My “About” Page is Done… Finally

For a while now, my “About” page has been sitting there with “Under Construction” as the content. I just hadn’t gotten around to it. And, to be honest, those pages are always a pain in the neck to do. So I put it off.

Then I remembered that I wrote a long letter to accompany my “Perk@Work” syndication packet back in 2021. I pulled that letter, pasted it, and worked it a little. Now I have an About page!

Vintage Stuff: To Be, ‘O Not To B.O.

Published in “One Lump or Two,” March 2003 – Click here to view the PDF

Today’s question is a question of office etiquette: “How do I deal with a co-worker with a bad B.O.?” This is a question that may possibly tread on delicate soil but only if you happen to be the one with B.O. Don’t feel as if we’re picking on you simply because of your B.O. We’ve put up with your personal brand of perfume up until now. The least you can do is read this with an open mind and elbows pressed tightly against your ribs.

With B.O., it is truly better to give than to receive. In fact, the offender, who from here on out will be referred to as Mr. Pitts, may be unwittingly offending. First and foremost, be polite and understanding. Mr. Pitts is a person with feelings just like the rest of us. Just because he’s immune to his own rankness doesn’t mean he’s immune to insults. There are three options to choose from to broach the subject, which may or may not yield the desired outcome (Mr. Pitts meets Mr. Right Guard). It can’t hurt to try. I mean, right about now your even willing to don a gasmask, right?

Option 1

The most popular way in which coworkers attempt to solve this problem is by dropping a little of their own money to purchase a nice container of the leading brand of deodorant. You can even wrap it in a little box as a present with a card attached reading, “Open in private.” This is probably the most polite way in which you can tell Mr. Pitts that he is quite odoriferous while retaining your anonymity. Unfortunately, Mr. Pitts may not understand the gift. He may see it as some type of joke or misplaced present. Think there’s no way he wouldn’t comprehend such a gesture? Remember, he can’t comprehend the concept of armpit hygiene in the first place, even after hundreds of commercials and advertisements clearly stating that their product helps you shroud your armpit odor with products strong enough for a gorilla but made for your puny body.

Option 2

A more forward approach to this problem is to find the office nice guy and ask him to “have a little talk” with Mr. Pitts. This way, Mr. Pitts gets some one-on-one with someone who is compassionate and understanding. Here is a little skit that you may or may not draw from:

Mr. OfficeNiceGuy: “Mr. Pitts, I gotta ask you something but I was wondering if we could talk in private.”

Mr. Pitts: “Sure.”

Mr. OfficeNiceGuy: “I was wondering, Mr. Pitts, are you by chance a time traveler? I couldn’t help but notice that you don’t seem to wear deodorant. I know that people long ago lacked basic hygiene and…well, I guess what I’m asking is, can I go back and forth through time in your time machine?”

Mr. Pitts: “Time machine? What are you talking about? I’m not a time traveler!”

Mr. OfficeNiceGuy: “Oh yeah? Then how do you explain the fact that you don’t wear deodorant? Huh? There’s no way you could be a contemporary human and not know that you have to mask your armpits with a non-permeable layer of scented product which may or may not leave a white flaky mess! You’re holding out on me! I want a ride in that time machine, you hear?”

Mr. Pitts: “There’s no time machine, I tell ya! Just because I don’t wear deodorant doesn’t make me a time traveler!”

Mr. OfficeNiceGuy: “Well, I’d start wearing deodorant if I were you! Everybody here wants to use your time machine! Maybe using deodorant will show them that you are not a time traveler, but if I find out you have a time machine…!”

Option 3

There is one last way to go about this but it’s risky. So risky in fact that this would be a good time to send the interns into the other room. OK, so you’ve tried everything. As a last resort, you could send in the office hottie to try to persuade him to smell nice. Odds are Mr. Pitts is single (and for good reason). Ms. OfficeHottie only has to talk to Ms. RunnerUpOfficeHottie within earshot of Mr. Pitts and say something to this effect: “Boy, I know that all my hottie friends and I like men who wear ‘Brand X’ deodorant. The more they wear, the better! Yes, all my hottie friends and I talk about this when we go out on hottie night!” Ms. RunnerUpOfficeHottie can respond with, “I wholeheartedly agree but my hottie friends and I are willing to settle for ‘Brand Y’ as long as he starts wearing it like now!” You can buy these two girls a can of Red Bull or whatever it is girls like this like nowadays.

