9.30.2008

I'm Not Easy... but I'm Cheap


Today I sat in on a presentation about how the company I work for is "going green" with a more eco-friendly policy. Besides saving the earth's valuable resources, the new policy will reduce our energy bills and establish us as leading environmentalists in the industry. This, in turn, can produce additional revenue as eco-conscious customers look forward to doing business with companies that share similar beliefs. I know the decision-makers in the organization pretty well, having been associated with them for more than 15-years, so I have no doubt about their passion for "doing the right thing", but I am also sure that the additional revenue makes it a little easier to do it.

This was also my feeling when I bought our new car in 2006. If you would make it easy for me to do, I would get a lot of pleasure from reducing my carbon footprint. The main driving factor for the purchase of a hybrid vehicle, however, was the money I would save in the long run. Due to the steady and drastic increase in fuel costs the "long run" was shortened quite a bit.

I have forgotten most of the details but had it all worked out when I made my eco-friendly decision to buy the Toyota Prius-- the most fuel-efficient, standard hybrid car available at the time. Sure-- the upfront costs were a little higher but with the federal government tax credit the difference between this and similar, non-hybrids was minimal. In fact, I figured out that if I averaged 14,000 miles per year, I would make up the difference in less than 16 months.

Increases in prices at the pump brought that period of time closer to a year and further increases have allowed me to save, most recently, about $30-$35 per week. Through the life of the car, I have averaged almost 48 miles per gallon but on my last full tank, I reached the best milage yet, with 50.1 mpg. There are computer readouts in the dashboard that feed you all kind of information as you are on the road so you can really learn how to drive to get the best mileage. Factors like how you start and stop and if the air-conditioner is running make a huge impact in this automobile.

The Prius, in particular, has become very common on the roads but I still get a couple of questions a week about it. The main thing people ask is what kind of mileage I get and "How long can you go before you have to plug it in again?" I try to explain that it doesn't have a plug or need an electrical outlet, instead it has an gas engine that supplies power to the electronic engine that makes the car go. That's when they lose interest again so I go back to "50 miles per gallon" instead of how the braking system recharges the batteries.

The bottom line remains, if you can make it easy and inexpensive to do-- I will be as green as Kermit but it is, primarily, because I am cheap and, secondarily, worried about the environment. I can't and don't want to speak for others but, I would think, many would feel the same way.

I am happy to wear a sweater in the house in the winter and knock the heat down a few degrees to save a couple of bucks; or go through the trouble of separating my trash and put it recycling bins as long as the waste disposal company doesn't charge me extra to pick it up; and I am pleased (and you would be too) to use these cool canvass totes to haul groceries and such instead of paper or plastic, but ask me to spend too much time, money or effort and honestly I am going to conveniently forget about Mother Earth, most of the time.

I feel bad that I can't be more of a tree-hugger after seeing all of the evidence that we are destroying our planet in the presentation today. As a father now, one statement in particular, really hit home: We did not inherit the Earth from our parents... we borrow it from our children.

When you look at it in that perspective-- I figure, with as much as I will spend on my kids over a lifetime, I can afford to take a little credit out on their Earth. In addition, I know my kids, and probably their whole generation are going to be much, much smarter than me. Let them come up with a way to save the world-- I'm too old to make too much more of contribution than I already am in my little electric car.



9.29.2008

Monday Morning Quarterback 1.06


Let's start off with some football talk today. The Scott Linehan era (or you could describe it as error) ended today in St. Louis. I saw a on-line poll that asked if this was a good idea. 78% of the respondents answered "yes", 19% said "it doesn't matter" leaving only 3% that thought he should remain as coach of the team... I didn't think he had that much family in town. 

Personally, I don't really think it will make much of a difference this year. The team's problems go way deeper than the Head Coach's positions and, unless they are going to make some wholesale changes, I think it is going to be a long while before we see anything close to another Superbowl caliber team in here. It is a shame, though, as I went to the game yesterday and saw thirty-minutes of decent football being played... and then the Rams had to show up at the start of the second half.

Here's my notes from the weekend:

• Speaking of football, something needs to be done about the NFL's excessive celebration rule because it it too subjective for the referees to call. The Rams were penalized when Stephen Jackson pulled a "Lambeau Leap" into the stands after his first rushing touchdown of the season but the Bills Special Team's six-man, sausagefest, patty-cake, hug-party in the end zone after a kickoff touchback, of all things, was overlooked. Which celebration seems more excessive to you?
• On Saturday we took M3S to my nephew's birthday party at a place called SkyZone--a very cool place with basketball-sized courts covered from end-to-end with trampolines, some of which are not flat, but placed at 45-degree angles. The kids that worked there can do some pretty wicked stuff. I wish I could of given it a try but my (uh-emm) groin didn't allow that.
• Now that I have a three-year old and am lucky enough to attend all these birthday parties, I have some questions that need to be asked. Don't any kids have parties at home anymore? And if mine do, are none of their little friends going to want to come because there are no multi-million dollar facilities with enough dangerous equipment to seriously injure, not only every kid at the party, but several of the parents that are just standing around hoping that none of the other parents talk to them or semi-comatose 17-year-old hostesses licking her chubby, little fingers because they are smeared with icing off the cake that she was not supposed to touch, under any circumstances, even if you have gloves on?
• My folks had the Christmas catalogs at their house last week. Although I think it is a little early for this, as a cafepress shopkeeper, I can understand why the retail stores get them out early. I can't understand, however, how there are already pages folded over and toys circled in the books. Do the kids get ahold of them before we bring them into the house?
• Because I wrote about it last week, I'm not going to go into more depth about the economic bailout except to say, "Told you so."
• I heard that if the government took the money that is being spent on the bailout and divided it, equally, between adult Americans, it would come to almost $400,000 per person. I'm almost sure that this is an exaggeration but, even if it was $4,000, I think I would feel more comfortable with that money in my pocket, or on the wall of my living room, in the form of a high-definition, 68" flat-screen TV, than with the banks and borrowers that let us get in this situation.
• A big shoutout to my good friend Mona who I can't thank enough for introducing me to MLW and for reading the blog. We collaborated on a cute little design for her daughter, Maddie's (did I spell that right?) Sweet Sixteen. Happy Birthday, Kiddo!
• Word of the week that you haven't heard in twenty years and probably never used, yourself, because you would just, outright, curse instead: Jeepers!
 Funny cap: My Dixie Wrecked.
• Saw a news story, over the weekend, quoting a Chinese, 2000 Olympic medal-winner, Yang Yun, that the recent age controversy was caused be a slip of the tongue. Yes... she accidentally didn't lie about her age to a reporter... ooops!
• In another story about a recent survey of married couples, it was determined that it is the women in the relationship that make the "big decisions" in a ratio of 5:2 over the men. However the wives participating in the study thought their husbands were making those decisions 90% of the time. The husbands were confused, though, with only 9% of participants being able to correctly determine who was making the decisions in the household. Of the remaining 91%, 32% were wrong and, an amazing 59% were unsure-- apparently thinking their answer was a "big decision", in itself, and leaving it for their wife to answer.

I've got some more, including stuff on my attempt to save the environment and a buck with my hybrid car and a boa constrictor (this one can't be missed) but I'm thinking about doing full articles on them later in the week. With the economy being a big issue, as well as the local football saga and the Vice-Presidential debate going down in St. Louis on Thursday, it looks to be a busy week so, for now, I'm gonna say... Buy T-shirts. Peace... until tomorrow.

