Friday, April 02, 2010

It's Better To Burn Out Than to Fade Away

I've always liked that line. It suggests that whenever "it" ends, it's much better to do so with gusto and to make a grand, noticeable exit rather than to just limp off quietly. I used to think I wanted that line featured prominently at my funeral. Now I've decided I'd rather just not die.

The concept of "NotTheRock" started almost eight years ago now, in 2002. I wanted an outlet for the ideas rattling around in my head, and I figured that a Web site was a good repository for my nervous energy. I'd prattle on about things, I figured, and maybe entertain a person or two in the process. It might also be a place where I could direct people interested in seeing my writing.

I created way too many sub-categories. While not all THAT many, it was clearly more than I could keep up with. I did a few movie reviews, I put up a couple of op-ed pieces, etc., but I didn't do it with any regularity. And as anyone who writes -- especially in blog form -- knows, the biggest key is consistency. Write, write, write and then write some more. I even created an offshoot wherein I provided review and commentary of every episode of the TV Show 24, mainly because it was my favorite show and there was nothing like it on television.

Nearly everyone who read NTR was a friend who knew me, so I kept the info on there as anonymous as I could. I didn't want any of it to be about me -- I wanted it to be about my writing. Launching the blog portion in January 2003 was a way for me to pop my occasional thoughts on the world around me into a central location without the effort of publishing pages, editing html, etc. I started with Xanga, because it was one of the easier-to-use blog formats of the day. Before long, though, it became the MySpace of blogging, overrun with children and a feeling of complete immaturity. Yes, even more immature than me.

I was pretty good about posting all the time in those early years of the blog. I put up content nearly every day, hosted the Movie Quote Guessing Game, told stories of obnoxious people in my grad school program, etc. Eventually, a few things happened.

In November 2006, I co-launched a sports Web site primarily focused on Purdue athletics. Boiled Sports started small and humble (like me) but has grown to be fat and far-reaching (also like me). Last month, BS had more than 70,000 hits. Small-time in the world of big-time Web sites, but for a targeted Web site written by Purdue alums, it's pretty fun. And a lot bigger than we ever expected it to get.

In June of 2007, I got married.

In December of 2007, we moved to Texas.

In December of 2009, we had our first child, our son, Jack.

In addition, Facebook (and social networking in general) came about and changed things even more. People who spent time and effort on blogs were no longer unique. MySpace and Facebook allowed people to post their myriad thoughts (to their audience's detriment, in many cases) very easily, as well as share their photos and adventures and keep in touch about each other's lives. Blogging was no longer unique. While it wasn't the exact same format, it was pretty damn close.

I switched the site over to the Blogger platform in March 2007, thinking it would lead me to more frequent posting. It didn't. While I've always liked the statement that is the headline of this post, I think it's fair to say that NTR did wind up fading away, rather than burning out. And that's okay. Other ventures have burned out plenty to make up for it.

Writing online via NTR, however, has helped lead me to other online writing gigs at places as far reaching as Deadspin, Ranger Fan Central, Four Magazine (now defunct, but I got to do a cool interview with an aspiring Chicago photographer!), Melt Your Face Off and Sport Projections, to name a few.

As you likely know, I also write and edit professionally, which tends to take up a fair chunk of time. I've also had several book concepts rattling around in my head for a while, one of which I actually turned into an outline that I feel pretty good about. Sadly, it has languished (like this blog) in a folder on my hard drive for, literally, years. And now I've begun talks with someone to potentially ghost write a book for them. No word on yet as to whether this means I have the write the book with a flashlight pointed upwards at my face the whole time.

What does all this mean? I don't know. It's not to suggest that NTR couldn't continue living on. Just a fact that my life has changed in big ways. I'm not the same 26-year-old bachelor doofus sitting in my one-bedroom apartment watching ESPN all hours that I'm not at the office. Life changes, things happens, and so forth. It's a good thing that life moves along. Otherwise, it'd be pretty boring.

For those interested in the minutiae of my life, visit me on Facebook (or Twitter, for those so inclined), or you can always check out our family site (if you know it; if not, send me an email for the link). Or if you're simply interested in my brand of scathing sarcasm, you can also continue to check out Boiled Sports for the foreseeable future. Of course, if you're not a fan of Purdue, that might be a bit boring for you. Obvious solution? Become a Purdue fan.

