I’m No Blogging Noob, But …

… I still wish more people would read this list:

Eight Things Not to Do When Starting a New Blog, Social Media Revolver

No. 6? I’m guilty.

Super Bowl Postmortem, Auto Show, Bad Marketing Tweets

There’s an ad on TV right now for the upcoming movie Dark Skies which ends with the character walking into the kitchen and encountering an alien on the counter (0:24 into it). This is almost exactly a recurring nightmare I had as a kid. Needless to say I will not be seeing this movie, because I’m so terrified of the trailer that I don’t think there’d be any point left in going.

Creepy.

  • My friend Nathan on the complaining masses of football fans watching that shirtless-guy Calvin Klein ad: “And now you’re gay.”
  • It’s a great irony that discussions about marketing — conducted by well-paid people whose job is to grab others’ attention and hold on tight — are a fantastic place to find the most stale, substance-free and back-patting word jumbles imaginable.

    I note this because the ad and marketing tweeters in my feed were out in full buzzwording force for the “#brandbowl” and all of its apparently dynamic brand conversations. I found maybe three of these ads approached “dynamic”, but otherwise I thought it was the weakest lineup in years. Of course when your peers are the same people putting out the stale, substance-free and back-patting obfuscations, there’s not really a strong point of origin for most of this stuff.

    In summary: There’s way too much marketing of marketing by marketers, so I wish marketers would just stick to marketing.

  • No way was Matt Cooke’s skate slash on Erik Karlsson deliberate. Awful, absolutely: the league needs more Erik Karlssons after it came within a hair’s breadth of screwing itself into the ground yet again. But deliberate? Had it been any other player, this wouldn’t even be a discussion point.
  • Finally, some photos I took at the Chicago Auto Show last weekend. Love those shiny machines!

Super Bowl XLVII, Stupid People in Surveys, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Soundgarden at the Riviera

Lombardi Trophy

Ray Lewis, to me, is sports culture’s most prominent reminder that sometimes, simply by virtue of being the most shameless about their misdeeds, the really hideous people in the world can still be rewarded with a life of luxury, fame and adulation that you and I will never experience. Karma mostly comes around for the great bulk of us, but every now and then, someone slips through the cracks into the good life they don’t deserve.

I can’t even talk about Ray Lewis without getting angry – I’m pissed just writing this. The whole country looks down on Ben Roethlisberger as a disgusting sleaze, and rightly so. Yet looking at Ray Lewis’s example, it seems Roethlisberger’s biggest perception problem is not being loud, brash or televangelistic enough. This strategy has worked so well for Ray that he’s shoved at us by the NFL and the media as someone we should not just appreciate for his play on the field, but actually admire as a human being. This is unacceptable to me.

There’s plenty written about why Ray Lewis is worthy of scorn. I cannot abide this dude going out with another Super Bowl. Please, 49ers: I don’t care about Jim Harbaugh’s tantrums, or Colin Kaepernick looking like a five-year-old in his oversized press-conference hat, or even (holding my nose here) the fact that a sixth SB win would tie your team with the Steelers for most Super Bowl wins by a franchise: you cannot let Ray Lewis win this game. I even picked you against my better judgment just so it’d be one more thing in your favor, although I can’t break .500 for the season even if you do win:

Two weeks ago: 0-1 (push pick for Atlanta); Overall: 129-131
At San Francisco -3.5 Baltimore

Just win. Do it for me and for my ill-defined sense of pro-athlete karma. You must.

  • Also, this survey result hews pretty close to my belief that 20% of respondents in any survey are total idiots who should immediately be discarded:

    Perhaps the most shocking is that 27 percent of those polled—more than a quarter—believe that “God plays a role in determining which team wins a sporting event.” Watch a game with three of your buddies. Odds are that one of you wholeheartedly believes that God has a vested interest in the outcome of the game, and will influence it to get His way. This could really throw off Vegas’s lines.

    It doesn’t matter if the question is whether the sun rotates around the Earth or whether we should bring back leaded gasoline, you will always find that at least 20% of people answer affirmatively. You’re really surveying 80% of your respondents to get a true feel for how thinking humans think about whatever it is you’re asking.

  • Aliens: Colonial Marines will be out in February and looks pretty sweet. One story gripe: this is supposed to be set on the colony planet from Aliens, yet the settlement and surrounding area seems intact in all the trailers. Does this mean the reactor explosion never happened? I’m guessing the game designers haven’t missed this glaring question, but I mean shit, it’s kinda glaring. I’m cool with it thought if it means more aliens to blow up.
  • I went to the Soundgarden show here last night, and it was amazing. I forgot how much those guys were the best thing ever to happen to grunge/metal/weird time signatures:

    Awesome show and I want to go again. Space-time displacement plz.

