Wednesday, March 31, 2010

'Should I buy an iPad?' flowchart

The following is from my friend Jake, who is an Apple zealot. He's a good guy too. Wonders will never cease.

It's about the iPad, the newest gadget from Apple that has everybody all fired up. Follow the flowchart closely and see where you end up. I tried a couple of different options and kept ending up in the bottom-right, where I thought I would end up.

Thanks Jake!

'Should I buy an iPad?' flowchart

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

PC vs. Mac, Why I'm Right

I often find myself locking horns in a debate about something not worth debating.  Not that I'm argumentative, but sometimes people just have no idea how wrong they are.  Quite often, however, nobody is wrong, but of course I'm even more right than my counterpart 10 times out of 10.

The perfect example of this is the argument over Mac or PC.  You may be wondering which one I prefer.  But if you know me well, you're not wondering at all.  Even if you've never seen my computer or heard what I have to say on this matter, you're thinking "Dave isn't cool enough for a Mac", and you're correct.  I'm also too poor for one.

Let me start this argument out by saying that I get it.  Apple makes the best computers.  Believe me, I have plenty of friends who love their Macs more than their moms, so I've heard the arguments.  "A PC is fine if you want to replace it every year" or "sure, get a PC, you'll be re-starting it every hour or so".  If you care that much about your computers, you have the right computer.  And unless you need the best computer made for your profession, you're kind of a loser.

I got my Gateway laptop 3 1/2 years ago and it works like a champ.  I paid $900 for it and I can't remember the last time I had to re-start it.  Sure, I have to re-start for updates every month or so, and that takes me about two minutes each time, but I can afford 24 minutes a year.  It hasn't been infected with anything, probably because I don't forward garbage emails and respond to every spam email and facebook invitation.  Not once have I wished my computer did this or that.  Actually, that's not true.  I periodically wish my computer would make me some dinner for me, but I'm pretty sure even Apple hasn't figured that one out yet.  As soon as it does, I'm the next convert.

I relate the Mac vs. PC debate to the Toyota vs. Mercedes debate.  If somebody tells me I need to buy a Mercedes, the easy answer is "I can't afford it".  End of discussion.  But when I try the same response about a Mac, the guy with messy hair and girl jeans takes a sip of his green tea latte and gives a condescending shake of the head, as if to say, "you poor Neanderthal, if you were more civilized you would understand".

Like a Mac, a Mercedes has bells and whistles that my Toyota does not.  It would be cool to have some of those things, but I don't need it.  What I need is a dependable car that can get me from point A to point B in relative comfort.  Similarly, I need a computer that I know will start right up, let me read and send email, use the internet (so I can educate the world about how to be more like me), and store some pictures and music.  I don't think I've ever used my computer for anything else.

For somebody like me, the only way I would make the switch (short of Apple coming up with a cooking computer) is if the price was the same.  And I don't mean the same like "well Mac makes a wristwatch that's $900"...I mean the same like a comparable price for a comparable computer.

On Amazon, you can buy a 13-inch MacBook for under $1,000.  Sounds like a pretty good deal!  You get a computer with an Apple on top and a lifetime subscription to the Apple Dork Club for under a grand!  But sometimes you get a cretin like me who doesn't mind using a mouse with two buttons.  So for a comparable PC (I agree that Acer or eMachines does not make a comparable product), HP has a 13-inch Pavilion for under $600.  As far as I'm concerned, it's the same computer.

The way I see it, there are three types of Mac users.

The first is the artists.  These people need a Mac to create music, art, videos, etc.  Mac is the best for that, no arguments here.

The second is teachers.  Teachers get a great deal on Macs, which I think is great.  More companies should give educators good deals on their products.  Hats off to Apple.

The third, and by-far the largest group, is the people who think they have to have the very best.  Some are wealthy and can afford to have the best of everything.  Maybe someday I'll be there.  But most of you have a Mac so you can sit in the coffee shop and look cooler than me.  You've been fed a line that says you have to have these things to be a functioning part of society.  You think you can afford the best of everything, just because the money is in your bank account or you have enough room on your credit card.  Of all the brilliant innovations Apple has made in terms of technology, none have surpassed their ability to convince people they need a Mac.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Infomercials Will Never be the Same

Yesterday I wrote about how entertained I am by infomercials. I gave you the basic formula for most infomercials, but those were for the relatively normal products. You might not think a Snuggie is strange or be puzzled as to why somebody would want a Stealth S.S.A., but believe me, these products aren't even scratching the surface of weirdness.  I was not aware of some of these products before some of my readers brought them to my attention today, and I was stunned.

I wish I was creative enough to make this stuff up.

