Graduates, don’t look back… because your old room is already a hot tub

(Hi, you’ve reached Ned’s Blog. I’m not here right now because I’m over at Long Awkward Pause today, dispensing my sage advice to graduates. Or was that rosemary? Anyway, come on over if you have thyme…)

image To this year’s high school graduates:

As you cross the stage to receive your diploma, remember that you’re crossing a brand new threshold in your young life. That’s because, in most cases, your parents have already arranged for the contents of your room to be hauled onto the front lawn and sold, probably during the graduation ceremony itself.

Or maybe even at the graduation ceremony itself:

“Before we call our next graduate, I’d like to turn your attention to the roller blades I’m wearing. They, along with other items belonging to Jeffery Schlopendorf, will be available for purchase after the ceremony in the courtyard.”

That’s right; by the time you get home, you’ll be lucky if you’re room still has the same light switch. I know this may sound harsh, but it is something that parents do out of LOVE. It’s about your parents helping you make that important transition into independence, even if it means turning your bedroom into patio space between the new hot tub and gazebo. (More at Long Awkward Pause HERE)

Stressed at the office? Try my 25-second self-help DubSmash video

As I’m sure you can imagine, working in the newsroom of a small-town newspaper — where there could be as many as three people all typing simultaneously — can be extremely stressful. Especially when we all send something to the printer at once.

Over the last 16 years, I have developed a coping mechanism to help deal with this pressure-cooker environment. It’s fast, effective and doesn’t require a yoga mat, punching bag or medication. Because I know many of you deal with the same kinds of pressures at your own jobs, and because my editor has left for vacation, I took it upon myself to create a short, self-help video utilizing DubSmash to demonstrate my technique and help others.

Results may vary…

Do YOU have a special technique for dealing with work-related stress? (NOTE: Something other than getting fired…)

Have anger issues? Don’t beat yourself up over it

image Hello and welcome to a special edition of our in-depth medical feature Health Yak. Today we will be discussing a study that suggests as many as 16 million Americans — or roughly the number of people who never receive their appetizers during an average season of Hell’s Kitchen — suffer from periodic outbursts of anger.

I know what you’re thinking: What makes this different from a typical outburst of anger, like when I open the air vent in my car and release a cloud of spores the size of shiitake mushrooms?

The answer, of course, is that there is no difference. At least not until someone funds a clinical study, at which point it becomes an official “disorder” treatable by a new drug with minor side effects, such as having your liver grow to the size of Shaquille O’Neal’s seat cushion. Continue reading

Finding the meaning in little flags

image It’s been 14 years since I introduced my oldest daughter to the meaning of Memorial Day. She was seven then, but I still remember the short gusts of warm wind on my neck, the earthy smell of the fresh-cut grass, and the hushed snap of small American flags standing like sentries next to dozens of tombstones along the hillside.

“How come some of them have little flags, and some don’t?” my daughter asked.

It was near sunset as we strolled through our local cemetery. Though we didn’t have any family members buried there, I thought it would be a good opportunity to explain the meaning of Memorial Day to her.

“Do you know what war is?” I asked.

“When people fight,” she answered, then clarified herself; “A whole bunch of
people.”

“That’s right, but do you know why they fight?”

She thought a moment, then shook her head. Continue reading

Finally, my town is known for something other than exploding whales

image Being that my family and I live in a coastal town, we are privy to a run of grey whales passing by on their way to and from the gulf of Mexico twice a year. Whether this migration is the result of natural instincts or male whales refusing to ask for directions is unclear. What I do know is that our small town of Florence, Ore., recieved national attention back in 1970, when a whale caracass washed up on a nearby beach. Though tourism skyrocketed during the first few days, that began to change as
nature took its course and a two-mile radius began to smell like a port-o-potty at an outdoor sushi convention.

City officials were suddenly faced with two crucial questions:

1) How to dispose of tons of rotting whale as quickly as possible?

And

2) Would the “I Had a Whale of a Time in Florence” T-shirts arrive it in time? Continue reading

For writers, word selection is a lot like natural selection

image Several weeks ago in my Nickel’s Worth on Writing, I talked about three of the most important tools a writer wields when it comes to establishing their voice. Does anyone remember what they were?

For the sake of time, and my feelings, let’s just assume everyone remembers those tools and, in a series of uncontrollable outbursts, begin shouting:

TIMING! TRUTHFULNESS!

and…

and…

CUERVO!

No, the third tool is not Cuervo. It’s RELATIVITY. Although I think we can all agree Cuervo does have a way of making even the most abstract things seem relevant.

