Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Agile Marketing Method

For the past eight years, I have spent my life marketing software. When you market software, you end up learning more than just a little bit about the software development process, its benefits and its challenges. You also learn, like many others before me, that occasionally, the principles of software development can lend themselves to other areas of business, including marketing.

The term “agile marketing” is starting to get a lot more ink these days so I feel it is time for me to release a little something I originally put notes together on across a few evenings a couple years ago and refined over more than a few evenings over the past couple months – a guide on a little something I call “The Agile Marketing Method.”

In this guide, I give marketers insight into how they can apply one software development method – Agile – to their marketing projects. I explain a little bit about the history of software development methodologies that led to the creation of Agile, the principles of Agile, as well as how marketers can use some of Agile’s principles and processes to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their marketing efforts.

Read The Agile Marketing Method.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Combatting Content Lengthiness: Why I Take My 15-Minute Walks

If you work with me, you’ve probably noticed that I disappear for 15 minutes a couple times a day. Sometimes I am just taking a break and stretching my legs, but most of the time, I am out giving one of my content pieces a length test.

We all know that content is king when it comes to marketing these days, but I also feel that much too often, I find myself nodding off due to the length of some of the pieces that find their way to my inbox.

It is my belief that 15 minutes is long enough for us content marketers to clearly and concisely get our point across, no matter what our message might be. If it takes our audience longer than 15 minutes to read and understand a piece of content, it is either too long, covers too many topics, or is just too plain wordy.

Hence, you can find me a couple times a day, out on a 15-minute walk with a piece content in my hand, ensuring that my reading doesn’t outlast my walking.

My goal is to make sure that I can read the piece completely and thoroughly and understand each word in the time it takes to walk my 15-minute-long route. But if by chance, I am back from my walk and find myself still reading, it is a clear signal that I either need to do some serious editing or break the piece down into smaller chunks.

Not that you need instructions on how to walk, but if you’re thinking of following in my footsteps to give your own content pieces a length test, here’s what I did:

First, I timed myself on a walk near the office that not only provides quiet, but is also safe enough to traverse while really only partly paying attention to the actual act of walking.

I found a mostly level route with some cover for those too-sunny or too-rainy days, though I will readily admit you will see me out there with an umbrella on rainy days because as they say in the marketing biz, the content must go on.

I also made sure my route did not cross any stoplights or intersections that cause me to stop and wait because that would throw off my time and impact my results.

Once I had my route planned and timed, confirming it was 15 minutes from start to finish, I printed out my piece of content, grabbed my pen and went on my first length-test walk. I have repeated as necessary for many months now.

If you are thinking of giving my length-test method a try, please do. You can choose to review your piece electronically, pick a route with no cover at all, or modify my guide as you wish, as long as you ensure that your route is exactly 15 minutes and that you are done reading your piece by the time your walk is done.

Just think, if every content creator out there adheres to this inexpensive, easy-to-set-up, easily repeatable length test, all of the content in our inboxes will be so much better! 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

My Translation Of Ben Franklin's The Way To Wealth

From 1732 to 1758, Benjamin Franklin published his Poor Richard’s Almanac that contained weather forecasts, practical household hits, puzzles, and other amusing writings. Franklin often filled the empty spaces in his almanac with wordplay and witty phrases, many of which are used to this day. Many of the most memorable phrases deal with being courteous, thrifty and self-sufficient.

In the 1757 version of the almanac, Franklin compiled his proverbs about industry, frugality and self-sufficiency into a prefix that took the form of a wise elderly man imparting the knowledge he gained from Poor Richard to a host of people waiting for an auction to start. This prefix was later published separately in a wildly popular essay called The Way to Wealth.

To this day, Franklin’s The Way to Wealth remains sage financial advice. The problem is that much like many of the old English texts, the essay is becoming less understandable to all of us slang-slingers with each passing day. Fortunately for you, I have taken some of my spare time over the past couple of months to piece together an updated translation that makes The Way to Wealth a much easier read.

Click here to read the eBook.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Did You Learn More From School Or Your First Job?

I'm celebrating a very important personal anniversary. Twenty-five years ago today, after spending the morning and early afternoon as a sophomore student at Westminster High School in Westminster, California, probably ditching at least one class, coming back late from an off-campus lunch, and more likely than not, spending most of my time writing poetry or a short story instead of paying attention in class, I donned my black Reebok sneakers, black socks, black dress pants, white button-down long sleeve shirt, burgundy and dark blue thick polyester tie (which I still have hanging in my closet as a souvenir) with a thick dark blue apron, and thanks to a car ride furnished by my mom, started the very first shift of my very first job.

Still six months shy of reaching my sixteenth year on this earth, I would spend what at the time seemed like a very long tenure of six months bagging groceries, mopping and sweeping floors, re-stocking go-backs and secretly assisting the cooler stock crew (don’t tell the union) for what started out as a mere 12 hours a week that quickly turned into a full-time 40 hours.

While at the time the day-to-day tasks that even included shoveling broken glass out of the recycling machines into transport bins and hand-trucking pallets of product out into the parking lot and then back into the store on the Fourth of July for the big parking lot sale seemed unbearable at times, there is no single period of time in my early years that had more of an impact on my work ethic, career and life thus far.

By the time I would leave college some four years later to take my first actual full-time office job with actual benefits like health insurance and a retirement plan, I had sold baby clothes and furniture, made and sold cookies and sandwiches at a bakery, sold books and helped manage a bookstore, and amassed an entire portfolio of part-time and full-time-by-hours-but-not-by-benefits jobs that even included three simultaneous 20 hour per week jobs while attending community college full-time for a few months during what I did not realize would be the last semester I attended school.

But when I look back on the 25 years that encompass both being an employee and a small business owner, working 12 hours a week and working 100 hours a week, working for minimum wage and not-so-minimum wage, working out in the sun with a shovel and working inside a posh, high-rise corporate office with the latest and greatest in computer technology while wearing a suit, I credit that very first job with teaching me more than any school ever did.

I look back at a good, solid 25 years of never having used any of that damned algebra that gave me so much trouble. Sure, I might use a little of the geometry from time to time when I’m hanging a framed picture on a wall, but that’s just the basic third-grade stuff, not any of the geometry with little “x’s” and “y’s” that I labored year after year during my teens trying to understand. I look back at a good, solid 25 years of never having used any of that damned base-six crap, or any of the stuff I learned in all of those College Prep Honors Science classes that I barely passed.

What I have used year in and year out are the interview skills I started perfecting the day my mom drove me to all the Lucky grocery stores in town so that I could ask for job applications. What I have used year in and year out is the skill set of knowing how to work with both fantastic and horrible bosses like good ‘ol Bill, my manager at the grocery store, who managed somehow to be both all at once. What I have used year in and year out is the work ethic that I first forged by completing a bunch of mindless, labor-intensive, repetitive tasks, all the while, steeling myself in the fact that no matter what happened in life, I was going to move upward and onward and never stop building a better life for me and those around me. What I have used year in and year out is the understanding that my work is my own, my work ethic is my own, and above all, my lot in life and the success or failure of everything about it is all up to me and no one else.