If you're like most people, your arm nearly gets detached from your body every time you wear your seatbelt.  Thankfully there's The Tiddy Bear to solve all your problems.  It's got two D's in the name, so it's not bad...just like Teddy Bear, get it?  I'm not sure double D's make this word any better than the one you're thinking of.

If you don't know my mom, you might not know I'm single.  Every once in a while, I wonder why I haven't found the one yet, but now I know.  I've wasted my time on flowers or dinner for girlfriends on special occasions when there is something so much better out there.  My relationship woes are going to go away forever thanks to the Hug-e-gram.  You can see this infomercial here.

My problem is that I've never been able to express my love with gifts, but someone has figured it out.  A hug you can keep going forever.  You can do your grocery shopping while getting a hug from that special someone!  You don't even have to stop hugging to go sit on the toilet.  You can even record a stupid message over the phone that will be recorded on the...uhh...hug unit.  Still on the fence?  It comes with free wooden roses that last forever.  Yeah, I thought that might do the trick.

There's really not a lot I can say.  These people have taken infomercials to a whole new level.  The best I can tell, these are actual products.  Apparently people buy this crap.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Operators Are Standing By

I was up late last night working and left the TV on in the background. I don't even remember what I was watching, but it was late enough that regular programming had ended and the infomercials had commenced. I changed the channel when I finished my work, but noticed these commercials were on a lot of the channels. Some were a minute or two long, and some were a full 30 minutes.

I think I might have found a new hobby.

I enjoyed watching them, and realizing just how dumb the people selling these items think we all are. And I'm afraid they're right. There's a basic formula all of these things follow: Convince you your life is horrible, then show you how much better it could be if you purchased their product. We all know that's how any advertising works, but the infomercials are much less subtle, and that's what makes them so entertaining. Let me break down how these things work.

Objective 1: Remind you that you want something.

They all start the same way. "Do you wish you had great washboard abs?" "Everybody loves fresh tomatoes off the vine!" or "Do you need more space in your closet?"

These statements and questions are posed by an energetic, loud person (R.I.P. Billy Mays) who probably loves Monday mornings.

Objective 2: Show you that you'll never have these things.

This is where it gets entertaining. They answer those questions or respond to those statements with something that basically says, "but you're an idiot, so you'll never have those things". This is the part where they show black-and-white footage of someone in excruciating pain. Always with poor lighting they show a really fat guy in sweats, struggling to do a sit-up, or a woman with her hair in knots trying to cut tomatoes with a knife as sharp as a rolling pin, while her kids hatch plans to burn schools and hijack commercial jets. Sometimes they'll show a person with wires all tied in knots, wincing in pain like their foot is getting gnawed off by a muskrat; other times they show an old man, hunched over and working in the garden until he appears to get shot in the lower back with a BB gun. Other times you might realize just how impossible it is to stay warm only using a flat blanket while you use the remote control or read a book.

This is when we, as consumers, say to ourselves "they're right, these things and the bliss associated with them really are unattainable to someone like me. My life is horrible."

Objective 3: Convince you that you can, indeed have a fruitful life after all!

The key words in this section of the infomercial are something like "UNTIL NOW!!!".

This is where the production quality suddenly improves. Suddenly a supermodel, smiling ear-to-ear with well-behaved kids doing homework, effortlessly slices right through that tomato, and we're led to believe this is the same woman from before. Brightly lit and in fashionable workout clothes, a man with washboard abs and perfect teeth and hair, easily does an effective, ab-shredding workout while sitting in a recliner. Or the same older gentleman, in a perfectly-manicured garden, tills the soil with the greatest of ease while his wife hugs him and presents him with an ice-cold lemonade. These scenes are usually accompanied by a momentary flash of light and a "Ding" sound.

This is where the consumer says to themselves, "wow, this would make life perfect! Only problem is, it probably costs a fortune. Some things are just too good to be true. I'm switching back to re-runs of The Nanny."

Objective 4: Show you that you can afford this kind of happiness.

Before you're able to change the channel, the obtrusive spokesperson momentarily affirms your greatest fears. "You would probably expect to pay 10, 20, even 60 MILLION DOLLARS for this in a store!" This is followed by more black-and-white still photos of other gadgets, along with stacks of money and bars of gold.

"Yep. Gimme some good news or I'm going back to Golden Girls."

But in the nick of time, we hear, "but this perfection in your miserable life can be achieved for just four easy payments of $19.95!!!" The same black and white pictures are now covered by the red circle with a line through it, or perhaps an image of broken glass. They are replaced by color images of the perfect gadget and a yellow circle containing the low, low price.

