Saturday, June 30, 2012

Hey Look, It's a "I Sometimes Have a Life, So I Didn't Blog" Post

I was out most of the day spending time with the family.  Which now means buying even more stuff for Everett.  It was a good day.  I didn't even think about you once.  Sorry.  But to make up for that fact, here is picture of the boys.

How was your Saturday?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Here Comes the (Teething) Pain

I brag about Everett a lot.  My "Dad's Eye View" is essentially a collection of boasting and celebrating over having a super chill baby.  But I always knew the day would come when things would get a tad more difficult.  It would be the day that parents with colicky babies could laugh at my expense.  They'd say, "Ha.  Nothing lasts forever.  Enjoy your bumpy ride."  Well, the bumpy has begun.  Everett is teething.  I talk all about the craziness in today's "Dad's Eye View."

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hey Spam Bots and Marketers, You're Failing at Blog Comments

The downside of having a site that is increasing in traffic and doing well in search engine rankings (for certain topics) is that you start attracting the occasional undesirable.  My site has been attacked by a few trolls whose life mission is to be an incompetent ass.  Luckily, their visits have still been pretty rare -- or they just deem my articles to be untroll-worthy.  But I have seemed to drag in several marketers and spammers over the last several weeks, and their comments are often even more irritating and mind-melting than the trolls.

The joke is on them, though.  I have a pretty effective spam filter that has caught their shenanigans every time, so their prose have been entirely missed by the general public. 

I am not opposed to self-promotion and marketing.  But I am opposed to blatant self-promotion and marketing, where it is obvious your only purpose for being on the site is to shill your wares.  A blatant plug is just a sign of laziness and an incredible lack of creativity.  Those really aren't two traits you should have if you aspire to be a successful marketer. 

I admit that I can be a self-promoter.  If it is on my blog or my own social media accounts than I'll even be pretty blatant about it.  When you're in a profession like freelance writing, I really have to self-promote if I have any hope of getting read and creating a small name for myself.  I realize you need to promote and market if you want your products to be known.  By all means, blatantly shill on your own blogs and social media sites.  But don't think I'm up for your little games on my own blog.

Almost every bit of literature on social media marketing will say that one of the most effective ways to promote your product is creating a presence through interacting on social media.  One of the best ways to interact and create a presence is to leave comments on blogs -- especially on popular blogs (which I'm not claiming my blog is, and I'm sure if it was, I'd be greeted by far more awful spammers).  I actually do agree with this strategy.  I am not opposed to a marketer leaving a comment on my blog.

I frequent several blogs, and I'll often leave a comment.  I also admit that one of the reasons that I leave comments is to get a link to this on blog on their site.  My comments are definitely a form of marketing, and I am essentially doing the same thing as these spammers and marketers.  The major difference is that I'm doing it properly and they are utterly failing.

When I want to leave a comment on a blog, so that I can leave behind a link and hopefully get a few new people to check out my site, I have a few easy strategies in place.  First off, I read the actual blog post.  Reading a blog post is a pretty crucial step, and is the most important step.  It then allows you to know what type of comment you should actually be leaving.  Then when I leave a comment, I make sure it actually is a response to the article.  I also make sure that I am actually engaging in the conversation and possibly helping to stimulate more dialogue.  My comment contains substance that either brings some new information or possibly adds a personal anecdote.  Essentially, I try to write a comment that is entertaining and brings value.  Then hopefully it will make other readers think, "That dude is one smart and witty muffin, and I want to read more of his delicious and nutritious words."

So, basically my comments are exactly the kind of comments that a writer wants to read on his site.  There is no shilling, but just a comment that really engages with the article.  You start posting many of these comments, and you build a rather strong reputation on that site.  It'll likely intrigue more people to check out the link, and so they can read what else you have to offer.  It builds the real and authentic relationship that all the marketing materials claim is the future that is Web 2.0.

