Monthly Archives: April 2008

Shit, my goddamned toddler is cursing!

I got a text message from our babysitter, Sheena, while I was eating my microwave pizza for lunch at work Thursday. It said: “Mia said the ‘s’ word …ha ha.” Mia is 3, and she won’t be four for another few months. In most families, this would be a cause for concern. In my family, we call her a “late bloomer.” This is where I suppose I’m obligated to bring up the story of my own dirty mouth, and how I myself burst into the world of adult language. It was back in North Dakota in 1976, and to hear my dad tell it, I’d quietly snuck up on him while he was hammering a nail into something. Probably something wooden. Anyway, as I drew nearer, he missed the hammer and hit his thumb, and that’s when he yelled out “you BASTARD!” as many of us do when crush our own digits with blunt metal objects. I’m not sure if Dad was talking to himself or the tool, really, but on that day, one of them was a bastard, and the two-year-old version of me thought that was hilarious. “Bass Turd!” I sung out, triumphant, as if cars ran on bastard fuel and I’d just struck bastard in the backyard under the swingset. “Bass Turd! Bass Turd! Bass Turd!” And on that day, the torch was passed. My dad was able to quiet any sort of profanity volcano that may have been bubbling up under the surface of my polyester boy-suit on that particular day, but this was a stopgap measure, and he knew it. Pandora’s Box was open, and it was only a matter of time. My folks valiantly tried to keep my mouth clean and succeeded up […]

A Modest Online-Revenue Proposal For Newspapers

Back in the VHS vs. Beta video-format wars of the 1980’s, my family put all its ill-fated chips on Beta. More recently, I went all in with an HD-DVD player instead of Blu-Ray, and about four seconds after I did, Toshiba threw in the towel and stopped supporting HD-DVDs. I also thought Ryan Leaf would make a better NFL quarterback than Peyton Manning, and argued with my childhood friends that Dominique Wilkins would accomplish more in the NBA than that Michael Jordan guy ever would. In short, I have a long history of taking the road less traveled — the one that ends up dead-ending off a cliff. But one of the rare times when I came to a crossroads and actually made the right call was when I ditched my first love, newspapering, in favor of an Internet career. It was 1999 when I left the University of Missouri’s graduate program, master’s in hand, with a variety of prospects. Could’ve gone to a newspaper, magazine, TV station, even a radio station — but I chose the Web. For once in my life, it seems, I heard the train coming before it ran over me. These choices and the evaluation of their prescience are complicated, of course, but let’s stick to some basics: newspapers aren’t dying, but they’re a withered, palsied shell of what they once were. And the Internet — especially search-engine advertising, my agency’s exclusive area of focus — is booming. Making matters worse, newspapers by and large have done a very poor job of extending their businesses on the Web. Even today, watching newspapers’ Web efforts reminds me of a Saturday Night Live sketch back in the early 90s called “Carsenio.” Dana Carvey […]

Don’t forget to tip your airline pilot!

So I’m out on the deck Sunday afternoon reading the paper while the dogs and kids frolic in the yard, and I notice that this week’s Parade magazine is the “What People Earn” issue. You know the one — the one with about 100 mugshots of regular folks and their jobs and salaries, with the occasional celebrity and her 8-figure salary tossed in every now and then, just to keep us awake. (Gisele the supermodel made $33 million this year. I wonder if she and Tom Brady split the electric bill right down the middle, or if she pays a heftier share because she makes more.) This is the only time of year I read Parade, because I don’t really care what Hilary Swank’s favorite cheat-food is. I don’t want to know why Aretha Franklin chose “maple scone” for her bedroom paint color, and I already know that Marilyn vos Savant is so smart that she could stick an 8-ball under her armpit and squeeze out a unicorn’s paw (You know what? Screw you, Marilyn.). But the “How Schlubs Like You Are Scraping Together Your Meager Existence” issue is one of my guilty pleasures, and if you’re reading this, it’s probably one of yours, too. You comb through the thing like crazy, looking to validate yourself against other chumps out there doing a similar job and making less than you. Or, even better, doing a really crappy job that pays squat. “Hey,” you say to your reassured self. “At least I’m not that guy,” with “that guy” being: Herman Beckwith Dog shit picker-upper $6.75/hour I’ll be honest: I was cruising right along, shaking my head at sucker after sucker and […]