"Oh yeah, now I'm listening! I've already got every episode of Quantum Leap on VHS anyway. But I'm still not convinced. Is that really all I get?"

Objective 5: Sweeten the Deal, Seal the Deal.

"But wait!! There's more!!!" or "But that's not all!!!"

"Cha-ching! I knew if I waited long enough they'd come around. Suckers."

Here they want us to act fast, as if these treasures will only be available for the next hour and a half before they are all incinerated and their ashes are used to make Taco Bell food. This is where they either double the offer or give you something totally unrelated as a bonus gift. "If you're one of the first 50 callers, we'll give you the Snuggie AND this amazing combination travel flask, cigarette lighter and tire gauge."

This is where the majority of viewers faint from the sudden influx of joy that has filled their souls. But that's okay.

Objective 6: Repeat the Deal and the Contact Info

Your wife or your roommate comes sprinting into the room from the commotion.

"Hey Ronnie-Jack, did you fall down?"

"I reckon I did...look at the T.V., yer not gonna believe this!"

The unfathomable offer is repeated and accompanied by a money-back guarantee. You just pay shipping and handling but return it for a free refund. The flask/lighter/tire gauge is yours to keep. This just might be a better deal than the Elvis plate set you bought in '84.

Sometimes I just don't know how the expensive stores like Wal-Mart stay in business.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Taco Bell Goes High-Class

I see Taco Bell is selling shrimp now. Finally.

I hope it's as troubling to everybody else as it is to me. I'm not exactly the pickiest eater, but Taco Bell made me nervous even before they entered the realm of fast-food shellfish. Maybe it's the Grade-E beef, maybe it's the fact that they appear to clean the fryers with the employees' uniforms. Whatever it is, I'm a little too nervous to eat their "regular" food.

It was bad enough that Taco Bell tried convincing everybody that you could go on a diet by eating their food. If you read their website, it just says that these items save 20 to 100 calories per item compared to similar items on their menu. I just wonder how many people are going to get fatter because of this "diet". "Stupid Taco Bell. I've been eating 45 of their healthy tacos every day for three months and I don't fit in my car anymore."

But now I've actually put a new personal policy in place after seeing this latest Taco Bell commercial. If a restaurant has a drive-thru, don't buy seafood from them. Ever. That one should be easy to keep. Seriously, these have to be the most disgusting shrimp ever. Peeled, de-veined shrimp (please tell me they're de-veined) can be pretty expensive, and I don't think I'm breaking new ground to say that Taco Bell isn't interested in buying expensive meats. I wonder what the shrimp equivalent of Grade-E beef is. Shrimp are already bottom-feeders, so the worst of that is something I don't even want to think about.

It should be interesting to see if this sets a precedent. Maybe McDonald's will have crab legs, or Wendy's will sell sushi. I know some folks at Chick-fil-A, maybe we could get them selling caviar. And if all goes well, KFC will have boxed wine at their drink stations. Thanks Taco Bell!

How about you just stick to selling garbage that everyone knows is garbage.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Self-Expression Gone Wrong...

In this digital age, we have an infinite number of ways to express ourselves. And I would argue that nobody cares what we think the vast majority of the time. We all know people who tell us about a dozen times a day what they're doing, whether it's on facebook, twitter, a blog, or whatever else is out there. As if this wasn't already too much, we still have a staggering amount of people who need more ways to call attention to themselves.

Some think of a clever method of self-expression, while others are not so creative. For those folks, we have personalized license plates.

At some point in our nation's history, I'm guessing these were innovative and creative. One day, many many years ago, I'm sure somebody realized a 1, a 2, a 4, or an 8 could be used to replace a word or a part of a word. What baffles me is that people are still making this revelation even today.

I saw a license plate today that read "CR8TV1". Is this a person who packs and ships televisions? It must be, because it's saying "CrateTVone"...right? Oh wait! I get it! You're the creative one! I've always wondered how the world would be alerted when the Creative One was discovered. I should have known that it would be with the groundbreaking innovation that only a personalized license plate could provide. That's not ironic at all.

Many people (too many, I submit) like to tell us what they're driving, as if we couldn't read it on their vehicle. Not long ago, I saw a Toyota Camry with plates that read "TCAMRY1". Thanks. Sometimes we need confirmation, because you never can trust the words the manufacturer puts on the back of the vehicle. I drive a Camry and I think it's a great car, but I don't think anybody's too impressed with it. Not this guy...apparently his Camry is a show car. What's disturbing to me is that he tried to pick "CAMRY" but it was taken. The next best pick, obviously, was "TCAMRY". Taken, as was "CAMRY1". Undeterred, Mr. Creativity went with his fourth choice.

