Thursday, May 31, 2012

Give or Spend?

Here's a question that I've always been bothered by, but don't know the answer to:

Is it better to dine out or give to charity?

On the one hand, you're supporting a business that provides jobs to some people. If it's a local business, your money stays within the community. If it's part of a corporation, it might still stay within the community or it could go to building the CEO a new pool.

On the other hand, with a charity, you're helping people or programs that might not be getting aid otherwise. But, if it's a charity for people who wouldn't need charity if they had work, then that's a problem, too.

For now, I believe the sensible thing to do is to eat at the food bank.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book Review: Mr. Mike: The Life and Work of Michael O’Donoghue, By Dennis Perrin

The Premise:
A biography of National Lampoon and Saturday Night Live writer and cast member, Michael O’Donoghue.

The Good:
Mr. Perrin clearly admires the work of Mr. O’Donoghue, but also brings a critical eye to the man himself. The author sets out to tell the definitive history of “Mr. Mike” and does so in a fairly detailed way. From Michael’s childhood to his formative years to his successes and failures, the book succeeds because the subject is fascinating to an absurd degree. Ultimately the book works because it’s a tragic peek inside the mind of a driven, uncompromising creative force.

The Bad:
There were times where I wondered if the book was all an elaborate hoax. Granted, I didn’t get to experience the heights of the Lampoon or the start of Saturday Night Live, but I had never heard of “Mr. Mike” and, as you read the book, you learn why.

I’m not saying that Michael O’Donoghue wasn’t an important influence in comedy, but even the book has a hard time reconciling what his legacy actually is or means. Was he a savior of dark comedy? Was he a man who got in his own way? Was he both or none? I just wonder if his story was the best story to tell.

The Verdict:
Buy it (if you can find a copy) if you are a lover of darker comedy, the history of more modern comedy or the eccentric creative mind.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Free Shakespeare in the park? Yes, please. Overall, I enjoy the 2012 production and thought that everyone involved did a great job. If I have one criticism it's that a few of the actors ramped up to a high level of intensity too early and stayed there too long. There could have been more nuance in some sections. But, again, bravo! And check it out of you get the chance.

Run time: Just short of 3 hours with one 15 minute intermission

Friday, May 25, 2012

Piss & Vinegar

No, it’s not the title of the new buddy cop TV series I’m working on. It’s what I was full of when I first became a copywriter.

It was my first career job and, man, I was going to show the world. Everyone who ever doubted me, everyone who competed against me in school, everyone was going to have to acknowledge my genius. Only one problem: the Account Executive.

She was a nice enough woman, but, wow, was she conservative. All she wanted was what the client wanted. And it was lame stuff. This was going to be the account that I turned around and made into a clever, award-winning account! All she had to do was take these awesome ads and SELL THEM IN!

One day, things came to a head. I pushed back, she pushed back harder and we both left feeling angry at one another.

Thankfully, another writer pulled me aside.

What the hell was that? You know we’re all on the same side, right?

POW. I felt like I had been punched in the gut, then the face, and a few more rounds in the gut. I truly thought that he was going to take my side.

But he was absolutely right to berate me. To call me out on my crap. He made me realize that my co-worker wasn’t my enemy. And, more surprisingly, neither was my client.

My enemy was my ego. THE ENEMY WAS ME!!!

After that day, I have always tried to keep things in perspective. Now, I don’t always do so—let’s not get crazy here—but at least I TRY.

And, because you all probably want a happy ending or something, I went and apologized to the Account Executive. Who then hit on me and it was awkward*.

*Okay, maybe it didn’t exactly happen that way.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Tale of Two Coaches

In fifth grade, I played soccer. I liked the game, but not the coach. All he did was make us run—all the time. And if we weren’t running, we were doing sit-ups.

Isn’t there supposed to be a ball or something?

It’d be one thing if this had been a high school team or if people were paying to watch us play, but we were in the FIFTH GRADE!

Pop quiz: What’s the easiest way to build resentment within the team you’re coaching?
Answer: Favor your son over every other kid on the team!

