Saturday, May 26, 2007

Things That (Ever So Subtly) Piss Me Off, Part 1

You know what I really don't like? I don't like it when some marketing guru decides that his or her company's inanimate objects should be talking to me.

Case in point: here's the bar of soap I encountered last night when Britt and I checkd into the Hilton Garden Inn in Lake Mary:
Soap: "Thanks for being here"

It says "Thanks for being here."

Soap can't express gratitude. Soap can't express anything. If, by some bizarre chance, soap actually possessed the capacity for human-like thoughts and emotions, it would most likely be thinking something along these lines: "Oh shit, ugly people are going to rub me over their bodies again."

Friday, May 25, 2007

Fill 'Er Up

Britt refueled his SUV yesterday. Here's a photo of the damage:
Britt fills his gas tank

Perhaps it would be cheaper if we filled the tank with caviar instead of gasoline.

Showing Off My Schmuck

After writing my recent story about assholes in the work place (cf. this story and this blog posting), I got an e-mail message from a woman who chastised me for using schmuck in my story, as the word is Yiddish for penis.

Here was my reply:

I didn't know we had readers that spoke Yiddish!

I know where
schmuck comes from -- I'm a nice Jewish boy, after all -- but the word has been adopted into English to mean basically the same thing as jerk.

My goal was to find another word that people commonly use to describe irritating people. I wasn't trying to be a jerk -- or a schmuck, for that matter. I'm very sorry if you were offended.


I didn't want to sound too confrontational, so I left out a sentence saying that if she were to look up schmuck in the dictionary, she'd see I'm right. I also didn't include the following photo of me pointing out my favorite store in Budapest:
Dave points out a Schmuck

It was a jewelry store.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

And Now, A Little Embarrassment

This is my embarrassing tribute to "Dancing With The Stars." To quote Homer Simpson, "I like my beer cold, my TV loud, and my homosexuals fuh-layming."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Assholes In Print

My most recent story for the Tampa Tribune was about, for lack of a better word, assholes.

In that last sentence, "for lack of a better word" isn't a cliche, or a trite phrase to pad out a sentence. There simply isn't a better word than assholes to describe the ill-mannered, malicious, bullying, irritating, sabotaging, abrasive characters that ordinary people commonly encounter in the work place. The gist of my story, which can be found here (at least temporarily), is this: assholes aren't a trivial annoyance at work -- they chase good employees out the door, hurt the bottom line, and compromise an organization's mission.

Sadly, assholes is one of those words that simply isn't allowed in a major metropolitan daily newspaper -- I was forced to use "jerk" in its place, which is a suitable word but doesn't carry the same emotional weight as asshole, in my opinion.

I was only allowed to use asshole once in the story, as you'll see in this excerpt:

"[Jerks] have always been with us and will always be with us," said Robert I. Sutton, a professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University.

(Why the brackets in that last quote? Sutton doesn't actually use the word "jerks." He uses a word that's highly discouraged by The Tampa Tribune's legion of copy editors — one that's only permitted once in this story, and that's only because it's in the title of Sutton's latest book: "The No Asshole Rule.")


After the story ran, many people in the newsroom have congratulated me for slipping asshole into the newspaper. I haven't heard any complaints from readers about the asshole, but I have received some calls and e-mail messages about the story. Here are two of my favorites:

-- One caller left a message saying the story wasn't informed enough. He said I should have referred to the complete works of Sigmund Freud, as bullies are all people who were neglected as children. He also said I should have referred to a book called "Athiesm: The Case Against God." At this point, the voice mail system cut him off because his message was too long so, sadly, I will never understand the relationship between religion and assholes.

-- Another caller left a message saying "I believe you've reached your highest level of incompetence" and then proceeded to launch into a rant about his recent experience with people selling American flags in front of a local Wal-Mart. Once again, the message was cut off because it was too long so, sadly, I will never know how American flag sales make me an incompetent reporter.

I used the asshole story for my Monday morning WFLA Business Report and, of course, I knew that I couldn't use the word asshole on the air -- even in the title of a book. So I basically rewrote the lede of my print story into a one-minute script, incorporating some of Dr. Sutton's tips for dealing with assholes.

Here's how I started the script:

Has your workplace become a ... well, jerk-place?

Jerks ... bullies ... creeps ... tyrants ... schmucks ...

They're not just an annoyance.

They're a real drain on your productivity -- and your company's bottom line.

Jerks come in all shapes and sizes ...


You get the idea, right?

About an hour after taping the segment, I'm told that it's unsuitable for TV. Apparently, the word jerk is verboten on the air. It's simply not professional. Later, it would be explained to me that it's unacceptable for me to say or imply someone is a jerk, but it's okay to cite or quote someone else calling people jerks.