9.25.2008

Let's Roll! 1.05


I feel pretty darn stupid. I was supposed to bowl in the league tonight. I have been just terrible since the event but I expected to be better tonight because I have been seeing some improvement in the last few weeks and we were scheduled on lanes one and two tonight. I always bowl better on one and two and the games move along quicker because you only have to yield to the lanes on one side.

I think my excitement got the best of me because on my third practice frame I felt something pop on my approach. I wasn't doing anything weird or strenuous and didn't make any sudden moves or anything. I was just using my normal motion walking up to the line when was hit with a intense, sharp pain in my groin. I went ahead and followed through and, actually, rolled a pretty good ball, but that may have injured it more. I thought that I had it walked off, afterward, and tried to take another shot at it, but I was done for the night-- and maybe a few more weeks. Thanks to Bob for filling in for me.

Now I'm at home, sitting with a bag of frozen green beans in my crotch, watching the two-hour season premier of Survivor. It feels a lot better... as long as I don't move! Never again will I call a ballplayer a wimp for going on the IR with a groin injury. 

I'm a tool-- let's roll.

This one is a classic. I have seen similar applications but this one is user-friendly and produces some pretty cool results. Upload a picture of yourself, or a friend, spend a minute or two to make some simple adjustments and in a matter of another few minutes you have an e-album of your own yearbook shots in the style of the pop-high school styles for every couple of years from 1950-2000.

It's all free, however it is sponsored by someone-- I just can't tell exactly who! Anyway, the ads don't interfere with a few minutes or so of fun.

For anyone that doesn't know about Shermer High School-- you should. Shermer, Illinois is the fictitious community that was the setting for many of, director, John Hughes' films, in the 1980s, including Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Weird Science, and the number one high school movie of all time, The Breakfast Club.

This lens has been getting a tons of visitors in the last few weeks and features a ton of stuff about Shermer, the flicks, John Hughes and the 80s. Anyone that was in their teens at that time is going to be able to relate. Along with custom Shermer Bulldogs gear, you can find YouTube videos, as well as, DVDs and other unique items available for purchase.

I posted this in a column earlier in the week but I find it funny and, with McCain/Palin ticket all over the news lately, I thought it would merit another mention-- besides, I got nothing else and I want to go to bed because my groin hurts.

Sarah Palin has picked an All-American set of names for her children with, Track, Trig, Bristol, Willow and Piper. Ever wonder what your name would be if the Vice Presidential candidate was your mother? Now you can find out with this simple, free name generator.

You can call me Chap Poach Palin as long as you... buy T-shirts. Peace.

My Two Cents


I am fortunate to work for a company that realizes the value of training their employees and supports the belief by providing opportunities to learn about work, home and life related issues. Part of the training program includes a speaker series that features business, industry and community leaders speaking on a variety of topics. Yesterday, I sat in on a session with, John Mozeliak, the General Manager of Major League Baseball's St. Louis Cardinals.

Mr. Mozeliak was very cordial and I was somewhat amazed at how down-to-earth he seem while holding a position that only 29 other people have in the whole world but every red-blooded, American boy, man or person, would give up their left arm for. I was also surprised at his relative youth and felt that I was listening to someone in my generation speaking as opposed to my Dad's generation-- possibly another indicator that I am getting old.

It was a very interesting and informative discussion for me, being a baseball fan, but I didn't see anyone in the room nodding off so I suppose even those that have indifferent feelings toward the sport enjoyed it to some degree. He went on for 20 minutes or so about how he was a salesperson and a manager, and tried to show some parallels between what he does and what we do-- a point that I had to differ with, to some degree, as he mentioned how his annual payroll budget was in the hundreds of millions of dollars and his performance reviews are daily and conducted by the national media.

Mr. Mozeliak, then impressed me by opening the floor for questions and answering in a straight-forward and casual manner. He handled some pretty tough questions from a few dedicated fans of our beloved Cards that had recently gone on an ugly losing streak and had all but been eliminated from the playoffs. I guess that he is used to getting a lot tougher questions, from a lot more difficult people, in a lot more hostile environments than from the 20 or so of us in the room.

I asked him if was still a fan of the game and if it was as fun as he thought it would be when he was a kid, now that it is, first and foremost, a business to him now. He gave me a good, solid answer and gave us an example of how it is sometimes hard to balance the two with a funny story about Ron Vallone. I wish I got a chance to ask him about the struggling economy and how he thought it was going to impact baseball.

I am no financial analyst or CPA, so much of the stuff that is going on right now is over my head, but even the average Cub Fan can tell you that if Americans start to go through some rough times, financially, the entertainment dollar is the first thing that gets eliminated from the family budget. This not only means sports, but movies, concerts, vacations and then things like cable or satellite TV, club memberships and video games.

It's just common sense that you get rid of the things that you can live without before the necessities like food and shelter and the Internet. I often whine in this blog that the younger generations have gotten lazy because things have become too easy and they haven't had to go through many challenges in their lifetime, but I think this time is different. We are in store for a very difficult situation in this country's economy-- the most difficult that we have seen in a long time, if not our lifetimes.

Did you ever ask, in High School or College, "Why do I have to learn History? How is this going to help me in the real world?" and had someone answer you with, "Those who do not learn from history, are bound to repeat it..." Maybe that's part of the problem. There are very few people left that remember what led up to the Great Depression and no one else did their studies.

I don't believe anyone is "putting partisan politics aside". I do think they want to solve this "grave economic crisis" but I think both the Republicans and the Democrats have their own agendas-- for goodness sake, people, we are 40-days away from the Presidential Election! (I have to take some time to write about the "terrorism-conspiracy-theory" in the next few weeks.) I am confident that we are going to make it through the next few years and eventually, this too, will all be history that we can forget, but we are probably going to experience some hard times along the way.

I think the politicians can be on the right track as long as they use a little common sense. I understand the need to use tax-payers money for a bailout of financial institutions, but it is ridiculous to think the dudes with the golden parachutes would get one dime of my hard earned dough-- they may have to dump the Summer Home, but Winter is coming anyway. 

I also have a concern with comments about how we can't let working-families lose their homes to foreclosure. Let's face it-- for the past ten or so years we have been giving outrageous mortgages to individuals who "as long as everything went as planned and the stars aligned and we didn't hit any bumps in the road for the next say... 30 years, may-- let me emphasize-- may be able to afford their dream home..." Real life doesn't work like that!

I told my 20-year old nephew this only the other day, "Hope for the best, but plan for the worst," when we were discussing his grand plan to move out of his parents' place and into a rental. I was being sincere with the advise but I really doubt that he will follow it. He's got big ideas and can't have "the Man" holding him back. I really hope he is successful, but I bet he wont even begin to think of what he is going to do if he isn't.

Lack of common sense, overconfidence in ourselves and others, laziness, greed and fear seems to be the recipe for the soup that we've gotten ourselves into now and it is going to take a little time and a bunch of people blowing before it cools down enough for us to eat. OK, I'll admit that analogy was beyond stupid but I got on a roll and couldn't stop.

I don't know, for I am not in charge of a multi-million dollar budget or thousands of families' financial security-- though I feel a little sorry for those who are-- I am, merely, a simple artist, trying to make a buck or two and, possibly, make someone smile, or think, or feel good about themselves or someone else for a brief moment (so buy a T-shirt).

In the mean time I will continue to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. I suggest that you do the same.

Peace.

9.24.2008

What's in Your Name?


I have spent much more time thinking about names in my life than I ever imagined I would. Since MLW found out she was expecting again, the subject comes up all the time and we haven't even found out the gender of the baby, yet.

