weird like that.)

If I comment on your posts, you are doing something right. Keep doing it. ("He's kind of bossy.")

And if I'm commenting, it means I haven't un-followed you. The other day -- I love that term because it could be read as though there were only two days: the one and the other -- Wendy Ramer had mentioned that regular commenters become friends of sorts. I totally dig that.

In life, I'm most concerned with genuine relationships... even here in the blogosphere, which is only "kind of like" life. I'm really starting to appreciate the ones we form in this microcosm of ours.

So, uh, I just wanted to share that. Yeah.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Un-Confusing Blog Post Title

Feeling more like myself than I was yesterday, so let's get to this...

On "Blog Post Titles; Confusing"

First things first. [Gotta love redundancy coming at you right off the bat.] Yesterday I titled my post Constitutional Amendments and asked if anyone knew the reason why I might do so. Well, I was just wondering if anyone happens to have the same Jeopardy! desk calendar I do. That's all. [Sorry for the letdown!]

I'm a huge fan of the classic trivia show and my wife had gotten the calendar for me as one of my Christmas presents this past year.

Note to self: The "past year" part of that sentence is unnecessary. It's not like she would have gotten you a 2010 calendar in '08. Of course, you've already typed it and are currently out of White-Out, so you'd better just keep it in there.

2nd Note to self: Buy White-Out.

Note to reader: Did you just read my "notes to self?" Those were personal! How could you?!


On "Soccer Players; Unrelenting Whining From"

For those who don't necessarily follow soccer (vast majority of Americans...), there has been controversy surrounding the particular ball being used for the World Cup. The "Jabulani," manufactured by Adidas, had been widely criticized by goalies, whose job it is to prevent goals from being scored. They have claimed that the nature of the construction for these balls leads to erratic movement while in the air.

I play rec soccer. My game is not even close to being good enough to be affected by how a ball moves in the air. Mostly, I'm just lucky when I don't miss the ball completely when I go to kick it... which was not the case on one offensive possession this past Sunday. *hangs head in shame at the memory*

Recently, the Argentina futbol coach, Diego Maradona, has blamed the Jabulani for the low scores of the current World Cup games. Uh, Diego, aren't high level soccer games typically low scoring?

But wait a second... Don't those contradict? Goalies -- current soccer players -- don't want scores to be made, so they complained that the ball will cause too much scoring. The Argentina coach -- a former iconic soccer player -- is complaining because the Jabulani doesn't lead to enough scoring. Say what?

My take? Soccer players just like to whine.

On "Readers; Can't We Just Be Called"

I had a revelation yesterday. It wasn't divinely inspired, no heavens parting or whatnot. My revelation came in the form of one of those rejected posts I had written.

(For the benefit of those just joining us, I was feeling quite "off" yesterday and wrote three posts, all of which I hated. I wound up deleting something close to two thousand words, if you round up.)

In my semi-coherent rambling, I used the term "lurking." My revelation was the fact that I HATE this term in the context of our little blogosphere we have going here.

For those who aren't "in the know," lurking refers to those who read blogs without leaving comments. (You're welcome.)

Here's what I don't like about it: The term lurking has negative connotations. At worst, it makes you think about some creepy guy hanging outside a bedroom window at night. At best, it makes you think about a creepy guy just hanging around.

Either way, that's a lot of creepy.

But people accused of lurking in the blogger world aren't necessarily doing anything creepy. They're just reading. Sure, they aren't leaving comments, but maybe they don't have much to say... Maybe they are shy... Maybe their keyboards are broken, but the mice, monitors and hard drives are working just fine.

We don't know.

What we do know is that when someone reads a book or magazine, he is not accused of "lurking." No, he's just reading. Why can't it be the same here?