Let's see, what else? Oh, the site name.... yeah, so I've always liked silly, 80s comedies (who among us who grew up then doesn't like them?) and one of the most quotable (and still very funny if you go back and watch) was Spies Like Us. Well, my friend Greg and I got into the habit of, when someone didn't understand what we felt was something simple (moms, sblings, friends, etc.), we'd say, "not the rock..." in honor of this clip. (Go to 3:10 into it.) And as for the tagline, "Instead of a stream of consciousness, more of a babbling brook," well, I always was proud of that. I thought it was pretty clever.

As you may have gleaned from this post, this is the end for NTR. I still see things all the time that could be turned into a post for this site, but it simply doesn't happen anymore. Whose fault is that? Mine. I always hated seeing half-assed Web sites or blogs that hadn't been updated in months or years. Well, while I've certainly not stopped writing in general, I have neglected this site, which is my original Web outlet. And while it's likely that nobody even cares anymore (only a few of you read this and you probably are connected with me on FB at this point, anyway), another thing many writers enjoy is providing some semblance of closure. And so this is mine.

If you've read my drivel from the beginning, well, thank you kindly. There aren't many of you and I think I know who you are. And if I don't know you, but you've been lurking/reading for eight years, well... hello, weirdo. You'll have to find someone else to stalk.

Sometimes when things end, people get sad. Whether it's a vacation, school, a job, a home you live in, or anything else -- even a silly Web site -- the end is only sad because it was fun. All of these things in our lives -- including our lives themselves -- are fleeting. You appreciate things more because they end. If they never ended, there wouldn't be anything special about them.

It's been fun. Thanks for reading.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

One of My Favorite Games

One of the joys of being married is that you always have someone to antagonize when you're bored. There are many immature, idiotic things I like to do (setting alarm clocks and kitchen timers to go haywire in Bed, Bath & Beyond has always been a favorite of mine) to make my wife's eyes roll, but yesterday I did another of my favorites. It's very simple, but it produces hilarity (at least to me) every time.

We men like to grab asses. Clearly, this is not news. But what I like to do is the surprise ass-grab. Even better is when you can get somebody else in trouble for it. We had to go to a store and so she said I could wait in the car. I waited until she was inside and then went in, saw he standing in line and sneaked up behind her, grabbing a handful. Of course, the reaction was an instant spin-around, and then the realization that it was me. Fun.

But it's even better in a crowded place. I used to always love doing this at Yankee Stadium or Madison Square Garden, where anyone who grew up going to those places knows everyone is edgy and reader for a fracas, especially if you start to eyeball Vinny's girl.

One of my favorites was when wifey was in the beer line at MSG and there was a stranger behind her. A male stranger. I had gotten something elsewhere so she didn't know I was approaching. I cruised by the line and pinched her ass-cheek on the opposite side that I was passing on, thus causing the involuntary turn to that side. And I just kept moving, but kept an eye on the situation. She spun around and looked at the guy behind her. His face was priceless. And it wasn't necessarily the "Crap, I didn't do that!" face... but more a face that most of us males would make. Kind of like a chagrined, "Well, if I knew I was going to get in trouble for something I'd enjoy doing anyway...."

It never gets old.

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Monday, July 20, 2009


I don't want to hear bitching about it being hot where you are. I just don't. Because unless your car almost explodes simply from sitting in the heat, you don't know what I'm dealing with.

Sure, sure, I always make the point that our trade-off is worth it here in Tejas -- that wearing flip flops and shorts while Christmas shopping is rather awesome, and highs in the 70s and 80s on Thanksgiving is neat-o. And I stand by that. Our A/C bills are insane-o in the summertime and stepping outside at 6 AM to let the dog out feels like walking into a blast furnace. And that you find yourself seriously considering figuring out a way to mow your lawn at night because it's still 104 with 90% humidity at 5:30 PM. But I can deal with all that. I rather enjoy it, actually, in a weird way.

But what pisses me off is when things like my car can't handle it. Look, car, you get to live in a warm climate. You don't have to deal with snow. Or salt. If you were in the north, you'd practically decompose underneath because of all the road salt. But no, we live here in Texas. And what do you do? Well, you sit in the heat at the airport for a few days... and then when I return and leave to head home and have the temerity to spritz my windsheild to clean the dirt/dust off that accumulates there when in an off-site parking lot, what happens? Yeah, that's right, the damn windshield makes a pop sound like I ran over an aluminum can. But instead of being an aluminum can it's my windshield springing a huge crack.