Unfortunately, these are all things that I did not learn while attending school for fifteen years. I really wish that in those very, very, very long fifteen years instead of being taught what I needed to know in order to do well on standardized tests, I had been allowed to pursue my own education path, much as I did as soon as I got home from school, and much as I have done each and every day since I walked out of a state-subsidized, taxpayer-funded classroom for the last time.

I cannot imagine how my world might be even better today were I allowed to reach an agreement with schooling to concentrate on the skills I knew I would need as early on as I knew that I was going need them instead of having to still learn skills that would later prove to be as useless as I always knew they were going to be. Schooling should have let me concentrate on the skills that I knew I would be using to make a living one day instead of the skills that simply allowed me to pass a test well enough for the school to get funded for another year.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

7 Keys To Social Media Success

Deluxe Corp. recently conducted a survey that found only 21% of small business owners think social media is an important customer engagement tool. But, according to a CNET survey, 72% of U.S. adults use social media, and according to a Static Brain survey, social media usage skyrockets to 98% among 18- to 24-year-olds.

These survey results make it very clear that with each passing day, social media is playing a larger part in the lives of U.S. consumers.

While many small business leaders are reluctant to start the social media journey, countering that 73% of their business comes from word-of-mouth, these entrepreneurs are failing to realize an increasing number of consumers are using social media to facilitate their word-of-mouth recommendations.

In addition, many consumers who hear about a business via word-of-mouth often turn to the social media platforms they use most to learn more about the business. Without an active social media presence, these businesses are missing out on great opportunities to connect with potential customers.

So, how do businesses get started with social media? The very first step should be to create a comprehensive social media strategy. While this may sound like a daunting task, by breaking the work up into smaller, clearly defined tasks, creating a social media strategy can be painless.

In my guide, 7 Keys to Social Media Success, I outline how small businesses can get started with their own social media strategy today.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Journalists Finding A New Home

I remember us worrying…worrying that all of those poor journalists would be out of work once those environmentally-unfriendly newspapers started boarding up their windows and chaining their doors like something out of an old black and white movie about The Great Depression (or a Michael Moore movie).

But it turns out, the ones who have not already found a second life writing for websites on the print-newspaper-killing internet, actually have a pretty good chance of being hired by large enterprises to serve as storytellers in their very own corporate newsrooms.

That may sound odd and leave you wondering why in the world America’s enterprises would need their very own journalists, but, as consumers are evolving, so must the marketing department and the ad agency. Consumers fast forward through ads on TV, change the radio station as soon as a commercial comes on, ignore a-hell-of-a-lot-a online display ads, and things are only going to get worse for marketers and advertisers.

While this all seems scary for companies that rely on advertising to help generate revenue, many are finding a silver lining, a light at the end of the tunnel. While consumers simply don’t care to be bothered with advertising anymore, apparently, they are still interested in a good story, even if it is published by the very same companies whose advertisements they are ignoring throughout the day. In fact, not only did marketing web magazine CMS Wire call 2014 the year of storytelling, but based on what they’re seeing so far, 2015 might turn out to be…you guessed it…the year of storytelling.

And who better to research, develop, and tell the stories these consumers want than the folks that were classically trained in gathering and disseminating stories in a way that makes people want to listen…journalists.

Needless to say, the journalist at a dying newspaper or the barely-hanging-on-by-the-skin-of-their-teeth news site is going to jump at the chance to translate their skills into some real big, evil corporation money.

So, gone may be the days when our top journalists are working for newspapers, online rags, magazines, and the evening TV news. We just might be witnessing the dawn of the age of advertising and storytelling where our top journalists are reporting on the historic ties between Coca-Cola and Santa Claus, reporting on the philanthropic efforts of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet for either Microsoft, Berkshire or the Gates Foundation, or maybe even compiling a seven-part series on the history of Mercedes-Benz Racing for It’s a brave new world out there, people…

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Pick Your Moments, Take Stock, Then Take Action

That was an amazing year! There really is no other way to put it. I don’t mean to talk about the hot butter on my breakfast toast by any means, but I am truly hoping that each of you had the same fantastic 2014 that I did and are also looking at an even better 2015.

I know that each of us take moments in time to take stock – for some it is a day like December 31st or January 1st, for some it is a birthday, or an anniversary of some sort. While each new day can always bring new possibilities, we all know that these moments in time – these milestones – somehow make it easier or more poignant to reflect, take stock, and hopefully, prepare an action plan.

I, for one, am very thankful for this particular part of our human nature, though I will be the first to admit that there have been times when at these moments of taking stock I have not been better off, or necessarily happier, or maybe even better off financially than I was at the previous moment of taking stock. But, I will say this – I have definitely not let too many of these moments of taking stock pass me by without at least trying to make some type of change. I encourage each of you to do the same. By regularly reflecting and taking action, you will find that over time, you’re going to be happier and better off in so many ways.

While you can read the titles on my LinkedIn profile and clearly see that I don’t consider myself a life coach or a Tony Robbins of any sort, I do know that some of my greatest successes in life have come from simply observing and learning the course of action that others in a similar situation have taken, or not taken. For that reason alone, coupled with the fact that I know a large number of you are using today and tomorrow to take stock, I thought I’d share my method of reflection with you. There is nothing groundbreaking, nothing that you don’t already know yourself, but sometimes seeing it writing can really help you get started. And, if I can humbly be a part of any positive change in anyone’s life by simply sharing my experiences, then I feel I am using my talents for good.

So, to break it down, there are only three steps: Choose your moments of reflection, take stock, then do something about it.

You can choose moments that occur annually on the calendar, such as your birthday, your wedding anniversary, etc., but I recommend that you conduct this reflection more often than just once a year. Maybe choose the first of every month, or the first Monday of every month, or find some reoccurring event in your life that can act as a great point in time for you to reflect.

Every six weeks, I get my haircut - like clockwork, every six weeks. My appointments are scheduled three deep and no matter what happens in the world and in my life, I know that if I’m still able to get out of bed in the morning and I’m still conscious, I am going to need a haircut. This makes it very easy for me to take a quick moment while I’m driving to my haircut, while I’m sitting in the chair, or at any time that day, really, to take a look at where I am and determine if I am better off that day than I was during my previous haircut. Find your haircut – find your regular rhythm with some regular event in your life and at every interval, you have a perfect opportunity to remember to reflect, take stock and then, take action.