Just because someone has the ability to comment doesn't mean she should feel any obligation to do so. I don't. If I don't have anything to say, which -- believe it or not -- happens, then I don't say anything. Period.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Constitutional Amendments

Here's the deal, peeps... I've composed three different posts today and wasn't able to come up with any of them I liked. As such, I'm not posting any of them. [Let it never be said that I am not a man of inaction! Or afraid to use the coveted "triple negative."]

Something is hanging like a chad in the back of my mind, though. [I am also not afraid to bust out a c. 2000 reference.]

In one of the posts which I managed to waste a lot of time (seriously) writing, I was reading what I had written and the thought struck me "what makes you think the readers will even care?"

Just because I'm writing something doesn't mean it should/will be read. I like to think that I'm writing for you guys, though.

To quote... well, myself from a different rejected post: "I can't speak on behalf of all writers, but my goal is to come up with entertaining and/or insightful content for your benefit. I hope that I can at least make people either laugh or think. In an ideal session, I accomplish both.

Sure, writing makes me feel like I'm actually doing what I am meant to and I receive a certain intrinsic reward from doing so, but I do it more for the readers, whoever they might be."

So how do I know if my readers are going to care about what I write, since the target audience is not me? That's an excellent question and I don't really know. [Note: I don't define that question as "excellent" just because I asked it.]

I suppose I'd like to think that if I keep it interesting and/or entertaining, it doesn't matter too much what subject I tackle... right?

Anyhow, it's kind of been an "off" day for me and I apologize for not providing something more Ducks-ish.

To make up for it, maybe I'll try to sneak one past the "schedule guards" and get a better one in tomorrow!

In the meantime, continue to be excellent to each other!

p.s. One hundred "reader points" go out to anyone who can tell me why I titled this post what I did. :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Post That Made Holland, MI Famous

In doing research for this post, I stumbled (not literally...) across a website of anagrams. See, I wanted a title for the post -- even though the theme for today, and consequent writing of the post, was literally minutes away from even coming to mind -- that would capture the epic nature of these semi-coherent ramblings.

Clearly, not any title would do.

If you would be so kind as to allow me a brief, yet relevant digression... Yesterday I caught up with an old friend of mine. It has been over ten years since the last time we spoke, but he managed to find me via Facebook -- ironically, my arch nemesis -- and I'm quite glad he did.

I had made efforts to find him in the past, via this newfangled "Internet" thing. (It's a great novelty, but I don't see it catching on in the long term.) The wall I continually ran into, though, was the fact that I remembered his lengthy last name, being Polish, as having all sorts of vowels and consonants in random, unexpected places. I couldn't quite come up with the right combination. So my cyber-stalking exploits were somewhat less successful than his.

I've never been more grateful to have a short, easy to spell last name... except for that time when I was a kid learning how to spell my name. I was pretty grateful about it then, too.

One of those things I'll never forget from my childhood -- besides the ability to spell my short last name and tie my shoes -- was the fact that my buddy's dad had the largest collection of Schlitz memorabilia.

For those who aren't in the know -- and I realize that the typical Ducks reader is a highly informed and educated (and attractive) member of society, but I'm just sayin' -- the old Schlitz slogan was "The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous."

Clearly, this is extremely apropos.

Yes, the word of the day here at the Ducks is "clearly."

(And you all know the "word of the blog.") Anyhow....

So I googled "the beer that made milwaukee famous." (Note: I was born in Milwaukee and lived there for the first 12 years of my life, so I know that it is capitalized, as is the case with most fashionable major cities. But I also know that Google doesn't care if it is capitalized in my search… Uh, just thought I should disclose that.)

The fourth search result had something to do with anagrams. This got me thinking...

Recently I was listening to the local classic rock station and they were playing The Doors' song "L.A. Woman," wherein Jim Morrison sings about Mr. Mojo Risin'. That is an anagram of his name and, I've got to admit, it's a pretty cool anagram to have.

Other great anagrams belong to William Shakespeare (I'll make a wise phrase), Clint Eastwood (Old West Action), and Lady Gaga (Clearly Insane).

