Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Charlotte Country Club

The Charlotte Country Club is not a country club at all. I'm sure there are real country clubs down here, but it appears that church has taken the place of the traditional country club in the South. I knew that Charlotte had sort of a Jesus vibe when I first arrived. When you leave the Airport, you take Billy Graham Parkway to the interstate. You pass the Billy Graham Library as well as signs to Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's mega church (which is about five miles down the road). Then after you get off at my exit, you pass the Bible Broadcasting Network headquarters and this megachurch and this one and then you get to my house. Yeah, that first one is actually a church and not a Vegas casino. The place actually has named parking lots. Honey, did we park in Moses 4 or Abraham 3 today?

So back to the country club thing. When people find out that you're new to Charlotte, they try to feel you out to find out if you're a 'member' of a church yet or not. The same way that people do with country clubs everywhere else. They don't ask you if you go to church or what religion you are, they ask about membership. I didn't really know that this was an option, this whole membership thing, but I guess it is. Oh, and everyone has a bumper sticker for their corresponding church. At first I thought this was strange, but now I've got a theory that the church bumper sticker must be some kind of parking pass. Maybe if you have the bumper sticker, you get to park in Lot Jesus 1 instead of Lot Moses 4.

People that you meet are usually pretty forward with the church membership courtship process. Referring back to a previous post... the dog park guy who I awkwardly asked for his phone number...Kate and I went out with him and his wife, and we were only about a half hour into our date before we started getting the questions about our membership. Same thing happened with our neighbors. They had us over for dinner, and I don't think we even got to the main course before the sales pitch started. Here's how the conversation usually goes:

New Potential Friend: "So, have you guys joined a church yet?"
Nate (seeming completely uninterested) - "Nope"
Kate (showing more interest/just being nice) - "No, no we haven't"
New Potential Friend's Wife - "Oh, well we're members of [insert church name here]"
New Potential Friend - "[Church Name] isn't like other churches. It's really casual. People wear jeans and drink coffee and the [pastor/preacher/reverend] wears jeans"
Nate (still uninterested) - "Okay"
New Potential Friend's Wife - "We'd love for you guys to come with us this Sunday and be our guests and then go get breakfast afterwards"
Kate - "We'll see what we've got going on this weekend and will let you know"

So then Kate and I talk about it after the end of the date:

Nate - "I don't want to go to church with them"
Kate - "What if we go and then we don't like it and then at breakfast we just talk about church and then we don't go back and then every time we go out with them afterwards they are always thinking/talking about church and it would be really weird"
Nate - "I don't want to go to church with them"

So then I did what anyone in my position would do. I googled the local Catholic Church, found out what time mass was, and then came up with a story that we were going to that church instead. Which, of course, we weren't. I know that lying about church is probably not a very good thing to do, and Law and Order has taught me of the dangers of making up a false alibi, but I thought it was my only option here. Oh, and I'll clarify here that I've got nothing against church. But if a church isn't your particular brand of whiskey, that's okay too. 

It would be really cool if people around here would take that approach with actual country clubs. "Hey Nate, have you guys joined a country club yet? We're members of Quail's not like other country clubs, because you can wear jeans when you golf. If you want, you can come with me this Saturday morning for 18 holes and then we can have breakfast at the club afterwards." 

That hasn't happened yet. Probably never will. But a girl can dream, right?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Must Love Dogs

One of our new Charlotte activities is taking Gilbert to the area bark park. It's an awesome park; just five minutes from our house, lots of dogs, and about eight acres for our dogs to run and play. While I'm sure it's fun for Gilbert, it is also fun for us. The dog watching and people watching are unparalleled. 

We'll start with the dogs. You get to see every breed of dog imaginable. You'll see pug puppies that could fit in your pocket right next to a 200 pound Italian Mastiff. This dog is huge. He could hold his own in any men's locker room. Somebody needs to get that dog some underpants. One of my favorite things to do is to give the dogs new names. Most of the dogs have pretty boring names. You've got your Scouts, Buddys, Snoopys and Marleys. I think those dogs deserve better than the typical dog names. I usually name the dogs based on what they look like, often times based on celebrities. There's an Afghan that I call Sarah Jessica, a couple of labs that are Oprah and Gail (these dogs REALLY like each other). A corgi mix that I call Wild Baby Dingo. The skinny dogs are Lohan, Ashley, and Mary Kate. The list goes on and on. 

While the dogs are entertaining, the owners are really the stars of my little reality show. There are some crazy dog people. I guess we would probably qualify as such (depending on your criteria) but these people are nuts. The crazy ones are usually women in their 40s or 50s. They always come along (well, except for their dogs) and always come at the same time. Spotzie's mom says things like "oh, Spotzie gets cranky and has nightmares if I don't bring here here." Ashley's mom freaks out anytime another dog approaches her dog. I'm not quite sure why she brings her damn dog to the bark park if she is going to freak out with dog on dog contact, but whatever. I'm pretty sure that these women dress their dogs up and send out their Christmas card/picture with just the dog in it.

There are several bark park rules. Some are written, others are just common sense. The first (written) rule is no children under 16 allowed. This rule is not followed very closely. I'm okay with the typical 8-12 year old being there with mom or dad. Not because I like children, but because I think it's fun when my dog starts humping their dog, and the kid says something like "mommy, what's that dog doing to Scooter?" It's awesome that my dog can determine when they have to have the birds and bees (or dogs and dogs) talk with their kids. Some people really break the 'no kids' rule. There was a lady who brought her newborn in one of those hippie cloth sling things across her chest. I think she made it about ten minutes before realizing how incredibly stupid that was. Oh, and last week there was a lady who brought a kid in one of those SUV strollers. She just parked her stroller next to the bench and started talking on her cell phone while a dozen or so dogs sniffed/jumped on her kid. Gilbert was more interested in the diaper compartment below the stroller and focused most of his energy and poor behavior on that.

While child endangerment gets honorable mention, the winner of 'dumbest thing to do at a dog park' is bringing food. Bringing dog treats in your pocket is pretty stupid, but somewhat understandable. People think that if their dog misbehaves, they can just bribe him with a treat. What they don't realize is that every other dog in the park (including mine) will realize that they have treats and will maul them. So dog treats are dumb but understandable. Bringing in a picnic lunch for you and your kids is just idiotic. It doesn't take too long for someone to realize this. As soon as my dog (or another dog) steals their cheeseburger they get the idea.

So that's life at the bark park. It's a pretty good time. I've gotta go now. It's lunchtime and Gilbert knows it's time to go to the park. I don't want the baby to get fussy.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Spoiler Alert

One thing that I typically dislike is when people give away the ending and/or plot twist of a movie that I haven't seen. I get pretty annoyed when someone 'ruins' the movie for me. RJ is particular good at giving away the end of movies. He's seen pretty much everything, especially if it's some kind of independent art film. If it's something about a 7 year old autistic Cuban boy and the joy that his crayola crayons bring, then RJ has probably seen it. Anyway, he had a streak of giving away about three movies in a month stretch. The first two giveaways were accidental, I think. Once he realized how much it pissed me off, I'm pretty sure the 3rd one was on purpose.

So I've sworn off giving away the end of movies, but now is the time to break from my rule. The dog dies in the end.

If anyone is planning on seeing Marley and Me, good. It's a pretty good movie. Kate and I saw it on Christmas Day. We had both read the book, so we pretty much knew what to expect. It follows the growth of the dog and the family through the dog's ENTIRE life. I just assumed that everyone else that went to the movie on opening day probably would've already read the book as well. Apparently everyone else in the movie had never read the book. Maybe they didn't even know there was a book. Maybe they are just huge Jennifer Anniston/Owen Wilson fans. Or perhaps they just liked the onslaught of commercials and product tie-ins that were constantly on TV promoting the movie during the holidays. Whatever it was, the whole 'dog-dying-in-the-end" thing seemed to be a surprise for about 75% of the theatre.

The movie was sad, even for people who knew the story. Kate was crying, and she knew the damn dog was going to die. Pretty much the entire theatre was crying. I've never been in a place with so many adults crying (funerals included). Even though everyone was crying, you could tell that some of the crying people were completely blindsided by the dog death. They were the ones that in addition to the typical crying sniffles also had the crying gasps, or the full on sobbing. They should update the courtesy message at the beginning of that movie to say something like "Please silence your cell phones, keep your feet off the seats, and try to cry quietly." Kate and I were sitting next to a 40-something guy. He looked like he might be a plumber or electrician. During the dog's last days, his wife actually leaned over and asked him if he was alright. It was full on man-sob. he clearly hadn't read the book.

I understand why the studio people decided to avoid the whole 'the dog dies in the end' thing in the previews. It was supposed to be a feel good family movie. It was rated PG. It opened on Christmas day. Nothing says Merry Christmas like a dead family pet. But I think some kind of heads up would've been nice. Maybe something like "An amazing pet teaches one family about loyalty, love and loss." Or just something more obvious like "Marley and Me: The dog dies in the end."