Once you’ve chosen your moment, then every time it rolls around, you can take stock of the relationships in your personal life, the relationships in your professional life (including your job or your business), the relationship you have with your finances, or any other relationship in your life that needs attention. If you’re on the right track, this might not take long. It could be just a few moments of reflection to know that you’re in a better job than you were last year, or that there is more money in the bank this year than last year, or that there is less debt weighing you down than last year, or that you are closer and not more distant from the loved ones in your life. Granted, you may find yourself in a spot where some of these reflections are not going to be just a quick moment, but might take some actual in-depth thought and analysis. Either way, make sure that you take the time that you need to sort through what needs to be sorted out.

Lastly, once you’ve reflected, it is time for you to actually do something about it. Hopefully, you will find yourself in a spot where all you need to do is keep doing what you’re doing. Hopefully, you can just stay the course because everything is going great and you find yourself better off than you were at the previous moment of reflection, and hopefully, a number of consecutive previous reflection moments as well. But, if you don’t find yourself better off in any way, it is the perfect time for you to do something about it. It is as simple as creating a plan and then following through with it.

While it may take you a little while to get in the groove of conducting these regular reflections on your relationships, your career and your finances, I can only suggest that you give it a try and see how it works out for you because those haircut moments have worked wonders for me.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Celebrate Orange County’s 125th Birthday (A History Of Orange County's Birth) By County Supervisor Pat Bates

The Orange County Fair will [feature] a special celebration in honor of the County’s Quasiquicentennial, a fitting tribute to be held 125 years to the day that Orange County officially split from Los Angeles County.

Additionally, an exhibit titled “OC Circa 1889” opens Friday, July 18 and runs until Friday, Oct. 10 at the Old County Courthouse in Santa Ana. The opening reception Thursday, July 17 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM features a lecture by historian Phil Brigandi, who assembled the photos and information for the exhibit. The reception is FREE and open to the public.

The Orange County Historical Commission will also debut a special OC 125 map later this month, available both on paper and as an app! For more information, please visit the Commission’s website.

Here’s the story of how Orange County was born:

In 1870, Max Strobel, the first mayor of Anaheim, helped push a bill through the State Assembly to form Anaheim County. The new county would have included the area south of the San Gabriel River. The bill failed in the Senate.

In 1872, a second bill was introduced – proposing this time to create an Orange County – but it never made it to a vote. Four years later, Anaheim leaders tried again, this time under the name Santa Ana County, hoping to gain support from that city. But since Anaheim would have been the County seat, the city politely declined support.

In 1881, the undaunted Anaheim supporters were back again, this time creating an Orange County but designating Anaheim as the County seat for only the first two years. A subsequent election would then determine the official County seat. Once again, the bill never came to a vote. Yet another attempt in 1885 also failed, even though that bill creating an Orange County passed through the Assembly.

By 1889, County supporters had regrouped and brought in some political heavy-hitters. Area Assemblyman Col. E.E. Edwards of Santa Ana introduced a new bill to create Orange County, bringing in Santa Ana’s founder, William H. Spurgeon—a prominent Democrat—and local Republican leader James McFadden to lobby the Legislature. Santa Ana business leaders kicked in $30,000 while San Francisco County legislators pledged support as a way to reduce Los Angeles County’s influence.

The bill passed both houses of the Legislature and was signed into law by Governor Robert Waterman on March 11, 1889. It allowed for local residents – by a 2/3 vote – to decide whether to create the county. The vote was held June 4, 1889 and passed easily – 2,505 to 499.
Once the vote was in, a second balloting was held July 17, 1889, to determine the County seat – a wise decoupling of the issue given the territorial pressures between Anaheim, Santa Ana and even Orange, the third incorporated city. Santa Ana emerged victorious.

With everything in place, Orange County officially came into being Aug. 1, 1889. The Board of Supervisors met for the first time Aug. 5, 1889, triggering yet another celebration when our Board meets this coming Aug. 5

Saturday, July 5, 2014

We Often Forget About The Content We Have By Joe Pulizzi

A few months ago, the CMI team was meeting with the content marketing director of a fairly large brand. She told us a horror story about duplicate content — here's the gist:

One internal group was working on a huge eBook designed for lead generation. It cost the company about $20k to conduct and compile the necessary research and hire multiple experts for the content side.

After the eBook was completed, the organization started to become better integrated around the asset of content, and had hired someone to fill the content marketing director role. Once this new hire completed an internal audit, she realized pretty quickly that the majority of eBook research they had just paid for had already existed in-house — and had the same findings.
The moral of the story is this: We need to start treating content as an asset in the organization. That means starting to properly tag and categorize content, so that it can be easily found and used for multiple purposes. Put simply: Just make sure you talk to the right people internally before you go off and create all the content for your amazing idea.

It happens all the time: We have a content idea, and we immediately go and source the content before finding out if we actually have some of the assets already at our disposal. A simple step like properly classifying your content will save you a lot of money and time.

Yours in content,
Joe Pulizzi
Content Marketing Institute

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Before Kicking In The Doors And Bursting Into A Meeting...

It’s funny…when I was in my mid-20’s, I was working for a boss that was promoted from being just an engineering manager to actually sitting on the executive board of the company.  My colleagues and I were all gangbusters at the idea because we thought that with him sitting on the board, we could work with him to get all of our initiatives pushed through much more quickly to approval.

Needless to say, my young ambitious ass marched right into his office as soon as I heard the news and quickly laid out all of the fantastic initiatives that my team and I were working on that he could now help ram straight through to approval!

He sat there quietly and kind of smiled and after pausing a second proceeded to tell me that his plan was actually to spend about the first three months or so that he was sitting on the board just observing the meetings and the other executive team members to get a feel for how the meetings went, how topics were brought up for discussion and how things moved through the process from discussion to actual serious discussion and then on to talks about approval.  He said that he was definitely going to take things slow and not make any waves, taking a very strategic approach as not to jeopardize his or the department’s standing in the eyes of the board.

Sitting here today, writing this, now the age that he was at the time, his approach sounds so reasonable.  His approach was very thoughtful, very strategic, and above all, probably very smart.  What I marvel at today is how absolutely insanely ridiculous this approach seemed to me at the time!
Why not bust into that first board meeting, take charge of the room and throw down on the table all of the great initiatives that your team is working on and take advantage of the situation immediately and furiously to get what you want?

Like I said, it’s funny…it’s funny to see now how much of a hurry I was in back then and how little I understood about tact, corporate culture and above all, being reasonable.  Today, I must say, that I have slowed down and calmed down a bit, and while I have maintained my passion for work and for loving what I do, I have recognized the importance of pausing a minute or two to observe, take mental notes, and develop and implement a strategy before bursting into a meeting.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that each of us needs to be bold and take risks to advance our businesses and our careers, but we have to remember that when it comes to risk-taking, we also have to be thoughtful and patient.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Back When You Had To Lick Stamps To Mail Checks

I’m laughing at myself because I just had what I would call a senior moment (can we still say that?) and wanted to share it with all of you.  So, you know how you get solicitations for donations to charities in the mail and they’ll include a nickel or a dime or some other object to try to keep you from just throwing it away?  Well, I got one of those a couple months back – honestly can’t remember which charity it was from – but that particular charity’s object for that particular campaign was a postage stamp.  They say, hey look, we included a postage stamp so that you don’t have to pay the postage to send us money, all the while I am sure thinking that you’re not going to just toss the envelope because you’ll want the stamp, and maybe, just maybe, once you’ve opened the envelope, you’ll actually take a look at their stuff and feel more compelled to make a donation.