This isn't what spammers do.  I'm not sure if the majority of the comments are from automated bots or if it is just people that really suck at being subtle.  Typically, you end up with comments that show they have no clue what your article is really about and they just beg you to click on their link.  They do try to tie their shill in with the post, but usually it is just finding a word in the title that has something to do with their product.

For example, this is the type of comment I'd likely get from a spammer or failed marketer on this post.

CannedHamJoe says:

Great Post!  Spam sure is a convenient lunch meat.  Did you know "Trapped Ham In A Tin" tastes just like real ham!  Click this link to buy some yummy gelatine gloop meat deliciousness.

This wouldn't make it past my spam filter.  I wouldn't approve it to make it to the site.  So, that becomes one epic failure in marketing.

Now, if this guy talked about his annoying experience with a spammer, and then posted a link to his site, there is a good chance I may have checked out the link.  Once I found it was about canned ham, I'd have quickly left it.  I'd have left the comment around, and maybe some other person would discover him and get their not-quite-meat needs met.

Now, if a marker really, really, really, really needs to talk about their product, then they at least need to make the effort to ensure the article is actually about what they're pimping.  If an article is moaning about the lack of high quality glow in the dark underwear, then by all means pitch in with your magical undergarment that not only glow but massage your ass.  I'm sure the poster and the readers will be forever thankful.

It comes down to this, marketers you're failing.  You're commenting in the most incompetent way imaginable.  I see through your lousy posts, and I have no desire for you to litter up the comments section.  It is time to change your strategy.  I've given you some tips; now, we’ll see if you can do it better next time.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Brave Review

Over the past 13 years, one of the great summer traditions has been the release of the latest Pixar animated film.  They've established the greatest reputation for animated films, and often produce one of the best films of the year.  This year Pixar has released its Scottish adventure, Brave.  I was pretty eager about this one, because the trailer presented an absolutely gorgeous film.  This is also Pixar's first film with a female protagonist.  The film looked like it would be a sweeping epic that spanned across Scotland and present a very different film than previous Pixar efforts. So, there was a lot to be excited about.  But does Brave measure up to the the expectation and continue the strong Pixar legacy?  You can find out in today's Collective Publishing movie review.  Once you've read it, please let me know your thoughts on the film over in the comment's section of the site.

The Bond Between Father and Son

A pretty common term is "mamma's boy."  I definitely was one.  You don't hear people label others as "daddy's boy" too often.  Now, Emily often says I present many of the traits of the female, and so maybe one of those is nurturing.  Because I've definitely created a special bond with Everett, and there is no disputing Everett is daddy's boy.  You can read all about my bragging. . . er. . . I mean, my discussion about the subject in today's "Dad's Eye View."  Then in the comments, let me know about the special bond you have with your little cherub.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

To Celebrate Everett's Six Month Birthday, Here are Some Pictures. . .

Every single picture is from today, so you're reveling in the cuteness of a real six month old.

Now, It's Time to Remember Richard Dawson

Yesterday, I wrote some reflections on iconic author, Ray Bradbury.  He isn't the only recently deceased public figure that I want to reflect upon.  On June 2nd, Richard Dawson passed away.

I'm not going to pretend that Dawson played a significant role in my life or inspired me the way that Bradbury has done.  Richard Dawson's significant contributions to pop culture were mainly all done before I was born.  I knew he was the famous game show host on Family Feud, and I also knew he'd hosted several other popular '70s games shows.  This was during a time that game shows reeled in a much larger audience and were held in a loftier position in pop culture than they are today.  I actually wasn't aware that the man was more than a game show host, but actually did a fair bit of acting before his hosting days.  He had a large role in Hogan's Heroes, which was a sitcom about fighting against Nazis -- and actually was popular for its time period.  My only memories of this show are the jabs it occasionally takes in modern sitcoms, and that every time I read it in the TV guide as a kid, I thought it might be a new wrestling show.