And just today, I saw a license plate that exclaimed "TOY4ROX". Like, this is a toy...and it's for Rox, or maybe Roxy. Maybe you didn't get that one, so I'm here for you. I know genius when I see it. When you see "Toy" on a car that's not a Toyota, you'd expect it to be on a fun, recreational vehicle, something like a Jeep or some sporty car. This was on about a 10-year-old minivan. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with a 10-year-old minivan, but a toy? That's not what I think of.

One of my all-time favorites was on an enormous, jacked-up truck here in Montana. I'm probably going to get killed for making this one public, but it's too good to pass up. With "GETRDUN" and "GITRDUN" obviously taken, the obvious choice was to reverse it. So the plate said "DUNGETR". Done Get 'er...get it? Brilliant. But the best part was when someone's young son looked quizzically at the plate and finally asked his dad, "Dad, what does 'dung eater' mean?"

The worst, to me, are the ones where someone tries to squeeze an entire sentence into seven characters. The other day I saw a truck that was apparently owned by a person who loved said truck. The plate said "LUVMYTK". Or maybe they have a pet tick at home that they love.

I'm not saying all vanity plates are bad. For instance, when I was in California, I saw a white Bronco with plates that simply stated "NOT OJ". I couldn't help but laugh at that one. And sometimes it's a nickname that all your friends know, and who cares what the rest of us think? I'm fine with that. But keep in mind that most people are either making fun of you or just plain confused when they see your vehicle. Check with a few people first, and if it's not great, think of another way to express yourself. Please.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I Meant to Say "Worst Bracket Ever"...

Perhaps you read my last few posts, in which I showed the rationale of Laci, an imaginary hair-stylist, as she made her picks for the NCAA Basketball tournament. I was developing a theory that only brackets using little to no logic in the picks won bracket pools. So I based Laci's picks on things like school colors and mascots, thinking I'd finally figured out how to pick a good bracket. Turns out I'm just bad at this.

First of all, let me apologize if you really thought these were good picks and you based your bracket on what Laci said. According to Google Analytics, 24 people found my blog after searching "Best Bracket Ever". Oops. After one day, the bracket is ranked 4,759,438 on ESPN's Tournament Challenge. That puts it in the 0.4 percentile. I don't even know how to say's not even a whole percent. That means 99.6 percent of the brackets filled out on are better than mine. Errr, Laci's.

Really, what else is in the 0.4 percentile? After some highly scientific research, I came up with the following: If a man was in the 0.4 percentile for height, he would be about seven inches tall. And I'm sure if a person was in the 0.4 percentile for income, they would probably be paying their employer. And a person in the 0.4 percentile for intelligence would be an Oakland Raiders fan. Or at least they'd have a Raiders sticker on their jacked-up truck or Camaro. I know the bracket was a joke, but 0.4 percent is still embarrassing.

I actually have another bracket that's not doing too badly so far. It's in the 88th percentile, so for a few minutes I was feeling like I had a chance. But then I looked and saw Notre Dame in the Final Four. Thanks for nothing, Irish. Really, how much should I have expected from the Fighting Irish the day after St. Patrick's Day?

So now I return to familiar territory for this time of year. With my bracket discarded and hope for 2011, I will enjoy the games for the quality of the basketball and the thrill of the buzzer-beaters. That doesn't sound fun at all.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Best Bracket Ever, Part 4

This finishes up the first round of basketball action in Laci's bracket pool. I should charge people for these picks.

1-Duke Blue Devils
16-Arkansas Pine Bluff Golden Lions/Winthrop Eagles

"Does Duke have to play two teams? Oh my gosh, they must be really good if one team isn't enough! Oh hey, you know Dave Creamer, hottest guy ever? His mom went to Winthrop and she said it was a girls' school. But his cousin went there and it changed to a boys' and girls' school. Could you imagine going to college with all girls? What's the point?"

Pick: Duke

8-California Golden Bears
9-Louisville Cardinals

"I love California! Oh, the Cardinals, weren't they in like the football Super Bowl AND the baseball Super Bowl or whatever? They must be really good. Oh, what am I gonna do? I love California so much!"

Pick (eventually): Louisville

5-Texas A&M Aggies
12-Utah State Aggies

"Haha YAY, the Aggies are going to win! What the heck is an Aggie?! And what's A&M mean? Is it Apples and Macaroni? I don't eat macaroni cuz there's WAY too many carbs! Oh, I bet it's part of the state. It's probably like Animals and Mountains. That reminds me of camping. I hate camping!"

