Friday, September 30, 2005

Marketing 101

The three people who read this blog may have noticed the “junk mail-type” comments that keep popping up. I have no idea why this is happening, or how to stop it, although I am not so sure that I even WANT it to stop after seeing the one I got yesterday. It’s after the previous post, and it goes like this:

"Your blog is great If you have unwanted hair, I'm sure you'd be interested in Laser Hair Removal Prices Stop shaving & visit Laser Hair Removal Prices"

It is nice to see that the junk mail companies that are doing this crap have decided to get sneaky and add a “your blog is great” statement before trying to sell you something. “Hey, I am really enjoying your blog. Speaking of blogs, would you be interested in extra-absorbent tampons?” But unfortunately, these companies are not doing as much research as they should, or else they wouldn’t have failed to notice that I have an ENTIRE POST dedicated to my body hair (September ’04 archives – “Where the deer and the buffalo roam”).

Now, you have to understand that when somebody posts a comment, I get an email first, although I don’t know what specific post the comment is attributed to until I go on the blog itself. So, when I originally received this comment, I had no idea that it was junk mail – I assumed that somebody had stumbled upon that aforementioned post, liked it, and had a genuine recommendation for my problem. “That’s nice. A little weird, but nice,” I thought to myself. But then when I went ON the blog, and saw that the comment followed my fantasy sports post, I had to smile. Freakin’ idiots. From a marketing standpoint, they nailed their target, but by accident.

I don’t know what bullshit comments I’m going to receive after this post, but hey – at least these companies seem to like my blog. Cause, ya’ know – it could be worse:

“Your blog sucks. Buy kitty litter.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

When fantasy sports become reality

I can’t even imagine life without fantasy sports these days. In fact, I would place “fantasy sports” right below “eating” and slightly above “going to work” in my hierarchy of “things that are important to lead a productive life.” Obviously, I have great perspective.

Seriously though, three weeks ago, the NFL season began, and I cannot adequately describe how exciting it was. Six years ago, before I started consistently participating in fantasy leagues, I also found the opening of the NFL season to be delightful, simply because I could watch professional football games, root for the Giants, and spend some quality time with my family or friends. I was so naïve.

Because now that I think about it, what was the fun in watching Jerry Rice if all of those great stats went only to…Jerry Rice? How selfish of him!

Three Sundays ago, on the opening day of the NFL season, I spent the early morning juggling three fantasy teams – my baseball team was in the playoffs, and I was preparing my respective lineups for the two fantasy football leagues I was in. I had so many windows open on my computer that no appliances in the house were functioning. At that point, it was the apex of my fantasy career, since I had never before been in multiple football leagues. Coincidentally, the apex of my fantasy career did not coincide with the apex of husband career. But that is not to say that I don’t try and involve my wife in my fantasy sports life, often asking her questions like, “Should I play Stephen Davis or Lee Evans?” to which she may reply, “Why isn’t the toaster oven working?”

It’s not like I’m new to the fantasy sports scene either. I was in a league back when I was 15 years old, when we had a live draft, all of the stats came from the newspaper box score and were computed by hand, and I had to walk two miles, uphill in both directions, to school. Candy bars cost a dime. But then it stopped for some reason – probably because it was too much work - and by the time college came around, fantasy sports (football in particular) were out of the question, since getting out of bed at halftime of the 4pm NFL games kind of defeated the purpose.

But now, involvement in fantasy sports is at an all-time high, not just for me, but also for the entire nation. Everything is geared towards appeasing the fantasy sports players, which is a genre growing by the millions. There are the constantly running stats on the “ticker” during televised games, fantasy magazines that cost $10 so you can get important advice like “Priest Holmes is good when healthy,” an infinite number of websites providing leagues and useful information, and the acknowledgement that a guy like Jake Plummer actually has some redeeming football value. I mean, before this season started the ESPN anchors even had a live, televised fantasy football draft, in which Susie Kolber selected Brett Favre in the second round, which was surprising considering that quarterbacks who close their eyes and hope for the best before they throw passes usually don’t start going off the board until at least Round 11. But hey – whatever.

The point is, everybody is participating in fantasy sports these days, and one need look no further than peoples’ obsession with fantasy football when trying to explain the recent surge in the popularity of the NFL. And why haven’t potential strikes, steroids, and overall incompetence ruined Major League Baseball? Well, fantasy baseball may not be THE reason, but it’s certainly part of it.

