Friday, March 6, 2009

Blogger shame?

Question:  Assuming you're reading this and are a fellow "blogger", do your friends know about this little thing you do?  The most I'll really ever tell someone if it comes up in conversation is "I have a blog", but I'll never give out a URL or anything else that would identify it.  I think some old coworkers of mine know about my blog, but they either don't read it or they lurk...  My mom has her own blog that I helped set up for her, and she knows I blog, but I haven't told her who I am online either.  

The only person in my "inner circle" who knows about my blog(s) is my wife.  Well, besides my kids, she comprises the entirety of my so-called inner circle.  It's more of an inner straight line, or maybe a square if I'm feeling generous, but I digress.  She sometimes sends links to my wittier posts out to her friends, which is fine, but that's about the extent of it.  I'm not sure why I don't tell people about it.  I try not to say anything on here that would get me in trouble.  I don't think I've ever slammed anyone that I actually know in any of my posts, and I don't bitch about work (or at least I don't give any details out about work on here).  

It seems strange to me that I have the urge to type up the various contents of my head and publish them out there for potentially the entire world to happen upon, but I don't particularly want people I know personally to read it.  Why is that?  Any ideas?  If you think I'm just a freak, feel free to let me know.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Kill your TV

I have something to confess.  I used to be an absolute TV addict.  It didn't matter if there was anything I wanted to watch or not, I'd plop my ass down in front of the idiot box and listen to my brain cells wink out of existence as I watched various reality shows.  I at least partially blame this sort of behavior on my upbringing.  Watching TV has always just sort of been my default activity.  Maybe my being an only child has something to do with it, I don't know, but I was getting increasingly agitated with myself for watching TV.  

A while back I proposed that we move our TV from the living room down into the basement.  My intention then was to create some sort of "man cave" setup, but shortly after we made the change, our 42" plasma died.  Actually now that I think about it, this was a major turning point in my relationship with television.  We spent about $1000 on this TV a couple of years ago, and my wife and I discussed buying a new one when this one bit the dust, but I just couldn't bring myself to really justify the expense.  We still had a 20" CRT, so that's now being used primarily by the kids to watch PBS, Nickelodeon, Noggin, and Disney.

Over the weekend, I took the final step towards really liberating my family from TV.  I called the cable company and cancelled our service.  My wife had been asking me to do it for months now actually, and I finally did it.  There's no turning back now!

I'm not saying I don't watch any TV anymore, but these days there are lots of options out there on the Internet or DVDs to watch what you want, when you want.  My wife and I only have a few shows that we attempt to watch regularly, and they're basically all network shows that we can watch on our laptop on some website like Hulu or the various network TV web sites.  And of course, depending on how ethical you are, BitTorrent is still around to help you acquire things through arguably illegal means...  We also signed up for Netflix recently, and their new "watch instantly online" feature is pretty cool, especially for kid movies and stuff like that.

The moral of the story here is watch less TV.  It'll do you good.  Lately I've been reading more books, helping out more around the house, snuggling with my wife and kids, and playing guitar (this is my new "vice", which I'll discuss more in a later post).  My kids will have a tough adjustment period probably, but I don't want them to fall into the same rut that I did, and it's too easy for me to let the TV be the babysitter too.  This should be good for all of us.  Either that or we'll all go crazy.  We'll see how this pans out.


Saturday, February 28, 2009

Snopes is your friend

I got an email at work the other day that really ticked me off.  It was some sort of email petition to let our various congressmen and women know that we Americans are not pleased about them giving social security benefits to illegal immigrants.  It had a little blurb in the beginning that laid out the "details" that we're all supposed to be enraged about, and asked the readers of it to add their name to the list and send it to all of their friends.  Then it said something about when the list gets to 1000 people to send it on to some White House email address so this issue gets the attention it deserves...

So there's the basic premise.  I'm an inquisitive guy, and I hadn't heard about illegal immigrants getting social security money, so I decided to research this a little bit to see if the various guys and gals in Washington had really done this and why.  A quick bit of googling lead me to, which if you somehow haven't heard of is the mythbusters of the Internet world.  After a bit of reading there, I was completely unsurprised to see that this was in fact if not completely false, at least very misleading.  

In case you are actually interested in this like I was, here are a couple of the pages I read while looking into this:

The upshot here is that email petitions are obviously not an effective way to get anything done other than reveal what an idiot you are to your various friends, family, and coworkers.  I wonder how many "petitions" like this are received by the White House on a daily basis, and then what happens to them.  Since there's no way to verify that the people whose names are listed actually did the "signing", I bet they just send these straight to the trash.  Even if that's not what they do, the huge amount of name duplication that this would result in would probably make them invalid anyway.  Either way I'm guessing whoever monitors the White House email inbox probably has their share of automatic deletion rules set up.