The fun doesn't end there, though. Each day, the crack grows. It's like a little game each day when I come out to the car after work. How far will it have grown and in which direction? Which pre-existing chip will it head towards?

The crack now exists from below my inspection sticker diagonally up to a chip in right about my line of sight, and then it forks off into two different directions. Neat-o! This will continue all summer, I would imagine, and eventually I'll be accused of a hit-and-run because it will look like a human has been smashed against my windshield. Which might happen as I get angrier.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Please Stop Singing

Let's get right to the point -- I hate "Happy Birthday." Not the act of wishing a happy birthday, but the song.

There are multiple theories on who actually wrote the lyrics, and pretty much all of the people who are potentially responsible are long since dead, so I don't have anyone to beat to death with a lead pipe over this. But I really hate Happy Birthday.

I think it's mainly because I feel like it's a song for children. Children enjoy birthdays and having the song sung to them, etc. Adults don't. Or they shouldn't, anyway, if they're really adults. It's a childish song, and having someone like my dad singing to you is just.... weird. It's always an awkward exercise, made especially so when your mother-in-law or co-worker is singing to you. Where else might this happen? I mean, seriously, when else might Jenny in the next cubicle be singing to you? (Well, get a few drinks in her first, maybe...)

I think what also bothers me is that it's a stupid tradition that has turned into something of a superstition to people at this point. You have to sing "Happy Birthday"! You just have to! This was basically the explanation my lovely wife gave me when I was bitching about it one time and asking why it's necessary. She really didn't have an answer... just that it's what we do. Even when it's just a group of adults in the room? Come on.

If it's a little kid's birthday, then by all means. Let's sing. I'll even participate. But if it's my birthday? Ah, no. I'll be 34 effing years old this year. I'm not a toddler. I don't need a song sung to me on my birthday.

In fact, what I want for my birthday more than anything is a moratorium on singing that infernal song.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

I Continue to Hate Stupidity

It's hot in Texas. Like 105+ hot lately. And when your A/C in the house is set at 75 degrees, it seems reasonable enough. Until you realize that it means that it's thirty degrees warmer outside and thus the A/C has to pretty much constantly work to keep the temp from approaching furnace levels. This leads to rather, let's say, high electricity consumption.

Normally, I'd just set the programmable thermostat to allow the temp to go up during the workday, but then it only allows a M-F setting and a Sat-Sun setting. Why it can't be programmed to coincide with my day planner, I do not know. But when Lovely Wife is going to be home on Mondays and Fridays, I can't exactly have the M-F setting allowing it to be 85 while she's there. Though it does sound amusing.

So the point is we consume electricity at an alarming rate. And our house isn't even that big for our area. But in the summer, our electric bills can be $400+. Yeah, I know.

We got our last bill, which was the usage through somewhere in mid-June I think and it was about $300. Yeah, and it's getting bad now and we're not even into July. My money-saving wife went and found out that if we lock into a deal with our current energy provider, we would not only get bonus Continental miles for every dollar we spend, but we'd also reduce our rate by almost.... get this... 50%. Five-oh percent. Jiminy Christmas, why didn't we do this sooner? Because we're idiots.

So I called on Wednesday and told them I wanted their 12 month lock-in guarantee extravaganza whatever plan. They agreed, set it up and let me know that there's a $150 cancellation fee if I jump ship before 12 months are up. Okay, fine. She tells me it'll be effective with "the bill that includes my July usage." Why not just tell me the date? Because they're sneaky f-cks, that's why.

The Wife performs her usual inquisition when I tell her it's done and I admittedly don't have all the facts. It sounds like it'll be effective in July, I tell her. Which wasn't very convincing. And nor should it be. And being married a couple of years now, I've learned it's fine to just admit it when it got too confusing for my brain. I asked the girl when it would be effective, she sort of answered and I asked again and she said more jumbled answers... and well, I gave up. Which is what she wanted me to do.

