Monday, December 28, 2015

The Art of Writing

I have learned that if you want to be a successful writer who people care to read, then it helps if you choose the right words and put them in a particular order. Some people think writing has to do with your passion to convey an idea or your ability to express yourself, but I think it is just a matter of being lucky with the word combinations you select.

People like JK Rowling, Stephen King, and Tom Clancy have many fans who like their books because of the words they use and how they arrange them. I, on the other hand, have never been properly trained in the art of word arrangement and, as a result, fewer people read my blogs.

Each time I attempt to write a post, it's kind of like playing a scratch off card or like picking numbers for the lottery. I just hope I choose the correct words and then get them in the right order. Shakespeare was another person who was good at writing (word arranging). I think that is quite impressive since he had many more words at his disposal than we do today. I also respect him because he never used worlds like LOL or totes in any of his works.

Speaking of great authors, I have only read a handful of works by Shakespeare, Twain, and Dickens so, in an attempt to come across as being cultured, I play the card game Authors in order to brush up on the classics. It's kind of like Cliff's notes, but an even more abbreviated version, since all you ever learn is the title of the book. When someone mentions Little Women, I say something like, "Louise May Alcott really hit the mark with Little Women." Then for good measure, I might also say "It's too bad more people don't appreciate Eight Cousins." You just need to be careful who you try this on because it can backfire if you do it to someone who has actually read the classics.

 PS- If you take my advice and use the Authors card game for the basis of your literary knowledge, be careful when referring to Alfred Lord Tennyson and Charles Dickens. They look very similar.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Little Caesars Pizza Insights

I have never met anyone who didn't like pizza. Like most people, I really love pizza. There is something amazing about that magical food. I know all pizza is not created equal so it can make a big difference where you purchase pizza from.

Little Caesars is probably the most basic and cheapest pizza around. It obviously can not compare with any gourmet pizza establishments, but if you are hungry for pizza and only want to spend $5 it is the best option I know of. Most things get more expensive with inflation over time but their hot and ready pizza appears to be immune to price increases.

My biggest pet peeve with Little Caesars (aside from the quality) is the ambiance inside the stores. I am not expecting a dimly lit Italian restaurant with musicians playing in the background, but it would be nice if every time I give them my business they would not thank me by screaming "TWO PEP!" in my face.

"One Cheese, One Pep!"

Seriously Little Ceasars, your employees yell loud enough to rupture my eardrums with their attempt to notify the cooks in back that they need to replace a pizza from their hot and ready inventory. There has to be a better way than screaming around your customers. It's a fast food restaurant, not an off shore oil rig.

My other request for Little Caesars would be to put some olives on the pepperoni pizza. I'd pay $7 bucks instead of  $5 for a little more variety and flavor, but if I want that from them it nearly doubles the price and I have to wait over 10 minutes for them to make it. I guess I could always start a rival pizza company that serves delicious gourmet pizza in an authentic Italian atmosphere for 5 bucks. Never mind, I guess I'll just let them keep yelling at me.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The State of Blogging aka "Where are they now?"

This post will be kind of like a historical documentary. I wish I had black and white photos and Ken Burns to help me out but for now I am just going off of memory.

I started blogging in 2007. It was new for me to share my thoughts with strangers on the Internet, but I really enjoyed it. When I started blogging some of the big kids on the block were Sass, Jeanne, Dr. Zibbs, Candy, PeeWee, Eric, Pearl, Bee & Rose, Anna,  Kelly, Cheeseboy, Kristina P, Israel, Pedaling, MCat, Mami, and Crystal. I'm sure I have left off several others but since nobody reads blogs anymore they will never know.

Times were good and I personally felt that 2009 was the high Renaissance of blogging. With the growing popularity of Facebook, Twitter, and all of the other social media platforms, blogging took a punch to the gut and many of us scaled back significantly. Others just disappeared.

There have been times since then that I felt like Will Smith in "I am Legend" when I write a blog post. "If any of you are still out there, I will be at these coordinates on this date, don't give up hope, etc."

Nothing is more sad than when you click on a link that used to be a fun blog to follow and you see there has not been any activity for four years or even worse an error message or notice indicating that the blog has been deleted. I'd like to see a "Where are they now?" show that tells you which bloggers are still going and which ones are in a federal penitentiary.  Kind of like a high school reunion. I don't know what many of them are doing these days but I know Cheeseboy changed platforms and is now a superstar on Twitter.

In spite of the many changes to blogging, there are still some people who continue to blog. Retrospace and Semi Coherent Thoughts are still going and I see others still blog several times a year, but it is nothing like it used to be. I have to say that the two most successful bloggers from the original group in my opinion are:

1) Kal at Calvin's Canadian Cave of Coolness. He still rules Blogger. He has not been deterred by the decline in blogging and has to be the most consistent and prolific blogger I have ever seen.