I never really thought that much about names or understood how many things needed to be taking into consideration when naming a child. I don't think my parents realized it at the time, but I was given two the five most popular names at the time-- Scott Steven. I have written before about how more than several of the guys I have been hanging with since Junior High share the same names-- namely (no pun intended) Scott and Steve. That was never a big deal though because I am a big fan of nicknames as I think they give you character and are more personal than your given name.

I think that it is interesting that, except for people at work, no one calls me by my formal name. My family still calls me Scotty and everyone else, that knows me well, calls me Skeetz. When you really think about it, how many people use their real names? Most that I can think of are usually referred to by a nickname, pet name, relationship name or title. I very rarely even call my son anything but Buddy (unless he's in trouble) or my wife anything but Babe (unless I'm in trouble).

This leads me to believe that the name that your parents give you are not that important because you, or the people around you, are going to, basically, re-name you and call you whatever they want. But, alas, this is not the way that it works, and many people (including MLW) think it is a decision that needs to be considered carefully. In fact there are more than a few things to think about when choosing a name:

Are you named after someone? There are two different kind of people that influence baby naming. One being famous people or characters. My Mom liked to use this one. My brother was named after Cary Grant, my sister after Heidi-- the little German girl played by Shirley Temple, and I was named after Scotty-- Spanky's friend on the early Our Gang series who wore a big sweater and his baseball cap sideways. 

The other would be family names. M3S was named after his Grandfather. If our second child is a girl she will be named after her Great Grandmother. This is why MLW is convinced that we are going to have a boy-- because she already has the girl's name picked out. Without telling anybody what it is (for many reasons, but mainly so nobody we know steals it) I think we can find a masculine version of the same name for a boy, but I don't think it would work very well unless we were in a Latin nation.

We talked about naming our first Son after me but there are several reasons I didn't like that idea, including it's my name, there are better ones out there and I don't want for him to have to go through life with anyone calling him Junior-- and I'm sure someone would. I have met people, however, with there Mother's maiden name as their middle name and thought that was pretty cool. Come to think of it, though, those people were all women, but maybe we can find a way to honor Gram some way like that with another boy.

I guess I should also mention that we get an extra name to work with. Our children have (or will have) two middle names, although most people just run the two together, assuming that's how it is supposed to be. MLW claims that she is, not only allowed but expected, to do this because of her Mexican/Spanish heritage but I think it is just her way to one-up our kids over others... and I'm not going to argue this point.

What does your name mean? This is a point that I am willing to argue because I think my wife puts too much emphasis on it. Unless your name is totally weird, who is going to ever ask you, "what does your name mean?" My name means Painted Warrior Crown. I didn't know this before five minutes ago and I am probably not going to remember it in five minutes more but she insists on looking up the meaning of every name we remotely consider on one of the many Websites or books dedicated to this subject.

Unless the name actually reads as something silly, like Harry Colon, Richard (Dick) Head or Lemonjello and Orangejello (all real names of real people) I don't care about the origins or original meanings. I don't think many others do either.

What does your name rhyme with and what do your initials spell? On a similar note, parents should do their best to not name their child something that will get him or her teased or beat-up for no better reason than the parents wanted to make a point. Celebrities are big on this with children named Apple, Racer, Eagle-Eye, Heaven, Rocket, Rogue, Rebel or anything close to Sarah Palin's kids' names. (Check out the Palin Baby Name Generator--pretty funny). Frank Zappa almost made an art of it naming his kids Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet Emuukha Rodan, and Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen. Children have enough to deal with on the playground without having to explain that their parents didn't have enough forethought to realize that the initials PP were going to be a problem to a bunch of first graders.

How popular is your name? The only negative thing I can really say about my name is that there are too many Scotts. I have found, though, in my extensive research of names, that the popularity of names runs in cycles. In many cases the cycles are complementary with trends in pop culture and the famous (and infamous) in the culture.

Look at the name Monica, for instance, which was becoming more common before President Clinton and Monica Lewinski made headlines. Now you almost never hear of a newborn child with that name. If you look at polls of the most popular names in over a period of several years, you can find many more examples of names exploding up the chart with the popularity of a celebrity (Madonna, Michael Jordan) or falling of with the fall of someone (Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy). Compare the popularity of the name Britney with the rise and fall of Britney Spears and tell me it is a coincidence. 

There are even names that are completely forgotten after an event or person in history. Adolph was a common name before Hitler started his reign. Now, I imagine, you would have a hard time finding many in most of the world. The same can be said about Napoleon and Attila but, honestly, I don't know if those were unique names before or if parents didn't want their children to be associated with Huns.

Some biblical names have had some periods of popularity. Jesus, though, is a name that I can't quite figure out. I know the Spanish speaking cultures use the name, but I can't think of a single English speaking person, Christian or not, named Jesus. Maybe that's in line with one of my very few rules of baby naming: No Bible Names. My theory being, I could grow up thinking that I was going to be the most famous Scott ever--bigger than Scott Joplin, Scott Baio and Scotty on Star Trek. A child named after a person in the Bible-- especially a major player in the Bible-- Moses, Jonah, or God forbid-- the biggest player of all... Jesus, can never hope that of themselves.

Does your name match your personality? You know how they say that couples that have been together a long time start to look alike. I think this can happen with individuals and their names. When you hear certain names you just picture certain characteristics in a person. Think of the name Bubba, Junior, Martha, Lola, Chad or Marvin and tell me what you see. Different individuals may picture things differently but, generally, each name generated some characteristic and/or personality in your head, right?

Who's to say that a name choice that isn't assigned to a person doesn't play into that person's personality? Maybe it's the fact that when we hear a name we see a particular person or maybe it's that so many people see that particular person that they start to become that person... or maybe I'm thinking too much about this now.

We were lucky, I think, to pick the perfect name for our Son. It seems to match his personality almost perfectly. The choice, however, for my wife and I was a difficult one. We had almost definitely decided on the first name months before the birth but we went right up to the final deadline when we were just about to leave the hospital before we, finally, filled out the name portion of the birth certificate application and handed it over. MLW said it was so we could tell if the name we chose fit the baby.

I think we did a pretty good job but that is an idea worth considering. Why don't we wait for a few years, try out a few different choices, make sure there are no pop culture conflicts or too many other kids with that name in the world. We could take a little more time to match the name to the personality and even the looks of the child and then a little more to allow the youngster some input on his moniker. Then, at the age of maybe five or six we can have a coming out party and announce the little bugger to the world with the name that he or she will have to live with for the rest of their life... or maybe we should just pick one and move on with it.

There is a very interesting page on Wikipedia: List of unusual personal names, that I ran across while researching this article. Check it out and then buy some T-shirts. Peace.

9.23.2008

SkeetzTeez Quarterly Report


Since the main purpose of this blog was to promote my cafepress shop, I thought that, now that we have been up and running for 90-days, I would take this time to review how things have been going. I don't expect many to be that interested in this but I do know other shopkeepers that check in from time to time and it kind of helps me evaluate things if I put them in writing.

SkeetzTeez has had 73 orders for 92 items. Volume has increased steadily each month, which is definitely a good sign, and I hope that trend continues. We have sold over $1000 worth of merchandise and I have made about $150. All of these numbers are extremely good as I have heard that most shops don't turn this kind of sales for six-months to a year. Although it's nice to make a buck or two it is not why I am doing this, which I will get into further, later.

I now have 153 designs available in the shop and, although this does include multiple variations of some, I still have close to half of that many that are unique. The biggest selling design, Big Brother and Big Sister, however, is a fairly common design. The second most popular design, McMaverick and Sarahcuda, is also somewhat common, but is at least a little different from most of the thousands of political stuff out there.