Now, needless to say for any of you who know me, I opened that envelope, took out the stamp, shredded the rest of the contents and went about my day because while I do make contributions to charitable causes, it has to be to a place I know inside and out and definitely would never be to one that I have only heard of through a letter they sent to my house.

I know some of you may be thinking hey, wait a minute, is it OK for us to use the stamp, the coins, or the return address labels these charities send to us if we don’t send them any money?  Well, you can all make your own decisions about that, but I have it on good authority from the folks at Money magazine that it is perfectly reasonable financial etiquette to use the items that have been sent to you without providing a donation because the items were sent to you unsolicited without any form of obligation from you to said charity.  So I say, use those coins, use those stamps and use those return address labels to your heart’s content!

So, anyway, now on to my senior moment:

You youngsters out there may not know about two things.  One is that we used to have these things called checks that we used to pay for stuff.  It was a piece of paper not much different in size from a dollar bill that was issued by our bank that had our checking account number – see, that is where the name checking account comes from – printed on it and when we wanted to pay for something, say a bill that came in the mail, or for groceries at the grocery store, or to pay a friend you owed some money, we took out a pen and we wrote a date, the name of the person or company we were paying, the dollar amount in both numbers and in words (yes, we had to actually write out One Hundred Forty-Six Dollars and Seventy-Two Cents), a memo about the check if we wished and our signature all on this piece of paper. We then handed it to the person we were paying and they took it to their bank and then their bank sent it to our bank and our bank sent the money to that person’s bank and then that person’s bank gave them the money.  This all usually took a couple days, sometimes even longer if there was a weekend in there, especially back in the days when banks weren’t open on Saturday mornings like they are today

The other thing you all might not know, or remember, is that postage stamps used to not have that convenient sticky backing that they do today.  Stamps didn’t used to be stickers, they, in fact, used to be stamps.  They had this adhesive film on the back and what we used to do was actually have to lick the back of the stamp in order to activate the adhesive so that our stamp would stick to the envelopes that we were mailing.  We did this stamp licking quite often back in the day, especially when all of our bills would come in the mail and we would write out checks to pay for them and have to lick upwards of 20 stamps a month in some cases.

So, don’t worry, I’m getting to that senior moment, I just felt that I needed to explain all of this to you so it would all make sense, especially if checks and licking stamps pre-dates you.

Fast forward to today and I have one bill – only one bill – that still comes in the mail and that I still, for some Godforsaken reason cannot pay online like every other single bill I have.  It is the association dues to the city of Aliso Viejo and to top it off, it only comes once a quarter, so I am writing literally only 4 checks a year at this point.  I had no idea when I got that book of 50 checks from my online bank for these crazy unforeseen eventualities of having to still write checks that it was going to end up providing me with over 10 years worth of checks!

So, this morning, I tear off the perforated slip at the bottom of the bill, reliving that nostalgia of the days before your ATM card was also a Debit Card, before you received your bills in an email and long before you could just go online and pay for everything and anything under the sun straight from your checking account.  I find a pen, write the amount that I am paying on the slip, find that check book, write out the check to the association, stuff it all into the envelope and put the return address label that I sure as heck didn’t send any money to the charity for on the envelope and then grab that free stamp I got two months ago.

It’s a single stamp, one of the Purple Heart ones that says “Forever”, unlike the days of yore when your stamp only had the value that you paid for it at the time, forcing you to drive to the post office when they raised the rates and buy a slew of 1-cent or 2-cent or 3-cent (depending on how bad the post office was doing at the time) stamps to compliment the stamp you had already paid for before they raised the rates.  Remind me to tell you kids sometime about how I used to mail my tax returns to the state and the fed with a check using well over 30 1-cent stamps on the envelope.

This stand-alone Purple Heart Forever stamp is cut perfectly with the serrated edges, just like the stamps I grew up with – the ones that you had to lick – so, guess what I did?  That’s right, I licked the back and pressed it against the top right corner of my envelope and guess what didn’t happen?  It didn’t stick!  So, I licked it again and I pressed it again.  And guess what?  I didn’t stick!

Had the adhesive somehow become ineffective during the stamp’s travels from the charity to my home in their envelope?  Had it somehow dissipated or become inactive while it was sitting in my drawer for two months?  This didn’t make a lick of sense!  So, naturally, I flip the stamp over to investigate.  It is then that I see the little curved swirl that is cut into – you guessed it – the thin paper backing that covers the sticky sticker backing of the sticker stamp.  So there’s Old Man Savastano, licking the back of a self-adhesive sticker, trying to mail out his check because the damned city is the only entity left on the planet that will not let me pay their bill online.

In my defense, it looked just like a real stamp.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Don't Grow Up! by Robert Safian, Editor, Fast Company Magazine

The following is an excerpt from Robert Safian's letter from the editor in Fast Company's July/August issue:

My nephew, who is in his early twenties, recently spent a year living with me and my family.  He worked at a bar, busing tables and serving drinks.  His experience reminded me how hard it is to choose a direction for your life, and how exciting an open field of possibilities can be.  It also felt deeply familiar.  Today, we all need to keep evolving in new ways and with new situations.  There is no clear destination.

What do you want to be when you grow up? That's a question we were all asked as kids.  Yet in many ways, it is the wrong question.  Because becoming a "grown-up" is no longer a onetime achievement.  It's like the storybook ending -"living happily ever after."  That has always been a myth.  And who would want a static life anyway?  Particularly in our age of flux, standing still leads to obsolescence.

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Little Insight Into How Government Spends: Widening Of The 405 Freeway

Here in Southern California, we have this wonderful monument to the achievement of the humans called the Interstate 405, or “the God-damned 405” to the locals.  It runs from mid-Orange County right up through Los Angeles County into the San Fernando Valley.  It was originally designed to be a bypass to the heavily congested Los Angeles-area portion of Interstate 5 that runs from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington.  But, if you know anything about Southern California, you know there are two cars for every person and a God-given right to never carpool so we have congested the crap out of the bypass artery too.  As a result, we are continually widening the 405.  In fact, since the Orange County section of the 405 opened in 1969 as an actual Interstate, the 405 has been widened time and time again.  It literally seems like as soon as we finish adding a lane, we start adding the next lane.  Adding a lane in each direction one at a time, each new lane basically becoming obsolete by the time it is finished.