So sorry to break my rule and give away the end of a movie. You'll thank me later.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

On Cartoons

Editor's Note: The following post might end up sounding like Andy Rooney. If you are one of those people who turn off 60 minutes before he starts talking, you might not enjoy this post. Sorry, but I just have to post on this subject, and I can't think of a way to do it without sounding like an old man with bushy eyebrows.

What the hell happened to cartoons? It's the weekend. It's the morning. Why can't I find any good cartoons? The stuff that is on is garbage. And it's not just network television. The stuff on cable isn't much better. As I see it, I have at least 4 channels that should get me some quality cartoons: Cartoon Network, Noggin, Nick, and Disney. Cartoon Network comes closest. They at least carry some good old school cartoons, they just bury them. In college we found out that they had the smurfs, but they only had them on from 3-4 AM. For about a week we set our alarm clocks for 3AM and woke up for smurfs. And by 'we', I mean I convinced my roommates that they should wake up and watch smurfs with me.

Anyway, Cartoon Network seems to save prime time for this anime stuff. I think there's an accent mark somewhere in Anime, but since I don't understand or like it, I'm not going to dignify it with proper punctuation. I tried to give this anime stuff a shot. I just don't get it. Put it in a box with Harry Potter, Radiohead, and Fax Machines. Label the box "Stuff that I really tried to understand but I just don't get it."

So Cartoon Network is out. So are Nick and Disney. I try to watch them sometimes. When Kate is around, she calls me a dirty old man (it's usually some tween comedy on there) for watching Disney. Doesn't Disney have the licensing rights to all of their cartoons? Why spend money creating new shows when they could just show today's kids all of the stuff that we watched? And every time I turn on Nickelodeon, that damn Drake and Josh show is on. I don't know why, but something makes me want to punch those kids. 

And then there's Noggin. I watched a couple hours of Noggin last night (we'll call it research) and almost had a seizure. Somewhere between "Pinky Dinky Doo" and "Wa Wa Wubzy" I realized that they aren't even trying with plot or character development. It's basically just a bunch of shapes and bright colors bouncing around. We should show this stuff to terrorists to try to break them. I'm no scientist, but I think Noggin is one of the major causes of half of the child population being on Ritalin. 

So I'm starting my own cartoons-only station. Here's a sample day of programming:

6:00 AM - 8:00 AM - Smurfs. I love Smurfs.
8:00 AM - 9:00 AM - Woody Woodpecker. Basically just so I can watch Chilly Willy. He really made that show.
9:00 - 10:00 - Tiny Toon Adventures. Mostly for the theme song.
10:00 - 11:00 - Scooby Doo. We'd put a strong emphasis on episodes that included the Harlem Globetrotters
11:00 - Noon - Garfield + U.S. Acres. The U.S. Acres characters really made this show. I mean, a walking talking egg? A pig named Orson? I think this was the only cartoon pig not named after a pig food product. Think about it, they aways name them stuff like Bacon or Hampton or Porky. Lame.
Noon - 1:00 - Muppet Babies. I put this on at noon because some days I'm gone at lunch, and I don't think I could take baby gonzo and baby fozzy everyday. They overact sometimes. 
1:00 - 2:00 - Duck Tales. I always wanted to go swimming in Uncle Scrooge's money.
2:00 - 3:00 - Captain Planet. Terrible show, but I do an awesome impression of Ma-Ti (the 'Heart' character)
3:00 - 4:00 - Inspector Gadget. Great show. Penny was hot. There, I said it.
4:00 - 5:00 - Gummy Bears. I now think that some company like Balco created this show so that people who grew up in the 80s wouldn't see anything wrong with taking something like steroids to get bigger, faster and stronger. It's basically just Gummy Berry Juice, right?
5:00 - 6:00 - Thundercats. Snarf.
6:00 - 7:00 - Heathcliff. I have no idea why he doesn't get more respect as a good cartoon. He is so much cooler than Garfield. They're pretty much the same cat, but Heathcliff is out being a badass at a junkyard while Garfield is just sitting on his fat ass talking about lasagna and listening to his whiny owner. Sorry for the language, but I'm pretty passionate about this one. Oh, and I've always wanted to hook up John Arbuckle with Cathy (Eeek!). I think they'd be perfectly miserable together. 

So that's my daily programming. There are plenty of others that we can put in from 7P - 6A. I have a few others that I like, but none of them deserve a daily slot. If you'd like to make a case for your favorite cartoon, I'll take it into consideration.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Senior Moments

My wife lives in a nursing home. She has been for a month, and I still laugh every time I say it. Technically, it's not really a nursing home. It's an independent living townhouse that is connected to a nursing home, but you get the idea.

Oh, and it's in the armpit of Indianapolis. For our Hoosier readers, you might see the place when you drive past Exit 103 on I-65. It's pretty much on the interstate, behind the Panda Express and a stone's throw from the scrapbooking superstore. I can't make this stuff up.

So here's the story. Yes, we did move to Charlotte about six months ago and have been enjoying the warmer weather and lack of blue laws. Everything in Charlotte has been pretty perfect, with the exception of Kate's job situation. She found a job here in Charlotte, and then broke some kind of record for putting in her notice during her 3rd day on the job. While that's a pretty amazing feat, it pales in comparison to the fact that she was talking about quitting when she called me to tell me she got the job. Now that's impressive. About this time, the world economy decided it was time to collapse. You might have read something about that. 

So then Kate's former employer in Indiana called her and asked if she could come back and cover a 3 month maternity leave. They'd take care of housing, and she could fly back to Charlotte on the weekends. Since I still come back to Indy every month, it didn't seem like too bad of a gig. Better than not working, right?

I think we underestimated a couple of things. First, we forgot how much the Midwest really sucks during the winter. I thought I was done with the term "thundersnow' forever when we moved to Charlotte, but it is now back in my vocabulary.

Second, we may have underestimated the unintentional comedy factor of living in a senior community. Honestly, all of her neighbors are either old or really old. Except for the few who are extremely old. Somewhere between old lady in Titanic old and Supreme Court Justice old. 

The first time I came to visit, I was coming in from a work trip and got to Indy around 1:00 AM. I then took a cab (a 91 Dodge Caravan without a muffler) and arrived at Kate's garden home around 2AM. Now, we've all visited a nursing home. Maybe to see a great aunt or even a grandparent. Imagine what it would be like if a super loud, beat up minivan pulled into your grandma's nursing home at 2:00 in the morning and a large 28 year old man got out. Yeah, it's a perfect setup for a joke, or maybe even our own reality show. The bathroom in her townhouse has an alert button, just in case you fall down in the shower. I could go on and on.

But despite the terrible weather (still not sure why anyone lives there) and the fact that her neighbors are watching everything she does and are probably scared that these young kids are going to steal their medicine and feed them to robots, we've got a couple good things out of the deal. First, I can tell people that my wife lives in a nursing home (yep, still makes me laugh). And Kate and I will have a great story to tell the grandchildren someday.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Guy on Guy Action

So when I started this blog post, I was going to write about the way that dog owners react when they see their male dog hump another male dog. I decided to scrap that subject, but will keep the title. I think it still fits. 

The new topic that still fits the title is guys asking other guys for their phone numbers. It's one of those awkward interactions that shouldn't be that big of a deal, right? Oh, and to clarify, this isn't any kind of a pickup situation. It's an asexual interaction, usually between two straight guys that have just met and think there is some friend potential. 

It has happened to me a few times recently. Mostly because I'm awesome, but also because Kate and I are actively seeking new friends in our sort of new city. So we're being more friendly to nice looking strangers than we usually are. Anyway, we've met a few people in random situations. Then you get to the end of the initial kickoff conversation, and it comes time for one brave man to ask the not as brave man for his phone number. The first time I did this (met a nice guy at the bark park - I think my dog was humping his) I was actually kind of nervous. There was that "what if he rejects me" kind of feeling. I mean, we were probably going to see each other again since we lived in the same area and both frequented the Bark Park. Would it be awkward if he rejected my advance? Or what if I get his phone number and then never call, that wouldn't be good either, right? I think this has gotten a little easier with cell phones. I guess the cool thing that the kids do these days is instead of exchanging numbers, just get the not so brave person's number, and then call them so they'll have your number. Those crazy kids and their cell phones. Yeah, I think this method is probably better than writing your name and number out on a scrap of paper. Because then you're walking around with another guy's number in your pocket.

I thought that this might only be something that people my age struggle with, but then I went golfing with my Dad today. Yeah, it's December 26th and I played golf today. Anyway, my dad and this other 60-something guy that we were paired with hit it off pretty well. They both live in the same 'active senior' mini-town, have similar interests (or interest - golf), and both like to play fast. So at the end of the round, the guy looked in his pocket for his business card to give to my dad, and when he couldn't find one, looked like someone had killed his dog. So sad that he couldn't give my dad his contact info so they could set up a future golf game. The thought apparently didn't even cross his mind that he could write down his phone number and give my dad his digits. So this either means that Larry wasn't very smart, or it becomes even more difficult to ask another guy for his number as you get older.  And Larry seemed pretty smart. Oh, the old guy approach to this is just to get the other guy's last name, so he can look it up in the phonebook. 