Okay, maybe I made one of those up.

The thing I don't like about anagrams is that there isn't one that works for me. Sure, "been John" might be alright... if my name wasn't already John! C'mon! (Besides, that only flips my last name around, too.) Although, maybe I can come up with something if I include my middle name. Hold on a sec...

*Thinks real hard.*

Still there? Whew. Thought I might have lost you over all those hours I spent thinking about it. Of course, one simply cannot overestimate the loyalty of a Ducks Out Of A Row reader!!

Here’s the anagram I came up with (middle name included): J. writes amazing, insightful and the greatest blog posts in the history of the world.

Ya'll welcome.

Friday, June 11, 2010


If this doesn't work, please don't hate me!!

Note: Video contains a bad word starting with "f" at 2:32. If you are offended by that, then watch up until that point, fast forward one or two seconds and the profanity passes.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Playing "Tag" with the Cat

Before I begin, a quick thought...

It's strange how life works out sometimes. I had my topic for this post in mind last night. It entails my pets and you'll learn a thing or two about them, maybe even more about me. ("See, I knew he was weird!")

The reason I'm not jumping right into it today is that I started drafting this out and then stopped to catch up on some blogs that I follow. While doing so, I discovered that Megan Rebekah over at A Blog About The Write Stuff had recently lost her dog. That makes me sad for her. I'm a sensitive dude. I cried at Marley and Me, in spite of knowing what was going to happen (which I'll not mention in case you want to see it and haven't yet, even though it's an old movie at this point) (well, you never know, right?).

Anyhow, I was planning on sharing about my pets and saw that Megan lost one of her own. Just makes me remember that you can't take things for granted. If you love someone (even if they walk on all fours...), make sure you appreciate them while they are still around. Not to get all preachy, but take some time and let those who are important to you know how much you care.

And if they are of the furry, freeloading variety, snacks usually seem to work!

If you haven't been there before, make sure you swing by
A Blog About The Write Stuff and check out her blogs, new and old. She usually has a lot of great stuff to share!

I'm blanking on a decent segue from that to this, so let's just jump into it...

A long time ago I discovered that Tweak Dog isn't very good at karate. She and I would do some non-contact sparring, but this mostly entailed her sitting, staring at me as I kicked and punched the air two feet in front of her. Sometimes she yawned.

I was reminded of this yesterday when I tried to play a rousing game of "tag" with the cat. I've written about her before, so you all know that I love our freeloading feline.

But she's even worse at tag than Tweak is at kung fu.

Whereas the Tweak will sit like a Zen master and disarm me with her patience, Kitty Meow just ran the opposite direction after I tagged her "it." This (did not) lead to the following exchange:

[I just tagged the cat]

Me: "Hey, you're supposed to chase me."
*The cat: "No, I'm going to run this way."
Me: "But that's not how the game is played."
The cat: "Well, I don't feel like playing it that way."
Me: "But those are the rules."
The cat: "I just changed the rules. Now feed me."
Me: "Uh, okay."

* Well, obviously she doesn't speak English -- I'm an incredible cat trainer and all, but not that incredible -- so I filled in her end of the dialogue. Based on the steely glares in my general direction, I think she's offended.

My pets are horrible at playing games the way they are "supposed to." Tweak doesn't do fetch. Occasionally I'll toss a ball and, invariably, what happens is we both stand where we are, watch it land and then look at each other with "so, are you going to get that" expressions on our respective faces. I can sometimes get her engaged in a little soccer (there's sometimes a random soccer ball at the dog park...), but that only lasts for a short while.

Mostly, Tweak Dog, Esq. just likes taking walks and sniffing random stuff. And sleeping on the couch even though she isn't supposed to. I think that's her favorite game. She calls it "let's see how long I can get away with this before someone 'yells' at me."

My dog sometimes has the same temperament as a four year old testing his boundaries.