Each time a widening is needed, there is wrangling among Orange County officials, transportation budgets, city councils and citizens.  The most recent widening project proposals even included the possibility of adding toll lanes to the 405.  Pulled from a recent newsletter from one of the County Supervisors, here are the options that were being considered:
Option 1: Add one general purpose lane in each direction between Costa Mesa and the County line in Seal Beach (14 miles from SR-73 to I-605) at a cost of $1.3 billion that is already fully funded.
Option 2: Added two general purpose lanes in each direction with an approximate $100 million funding gap that raises concerned that trying to find $100 million could potentially jeopardize other scheduled freeway projects, such as upcoming I-5 improvements.
Option 3: Add one general purpose lane in each direction and one high-occupancy toll (HOT) lane in each direction. In addition, the current high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane would have been converted into an HOT lane to create a two-lane toll facility (“managed lanes”), similar to the 91 Express Lanes. Toll revenue bonds would have helped fund this $1.7 million project.
Government has decided that Option 1 is the way to go.  Our existing toll roads and toll lanes are not turning out to be as profitably as everyone thought they were going to be, so I can understand their reservation about Option 3, though I must admit that when stuck on the 405, I sure as hell would be willing to pay $5 to get into a lane that is actually moving.

So, even with Option 3 tossed out, when you look at Option 1 and Option 2, I find myself a little surprised (yet at the same time completely not surprised) that government is going with Option 1.
Government is going to add one lane in each direction to the 405 from the 73 to the 605 at a cost of $1.3 billion with the entire cost completely covered.  For just $100 million more – that’s $1.4 billion dollars instead of $1.3 billion – government could add a second lane in each direction at the same exact time.

I think all of us, as well as our County Officials, are familiar with the concept of a volume discount – where by buying more at the same time you save money over buying the same amount at two separate times.  One lane for $1.3 billion or two lanes for $1.4 billion is a hell of a volume discount!
I understand that the $100 million is not funded right now so government would we’d have to come up with the money somewhere, but government seems to be able to find billions and billions of dollars to waste nationwide each and every year.  I am sure one of the most lucrative counties in the country could come up with a mere $100 million, right?

The worst thing about this lack of desire on the part of County Officials to try to find this $100 million is that if history is an indication of the future, as soon as this lane is done, we’re going to need another lane and within a matter of a few short years, we’ll be building that additional lane under a new construction project that is definitely going to cost a hell of a lot more than the $100 million that we could spend now. 
So, a government that seems to have no problem spending and spending and spending (and spending frivolously at that) won’t spend $100 million today to save $1.3 billion (or probably even more than that) ten years from now.  In what world does this make sense?  Definitely not the world that we idiot taxpayers have to live in!  We, unlike government, have to make sound and common sense financial decisions because our future income is not guaranteed by law or and ability to jail someone for refusing to provide us with our income.
The single largest threat to government is a lack of government growth and the single largest threat to government growth is efficiency and common sense.  I believe, whether intentional or not, this is why government opts to spend 13 times more money down the road on a future project than make a sound financial decision today.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Respect The Military Peace-Mongers - They Make Your Existence Possible

Despite the fact that in the 60 years that NORAD has been tracking Santa Claus on Christmas Eve each year Santa has received a fighter jet escort through Canada and the US, the animations this year actually show the fighter jets, and the peace-mongers are all up in arms about how seeing the fighter jets are going to traumatize America’s children.  Oh, the children….Won’t somebody please think of the children!

First off, when you wake up tomorrow morning in the safety of your secured home on land that is privately owned by you or the person you are renting from and you use your running water and on-demand electricity then put on your nice or comfy clothes and your warm jacket either before or after you get into your automobile that you own or the bank has leant you the money to own and either drop the kids off at school or go straight to your job, just remember one thing….None of that would exist without the United States Military.  So if NORAD wants to give Santa Claus a fighter jet escort in its animations, then NORAD should get to give Santa Claus a fighter jet escort in its animations.  NORAD is not crazy for using its military might to protect Santa Claus, these peace-mongers are crazy for not recognizing that their right to whine about Santa Claus having a fighter jet escort has been secured for them by well over two hundred years of the United States Military.

Peace-mongers, be thankful that you have a military that lives in the shadows of your life; one that stays on its bases and airfields and is not roaming through the streets picking people up and bringing them in for questioning.  Be thankful that you have a military that fights overseas and never here at home among us, or with us.  Be thankful that we have the damned fighter jets to protect Santa Claus (and you) in the first place!

Trust me, America, your kids know that there are guns and they know that we have a military and they know that there are fighter jets and they know what they are for and they also know that there are threats out there in the world to their safety.  It is not a foreign concept to them.  They do what you tell them because they are afraid of you – either what you will do to them, or what you will take away from them.  There are challenges in their young lives that they are afraid of and there are bullies at their school that strike fear into their little hearts.  They might not tell you about it, but trust me, there are things they are afraid of so a fighter jet escort for Santa as a security measure is very practical and non-life-altering concept for your little ones to understand and process, despite what you might think or choose to believe, peace-mongers.

Also, if you have not yet leveled with your children about Santa Claus and they think he’s real, visits every house in the world with a good child who lives in it, etc. etc. etc., then do you not think that it is a very practical measure with all the threats to our safety out there in the world (which again, despite your best efforts, your kids know about), the United States Air Force would not be called on to protect Santa Claus as he flew over the United States?  Anybody even sneezes wrong on a commercial plane these days and boom! – fighter jet escort!  If Santa Claus were real, would he not be a fantastic target for a terrorist organization? Think of the damage to the economy and the mental strife shooting Santa out of the sky would have on all of us if he were real.

So, if your kids think Santa is real and they are going to hear about Santa being tracked by NORAD this year, take comfort in knowing that your kids are going to know Santa is completely safe with the high-level bomb-detecting, gift-scanning x-ray machine that all the presents go through before they get put on the sleigh, the top-notch security screening and background checks that all of the elves and supporting personnel must go through before they are allowed to pass through the metal detectors and body scan machines at the entrance to the North Pole Compound, and two of the most deadly and accurate aerial weapons ever created by man escorting him through the sky.

I, for one, am just glad that we have the ability to track Santa Claus and his fighter jet escort throughout his journey right on a website.  Maybe once they are done tracking Santa for the year, the people who are running could go to Washington to help President What’s-His-Name with that Don't-Name-It-After-Me-Anymore-Care website.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Guess What? Less Than 1/3 Of You Are Going To Get To Keep Your Plan You Liked.....Whoops!