Te’o Media Fail, Barbusse’s Under Fire, Subway Footlong, AFC and NFC Championship Picks

I’d like to concur with SBNation’s list of failingly lazy media outlets in the whole Manti Te’o fake-dead-girlfriend scandal:

The following is a list of organizations and people who, to varying degrees of incompletion, never bothered to check to see if Manti Te’o’s girlfriend was real.

1. Us.

2. You (Jack Dickey and Timothy Burke excepted)

3. Sports Illustrated.

4. ESPN

5. The South Bend Tribune

6. Bleacher Report

7. The Chicago Tribune

8. The Chicago Sun-Times

9. The Sporting News

10. USA Today

11. The Boston Globe

12. CBS Sports

13. The New York Post

14. NBC Sports/Notre Dame

15. Yahoo

16. The Associated Press

17. The Palm Beach Post

18. The Miami Herald

19. The Tampa Bay Times

20. Grantland

21. The Los Angeles Times

How hard is it to Google a person? I do that every time I have a meeting with someone new and I want to see how overblown they are in their LinkedIn profile, much less when I’m running a national sports-news story on a Heisman candidate’s deepest personality traits. It’s disappointing every time I’m reminded that as lazy as I can be – for probably the 12th workday in a row today, I listened to “Leper Messiah” 25 times rather than bothering to search for new, interesting music – there are people higher up who are even lazier than that when performing far more high-visibility tasks.

  • On the subject of pessimism, if I had to pick a single one of all the subjects on which I nerd out – excluding the Internet because that comprises more or less every subject – I probably nerd out the most frequently on the First World War. Something about the self-congratulating 19th century crash-landing into the bleakest dehumanized misery, particularly in the Western Front, grabs me in both visceral and philosophical ways that make me turn the era over in my mind again and again. (Cheery!) So much great art and analysis came out of the turmoil that I read or view pretty much all material I can find dealing with the leadup, duration and aftermath of 1914-1918. Recently I got around to reading Under Fire by Henri Barbusse, one of the earliest (1916) first-person accounts of the war that led to the infamous All Quiet on the Western Front that we all know from ninth grade.

    WWI French uniforms at Les InvalidesI’d say this book is worth a read if you’re the type of person who’d read every WWI panel at Les Invalides (at right), because it’s like All Quiet but, to match Under Fire‘s longer length, features more quantity but not necessarily quality: more gore, more sitting around behind the lines, more background men who get killed, more soldiers shooting the shit, and more moralizing via an end segment very much like the extended argument for socialism at the end of The Jungle. Remarque did a better job distilling a similar story to Barbusse’s, so you can check out Under Fire if you want to get into a higher level of detail and are willing to read what from a literary perspective is extra padding to get at that detail.

  • Today I saw the story about the Subway footlong controversy — the sandwiches are actually 11 inches in many cases — and at first I was annoyed that we all thought it important enough to document this and make it into a thing. (More than 22,000 comments on that story!) Then I remembered that this is actually an example of the market keeping its companies honest, and that’s a good thing. I can still be mad that we don’t apply this level of vigilance to environmental or policy issues, but it’s nonetheless a good thing that this level of vigilance does exist somehow, somewhere.
  • NFL-LOGO-psd12391And for the last NFL picks before the Super Bowl:

    Last week: 1-3; Overall: 129-130
    San Francisco -4 at Atlanta
    At New England -9 Baltimore

    New England in the Super Bowl, again. I still like it better than Baltimore.

‘Cats Gator Bowl Win, Potato Salad, NFL Wild Card Playoff Picks

Pat Fitzgerald

No choice but to put that image up there. I was so shocked that Northwestern won a bowl game after 64 years that I didn’t even know how to celebrate, so I tweeted some stuff, had a beer, and that was that.

  • Thursday at lunch time there was a bowl of potato salad sitting in the work cafe, clearly left over from a catered lunch somewhere else in the office but looking delightfully creamy and delicious. At one o’clock I had just eaten my lunch and thought better of it. At two o’clock I told myself I had an apple and some smoked almonds that would make a healthier snack. By five o’clock the potato salad was still there looking creamy as ever and I could bear it no more: I greedily stepped to the counter, reached out my hand, and grabbed a Diet Coke can to save myself the food poisoning from five-hour-old mayonnaise.