Then there's the issue that the email itself is discussing which is basically false.  The deal is that in order for an immigrant (illegal or otherwise) to get a job and get paid officially, someone needs to have a social security number.  Apparently lots of illegals somehow get their hands on bogus social security numbers, and then off they go.  What this means is that even though these SSNs are fake, these people are actually paying into the social security system with them.  The ruling in question here was to say that people who fit this criteria and have now been legalized (by that other very controversial ruling from a little while back), should get benefits from that money when they retire.  No matter what your thoughts are on immigration policies in this country, the email was misleading.  

Anyway, the main point here is to look this stuff up people!  When I get stupid emails like this or any other kind of chain thing or ridiculous pictures or whatever, I check it out on Snopes and send a link back to the sender.  Maybe I'm a big fat fun-spoiling jerk, but way too many people take things at face value just because someone's taken the time to write an email about it and click Send.  As Smokey the Bear would say if he was in any way related to this topic, "Only you can prevent stupid emails from spreading".  


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Brain Lint

Yeah, weird name for a post maybe, but I just wanted to share a couple of weird made up things that are on my mind.  Cleaning out the ol' mental lint trap you know.

Exhibit A -  Fuffle.  What is a fuffle you ask?  Well, my daughter was playing a video game the other day that had someone named Curfuffle, and she asked what a curfuffle was.  Much to her delight, I told her that when you fart into a pillow, that's a curfuffle.  Since then, I've decided that curfuffle is too long, so I shortened it simply to "fuffle".  So there you go.  I have finally coined my own word.  My mother is weeping with pride.  Let's get it into Webster's. 

Exhibit B - Shooting the crease.  You know when you're eating some snack bag of chips, crackers, or cookies or something, and you're always left with crumbs and powder in the bottom?  Well how do you get to that stuff?  There's always the "lick finger, stick in crumbs, repeat" method.  That's all well and good, but if you're a real man (like me), you shoot the crease.  That's right, hold the bag up, hang on to the bottom corner, snap that baby tight, and tilt up, allowing the various salty/sugary crumbs to flow directly down the old gullet.  That's shootin' the crease my friends.  

I can't really claim this one unfortunately.  A coworker of mine got this term from a buddy of his, but I haven't seen it anywhere else, and I love it so I had to share.  It's taken off like wildfire at my workplace.  It's gotten to the point where people announce that they're about to shoot the crease, and we all pump it up like it's some big deal because we're huge nerds.  Of course I upped the ante by shooting the crease on a bag of sour patch kids.  That's a lot of sour powder my friends.  I wouldn't really recommend it, but it upped my guy cred for the day anyway.

What about you guys?  Got any made up words or phrases you'd like to share?  I promise not to steal them...


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Adam Carolla is now a podcaster

Maybe you heard the news about Adam Carolla's morning radio show getting cancelled.  Maybe you didn't.  Maybe you didn't know he had a morning radio show and was the Howard Stern "replacement".  Maybe you know all this and you don't care.  Maybe you don't even know who Adam Carolla is.  Maybe you're getting sick of me starting sentences with the word maybe.  

Well, I at least knew he had a radio show (one I never listened to), and I heard he got cancelled, but I didn't really care too much.  People like him land on his feet, and I wasn't exactly concerned for his livelihood.  I care now though, and that's because he's turned to podcasting, at least in the short term.  He released his first podcast yesterday, and the early results are excellent.  Check it out here:  Adam Carolla Podcast

My only real experience with Carolla is from his years on Loveline back when I was a teen who listened to that show.  He was the reason my girlfriend (now wife) and I tuned in back then, and he's still got "it".  Plus, on his podcast, he's truly uncensored, and there's just something about hearing him swear that's really nice.  He even comments on how enjoyable it is to drop f-bombs on the air in the first show.  I for one hope he sticks with the podcasting gig.  There are a few really solid celebrity podcasts out there for your listening enjoyment.  Kevin Smith has his SModcast show, which is generally extremely entertaining also.  There's just something about celebrities like this that aren't afraid to get personal with potentially millions of people that's very compelling to me.