Pick: Utah State

4-Purdue Boilermakers
13-Siena Saints

"Boilermakers? Ewww, weird. Saints is much sweeter. OH, remember All Saints? I loved them! 'Never ever have I had to find...something-something', I forget the words now but that song was so great! Isn't Siena a minivan? They have these new commercials that are SO funny! Mommy like. Me too!"

Pick: Siena

6-Notre Dame Fighting Irish
11-Old Dominion Monarchs

"I'M IRISH, YAY!!! Well, I'm like half Irish. Well, I think my mom might be half Irish and my dad is like a quarter Irish. So I guess I'm three-quarters Irish and that's a lot! Have you seen Rudy? I cried in that movie! That was about Notre Dame right? Is it Noter Dame or Notra Dame? I never know how to say it! I love them!"

Pick: Notre Dame

3-Baylor Bears
14-Sam Houston State Bearkats

"Is Sam Houston a person? How does he get a college named after him? Oh, maybe it's like Samantha Houston. I hope so! I want a college named after me! I think a lot of people would go to Laci Underwood-Adams University! Go L.U.A.U.! Whoa, Luau! Everybody would want to go there! Hey, didn't they spell Kats wrong? There's two T's, right? Sam Houston is a moron!"

Pick: Baylor

7-Richmond Spiders
10-Saint Mary's Gaels

"YUCK, I hate spiders! One time my little brother put a spider in my shoe and I stepped on it and got spider guts inside and I was all 'SICK' and he was all 'haha' and I was all 'you are such a jerk!' and he was all 'I'm sorry Lace' and I was all 'it's okay, I still love you Bobo'. His name is really Jerry but we always call him Bobo. I don't know why!"

Pick: Saint Mary's

2-Villanova Wildcats
15-Robert Morris Colonials

"Oh my gosh, there's another guy who has his own college! I bet they call him Bob though. It's Bob Morris probably. Yay, we were the Wildcats in high school when I was a cheerleader! GOOOOO WILDCATS!"

Pick: Villanova

You now have your opening round picks. Stay tuned for more...

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Best Bracket Ever, Part 3

Laci is a hair-stylist and she knows nothing about basketball. As you all know, however, she will somehow find a way to win her March Madness pool, much to the dismay of her friends who saw her as "easy money" coming into the competition. You've seen the Midwest and West Brackets; here is the East Bracket.

1-Kentucky Wildcats
16-East Tennessee State Buccaneers

"That name is super long. I don't even know what half of these mascots are! What's a buccaneer?! I know what a wildcat is."

Pick: Kentucky

8-Texas Longhorns
9-Wake Forest Demon Deacons

"Have you ever seen how big Texas is on a map? It has a cool shape. Is the other school really a forest? Don't they have deacons in church and stuff? My best friend Ashley's dad is a deacon I think. Eww, he's not a demon though. That's scary!"

Pick: Texas

5-Temple Owls
12-Cornell Big Red

"How many of these schools have colors for their mascots? Big Red is gum, right? I love Big Red! Owls? They sound wise. Wise people are bad at basketball I bet. They should be in a contest for computers or something."

Pick: Cornell

4-Wisconsin Badgers
13-Wofford Terriers

"I've never heard of Wofford. Is that how you say that? Badgers are mean and I bet they are good at basketball! Hey, is Wisconsin the place where all the cheese comes from? I love cheese! Winnerrrr!

Pick: Wisconsin

6-Marquette Golden Eagles
11-Washington Huskies

"Husky guys aren't supposed to be good basketball players. Is Washington a state AND a city? That's so confusing! I'll pick do you say that?"

Pick: Marquette

3-New Mexico Lobos
14-Montana Grizzlies

"Yay, I love the Grizzlies! They're the best at everything, like ever! Oh my gosh, go Griz!"

Pick: Montana

7-Clemson Tigers
10-Missouri Tigers

"WHOA TIGER!!! HAHAHAHA!!! They're all Tigers! Does that mean they both win? Let's see on the picture. Clemson's Tigers are orange and Missouri's Tigers are yellow. Aren't tigers more orange? Orange Tigers win!"

Pick: Clemson

2-West Virginia Mountaineers
15-Morgan State Bears

"So West Virginia is a state? Or is it a place in regular Virginia? What is a Mountaineer? Is it like a Buccaneer? What's up with all the Ears? How does that make a team good? Morgan State...oh, my ex was making out with some girl named Morgan in High School. Remember that? I hate Morgan, even though she's super pretty."

Pick: West Virginia

The Best Bracket Ever, Part 2

This is the second in a series of how Laci, the hair-stylist, will once again win her March Madness pool.