Needless to say, when we won the un-coveted “Sportsmanship Award” by season’s end, I gave a disapproving snort.

The next year, I started Tae Kwon Do. And I couldn’t have been happier. Instead of running, we actually got to kick things. Physical fitness was a part of everything we did, but the truly undesirable stuff, like sit-ups and push-ups, were used as punishment. That meant more time doing the thing I actually signed up for and less time doing the stuff that I hadn’t. And, if the instructor did have a son in the class, you were free to kick the crap out of him—no favorites.

The difference? I never played soccer as a kid or teenager again. But I earned my black belt during high school.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Power of One

I recently hosted a sushi party where I taught some friends how to make inside-out sushi rolls. Since I was recently in Japan, the natural assumption was that I took a class while over there. Not true. I actually learned from a woman I used to date, who wasn’t even Japanese.

Which got me to thinking: What else have I been exposed to through dating that I wouldn’t have sought out on my own*?

·      Swing Dancing. During the height of the lindy hop resurgence, a woman and I signed up for a class that lasted longer than the relationship. While we now dance to different tunes, I at least know a few extra moves for the dance floor.

·      The Power of One, by Bryce Courtenay. A woman I dated read this book religiously every year. It’s about the power one person has to shape and influence another’s. Quite appropriate, don’t you think?

·      Rock Climbing. Taking a relationship to the next level can be frightening. Especially when you can see where you’re going to land. Fortunately, this was one situation where it didn’t hurt to be a bit … clingy**.

·      Vegetarianism. I’ve dated several women who are vegetarians. While I still eat a fair amount of meat, it has been beneficial to try new dishes and look at food from a new perspective.

*Insert STD joke here: _____________________.
**You’re starting to piece together why I’m still single, right?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

“Congratulations, you’re on your own.”

Those were the first words my father said to me when I graduated college.

He claims he never said them, but they’re not a combination of words you quickly forget.

And before you go thinking That Dad Guy is a jerk, let me tell you, it was the absolute best thing he could have said. Even better than all of the words of advice and inspiration and storytelling delivered to the graduating class from on high during the commencement address.

Because what he said was perfect because what he said was right.

I was on my own. I just hadn’t realized it yet.

Like many college students, I still thought of my parent’s home as my home. The place I would always return to over long breaks and short holidays.

No longer.

Also, in a way, I still craved my parent’s approval and sought their advice and turned to them in times of uncertainty.

No longer.

Of course, my father and my mother and my family would still support me. And my friends, too. And, if it came to it, I could surely move back home, if that’s what I decided.

But by telling me that I was on my own, he made me realize that I was ready to be on my own.

And that’s a milestone truly worthy of congratulations.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Things my 9th Grade baseball coach taught me.

Looking back, my successes on the company softball diamond can be traced back to one particular season of solid fundamental baseball in my youth. What made this coach stand out from all the others?

The Paddle Drill. It’s not what you think, so put down the phone to Child Services. This was a fielding drill where, instead of a mitt, you used a Ping Pong paddle. By doing so, you were motivated to trap the ball using two hands, instead of just scooping it up with your mitt. The lesson: Two eyes and two hands at all times.

The Turn and Run. Judging fly balls is tricky business. That’s why Coach took one thing out of the equation at first: following the ball. When the ball was hit over your head, you turned and ran as hard as you could. It was the responsibility of the cut-off man to tell you when to turn around. The lesson: If it’s over your head, all you can do is run all out.

The Bunting Drill. Coach was a big proponent of video tape. One day he filmed us bunting. When it was my turn, I squared up on the first pitch and watched the ball sail right into my left knee. OW! I limped around and used the bat as a makeshift cane. Did we skip my session when it came time to review the tape? NO! The whole team howled with delight as we watched me limp over and over and over again. The lesson: Get it right the first time. And lighten up. It’s just baseball.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Suffer for a Cause

A friend of a friend has a brilliant idea: Raise money for charity by actually suffering through something, instead of doing something enjoyable, like running a fun run.

He and a friend (who has Multiple Sclerosis) will be attending a show by the band Creed (a band they despise) without the aid of alcohol, 100% sober. Their goal is to raise $1,000 by May 26.