Needless to say, I didn't know a whole lot about Richard Dawson before his passing.  It was only the obits that I learned that he was far more well-rounded than I originally believed.  The most significant thing I knew about him was that he got away with kissing a lot married woman on the lips right in front of their husbands and a national television audience.  Though, it really isn't the worst thing to be remembered for doing.

I actually do have one really huge positive memory of Richard Dawson.  It is his role as the evil game show host Damon Killian in the '80s action film, The Running Man.  As I mentioned earlier, I never knew that Dawson was once a full time actor.  I thoughts he landed the role because he was an iconic game show host (which probably is the main reason) rather than the fact he could act.  I was always surprised by how well Dawson performed in that film.  He stole the show.  He created one of the vilest and evil characters in film.  He was one of the toughest rivals for Arnold Schwarzenegger in all of '80s cinema.  This is pretty impressive when you consider he was almost a senior citizen at that point, and Arnie's foes were typical muscle bound monsters. You really believed that this could be the villain that would finally put our '80s hero away, because he just seemed so powerful and unbeatable.

When I first saw the film, I hated the Dawson' character.  Of course, that is exactly how I was supposed to feel.  He was corrupt, slimy, hypocritical, and heartless.  There was almost nothing admirable about him.  But many years later, I really appreciate the performance by Dawson.  It was easy to make that character just a caricature.  Most films of the time just presented a stereotypical villain that was just meant to get squashed by the hero.  Dawson brought so much more to the character.  He made him believable.  He brought a certain type of charisma to the role that caused him to be a character that you really thought was real.  He reminded us of the lying politicians or the fake televangelists -- both figures that were pretty prominent in 1987.  He represented something we were already seeing and despising.  He did it with a flair that almost no actor has been able to bring to a similar role since.

I hated Damon Killian.  I begged for him to get his comeuppance.  It was Dawson who really was able to transform into a character that fueled that hate.  Without Dawson's performance The Running Man is just another fun '80's Schwarzenegger flick.  Dawson created a unique character, and propelled the film into one of the best and most fun action films of the decade.

I'm sure many people older than me will have other memories of Richard Dawson.  I like my memory.  He created a character that played a huge role in one of my beloved childhood films (though before you yell at my parents for allowing me to watch an R-Rated film, I did see it many years after it was released).  For a film buff and a lover of great stories and characters, I think that is a mighty fine memory.

RIP Richard Dawson.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Remembering Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury passed away at age 91.

It actually happened on June 5th.  I realize in Internet terms, that is eons ago.  Most have now moved on to new topics.  But as a writer who aspires to have novels published, it wouldn't be right to miss out on talking about one of the grandmasters of science fiction.  I would have reflected upon this iconic author much earlier, but this past months has been focused on trying to push my own writing career forward.  When I haven't been glued to a computer with my fingers furiously typing, I've been trying to be a good husband and father.  I know Ray Bradbury would have understood.

Ray Bradbury is not only an iconic science fiction writer, but was one of the modern legends of literature.  Any type of literature.  Even though he has largely been pegged as a science fiction and horror writer, his writing was always so much more than one specific genre.  He didn't write what some term as "hard" science fiction, where he got mixed up with the technical side of the genre.  He was always about human emotion and the human spirit.  His tales would have a profound meaning.  More importantly, they were always entertaining and full of an amazing imagination.  Bradbury's works had a broad appeal, and the fact almost every current novelist ended up saying something about his passing and calling him an influence for their own career, proves the broad appeal he had and how his writing wasn't ever intended for one genre.

Bradbury's works are probably some of the most popular fiction of the past century.  Even if you never heard of the name Ray Bradbury before this post, I'm pretty confident you heard of one of his stories.  Or the very least, you watched a TV show that used one of the countless concepts he created through his fiction.  Did you ever see the famous Simpson's Halloween special where Homer goes back in time and accidentally kills a bug, which then leads to him returning to a drastically different present?  Well, you can thank A Sound of Thunder for that one.  There is a good chance you've seen many other films or shows that you felt had an original idea, and there is a good chance one of Bradbury's tales had some influence.  Many writers will acknowledge Bradbury's works for being a major influence to their own stories.  Stephen King acknowledges Something Wicked This Way Comes as a major inspiration for his novel, Needful Things.