    The point is, time is a pitiless gatekeeper that closes off an infinite number of our untaken paths to joy with each passing millisecond. The almonds were good, though.

  • NFL playoff time: My regular season against-the-spread record was 125-126, a disappointing one game under .500, but the playoffs count too. My predictions:

    At Houston -4.5 Cincinnati
    At Green Bay -7.5 Minnesota
    At Baltimore -6.5 Indianapolis
    Seattle -3 at Washington

    So just one upset, which as I write this isn’t looking immediately obvious, but it’s still the first quarter. My $100 entry fee isn’t completely lost yet – time to get that scrilla.

2012: The Year in Stack, Jesus Built My Hotrod, NFL Picks Week 17

2013 is two days away, so I had to do the mandatory website year-in-review:

Highlights
Work promotion!
Africa trip!
Colorado trip!
Amazing, beloved new phone!
Election results
– Fully appreciating Flipboard and Instagram (minus the latter’s terms of service)
– Finding this grilled brussels sprouts recipe
Ten-year Northwestern reunion was a terrific weekend
– Writing once a week on here: about an 80% success, which I’ll call a total success in Internet terms

Lowlights
Foot tendon ownage
Crazy heat, crazy weather, and the crazy enviro future that portends
– Vet bills – for some reason the pets all decided to develop one condition or another this year
Vanishing Internet self
– Didn’t see family as much as I wanted to
– The Steelers’ 2012 season
– Gary Bettman, a.k.a. the reason I have no NHL to turn to with the end of said Steeler 2012 season

– Not quite the fitness year I had hoped, thanks in part to the foot injury
– Still mad about the Steelers

WordPress helpfully sent me this year-in-the-blog review thing in the middle of drafting this post. That collard-green recipe has been my most-popular post for years now.

  • And as for 2013:

    – More industry networking
    – Back in the scuba habit
    – Back in the running habit
    – Figure out what the hell I’m going to follow in place of the NHL
    – Assorted other stuff

  • Chicagoist posted this classic vid after the death of Ministry guitarist Mike Scaccia, and as a result I have probably listened to it 85 times in the past four days:

  • And now, more than halfway into the 1 p.m. games, my NFL picks for the final week of the regular season. I’m on the comeback trail to .500 – now at 117-118 overall. Time to get this over the hump before the playoffs.

    NFL-LOGO-psd12391Last week: 11-5; Overall: 117-118
    At Buffalo -3.5 NY Jets
    At Cincinnati -2.5 Baltimore
    At Pittsburgh 0 Cleveland
    Houston -7 At Indianapolis
    At Tennessee -4 Jacksonville
    At NY Giants -7.5 Philadelphia
    Chicago -3 At Detroit
    At Atlanta 0 Tampa Bay
    At New Orleans -5 Carolina
    At Denver -16 Kansas City
    At San Diego 0 Oakland
    At San Francisco -16.5 Arizona
    At Seattle -10.5 St. Louis
    Green Bay -3.5 At Minnesota
    At New England -10 Miami
    At Washington -3 Dallas

    UPDATE 12/31: Well that was anti-climactic. I ended up going 8-8 today, which means I’m still exactly one game under .500 for the regular season. At least the playoffs also count.

Scandalous Internet Pics Won’t Ruin Your Life, But Don’t Take Them Anyway, NFL Picks Week 15

What’s that called when bricks are all roughed-up more than usual? You know, when they’re not smooth like the outside of a house, but jagged and rough instead. Whatever it’s called, I scratched my hand on a wall like that yesterday, and it sucked, so I need a name for this decorative style that I now hate.

  • Last week there was a minor Internet scandal involving Vanderbilt University, though certainly not minor to the people involved: a cheerleader in Kappa Delta and her boyfriend (?) decided to get very visibly freaky in her sorority formal’s photobooth, only to have the shit hit the fan when the digital photobooth automatically uploaded all of its photos to Facebook. Naturally the Internet was on this within about five seconds, complete with name, identifiers and partial life story, and that was that. Was this dumb of those two? Yeah, not recognizing that a digital photobooth was probably going to capture the digital originals was up there with butt chugging in the realm of the stupid. (Shockingly, both involved college students.) That said, I had to disagree when my friends stated “her life is ruined” by this whole thing.

    We’re in an era when this sort of thing is going to become more and more common. Even if it’s not something quite so pornish like in this case, there’s probably some good material hidden in the Facebook-tagged pictures of your new college double-fisting Natty Lights on the Diag. We’re all just going to get used to having a good percentage of coworkers with digital histories of indiscretions, and that’s not going to be any different than the people at your workplace now — it’s just that you can review the evidence. That’s a seismic cultural shift, but if I’m the boss, I really don’t care what you did in your college years if you can get the job done. Is it a distraction if my clients can google you and find outrageously revealing photos of you? I really think not, because if they can’t get past it and you’re at my firm doing a solid job, that’s on them to be professional.