You crazy teens with your cell phones can't do that, can ya?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas Miracle

It's the holiday season and I'm in a giving mood. Instead of using this post to discuss the awkward six month blogging sabbatical that we have taken, I'll write about some Christmas traditions. Well, they aren't really traditions, but some stuff that I've always wanted to do, but just haven't gotten around to. I know, it's pretty lame that my first post in six months is just a list, but give me some time and hopefully I'll get back in the swing of things. So here goes...stuff that I've wanted to do around the holidays. Feel free to steal any of these ideas, I'm sure I didn't come up with them myself:

1. The Christmas letter. We've all received those cards from the perfect family that talks about their perfect life and their perfect kids. I've always wanted to create my own Christmas letter. Usually the idea goes one of two ways. The first idea on this topic is to just write about the most embarrassing/mundane/depressing things that happened to me in the past year. Most people only focus on the highlights. If you fill it with the bad stuff that happens, I think it'll make it more believable.

The other way to go is to make up a fake family and just talk about all of the awesome things that they are doing. Something like "Timmy and Tommy are doing great in Kindergarten. Timmy loves soccer and led his team in goals, while Tommy is reading at a 5th grade level." Oh, and to make it extra good, I could give each member of my fake family their own paragraph where they write in the first person (especially awful with pets and babies). Something like "Mommy says I'm a good sleeper."

So this has been on my list of things to do for a few years. It lives in the 'that's inappropriate' file. At least that's what Kate says.

2. Away in a manger. Two ideas around this theme. The first is to have a live nativity scene in my front yard. Like with Donkeys and stuff. Now that I think about it, Donkeys might be expensive. I'm not sure if I can even rent a donkey or if I'd have to buy it. Instead, maybe I'd just dress our dog up and put him in the nativity scene. Yeah, that would probably work better.

The other idea here is for Kate and I to dress up as Mary and Joseph for our Christmas Picture/Card and then to dress Gilbert (our dog) up in swaddling clothes. As you can imagine, this one is also in the 'that's inappropriate' file. 

3. Incompatible Inflatables. So I hate inflatable Christmas decorations that people put in their yards. The one way that I think this could get fun is if we put some of the traditional decorations in the yard with some of the um, trashy decorations. I was thinking maybe the three wise men along with Pooh and Tigger. Or maybe Mary, Joseph, and Garfield.

4. Guerrilla Mall Santa. I haven't really thought this one through a whole lot. I was at the mall last week buying RJ's 30th birthday gift (an airbrushed t-shirt with dolphins on it and his name, but that's for another post). Anyway, there was a line of about 100 kids waiting to sit on Santa's lap. It wasn't even that good of a Santa. So my thought is I could just sit on a random bench at the mall in a Santa suit. I'd charge half of what the 'official' mall Santa charges for pictures, and would give way better candy canes. This idea sort of falls apart when I think about the fallout. I'm guessing the mall brass probably wouldn't like this (since I'm undercutting their prices and offering a better product) so they'd probably find some way to press charges. I'm okay with that. What worries me is what the story would look like on the news. At the end of the day, I'd be a grown man at the mall dressed up in a costume trying to get kids to sit on his lap. There's really no way to sugarcoat this one. If nothing else, it would be an embarrassing moment to include in next year's Christmas card.

Happy Holidays. I promise it won't be six months before the next post.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Your Moment in the Sun

We've had some severe weather recently in the land of YIFY (check local listings). Lots of storms and flooding and all of that stuff that the rest of you have seen on the national news. I don't mind the weather for the most part, but I do mind the increased focus on the local weatherman. Specifically the interruptions to my regularly scheduled programming.

It starts with the crawl on the bottom of the screen. Basically just a list of counties that can expect bad weather in the next few hours. This isn't too bad, unless I'm watching a something like golf that has its own crawl across the bottom of the screen. It's when they cut into my television for the local weatherman to come on and show me a graphical representation of what the crawl on the bottom of the screen has already told me. This is big time stuff for the local weatherman. It's his moment in the sun. He's breaking in during prime time to tell us all about the storms that are coming. There's no need for banter with the anchors and he doesn't even have to talk about pressure systems or anything coming down from Canada. Nope, all he has to do is point to the green, yellow, and red blots on the screen and say that we can expect winds, rain, hail, and maybe a funnel cloud. You can see how excited the weatherman gets during this moment in the sun. He'll zoom in on the storms, do a little highlighting and circling with the telestrator, and maybe even instruct us to go to the basement or lay down in a ditch. This is the moment that weathermen dream about during weather school.

Side note: Why do they have to refer to different areas by county? I know this is what the national weather service does, but you'd think that the local weather guy could add some value here by actually naming some cities. Instead of saying that this band of storms stretches from Southeastern Putnam County to Northern Monroe County, he could add value by saying that you should watch out if you live between Greencastle and Bloomington. Or does everyone have a better grasp on counties than I do?

Anyway, the weatherman plays up his moment in the sun. No more waiting for his four minutes in a 30 minute broadcast...this is all about him and he's drunk with power. There are other examples of people playing up there moment in the sun. Scrubs did a bit about the time when the dermatologist gets called in for a surgical consult and that's his moment in the sun. I love that show.

Weddings present several opportunities for moments in the sun. First, there's the priest/minister/reverend guy who has a new audience. His power trip usually starts during rehearsal. At a wedding this weekend I had to practice walking my bridesmaid down the aisle three times because I was doing it wrong. I'm pretty sure the minister guy was just trying to prolong his moment. Then there's the deejay at the reception. He's the only one with a microphone, which gives him lots of power and lots of opportunities for a moment in the sun. Fortunately the deejay this weekend didn't abuse his power. He was willing to give me his microphone (which he was sure to turn off) long enough for me to fake karaoke to a couple of songs and tell all of the young children that they should go home and download the entire Journey catalog.

Oh, and then there's the guy who knows the entire Thriller dance. His moment in the sun involves him going solo on the dance floor and dancing like a zombie. His moment lasts about 7 minutes. This is about 6 minutes too long.

There are plenty of other examples of people with their moment in the sun. It's not quite Andy Warhol's 15 minutes, because the individual didn't really do anything to deserve their moment, it doesn't really bring them 'fame' and it usually is over in less than 15 minutes. Like the guy who works for the hurricane bureau or whatever national agency looks at hurricanes. Most of the year he just sits around coming up with names for hurricanes, but there's that one night per year when he gets interviewed by Brian Williams and tells us that he thinks it's going to be a bad storm season this year. Thanks man, we'll see you again next year. Now get back to thinking of a female name that starts with Y.

So my apologies to RJ for going away from the blog charter/mission statement on this post. He isn't allowed to complain until he posts something again. Let me know if you guys have any other examples of people enjoying their moment in the sun. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Free Cat on 2!

My blogmate asked me yesterday if we have strayed too far from the original purpose of the blog (which had something to do with helping others survive their mid-late 20s/early career). This is RJ's passive-aggressive way of making a statement, or asking me to get back on message with the blog. And didn't he say this was the year of the bold and direct RJ?

While I disagree with his methods, he's probably right. I've been blogging about whatever I've been thinking of, rather than thinking about keeping a common theme going here. So I'll use this post to talk about a universally misused communication channel: internal, company email. More specifically, this is about the (mis)use of distribution lists.

The Red ! - Outlook users of the world are familiar with the red ! is supposed to signify that a message is important or urgent. I have not used this feature in the past three years, and I don't think it has impacted the ability for me to get my point across via email. When I receive emails with the Red !, I typically ignore them - especially when they are sent to a large group. My thought here is that nothing that I really do at work is urgent, so if the email is marked with the !, then it must be directed at someone other than me. I also think that if I get enough people to start ignoring the !, then maybe people will just stop using it altogether.

Plz and Thx - Stop it. No more abbreviations in email. These aren't time savers. It's more difficult to find the 'z' or the 'x' than it is to just spell out the damn word. Oh, and abbreviations are even worse if they are in a ! email. If an email is really important, than you should probably take the time to use your grown-up words. Abbreviations are only okay if you aren't sure how to spell a certain word. If you struggle with the spelling of 'congratulations' then I'll accept the use of 'congrats' but you should probably just give in to the power of the dog, the paperclip or the squiggly line.

Reply All - I don't understand why, but people still struggle with this one. If you only want it to go to the sender, then just hit reply. If you want it to go to everyone on the distribution list, then reply all. If you aren't sure who to send it to, just ask yourself if everyone on the distribution list would be able to pick you out of a police lineup. If not, then your opinion/reply probably isn't important to the entire group.

The Forward - This is what Hotmail accounts and great aunts are for, not work email. If you start out an email with "I usually don't send this type of thing at work, but..." then you should just look in the upper right hand corner, find the X, and click on it.

The Giveaway - People in our office (and probably most offices) try to pawn off their unwanted stuff in email all the time. That's where the title to this post came from, in case you were wondering. Actually the title came from a post that RJ started about a month ago, but he hasn't written it yet, so I felt like it was okay to steal the title. Anyway, I have witnessed solicitations for dogs, cats, furniture, pizza, old laptops, and even a house in the past couple of years. This is not okay. I don't want your stuff. Well, pizza is okay, but not the others.