It is easy to see why Bradbury's works have been so influential.  Not only are they packed with amazing an imagination, compelling storytelling and engaging prose, but there are many tales to read.  The man was incredibly prolific writer, as he had 27 novels and over 600 short stories.  It is impressive that not only could he write so much fiction, but he was able to keep each one creative and unique.  The man was truly a well of imagination, but also had an amazing stamina.  At 91 year sold, the man was still writing, even though he had definitely earned a retirement.  Writing was what he did, and I'm sure he had an active imagination right to the end.  I know that once you get those thoughts swimming around in your head, that you have no choice but to eventually release them on to the paper or computer screen.

Bradbury is the type of writer who was mainstream, but also had some respect in literary circles as well.  He had easy summer reads, but also created work that could be studied and discussed in classrooms.  Fahrenheit 451 is an entertaining and engaging novel, but its message about censorship allowed it to be an often read book in high schools.  The Martian Chronicles is another classic that many casual readers would gobble up, but also would be a novel some teachers would find valuable for study.  Bradbury had the skill of creating truly engaging stories, but also exploring themes and message that brought true value into society.

Bradbury is one of the authors that pushed me to be a writer.  Here is a man that created works that elicited real emotion into the reader.  He was a man who just never stopped writing.  Many of his novels and short stories will be remembered a hundred years from now, and be read by a new generation of readers.  Even though many of his works dealt with science fiction, I feel his stories were still timeless.  Yes, the technology in the stories will be dated or proved to be inaccurate, but the people will still be real.  The message will still have value.  I hope one day I can create a story that is half as imaginative and contains an ounce of the real emotion found in each of Bradbury's tales.

There is another thing that makes Bradbury an inspiration.  He was a man that never lost touch with his childhood.  Most children have an amazing imagination, and are able to go on great adventure fighting dragon or flying to Mars.  Eventually, children grow up and lose that imagination.  They lose that kind of play.  Bradbury was able to churn out so many works of fiction, because he never lost that sense of wonder.  His house was filled with toys, and preferred them as presents compare to more adult merchandise.  He kept the wonder and energy of a child.  This meant his imagination stayed intact, and so he could continue to tell these fantastic stories.  We all need to grow up and take on responsibility, but it doesn't mean the child in us has to completely disappear.  It doesn't mean we need to give up toys or that sense of play.  Bradbury clung to being a kid so much that he never even got an adult job.  He remained a storyteller his whole life.  I'm sure his love of toys and play is what allowed him to live for so long, and will also be the reason his name will live forever.

Thank you, Ray Bradbury.  Thank you for your amazing stories.  Stories that my son will enjoy just like I did when I was young.  Thank you for creating so many fabulous worlds.  Thank you for being an inspiration.  Not only an inspiration when it comes to being a writer, but an inspiration on how to live a long and happy life.  Thank you for showing me that you don't always need to get a real job, and that creating stories is a viable way to live.

Ray Bradbury, you will live forever.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

As You Can See, I'm Still Alive

There is a chance Summit is typing this and posing as me.  I'd like to think his post would have far more errors.  My weekend of single parenting will conclude in about 9 hours.  So yes, touting my survival is a little premature, but I got through the toughest parts -- the nights.

The nights definitely ended up being much rougher than they were in May.  I attribute that to the fact Everett has teeth ready to rip through his gums rather than him just deciding I got it too easy last time.  Who knows, maybe he reads my blog and realized I was shocked with how well he behaved, so he thought he could get away with far more this time.