I need to keep up with completing and adding new artwork to the sight. It may be coincidence, but it seems as if sales are better if you are always updating the Site and with the holidays coming up, I want to make sure that anyone that is looking for something that I have, can be sure to find it easily.

Statcounter also tells me that SkeetzTeez has had 2,450 page loads from 726 unique visitors and 102 remaining visitors. Reports also tell me that this blog has had 249 page loads from 162 unique visitors and 35 returning. Between the two Sites we have seen hits from many countries besides the US and Canada, including Chili, Columbia, Hungary, Australia, Ireland, Portugal, Argentina, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Iraq, Iran, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and some place called Macedonia, to name more than a few. Pretty cool, huh?

Besides learning a little bit about html code, (which could come in handy some day) I am learning my way around the social scene on the internet too. There are several networks of cafepress people out there that I am now an active member. It is weird to say that you meet people on the Internet but I have come in contact with many others that have many of the same interests as me.

I am into Twitter and Facebook as well as this blog. I have lenses that get a lot of exposure on Squidoo on a strange variety of subjects such as Jorts Fashion, Shermer High School, the Encyclopedia of Immaturity, How to Make a Suck for a Buck Shirt, Urban Cougars, That's What She Said, the Urban Prankster Network, 110% and my newest entry Mix-Tape and I moderate a group that cross-promotes members' shops. 

I have mentioned the crossover blog several times and I (well... Mav and I) have the number one design on Teeblr, a T-shirt ranking Website. I have also been participating in a few other Tee forums and cafepress groups and, with my unexpected success, been a major supporter of the POD service in Web communities like Yahoo Answers and in real life too.

Overall, the whole experience of the last three-months has exceeded my expectations. (Look at that-- a sentence with three words containing the letter X.) I set out on this journey to find a creative outlet to comment on pop-culture because I still had something to say and, besides successfully accomplishing that goal, I had a whole bunch of fun along the way. No matter what sales are like or if I change a little piece of the world in any way, I hope that goal part, and even more importantly, the fun part--continues. I also wish that anyone else following along on the journey is enjoying themselves, too.

If you are a fellow shopkeeper remember: Exposure is the key! Check out some of these links to see how I am using guerilla marketing to promote me and SkeetzTeez!

If you are not a cafepress shopkeeper remember: Exposure is the key! Check out some of these links because... well because I need the exposure! ... and Buy T-shirts. Peace.

9.22.2008

Monday Morning Quarterback 1.05


Today is the first day of Autumn. I think I mentioned before that this is probably my favorite time of the year. The weather is cool and crisp so we can turn off the air conditioner and, although it is getting dark earlier, we still have a few more weeks before daylight savings time is over. The only thing I can think of that I don't care for around this time of the year is my allergies that seem to get worse and now and the Spring. I'll get by with a little help from Claritin D even though I will spend a small fortune on it in the next month or two.

I am lucky to live in the Midwest, where we have all four seasons, but I would like it if the moderate climates of Fall and Spring where longer than the extremes of Summer and Winter. They often say, "If you don't like the weather in St. Louis today-- wait until tomorrow." Here's my notes for today:

• We went to do some karaoke for my niece's 22 birthday on Saturday. It wasn't the people in their 40s and 50s singing my song set--it was the darn 20 year olds. Van Morrison, The Rolling Stones, Neil Diamond, Rick Springfield and Journey? Get your own music! Someone said it was because of video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band and TV and Movies like The Sopranos that use classic music but my theory is that these kids are smart and today's music sucks so they have come to relate with the old stuff.
• The younger generation may be into the music but they no nothing about playing air guitar.
• Jordo got several Compilation CDs as gifts from her friends. It reminded me of mix tapes and the movie High Fidelity and inspired the Squidoo lens, Mix-Tape.
• Week three in the NFL was pretty bizarre with Miami beating the Pats and Indy almost losing again to a weaker opponent but the Rams still may be the worse team in the league and our fantasy team may not be much better.
• Shermer, Illinois High School's mascot is the bulldog. This is just one of the many interesting facts I learned while researching my Shermer High School lens.
• M3S is growing up so fast. He went peepees standing up over the weekend several times. Maybe because that was such a bonding experience between a boy and his Dada or maybe it's because his Mother is going to be having to spend more attention with the new baby, but he is switching from a Mama's boy to his Father's Son in the matter of a couple of weeks.
• All the new TV shows are starting up and I am not, at all, interested in any of them. All I get to watch anyway is Sprout and Noggin.
• Facebook is pretty cool. I have four friends and there are some pretty cool applications associated with the Site. My sister doesn't approve of me joining but I don't approve her pierced nose.

Short but sweet this week. Buy T-shirts. Peace.

9.19.2008

Let's Roll! 1.04


In case anyone cares (Cox and Steepo) I am writing Friday's post late Thursday night so I can attend to the very important task of having the bowling team shirts embroidered at lunch tomorrow. Its doesn't really matter because I have a hard time falling asleep on the nights that I bowl in the league. It must be all of the pent up stress to do well for my team. The way things are going, I'm surprised I'm still a member. That's why I haven't gotten the shirts done yet-- once I hand them over they will be able to cut me.

I'm getting pretty good at this blog thing. This week, alone, I have figured out how to add hyperlinks to the stories and how to schedule drafts to be posted at a later time. This allows me to write when I have time and publish on a regular basis. It did take me a little while to figure out, exactly how to do it though, so yesterday's post was missed by most. If you didn't get to read it, make sure you check it out now as it is, by far, my favorite article I have done up to this point.

Top five keywords that resulted in visits to SkeetzTeez or SkeetzTeez Blog:

Top five designs sold at SkeetzTeez

The Big Brother and Big Sister designs took back the top spot this week. I guess as we get closer to the election, people start to lose interest. That's the problem with kids today. Let's Roll:

A month or so ago, I think I mentioned that I had joined a blog exchange or crossover blog. The concept is pretty simple in that each member does one story per month in their own blog about a design in another shopkeeper's cafepress collection. They finally got it up and running and there is, definitely, a bunch of talented people involved. In fact, I am considering buying a shirt for MLW from the shopkeeper that I was assigned this month and wrote about in the Designs We Like article this week.

As you can see from the Statcounter report, the exchange drove a lot of hits to my sites this week. I thought I would do the group a solid and mention it for a second time this week in this forum. If you can't find what you are looking for in SkeetzTeez, maybe you can find it in one of the other shops. 

But remember: any time you have an idea for a design or want a certain concept drawn up, let me know via the comment section or one of my other portals. I can complete T-shirts just for you or if I create the design and sell it I will give you a portion of the profits.

Another place to find talented artists and some wicked-cool T-shirts is Teeblr.com. As far as T-shirt ranking Websites go this is, by no means, the biggest but the quality more than makes up for the lack of quantity. I think there is only a few designers submitting shirts, at this time, although, by most similar sites' standards they are "smarter than the average sportswear".

Several SkeetzTeez are ranked as the Top Teeblr shirts, in fact the idea submitted by Maverick has been number one for a few days now. I don't want to stuff the ballot box so I'm not going to mention what designs are mine but, if you have a minute and want to check out some decent tees, visit and vote for your favorites.

Urban Prankster is hot. I'm not sure what is driving it but this Squidoo Lens is flying up the ranked charts. UPN is a spin off of the highly popular, and overexposed, New York group, Improv Everywhere. You've probably seen some of the public "scenes" they have orchestrated, accomplished, filmed and submitted to YouTube. Grand Central Station Freeze, New York City Subway Human Mirror, Best Game Ever and Food Court Musical are some of the more successful missions. 