He makes a few comments in the first show that seem a bit silly, and make it sound like he thinks he's a real high tech pioneer who's going to make this whole podcasting thing really huge and popular, but it seems his heart's in the right place, and I plan on listening to these things to see how it goes.  His first show has just over 1900 comments on it as of the time I'm writing this, so there's obviously interest in what he has to say, and I'm sure he could make money with it if that becomes his goal.  Another thing he mentioned in the first show is that he would appreciate it if we (the listening audience) would help promote hit show, so consider this my part of that effort.  Go check it out and report back.  I enjoy it, and you all know that I have impeccable taste, so what are you waiting for?


Oh yeah, and I'm aware I missed a day.  Sorry.  Maybe I'll make it up, maybe I won't.  My wife's telling me that I don't have time to do this blogging thing anyway, but I'm going to try to keep it up as long as I have something to say.  Oh, and the concert was excellent by the way, and Louisville seems to be an adorable little city that my wife and I would enjoy visiting again sometime when we have more time to look around.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sweet, Sweet Brandi Carlile

Ladies and gentlemen, I humbly submit the beautiful person pictured above for your appreciation.  That happens to be Brandi Carlile, and she's well worth your time if you enjoy listening to excellent songwriters performing excellent songs with excellent voices, excellently.  Someone please get me a thesaurus...

Basically what I'm trying to say is that I think she's swell and you should listen to her.  She generally gets lumped into the country music category, and her voice is reminiscent of Patsy Cline and/or K.D. Lang, but she's better than country if you get my meaning.  I know plenty of people out there enjoy country music, but I don't really count myself as one of them.  If I had to try to stuff her music into some kind of labelled box I suppose it would have "folk music" scribbled haphazardly on the side, but generally I try not to discriminate that way.  Of course that box would be placed in another huge box or perhaps a room or storage unit of some sort that had a sign hanging on it that reads "Music that I like", and that's all I would care about.  

Here, have a watch/listen and judge for yourself:

Hmm, for some reason they disabled embedding for this last one, but here's a link to her covering Radiohead's "Creep":  Click me, click me!

So Mrs. Duck and I are heading over to Louisville this weekend to check her out in person for the first time, and we are quite excited.  See you on Monday!  Take care of yourselves...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Need to lose weight?

Have you seen this ad?  Of course you have, they're impossible to avoid on the interwebs these days.  Ugh.  In preparation for today's blog post, I actually clicked on a few of these to see what they were all about.  All I could figure was that acai berries were somehow involved, and most people think this is a scam of sorts.  

I figured it was a scam, if for no other reason than you simply don't see ads proliferated to this extent for something legit (unless they're for McDonald's or something, and those are just more like a weight gain scam instead so it evens out).  It's pretty clear that there are a lot of players in the acai berry weight loss game right now, and obviously anyone with two pennies to rub together can grab some pictures off of Google image search and slap them in an ad as "before" and "after".

For example, check out this ad. 

Is it just me, or does it almost look like they put two women together in front of the same window at the same time, took the picture, and then cut it in two?  No matter what, these two pictures don't seem to be pictures of the same woman.  

That leaves us with this beauty:

First of all, at least I believe that these pictures are of the same person, so that's a plus, but what's up with the "2 Rules (obey)" thing?  It just doesn't make any sense, grammatically or otherwise.  And then at the bottom it says she lost 35 lbs by obeying this "One Golden Rule", but at the top it says there are two?!?  Color me confused.  I think there really are two rules, and they are as follows:

1.  Send us lots of money for acai berry weight loss stuff.
2.  Use the acai berry weight loss stuff that you sent us money for and commence weight losing.

Actually, there are probably a couple more rules in the fine print now that I think about it:

3.  Once you've used up the berry stuff you paid lots of money for to begin with, please send us more money.
4.  Oh, and please don't exercise.  You'll lose weight way too fast if you add exercise into the mix, thus decreasing the amount of money we'll make with this berry crap.

Anyway, I'm sure this is a fad and will hopefully soon go away, but I really have never seen ads like this take over the net the way they have.  They're literally everywhere I go, so I had to post this to get them out of my system.  

Rant over.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Uh oh

OK, now I'm officially worried about the economy.

Actually, I just read that article again, and I retract my original statement. I'm not sure that I am worried after all. Well, at least I'm not any more worried than I was before reading the article anyway. I think we're in an interesting time right now for businesses. If you're a business owner at this point, big or small, and you have some products that have been underperforming, or employees that you're not too fond of, it's the easiest thing in the world to just up and cut your losses right now. All you have to do is blame it on "the economy" and you're done. People might not be happy with you, but it's acceptable right now since everyone else is doing it.

