Warning labels are impeding the Natural Selection process

(CAUTION: Before anyone gets hurt, I should warn you I’m actually over at Long Awkward Pause today! Feel free to get started here and then join me over at LAP. But please: No running…)

image There was a time when manufacturers included warnings on their products as a way to provide useful information that could potentially save our lives. Or, at the very least, our eyebrows and/or stomach lining.

However, that all changed more than a decade ago when McDonald’s had to serve up a McMillion dollars for the lady who didn’t realize that spilling hot coffee on yourself while behind the wheel of a car can lead to a condition commonly known as “The Open-Road Lap Dance.”

Taking a deeper look, that condition is really just an extension of the more common rule known as “Cause and effect,” which states:

‘Cause I’m dumb enough to place hot coffee next to the most vulnerable spot on my entire body, I am, in effect, going to do something even dumber by spilling it there. Probably before I leave the drive-thru.

Though the woman claimed to be unfamiliar with either of these two concepts, she WAS familiar with the judicial system, and how her coffee mishap could lead to litigation and a new home in the Hamptons. That landmark decision opened the floodgates to a barrage of wrongful injury cases aimed at sending a clear message to American businesses:

We will buy your products.
We will use your products.
And, God willing, we will hurt ourselves with your products and retire early.

(Read more at LAP!)

Selling books is great; making an impression is even better

(I’m guest blogging over at The Write Stuff today, where Marcia Meara has graciously invited me to share the experience of attending my first book festival as a published author — as opposed to the ones I went to because of the free bookmarks…)

image Two years ago tomorrow, I attended my first book fair as an author. Today, I’m going to share that experience in a post I’m calling:

Reasons to Hide Liquor Under Your Book Fair Table

Admittedly, it’s very exciting to walk into a room of 50 or so booths with publishers and authors offering their latest releases and services. And when you see your own booth tucked among them, with your book cover on display and a large photo of yourself hanging on the wall behind your table, you can’t help but pause and quietly think: I have ARRIVED as an author and, judging by its size, my nose arrived about an hour before I did.

My point is that book fairs are about taking the opportunity to become three-dimensional to readers and making a connection beyond the printed page; it’s about revealing yourself to people in ways that are spontaneous, real and unrehearsed, and giving them an experience they can take with them and talk about with others. This led to another realization almost simultaneously: Why is there no liquor at this thing? (More at The Write Stuff…)

Things have a way of working out. Unless it involves me and the gym

The only way I'll do push-ups.

Sort of like doing a workout with Dolly Parton.

Forgive me for I have sinned: It’s been nearly two months since my last workout.

That was my thought as I entered the gym last week, ready to pay my penance in the company of those who’d kept the faith in my absence. I had my moves planned: enter quickly, cut left and directly into the weight room, bypassing the front desk and the gym’s owner — a possible “confessional” situation.

But of course I couldn’t be that lucky.

“Hey there, Ned!”

I stopped in mid-stride; so close to the pivot that would’ve carried me to freedom. “Hey, Jim,” I said, smiling meekly. Apologetically.

Jim leaned forward on the desk, dressed in his usual sweatpants and T-shirt lightly stained with perspiration after a 50-minute aerobics workout that trimmed his ballooning body fat from .08 down to .05. He looked at me and folded his hands together on the desktop, as if ready to pray for me. “Haven’t seen you for a while.” Continue reading

Larger-brained humans can only lead to race of fat heads

A gift from reader Julie Fiedler helps me demonstrate how, if the journal Science is correct, one of these human head proportions may be accurate by the next generation. The question is, with today’s television programming, which size will it be?

As if we didn’t have enough problems already now that the political season is underway, according to a report in the journal Science the human brain is getting bigger. In fact, from what I understand (based on my in-depth analysis of a five-word headline in the New York Post), there’s a good chance yours may be outgrowing your skull right now. Signs this may be occurring include: vomiting, nausea, dizziness, frequent headaches and bleeding from the ears. If you suffer from any or all of these symptoms, DO NOT PANIC! They may only be the side effects of your current FDA-approved medication for acid reflux.

Then again, your brain might have actually gotten bigger since you started reading this column. And not just because of the sheer quality of writing — which is always a possibility (keeping in mind the same symptoms may apply.)

Before we go on, I should, as a responsible journalist, take a moment and actually read the article. In the meantime, I’d suggest applying equal amounts of pressure to both sides of your head, just to be safe.

… OK. Sorry — false alarm. Continue reading

After ‘Tequilla Tuesday’ at our office, it’s ‘Wine Wednesday’ while we clean up

image It’s my third day in charge while our publisher and editor are away, and after Margarita Monday and Tequilla Tuesday here at the office, everyone agreed we need a day to recoup and probably clean up. No hard liquor today so that we can remain focused and professional between our new hours of 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with the office closing for lunch from noon to 1 p.m.