The Re-purposed Out of Office Message - So you're going on vacation and getting ready to tell the world via automated response that you are not going to get back to them. Take the extra five minutes necessary to scan your out of office message to ensure that it accurately reflects the date and seasons. I have a folder of my favorite out of office messages. I have some that say things like 'happy holidays' that I received in late April. Are you really that excited about Arbor Day or is this your first day off since Christmas?

The PSA - There are lots of great causes out there. I know this. If you want to advertise one of them, use the bulletin board or the bathroom door. These are public spaces. My inbox is my personal space. If your coworkers didn't know that it was election day and use your email as motivation to get out and rock the vote, then there's a good chance that they really didn't read up on the candidates/issues. So do you really want them to vote?

So that's it. A blog post that relates back to the YIFY value proposition. I hope you're happy, RJ. Oh, and if anyone has any great examples of these, plz post them as comments. There might be a free cat in it for you. Thx!!!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

All I Really Need to Know I Learned at Your Airport

I've been spending a decent amount of time traveling lately. So while I'm waiting for Group 4 to board, I figured I'd comment on the latest of my poorly developed theories. I've decided that instead of visiting cities to determine if the city is a good fit, you can just spend an hour in the airport and learn what the city is all about. The basic premise is that most airports in most cities look a whole lot like the cities themselves. I'm sure that there are some exceptions, but here is my evidence thus far:

Indianapolis: This one might change (we're getting a new airport) but the city and current airport share several qualities. It's cheap. Parking is $6.50/day at the airport, and food is moderately priced, much like the city. Both the city and airport also have way too much sprawl for their size (you'll taxi for 15 minutes on the runway, to get to one of their 15 gates).

Miami: It's big and noisy. There are pushy people, obscene humidity, and a general disinterest in being helpful. It's pretty much New York + more humidity + really attractive people who make bad wardrobe decisions.

Salt Lake City: Incredibly sterile. Really clean bathrooms and really large families. I was in a line with about 30 people in front of me, but there were only 3 families.

Chicago: Too much stuff in too small of a space. Always late. Noisy. Frustrating. Always seems like someone is really close to going nuts and getting violent - both in the city and the airport.
Note: this is a commentary on Ohare. Midway is okay, I guess.

Atlanta: There are good parts and really bad parts. They allow indoor smoking and the Airtran terminal feels like a Greyhound station. Lots of greasy food.

Vegas: Lots of old people gambling. Really expensive.

So that brings me to Charlotte. Kate and I visited the city a few times before we decided to live there, but we probably could have saved some time and money by just visiting the airport. It's nice and clean and everything feels new. Good shopping and food. Oh, and they have rocking chairs.

Well that's my theory for today. Would love for the loyal YIFY readers to comment on how their airports are/aren't an accurate reflection of their city. And if you disagree with this theory, that's okay. I'm working on a couple more, including:

1. A new sliding scale on how much you can spend on something unnecessary that could potentially be memorable. Basically $100 for every year that you'll remember something. So if some meal/trip/wine costs $300, then it's only a good investment if you think you'll remember it for the next three years and reference it in stories to friends/acquaintances.

2. Houston is the worst city in the world. You can prove this by taking the city that you dislike the most, and then take away the best thing from that city (whatever that may be) and you'll probably end up with something that looks a lot like Houston. Like take L.A. and get rid of the're basically left with Houston.

I better stop now. Using multiple subjects in the same post and starting to sound like Andy Rooney or Larry King. I think it's time for Group 4 to board.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Two Kinds of People

I read a lot of Cosmo. Oh, and Glamour. I do this on the off chance that Kate buys one of these (rarely) or when I'm waiting in line at Wal-Mart. Some people might be embarrassed to read Cosmo while waiting in line at Wal-Mart. If you are one of these people, just look at the other people waiting in line. Your secret is probably safe.

Side note #1 - How are these magazines socially acceptable? They're pretty much female porn without the pictures. Just read the cover if you're too embarrassed to read the articles. Just on the cover, you'll find teasers about your moan zone, what he likes in the sack, and how it's okay to sleep with your boss. These things should have the plastic cover on them. But then I guess I wouldn't be able to read them at Wal-Mart. Nevermind. They're harmless.

Side note #2 - If you're a 28 year old male, people give you a strange look if you're reading People or Cosmo. If you're reading Cosmo Girl or Teen People, then it's a little creepy. This is sort of ironic, since the actual content of the tween versions are much less graphic, but I guess it's because Miley Cyrus is on the cover. She's always on the cover.

So back to Cosmo. I have many favorite parts, but if I had to pick just one, it would be the quiz/testing section. Maybe it's because I like numbers, or maybe it's something else. Either way, these things are great. For those of you who haven't read Cosmo (or want to pretend like you never have) you basically have 10 multiple choice questions. After answering these 10 questions, you add up your score, and then go to the corresponding table to find out what outlandish statement the editors of Cosmo use to classify people with similar scores. 0-12 = You're a dead fish. 13 - 20 = You should leave your husband and sleep with the pool boy. 21 - 35 = You should quit your job. You get the idea.

I've decided to come up with a YIFY compatibility test. After completing this test, you'll know if you're compatible with RJ's posts, my posts, or both. There should probably be four options for each question, but I'm already procrastinating as it is, so we'll have to settle for two. For each question that you answer A, give yourself one point, and B's are worth 2 points.

Question 1: What is your idea of a perfect weekend?
A. Going to an art museum on Friday, an open water swim on Saturday, and doing a crossword puzzle during breakfast at Bob Evans on Sunday.
B. Eating Pizza, Drinking Beer, and Watching sports on TV. All weekend.

Question 2: When someone brings up politics, you
A. Say that you're independent, bring up one harmless issue, and show that you know what you're talking about while still making it clear that you really don't want to talk about politics.
B. Make a smartass comment that will probably offend the other person, even though you know you shouldn't. And then make the conversation more awkward by somehow bringing up religion.

Question 3: When you meet a new coworker, you
A. Make an effort to introduce yourself. Give the new person the benefit of the doubt, and invite them to do something, somewhere.
B. Avoid an introduction. Make it known that you don't like change, and start with the opinion that the new person is an idiot. This way you can only be pleasantly surprised if the person is good at their job, and you'll look like a genius if the turn out to be an idiot.

Question 4: When someone mentions Indianapolis, you
A. Talk about all of the great local spots, offer recommendations, and probably invite them to do something, somewhere.
B. Say the same inappropriate things that you brought up in the political discussion, and mention again that you're moving.

Question 5: When a coworker asks you to grab a beer after work, you
A. Think, sure, maybe I can stop by for one before I go do what it is that I was planning on doing tonight
B. Clear your schedule for the evening

What does this mean?
5 You should probably just read RJ's posts
6-9 Read all of our stuff
10 We should probably hang out
11+ Leave your husband and sleep with the pool boy

Order Up.

I'm the guy who asks waiters for his recommendation on what to order. Some of my friends think this habit is embarassing, or annoying, or that it slows the ordering process. Or that it puts the waiter on the spot. People who know my dad thinks that my habit of asking a waiter for a recommendation is very Roy Talyor-ish. Whatever the case, I'm that guy.

There are entire industries based on the idea that someone else knows better. Consultants are paid for their expert advice. Doctors are, too. Travel companies and tour guides are supposed to know their respective cities or points of interest. When I go to a restaurant, I like to know what's good and what sucks, and so I'll ask the waiter, who's supposed to be an expert at their restaurant, right?

I understand that asking the TGI Friday's waiter might not be worth it, as he inevitably respond with "I haven't tried that" or he's just working there to make some extra money over the summer. I know this because I used to be a waiter at TGI Friday's. Or some waitstaff might be expected to know the wine menu but instead only know a few. I know this because I waited tables at a different restaurant (Friday's doesn't have a wine list) and knew only one white and one red recommendation. But at a non-chain restaurant, or one in an unfamiliar city or foreign country, you can count on me to ask for a recommendation.

Yesterday, I was in Lisbon, Portugal, at this crowded restaurant in the Bairro Alto district. Picture small cobblestone streets, Portuguese people (okay, and tourists) spilling out of the local pubs. Picture a cool evening with the sun setting where you can barely hear the crash of the Atlantic waves. Now put three different guys in that mental picture all asking me if I want to buy cocaine. You get the scene. Right down the street from cocaine dealer #2, there's this great restaurant called Bato Alto. It's crowded with locals and all the other people who bought Lonely Planet: Lisbon. After a wait of about a half-hour, we get wedged into a tiny corner to delight in this authentic experience.

Our waiter spoke English, so I asked him his recommendation. He said they were known for dried fish, which I didn't want. But in our trek through the crowded restaurant, I saw someone with a bowl of a risotto-looking dish being served tableside by another waiter. It looked kind of like oatmeal, or slop, or something mushy, brown/gray with clam shells in it.