At the last minute, I had to rewrite the entire business report, using phrases likes annoying coworkers and prickly personalities, and record it again.

I'm still not sure what to make about this jerk incident on WFLA. I would never, in a million years, have thought that jerk would be a problem word on TV! I'd argue that there's a difference between talking about jerks in the workplace and specifically naming a particular person as a jerk, but what's the point in arguing? The most important thing I learned is that I should probably cancel my plans for a retrospective of the early films of Steve Martin on WFLA.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Thousand Of These Are Worth Five Extra Minutes Of Lunch Time


What's the ratio of Stanley nickels to Shrutebucks? The same as the ratio of unicorns to leprechans! The Schrutebuck picture was lovingly stolen from www.schrutebuck.com. I don't know who created it, but that person is a certified genius.

The Most Highly Anticipated Book Ever

No. 1 on my reading list: "Get Your Crochet On: Fly Tops & Funky Flavas," as seen in this publisher's advance catalog:

The most highly anticipated book ever


No. 2, of course, is the follow-up book, "Hip Hats & Cool Caps."

The second most highly anticipated book ever

New Additions To My Work Library


New additions to my work library
Originally uploaded by Tzvi72.

Notice a trend? Don't read anything too deeply into it. I cover workplace issues, after all.

My Nomination For Asshole Of The Year


My nomination for asshole of the year
Originally uploaded by Tzvi72.

This Bentley owner parked in two spaces outside Starbucks this morning. Half of the car is in a handicapped spot. I suppose part of the blame should go to the Mercedes driver, who also has little appreciation for the white painted lines in the parking lot.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Pauly's Picture


ATM
Originally uploaded by taopauly.

My former roommate Pauly McGuire just uploaded this photo to Flickr. I think it's amazing -- it grabbed my attention immediately. I think the image captures what it's like to ramble through Manhattan after dark. Also, you can't ignore the symbolism of a massive ATM sign, glowing like a neon dollar, stealing the focus from everything around it. The background details are exceptional -- especially the delicate orange clouds.

I don't know if Pauly set out to take this picture, or if it's a happy accident. Either way, it's impressive.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Full-Bodied, Nappy-Headed Roast

What does a disgraced shock jock drink in the morning? What does he put on his salads? The answers can be found on a shelf near the cash registers at Linens N' Things.

Imus Ranch coffee and salad dressings

Friday, May 11, 2007

Baby Elephants In Antique Advertising

I bought this old advertising placard through eBay. It arrived today. What an appropriate picture to receive just before Mother's Day.

Jumbo feeds baby Castoria

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Modesty Is My Middle Name

This morning, I created a massive Excel spreadsheet that uses real-time data from Bloomberg. I set it up so that I can change the figures in just a few cells, and all of the information I need -- stock prices, market caps, rankings -- updates itself automatically.

I was quite proud of myself. Perhaps a little too proud. Here's the title I gave to my worksheet:

A little pathetic, isn't it? I'm so great because of my modesty.

A Is For Anxiety


It's the second week of May and we've got our first named storm of the season -- Andrea. I don't want to think about what this portends for the rest of the hurricane season.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Eine Kleine Eisbär

Not even noted bearophobe Stephen Colbert can resist the charms of Knut, the polar bear cub at the Berlin Zoo. On tonight's "Colbert Report," Colbert said Knut is so adorable he should be considered "the Justin Timberlake of godless killing machines."

I wonder if Colbert knows about the hidden bear in the Toblerone logo.

Smoke From A Distant Fire

There's a fire blazing in Georgia. A new fire broke out near Gainesville, Fla. All of the smoke has drifted into the Tampa Bay area.

Smoke from a distant fire

Today, Tampa smelled like an overflowing ashtray at a campsite.

Flowers From Britt

At work, the surprises are rarely good.

Today was an exception.

A long package arrived for me, and I was a little disconcerted when I saw the FTD Mercury logo on the box. Reporters aren't supposed to accept gifts. When I get one, I'm always uncomfortable.

It was delightful, then, to discover the 18 roses inside came from Complementary Spouse Britt Shirley -- who's currently half a world away, leading students on a travel study course through Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Why? Just because.

One rose didn't survive the trip: it arrived disconnected from its stem, rolling around inside the FTD delivery box. Another rose was plunked into a makeshift vase (a rinsed-out plastic diet Coke bottle) and went to Mary Shedden, who, I felt, needed something cheery today because she's having a stressful week. The remaining 16 roses are now sitting on my desk, and have started to bloom beautifully.