Urban Prankster is coordinating similar networks in cities around the globe and you can participate in your community's next prank. This lens features classified links showing how to join as well as covert tools you can acquire to start you on your new clandestine secret agent journey and underground, undisclosed YouTube videos to give you an idea of what to expect of the undercover, confidential operations in your future. Virtual, invisible ink prevents non-members from compromising concealed information, but the encoded solution can be revealed with a stealth hand and sharp mind.

I'd tell you more, but I'd have to... well... you know. 

You've been Rick Rolled. This is too, too weird to explain. If you want to waste another 3:31 of your life read the official wikipedia or urban dictionary definition.


Have a good weekend. I'm going to bed. Buy T-shirts. Peace.

Memories of "The Lot"


Every young boy dreams of being famous-- usually a professional ball player of some kind or maybe an astronaut, or performer. They are going to conquer the world, discover new things, have millions of fans, break world records or be declared a hero. When I was a young boy, I did most of my dreaming where a lot of children do, on "the lot".

"The lot" can mean different things to different people. It can be an empty field, common ground, or even a parking lot. In our case, "the lot" incorporated all of these as it was the Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church Campus, occupying most of the inside of the suburban block that many of us lived on or near. 

It was a fairly small parish of, probably, 400 families. The campus was comprised the church building and a school with five classrooms and a multipurpose room. If you don't count the metal, shed-like concession stand, that was all of the structures so there was a ton of open space. There was a quad area between the two buildings that was kept up nicely but rarely used and a very large area that we just called "the hill" but it was really just a slightly sloped piece of land, running from the school down to the street that was supposed to be used for a gymnasium that was never built. The athletic field and the large parking lot took up most of the rest of the space. I always thought the parking lot was extremely large for a parish our size as I don't think I ever saw it more than 3/4 full-- even for Easter Vigil. All that space made for a huge amount of room to play. 

Kids today don't play like we used to. They need a coach and a referee and a permission slip to play. They need warm up exercises and family members in the stands and they need a cool, healthy but tasty treat after they formally line up and parade past each other slapping hands and chanting a monotone, "good game, good game, good game...".

I can think of maybe nine days that I wasn't up on the lot, after school when it was in session and, basically, all day in the summer, from the time I was able to leave the front yard and cross the street on my own until I was able to drive. We would all congregate, choose up teams and play until the fight broke out or it got dark, at which point we would drag all of our stuff home until the next day when we would do it all over again.

There was no schedule-- no set time to start. Everyone would just show up and as soon as we had enough to play it was go time. If you showed up late, you sat out until another came to make the teams even or were designated, "all-time-hiker" (or catcher, or goalie). 

Captains were usually the two oldest, biggest or the best athletes and the last person picked was probably the youngest, smallest and most uncoordinated. This practice may seem cruel, by today's standards, but I prefer it to giving every kid a trophy just for showing up. It was honest and let you know where your strengths and weaknesses were and made you determined to improve. 

Everyone was playing for themselves. There were no parents to make proud or girls to impress except the ones that were playing with us and we were an equal opportunity organization-- the girls were treated like boys. This, generally, made it all fair and fun.

Disagreements on the field were kept on the field. We called our own fouls and made our own penalties and if we had a problem working something out, as a last resort we had a "do-over". More often than not a escalating disagreement, bordering on a fight, would end the game for the day but because there was no clock we needed something to mark the end of the day. After all, we still had to make the trek home before the streetlights came on and, back then, we didn't have cel phones that we could use to call Mom and have someone pick us up.

There were no set seasons for particular sports on the lot either, although we were more likely to be playing Indian Ball than Roller Hockey in the dead of summer and we would usually stick to one pastime for a week or two before we got bored. We tended to mix it up pretty much but, living in Soccertown, USA, we naturally mix in a little more of that the the others.

"The field" was in pretty poor condition through most of the year. The infields had no grass and it was sparse and clumpy in the outfields. It was set up differently for baseball and soccer through parts of the year but we could do either at any time. We would usually play soccer on the quad though because it made it tough to run the whole field with less than eight or so guys per team. 

Hockey was played at the far end of the parking lot where it was not unusual to see just as many skated players as those in street shoes playing together. This is also where the basketball hoops were located. Although it was set up so you could play full court, we rarely played anything more than HORSE or "around the world".

"The hill" was where would normally play football. A quick poll of the available players would determine whether the game would be tackle or touch and with a real ball or the Nerf. We would also fly our kites and, when it snowed, sled on that hill, not that I would consider them sports, but it was cool because every kid in the neighborhood knew that was the place to be.

I wouldn't really consider Fenceball a sport either, but we played it more than any of the other stuff. I have no idea where Fenceball came from. For all I know, it was played only at OLM by only the kids on that lot. I'm not completely sure that my friends and I didn't invent the game. All I know for sure is that I kicked that ball up against that fence more times than I can begin to count. I kicked it with friends, strangers and by myself. I kicked off the bomb (a bad thing) and I kicked it off the post (a good thing). 

It is a very simple game with almost no rules-- you get one-touch to make the ball hit the front of the backstop fence (without using your hands). If you miss you are out and last one in... wins! There were variations over the years that, for the sake of time, I won't get into here and now... maybe on a future post. 

Still, to this day, some 25-30 years later, however, I can still visualize every inch of that dusty field-- especially the screen and the infield where we played Fenceball. I still dream, literally, of playing on "the lot" and conquering the world, discovering new things, having millions of fans, breaking world records and being declared a hero. 

I wonder if the others that played like that have as fond of memories as I do? In the case of our lot, they can be bittersweet memories because the lot doesn't belong to OLM anymore. Reorganization of the Catholic parishes in the area left it vacant and it was eventually sold to the public school district. I still drive by every once in a while and even stopped a time or two. They have left it, pretty much, unchanged-- yet it is very, very different.

Several years ago, I started writing my life list-- things I wanted to make a point of doing in my lifetime, but I put it aside, unfinished, a short time later. When I had the stroke, I guess because it was a reminder short a lifetime is, I dug it back out. The first entry on the page is "Go up to the lot and play Fenceball with my son."

I think he is old enough now to kick and still young enough to be impressed when I tell him that I hold the world record for kicking a soccer ball up against this fence...

...he may even declare me a hero.

9.17.2008

Designs We Like 1.01


I recently joined a blog exchange in which each member writes about another's designs in their blog once a month. I was fortunate enough in the first month to draw, i design tees, a shop with some very nice designs that will easy to write about. I as looked further into the shop, however, I realized that it was not going to be that easy because there are so many designs I liked, I was having a difficult time choosing one to write about!

I eventually decided on the Operation: Save 2nd Base Breast Cancer Awareness design. I chose this one for several reasons but none of them because of anything to do with baseball, or breast cancer-- or even breasts:

First, of which, is it made me laugh. It is a rare occurrence that you are browsing the Internet and you run across something that makes you laugh out loud-- especially something that main intention is to raise awareness for a good cause. This is not always easy to do-- get your message out to people in a fun and entertaining way, but when you find a way to make it happen it is always better than just being fun or just being informative.

Second, it is different. I don't know, but I don't think the artist originally made up the slogan Operation: Save 2nd Base but you can tell it was done with some thought put behind it. Like all of the designs on i design tees the graphics are strong, with a good use of fonts and color. In addition, there are many designs featuring retro-style or grunge-style designs-- both hot in today's market. In particular, the grunge technique used by this artist is one of the best I have seen recently.