In this case, however, Relativity means ensuring the reader can relate to what we’re writing about. This is especially true when it comes to personal experience and family anecdotes. For example, that hilarious story about how Aunt Frida got mad and stomped through the garden won’t be nearly as entertaining to readers as it is to you unless, like you, they already know Aunt Frida was a mule. I realize that’s an overstatement, but unless you take time to lay the foundation of your story in a way that involves the reader, they will likely sit down and refuse to follow. Continue reading

Want to date my daughter? This video could save your life

As my youngest daughter approaches the end of her middle school years, she has been catching the unwanted attention of teenaged boys. And when I say “unwanted,” I’m mostly talking about me. Statistically speaking, I was a teenaged boy once. I know what goes through their minds, at least when they’re not eating, sleeping and farting. But during that hour when they aren’t doing those things, they should be ashamed of themselves. That being said, if those same teenaged boys knew what was going through MY mind when I see them looking at my daughter, the teen pregnancy rate whould drop by 90 percent, with the other 10 percent being investigated by the Catholic Church as “potential miracles.”

So before the summer begins, I’d like to offer this video to any teenaged boy thinking of dating my daughter. It’s only 15 seconds. And there’s some language.

But it just might save your life…

This is what it looks like when bikers and flowers collide

image For three days each year, our little coastal town of 7,000 welcomes about 500 bikers and another 15,000 visitors to get crazy and celebrate… A flower.

A rhododendron, to be exact.

No one knows why.

But it’s been going on for 108 years and, for those three days, our town becomes an unlikely concotion of flower enthusiasts, Free Souls bikers and tourists all co-mingling over beers aand bacon-wrapped hot dogs. Think of it as “Sturgis meets Mardi Gras,” with a little Rose Festival thrown in. Personally, I think the bacon-wrapped hot dog is reason enough to celebrate, so I’m not going to suggest ending the festival anytime soon.

If you read Friday’s post, you know the festival kicks off with the arrival of the carnival — something that is always a bitter-sweet reminder of the loss of my best friend to cancer several years ago. As much as the festival reminds me of that loss, I also remember how much Jason loved this weekend each year, and some of the crazy things we did. Usually after a few beers.

Like when we dressed up as bikers and hung out with them at The Beachcomber. Continue reading

If you want to golf with me, bring your hardhat

image Though I’ve only been golfing a few times in my life, it was clear that my reputation had preceded me at the course last weekend. I know this because golfers immediately traded ball caps for hardhats, then scurried down into the sand bunkers like allied forces preparing for heavy fire. As I took a practice swing, the surrounding trees emptied of all bird species — not in a smooth, organized pattern, but in a frenzied explosion of flapping and panicked birdsong that left three Canada geese lying unconscious in the rough.

Speaking of which, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize once again for the tragic death of that swan near the putting green. Had I known the difference between a putter and a pitching wedge, things might’ve turned out differently for that majestic creature.

Because of my past experiences, I was determined to make things different this time.

How?

By becoming more comfortable with the game. I immediately went online for help and, thanks to the power of the Internet, found myself on a pornography website after typing in the first term on my list:

Mixed foursome.

For anyone else who might be looking to the Internet for golf-term clarifications, I’d also suggest avoiding Scotch foursome, shag bag, hooded club, loose impediments and (this really goes without saying) woodie. Continue reading

A wickedly wonderful friend this way came — and left much too soon

This view from our office's back door for five days each year is always bittersweet.

This view from our office’s back door for five days each year is always bittersweet.

As I walked to work this morning, the sun was still resting below distant Badger Mountain. The streets were quiet and the air was still as I made my way along the sidewalk, past the carnival that claims the visitors parking lot across from our home each year. Last night it was alive with the sounds of oiled metal grinding behind colorful facades — rocketships, dragons and race cars — as carnival-goers screamed and laughed in rhythmic cycles throughout the evening.

But this morning, the neon lights are out. The colorful merry-go-round is drapped in blue tarps. There are no screams or laughter. Only the occasional murmur of snoring from inside the narrow carnie sleeping quarters stacked side by side on tractor trailor beds. I cut through the carnival, stepping over a braid of thick electrical cables that eventually spread like veins through the park, bringing life to thrill rides, snack shacks and carnival barker microphones.

Each year, I make this walk to work through the Davis Carnival.

And each year, I think of my friend — and the memory of a warm, terrible spring evening that occured this same night more than a decade ago… Continue reading