Here is the bottom line -- Obamacare said over and over again that if you liked your current plan, you got to keep it, right?  I know I am not the only one that heard him say that – We all know that we all heard him say that.  Here is the thing though…The only way that you can ACTUALLY keep your plan is if you have a plan today that has not changed in any "significant" way -- deductible, co-pay, benefits -- otherwise, your plan becomes subject to the new Obamacare minimum coverage requirement, and if it does not meet those new minimum requirements, guess what?  You don’t get to keep that plan after all.  Original estimates that were out while Obamacare was still saying that you could keep your plan stated that up to 67% of you were not going to get to keep your plan.  Today's estimates are now stating that it could be as many as 80% of you who will get a policy cancellation notice within the first year of Obamacare.  It is what it is, and we are where we are now, but you have to admit that whole “you can keep your plan” line was a complete and total bullshit for over 2/3 of the people who were supposedly going to be able to keep their plan, and maybe even more people than that.  Oh, and to make it worse, not only are you going to lose your plan, the plan that you have to buy instead is going to cost you up to twice as much.  Welcome to Obamacare's America.

Oh, and for anyone who wants to brush this off as being the reporting of crazy right-wingers, here's a link to the NBC investigation:

From the NBC Article:

Buried in Obamacare regulations from July 2010 is an estimate that because of normal turnover in the individual insurance market, “40 to 67 percent” of customers will not be able to keep their policy. And because many policies will have been changed since the key date, “the percentage of individual market policies losing grandfather status in a given year exceeds the 40 to 67 percent range.”  

That means the administration knew that more than 40 to 67 percent of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans, even if they liked them. 

Yet President Obama, who had promised in 2009, “if you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan,” was still saying in 2012, “If [you] already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance.”

“This says that when they made the promise, they knew half the people in this market outright couldn’t keep what they had and then they wrote the rules so that others couldn’t make it either,” said  Robert Laszewski, of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, a consultant who works for health industry firms.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Taxation Without Representation Across Time

We continually hear from politicians and political commentators that they are worried about the debt and other problems that we are currently creating for future generations.  I was thinking today that while that is a valid concern, we ourselves are already part of a “future” generation that is saddled with the legislation of the past.  I didn’t vote to elect the people that passed the laws that enacted things like the income tax, social security and medicare, yet I am impacted by those laws every other week when I send a nice chunk of the money I have worked for to the federal government to blow a good chunk of on stupid, wasteful shit.  The biggest problem with this is that I have no way to go back in time to see how things were before income tax, social security and medicare were enacted.  Is the country a better place with these things in place?  I’ll never know firsthand and for sure, will I?  Well, at least not until one of us builds a time machine and starts selling tickets.  Just as I am sure that a baby born tomorrow will feel taxed without representation when they are forced to have healthcare coverage whether they like it or not when they roll off mommy and daddy's plan at the young age of 26, I sit here today, feeling that I was taxed without representation when the income tax, social security and medicare were passed long before I was born.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

From The Internet: The English Lesson

"We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and three would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

Let's face it - English is a crazy language.
There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;
Neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren't invented in England .

We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes,
We find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square,
And a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
And why is it that writers write, but fingers don't fing,
Grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham?
Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend?
If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them,
What do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English
Should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.
In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?

We ship by truck but send cargo by ship...
We have noses that run and feet that smell.
We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.
And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,
While a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language
In which your house can burn up as it burns down,
In which you fill in a form by filling it out,
And in which an alarm goes off by going on.

Oh well, we can all shake our heads as we nod in agreement."

Friday, September 13, 2013

From Orange County Supervisor Pat Bates' Weekly Newsletter:

Affordable Care Act Implementations

The Board approved 90 full-time additional positions and conversion of 54 existing extra help positions to regular status to enable the Social Services Agency (SSA) to address the increased Medi-Cal workload due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) implementation and ensure compliance with Federal and State regulations.

As you may know, the ACA was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. Under the ACA, Medi-Cal coverage will expand to include all individuals with income under 138% of the federal poverty level, whereas the current eligibility requirements consider age, assets, and disability in addition to income.

The State of California estimates that an additional 2.4 million Californians may be newly eligible for Medi-Cal, including up to 160,000 in Orange County. The ACA will also create health care exchanges called Covered California, which will be offering insurance plans for purchase by the public and small businesses. Individuals may qualify for a tax subsidy to purchase those insurance plans, depending on their income status.

SSA is responsible for establishing and administering eligibility for Medi-Cal in Orange County, and State statute requires that eligibility be determined by staff or county welfare departments and may not be contracted out to the private sector.

The County anticipates a significant ACA impact beginning October 1, when the State health care exchange (Covered California) will begin pre-enrollment for their new health plans. At that time, SSA will begin accepting applications for expanded Medi-Cal, with a January 1, 2014 eligibility enrollment date.

The new Federal law and the State’s implementation process not only expands the number of individuals covered by Medi-Cal programs, but also adds operational changes, such as expansion of call center hours, including evening and Saturday hours.

If the Board did not approve these additional positions, the County would be in violation of implementing a federal entitlement service for those who are eligible. As a result, the County would be at risk of expensive sanctions and losing the funding for the positions that are a 100% federally funded.

In the coming weeks, the State will launch a robust public outreach campaign, informing the public of the enrollment that starts October 1. For more information, please click here and here.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Message To Print Media...Get With The Times Already!

I just wanted to drop you a line, print media.  I just wanted to tell you to get with the times already! And coming from slow-to-change Old Man Savastano, that is sayin’ a lot!

As my loyal readership will tell you, print media, I have this long-running (since 1998) obsession with posting articles for others to read, originally in my e-newsletters, later on blogs, and now on social media. Marketing and business articles across the board go on my personal and business sites and pages, and funny stuff and political ranting go solely on my personal sites and pages (as to only offend my closest friends).

So, guess what is really annoying to me, print media?  While 98% of what I read and deem to be post-worthy comes to me by electronic means, every once in a while, I actually pick up a piece of, you guessed it, print media.  And believe it or not, quite often I find an article that I really like and would like to post.  But, when I pick up my electronic device and set out to find the article in your antiquated and dying medium, guess what I have a really hard time finding, or never find at all?  That’s right!  The article in your printed piece of media that I wanted to share with hundreds, if not by Facebook’s friends of friends or LinkedIn’s connections of connections calculations, thousands of people.

I get that it costs money to produce your printed piece that is riddled with advertising, but at the same time, in today’s age of digital sharing, not posting the same articles that are in your printed piece to your website as well so that people who find them interesting can share them seems crazy to me.  We all know that you should be transitioning as much as you can to digital right now, print media.

At a time when my hundreds of magazines per month has dwindled down to just a few print stragglers, at a time when I have decided to never again renew another print magazine subscription, and at a time when the last thing in the world I would ever tell someone to do is to buy a copy of a magazine so they could read an article that I liked as opposed to just posting it and giving them the ability read it instantaneously, it is time for you, print media, to get with the times, otherwise, next time, I will remember that I cannot find the articles that are in your print version also in a digital version online, and immediately, without bothering to look at it, put your piece of print media right where it belongs…in the recycle bin.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

From The Internet: That Green Thing

Here is another one that made me smile...