So the wife calls Thursday and learns that, no, it actually won't go to the new, better rate until July 24. She flips out. They say sorry, that's the deal. She suggest we cancel. They tell her that'll be $150, because I locked into a deal the day before. A deal that we don't get for a month. Yeah, that sounds fair. They also tell her it's because of billing cycles that it doesn't become effective immediately. When does the next billing cycle begin? Why, on July 12. So why can't it be effective that day? It just can't. Solid.

So they, as you can imagine, the hammer has to be brought in. I'm the hammer.

I call and explain to Yolanda that I was misled and that I obviously wouldn't have locked myself into a plan that doesn't start until almost the end of the 1st or 2nd hottest month of the year. She advises me that they did explain this ("Not clearly," I point out) and that this has to do with billing cycles.

I ask: "If I was a new customer and signed up for this plan today, wouldn't it be effective immediately?"

Yolanda: "Well, if you were a new customer today, we couldn't turn on your electricity today. It'd be more like next week."

Me: *head hits counter*

She does acknowledge that a new customer would get the good rate as soon as things began.

Me: "So we're being punished because we're loyal customers who want to stay with you?"

I'm loading the chamber with these two points when she puts me on hold:

(1) If the rate doesn't begin until July 24, how can the cancellation fee be in place before then?

(2) If we'd normally pay $400+ and a 50% reduction (which we could get from a competitor plan, too) would lead us to roughly a $200 bill, the $150 would still allow us to save $50 in one month alone.

I actually speak these points while I'm on "hold." I say it that way because there was no hold music, no hold commercials, no "we'll be right with you," no nothing. I think I was just on mute. I used to work in a call center and sometimes we'd mute calls instead of put them on hold, for a variety of reasons. One of the sneakier reasons was that you could listen to what they were saying to others in the room. I know.

After about a ten minute hold, during which time I also said, "For this kind of wait, there better be good news on the other side," she came back and -- presto -- our new rate was effective immediately. She made sure I knew that it wasn't even her supervisor who did it -- their manager had to sign off on it. Sign off on giving me the rate you were advertising? Okay. I bet you could make one of your newfangled computers do that for anyone who signs up for that deal. But hey, I'm no expert.

So in the end, because we were the squeaky wheel, we probably saved over $200 next month alone. It feels good, but whenever I have one of these victories, I still feel irritated for the non-complaining, diligently-bill-paying customer (who I usually am): they're getting the screw job while I get the sweet deal. Not cool.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Canceling Is Fun

I got DirecTV last weekend. Which meant I had the distinct pleasure of calling my shitty cable company and canceling with them this week.

Me: "Hi, I'd like to make changes to my service with you."

Rep: "Oh, certainly, what can I do for you?"

Me: "I want to go ahead and cancel my cable. I have phone and Internet with you also so I don't want to cancel everything -- just cable, the $125 portion of the bill."

Rep: "Oh. And can I ask why?"

Me: "I'm not sure you really want to hear all the reasons... but I got DirecTV this weekend --

Rep: "Oh, I see."

Me: "-- and besides, I think your rates are obscene --"

Rep: "Uh-huh, I see."

Me: "-- and the cable went out a lot --"

Rep: "Yes, yes, okay, well --"

Me: "--and the DVR skipped and failed to work sometimes --"

Rep: "Okay, well --"

Me: "--and the programming wasn't very good or offered what I want."

In hindsight, I shouldn't have immediately said I'd gotten DirecTV because once she heard that, she was far less interested, probably knowing there was no hope to keep me.

Rep: "Okay, I took care of that for you and you can return those boxes and remotes..."

Me: "Thanks, so how does my bill work now? I mean, I've canceled cable so I obviously don't owe for the whole month."

Rep: "Well, you can just go ahead and pay the whole amount since you have other services with us and then next month you'll have a credit."

Me: "Yeah, I know I COULD do that, but why would I? How about you tell me what my bill should now be?"

I wasn't going to let this lazy ass off that easy. She was going to have to work and prorate my bill for me.

It was so much fun. It'll be even more fun next month when I call to cancel phone and Internet after I get THAT hooked up through a competitor of theirs.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

You Twit

I'm now on Twitter. Have been for a few months, actually. It's stupid. That's all you need to know.

However, Twitter mania is sweeping the nation and we're more and more looking like sheep for how we all flock to the same things. Celebs use Twitter! We better use it, too! I'll be just like John Mayer and we'll be "friends"!