I asked our waiter about it. He said that it had shrimp, clams, clam shells, herbs, rice and a raw egg mixed in. "99 percent of people don't like it," he advised. My sister had her friend ordered the dried fish and the specialty cod, so I thought I'd just eat more bread or something if I didn't like my order. The raw egg made me a little wary until Martha said, "you eat raw cookie dough all the time." Good point.

The waiter came to the table, dropped the raw egg and mixed it all up and served it. I must be part of the 1%, becuase it was good slop. When dessert time came, the waiter said that he didn't like the fruit and nut pie. I ordered against his recommendation on that one, too.

In other news: I'm finishing this blogpost in the Philadelphia airport. I think I just saw New York from MTV's I Love New York. Rewind and put that TV show on my list of guilty pleasures.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Time Well Wasted

So when I tell people that I'm blogging these days, I usually get one of three responses:

1. Something positive. Either "oh, I'll check it out" or "that sounds fun" or something else harmless and indifferent.

2. Something annoying. Like an Urban Hipster op-ed piece on blogging. Usually something about blogging being "inherently narcissistic." That's eight syllables in two words, so I don't pay attention to these types of comments - usually made by intellectual types. I don't hear them. I'm too busy thinking about me.

3. Something honest, like "That sounds like a waste of time." This one is true. Blogging is nothing if not a waste of time.

That said, I think it's a pretty good waste of time. I think blogging has saved me from wasting time doing things that are an even bigger waste of time. Here are a few things that I've thought of doing recently, but have instead chosen to 'waste time' blogging:

The Vytorin Petition: I've considered starting a petition aimed at the Vytorin Marketing Department - or the agency that is trying to squeeze additional value out of this one idea. They're the people that have the marathon advertising campaign about the two sources of cholesterol (food and family). So the petition would basically state that a) we get it - everyone in your target demographic realizes that there are two causes of cholesterol AND b) stop it - nobody has an aunt named 'Arjuna' and if we did, she wouldn't look like 'spicy tuna'. You've run out of foods that look like people, and you've run out of names that rhyme with foods.

As you can see, I'm pretty passionate about this one. It'll probably get done, even though blogging has stopped me from starting this campaign for the past couple months.

Impulse buys: This didn't used to be such a big deal. Back in the day, this was just a copy of US Weekly at the grocery store checkout. These impulse buys will still happen (how else would I know who wore it best). The impulse buys that blogging stops are the more dangerous, online impulse buys. Like a few nights ago when something made me think of the original New York Seltzer (see 12 oz glass bottles, 1988 - 1993). This random thought led to Google, which led to some discussion board filled with people who think about New York Seltzer way more than they should, which led to an overpriced case of black cherry original New York Seltzer on Craig's List. Keep in mind that this product has not been produced since 1993. Anyway, blogging stopped my quest for seltzer short of providing my MasterCard security code.

Thinking about things that I'll never understand: I'll still overthink small, unimportant things (see last post). But I think the blog stops me from thinking about some of the mysteries of life. Things like "how do fax machines work" or "why doesn't cow waste contain more visible corn - it's pretty much all they eat" or "what goes through a person's head when they decide to buy sweatpants with writing on the butt." These are questions that I've struggled with for quite some time. I used to think about them during long runs in the country (that explains the one about cows). Now I just think about my next blog topic instead. If I'm not blogging enough, that probably means that I'm not running enough.

So thanks for reading this narcissistic waste of time. Oh, and don't try to explain how fax machines work, I enjoy the mystery. If you grew up on a farm and have a decent grasp on the cow/corn thing, feel free to explain. Or if you want to start the Vytorin petition, I'll be the first to sign.

YIFY Goes Global

I wish I had a unifying theme for this post, but I really don't. Other than: I'm in Europe. Here are a few stories that I'll share via blog so Nate doesn't have to hear me repeat them when I get back next week. . .

I walked into the Haagen-Dazs and in my best Spanish, asked for a chocolate ice cream cone. As with most of the Spanish people I've encountered in the service and foodservice industries, this guy spoke English and replied to me in English, as if he was embarassed at my attempt at the foreign language. But how did he know that I was an English speaker?

Clue #1: I over-do it. Comparative example:

Me (in Barcelona, in translation): "Excuse me, sir, please. I would like chocolate."
Me (at the South Bend Chocolate Company in Indianapolis, in English): "Chocolate."

Clue #2: I try to order way over at the side of the ice cream shop, down toward the end of the ice cream case. Since the scooper is typically centered, this requires an awkward movement for the scooper. But this spot is where I'm out of earshot of other store patrons. No comparative example can be achieved in written form.

Clue #3: I have a bad accent.

He handed me the cone and asked, "Vote for Obama, Hillary or McCain?"

I replied, "How did you know I was American?" This guy knew I spoke English, but I could have been British, right? As much as I try to look and play local, I think I'm as American as they come. So we ended up talking a little about politics, and it's nothing new to say how surprised I was that this Spanish guy knew so much about the American election. But this guy was 17 or 18.

I just arrived in Barcelona via Frankfurt, where I was visiting a college friend, Jens. Jens was a fraternity brother of both Nate and mine, and we keep in semi-contact that grants us just enough permission to call each other up when we're in town in our respective cities. Or in my case, to stay at his house for three days when I'm in Germany.

On Sunday, Jens and I went to cheer on his friend, Fabian, in an adult soccer league. Afterwards, we drove Fabian home, and Fabian asked me what were some differences between the US and Germany. Here's what I came up with:

Pork: the German word for pork is spelled a lot like "swine." Germans eat a lot of pork, and German restaurants feature a lot of different types of pork on their menus. Especially since the word "swine" is unappetizing, I steered clear of this menu item. I told Fabian that in Germany, it's chicken that's the "other white meat." He didn't get the joke.

Hatchbacks: because of space constraints (streets are small) and gas prices (they're at almost $10/gallon. . .), most Germans drive hatchbacks. [I'd insert a joke about hatchbacks here, but this just makes sense].

Screens for Windows: at least in Frankfurt, every house had their windows open without concerns for bugs and mosquitoes flying in. Jens' dad explained that their climate isn't good for mosquitoes, but he anticipates that the climate change is going to affect that.

I hope Europe brings me some sort of ironic or sarcastic realization that will drive my next themed blogpost, but this will have to do.

Any suggestions from you, loyal reader, on hotspots to visit whilst in Barcelona?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Pleased to Meet You

I have a bad habit of overthinking things that could be classified as unimportant and then making big decisions without really thinking about them. My college decision was based on the golf coach. The golf coach who retired before I started college. We bought our house (or the dirt where we would have the house built) on the first morning of our house hunt. We didn't even make it to the suburb where we were planning to look.

One of the seemingly unimportant things that I spend lots of time thinking about is how to introduce Kate when she meets people that I already know. Most people would classify this as unimportant or just reactionary. Most people would just say "Hi (insert acquaintance name), this is my wife, Kate." I've never really liked this approach. It seems old-fashioned and possessive to me. Like it's some kind of code for saying "This is the woman who cooks the family supper while I tend to the land." Also, of all of the things that she does and is, I don't think being "my wife" is the most impressive. It isn't something she'd put on her resumé. So "this is my wife, Kate" is out.

I've also tested out "Hi (insert acquaintance name), this is Kate." What I've found is that when I avoid using any label/title, people start thinking that you have some kind of complicated relationship that is too complex to sum up in one word. Like we're some kind of Jerry and Elaine or Ross and Rachel or Dawson and Joey or Seth and Summer couple. This is clearly not the case. So using no title/label won't work.

Lately I've gone with "Hi (insert acquaintance name), this is Kate, my wife. This method puts her in front of the possessive "my wife" but the downside is that usually as soon as someone hears the name, they don't wait through the comma pause to hear the title - they just usually go in for the awkward handshake or side-hug. So even though this is the method that I'm going with right now, I'm not convinced that it's the best.

There are definitely worse introduction techniques. Kate and I had a former coworker who always led with "This is my Beautiful Wife [pause] (insert wife's name). That one was really bad. Whenever I'd see her around the office, I'd just think of her husband's introduction and I'd throw up a little bit. We had another coworker who was in her mid 30s and thought that the term 'boyfriend' seemed too high school, so she'd just refer to him as her 'partner'. That one would lead to people making false assumptions about her sexual orientation. I guess 'partner' is one of those words that no longer means what it used to mean - sort of like 'urban' no longer has anything to do with living in a city.

So if you've met me and you haven't met Kate, just come right up and say "oh you must be Kate - I've heard so much about you." Or I guess you can just stand there and watch me struggle through the introduction - that's probably what I'd do. If you have any suggestions on this one, let me know. Even if you're suggestion is for me to stop thinking about stuff like this.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Seat's Saved

People make a big deal about seating assignments. Everyone has an airplane story about being stuck between the wrong seatmates which, OMG, made it the longest ride of their lives!!!! But it's true--the wrong seat assignment can ruin a trip or any situation, really. Nowadays, I avoid flying Southwest altogther to ensure I can reserve a window or aisle (depending on the length of the trip). Even knowing you're stuck in the middle is worse than getting on the plane and being forced into it. But getting a good seat assignment is worth bragging about; just ask me about my first class trip to Buenos Aires.