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, "We didn't have this green thing back in my earlier days."
The young clerk responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations."

She was right -- our generation didn't have the green thing in its day.
Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were truly recycled.
Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribbling. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.
We walked up stairs, because we didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.
Back then, we washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts -- wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.
Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.
We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.
Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.
But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the green thing back then?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

From The Internet: The $2 Bill I Tried To Spend

Didn't write this one, but had to share it...

I think we need to quit saving our $2 bills and bring them out in public. The younger generation doesn't even know they exist!

STORY: On my way home from work, I stopped at Taco Bell for a quick bite to eat. I have a $50 bill and a $2 bill. I figure with the $2 bill, I can get something to eat and not have to worry about irritating anyone for trying to break a $50 bill.

Me: 'Hi, I'd like one seven-layer burrito please, to go.'
Server: 'That'll be $1.04. Eat in?'
Me: 'No, it's to go.'

At this point, I open my billfold and hand him the $2 bill. He looks at it kind of funny.

Server: 'Uh, hang on a sec, I'll be right back.'

He goes to talk to his manager, who is still within my earshot. The following conversation occurs between the two of them:

Server: 'Hey, you ever see a $2 bill?'
Manager: 'No. A what?'
Server: 'A $2 bill. This guy just gave it to me...'
Manager: 'Ask for something else. There's no such thing as a $2 bill.'
Server: 'Yeah, thought so.'

He comes back to me and says, 'We don't take these. Do you have anything else?'

Me: 'Just this fifty. You don't take $2 bills? Why?
Server: 'I don't know.'
Me: 'See here where it says legal tender?'
Server: 'Yeah.'
Me: 'So, why won't you take it?'
Server: 'Well, hang on a sec.'

He goes back to his manager, who has been watching me like I'm a shoplifter, and says to him, 'He says I have to take it.'

Manager: 'Doesn't he have anything else?'
Server: 'Yeah, a fifty. I'll get it and you can open the safe and get change.
Manager: 'I'm not opening the safe with him in here.'
Server: 'What should I do?'
Manager: 'Tell him to come back later when he has real money.'
Server: 'I can't tell him that! You tell him.'
Manager: 'Just tell him.'
Server: 'No way! This is weird. I'm going in back.

The manager approaches me and says,
'I'm sorry, but we don't take big bills this time of night.'
Me: 'It's only seven o'clock! Well then, here's a two dollar bill.'
Manager: 'We don't take those, either.'
Me: 'Why not?'
Manager: 'I think you know why.'
Me: 'No really, tell me why.'
Manager: 'Please leave before I call mall security.'
Me: 'Excuse me?'
Manager: 'Please leave before I call mall security.'
Me: 'What on earth for?'
Manager: 'Please, sir..'
Me: 'Uh, go ahead, call them.'
Manager: 'Would you please just leave?'
Me: 'No.'
Manager: 'Fine -- have it your way then.'
Me: 'Hey, that's Burger King, isn't it?'

At this point, he backs away from me and calls mall security on the phone around the corner. I have two people staring at me from the dining area and I begin laughing out loud, just for effect.

A few minutes later this 45-year-oldish guy comes in.

Guard: 'Yeah, Mike, what's up?'
Manager (whispering): 'This guy is trying to give me some (pause) funny money.'
Guard: 'No kidding! What?'
Manager: 'Get this. A two dollar bill.'
Guard (incredulous): 'Why would a guy fake a two dollar bill?'
Manager: 'I don't know. He's kinda weird. He says the only other thing he has is a fifty.'
Guard: 'Oh, so the fifty's fake!'
Manager: 'No, the two dollar bill is.'
Guard: 'Why would he fake a two dollar bill?'
Manager : 'I don't know! Can you talk to him, and get him out of here?'
Guard: 'Yeah.'

Security Guard walks over to me and......
Guard: 'Mike here tells me you have some fake bills you're trying to use.'
Me: 'Uh, no.'
Guard: 'Lemme see 'em.'
Me: 'Why?'
Guard: 'Do you want me to get the cops in here?'

At this point I'm ready to say, 'Sure, please!' but I want to eat, so I say, 'I'm just trying to buy a burrito and pay for it with this two dollar bill.

I put the bill up near his face, and he flinches like I'm taking a swing at him. He takes the bill, turns it over a few times in his hands, and he says, 'Hey, Mike, what's wrong with this bill?'
Manager: 'It's fake.'
Guard: 'It doesn't look fake to me.'
Manager: 'But it's a two dollar bill.'
Guard: 'Yeah? '
Manager: 'Well, there's no such thing, is there?'

The security guard and I both look at him like he's an idiot and it dawns on the guy that the manager has no clue.

So, it turns out that my burrito was free, and he threw in a small drink and some of those cinnamon thingies, too.

Made me want to get a whole stack of two dollar bills just to see what happens when I try to buy stuff.

Just think... those two are of the age to be voting!!!

Monday, June 10, 2013

What Abercrombie & Fitch Should Be Teaching Us About America

There’s been a bit of a fabricated buzz in the news about Abercrombie & Fitch that has been going on for a while and I thought I’d chime in, because, hey, if there is anything I am an expert on it is hip (is that word cool again? – Sorry, still cannot bring myself to use the word “sick” because frankly, I am too old to use that word) fashion for teens, young adults, college kids, older people trying to look younger, etc.

First off, let me say that the biggest and only role Abercrombie has played in my life is the raised eyebrow I gave to how close and friendly the dudes in their ads and those huge pictures at the entrance to their stores always seemed and how hard I laughed when Saturday Night Live finally made fun of them for those ads and pictures.  Never stepped foot in one of their stores (frankly, they are too loud and smelly), would never invest in the company (unless it was in a fund, of course), and honestly would never want to do work for them, but I am here today to do something that you might not have thought I would do…defend them…defend their right as Americans and an American business to sell whatever they want, market to whoever they want, not sell whatever they want, not market to whoever they want, and to be as biased and condescending as they want to be.
Get to 300 pounds and then go out and try to find clothes, worse yet, clothes at a reasonable, non-full-retail price.  It is a complete and total bitch.  Now that I am back down to 260, it’s still not that easy, but trust me, it’s getting easier as I get smaller.  But, where does it say that I have a right to find what I want in my size and it is up to society, the government, activists and whiners to force businesses out there to manufacture and sell the clothes that I want in my size?  I believe it does not say that anywhere, nor should it.

We have a wonderful free-market system that allows you, the consumer, to buy what you want, and the businesses that you buy from to sell what they want as long as it meets certain safety standards, and I personally think that is a great system.  If Abercrombie doesn’t sell shit in my size, then hey, they don’t get my money.  If Abercrombie wants to come out and say they don’t want fat or unattractive skinny people in their stores, then they have a right to say it, just as you have a right as a fatty or unattractive skinny person, or any person for that matter, to not spend money in their stores if you don’t like what they are saying.  You also have a right, like I am exercising here, to open your mouth and get the word out about what you think of it so others can get on board and be aware of how a company like Abercrombie actually thinks and the values that the company represents.