No, you won't.

One of the fastest-growing age groups to use Twitter is the over 40 crowd. You know why? Because they (think they) can understand it. It's uber-simple. 140 characters. That's all. You know the status update part of Facebook? That's all Twitter is. Just that. Nothing else. No pictures, no sharing, nothing. Just stream-of-consciousness babble.

Sure, if you're utterly hilarious, your Twitter stream will be interesting and entertaining. And some people are just that. But they're diamonds in the rough. Most people, including the famous ones, are pedestrian and boring. And those who use Twitter to schill a product or themselves? Ugh. Go away.

One thing I've maintained for a while is that Facebook -- and now Twitter -- draw attention to people's ability to be creative, interesting, funny, thoughtful, etc. And if you're not any of those things, social media exacerbates it. If you're not very funny, you can probably hide that in regular social circles. But on a site like Facebook or Twitter, you're fully exposed. Things move fast, and to be funny/entertaining, you need to have new material all the time. Recycling those jokes you read in this month's Playboy just won't do. You need to be clever and you need to be quick on your feet. If you're not very bright, have zero mastery of the English language, or type like you've got a pirate hook instead of a hand, you're going to look dumb.

Going back to Twitter, though... it's not set up in a way that facilitates easy communication. The reason people love Facebook is because you can easily track multiple conversations and anyone who wants to read up on the comment stream can easily do so. On Twitter, you need to search for the comment responses. And if you're "following" a bunch of people/entities and don't get on Twitter for a few hours, those responses/comments get buried way down the page. Everything on Twitter comes to you in a single stream -- this is infuriating and illogical. Of course, it's "easier" for the old folks in the sense that they just have one place to go rather than multiple pages to click through like on Facebook. Easy as FB is to navigate, it's confounding to someone in my mom's Internet skill zone.

But the older generations are convinced that Twitter is "what the kids are doing." That's why college football coaches are Twittering and why senior-level people at all sorts of companies are incredibly impressed with themselves because they're Twittering with the other hipsters. Or so they think.

The other thing I've decided about Twitter is that it's ideal for people who are self-impressed. If you're one of those people who loves to just talk and not really listen to anyone else... well, then you'll love it. Go start Twittering. Because it's basically the equivalent of 75 million people standing on hills with megaphones shouting things. If you specifically want to hear one of them, you can strain to do so... but it's hard and I know I lose interest fast. But if you're just up for shouting things out and being "followed," well, it's the site for you.

And while I still think Facebook is dumb in general, it's got its redeeming qualities -- especially as compared to Twitter. Leaving aside the romantic notion of "reconnecting" with old friends (as I've said before, 95% of these reconnections are with people I never had any interest in connecting with in the first place), it allows people with my kind of sense of humor endless opportunities to make others laugh, or to at least entertain them. I see it as my goal in life to make friends of mine laugh -- or to bust their balls to entertain myself and anyone else watching. Facebook offers this. I view FB as the equivalent of all of us hanging out in a friend's basement, drinking beer and harrassing one another. As I said to a friend of mine, it's like being on the golf course with your buddies, ripping each other every chance you get. Ideally, in a good-natured way.

Naturally, this leads to hateful comments, as there are endless limp-wristers out there who have loads of Internet courage. Facebook was an awful place to be last year during the Presidential campaigns. And certain topics will still evoke angry, intolerant comment streams. But that's life and it goes hand-in-hand with FB. People are knee-jerk reactionaries in many cases, and when all it takes to react is to click and type, people will do that and feel better instantly. So be it.

Twitter will flame out soon enough. It's growing in a suddenly exponential way and it has pretty much already jumped the shark. Sportscenter is Twittering, for example. Come on. The unique nature of it is gone. It gets talked about in celebrity magazines and we're supposed to be impressed that Ashton Kutcher, who has yet to say anything interesting from what I've heard, reached a million "followers" first. Who cares?

Obviously, I'm not trying to be a wet blanket. If you enjoy Twitter, go for it. I think that's what's important here. But the next time someone tells you something like how Twitter is "going to revolutionize how we communicate" (I seriously heard someone say this recently), you should point out that it's not really any different than hitting "reply all" on an email with everybody in the world copied.

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