Outside of airlines, seating assignments are important, too. In grade school, classmates wished they had my last name--mine starts with "T"--because it earned me a consistent spot in the fourth or fifth row back from the teacher. Out of the teacher's eye, you could get away trading Garbage Pail Kids and playing pencil pop.

But you know me; I wasn't throwing spitwads with the Smiths, Thomases and Youngs. No, I was taking notes and tucking in my collared shirt. Sidenote: the one time I took advantage of my back-of-the-class last name position, I folded and flicked a paper football. Just my luck: it landed near the eye of this girl named Kathryn. She claimed it hit her in the eye and blinded her. No worries, gentle readers: her eyes are fine. I see her walking around downtown without the aid of eyeglasses, or even contacts. My punishment for launching this "missle" ("missle" was the word used on the "Pink Slip" I carried with me) in the seventh grade was my first trip to the principal's office. For those curious, I received my one (and only) in-school punishment. My assigned seat for the following day was ISS, or "in school suspension" with the vice principal. Kathryn, I hope you're happy.

In middle school gym class, we started every class by sitting in assigned rows on the gym floor. This seated line-up eased the attendance process for our gym teachers before we embarked on learning a new hybrid ball sport that the gym teacher made up (e.g. basketrugby). I'm not making this up. The worst part was that we had multiple-choice (remember ScanTron?) tests on the rules to the gym teacher's fake game. You know me; I could have used some more practice on basketball.

Swimming competitively earned me a pass out of high school gym class, though the assigned seat concept was fairly consistent in classes through high school. I went to a high school of 3,000+ students, and I wonder if my seating assignments for four years resulted in my knowing the R, S, U, and V last namers moreso than the those with last names starting with the beginning letters of the alphabet. Probably not, because at my high school graduation, I sat next to a guy I'd never met in my four years of going to high school. His last name also started with "T-A."

The idea of assigned seats faded in college, but my assigned seat at my college graduation was next to my ex-girlfriend. Those four-and-a-half hours passed with a little awkward small talk and a lot of sweating under my black cap & gown.

Assigned seats give everyone a sense of belonging, a spot in the world. Just think how many awkward tray-holding moments I'd have avoided by having an assigned seat in the middle school lunchroom. My parents knew the potential trouble with unassigned seats at mealtime, and assigned my three sisters and me to permanent spots around our kitchen table (we also had assigned spots in the family station wagon). But people crave routines, and I think we prefer assignments to a free-for-all. Just think: people tend toward sitting in the same spot, even when it's not assigned.

My first job out of college, I had an assigned desk in an abandoned floor of the bankrupt company's headquarters. I shared the full floor with four other people. The desk (and the entire company) felt like a jail cell. Ironically, my first seating assignment at my current company was in a large, windowless closet. Despite the size, we had some good times there. We named it "The Den," and on Fridays, I'd blast "Do You Realize??" by the Flaming Lips on my sweet computer speakers. I miss those days.

I'm switching to a new job at work. And the new job is in a different department, which means a new desk assignment. This might end up being great. But I'm just so used to walking into work, saying hey to my workboo, hugging Nate (see earlier post), then powering up my brain and computer at my assigned desk. Nate and I sit next to each other. We have postcards of our travels on the wall. We know "who tall" people are. We have The Abuse Robot as a pet. We like our neighbors.

So now it's new job, new seat. I'll let you know how the new assignment sits with me.

Friday, May 16, 2008

House For Sale

As many of you already know, Kate and I are selling our house. I guess we technically aren't 'selling' it, but we are decorating our lawn with a big sign and cleaning more often than we usually do. There are a few positives that have come out of this whole house selling experience:

1. Our house always smells like chocolate chip cookies
2. I'm able to spend more time and money on my lawn and chalk it up as an investment in 'curb appeal'
3. Gilbert is getting more exercise. I have to walk him during showings, and for some reason people like to spend lots of time in our house. 45 minutes to see our house? Seriously...I don't think I spent that much time touring Graceland.

Anyway, if I've learned anything from HGTV and TLC, it's that selling a house is usually a sentimental time for the house sellers. For some reason it doesn't really feel like that for Kate and I. Maybe it's because we're not really sentimental people. We always mention that when we watch Wife Swap or The Biggest Loser and the reunited couples always freak out like the husband has been in Iraq for 12 months, as opposed to just being in Cleveland for the past 2 weeks or being at adult fat camp for 10 weeks. I think we'd just say "hey, how's it going" and then Kate would probably start telling me stories about what happened at her work while I was away in reality television land.

I also think that the non-sentimental move might be a result of our experience in our house. It has been a good house. Nothing has really gone wrong. I don't have any stories about when the pipes burst, or when the basement flooded. Also, we don't know our neighbors at all. I've met them a few times over the past four years, but still don't know their names. I've considered stealing the neighbor's mail just long enough to get his first name, but I hear that's a federal offense.

We also don't really have any of those coffee commercial memories in our house. No Christmas mornings or family Thanksgivings or anything like that. We do have a few lasting memories:

1. The time the church bus stopped at our house and asked Kate if her parents were home and if she would be interested in going to Jesus Camp for the summer. I think she was 25 at the time.

2. The two times that our rural Indiana, cookie-cutter neighborhood has been featured on the local news station. Once for a neighbor shooting her boyfriend and the other time for people breaking into cars and stealing purses and iPods. We were so proud. Since we don't really talk to our neighbors, we probably wouldn't have known about either of these occurrences if it wasn't for our 90 seconds of fame on the Indy news.

Thanks for stopping by for this trip down memory lane. Oh, and if you're looking for a new house, just let me know. You can help yourself to a cookie.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Nate posts more than me. I admire his commitment to the yourselfinfiveyears readers. I also admire Nate's ability to stay direct with me in his attempts to get me to blog more.

"Did you blog?" he'll ask me in the morning (post-hug). Other times, he'll say, "you need to blog tonight. Blog about [insert topic]."

That's something you have to admire about Nate: he's direct. Me? I'm more passive aggressive. It's a skill (?) that I learned over time that helps me to fulfill my lifelong quest to avoid controversy. (As a sidenote: earlier this year, I dedicated myself to "boldness" in 2008. I'm attempting to embrace the benefits that can result from speaking your mind. So far, that boldness has landed me with exactly zero dates, and some upset friends and family members). But, back to 'voluntelling.' Here's an example.

Last week, I was on a client call, and it went something like this:

Me: "Sorry to volunteer you, Charles, but I'm wondering if you could [insert task]"
Charles: "Sure, no problem."
Client: "Um, I don't think that's called 'volunteering,' R. J., I think that's called 'voluntelling.'"

Since then, this hybrid verb, 'voluntelling,' has shown up repeatedly in my life. I submitted an entry to Urban Dictionary for it. Not only because it's funny, but because there are so many times throughout a day that voluntelling is used as a way to instrust, ask or demand someone to do something.

I got a taste of my own medicine last week when I was voluntold to share my allotment of two swimming lanes at the weekly swim lesson I teach. In this instance, the aquatics director approached me on the pool deck:

Her: "Hi R. J."
Me: "Hi"
Her: "I wanted to run something past you"
Me: "Sure, what's going on?"
Her: "You don't mind giving one of your swim lanes to Peter"
Me: ". . . "

I had no response.

Because there was no response; there was no question! To voluntell is to make a statement that's cleverly diguised as a question, but it's positioned in a way you can't refuse. Or if you do refuse, you're going to later say, "you know, that really wasn't worth it." Because it just wasn't. So instead, you agree. Or don't say anything in response. Because the voice and inflection made you think it was a question. And you were momentarily under the spell. A swaying pocketwatch. You're getting sleepy. You've been told. Voluntold.

So this week, be on the look out for:

"you wouldn't mind if. . . "
"sorry to volunteer you. . . "
"you can't see. . ."
"you probably wouldn't. . . "
"you don't care. . ."
"sorry that I didn't mention it earlier. . . "

I'm sure there are others. Sorry to ask, but you wouldn't mind commenting on what I'm missing on this list.

The Notebook

Sorry to disappoint, but this is not a tribute to the Nicholas Sparks novel, or a tribute to the dreamy Ryan Gosling. This is a post about the notebook that one of my friends keeps on her desk at work.

The notebook is a list of words that shouldn't be used. Ever. There are all kinds of words in the notebook. Some are corporate buzzwords, while others are just words that give you a sick to your stomach feeling when you hear them. Here is a random sample of words that are currently listed in the notebook:


The notebook has been a part of our office culture for years. I say 'years' because it was there when I started, and I'm too lazy to find out when the notebook was actually created. I think 'years' also adds to the legend of the notebook.

The notebook is democratic. Anyone can offer a word to add, and submissions are rarely vetoed. Words don't even have to be used in the office to be added. The creator of the notebook went to the pet store with her daughter over the weekend, and that's how 'newt' was added to the list.