To make the most of the two business hours we’re open, I packed up the tequilla. Sometimes as a leader you have to make unpopular decisions for the good of the company. I realize some folks aren’t happy that I’m cracking the whip, but we’ll just have to get through Wine Wednesday without the hard liquor.

Our first order of business will be to straighten up the office. It actually looks worse than it is. Bill’s desk, which is the one in the middle, remains virtually untouched by the partying. Although I think the pirate flag is new. Still, it’s a little embarrassing since there’s no place to set up the wine bar. Continue reading

Admittedly, ‘Margarita Monday’ at the office may have been a mistake

Office nap time is going well this week.

Office nap time is going well this week.

Before our newspaper publisher and editor left for the week, they put me in charge.

It’s OK, I was shocked too.

Especially since they didn’t require me to wear a live-feed Go-Pro camera at all times. Maybe it’s because, after turning 49 last month, they feel I’ve grown and matured. And they might be right.

Looking back on my first day of being in charge yesterday, I’m thinking “Margarita Monday” might’ve been a mistake.

Things actually started out fine. When our front office girl, Kate, said the noise from the margarita machine was making it difficult to hear the phone, I took charge of the situation.

“Just let everything go to voice mail,” I said. “That’s what we have it for, right?”

She could check messages between margarita machine refills!

Problem solved. Continue reading

Politics could use a dose of reality (television)

image Aside from watching something on “The Dust Channel,” I can’t think of anything less interesting than the upcoming political debates and conventions.

Watch, I’ll show you….

See?
Nothing.

And the worst part is, they’ll be on every major network, with commentary offered by shell-shocked correspondents picking confetti from their hair and wincing between air horn blasts that are supposed to make us all wish we were part of that kind of fun! In actuality, news anchors David Muir, Lester Holt and Scott Pelley don’t want to be there either, but they will be; and by God, if they’ve got to be stuck in a skybox for a week, we’re going to watch!

Now, this isn’t to say making the debates and conventions even remotely interesting isn’t possible. In fact, if the campaign gurus would study the ratings, there are plenty of examples of what could be done to make things more exciting by following a few, simple rules. Continue reading

Seven more minutes of childhood; a father’s wish for his daughter the morning of 9-11

I’ll never forget how I felt this day 14 years ago as an American, a firefighter and as a father — and how each held its own kind of hurt that has never completely healed. But of the three, being a father watching the sparkle in my then six-year-old daughter’s eyes noticeably fade just a bit continues to be the memory that lingers most…

image My alarm clock went off the same as it always did back then, coming to life with the morning news — my preference over the annoying, high-pitched alternative of chatter. Instinctively, I swatted the snooze button and bought myself another seven minutes of sleep.

In the years since, I’ve thought a lot about those seven minutes, and how the simple push of a button postponed a bitter reality for just a little longer. When the news came on again, word of the first airliner crashing into the World Trade Center stopped my hand just short of another seven minutes of blissful ignorance — a time span that now seems like an eternity.

Lying there, listening to the details, I regretted not pushing the button one more time.

A hundred more times.

A thousand.

In that same moment, I also understood that the impassive gaze of terrorism could only be averted for so long, and that, eventually, I’d have to meet it — along with the questioning gaze of my daughter. Continue reading

Birthday or not, any year of Samara is worth celebrating

image The blog-o-sphere is like a train station, with hourly arrivals and departures we either connect with, make part of our routine or miss completely. When Samara pulled into my WordPress depot a few years ago, I knew hers was a crazy train offering stunning viewpoints as well as stretches of dangerous track. But I also knew no matter how close her stark honesty and razor-wire wit might come to causing a derailment, I could trust we’d always arrive safely at our destination because of her caring heart and adeptness as a writer.

So when I was invited to join other bloggers in wishing Samara a Happy Birthday today with a post — and a musical toast — I hopped aboard quickly. Although, to be honest, I would’ve been willing to steal a horse and gallop alongside in order to catch this train of well-wishers. That’s because I’m as much a fan and admirer of her blogger persona as I am of her person: devoted and kick-ass mother to equally kick-ass Little Dude; astute and introspective writer who can be simultaneously sarcasitc and warm, tough and vulnerable; and devoted friend to the coolest collection of “sisters” in the blog-o-sphere. Continue reading

Adding scorpions could improve some spectator sports

image On the rare occasion I’ve found myself sitting on the couch watching golf on TV, I’ve often thought, How do dragonflies mate in mid-air?

That’s just how EXCITING sports like golf, bowling and some other “spectator sports” are for people like me, who need to have at least some element of danger involved in order to keep our attention. Otherwise we might as well be watching competitive knitting.

Although, to be fair, Jamie Lee Curtis did use knitting needles to fend off Michael Meyers in Halloween, so at least there’s the potential for a psychopath to suddenly show up at a knitting competition and be mercilessly taken down in a flurry of knitting needles. And then thoughtfully covered in a beautiful handmade quilt. Continue reading