Third. and most importantly, I just plain like it. It reminds me of a time when things were simpler, when "second base" was a big deal. You don't hear a lot about second base anymore because they are so common in today's pop culture! You can't go anywhere without breasts (excuse the expression) being in your face! Catching a bit of cleavage from a woman used to send off alarms but with what women are wearing now, there is much more exposed. Boob-job has been accepted into Webster's and it is not uncommon at all to see totally naked women with (very small) vital parts blurred out on TV!

I like this design enough that I am pretty sure that I would wear it on a T-shirt! I think a lot of men would!

Please visit i design tees and check out all of the cool designs including a wide variety of popular themed shirts for men, women and children and the exclusive Deathwish Motorsports extreme T-shirts.



This blog post is a part of a crossover blog. Other participants in this crossover blog are:

http://ateasetees.wordpress.com/
http://www.blogbydonna.com/
http://mindinfestation.blogspot.com


http://getyergoat-goatgifts.blogspot.com
http://shagtees.blogspot.com
http://www.nanwrightart.com


http://randomshirts.blogspot.com/
http://skeetzteez.blogspot.com/
http://idesignbrian.wordpress.com/


9.15.2008

Mell This!


A recent Web Poll question asks, "Which of your five senses would you most likely give up for $5 million?" 84.8% of the respondents chose smell. Although I can understand why they feel that way, I can't imagine going through life without any one of my senses, for any amount of money, but I think it would be especially hard to not be able to smell.

I am an visual artist by profession so, I suppose, being blind would be just incredibly tough to deal with. Music is also very important to me as a performing artist so losing my hearing would be very hard too. The sense (and scent) of smell, though, is very powerful. Smells can, among other things, cheer us up, calm us down, wake us, put us asleep, make us hungry, make us sick or trigger emotion or memories.

I have a new found respect for smells having recently quit smoking overnight (http://skeetzteez.blogspot.com/2008/08/how-to-quit-smoking-overnight.html). It was really strange, at first, how smells were so strong. I smelled something burning in my buddy's basement that no one else could find the fire. It was the neighbor's bar-b-que pit... two houses down. The way I found the cafeteria at the hospital was to sniff out, like a bloodhound, the only thing they were cooking at the time-- potatoes... just boiled potatoes. People would tell me for years how bad the stench of my gas I passed was, but I didn't believe them. Now I have a hard time staying in the room with myself when I fart.

Perfume and cologne products have been around since at least 2000 B.C. and are now a multi-billion dollar industry. I wish I had realized how important smell was a long time ago. Apparently there is a reason why the "good stuff" cost $50-$60 or more-- the Chicks dig it! At least a lot more than "the essence of some fragrance you've heard of" offered in the vending machine in gas station men's rooms for 25 cents a squirt.

Not that I ever used that stuff! I was a Polo man. In fact, I'm still a polo man. Not the Polo Sport or Polo Platinum stuff, either. We're talking dark green bottle, gold bulbous lid, smellin' like you just got out of high school gym class and didn't want to take a shower in a public locker room so you'll just throw on a bunch of this, original 1980's Ralph Lauren Polo. MLW hates it so I don't wear it much but I keep a bottle around because the smell reminds me of when I was cool (or at least thought I was cool).

During a recent trip to the mall we got turned-around in a department store and ended up in the middle of the men's' fragrance section. MLW who, by the way, smells everything before she buys it (and I mean everything), went about sticking sample bottles under my snout and asking me what I thought of this scent and that scent. M3S, imitating his mother and I, proceeded to grab the samples that he could reach (and some that he couldn't) and took a sniff himself. I don't know if is in his genetic makeup or if was pure, darn luck when he proudly showed us that green bottle of Polo and exclaimed, "Mell dis, Mama. Dis mells sooooo good! Dada should buy dis pray!" 

That's my boy!

He's only three-years (and has trouble with his consonant blends) but he doesn't get the concept that there is a difference between him and the older kids, or adults for that matter, so I give him a couple of sprays of my fancy cologne when I put it on. It makes him feel big and it makes me feel good that he wants to be like his Daddy.

I almost feel bad, though, that I used this little routine to trick him. M3S doesn't like to take a nap, or should I rephrase that? He doesn't like to sleep anytime! (He thinks he's going to miss something.) Well, he was getting excited when we did this cologne routine and I thought it would be fun to also spray his Teddy Bear (named not Teddy, but Barry). Barry, though, gets his own cologne, which is actually an aromatherapy, pillow spray that is supposed to make you sleepy. Since he takes Barry in the car seat and to bed with him, he has been much easier to get to sleep. Now if I can only find a smell to wake him up and clean the house.

See-- smells are powerful things, and we didn't even touch on the power that it has over your appetite. My mouth will start to water at the first whiff of a food that I really like. I bet you can't tell me that you don't get up from your desk at the office and track down the person that just microwaved a bag of popcorn late in the afternoon. 

Other smells can bring back memories. After my stroke I had the strangest thing occur (besides being able to burp for the first time in my life). My memories were so vivid that I felt that I could really smell them-- almost like a photographic memory with my nose. I could smell mornings after spending the night with my Grandparents when I was very young... bacon and eggs and cigarette smoke, as well as other things like the way my 5th grade teacher smelled of BO, coffee, moth balls and Old Spice. Weird, huh? I told my recovery psychiatrist and that's all he said... "weird, huh?"

There is one smell, though, that I remember from the years in my teens when my friends and I would hang out at Six Flags. It wasn't just the smell of the park itself although it had many distinctive odors like the wooden turnstiles, landscaping mulch and lemonade stand in the humid air in the line to ride Thunder River; the strangely appetizing combination of tasty funnel cakes, popcorn, freshly airbrushed T-shirts, fryer grease and electricity from the bumper cars through the game booths up by the Screaming Eagle; or the strong fragrance of vomit, consisting mostly of-- a powdered sugar donettes and Canadian Mist-- breakfast, behind the Galaga machine in the Pac 'em In Arcade

My favorite smell was, simply, the peaceful, clean odor of a strong, late-afternoon thundershower meeting the fresh blacktop that was heated to a comfortable 112ยบ in the unbearable, hot, August sun. Every once in a while I will catch a bit of it drifting across my nostrils and it brings me back to our days and nights in that amusement park when our biggest worry was, "where did we park the car?" and we thought we were cool cause you could smell our Polo from 120 feet away.

No-- if you ask me, I am not going to give up my sense of smell. I'd just as soon cut my nose off. Besides, speaking physiologically, as I understand it, you would automatically lose your sense of taste if you lost your ability to smell. Therefore, you might as well just pick taste. Think of all the weight you would lose!

Buy T-shirts! http://www.cafepress.com/skeetzteez


Monday Morning Quarterback 1.04


I can't quite figure out how it seems we do nothing over the weekend and still I am so, so tired on Mondays. I mean dead tired! And all day long! I thought I was going to doze off driving to get something for lunch. 

If it was just because of the brain injury, you would think that it would be getting better instead of worse. I'm sure the meds have something to do with it and aging certainly doesn't help but I didn't expect it to be this bad yet.

I think we should bring back nap time. Remember kindergarten? We would get out our mats and lay down after snack time. I know I fell asleep. I wonder if everyone did and how long they let us lay there. 

M3S doesn't do very well with naps. I can get him to lie down with me but it is usually me that falls asleep first. Then he gets up and starts the party. He has this "night-hyper" thing going when he gets sleepy, he will get all excited and talk a mile a minute. M3S definitely has inherited this super power from MLW but I am more than familiar with the phenomenon because my brother suffered from it as a kid.