I think everyone has a notebook in their head. Just a list of words that you don't use for whatever reason. When you hear these words, you stop listening to the notebook violator. If you'd like to share some of the words in your notebook, post them as comments. There's a good chance that they are already in the notebook. Oh, and keep it clean...this is a family blog. parents read this stuff.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Numbers Guy

I'm a numbers guy. I don't know when this started, but I think it's getting worse. On Saturday, RJ and I ran a relay race that required each member of the five person team to run about 13 miles. This took us about 11 hours. Ugh, I wasn't even trying and I just used three numbers. Damn, there's another one.

Anyway, back to the race. It was pretty fun and miserable at the same time. It's an off-trail run through a state park, which means lots of bushwhacking and creek-crossing and hill climbing. After completing my final leg of the relay, I proudly announced that I finished the leg by climbing up 166 steps. Like anyone cares how many steps there were. I count pretty much everything. I count how many miles I've flown in the past month and how many days out of a year I spend driving to work. I like to add up how many (or few) days I'll be in the office during a given period of time. I have three calculators on my desk, but typically do calculations in my head and use the calculator(s) just to double-check my math. Or I just use the calculator to type sequences of numbers that when flipped upside down, spell inappropriate words. That's a different problem.

There are a few situations where being a numbers guy can be helpful. I've never had a keep a scorecard when I play golf. I just keep my score (and the rest of the group's scores) in my head. I can also figure out how much longer I have to run when I get to the 40K sign during a marathon.

This really only gets me into trouble when I use the dollar sign with the numbers. I can't buy anything without thinking what else could be purchased for a similar amount of money. Sure we could buy a new couch, or we could use that money to buy groceries for the next two and a half months. And it's not like the two things are mutually exclusive - we could buy both the couch and the groceries - it's just that something makes me do the math. And something else makes me explain/share the math with others who really don't care. During meetings I'll go around the room and (in my head) estimate salaries of everyone in attendance, then divide those to get an hourly rate per person, and then add up all of the hourly rates to try to figure out the cost of the meeting. If you work with me, I promise I only did that at my last job.

I don't think the current political race is helping this problem at all. I'm the guy who stays up until 1:00 AM to see if Obama gets the required 61% of the vote in Lake County to carry Indiana. I'm pretty sure most people just go to bed and look in the paper to see who has the check mark next to their name.

I'm not really sure how to wrap up this post. RJ is the one who is good with words, so I should have him write the conclusion. I'll just climb up fourteen steps and get 360 minutes of sleep before driving 22.3 miles to work.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Next Blog >>

This is not my wife's favorite blog. Well, she might not have a favorite, but there are lots of other blogs that she spends much more time on than Yourself in Five Years. I think it's because she has heard all of my thoughts about Ann Curry and pepperoni pizza and adults wearing stickers for the past five years or so. She reads our posts. She usually likes when RJ writes. Her constructive criticism for me is always the same:

1. Your blog is boring - you need pictures
2. Why don't you ever blog about Gilbert (our dog)

Kate has adopted a new form of random entertainment. Similar to the 'shuffle' button on iTunes or the 'scan' button on the radio, Kate takes this approach with Blogger. Her new form of entertainment is to use the 'next blog' button on the upper left hand corner of the blogger interface (see it up there?). This link will take you to magical places. Actually it just randomly selects another blog for your reading enjoyment. Sometimes she has to click the button a couple of times - apparently the Spanish speaking world really likes blogging.

This exercise of nextblogging (yeah, it's a verb in our house) usually ends once she finds a blog that is written by a woman who writes about her children, her pets, or organic food (a new addition). This is the nextblogging jackpot. A dream scenario would be a woman talking about her day staying home with her two kids (preferably twins with some obscure medical condition) and how they interacted with their dog. Oh, and then they cooked some sort of kelp pizza. Livin' the dream. Sometimes she thinks she's found a winner, but then realizes at the end of the first post that there are strong religious undertones. The post starts out with the content that she's looking for (some woman talking about kids or dogs or organic food) but then ends with something about how their trip to the grocery store or beach or dog park was only possible because of Jesus.

This is similar to scanning the radio in an area where you don't know the stations. You land on 92.1. Song sounds alright...maybe something new. Then comes the chorus: God is love, God is love. Nothing against Christian Rock (or Christian blogs) but if it's not what you're looking for, it can really sneak up on you. Then you get mad at yourself for ignoring the signs - a station between 89.1 - 92.7 and an acoustic guitar.

Okay, back to nextblogging. I'd like everyone who is reading this post to nextblog and then give a comment with what you found. I have a feeling that we'll notice a few trends - or at least you'll find some new cheap entertainment.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Even though most people claim not to go on a 20-minute cleaning frenzy right before company comes over, I think most people do. Well, I do. But that's changed.

A year ago, I hired a housekeeper. I'm not a slob, but I realized that I wasn't taking care of my new house. I'm pretty good about keeping the kitchen clean, the clean laundry hidden in the dryer, and taking the garbage out every week. But when it comes to the bathroom sink, or vacuuming in general, I'm not dependable. My sister recommended a housecleaner; her name is Debbie.

Debbie comes once a month and does all of the 'deep cleaning' that I used to neglect. She comes at the end of every month. And as ironic as it is, I find myself running around the house before work on the day that Debbie comes to clean. It's partly because Debbie wants the house picked up, "I'm not a maid," she told me when we first talked on the phone, "I'm a housekeeper." Other than requesting only Bounty brand paper towels, she bring her own supplies and does a consistently great job. And I trust her. So I'll pick up before she comes; I think that's fair.

There are a lot of great things about Debbie, including:

1. Well, she cleans the house.
2. She arranges non-decorative items. Examples include: pasta boxes arranged in a diagonal design on the kitchen counter and remote controls perpendicular to each other on the coffee table.
3. At the end of last summer, she left me a recipe for pesto (because I had a basil plant that was near-death on the back porch).
4. She leaves two pieces of candy and an inspirational quote with every housecleaning.
5. Sometimes she makes my bed.

Debbie has a key to my house, knows my alarm code and has now been my housecleaner for a year. Ask me if I've ever met her. I'll reply, "no."

No, I've never met Debbie. Sure, I've talked to her on the phone, but she came on the recommendation of one of my sisters who knew her as a client. I would call this inherent trust of a stranger "uncharacteristic" of my typical vetting process. But here I am, one year later, blogging on the couch in my extremely clean house.

But from the other side. . . what does Debbie think of me? It's not the same as officefolk who can cobble together a personality profile of their clients by Googling + Facebook stalking + analyzing their attempt at smalltalk in the first few minutes of a call. No, Debbie's in my house and she's free to snoop all she wants. What does my house, my mess, my dirty sink, my unfolded laundry say about me?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Adult + Sticker = Lame

Tomorrow is election day in Indiana. For once, this is a really exciting time in the Hoosier State. I don't think that Indiana has ever mattered in national elections. We've never been a swing state and typically only get national candidates to stop over on their way to Illinois or Ohio. Our only real excitement on election day is finding out if we'll be the first state officially 'called' by Wolf Blitzer during the presidential race.

But tomorrow is different and voter turnout will be high. The one downside of having an exciting election day in Indiana is that we'll have more adults wearing stickers. If there's one thing that upsets me more than Ann Curry, it's adults wearing stickers. This usually only happens on election day (I Voted!) and when there's a blood drive at work (I Donated Blood!). It doesn't matter who the sticker-wearer is...if you're wearing a sticker, we'll probably be enemies for at least a day. Oh, and I know that voting and donating blood are good things and if you're a sticker wearer, then I'm sorry. Please don't take it personally. I would call it a pet peeve, but one of our loyal readers told me that I can't use that expression anymore.

Side note: My wife just told me that she wore a sticker on Friday. I guess it said "Casual for a Cause" and she donated a few dollars to wear jeans to work with the money going to some cause. My sticker on my wear jeans to work days would just say "No, I'm Just Lazy" or "Didn't get around to Laundry."

The one positive thing that comes from adult sticker wearing is that it provides another opportunity for office wagering. I enjoy taking on the role of office oddsmaker (or bookie), taking bets on everything from how many times some person say some buzzword during some meeting, to setting an over/under for the length of time that a new employee will last. No money really changes hands here, just something to do at work. With sticker wearing, you can just have your friends pick the coworker most likely to wear a sticker on election day or blood drive day. If there's a tie and multiple people choose a sticker-wearer, you can use number of bumper stickers on the employee's car as a tiebreaker.

I'm not sure why sticker wearing upsets me as much as it does. Most of the time when adults do things that only a child should do, I have the opposite reaction. I can't get mad at an adult wearing mittens or adults riding a tandem bicycle. I've tried. Can't do it. Doesn't matter who you are or what you did to me. I'm not sure what would happen if I saw an adult wearing both a sticker and mittens. I guess we'll have to wait until November to find out.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Three Ways To Manage In-Person Encounters

Acquaintances: they're everywhere. I wish there was a universal, neutral way to acknowledge people without having to say anything. Actually, I don't really wish for that, but I know that other people do.