2) Mary at One Perfect Bite. Her food blog is amazing and I salivate like Pavlov's dog when I hear it's name.I don't really consider myself a food blogger kind of  guy but I am totally impressed with her expertise and success.

Despite blogging not being what it used to be, I am still going to continue to blog. I'd like to thank all of the bloggers over the years who blessed my life with information, entertainment, and laughter.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Sympahty for the Slowly Informed

This post is about people who share videos on Facebook or other social media sites long after they came out. I kind of feel bad for people who are excited to share funny new stuff  they have recently discovered but they don't realize it is ancient history as opposed to fresh news. They share links like ""Charlie bit my finger" or "Star Wars Kid" years after everyone else has seen them.

I have noticed that this usually happens with older folks who are a little slower on the pop culture/social media uptake. I also just realized that I fit into the older folks category since I am a now a grandpa, but I still feel young at heart.

I actually don't mind people sharing videos long after they were popular. It's not like they are dairy products that will go bad after a certain date, but it's just that I can tell they are expecting to get a big reaction from viewers but instead get a "oh yeah I saw that 9 years ago when it came out."

The videos listed below are the type of stuff I'm talking about that I still occasionally see someone post expecting to get a fresh reaction from viewers.

Leave Brittany alone
Chocolate Rain
The Evolution of Dance
Susan Boyle audition
Rick Roll'd
The Harlem Shake
Hitler's Downfall subtitles
The Grape lady falling
Ms. Teen South Carolina
The Ice Bucket Challenge

Anyway, I hope I don't come across as a snob with this, I just wanted to express my condolences to the people who don't know how long some of those videos have been around. By the way I just came across this funny commercial I thought you guys might get a kick out of it.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Ring Worm- T.M.I.

sample picture from the Internet
I recently noticed a small semi-circle on my upper leg that looked like a scratch. It just appeared out of the blue and I was not sure what it was. When I asked my wife's opinion she said it might be ringworm. I looked up pictures of ringworm online and it looked similar to what was on my leg. The next day the semi-circle turned into a full circle and looked like I had been hit by a paintball. My heart sank since it appeared to be ringworm.

My self esteem went down knowing I was afflicted with something with the name "worm" in it. I felt so dirty like maggots and worms were breeding in my skin. I did some extensive research (looked in Wikipedia) and was relieved to find out there are no actual worms in ringworm, it is actually a fungus. So the good news is I didn't have worms but the bad news is freaking fungus is growing on my skin!

Learning of this was stressful for a person who showers at least once a day, wears clean clothes, and washes their hands regularly. What hygiene law had I violated in order to deserve this?

I have since learned that ringworm is actually called tinea corporis.and is caused by dermoatophytes. I had athletes foot when I was a little kid which is a similar condition but I have not had to deal with anything like this since then. Ringworm is contagious and is usually picked up in locker rooms. Apparently it is very common among wrestlers. Side note- after learning about this and cauliflower ear, I am glad I was not a wrestler.

On the bright side, I am grateful to have this just on my leg. After googling ringworm pictures I realized it could have been much worse. I've gotten over the original stigma from when I got the diagnosis. It doesn't bother me as much now, in fact, it's kind of growing on me. (Badum-ching.) I recently purchased some anti-fungal cream which appears to be helping. I am excited for it do go away so I can move back home from the leper colony.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Patience: Some Things Take Time

We live in a day when many people expect immediate results and don't have time for the outdated principle of patience. The instant gratification and microwave mentality robs of developing attributes like patience, dedication, persistence, and faith, which are necessary to accomplish any worthwhile task.

The picture on the the right is of my son Kirk when he was about five years old and was just starting karate lessons. I remember the first couple years of practice were sometimes frustrating to watch and some of the classes I observed even bordered on pathetic. Some of the little kids in the class (including my own) would get their right and left mixed up and could not perform some pretty simple tasks.

My son regularly went to karate lessons several times a week with his brother and got better over time. As I would attend their various belt tests I found myself surprised at the new skills and abilities they had developed since I still imagined them as little boys in the back of my mind possessing more excitement than skill.

One thing that impressed me about their journey is the fact that the studio they attended was not a belt mill. I have seen some kids start martial arts and advance to the black belt level in a ridiculously short amount of time. Sometimes I secretly wished they had enrolled in one of those easy programs where they could be a Grand Master in 3 years and done with it. This was not the case for them and they kept plugging away for over 13 years.

Today they are both 3rd degree Black Belts and can do things I can only imagine. Here is a current picture of the same little boy shown above. If we did not add the ingredients of patience and time into their experience they never would have achieved success.