OK, my tired brain is starting to wander in too many different directions. Let's get on with my notes from the weekend:

• Two words regarding Tina Fey's job doing Governor Palin on SNL: Told ya.
• Stages of my life and Saturday Night Live viewership: 1) Too young to stay up to watch. 2) Old enough to stay up but not old enough to understand the jokes. 3) Old enough to understand but too busy to watch. 4) Time to watch but too old to understand the jokes. 5) Too old to stay up to watch. I'm somewhere between stages 3 and 4 with periods of 5.
• Unfortunately, I was a bit off on my comment, last week, that Brett Favre was a winner no matter what team he played for but I'm man enough to admit it and I'm still not giving up on him.
• It is also unfortunate that I was not off on my other football comments last week: the Rams suck and so does our Fantasy team.
Hot: Urban Prankster Network Squidoo Lens. I have no idea why. http://www.squidoo.com/urbanprankster
Not: How to Make a Suck for a Buck Squidoo Lens. I had to change the rating from R to G because it just wasn't getting any action. The pecker straws must have scared away a few people: http://www.squidoo.com/suckforabuck
Happy Birthday to potential readers: Carrie Fitz, Our Cousin Vinnie and Jordo! Kareoke Saturday!
• Let me just say in my own defense and with all due respect, "Let's Roll" was not made up on Flight 93. It is not trademarked or copyrighted and, in fact, according to wikipedia, may have its origins as early as 1908 and has been mentioned in Farris Buelller's Day Off, Hill Street Blues and the Simpsons before 2001 when, on September 11, it became a symbol of heroism and self sacrifice. I had not intended disrespect in titling this Link Roll "Let's Roll" and sincerely apologize to anyone who may be offended.
• Phrase of the week that you haven't used in 20 years: Shoot the Chit. As in: talk.
• I joined Facebook to help promote the SkeetzTeez shop at: http://www.cafepress.com/skeetzteez. I put it off until now because I wasn't sure if it was appropriate for adults to be hanging out on a Social Networking Website, but a lot of successful shopkeepers to advertise. I will let everyone know how it works out but, in the mean time, it is yet another way that readers can give me feedback. I would love to hear from you!

Tryptophan!!! That's why I am so freaking tired. We had turkey for dinner last night!

9.12.2008

Let's Roll! 1.03


Does it feel like this week went by really fast? Usually a regular week after a shortened one just drags on and on but yesterday I looked up and it's Thursday already! Before we look at our Link roll for the week let's go to the board and look what's happening on the Statcounter report:

Top five keywords that resulted in visits to SkeetzTeez or SkeetzTeez Blog:
5. brett favre
4. schweddy balls
3. Saracuda
2. land of the lost
1. suck for a buck

Top five designs sold at SkeetzTeez http://www.cafepress.com/skeetzteez
5. Favre Goes Deep (That's What Cheese Head)
4. Slapshot (Charlestown Chiefs)
3. Schweddy Balls
2. Big Brother (Sister) '09
1. McCain/Palin (McMaverick/Sarahcuda)

I am still a little unsure of what links I am going to include today. Is anybody actually checking these out? If you have links of your own that you would like to appear in this column, send them to me (in the comments section). I will pick one per week and run them with mine. Okay, Let's Roll:

http://delicious.com
del.icio.us is a Web-based bookmark application I have been using. It works, pretty much, like your bookmarks in your browser with a few extra bells and whistles but what I like best about it is the fact that you have the same pages marked on any and every computer that you sign on to. I am looking at the same list of Websites on my computer at work, at home or from the library.

You can download buttons from del.icio.us that can be added to your browser menu bar to post an address or view all your bookmarks with one click. You also have many preferences available to customize your saved files including the ability to tag your entries and then subscribe to tags (so when someone else uses that tag for a Site they found, you are notified) and network with other users. All-in-all pretty helpful, easy to use and free!

http://simile.mit.edu/timeline
To be completely honest, I don't know what this is, exactly... but it is cool. I was doing some research, recently, on timelines for a project at work and stumbled across this little gem. Obviously the work of a really smart kid (or more likely a whole team of them) at MIT, this Site presents research and samples of a study to improve on the standard timeline that you often see in reports like this. (Kind of like an surreal picture of a picture of a picture and so on.) 

A lot of it is way over my head, to tell yo the truth, but the timelines themselves are somewhat interactive and the live examples contain some really neat information including a minute-by-minute account of the assassination of JFK, a comparison of the Jewish and Christian religious beliefs and the history of the dinosaurs. Maybe it's because I'm a dork and I'm into history and science and stuff, but I thought this was a cool site. I wonder if I can get to other MIT files?

http://www.urbandictionary.com
This is a silly little sight that can actually be helpful on occasion-- especially to older folks, such as myself. These kids today... it's like they have their own language or something!

I couldn't see how many entries they had but it was a... a... a... lot! Oh wait-- there is is: 3,332,673 definitions submitted since 1999. The urban dictionary is available in a hardcopy as well as online and has definitions for words from A.N.S. to Zzang. They are user-submitted definitions but, for the most part, they aren't too ridonkulous considering all the attention whores out there. Besides, where else can a noob, cougar, geezer or soccer mom find definitions to words or phrases like: whale tail, shart, break your crayons, cock block, dutch oven and peeps? Not to mention: putting lipstick on a pig, Napoleon Dynamite, qwertyuiop, Vanessa Hudgens, xbx or flexitarian.

But then again-- Why would they want to?

BTW don't call me skeet skeet! Peace out.


9.10.2008

Hard Ball: The Sad Tale of Big Mac- Ten Years Later


Apparently, this week marks the tenth anniversary of Mark McGwire's memorable season. Big Mac hit his 62nd home run of the 1998 season breaking the longstanding record held by Roger Maris. The local sports talk radio station was asking listeners if they remembered where they were and what they were doing the night that McGwire sent the long ball over the left field wall like it was an event like JFK being shot or 9/11.

I do, sadly enough, remember were I was that evening but that is more because I was struggling with a serious bout of depression, at the time, and spent almost every night in this particular place. As I remember the people in the bar that night, pretty much, went crazy-- similar to the reaction when the Cardinals won the Series. Maybe it was the overall depression but I was not at all impressed with the so-called feat.

Baseball as a whole, needed McGwire to break that record. They needed the race between him and him and Sammy Sosa, that had been building all year, to climax that September night. The climate in MLB was poor before that season. A recent strike had disheartened many fans and there was a shortage of family-friendly stars. McGwire and Sosa got everyday people talking hardball again and became heroes to the kids.

Although I was way too old to be considered a kid by almost anyone and I didn't care particularly for any of the players, I was still a fan of the game, but there was something about what was going on in this circus they called America's past-time that didn't sit right with me. Not that the league was, intentionally, doing something shifty but things didn't seem to add up.

There was a lot of talk, around that time, about the ball being juiced. Statements from the league and Rawling's officials denied the accusations and independent tests from outside parties failed to produce results except a bunch of cork, yarn and horsehide.

Even at that time, if they would've looked at the baseball players instead of the baseballs, they probably would've found their juice a few years earlier than they did during the Congressional hearings on the steroids scandal. I really, really hate the idea that many young peoples' heroes were taken down-- that, in some cases, the truth came out and, in others, the line between truth and lies became harder to find or disappears, altogether. I also hate that legendary players like Hank Aaron and Walter Johnson, as well as thousands of lesser known men, who didn't have the steroids and growth hormone, are being forgotten-- with a career full of statistics being swallowed up and spit out by the modern day likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemons.