Remember, Mr. Pitts is a real person with real bad B.O. Sure it’s not your job to teach him how to take the cap off the deodorant before applying it to his armpit but, like many other office tasks, if you don’t do it yourself, it probably won’t get done. Your job may stink but the air you breathe shouldn’t.

Portrait of an AI as a Young Technology

Perk@Work | “Robot Cook” | Published January 28, 2009

There’s a lot of chatter these days about AI. How much of that talk is generated by AI itself is unknown. After all, the percentage of internet users that are bots is growing. Soon, there will be more bots than humans online. And you thought the rise of the robots was a conspiracy theory.

I’ve seen these AI programs that create art: paintings, drawings, music, etc. Specifically, I’ve noticed folks using AI to make a snazzy portrait of themselves for their social media profile pic. In all honesty, I like what I see. Yet, wouldn’t it be just like the robots to hit us where we’re vulnerable: our own faces? It’s like the robots read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and used those tactics against us to build some sort of artificial rapport; making us open to the idea of using their services.

ChatGPT seems to be all the rage, though I haven’t dabbled in it. I didn’t include a link to it since I don’t want ED-209 to come to my house and pellet me with bullets. Although come to think of it, he may do that because I neglected to add the link. You’re damned if you do…

I believe it was in the book “1984” that there were novel-writing machines. Seemed so outlandish at the time of publishing (even in 1984), but here we are in the future doing exactly that. The author of the book “Alice and Sparkle” used AI to flesh out [shutter] his idea. There’s even a whole website for comics with AI-generated art. This is clearly bad for artists… right?

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. Yes, I want artists to be paid for their talents and work. Yet, as a creator with a job and a family, I don’t have the time or money to produce my ideas. AI could be my creative team and get my ideas out into the world. Then again, I don’t want to take work away from a human. Then again, I don’t have the money to hire a human to do the work. Grrrrr!

There’s an even darker side to all this (aside from the robot uprising). The mindset of wanting someone else to do the heavy lifting – with little to no compensation – then taking that product, calling it your own, and profiting off of it is akin to… shall I say the word?

Here’s a workaround: AI should come at a price; twice as much as hiring a comparable artist. Call it a “Tech Tax” if you like. This Tech Tax would act as a deterrent to using AI and an incentive to hire a human. Look, I’m not big on taxes, but there has to be some way to keep this under control. If we lose our human artists for the sake of saving money, we lose more than what we’ve saved.

George Bernard Shaw said, “Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.” I would swap “art” for “artists.” Robots have no soul. They can mimic art styles and such, but they cannot breathe life into any creation.

Have we crossed the Rubicon? Can we go back to life without AI? Does that make me a Luddite or Amish? Would this message be better presented on paper and sent via pigeon? What do you think?

Talk on the Bright Side

Original Posting: December 2, 2021, on SubStack

In 1868, the Cuyahoga, a river that runs through Cleveland, OH into Lake Erie, caught fire.

Yes, the river – A BODY OF WATER – went up in flames!

Worse yet, it burned 12 times in the hundred years between 1968 and 1969, causing damage (as fires do) all along the way.

How, you may ask, does a river catch fire? Well, it wasn’t the water, but the chemicals in it which fueled the flames – chemical waste from manufacturing businesses.

Sure, it would have been better had these businesses taken the time and effort (and money, perhaps) to dump their waste in a safer manner, but this was easier. And easier is better, right? Of course not. Hence the raging river fires.

Fiery Speech

Does our speech reflect our personality or is it the other way around? It’s easy to think of it as a chicken-or-the-egg scenario. But that’s just the thing, it’s easy. And easy isn’t always best, especially in this case.

Humans are incredible creatures. We can retain and intelligibly vocalize thousands of distinct words. In addition, we are able to organize those words with varied syntax to achieve the desired effect. In fact, our human brains are so advanced that speech usually comes naturally to most of us as we develop from babies to children and to adults.

Our usage of that speech, however, is a discipline (or lack thereof). We can take the tough road and focus on our speech – how we talk, what words we use, our emphasis, when to speak and when to remain silent, etc. – or we can take the easy road and simply spout out whatever, whenever. The latter would be akin to those devilish businesses polluting the Cuyahoga.