Much like a parent of a boundary-exploring four year old, I love her in spite of it.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Not "just another day"

For the most part, I try not to get too personal here at the Ducks. This is for two reasons. One, my personal life is simply not that interesting to people who aren't me (which, I'm slowly finding out, is most of the world...).

I work for a pharmaceutical company. It's quite dry and inside-the-box-ish. Don't get me wrong, it is an incredible company and I think they are going to have continued success, but [understatement alert] it's not the most interesting place in the world. Especially given that my particular job has been described by an honest former boss as being "dry as toast." So there’s not a lot to be said about that.

I play soccer and coach water polo (not at the same time...), but the soccer is rec league and water polo is high/middle school levels. I have some coaching stories and maybe (probably?) I'll share those at some time, but mostly it's just me walking up and down the pool deck in a tee shirt and cargo shorts, trying to get the kids to play to the best of their abilities... or at least listen to me.

Soccer is just fun, a chance to run around a bit. I'm not terribly good, though, so no great stories there. Although, you don't know if I'm good or not in real life… and I'm a creative kind of dude!

Sometime I should tell you about the time I scored seven goals in a game while rescuing a baby squirrel that was being hunted by a hungry eagle. I didn't want the eagle to go hungry, but the young squirrel was too cute not to save. What was a guy to do? So I made a quick run while they tried to dislodge the ball out of the net from one of my powerful kicks and got the starving bird a Big Mac. We all became best friends.

Or maybe it was... I was running to get the ball and went to kick it, but missed. (Let's go with the first one!)

Beyond that, I like reading and writing. I've shared reading stuff with you guys (everyone should know I'm a huge fan of, amongst others, Malcolm Gladwell and Colson Whitehead). Writing is something I don't talk about too much just yet. I know a lot of my fellow bloggers do a ton of sharing with regard to their respective projects, but that's not my cup of tea. Once I have stuff completed, I'll pull back the curtain and unveil the canvas. In the meantime, my wife, writing group and maybe a select few are privy to my works in progress.

The other reason I don't get terribly personal is the fact that I'm a painfully private person. Well, I'm not so private that I'm constantly in pain, but hopefully you get what I mean. Now that I'm a world-famous, possibly delusional blogger, it's tough to keep it real. I've always got paparazzi chasing me around, trying to find out how I order my Whoppers at BK (no onion or pickles, please) and vying for the best photos of me lying topless on the beach. [Given that I'm a guy, I never said that the topless photos are tough to come by...]

All the attention drives me nuts. [“That explains it,” they all say in unison.]

I'm married and have two stepsons, but for their benefit, I try to keep them somewhat anonymous. I notice that a lot of my fellow bloggers do the same. Some opt for nicknames. I suppose I kind of have one of those whenever I refer to "the unnamed woman who may or may not be the wife" (or however I tend to phrase it...).

Anyhow (yes, here at The Ducks we have a patent on that...), I'm getting a little personal today.

"Why today," you ask? [More likely - "Why does he always give us thoughts like that? He's so strange."]

Excellent question, loyal readers!! Today is my one-year anniversary. [Uh, of marriage, in case you were thinking "Maybe he's been blogging for a year" or whatever.]

So I want to publicly say "Happy Anniversary, The-always-unnamed-woman-who-happens-to-be-my-wife!!"

I'm looking forward to a lot more anniversaries with you! Love you so much that I'm willing to put it on my extremely public blog! It makes me feel good to know that I'm with you. But I'm quite sure you already know that... :)

I’m a lucky guy because I'm with you!

Tomorrow: Manly stuff to compensate for all this "feelings" nonsense!! We will learn how to hunt dangerous things and build impressive stuff. It will be awesome.

Friday, June 4, 2010

UGH!! (note the caps...)

So I had been working on my Friday post... crossed 950 words... continued multi-tasking, working on a couple different projects...

Any guesses what comes next?