So what is it about fantasy sports that’s so great? Well, for one thing, you’re infinitely more involved in almost every actual game than you would be from just a fan’s perspective. You’re an owner, or a manager, or a player or whatever you want to call it, but YOU have the power. You have guys you can call your own, and when those guys have a good day, YOU have a good day. And you don’t have to do anything except set your lineup (always fun), participate in the draft (which often involves pizza, beer, and trash talk), and watch sports. And, unless you’re one of those people who joins an online public league so you can compete against total strangers, most leagues consist of friends and family. In fact, I would say that 99 percent of the conversations I have with my male cousins, brothers-in-law, friends, etc. involve fantasy sports. I would even venture to say that I have no relationship with most of my male cousins outside of statements like, “I really need a complete game shutout,” and “Did you see what Duce Staley did?…Who has him?” Furthermore, fantasy sports bring out the competitive side in people whose athletic careers may currently be limited to seeing how fast they can climb up the stairs without tearing an ACL. Not to mention the potential to win money. In short, fantasy sports are the most fun you can have without getting arrested.

Of course, there’s something strange about taking extreme pride in something somebody ELSE did professionally, or not being able to focus at work because you benched Willie Taveras and he hit a triple. Fantasy sports can also cloud your rooting interests, and force you to make insane statements like, “I hope the Yankees win, but I need Jeter to go 0-4, and hopefully Mussina gets killed, only to have Matsui bail ‘em out with three grand slams.” But hey – you take the good with the bad.

There is no doubt that life is much better with fantasy sports. I mean, watching Peyton Manning play football is fun, but watching Peyton Manning play football when he’s your fantasy quarterback is infinitely more satisfying. But he better not throw any touchdowns to Reggie Wayne, because my brother-in-law Joe has him, and I’m playing against him this week. Maybe I’ll get lucky and Wayne will break his ankle on the opening drive of the game.

Obviously, I have great perspective.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Dunkin Donuts: The good, the ugly

There are two types of Dunkin’ Donuts establishments: those with employees who know what they are doing, and those with employees whose training consisted of “the milk goes in the refrigerator, and the money goes in the cash register – not vice versa.” There is no in between. There is no such thing as a “kind of good” Dunkin’ Donuts. You either get great service, or you’re walking out of there carrying a chocolate-frosted donut topped with cream cheese and a lukewarm cup of coffee with a lid that’s partially on.

I consider myself lucky because the Dunkin’ Donuts I go to every morning before work (Route 35 in Middletown, NJ) is one of the great ones. You can judge any good Dunkin’ Donuts establishment by how fast the morning line moves, and this one is a quick assembly line of great service. All the workers there are friendly, they know the regulars, and most of the time you don’t even have to tell them what you want – it’s waiting for you by the time you reach the counter. I’ve also noticed that, for the most part, the longer a particular D&D has been around, the better it is. To use a sports analogy involving baseball players named “B.J.,” you can always count on a B.J. Surhoff-type of D&D to come through when it matters, but if you risk going to a B.J Upton-type of D&D, a “home run” may be simply getting what you ordered, while “grounding into a double play” may end in you suffering a heart attack because they didn’t hear you say “decaf.”

I bring this up only because I have noticed an increasing amount of the Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin Robbins establishments popping up throughout the Tri-State area. In fact, one sprung up by our house just about a year ago (Route 9 in Marlboro, NJ) – and let me tell you, it is THE worst Dunkin’ Donuts establishment in the history of the world. I dare anyone to find one that is worse.

First of all, I don’t know who came up with the idea to combine Dunkin’ Donuts with Baskin Robbins. I don’t know what was wrong with these two places existing as separate entities. It doesn’t even make any sense to me. But whatever. Anyway, the D&D by our house is sooooo bad, that I have felt compelled to call the Dunkin Donuts 800-number to report the travesties that have occurred there. Actually, I have had the phone out before, ready to dial, but my wife intervened because she didn’t want anyone to get fired.

And by “anyone” I mean...

There is a man who is always there working at this D&D. I would normally be left to assume that he is the manager, except that his only managerial skills involve standing up straight. For one thing, he has the personality of a cardboard box – a cardboard box that wants to kill you because you had the audacity to come into Dunkin Donuts and request one of their edible products. He speaks limited English, and he understands limited English. And he uses the small amount of English that he does know to give out misinformation. For example, a few months ago I went there with my wife and sister, and my sister asked him if they offered decaf iced coffee (she cannot have caffeine for health reasons), to which he replied, “Yes. It is all decaf.” She did not understand this reply. He went on to explain in mumbled jargon that all of their coffee was decaffeinated. In fact, everything in the store was decaf, including the muffins. Apparently, we were not at a Dunkin Donuts that offered decaf coffee – we were actually at the first Decaf Dunkin Donuts. Also, my sister ordered the iced coffee and couldn’t finish it because it wasn’t decaf.