Let’s say we confronted one of those guys who dumped the crap into the river and asked him why he did it. His reply: “I dumped that crap into the river because it’s part of my personality. Nothing I can do about that!” Would we excuse the behavior? No. We would take him to task! We would want to city and state to penalize him and his fellow pollutants; hold them accountable for their actions.

Why? Because there are actions that are not reflective of personality but of intent and/or neglect. Polluting is not a character trait, it’s a crime.

Talk More Gooder

OK, so it’s better to speak better. Duh! But what exactly does that mean?

Contrast is a good thing. To see what is good, it’s beneficial to first examine what is bad. Below are some things to avoid in everyday communication:

  • Lying
  • Destructive Criticism
  • Gossip
  • Profanity
  • Accusations
  • Curses
  • Sarcasm
  • Mockery
  • Throwing Barbs and Daggers

There may be more, of course, but this is a good list to start out with.

All of the above are easy to do and difficult to refrain from doing. For instance, sarcasm is a default reaction when someone tells us something we don’t want to hear but we have no logical retort.

Example: I fail to pay attention to my surroundings and allow a door to slam shut on someone behind me as I exit a public place.

Guy Behind Me: “Hey, what gives?”

Me: (In a mocking tone) “Hey, what gives? I’m so important that I need to have people hold the door open for me like I’m a king and if they don’t I cry! Waaa!”

Of course, this hasn’t happened, but you get the idea. The unspoken code of common courtesy dictates that I would hold the door open for the person behind me. Since I violated the code and had no logical reason (other than selfish neglect), I resort to sarcasm and mockery. This is a deflection; the not-so-clever attempt to remove the spotlight from me and my faults and an attempt to cast it onto another person, adding insult.

Would letting the door slam on someone and speaking foolishly be part of my personality? No. It would reflect my lack of awareness, self-discipline, and personal agency. The same goes for other items on the list.

F-Bombs and their Ilk

“But Jason,” you say, “profanity can be used to punctuate a point!” Agreed. But does it have to be used to punctuate the point? An obscenity may resonate with others and, quite often, may be excused in the circumstance; the proverbial “Oh, fudge” moment.

I like how they dealt with it in the movie. Ralphie had his soap-in-the-mouth moment, but that was all. He realized it wasn’t the best thing to do and the punishment fit the “crime” – no one was really hurt in the ordeal. We can psychoanalyze why Ralphie chose that word and his dad’s influence, but, for now, let’s agree that it’s not the best practice in real life.

Had Ralphie actually said, “Oh, fudge,” his dad would have known the sentiment and Ralphie would not have had to have a mouthful of Lifeboy soap. But, it’s folly to expect a child to have such wisdom. And, perhaps, it’s folly to expect an adult to have such wisdom, but many do and many others attempt it.

This all sounds preachy, I get it. And, no, I’m not above it all. This is constant labor on my part, especially knowing how prone I am to mouth off. Knowing how to act and actually act in that manner is challenging. Still, that’s not a license to do what is easy.

Our speech can be a curse or a blessing, damaging or refreshing. (And it can rhyme too!) What we put out into the world can be a toxic pollutant and, just because it’s out there, doesn’t mean it has evaporated. Our words can linger and ignite fires down the road.

And this is the flip side: our words be beneficial in the future; to us and others. Holding our tongue can allow an issue to pass without conflict. Resisting gossip adds deposits in our “trust” account with others. And the simple act of not throwing daggers has the incredible effect of not piercing someone’s soul.

Here’s a suggestion: this month, attempt a 10% improvement in the positivity of your communication. That’s not a lot. For every ten obscenities which you may normally spew, allow a mere nine to escape your lips. Make that tenth one a “fudge” and see what happens. It can turn a drama into a comedy, and we could all use a little less drama and a little more comedy in our lives.

The Most Influential Two-Word Quote You’ll Hear All Day

Originally published on SubStack, November 18, 2021

If you were a character in an amazing novel, what things would you do to be the hero of the story? What challenges would you take on? How would you grow and what would you look like at the end of the book?