A major prize goes out to anyone who goes with "accidently deleted post, but managed to keep draft of something else that will now need to be deleted."

The major prize? Knowledge that you are correct, which is more valuable than anything I would have provided. [I do this for free, folks!]

There is probably some clever way to retrieve the lost post, but I remember a lot of what I had to say and will just rewrite it -- that will be easier for me. And you know what, I'll rewrite it with a vengence! It will be bigger, shinier and more awesomer. It will also use less made-up words like "awesomer."

When life hand you lemons, you paint that sh1t gold. [In the name of full disclosure: That's the title of a hip-hop album and not a j. neeb original.]

Sorry about that, readers. Consider me ashamed... and frustrated, but more ashamed.

Garrison Keiller, consider yourself even luckier... but just for today. You are NOT off the hook!

Teaser post

Alright, here's the deal, folks. Today's post, which is currently being drafted, has already crossed 651 words... and I still have a bunch to say.

I realize that not everyone wants, or doesn't have time, etc., to read that much. So, to appease both those who do and those who don't, I'm making two posts today. The first post has a chunk from the second one and is much shorter.

Feel free to read either, both or neither. But, in all fairness, you're already this far -- and this IS that "first post" -- so maybe reading a little more of this one will be better than the "neither" option. It's entirely your choice, though, and I just wanted to let you know.

Here we go:

When you get down to it, I'm really just a guy trying to figure this world out. Some of it I already have down: a sincere "I'm sorry" is invaluable; don't stare a strange dog in the eyes; the New York Yankees are evil, etc.

Some of it I'm still learning.

I recently learned, during an excursion at Target, that one brand of cat food maker (I think it's Fancy Feast, but could very well be wrong about that...) makes "appetizers" for cats.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Do cats know that appetizers are even option? Is this something my little cat has been craving, but I've been unknowingly negligent towards providing? Have all her dining experiences been completely ruined by my ignorance of cat appetizers?

This is a strange world.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Wait, it's not Mon., Wed. or Fri.!!

It dawned on me the other day, Wednesday -- which is ironic... you'll see -- that my thoughts are not limited to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (see?). Yet, those are the only days I'm committed to publishing new Ducks content? WTF, right? Am I supposed to turn off my brain on Tuesdays, Thursdays and the weekend? Impossible, I say!!

You, the loyal Ducks readership, benefit today from my overanalyzing nature... Bonus post!!

Also, I'm waiting for site maintenance at this other place I write and have some down time. That helps, too.

Courtesy of the holiday weekend and my much-needed shout out to Sara McClung's Vampire contest yesterday, I've had to push some thoughts and issues out.

Today it is time to pay the piper, as all the cool kids are saying nowadays.

One though which had been backlogged comes from Memorial Day weekend. I was sitting out on the deck with my father, who was in town to visit, and watching the pond out back. There was a family of ducks and the mama duck was swimming along, row of little ducks trailing.

Typical Ducks Out Of A Row aside here: I wonder if I were to google "ducks" where my little blog... uh, I mean, widely-followed and critically-acclaimed blog (much better!) falls in the ranks. I think I mention the word enough, and in natural conversational manner, for the SEO to be rather high. I'll have to check that out some point. If any of you guys beat me to it, be sure to leave a comment and let everyone know!

Back to the ducks in the pond... I thought it was interesting that the patriarchal duck would nip at the little ones if they were starting to trail off on their own. He was keeping his ducks in a row!!

When the duck family was on land, the little ones kind of wandered all over, but never too far from their mother. I'm sure I haven't seen the last of the duck family and am thinking about getting a picture. (We all know by now that I'm super manly and stuff, but the little ducklings were adorable!) If so, I'd like to put it up there -- *points up to header* -- but I'll have to research how to do that. Admittedly, I'm not the most tech savvy dude out there.