West Bracket:

1-Syracuse Orange
16-Vermont Catamounts

"Is their mascot seriously a color? I don't know what a Catamount is. I've never been to Vermont but I knew a girl in college from there and she was an idiot. I don't know what to do! I guess that number 1 means they're pretty good. Whatever."

Pick: Syracuse

8-Gonzaga Bulldogs
9-Florida State Seminoles

"OH...MY...GOSH!!! I want an English Bulldog so bad I can't stand it! Like, seriously, I don't know if I can live another day without one!"

Pick: Gonzaga

5-Butler Bulldogs
12-UTEP Miners

"Haha yay, more bulldogs! What does UTEP mean? Is that a word? Maybe it's a state I've never heard of yet. Miners...I guess that means they're younger, so they must be better. Awww, I guess all the Bulldogs can't win."

Pick: UTEP

4-Vanderbilt Commodores
13-Murray State Racers

"Racers? That's funny! I like saying Vanderbilt. It sounds so important. Vanderbilt. Vannnnderbilt. Bilt. Vanderbilt. Van- ok sorry."

Pick: Vanderbilt

6-Xavier Musketeers
11-Minnesota Golden Gophers

"How do you say that word? It starts with an X, is that weird? I bet they spelled it wrong. I got sick from eating 3 Musketeers on Halloween when I was like five years old and I threw up on my mom's white tiger blanket. I feel so bad STILL! But she was all 'I still love you Lace'. My mom is the sweetest! Gophers are sooo cute!"

Pick: Minnesota

3-Pittsburgh Panthers
14-Oakland Golden Grizzlies

"Is that the same school as the Oakland Raiders? My neighbor likes the Raiders and he can't read and he's got a jacked-up truck and he hits his wife. the Steelers? Oh my gosh, I was just in a club a few weeks ago and I saw like their quarterback or whatever! His name was Ben! And he had sex with all these girls and then hit them on the head! I was super pumped to meet somebody famous!"

Pick: Pittsburgh

7-BYU Cougars
10-Florida Gators

"Ugh, more Cougars? Isn't BYU all Mormons? I bet Mormons are bad basketball players. Oh, I love Florida! It's like ALL beaches! That's in the corner of the country, right?"

Pick: Florida

2-Kansas State Wildcats
15-North Texas Mean Green

"Hahahahaha Mean Green? That is SOOOO funny! They shouldn't win if they're mean. I like nice teams! Wait, I thought I already said Kansas was going to win! Maybe not. Oh well."

Pick: Kansas State

The Best Bracket Ever, Part 1

This is my favorite time of year. Birds are starting to chirp again and new grass is beginning to sprout up as the last of the snow melts. That stuff is all great, but it's hardly why I love this time of year. I'm excited because it's time for March Madness. I love college basketball, and it culminates in the Big Dance, which is one of the greatest traditions in all of sports.

Everybody participates in their office pool or some group on Facebook. And for somebody who watches basketball all season long and keeps up with the teams, I should have a distinct advantage over all the other weekend warriors in the pool, right? Wrong.

We all know somebody who, although they have no idea what they're doing, wins their bracket competition and leaves the actual basketball fans swearing and foaming at the mouth like they must have cheated the system. So after years of frustration, I'm going to enter the mind of Laci, the hair-stylist from the downtown salon who has won every bracket challenge she's ever entered. This is my strategy. Steal my picks if you want to, but you saw it here first.

The Midwest bracket:

1-Kansas Jayhawks
16-Lehigh Mountain Hawks

"They're both hawks? That's stupid. My favorite bartender is named Jay, and I like the beach, not the mountains."

Pick: Kansas

8-UNLV Runnin' Rebels
9-Northern Iowa Panthers

"UNLV is from Las Vegas? Oh my gosh I love Las Vegas SOOO much! I like saying 'Vegas Baby' because I sound super awesome when I put baby on there! I stayed at the Bellagio one time and I met this guy...never mind."

Pick: UNLV

5-Michigan State Spartans
12-New Mexico State Aggies

"Uh, hello, Mexico is NOT a state, it's a country! And why is there a new one? That's so stupid. Michigan State all the way!"

Pick: Michigan State

4-Maryland Terrapins
13-Houston Cougars

"Why are guys all like obsessed with cougars now? Uh, hello, they're just old women. Plus I love my aunt Mary."

Pick: Maryland

6-Tennessee Volunteers
11-San Diego State Aztecs

"Are they seriously just like volunteer basketball players? That's so sweet! I volunteered once for Habitat for Humanity and I hit my finger with a hammer so I just like talked to people the rest of the time. Gosh, I love, love, LOVE San Diego! My friend Stacey knows some people with a condo in La Jolla and it's sooo beautiful!"