I had a friend as a kid – middle school through high school – whose name was Viktor. Many times, when asked who was the most influential person in my life, I reply with his name. We’ve lost contact since graduating high school, but he will remain my greatest influence – whether he knows it or not.

What did Viktor do that influenced me so much? He ran.

Sure, lots of people run. But Viktor was athletic. In fact, Viktor was overweight, just as I was back in those days. In fact, I remember once, when both Viktor and I were pudgy adolescents, he was at my house and my Mom bought Little Ceasar’s pizzas (back then you got two for the price of one). Viktor and I stood at the counter just eating slice after slice of pizza; no talking, no sitting, just a bona fide gorge fest. It was something we had in common and we were comfortable with it.

What a deal! Those were the days.

Then, one day, I noticed Viktor had lost a LOT of weight. At that moment, I felt as though something was lost (other than the weight, of course); that the bond we had as chubby buddies dissolved. At the same time, I felt envious of his new physique while I still was rotund. I asked him how he lost all that weight. His answer was simple:

“I ran.”

My mind exploded! Viktor wasn’t athletic. He didn’t walk as much as lumbered around with a slouch. He was a metalhead who donned a jean jacket with a patch an Iron Maiden patch sewed upon its back (I remember it being Iron Maiden, or was it Black Sabbath, or Metallica, or Megadeath, or…). The idea of Viktor running for his health did not compute in my mind.

But, just because it didn’t compute in my mind, didn’t mean it wasn’t real. All of a sudden, all my ingrained beliefs and assumptions about people were tossed into the air like a game of 52 Card Pick-Up. I was the fat kid. I had always been the fat kid. In my mind, that was how God had made me and I was dealing with it. But now I saw with my own eyes how a person could shift their reality. Mind blown!

Viktor created a new reality for himself. He was not satisfied with an aspect of his life, so he changed it with brute strength and determination. Perhaps he could have accomplished the same thing with a Keto diet, but this was circa 1990, still in the era of Jane Fonda, Richard Simmons, and low-fat (usually high-sugar) food. Exercise was the answer, albeit not the best one in hindsight, but I digress.

Viktor inspired me to run. I lost 65 lbs over the summer between my sophomore and junior year in high school. Like Viktor, I changed my reality as I changed my physical and mental state. I realized that, if I am not satisfied with an aspect of my life (which usually is the result of laziness, neglect, or apathy), I must do something to change it. I will add that it must be a positive method. There’s an old joke I used to tell as a kid:

“How do you lose 10 pounds of ugly weight? Cut off your head!” Sure, that could work, but it’s not optimal.

The reward of accomplishing something wonderful is not the “something wonderful” at the end, but the gains in strength of character throughout the process. This leads to a better life with whatever was accomplished as the cherry on top.

The 2013 version of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” represents this in a fun and beautiful way. If you haven’t seen it, do so. If you have seen it, see it again with fresh eyes. It’s an amazing journey. Inspiration like this can add fuel to your fire, or, at the very least, give a spark to kindle something inside.

Click on the image above to rent on Amazon.

Now, some may say that an even more influential quote would be “I am.” I’m a Christian and I would agree that those two words phrased like that, specifically in the context of Moses, are the most powerful words in the universe. Yet, “I am” is a statement that holds power on its own; more static than action-oriented. “I ran,” stated in the context of my buddy Viktor, is influential. Anyone can say, “I am this or that” and work toward something. And, if they say “I am _______” (enter an already accomplished feat like “a world-famous tap dancer” or “Olympic gold medal winner”), that only announces their accomplishments. “I ran” is akin to “I endured” or “I believed.” It doesn’t highlight the accomplishment as much as it gives insight into how that person was able to do whatever wonderful thing he or she did.

I’ll ask again: If you were a character in an amazing novel, what things would you do to be the hero of the story? What challenges would you take on? How would you grow and what would you look like at the end of the book?

Imagine yourself as that character, that hero. Imagine someone asking you how in the world were you able to do such an amazing thing! Your answer would be, “I ______.”

If you’re not yet that hero, that means there’s something missing in your life. It’s that blank in your answer, “I _______.”

Fill in the blank.

Webdonuts and Walls

I’m listening to “Million Dollar Habits” by Brian Tracy. In it, he states that you cannot fulfill your potential if you lived 100 lifetimes (or something to that effect). At first, I felt as though that was some sort of exaggeration meant to produce a reaction; a catalyst for change and/or action. It’s easy to disregard statements we deem as hyperbole.