    It’s obviously a judgment call whether that employee has shown the maturity to get past the incident, because yeah: if you think this person has the potentially to screw up equally bad even after the last time, then yeah, that person can take a hike to go work for some other sucker. But if it’s someone who’s learned their lesson and otherwise totally qualified? No, their life isn’t ruined, nor should it be. Enjoy your transparent life.

  • Oh, and no matter how hot you look and how careful you think you are, accept that any nude photo of yourself is going to get out to the public. If that’s a smart business move for you, well OK, but otherwise it’s hardly worth taking in the first place. You can go Google naked photos of me right now and you’ll come up short. Why? Because I’m Internet smart. Sucks to be you.
  • And the NFL picks for the week. I actually won two weeks ago, so this comeback to finish at .500 thing is totally happening. (Probably not, but you gotta believe.)

    Last week: 8-7; Overall: 95-108
    Cincinnati -4.5 At Philadelphia
    Green Bay -3 At Chicago
    At Atlanta -1.5 NY Giants
    At New Orleans -3.5 Tampa Bay
    At St. Louis -3 Minnesota
    Washington even At Cleveland
    At Miami -7 Jacksonville
    Denver -2.5 At Baltimore
    At Houston -8.5 Indianapolis
    At San Diego -3 Carolina
    Seattle -5.5 At Buffalo
    Detroit -6 At Arizona
    Pittsburgh -1.5 At Dallas
    At Oakland -3 Kansas City
    At New England -5.5 San Francisco
    At Tennessee -1.5 NY Jets

The One Swear Word That Still Shocks Me, NFL Week 13 Picks, Yahoo! Fantasy Outage, Mobile Quotability

I can’t stop eating pomegranate seeds lately. Beautiful AND delicious – like a haggis.

  • I’ve clearly been desensitized to foul language in my day, because the only word that still genuinely shocks me is “c—“. (Not the one that rhymes with “rock”.) I can barely even type the dashes without recoiling. This must be because my contemporaries have been using every other swear word with full abandon since third grade or so, but that one still gets me.

    “Hey, f— you, you m———— s—head c———- m———–! How’s your m———— b—- a– today?”
    “Ha, good to see you too, you f—– a——!”

    vs.

    “The word ‘c—‘ is offensive and should never be used.”
    /record scratch, monocle falls out, tea cup shatters
    “OF COURSE IT SHOULDN’T! HOW COULD YOU EVEN MENTION THAT HIDEOUS WORD?! I NEED A SHOWER!”

  • Only four weeks left in the NFL regular season. Damn.

    This leaves me with precious little time to recover a winning record. I’m currently at 76-96 overall against the spread, a mere .442 correct. This after finishing second overall last year at 145-112, .564, so I’m looking at a major dropoff in 2012. At this rate, I have to win five more games each week just to finish at .500 for the regular season. The playoffs might help, but that’s no easy feat. So here goes for Week 13:

    Last week: 6-9; Overall: 76-96
    At Atlanta -3.5 New Orleans
    At Chicago -3.5 Seattle
    At Green Bay -8.5 Minnesota
    San Francisco -7 At St. Louis
    At NY Jets -4.5 Arizona
    Carolina -3 At Kansas City
    At Detroit -4.5 Indianapolis
    At Buffalo -6 Jacksonville
    New England -7.5 At Miami
    Houston -6 At Tennessee
    At Denver -7 Tampa Bay
    At Baltimore even Pittsburgh
    Cleveland even At Oakland
    Cincinnati -2 At San Diego
    At Dallas -10 Philadelphia
    NY Giants -2.5 At Washington

    Also I think this is the week that Andy Reid gets fired. If somehow I could get 30 points in Yahoo! Pick ‘Em if that happens, that would be great.

  • It happened two weeks ago, but I’m still baffled that Yahoo! had a marquee product undergo an all-day outage – at noon on Sunday, no less. When I think “Things Yahoo! is good at”, I would say the list is fantasy football, news and finance news, maybe email, and Yahoo! Answers (for better or worse). (Mostly worse.) I feel for this guy:

    Dear Yahoo! Fantasy Users,

    I want to sincerely apologize to all of you about today’s Yahoo! Sports Fantasy outage. As the head of Yahoo! Sports and as a Yahoo! Sports fantasy player myself, I am disappointed that we failed all of our fans today. Our first priority is having the best experience for our users, and today we fell short.