When I battle Satan, we will play Ms. Pac-Man

I was in a Phoenix bar one time, and after several gallons of beer, I started wondering about what I would do if I ever had to battle the devil to win back my soul (That’s the thing about alcohol…if nothing else, it really gets you thinking outside the box). I’m a business owner, a husband, a father of two, a friend to many — simply put, I take care of a lot of people. So I try not to let anything catch me by surprise, and I admit, I cast a pretty wide net. Anyway, I’m not sure how the real battles with the devil proceed, because all the ones I’ve ever seen have been on TV, and they’ve usually involved a rotund blues guitar virtuoso, string ties, top hats and at least one dusty crossroads in Mississippi. But I’m not very good at music, and Mississippi terrifies me. On that particular night, I decided that (and I concur today), to preserve the high drama involved in these sorts of showdowns, the devil would probably let you choose the actitivity in which you’d like to compete with him to salvage your soul. I mean, he’s probably really good at everything, and if you let him choose and he chooses something like short-program ice skating, then that’s just not even going to be a contest. Honestly, it’s just unrealistic and unworthy of even holding a competition. So, I chose typing. I’m past my typing prime, mind you, but I can still bang out 85-90 wpm when I’m on fire. Plus, see, the devil has hooves, not fingers, so — yeah? You see where I’m going, and all of a sudden I’m looking solid versus Old Scratch […]

Products I Like: ClicknKids (Click-N-Read Phonics)

Throughout her childhood, I’ve been a little conflicted about when to begin teaching Mia to read. When I was a kid, I read very early — I was reading at 3 years old. My daughter is a very sharp kid, and I’ve always just assumed that she would read as early as I did. This is a pretty tall assumption, though; 3 years old is damned early for a kid to be reading, and I didn’t want to be overbearing and force her to read before she was ready, or to place expectations on her that were based on nothing more than what I did as a 3-year-old. Then again, if the kid was ready to roll, then I definitely didn’t want to hold her back. Decisions, decisions. A couple months after turning 3, she started twice-a-week preschool, and after a few months of that, she knows all of the letters of the alphabet and what sounds they make. If you know all those, you’re pretty much ready to start learning to read, so I asked her if she was ready. She said yes, so we now have our hats in the ring. Something occurred to me shortly thereafter: I didn’t really have a clue how the hell to teach anybody to read, let alone a 3-year-old. I just pick stuff up and read it — I don’t remember the steps involved in getting to this point. This realization alarmed me, and not only for Mia’s sake. In the back of my mind, I always figured that if I ended up in prison somehow, I’d survive and earn protection from the tougher inmates by teaching them to read. What was I going to do now if […]

Products to Avoid: Zonbu

Unless you’re particularly interested in green computing (i.e., computers that don’t use much energy) or the Linux operating system, you probably haven’t heard of Zonbu, a small computer company in California that sells ultracheap laptops. I came across them in one of the tech/business magazines I read (can’t remember which one) and was intrigued by their unique proposition. At the time, they sold one product — a tiny CPU that was about the size of the Bible that the Gideons leave in every hotel room. It didn’t run Windows (great for security!), but its system emulated Windows for the user (great for usability!). It came preloaded with about 20 open-source alternative programs, so you could pretty much do any sort of basic computer use that you wanted to do (email, Web browsing, word processing, etc.). Its operating system supposedly updated itself, there was some online storage that came with the package, and it was only $99. You had to pay $14.95 or something like that per month for their online updates/no-hassle service, etc. Oh yeah, and it’s also apparently very earth-friendly, uses a tiny fraction of the power that a normal machine uses, is a “zero-emissions” computer, and every time you buy one, an environmental necromancer hurls a windpower-generated lightning bolt into the sky and God throws a dodo bird back from the dead. Or something to that effect. It was an interesting proposition, to say the least. At the time, though, it didn’t meet my needs. I need a powerful machine to do my work, and although it was an intriguing idea for my young daughter, Mia (she’s almost 4), the desktop model wasn’t going to work for her. She’s the type […]