Pick: San Diego State

3-Georgetown Hoyas
14-Ohio Bobcats

"Oh my gosh, Hoyas! Just like La Jolla! Winner!"

Pick: Georgetown

7-Oklahoma State Cowboys
10-Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

"My best guy friend Paul loves Georgia Tech. He's so sweet...he always brings me lunch at work. Plus I just got a new yellow jacket and it is so stinkin' cute!"

Pick: Georgia Tech

2-Ohio State Buckeyes
15-UC Santa Barbara Gauchos

"I saw Ohio State play a football game one time and they are so awesome!

Pick: Ohio State

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Baby Talk

I had some time to kill this afternoon while I was in town. I'm still killing time right now, which is why I'm reaching for a topic to talk about on here.

I filled some of my time this afternoon by meeting my brother and his wife--along with their new baby--at Target. This was fun, because I always like spending time the little guy, but I experienced something I wasn't quite ready to experience. I'm sure for any parent this wasn't out of the ordinary, but apparently I'm just not parent material quite yet.

We went to the "Baby Section" of Target, which was a first for me. In fact, when I picture the inside of Target in my mind, there's this whole area that's fuzzy...unexplored territory, if you will. That area is baby-land, and there's a lot there.

Of course, that area is filled with products I didn't know existed...first foods, second foods, nipple cream. I just gagged a little bit, excuse me. But it's also filled with people who know what these things are, and they're much more accustomed to being around these items than me. I was so uncomfortable I might as well have been in the women's locker room at a senior citizens' fitness center.

I walked to one aisle in an attempt to be helpful and find soy formula or something like that and there were two women talking a little too freely about something I didn't want to hear.

"Ugh, my nipples hurt so bad..."

I blacked out momentarily, but when I came to, the conversation had shifted to breast pumps.

"When I was nursing Kylie, we went into the Bob Marshall (a wilderness area here in Montana for those who don't know) for a couple days."

"And you took her? What did you do with the used diapers?"

"We packed them out."

I can't be within 100 feet of a dirty diaper for more than 13 seconds. I couldn't imagine three days.

She continued: "But anyway, I had to pump with this one (apparently pointing to a product on the shelf...I couldn't make eye contact) and my boobs were so sore..."

I blacked out again, I think, but I was able to escape. It was like I was running from a man-eating lion I was so uncomfortable. Empty handed and apologetic for not making any progress, I met up with my brother and we went and found some dog food. We got to walk past the sporting goods and automotive sections and I think the color returned to my face. It's nothing really, but I felt like I had a brush with death.

So for those of you who have kids, don't assume the rest of us are comfortable hearing about your baby stories. And don't tell me how much I have to learn when I get married and have kids. Parents love telling people that and frankly I hate hearing it. So does everybody else, so knock it off. We get have kids and you know infinitely more than me. Fine. I sleep all night and take naps when I want to and go to the gym when I feel like it and take trips and go to movies. Boom.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

He Looks Just Like His Uncle Dave, Right?

After numerous requests, I'm posting pictures of my new nephew, Elias. My brother John Mark and his wife Amanda adopted him from Ethiopia, and they just arrived home late Sunday night.

I guess there's not a lot more to say, because his pictures are better than anything I could possibly write. Just trust me when I say it only takes a few seconds to fall in love with a kid. I can only imagine when you're the parent, but it's pretty fun to be the uncle! I hope you like them as much as I do!

I'd say there's a reasonable chance I'll spoil this one. That's going to be a tough face to say no to!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

...And Another Thing

I tend to blog about things that don't make sense to me. The other day, I wrote a blog about my travel experiences, and there are a few things about flying that just don't make sense. Here's one of them.

My youngest sister Victoria was here for the last week and she left this morning, long before the sun came up. Today will be a long day of travel for her, and in my opinion it doesn't have to be. She left Montana and will eventually end up in Raleigh, NC tonight.

From Kalispell, MT, she flew to Salt Lake City. Makes sense. But from SLC, she is flying to Seattle. I know geography pretty well, but maybe you don't. If you leave Montana and go to Utah, you need to take a left to get to North Carolina. She's taking a right, which means she'll pass right over the place she already was several hours earlier.

Let's say somebody is visiting your house and they ask where your bathroom is. You might say something like "go to that hallway and take a left, then it's right in front of you at the end of the hall".

I wonder what it's like to go the person's house who plans these air travel routes. "Take six steps backwards, then walk forward to that hallway. Take a right and walk until you hit the wall. When you do, stay there for a few hours and my friend will sell you a warm bottle of water and a cold ham sandwich for $36. Then turn around and walk to the end of the hall. I know that's far, but I'll give you 12 salty peanuts in a bag you can't open. Free. You're welcome."