I went to this Dunkin Donuts again last night to pick up some coffee for my wife and I, and lo and behold – this guy was behind the counter. My wife wanted a pumpkin spice donut, but I noticed that they didn’t have any left. Now, I knew the risk I was taking by asking this guy a question, but I figured “what the heck?” So I asked him if they had any more pumpkin spice donuts coming out. His response was to look behind him at the donut wall, and then turn back to me and nod his head “no.” Apparently, this particular Dunkin Donuts does not have a back room where donuts are made. Instead, when the tray is empty, a new batch magically appears at some point. So, this guy was nice enough to inform me, in head nod form, that the new batch of pumpkin spice donuts had NOT, in fact, magically appeared as of yet. So I had to order my wife a chocolate donut instead, which was coincidentally – and I’m not kidding – the “manager’s special” that day.

I also realized last night that I must be mistaken in my confusion with regards to the combination of D&D and Baskin Robbins, because I was, in fact, feeling like some ice cream. When I informed this guy that I would also like some ice cream, his response was to start walking over to the Baskin Robbins counter, as if to say, “Follow me, and carry your coffees and donut over here too because I’m not your bitch.” Of course, Baskin Robbins had to be witty when they named their ice cream flavors, so it wasn’t awkward at all when I had to inform a guy who speaks limited English that I would like two scoops of the “Honest to Good Nuts” ice cream. Again, his response was to stare at me while holding an ice cream scooper, as if he wanted to scoop my heart right out of my chest, toss it on the floor, and stomp on it repeatedly. So, I had to point to the ice cream instead.

Then it was time for him to ring me up. I was thanking my lucky stars that I didn’t have a coupon with me, because the last time my wife and I tried to give this guy a coupon, it ended up with every worker in the store examining it as if it were written in Aramaic, and trying to think of any possible excuse to tell us why they couldn’t accept it. I think the cash resister started smoking when they tried to input it, and I know I ended up paying more than I would have if I didn’t have a coupon in the first place. Anyway, the guy started ringing me up. He did not put my ice cream cup in a bag, or give me a spoon and napkins, nor did he put my coffees in a tray. The only thing bagged up was the donut, and I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised if he had just sat that on the counter as well.

Another great thing about this guy is that you actually have to ask him for your change back. I don’t know if he doesn’t comprehend the process of giving back change, or if he just assumes that the rest is his, but after you pay him, he just kind of gives you a look like, “This transaction has been completed. Please leave the store.” So, I had to hold out my hand like a panhandler until this guy reluctantly gave me my change back. My money did not go in the tip jar, and I must say, if glass had feelings, then that tip jar was embarrassed to be there.

You may wonder if my wife and I are gluttons for punishment, since we continue to go back to this D&D for an occasional evening coffee fix. But if this place serves any purpose whatsoever, it makes us appreciate the good Dunkin Donuts stores in the area, like the one I go to every morning. And to be honest, the D&D by our house is so freakin’ bad, that it’s actually funny. I mean, I can’t begin to describe how hilarious it is when we pull up through the drive-thru only to see that guy’s head pop out of the window. It’s like, we know we’re not getting what we ordered, but we have to laugh.

By the way, this Dunkin Donuts also has a tip jar at the drive-thru window, just in case you just blindly received the best service of your life, even though you’re not yet sure if what you ordered is correct.

The nerve. A tip jar at the drive-thru window.

Honest to good nuts.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Shower cap

I had always figured that my attempts at maintaining decent personal hygiene were adequate, until a few days ago, when a humongous moth flew out of my hair while I was taking a shower.

I’m not exactly sure how long this moth was living in my hair. I would say that it may have been years, except that it has only been recently that I have been attempting to grow my hair out longer, as I am accustomed to having a crew-cut style haircut, which many leading geologists believe is uninhabitable for the average moth. Although, I must admit that it never crossed my mind that having short hair allowed me to experience cool breezes AND simultaneously prevented me from inviting various wildlife to come and live in my scalp. Regardless, I have met several people in my life (i.e., women) who have MUCH longer hair than I do, yet have managed to avoid having humongous moths randomly fly out of said hair while they attempt to wash themselves.