But then I got to thinking. Is it true that the only limitations I have are the ones placed on me by myself? Yes, indeed!

I like to read “Webdonuts” by Gruhn on Instagram. His webcomic was one of the few I frequented when I was heavy in the medium (producing and reading). His most recent post displays an interactive wall. I watched the video of him making it. It truly is amazing! Take a look for yourself:

Bash, my son, is three years old. It had never occurred to me to create something like this; especially the interactive part. Yet, it’s possible for me (or you or anyone) to do something similar if I put in the discipline of learning how to do it and the hard work of execution. Just because I, myself, haven’t done something like this, doesn’t mean it’s not within my potential… and within yours too!

I’m inspired! I may or may not do something like an interactive wall, but it opens my mind up to possibilities. What do I want to do? What can I do if I simply allowed myself to believe I can do it? Thanks, Gruhn, for the inspiration!

Old Stuff: Bringing You Not-So-New News

Published in “One Lump or Two,” November 2003 – Click here to view the PDF

Your number-one source for the latest breaking news stories is found elsewhere. That’s about the size of it. We’re not here to bring you the biggest stories from around the world. We’re here to give you a break from it. Every now and then something may creep into a column that may look like a news story and may walk like a news story, but it doesn’t necessarily make it a news story. This writer has no training in journalism. This writer has no degree from any university. This writer doesn’t know what makes writers good and what makes writers bad. No worries though.

My mission is to give you something to read during those precious fifteen minutes you have to yourself in the morning and in the afternoon – those few minutes when you are paid to sit and sip some coffee while trying not to think about how many minutes you have left before returning to the grind. Folks, I’m talking about your break. It’s what I like to call “the best work perk.” Some of you may enjoy getting away from work while others enjoy returning to it. I like getting back to work. Some may think I’m a little nutty. I just like working.

So, what will be in this little publication? Who knows? That’s the beauty of it. After countless hours of trying to piece together what will and what will not be inserted, I came to the conclusion that it will have to form itself. It is my hope that you will find something within this paper that will bring a smile to your face or a thought to your mind. So, how do you take your coffee?

Author’s note: I made some grammatical corrections to this piece. If you’re curious, check out the PDF to see my typos and mishaps.

A Question About Leg Hair

Perk@Work: “Winter Coat” | Published February 1, 2021

Two questions boggle me:

  1. Why do we have leg hair?
  2. Why do women shave their legs?

I’m sure you have pondered these questions as well. I will now answer these two insightful questions without any research whatsoever. From what I can see on social media, that seems the best way to put forth ideas.

Why do we have leg hair?

There are those who say that humans derived from apes. They point to the legs of apes and the legs of humans and say, “Look! Both have leg hair!” Now, I’m not here to debate whether humans evolved from apes, but one would have to wonder, wherever you are on the evolution debate, where did leg hair come from in the first place? And, furthermore, where did hair come from?

We know that reptiles don’t have hair. We also know that birds don’t have hair. We know that mammals have hair. Is hair a form of feathers? Does evolution work like that? If so, what is the progression from feathers to hair? Or is hair just hair to begin with? I find it weird that mammals all had hair all over their bodies from the get-go. Wouldn’t the first mammals be hairless and get more hair instead of getting less (à la, humans)?

If we go the route of creation, why did God give us leg hair? It’s not enough to be considered fur, let alone to insulate us from the cold. It’s not necessarily aesthetic… is it? I mean, no one has ever looked at hairy legs and said, “Wow! How gorgeous!” When you think about it (and I’ve given it over 37 seconds of thought), the only reason we have leg hair is as an additional differentiator between men and women – men usually have more leg hair. Naturally (no pun intended), this brings us to the second question:

Why do women shave their legs?

Would I be off by saying that women shave their leg hair to be more womanly? If having hair legs is associated with being a guy, women who don’t want to look like a guy may shave their legs. At some primal level, this may help guys distinguish between a potential mate and their other guy friends. Of course, a guy noticing that a woman shaves her legs doesn’t automatically make that woman want to mate with the guy. Trust me on this one. Yet, the woman may want to attract as many potential mates as possible so that she can choose the best of the pack.