I know it's a business decision based on a number of different variables, but are other businesses doing this same thing? I mean, a round-trip ticket from Salt Lake City to Seattle has to cost something, right? Let's skip that part. And this is a cheaper ticket! If you go to a restaurant and order a steak, they don't say "you can have this steak for $24. Or for half the price, you can have the same steak and a corn dog".

The weird thing about that is that you can't say "oh I'll take the second one, but I don't want the corn dog".

"It doesn't matter, it's a wise business decision for us to spend more money so that you can be unhappy. We're going to bring it to you, and you have to eat it."

"Wait, I don't like corn I have a choice?"

"Yes, we also have a 16-pound olive loaf that you would need to eat instead of the corn dog. Or of course you could give us more money so we can give you less food."

"Oh, ok that makes sense. I knew that...sorry."

No wonder all the airlines are broke.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Dirtbag Air

It's been a week or so since my last blog post. I was on vacation last week, then returned to a busy week of work, so blogging just wasn't an option. Actually, who am I kidding? I wasn't that busy, I just wasn't very motivated.

But I flew back to Montana on Sunday afternoon, anxious to leave the miserable 75 degree weather and sunshine. My airline of choice for this trip was Allegiant Airlines. If you haven't had the privilege of flying Allegiant, you're missing out on good deals and some of the best people-watching man has ever known.

Flying always provides a great opportunity for a person to look around and realize that they're not that weird after all, but Allegiant takes it to another level. If US Airways and Southwest are "Discount Airlines", then Allegiant is a "Thrift-Store Airline". I've always said US Air was the Trailways Bus Lines of the sky, and if that's true, then Allegiant is Crazy Eddie's Rickshaw Service. It's so cheap though, and I hate spending money, so it's perfect for me, but you don't exactly get a lot of perks.

Back in the day, flying was for the elite. Average people piled into cars and drove all over the place and saved a bundle. But with Allegiant Air, you'd be an idiot to drive when round-trip tickets are often well under $100. So naturally, with this kind of bargain, it doesn't take long for the people of Walmart (you've seen the website, you know the type) to finally have the opportunity to "ride a plane". "White Trash Air" would be a suitable name should Allegiant ever feel the need to change.

I was lucky enough to have a couple of these gems on my flight home on Sunday.

One was seated right beside me. She was in her 60's and rolled her borrowed suitcase onto the plane after most of the passengers had already gotten situated. I know the suitcase was borrowed, because she asked me to help her figure out how to "make this handle go away". She looked around for an overhead bin to place her suitcase in, but they were all full, so she left it in front of her legs. I didn't feel it was my job to tell her she wouldn't be allowed to do that, but the flight attendant was there quickly to tell her that wasn't allowed, and that there was some open compartment space toward the back of the plane. Clearly unsatisfied with that option, she elected to keep the suitcase in her lap, hugging it like it was trying to get away. Our flight attendant was back quickly to reprimand her once again, then the lady spent most of the rest of the flight complaining about the "control freak" who took her beloved luggage from her. The rest of the time, she ate the pot roast that she brought from home to stink up the entire airplane.

My favorite passenger was a man who couldn't have weighed an ounce under 400 pounds. Once he got on board and found a place for his things, he remained standing and looking around for a moment, sweaty and out of breath. Finally he located a flight attendant and yelled, "STEWARDESS!", a moniker every flight attendant must absolutely love. I'm sure she heard him, but she ignored his call a couple of times. So he yelled louder, "HEY, STEWARDESS!!" Fed up, she finally turned around and shot him a look that made me nervous.

"Hey sweetie, can you bring me a Pepsi?" he asked, obviously unaware of her displeasure with him.

The look got worse, and I thought someone was going to die. "No, sir, I can't. Please take your seat so others can board."

Stunned, he looked at her silently for a moment and finally sat down. As she was making her final pass through the cabin before takeoff, he asked one more question. "Is this a smoking flight?"

I was astounded that someone would ask such a question. Has this guy been on a plane in the last 30 years? Ever? But not our flight attendant...evidently she had heard everything, because she didn't start screaming uncontrollably at him. She calmly responded by shaking her head, as if to say, "that's an excellent question. Just recently, in 1979, it became a federal offense to smoke on a commercial flight. It's understandable that you missed that bit of information."

I'm not saying I want to be a flight attendant, but it would be amazing to have the opportunity to see these types every day of my life. Surely this one's self-esteem is off the charts.