When you pass someone you know--even sort of know--it's almost automatic to ask "how are you?" when all you meant was "hi." Some blog readers out there might argue that this neutral acknowledgement already exists in the gesture that I'm calling the 'whassup' head nod. Not really a nod, but a lifting of the chin, kind of like you're trying to point at the acquaintance with your chin. You've seen this gesture in the works in high schools, on campus at colleges and likely on sitcoms starring Miley Cyrus or Raven Simone. It translates into the word, "whassup?" or just "sup?" if you're into the whole brevity thing.

In the professional world, I think the whassup-chin-up has evolved into a more conversative chin lift--maybe just a 'whass'--accompanied by eyebrow lift. Translated into words, it would equate to, "Hi, I see you. You're there." And this gesture is one to consider when you see acquaintances.

With the advent of Facebook and MySpace and other social networking sites that I don't participate in, it seems like we're all more and more comfortable with managing people like line items in spreadsheets, complete with a sort function. I don't social network (ok, I'm on Linked In), so I don't know all the details, other than people need to write/read blog entries to know how to appropriately manage acquaintances.

But let's just talk about in-person encounters here. I'm talking about the times when you're in a restaurant, or a store, or just walking down the street. Coming up on your left is a person you used to work with, went to high school with, knows your sister, might be a friend of your dad's or you talked to briefly over the meatball Crockpot at a party.

What do you do?

In my mind, you have three choices:

1. Ignore. You can do it on social networking sites, so why not in person? Oh, because it's rude? Well, not if you pretend that you're looking at your phone and "don't see" this person.

2. Extend arm as you pass and let out a "nice to see you!" My friends make fun of me for this one. But I advocate Option 2 as the most economical, friendly and genuine way to greet those acquaintances. It's:

Economical - saves both parties a little time.

Friendly - who doesn't love to have someone else tell them it's nice to see them?

Genuine - it is nice to see them, afterall. Now, keep walking.

Note: Don't forget that a simple wave or a 'whassup' nod can take the place of actually saying anything.

3. Stop and chat. If you have a few minutes and want to catch up (and the other person does, too), then go for it. Grab a coffee and sit down and chat it out. Catch up on how Sally is doing out there in Omaha, and reminisce about that crazy Government 1/2X class during 3rd period was hilarious. Remember that?

This blog does not endorse #1 in any way. In fact, I think it's always better just to say, "hey" or let your chin do the talking. But feel free to use and/or adapt any of the three approaches above, and let us know how it goes.

The Things We Can Do Without

Let's remember last summer. You might have seen me driving shirtless in my Montero (on my way to work). Or you may have caught me changing shirts in the parking garage because I always kept a spare in the back seat. Why? Because I didn't have air conditioning in my car all last summer. And rolling the windows down only brings in so much cool air. So even if I sweated through a shirt on my way to work/grocery store/dentist office/other, I had a backup plan.

I sweat. In cars with no air conditioning, I sweat a lot. I think it was July last summer when I went on a blind date and she asked what time I'd pick her up. "7 or so?" she offered. "Um, what about 8 or 8:30?" I replied, knowing that temperatures were cooler an hour or two later (and also knowing that I shouldn't change shirts mid-date). Don't worry: I timed the date perfectly and we were both as comfortable with the car temperature as we were awkward with the conversation.

So a year and a half later, my air conditioning is fixed and it set me back $39.99. Thinking back now, I'm embarassed for not having it fixed before. But at the time, it seemed easier to roll the windows down than to get it fixed. Plus, I thought it was going to be a lot more money.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A New Reality

If you have been following this blog (or my life) you probably already know that I watch lots of television. Way too much television. If I wasn't married, I'm pretty sure I'd leave the television on at all times. I find all kinds of excuses to leave the TV on. During the day I convince myself that our dog likes to watch TV, so I leave it on for him sometimes. When I travel, I leave it on when I leave my hotel room and somehow convince myself that by leaving the TV on, it's less likely that someone will break into my room. I know how irrational this is, so you don't have to tell me. I think it's just because I really, really like TV.

There isn't much that I don't like about television, but there is one thing that gets me to turn off the TV (or at least change the channel) - the lost art of product placement and subliminal advertising. To clarify, I'm not against subliminal advertising or in-show product placement - I actually think it's brilliant. I just don't like the fact that advertisers don't really try to hide it anymore. Product placement used to be awesome. You'd end up buying something from the store and not realize why until you saw a re-run of the episode. Damn that Michael J. Fox and his Pepsi products.

Like most things, this new lazy product placement can be blamed on reality television. And like most of the pitfalls of reality television, this can be blamed on Survivor. I think it was the first season of Survivor when Jeff Probst awarded Richard Hatch with a Pontiac Aztek when his torch was the last one lit when advertisers realized that they no longer needed to 'sneak' their products into TV shows. On a side note, I think that all 8 of the Pontiac Azteks sold in the United States can be directly attributed to Survivor.

So Survivor was the first, but it has gotten way way worse in the last decade. One of my favorite shows with the absolute worst product placement is The Biggest Loser. Bob, Jillian, and the competitors hawk everything from Jennie-O Turkey to Extra Gum to Ford Freestyles. Oh, and then make it look like it's a conversation:

Contestant 1: Hey Bob, what are you making?

Bob: Just grilling up some Jenni-O Turkey.

Contestant 2: But Bob, is that healthy?

Bob [I'm not sure what Bob says at this point, I get upset and change the channel]

I think if I end up on a reality show, I'll probably freak out like Jim Carrey on The Truman Show when the other contestants start one of these advertisements. I haven't seen the movie in about a decade, but I seem to remember him going nuts on his pseudo-wife when she started one of these mini-commercials in their kitchen. That's probably how I'd get voted off of whatever reality show I end up on. Either that, or it'll be the fact that I would refuse to use the word 'alliance' during my show.

Some product placement just makes me sad. On Rock of Love II, Brett Michaels did a mini commercial for Dave and Busters during the "Meet the Ex-Boyfriends" episode. I mean, the guy used to be the lead singer of Poison, and now he's telling me where I should go next time I want to play air hockey with the guys. Oh, and then he says he's not sure if one of the girls can handle his Rock'n'Roll lifestyle. Really Brett? Can she not keep up with your potato skins and ski ball lifestyle?

So those are just a couple of examples. There are plenty of others. Please share your (least) favorite product placement as a comment to this post. Whatever show it is, I'm sure I've seen it. Or at least my dog has.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Hippie Tipping Point

Hello and greetings from Asheville, North Carolina. Don't worry, I have no intention of turning this into a "here's what's going on in my life blog." Even if I wanted to, that's probably not an option now, as I broke my wife's camera yesterday so there's no way for me to post uninteresting pictures from our travels.

So there are a lot of hippies in Asheville. All kinds of hippies. There are also lots of old retirees here with their gated communities and Tommy Bahama shirts. It's kind of interesting to watch them coexist. It's like Florida and Vermont spent one special night together and Asheville is the result.

Anyway, all of the incense and hacky sack got me thinking about when a city goes from being "hippie friendly" to "a hippie town." I'm pretty convinced that Asheville is the latter. I'm not really sure what pushed Asheville over this hippie threshold (I'll probably need Malcolm Gladwell's help for that) but here's what I've come up with so far:

There are three different generations of hippies here - not counting young children or animals:

1. Credit Card Hippies - Generally 18-29. Loading their canvas shopping bags in the back of their dad's SUV. They recycle, they are politically active, and they wear a North Face fleece over their thrift store t-shirt. They also have an old Phish bumper sticker on the back of their car. Once the phish sticker peels off, they've probably moved into the next category.

2. Whole Foods Hippies - 30 - 49. They were probably Credit Card Hippies at one point but have grown out of that phase. As the name suggests, they are big into organic food and probably bike to work (but only when the weather permits). Their baby strollers are made out of organic or recycled products and they park them in front of the local coffee shop.

Tangent - That's another thing...I can't find a damn Starbucks in this town. Are they too hippie for Starbucks or something? This is a clear sign that you have gone from hippie friendly to hippie town.

3. Original Hippies - 49 - ?. These people were hippies back before being green was something that companies could capitalize on. They compost and garden and have children with interesting names. I've noticed that these original hippies can be on either end of the skincare spectrum. My dermatologist (circa 1994) had a poster about how skincare today would determine what you looked like when you got older. So anyway there was a picture of a 50-something Plains Indian woman with a face like an old catcher's mitt and then a 90-something year old monk with the best skin ever. Anyway, these original hippies either have the best skin ever and look super healthy (like the monk) or they look like they have spent their entire lives outside and are completely weathered (the Indian woman). There are never any original hippies in between.

So I guess if you have all three types of hippies in your town, then you are not just hippie friendly, but are actually a hippie town. Oh, a couple other things that I noticed about Asheville that could have tipped them toward hippieville:

1. There was an actual hippie drum circle in the city park on Friday. I'm not kidding. Honestly, could you play to the hippie stereotype anymore?

2. It was impossible to tell the difference between the homeless hippies and the other hippies. We couldn't tell if we were in a bad neighborhood or not. This is a telltale sign.

Okay, that's all I've got. If you've ever spent time in a hippie town and have something to add, feel free to post comments.