Back to my digression (because I just thought about something): You know, I google "ducks out of a row" sometimes (sans quotation marks) and am always stunned to find out that my blog doesn't top the list. Heck, it's not even in the first couple of pages (I stopped looking out of frustration).

Do you want to know what is in place in front of the Ducks Out Of A Row blog? All sorts of pages talking about "ducks in a row." How whack is that!? [I am, if nothing else, totally on the pulse of what all the hip kids are saying!] If someone is legitimately searching for ducks out of, and not "in," a row, Google is kind of screwing him.

Usually, I'm fine with Google. I generally have a dislike for corporate America, but I respect them as a company. Their shine has now been tarnished in my eyes, though!

Maybe I'll start a worldwide Facebook (speaking of corporate dislike...) campaign to have Google bring the Ducks up in the appropriate search ranks!

Alright, who's with me?

[Silence, broken only by the sound of crickets chirping and tumbleweeds, well, tumbling}

Okay, let's do this!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Contest you NEED to at least check out...

I have a Wednesday confession... but first, in typical Ducks fashion, a digression!

After I typed the confession bit up there, something occurred to me. I don't actually have to confess anything. This is my blog. I make up the rules, as I'm prone to do, but the truth of the matter is, I don't need to confess to stuff. You guys wouldn't be any wiser if I didn't. But I truly value my readers. It means a lot to me that someone out there (I'm pointing in your general direction right now...) is taking time from his or her day to read my goofy musings. That's pretty awesome when you think about it. I appreciate you guys, so I'm willing to share. Enough with all this "feelings" stuff. Now I need to do something manly like build a house from nothing but sticks, mud and the sweat of my brow...

Time for that confession! Uh, after starting the above digression, I forgot what I had to say. If I remember, I'll interrupt the following to further digress!!

I actually had another post in mind for the day, and maybe I'll write a second post if I have a chance later (but I'm not making any promises!). If I don't, Garrison Kellor, consider yourself off the hook until Friday. You're welcome.

So you are all probably wondering "What could possibly have stolen his attention that he is switching gears on us?" or, more likely, "Why does he always make these assumptions about what we're thinking?"

To which I reply, "What makes you think I have any kind of attention span?" or, more likely, "Touché, gentle reader. Touché."

Anyhow (you had to know that was coming if you've been following for awhile...), there is a truly amazing contest going on at a different blog and I must tell the loyal Ducks readers about it... also, I get five extra entries in the drawing. [Hey, I'm all about full disclosure here!]

Over at Sara McClung's Babbling Flow, she has a Very Vampire May Giveway contest and the deadline to enter has been extended to June 7th, midnight Eastern Standard Time (to be specific...).

Now, I probably wouldn't mention anything -- even for five additional entries -- if the contest wasn't simply AMAZING (note the caps, in all their glory...). She isn't offering penny candy or a free slap to the face or the bubonic plague. Heck, she isn't even just offering free puppies -- everyone loves free puppies -- or shiny quarters. No, her prizes are incredible!

Check it -- SIGNED copies of some of the most popular vampire novels out there. Sara is GIVING AWAY books by: Anne Rice (The Vampire Armand), Christopher Moore (his vampire trilogy), Charlaine Harris (the first three in her Sookie Stackhouse series... all you True Blood fans should be quite familiar with these!) and Stephanie Harris (Twilight)! There is also a Bram Stoker's Dracula, unsigned, but still very cool!

There are five different packages, each featuring books by the respective authors. Please swing by
Sara's place for further details!!

If you enter her contest, and I hope you do... Good Luck!! If any Duck reader wins any of these great packages, be sure to come back, leave a comment and let us know!

Not related to the contest or those amazing prizes -- but still concerned with Sara McClung -- she actually has a second blog for her photography and I think the name is great. Since I love sharing "great" stuff with you guys, how clever is the name "Simply Saradise?"

[The question was rhetorical, but we will accept "super clever" as the correct answer.]

Be excellent to each other!