Behold! More life!!!

If you'll recall, I started a garden. Well it's been a few weeks and nothing has died ... yet. The onions and arugala are coming in strong. The bell peppers and eggplants are the weakest members of the party. The tomatoes are limping by, but that's my fault: there are eight plants where there should only be, maybe, two. It's the clown car method of planting and I'm the driver. So far I've enjoyed a nice arugala and chive salad. High five, Mother Earth! We did it!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What it’s like to bike to work

Tomorrow, May 18th, is National Bike To Work Day. If you’re considering it, make sure your work has a shower. If not, be prepared to buy a lot of those scented tree air fresheners.

Biking to work can be a rewarding experience, provided you allow yourself enough time to enjoy it and anticipate any pitfalls along the way.

Before I put foot to pedal, I plan out my route online. I look for the most direct route, but one that minimizes the amount of time I’ll spend on major roads with rush hour traffic. I also benefit from a commute that puts the sun at my back going and leaving work. Why is that important? Because cars won’t be looking into the sun and will, therefore, be able to see me. 

Once I have my route, I make sure I have all of the right equipment. Having a bike, helmet, innertube, lifts and a pump isn’t enough. You also want to have a bright fluorescent shirt and mounted (ideally blinking) lights in case you end up riding at night. The more visible you are to cars, the better.

Only after you have a route and the proper equipment can you begin your ride. If you’ve charted your route properly, you should have a decent estimate of the amount of miles you’ll have to cover. If you have a lot of flat surfaces, you can figure between 14-20 mph. If there a lot of hills, half it. So if your commute is a mixture of half hills (8 mph) and flat (17 mph), you should leave about an hour to complete the roughly 12.5 miles.

But wait, there’s more. The biggest advice I can give you is to use common sense. While I’m sure that you have every right to ride on the road right next to all of the cars and trucks, it’s not always your best move. When I see the lane I’m in become a turn lane, I will sometimes hit the sidewalk. Is it the legal thing to do? Probably not. Is it the smartest? Most definitely.

The last thing you want to do is provoke any sort of road rage. People in cars are frustrated enough by their commutes. They don’t need a cyclist clogging up a whole lane in the middle of rush hour as a temptation to hit the gas a little bit harder. Yes, sometimes it’s unavoidable, but other times, if you just wait for a wave of cars to pass, you’ll have an easier time of it.

Look easy to spot. Look around. And look out for danger. You might just make it safely into work after all.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Book Review: This is How. By Augusten Burroughs

The premise:
Mr. Augusten Burroughs, a man who seemingly has been through quite a bit in his life, gives advice on everything from losing weight, to giving up alcohol for good, to overcoming insurmountable grief.

The good:
Mr. Burroughs has a refreshingly direct, no-nonsense style. He writes with confidence and candor about a variety of subjects, many of which are uncomfortable. But you can also tell that a lot of heart, sincerity and thought went into this book. While he may not be a licensed therapist, he does seem sincere in his desire to help and inspire people to improve their lives, even if his advice may seem counterintuitive at times.

The bad:
It’s hard to tell if the book is intended to be read cover to cover or to be used as a resource to consult as specific needs arise. Regardless, I felt the advice was contradictory in places and a few of the stories came across as somewhat exploitative, even if they weren’t meant to be.

The verdict:
Buy it if you want a rather frank self-help book or a thought-provoking, somewhat entertaining read. If you aren’t the self-help sort, or are but aren’t ready for blunt advice, buy it anyway. Mr. Burroughs is prone to sentimentality, but he also isn’t afraid to cut through the bullshit. If nothing else, you will come away with an appreciation of one of his major themes: living fully, truly and wholly in every moment, no matter how overwhelming, boring or painful.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Shallow End of the Pool

There isn’t a public pool in St. Louis City. Let me repeat that: There isn’t a single public body of water, outside of the Mississippi river, where a resident of St. Louis can swim*. Even worse, no resident of St. Louis City can pay to go to any of the public pools in the surrounding counties. Maplewood? Nope. Clayton? God forbid. Jefferson City? To be fair, it’s a bit of a drive.