Does Abercrombie have a right to sell only sizes “God, you look like a skeleton, please eat something” on up through “Holy crap, you’re a size 10 and the size of a house so you should never eat again”?  Yes, they do.  Does Abercrombie have a right to say that they only want certain types of people in their stores?  Here in America, I honestly think they do and should have that right.  Do they have a right to sell shirts that say, “Blondes are adored, brunettes are ignored” or “Do I make you look fat?”  They sure do, and they should.  Do I have a right as fat and someone who prefers brunettes to never shop there, and ask other people to never shop there?  I sure do, just like I still have a right to tell everyone in the world to never buy anything from Jennifer Convertibles because they hosed me on some tables I bought one time.  Do I have a right to loop Abercrombie in together with a guy that is selling t-shirts that say, “Hitler is Great!”?  I sure do.  If you’re concerned enough that you want to stand outside an Abercrombie store and hand people walking in a copy of a news story or transcript from the CEO’s interview in which he said, “A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong.  Are we exclusionary? Absolutely,” should you be able to do so?  Absolutely, you should be able to – just remember to bring a filter mask for that horrible cologne-y smell and some earplugs if you don’t like club music!  Does their CEO have a right to say what he said in that interview and steer the business in that direction?  Here in America, he does, and he should.

Now, I know where you are going, loyal reader…You are about to quote Helen Lovejoy and say, “Think of the children! Won't somebody please think of the children?!”  I think this Abercrombie story and the company’s stance is, in fact, a great lesson for your children.  It is a lesson in the rights of individual liberties, diversity, economics, morality and the free market system.  We should be using this story to teach children that when you grow up, life is not necessarily going to be fair.  Not everyone wins, not everyone gets a trophy, and not everyone gets to wear #1 on their jersey – only one guy on the team gets that number.  It is a lesson that some people are skinny, some people are fat, some people are tall, some people are short, some people are considered to be gorgeous and some people are considered to be far-from-gorgeous, but that all of these judgments can either affect their lives, or not affect their lives.  It is a great lesson that some people are kind and considerate to everyone, and other people are frankly, just self-centered assholes.  It is a lesson in being responsible for your own life and not forcing people to live your way, or feeling that you have to be responsible for and control the lives of others.  It is a lesson in the fact that we as consumers have the power to use our dollars as we see fit, and we as Americans have the right to free speech, no matter how hate-filled or stupid, or benevolent and intelligent the things we might say turn out to be.  But most of all, it is a lesson in the ideas that America was founded on and the rights that we as Americans are assured by the greatest combination of liberty, democracy and capitalism that the world has ever seen.

So, shop at Abercrombie if you’re small enough to fit into their clothes and don’t mind their philosophy and values.  You won’t get any flak from me for doing so.  Hey, more power to you.  But, when you’re wearing one of their shirts and the uglies, the fatties, the non-trendies, the un-cool moms, the un-cool dads, the old-folks, and the like, are snickering at you, don’t get mad at them.  They have just as much of a right to protest against Abercrombie as you do to shop there.

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Perfect Waste Of A Damned Good Shark

Possible World-Record Shark Caught Off SoCal

I know that most of you, especially the ones who live in Southern California, have already seen this story, but I am sharing it simply so that I can once again get up on that proverbial soapbox that this wonderful invention called the internet has given us. Thank you, Al Gore.

As some of you may know, I spent a period of time as an amateur marine biologist, taking courses, working at aquariums, and heading out on research vessels from time to time. Some of you may also recall the story I love to tell about the time I got to see a 17-foot great white shark that was caught by some fishermen off San Pedro while I was working at the Cabrillo Aquarium, where I helped care for a number of much smaller and less sinister sharks. To this day, I still donate money to some of our Southern California aquariums and oceanic causes I believe in.

That being said, quite honestly, when I read this story, it really bothered me. Let me explain. While you won’t catch me passing up on the wonderful meat products that nature has to offer us humans on very many occasions, it’s not like we’re running out of cows, chickens and pigs any time soon, but things like whales and sharks are a different story. While some populations are rebounding, others are still in decline and under threat of extinction, so killing them just for the fun of it might not be that great of an idea. Wow, now I sound like the Greenpeace people.

Don’t get me wrong, I at times think about, perhaps even struggle with, the fact that my chicken sandwich, cheeseburger and the bacon I put on it or eat as a side dish used to be a living, breathing creature, but I handle it. It is much easier when you never have to go out and meet the animal that you’re eating or actually see it in any way, shape, or form that is close to being alive because of grocery stores and restaurants and living the life of readily-available food here in the grand ol’ US of A, isn’t it?

But where I do start to draw my own personal line is when it comes to hunting, fishing and things of those sorts. Now, before you take away my Conservative card, again, let me explain. Mountain men up in Alaska hunting so they can eat? While I wish we’d figure out a way to get them some pre-packaged food so they didn’t have to kill their next meal, all right, I can live with that. Killing a wolverine because it’s hungry and trying to get at the food you’re storing for the winter? I have a harder time with that. It’s not the wolverine’s fault you have to live in the mountains in the middle of nowhere. Native people killing some whales every year for food and tradition? I kind of have a problem with that in this day and age, but OK, I can live with that. Killing a big bear, elk, whale, shark or other animal for the quote-un-quote fun, sport, or thrill of it? Yeah, I have a problem with that. Hunting just to hunt, killing just to kill? Yeah, that, I believe crosses the line, especially when it is an animal whose numbers in the wild are just not what they used to be.

Japan killing whales? Completely pointless, and a waste. People out in the woods or on the ocean just out killing some shit? Completely pointless, and a waste. These people killing this shark while out here on vacation? Completely pointless, and a waste. You donated it to science? Do you honestly think they are going to learn anything from this dead shark on land that they didn’t already know or could not have learned by capturing it and releasing it?

It all boils down to one thing. Some people just enjoy killing shit. Some people step on spiders. Some people pick them up with a napkin and put them outside. Some people will go their entire life without killing a bear, elk, whale or shark, and some will not. It is the nature of the human problem. Some people will go their entire life without killing another person, and some will not. There’s billions of humans. But each one of us is an individual, right? Spend some time with an animal, any animal, and tell me they are not an individual with their own traits and behaviors.

I’ll let you stew on that for a bit. Either way, this particular shark is now dead and on its way to be hacked up for science so that some humans on vacation could have a thrill and have a story to tell, and I personally think that is just sad, completely unnecessary, and a perfect waste of a damned good shark that quite frankly, the world and its inhabitants needed more alive than dead.