Some women may disagree with that conclusion. Yet, if you ask them why they themselves shave their legs, you may get a response like, “Oh, it just looks better” or “It’s just something everyone does.” None of these are solid reasons to endure the constant maintenance and potential injury of shaving one’s limbs. Furthermore, both responses go back to my initial theory. If it looks better, it would be to be more attractive to men. If it’s just something everyone does, it’s to keep up with other women who are doing it to look better to, you guessed it, attract men.

Perhaps there is another reason why women shave their legs. There’s always the trite answer, “I just like it better,” but that begs the question, “Why?” Then there are those who don’t answer but ask this question as a retort: “Why do men shave their faces?” That’s simple. It’s either because a guy can’t grow a good-looking beard (I’m in that category), or because it’s cleaner. Not all guys are capable of eating without dribbling food out of their mouths (I’m also in this category as well).

Do you have better answers? I’d love to know. Please place them in the comments below. If there are no comments, that means that I am 100% correct and everyone in the world agrees with me. If not, well then I don’t have a shaved leg to stand on.

Merry Whatever

(Comic: “Happy Holidays” | December 22, 2008)

Is the phrase “Merry Christmas” offensive and, dare I say it, triggering? To some, no. To others, yes. To many, they couldn’t care less. Does it matter? In a way, it might matter more than you could ever imagine. Get ready because I’m about to ring your jingle bell!

Right-Wingers and Leftists

Your average right-winger deems leftists as triggered snowflakes. Meanwhile, your average leftist pegs right-wingers as heartless bastards. Notice a problem? These are generalizations to be sure (outliers notwithstanding), but generalizations are such for a reason. What’s going on here?

First off, to condemn an entire group of people with seemingly contrasting beliefs than yours is lazy at best. Yet, should you walk on eggshells all day long, hiding your views so as to not hurt anyone’s feelings regardless of which camp you are in? Yes and no.

Live and life or death happen

Our human brains tend to operate on a binary basis: on or off, in or out, up or down, etc. This isn’t bad, per se. We needed this method of thinking to survive eons of life on this dangerous planet. We needed to know if people were potential mates (i.e., opposite gender), if animals were docile or deadly, if the food was edible or poisonous, and so on. Erroring on the side of a perceived spectrum usually ended up in the ultimate fail… death.

We don’t live in that life-or-death world any longer. That said, we’ll always be navigating a terrain in one way or another. In our day and age, it’s a social minefield; a softer battle but still as precarious. We operate on social capital, whether we like it or not. Railroading people with our beliefs reduce our social capital. Is saying “Merry Christmas” railroading people? I don’t think so, but they may. And there’s the rub.

How to navigate the unknown

So what do you do? Listen.

When you meet someone, pay attention to what they say. Usually, people will tell you all you need to know about themselves in a few sentences. If you’re perceptive, you’ll figure out how to respond. If someone says, “I still haven’t bought all my gifts,” chances are they celebrate Christmas. If they say, “I’m getting ready for eight crazy nights,” they may be Jewish. If they say, “The origins of Christmas are nefarious and deeply disturbing. What’s more disturbing is the blatant commercialization and saccharine platitudes that veil our true human desires and insecurities…” You get the idea.

You don’t have to be generic in your well-wishes, yet you simply can no longer assume a common outlook. Take a moment to understand the other person in front of you before shoving a Santa hat on their head and wishing them “Merry Christmas!” They may love that, but it doesn’t hurt to gauge their holiday inclinations first.

May your interactions be merry and bright

In the comic above, Mr. Argyle is sensitive to differing beliefs. Yet, his approach is generic and robotic. What if he got to know his employees and asked them what days they observe if any? He could then tailor his cards appropriately. It’s a bit more work, but it’s more thoughtful than, “Here’s your generic card.”

I’m doing my best to respect the beliefs of others. Sure, it would be easier if everybody celebrated the same way, but that’s not the case. Heck, even I went from observing Christmas to opposing it and back to observing. I’ve been blessed with people who were patient and understanding of my journey. I’d like to pay that forward.

The best gift we can give to another person is the gift of understanding. That gift involves our time, effort, thought, and care. Do that and witness some holiday glow. After all, it’s the thought that counts.