Of course, this is not to say that the economy actually isn't swirling down the proverbial crapper right now, because it really is. It seems like most of my friends and family have either lost a job lately or at least worried about losing their job. I personally feel relatively secure about my job (knock on wood), but it is dependent on state revenue, which if you've been paying attention to states like California and such is not necessarily doing that great either.
So here's hoping the the economic stimulus actually manages to stimulate something other than controversy, although I'm not holding my breath for it. I'm looking forward to my $13 a week, don't get me wrong. Maybe we can get a pizza or something with it on Friday nights...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lincoln Walks at Midnight

I'm a bit late on writing about the various holidays that are going by it seems, but at least I'm writing huh?  Today's topic is inspired by Presidents Day.

That picture you see up there is of a statue that sits directly in front of the state capitol in what is currently my hometown of Charleston, West Virginia.  In case you weren't aware, West Virginia is the only state to have been created by presidential proclamation, and Lincoln just happened to be the one doing the proclaiming, so he's kind of a big deal for West Virginia historically.  Hence the statue.

I happen to love this statue.  It's just particularly powerful to me to see Lincoln portrayed like this.  I really enjoy the different take on the very well known man, and I think it took a bit of bravery on the artist's part to stray from the typical stovepipe hat image, or at least putting him in a suit.  This statue just seems to make him more human, and I'm guessing that was mostly the intent behind it.  To see Lincoln mid-stride in a bathrobe looking like he's working some problem over in his head is just kind of moving.  I always enjoy sneaking a peek at it as I drive by the capitol building while I'm on my way to Taco Bell or McDonald's or something...  Yeah.

The statue itself is inspired by a poem titled "Lincoln Walks at Midnight" by Vachel Lindsay.  If you're so inclined, you can read it here.  

So there's a little bit of WV history for you whether you wanted it or not.  Actually, if you're into U.S. history, the whole West Virginia creation story is pretty interesting stuff, but I won't go into it unless I get really desperate.  So look for that post next week...


Monday, February 16, 2009

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day.  

I've found that people generally fall into one of two main camps regarding this particular holiday:

1. They love Valentine's Day.  They love the idea of giving/receiving candy and flowers and sexual favors and general special treatment on the 14th of February.  What a glorious day this is.  They're in love, they're in love, and they don't care who knows it!

2.  They hate Valentine's Day.  They call it a "Hallmark Holiday" that's fabricated to waste people's money on greeting cards and candy and flowers.  Why should they have to go out of their way for some made up holiday that doesn't mean anything?  They love their significant other, so why should they have to go out of their way on some arbitrary date on the calendar to attempt to prove it?

Now that I’m thinking about it, it may be simpler to break down these two groups this way:

1.  Women.

2.  Men. 

That may be oversimplifying it, but it lies fairly close to the truth from what I’ve seen.  Of course, people do flip-flop back and forth between these two groups depending on their current relationship status and/or the feelings they have about whatever relationship it is they are in.  

I happen to be a man who falls somewhere in between the two.  This is at least partially due to the fact that I can’t ever seem to take a definitive stand on any given topic (Go ahead, ask me about religion sometime, I dare ya).  It’s also partially due to the fact that I like the idea of Valentine’s Day, and most other holidays, commercially fabricated or otherwise.  I personally think that these sorts of holidays are important for just letting people know that you care about them, even if you haven’t gone out of your way to show it for a while.  It’s a good reminder to take care of things you should be doing on closer to a daily basis, and generally lazy guys like me need that reminder. 

So here’s to Valentine’s Day.  I hope you and yours had an enjoyable one, or that you were able to successfully scrooge your way out of any festivities, whichever you prefer.


P.S.  I personally dropped the ball this year (sorry honey, I love you).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hello and Welcome

Well hi there.  This is blog attempt number three for me, and you know what they say about the number three.  Let's hope it's a magic number and/or a charm, and not the third wheel variety, or like the naughty thing you did with two of your "friends" when you had way too much to drink and will never speak of again (unless you have way too much to drink again which, let's face it, is pretty likely to happen).

Wait, what was I talking about?  Yeah I don't know either.  Anyway, hey look!  A shiny new blog!  All clean and minimalistic and bursting at the virtual seams with possibilities and hope.  Ah yes, hope.  There's that word again.  I'm fairly sick to death of that word at this point, even as I'm full to the brim with it.

What the heck is going on in the world today?  I don't pretend to really know, but I do have at least my share of opinions on it, which I'm going to do my best to share with you, the Internet community at large, on a weekdaily basis.  Yes, I realize this first post is on a Sunday.  Maybe breaking my own posting rule is not the best way to start such an endeavor, but I don't think this one really counts.  It's more of a "let me get something up to start the ball rolling" kind of a thing.

So there you have it.  One post down, many to come.  I'm looking forward to it.