St. Louis City residents have to pay a 1% earnings tax. You know what that supports? Forest Park. You know who gets to use the Zoo, the Art Museum, the History Museum and a lot of the amenities for free? City residents AND county residents.

You probably think I am about to suggest that the City should start charging County residents a fee. Nonsense.

But I am proposing that the County get over itself; its sewage facilities smell just like the City’s**. And there are too many redundant utilities and commissions and services in this region as it is.

The City and the County both have something to offer each other. It’s time to stop being petty and start getting sweaty … together. Preferably poolside.

*I have seen people splashing around at the City Garden fountains, but that’s not the same thing.
**I assume, having smelled neither.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hiking, here and there

When I lived in the Pacific Northwest, hiking was simply a matter of picking a peak and climbing it. Mount Spokane? Let me grab my pack. Mount Si? Race you to the top. Cougar Mountain? Rworr!

This type of hiking was gratifying because all of your huffing and puffing up the side of the mountain was rewarded with a gorgeous vista at the end (or, technically, the middle).

In the Midwest, this type of hiking is unavailable; there are simply no significant elevation gains. Hiking, therefore, has to be about something else. And, as clich├ęd as it might be, hiking in the Midwest is about the journey and not the destination.

There are several advantages to this, actually. When you’re not focused on the end destination and how incredible the view will be, you learn to experience each individual moment more fully. This last weekend, I hiked Buford Mountain (yep, part of the Ozark Trail) with some friends and we saw four turtles, each at a different point along our hike. Had we not been paying attention, we might have missed them. When each new bend holds the promise of a new discovery, you’re more apt to keep your eyes moving, rather than focusing on the next few yards in front of you.

So if you’re lucky enough to hike the mountains in the Pacific Northwest, it’s fine to stay focused on the destination, but maybe keep a look out for any turtles underneath your feet.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The sincerest form of flattery?

Apparently I have a distinctive "look". So much so that a friend of mine started a single-topic blog about ... me. Or rather, guys (or, I suppose, girls) who look like me--handsome devils that they are.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Pay me to commute by bicycle?

I’ve been trying to ride my bicycle into work at least once a week now that the weather is agreeable. My main goal is to get in shape for the Kirkwood Triathlon, but it struck me on one of my rides that it could also be a potential way to get some of that sweet, sweet carbon offset money. And since I just read a book on carbon footprints, I thought I’d figure out what my commute by bike might be worth.

Since this is America, I’ve provided the carbon footprint equivalents in pounds versus grams or kilograms.

1.9 lbs/mile driving a standard sized car

9.8 lbs/mile driving a standard sized car in congested traffic

But let’s assume a little of both, so I’m going to split the difference:

5.85 lbs/mile driving a standard sized car on average

When it comes to cycling, the author provides a range of different food (power) sources. I eat yogurt in the morning, so this was the closest comparison.

0.2 lbs/mile riding a bike powered by cereals with milk

My commute is approximately 14 miles round trip. So when I drive, my output is 81.9 lbs total (5.85 X 14). When I ride my bike, my output is 2.8 lbs total (0.2 X 14).

A ton is 2000 lbs and the maximum equivalent price per ton of carbon in the UK (the figure cited in the book) is $18.

So I will reach a total of one ton of carbon roughly every 24.5 times I commute by car (2000 ÷ 81.9). On the other hand, it takes me approximately 714 trips to reach a ton of carbon by bike (2000 ÷ 2.8).

That’s a ratio of roughly 29:1 (81.9:2.8). So commuting by bicycle twenty nine times has the same carbon footprint equivalent as one trip by car.

Put another way, by riding my bike I use up only 2.8 lbs of my normal 81.9 lbs, leaving a surplus of 79.1 lbs/commute. By dividing 2000 by 79.1, the total comes out to be about 25.5 times, which, as I’ve pointed out above, is the approximate equivalent of 24.5 car trips, or one ton of carbon. So, more accurately, 25.5 bike rides equal 24.5 car trips—basically, one bike ride by me offsets one car trip by you (assuming an equidistant commute). And since one ton of carbon is worth about $18, I figure if you want to ease your conscience, you can pay me $17 in carbon offsets (to account for the difference in ratio) every time I ride my bike and you decide to drive.