I could tell this same story for some of my other kids but could use music as their discipline. I have two other kids who started playing hardly discernible versions of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" on the violin and piano as little kids. They have continued practicing for over 15 years and today I love hearing them perform and they have both earned music scholarships to college.

I did not write this to just brag about my kid's accomplishments, but rather to remind us that some things take time. If you are plugging away at something and headed in the right direction, just keep doing it even if you don't see results as quickly as you'd prefer. Patience is becoming a lost art and we could all use more of it these days. Keep persisting in order to accomplish the things that are important to you and don't give up just because something takes longer than you would like..

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Getting Paid For Not Growing Crops

I remember how confused I was the first time I heard about farmers being paid to not grow crops in The Grapes of Wrath. This concept surprised me but at the time someone gave me an explanation why it made sense and I really didn't question it after that. Years ago when the economy slowed down I started looking for ways to make more money and I wonder if that program is still in effect today. If it is, I want to know how I can sign up for it.

I was also wondering if I have to be a legitimate farmer to participate. I once put one of those long wheat/hay things in my mouth and I occasionally saw a little Hee Haw on TV while flipping channels when I was younger. I would imagine that there is probably a requirement that I wear overalls in order to qualify. Do I have to invest in farming equipment and own a lot of land before they will take me seriously and pay me for not growing crops? So many questions and so few answers. By the way, I'm not criticizing farmers. I think farming is one of the hardest professions around.

I wonder if this same principle applies to other occupations and fields (no pun intended) besides agriculture. I know some athletes have been paid to not perform at their best ability but they usually end up getting in trouble for that. Shoeless Joe Jackson from Field of Dreams comes to mind. The mafia also seems to be quite good at utilizing this principle. They get paid all the time for not doing stuff like not breaking the knee caps or other anatomical structures of their clients.

I think I could really leverage my time if I could also get paid for not starring in movies, not performing on American Idol, and not running for public office. The list is endless of stuff I'm good at not doing. I'm not sure who would be in charge of compensating me for all the stuff I don't do, but it sound like something that only the federal government could pull off.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

My Concern For Society

I was recently watching some YouTube videos featuring "dumb criminals" and hold ups gone bad. One video featured a guy at Walmart who got caught shoplifting. He removed at least 8 large items that were hidden in his clothes for the employee who caught him before he bolted free and ran away. I was shocked at how much stuff he was trying to steal in his clothes but I was even more surprised at the comments the viewers were making about the event.

The majority of comments were actually supportive of his actions and critical of Walmart. There are many things I don't like about Walmart, but I was shocked that the majority of the comments supported theft because he was robbing a huge retailer that "doesn't pay it's employees well or offer good benefits". Their justification was frightening and then there were those who didn't even try to justify and just said things like "good for him, I hate Walmart." The juvenile commentary, name calling, foul language, and threats made online by those brave anonymous commenters infuriated me.

Maybe I'm getting old but it seems there is a lot of backwards thinking going on today. I just hope that the people shouting their opinions on YouTube videos and commenting on news stories are not an accurate representation of our society. Another topic related to this is the attitude so many people have towards law enforcement. The media has been promoting recent controversial events involving law enforcement and has attempted to portray them as a bunch of trigger happy racists and bullies.

Do some police make mistakes? Yes. Are some cops jerks? Yes. Are there such things as racist or
crooked cops? Yes. I think any corrupt cop or public servant who abuses his authority should be severely punished, but let that process come through the appropriate time and channels instead of acting like a vigilante. In any field, there are people who do their job well and others who are a disgrace to their profession, but I think the majority of those in law enforcement do a great job and I would hate to do what they do for the pay they earn. As uncomfortable as I feel when a patrol car is behind me on the road, I am still glad they are there to serve.

I am big on preserving freedom and maintaining my rights so if I was stopped at a random checkpoint that was stopping people without probable cause, then I would object to a search. If I felt a cop was abusing his power I would report him and go through the appropriate legal channels, but I would not threaten or attack him because I felt I was being wronged.

I have noticed a big anti-police movement recently and people have not only been protesting and second guessing how law enforcement does their job, but they have also been threatening and attacking the police. I find it ironic that if something bad happened at one of the anti-police rallies, they would probably be relieved when law enforcement showed up to help and protect them.

Anyway, I guess my point can be boiled down to "don't be an idiot." Don't steal from people, don't hurt people, don't mock and threaten people online under the cowardly cloak of anonymity, don't fight against the police and then act like you are a victim if you are guilty of committing a crime.

One of my goals this year is to watch much less news so I don't get so worked up over stuff like this.