Here's a picture:

Flowers from Britt

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Recycled Content: Watson Edition

Posted to the Original Daily Dave at 3:58 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2002:

I'm suffering from insomnia. The cat has been sleeping for hours. He is mocking me.


Now that America's Favorite Housecat is gone, I must suffer through insomnia all alone. I suppose I could ask Britt to purr for me but, (a) he's already asleep; (b) it would be cruel to wake him up; and, (c) it kind of freaks me out when human beings make purring noises.

Housekeeping

I'm not sure what to make of the do-not-disturb sign we encountered at the Embassy Suites Buckhead in Atlanta last weekend.

The wording just seems a little off to me. I know it's probably supposed to sound cutesy, but it seems just a little sinister. The implicit message, I think, is that we, the people staying in the room, are involved in something so nasty, perverse or sickening that you, the housekeeping staff, wouldn't even want to venture in.

If I were on the outside of that door, I'd definitely want to know what was happening inside!

Also, the tone of the message rubs me the wrong way, too. It seems to imply that the people who are hanging the do-not-disturb sign know what's best for the people who will see the do-not-disturb sign. "There's a good reason for you not to knock right now," it says -- but it doesn't share the reason with you. The suggestion of secrecy and superiority doesn't sit well with me.

I suppose in these days of hotel überbranding, when even the signage on the free breakfast buffet strikes a conversational tone (cf. Hampton Inn), a do-not-disturb sign that reads "Do Not Disturb" would be considered too plain, too convention, too unsophisticated.

Another discovery at the Embassy Suites: the hotel soap smells exactly like Pez candy. Exactly. It made me hungry for Pez. In fact, I bought the first Pez dispenser I saw after we got home and munched through three packets of those brick-shaped candy tablets. They smelled like Embassy Suites soap. They were delicious.

Bodily Fluids

I saw this verbiage plastered on a van outside my office this morning:

Best. Advertising Slogan. Ever.

How wonderful! For several years, I have worried that Europe or Japan would soon begin to take America's place as the world's leader in baby spit-up and drool technologies. This van is a welcome reminder that American ingenuity is alive and kicking. Go USA!

Look Who's On MySpace

I have a MySpace page. I don't check it that often, but I'm pretty sure I've never been named one of MySpace's Cool New People like Krystal ... or TrOJaNs!!!! ... or Rudy Giuliani ...


Sadly, Rudy's actual MySpace page is bereft of information. I was hoping to learn what his favorite Fall Out Boy song is.

Update: All the major presidential candidates are on MySpace! It's kind of weird. For some of politicians, it actually seems kind of cool -- they are trying to engage young voters just as Bill Clinton did by appearing on MTV and the Arsenio Hall show when I was a young pup back in 1992.

For other politicians, though, the mere concept of setting up a MySpace page seems utterly ridiculous. It's just ... how to describe it ... it comes across like a fading hipster who's trying desperately to convince kids that he's into youth culture, even though everyone knows the hipster hasn't bought a new album since the John Tesh greatest hits compilation came out years ago.

So, should I be sad or excited to see the '08 candidates lining up on MySpace? I can't make up my mind yet. For most of the candidates, the MySpace pages seem awkward -- like they're that have just shown up for their first junior high dance, loitering quietly off to the sides because they don't know yet what they're supposed to do there.

Just for the record -- as I am a reporter and I want to preserve my objectivity -- I want to point out that I'm fascinated by politicians on MySpace because of what it says about marketing, campaigning and the American media landscape. I'm intrigued by the AdWeek implications, not the Newsweek ones.

If you want political insight, you shouldn't bother looking for it here anyway. I mainly write haiku about donuts and deadlines, and share cameraphone pictures that make me laugh.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Cruel And Unusual Punishment

Unattended Children

Seen next to the cash register at the Old Meeting House on MacDill Avenue.

Remnants Of Dessert

0502072037.jpg

Britt and I had dinner with our friends Cherie and Bill last night. After the main course, the waiter brought over a plate of profiteroles -- on the house. I tried to take a photo, but the dessert disappeared too quickly.

I'm exaggerating just a smidge. But, boy was dessert tasty!

With Apologies To Patsy Kline

Crasins!

Craisins --
Craisins for feeling so hungry.
I'm craisins --
Craisins are fun to chew.

I knew
You'd love me as long as you wanted
And then someday
You'd opt for another snack food.

Worry,
Why do I let myself worry
Wondering
What dried fruit tastes like to you?

Craisins
For thinking my cranberries could hold you.
I'm craisins for trying
Craisins for crying
And I'm craisins
For loving you.

Spotted In CVS

What the world needs now are giant remote controls, sweet giant remote controls.

Remote controls for Brobdingnag

A Bumper Sticker I'd Like To See

Dyslexia is the root of all eivl.