Please make checks out to That Tad Guy.

*It’s been awhile since I’ve used the old math muscles, so my apologies if any of these numbers are off or inaccurate.

Monday, May 7, 2012

People I recommend

When it comes to home or auto repair, who are you going to trust? These fine folks, that's who. Tell 'em "That Tad Guy" sent you and you'll get a blank, probably confused stare. Might be good for a laugh, but not a discount.

Val’s Tree Service

Unique Auto
Andy W. Eisele

CJ Plumbing
Corey Jaggie

Taylor Sewer Services—Ask for Bryon

Bill Womack (Locksmith)
(314) 752-2033

Friday, May 4, 2012

Hot Salsa

I don’t usually do local restaurant reviews as a courtesy to my international readers (you’re welcome The Netherlands), but in this instance I feel that everyone everywhere can learn from what I am about to say. SAY NO TO HOT SALSA. Your first instinct is to say, “That Tad Guy, stop being a sissy” or “What? Baby can’t stand a wittle spicy food?” No, you fools*! I mean temperature hot, not spicy hot. A friend of mine and I went to Fuzzy’s Tacos ($1 Taco Tuesdays, muy bueno) and I ordered some chips and salsa. When the waiter guy asked me if I wanted warm salsa, I automatically assumed he meant the chips—who has ever heard of warm salsa? But, no, it was the salsa. Let me set the record straight: salsa should be cool like walking barefoot after the rain. It shouldn’t be hot like a rash after you’ve scratched it too many times.

That said, try the pulled pork and avoid the fish.

*Sorry, I don’t mean all of you, dear readers.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Caveat Emptor

Yes, that is, in fact, Latin for “Let the buyer beware”. Nice job, readers. I mention this obscurely popular phrase because one of a trend I’ve been seeing lately in stores and in the Sunday ads: the Non-Sale. What is the “non-sale” and how do you say that in Latin? For the latter it’s Nullis Venditiones, of course. And for the former, it’s when a store places a sticker on the shelf that looks an awful lot like a “sale” sticker, but is actually a sticker that features the regular price, hence the “non-sale” designation. But it’s not just in the stores either. People are so used to thinking that the products featured in the Sunday paper are on sale that they believe all of the items featured are on sale. Now, if you feel that the item is at a good and fair price, then buy away. But I do find the practice to be dishonest. So the next time you’re at the shelf and see a lot of things suddenly on sale, do what I do and repeat after me: Caveat Emptor Nullis Venditiones*.

*Okay, I don’t actually say all that in the store. I do say E Pluribus Unum though. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Book Review: How Bad Are Bananas: The Carbon Footprint of Everything, By Mike Berners-Lee

The Premise:
Mr. Berners-Lee looks at the estimated carbon footprint of practically everything, from sending a text-message to riding a bike to waging a nuclear war.

The Good:
Mr. Berners-Lee is candid about his intentions and methodology. This is not a definitive guide for exact measures, but an earnest attempt to contribute rough estimates. It’s more of a ranking of this versus that, so readers can start to begin to understand which of their decisions have more of an impact on the environment and which have less. So given the choice between giving a loved one a red rose or a red apple, the reader will have a better understanding of which is more carbon efficient (albeit, not which is more romantic). And, as a bonus, the author keeps things light with small doses of humor and little to no preaching--he even acknowledges the skepticism people may have of Global Warming.

The Bad:
Because this book was written as more of a resource to be picked up and flipped through, much like a dictionary, it is a bit redundant at times. We are told that cows ruminate (i.e., give off methane as a result of chewing grass and burping gas) in the sections involving milk, steak, cheese, sheep and lamb production. It’s a small point, but one that gets old when reading straight through.  

The Verdict:
Worth a read. I hesitate to recommend an outright “buy” because the science is continually evolving. If you want to support Mr. Berners-Lee and his research, then buy. But regardless, if you are at all curious about your impact on the world, it’s definitely an interesting read.