I am not claiming that the old timers didn't have their own way of gaining an edge. We have to remember that even though it's a game-- it is still big business with big money implications. I know players that used things that "weren't exactly against the rules" to find that edge in much lower levels of organized sports than the Bigs. Even if drug testing cleans the game of all steroids and HGH, (some of) the professionals are going to find something else to stay ahead of the game.

I do believe now, unlike ten years ago, the MLB is serious about cleaning up the sport. All the bad press about these players has the public asking, "How could the league not know this was going on?" Honestly, even if you ignore McGwire's acne problem, look at the size of this guy! Muscles weren't meant to be that big. That's why a bad step out of the box can put a guy on the 15-day IR and why baseball careers are shorter than they were in other eras and so many ex-ballplayers walk with a cane.

Maybe some day they will work out this mess and they can spend all of their time on something really important, like discussions on whether or not to reinstate Pete Rose to be eligible for the Hall of Fame. For me... I'm still a fan of the game but there are very few players that I will root for. Player's don't want to be our kids' role models? News for them: I don't want them to be.

Stick with the Old Time Baseball: When Hardball Was Played Hard. Get the brand new T-shirt at: http://www.cafepress.com/skeetzteez/5966673

9.09.2008

When I was your age...


A comment I made in this blog yesterday that I remember when there was no MTV got me thinking about other things that or common today that we only imagined on the Jetsons. I think older folks stating things like, "When I was your age I walked seven miles to school everyday... uphill... both ways" has always happened, and as I get older, myself, I am starting to think the same way. Life gets easier for each generation, therefore each generation gets... softer.

I want to be careful that I don't, directly, say that young people are lazy. I would describe it as more of a sense of entitlement that is driven by the fact that advancements in technology and a, generally, strong economy since the mid-seventies.

MTV was just the tip of the iceberg of things that we gained since 1980-- which besides entertainment, it didn't have any real value. Cable TV though, as a whole, changed things dramatically. Overnight, we went from six channels (two of those had bad reception) to sixty. We used to get three channels of news three times a day, but all of a sudden we were bombarded with 24-hour news stations. Movie channels, history and science channels, food network and home and garden TV, as well as stations showing cartoons, classic TV reruns, religion, government and weather allowed viewers just about any information they had interest in.

Our family got cable later than most of my friends but not compared to when we got our first microwave. It seemed like years that I was amazed when people told me they could cook bacon in a few minutes or heat up leftover pizza for breakfast instead of eating it cold. You mean you can cook a TV dinner in the amount of time it takes me to pre-heat the oven?

Another question for the youth of today. At what age does a child require their own mobile phone? Today's cell phones are a big improvement over my first one, twelve years ago, at the age of 30. Our house had one phone (right in the middle of the, very private, kitchen) with one line when we were growing up. They call dialing a phone "dialing the phone" because it had a dial on it that you had to put your finger in and turn for each digit. If you were trying to win something on a call in radio show you had to start a minute and a half before they gave out the number. And we were lucky! Good friends of mine had a party line (shared with another family) until, at least, 1986.

None of these things, though, made as big an impact on our lives as computers. My dad was a programmer so I was aware of them from an early age but we would never consider having one in our home... because they were bigger than the house! By the time I got out of grade school they had got them down in size a bit and even video games had made it from the arcade to the home with the introduction of Atari. It was nothing like the gaming systems of today but, at the time, they were the coolest thing in the world! 

In high school I used my first personal computer-- a Commodore 64, but when I took my first computer class, during my Senior year, we used punch cards and the BASIC language to program giant machines to do very simple tasks. The cards went away like the metric system in the following few years as the computer technology advanced at the speed of light. I didn't even get a chance to take the only Computer Graphics 101 class in college before I graduated because my Career Counselor said it was a fad but, not a year later, I was working on my first Macintosh system and I haven't been able to keep up with the trend yet.

It took a few more years for Al Gore to invent the Internet, allowing users to do and learn and play even more and, as far as I can tell, unless a super-huge particle accelerator makes a mini-black hole that swallows up the earth and all it's surroundings, the possibilities are endless.

When I had my brain attack last year, the doctors and therapists told me that they have seen more and more strokes in young people recently. Although, I can't blame my inactivity, totally, I do believe that technological advancements leading to less work and more play made me lazy and contributed greatly to the event.

So, readers... I have a simple request. Get up (after you're finished reading this blog-- of course) and do something. You don't have to walk to school seven miles... uphill... both ways, make dinner without use of modern appliances or hire a personal trainer and get a gym membership... just do something: step away from the computer, get up to change one of the 207 TV channels (or even better, turn it off for a while), go for a walk with a friend, chase the kids around a while or your wife, for that matter. Even George Jetson took Astro for a brisk walk every night!

Think about how all of these, and hundreds of other advancements have made our lives so much better. They are all good... but that can be very bad for us.

Editor's Note: This article was supposed today and I had another that was supposed to run yesterday but I am not finished with the SkeetzTeez design to accompany the story. Therefore I am not pitching any specific design today, but don't let that discourage you from browsing: http://www.cafepress.com/skeetzteez

9.08.2008

Monday Morning Quarterback 1.03


This is the first time since I started blogging that the Monday Morning QB column will be published in the NFL regular season. I don't want this space to be taken up with football talk on Mondays, or any other day, for that matter but I will start, this week, with a few observations from the gridiron. I am more a fan of professional football than anything close to expert commentator, and I won't go very in-depth, but wanted to point out some things that were surprises after the first weeks games and a few things that were not:

Surprises:
• Brady's done for the year.
• The Bears rolled into Indy and spanked the Colts.

Not Surprises:
• Favre is a winner in whatever city he plays in.
• The Rams are in for another long year...
• ... but not as long as my fantasy team.

The only good thing to come out of this week's FFL scores is the lowest score for the week gets the first shot at the Waiver Wire. That's a big deal when a couple of high ranked picks get injuries that knock them out for the season. On with the other stuff:

• Went to Disney on Ice: An Incredibles Adventure in Disneyland with MLW and M3S on Friday. For the first time in my life, I truly appreciate all of the stupid stuff my Dad would take us to when we were young as the highlight of the night was waiting for Frozone to fall on his tookus every, single time he was on the ice. Thus, sadly reinforcing the stereotype that only white cartoon characters can ice skate (or play hockey) to millions of little kids.
• A new design by request in the shop: Urban Cougar Fitness. Check it out at:  http://www.cafepress.com/skeetzteez/5956090
• I also went against my better judgement and added a political design. I didn't think it was a good idea because depending on one's view you turn off 42%-48% of your potential customers and confuse the 9%-12% of undecided people.
• Which reminds me: When replying to a poll, if you don't have an opinion on the subject do you check the no opinion box or just not answer the question? 
• "The epitome of hyperbole." If you correctly pronounced that statement you are among only 
2.9% of english speaking Americans who could.
• Two additional things that prove that I am old: I had heard of less than 2.9% of the artists featured on the MTV Music Awards last night and I, not only, remember when MTV played music videos but I also remember when there was no MTV. Really!
• I did two new lens on Squidoo last week: Shermer High School and Urban Cougar. You can see all ten of my lenses at: http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/Skeeeeeetz.
• Did you know that there are over 40 names for cougar (the animal) in the English language? Some of them include Puma and Mountain Lion.

Until tomorrow... Peace.

Oh– one more thing. If anyone knows my sister-in-law, who used to be a regular reader, tell her we said Hi!