I’m not so sure I can adequately describe the shock I experienced when I immediately realized what had transpired. For starters, the particular moth in question was huuuuge. It was pretty much the size of a Pterodactyl. I mean, just seeing a moth in general bothers me. Like, if I’m walking down the street, and I see a moth, I’m like, “What the hell? Get out of here, you stupid moth.” But this one was enormous, coupled with the fact that my shower is a 2 x 2 cell, and because of my 6’3” frame, I often have to open the shower door just to wash my armpits. So imagine my surprise when I realized I was sharing my shower cell with a large, winged creature that was flip-flopping all over the place, trying to find a new home amidst the loud drone of constant running water.

Allow me specify that I knew the moth originated in my hair because, as I was shampooing my hair, I felt something flickering around up there. It must have frightened him, having his home lathered in soap and water, and he released himself like the proverbial bat out of hell. In fact, it was so freakin’ big that I thought it WAS a bat, and my immediate reaction was to duck. I’m not sure I’ve had a more humbling experience than being butt naked in a shower, and ducking for cover because I thought a bat just flew out of my hair, but that was the position I was in.

When it was realized it was just a moth (“just a moth,” as if that was any consolation), I bobbed and weaved like Muhammad Ali until I was able to frantically douse it with water. Luckily, I have a college degree, and I am well aware that water is like kryptonite to the average moth, mainly because moths can’t swim. Let’s just say it didn’t end well for the moth that had called my head home for an undetermined period of time. Picture the scene in “Psycho,” when the blood in running down the shower drain, except in this case, there was no blood, just water, and a dead moth was prominently involved. I have learned that the shock of finding out something other than dandruff lives in your hair can lead to many drastic things. Even murder.

I kind of just stood there for a while, trying to assess the situation. I had so many questions. For example, “What the #$@! just happened?” “Did a moth just fly out of my hair?” “Where is the conditioner?”

Of course, there is an outside chance that the moth was already in the bathroom, and flew on top of my head after I stepped into the shower, but I just don’t know. Call me a dreamer, but I’d like to believe that something other than hair gel and the occasional Yankees cap have been fortunate enough to call my head “home.” Although, that’s not to say that I hope this moth laid eggs, because if this were to happen again, in some place OTHER than the privacy of my own shower, like for example, a restaurant, I would be a little perturbed.

In fact, it may be time for a haircut.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Democracy – Hotmail style!

I received an email forward today which is a “Petition to Lower Gas and Diesel Prices in the United States.” Boy, is President Bush going to be surprised when he sees THIS at his desk! All this time, he’s been under the assumption that most Americans are content to pay four dollars for a gallon of gas, so this email petition is really going to knock his socks off.

It’s democracy at its best, really. When we don’t agree with something, there is no need to take any feasible means of solving it, not when we can type our name at the bottom of an email, forward it to 10 more suckers, and sit back in our chair at work and wait for things to happen. “Click. Send. Await for inevitable decline of gas prices.” Your job is done here – you may now concern yourself with other important details of life, like who you are going to forward the “God loves you! But He will not hesitate to STRIKE YOU DOWN if you don’t pass this along to seven of your friends!” email to.

Life is so much easier with email petitions. In fact, a few months ago, I signed a petition to turn mosquitoes into chocolate, so I am assuming that is going to happen any day now.

But back to the email forward in question. In keeping with the tradition of “Will the last person to leave please close the door?” the 2,000th person to “sign” this email document has an immense responsibility. In fact, the first 1,999 signatures will be rendered moot if person 2G doesn’t take the necessary step to ensure that gas and diesel prices will be considerably lower in the very near future. Not surprisingly, this step involves yet ANOTHER email, but I think you will understand the vast importance of this final step when you see the email address that all of the signatures must be forwarded to:

(drumroll please...)

President@WhiteHouse.gov.

Yes – in case you were wondering, these signatures go STRAIGHT to the Commander in Chief himself, at, what I believe to be is his “work” email address. (From what I understand, his original choice was “sexytexan69@WhiteHouse.gov, until Karl Rove caught wind, and forced a change.) George W. Bush will undoubtedly be fiddling with paper clips and rubber bands at his humongous oak desk when…BAM! You’ve got mail, bitch! And 2,000 people are pissed off! You thought gas prices were fine, huh? Well we’ve got 2,000 pieces of evidence that state otherwise. So what are you gonna do about it, Georgie Boy?

Huh?

HUH?!

Delete.

Even he’s not that dumb.