    The outage started around Noon ET (awful timing we know) and while our team was on it immediately we are still working on various pieces. Our team is continuing to work on identifying and resolving the root cause. We have restored full functionality on the website, and we’re working for a final fix for our mobile apps. Currently data and scores can be viewed but for now you cannot make transactions or change line-ups from the apps.

    We will also use today as an opportunity to improve our set-up so that we hopefully never have an outage like this again. Our fantasy commissioners and players are our biggest priority – we pride ourselves in being able to offer our users with the best fantasy sports experience possible and we take our job to deliver that to you very seriously. Rest assured we will work hard to make sure we continue to deliver on that commitment.

    Thanks for playing with us and your patience today,

    Ken Fuchs
    Head of Yahoo! Sports

    That came with a 20 percent discount to the Yahoo! Sports Shop, which I was going to use until I saw the NFL Shop had 25 percent off on Cyber Monday. In fairness to Yahoo!, that was smart, because they sold out of almost all jersey inventory when I looked a few days back despite the smaller discount.

    But still, get some redundancy and do a code freeze during the season! Come on, bros!

  • And if you want to read me expound on mobile strategy, here are a few links to do just that:

    App deleted after one use: What should brand do?, Mobile Marketer
    Reaching the fragmented mobile audience, Mobile Marketer
    Macy’s makes mobile integral part of Black Friday strategy to drive in-store sales

Election Results, Coffee, Palladia, NFL Picks Week 10

Appropo of nothing: I had Dunkin’ Donuts coffee for the first time this week, and it really is pretty good. I barely like coffee, but I like theirs better than hella bitter Starbucks anyday.

  • In the way I was hoping, we relived the election of 2004 with a role reversal in incumbent-challenger parties, so now everyone on the right feels the same despair the left did back then. (Sidebar: this current despair confuses me because rightists are despairing of things that aren’t even happening. The country has not moved towards socialism, guns aren’t being seized (quite the contrary), and companies aren’t being nationalized, nor is anyone even suggesting any of those things in a serious way. At least when leftists called Bush a warmonger in 2004 it was after he had actually started two wars.)

    The President won decisively, Democrats actually gained seats in the Senate, and even the House would have flipped if it weren’t for the outrageous gerrymandering that occurred after the 2010 census. I keep reading a lot of stuff about the problems with the Republican party, but when the GOP has a strong midterm in 2014, shouldn’t writers at the moment be puzzling over how the Democrats can maintain their supposed dominance in years when they don’t have an exciting Presidential candidate at the top of the ticket?

  • It only seems to be airing at random times, and I know nothing about it besides its having something to do with televising music, but Palladia is one of the coolest cable channels on the air. As far as I can tell, 90 percent of its programming is HD full-concert footage, which is amazing. The wider HDTV aspect ratio feels way more epic than a regular TV in a way that fits well with the grandiose feeling of a live show, so this is one of the simplest yet greatest ideas for TV ever. Right now I’m watching a Jane’s Addiction live show from New York City from earlier this year; I have shows from Soundgarden, Nirvana and the Chili Peppers queued up on the DVR after this one. Great way to spend TV time and make me feel justified in purchasing an HD TV.
  • And the NFL picks: I’m back on track, homies. Last week I picked up 12 points and tied for first only to lose the tiebreaker and thus the weekly payout. So here’s hoping I’m finally learning what teams are doing to make a strong end run:

    Last week: 12-2; Overall: 57-73
    Indianapolis -3 at Jacksonville
    New York Giants -4 at Cincinnati
    At Miami -6 Tennessee
    Detroit -2 at Minnesota
    At New England -11 Buffalo
    Atlanta -2.5 at New Orleans
    At Tampa Bay -3 San Diego
    Denver -4 at Carolina
    At Baltimore -7.5 Oakland
    At Seattle -6 New York Jets
    Dallas -1.5 at Philadelphia
    At San Francisco -11.5 St. Louis
    At Chicago -1 Houston
    At Pittsburgh -12.5 Kansas City

Election Night 2012

I put in the vote for my preferred candidate this morning — along with all the other uncontested Democrats lower on my district’s ticket — so in just a few hours it’s time to sit down, pound some chips, and get my Electoral College / Twitter watch on. Before that, I will be lifting like a madman so I muscle the stress out of my system.

In case you’re interested, this is my 277-EV prediction. Gotta be optimistic but realistic.

Pat's Electoral College 2012 prediction

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