Last night was relatively easier than Friday night.  It took around 30ish minutes to lay him down to sleep rather than over 2 hours.  But he still decided to visit at 2 and 6 in the morning.  I was the lumbering zombie that I expected I'd be.  But he was properly fed with a bottle of room temperature breast milk (rather than a mustard bottle) and I ended up avoiding fastening the diaper to his head.  I did what I had to do, even if it was done at a pace slightly slower than a dead possum. 

I have officially decided that having a partner when you have a child is oodles of awesome.  As I said last time, I have tons of respect for single parents and I know many of them do a fabulous job of raising their children.  But I'm pretty sure five days is my max, and this time around, I am glad Emily is back home tonight.  A teething baby is definitely a great way to test your patience.

Everett is currently napping.  He was actually doing something he rarely does with me during the day -- putting up a major fuss.  Considering he was soothed every time he chomped down on my thumb, I know what the cause was.  He's decided to sleep it off, and I am willing to oblige.

Of course, having a team mate to aid with raising Everett isn't the only reason I look forward to Emily's arrival.  I've outlined my sappiness and suckiness in the past, and so it should just be assumed I am eagerly looking forward to the return of my beautiful wife.

This post was for those who like to keep score of this kind of thing, I've pulled off yet another few days of single parenting.  I think I have approximately the same level of sanity that I had before it began.

How have your weekends been?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

An Oatmeal Comic That Once Again Echoes My Life

I am sure there are others who have dogs that would get a kick out of this short comic from The Oatmeal.  Now, Summit wouldn't ever get that close to a horse, and his one major encounter with a horse consisted of him barking while he backed away.  When we go on trails, he seems to make it a common hobby to practice his rolling skills in the most smelliest and shittiest of spots.  For a dog that hates bathing so much, you'd think he would avoid the instant bath triggers.

I Still Have My Sanity: Night One as a Single Parent with a Teething Baby

It wasn't May.

Apparently, Emily did have a real pep talk with Everett this time.  And he listened.  He even followed through with the instructions during the day time.  Everett was an absolute joy during the day.  He entertained himself on the mat.  We had hours of fun play.  He told me countless stories.  He even took two short naps.  He ate really well from the bottle.  He wasn't showing any signs of the fussiness he has been unleashing ever since he started to teeth.

Until it was time to go to bed.

Well, actually, he was great during the night time routine.  He enjoyed his story, he allowed me to wash his face, and he got changed without a fuss.  Then I laid him down in his crib.

There must be an invisible button on his back.  Or maybe the night time and the disappearance of the sun caused a transformation in my son.  A shaved version of a mini werewolf.  He howled.  Oh, did he ever howl.  Not necessarily to the moon, but I'm pretty sure the angels heard him.  Or at least the neighbours.  I turned on every sleep inducing apparatus we have, and I sang my heart out, but it was all useless. He needed to be held.

He needed to be held for the next two hours.  He did sleep.  But it was on my shoulder.  Every time I thought he was firmly residing in SleepVille, I laid him down.  Every time, this inspired Everett to knock out his "Greatest Hits: Cry Edition."  Finally, I opted for one thing that is kryptonite to the sleepless baby.  A bottle of breast milk.

And why did I wait two hours to bring out the bottle?

Well, I had just fed him before originally putting him down.  I had done a good job of stuffing him full of nutritious milk all day.  He actually opted to stop drinking the last time I fed him.  I didn't think he was hungry.  He probably wasn't.  But two hours later and several bouts of crying can change all that.

Plus I don't have natural human organs that produce milk.  This means that I am taking it out of the fridge and taking at least ten minute to get it at room temperature.  I wanted to make sure he was actually going to drink it, if I was going that route.

He did.  After 11:00pm.  It meant he finally drank himself into a solid sleep, and I could lay him in his crib with minimal fussing.  He let out some token cries about 10 minutes later, but then the soothing Gentle Giraffe lulled him back to sleep.

Until 3am.  So, no sleeping through the night this time.  The plus side is that we know I don't sleep through his cries.  I immediately went to the bottle this time, but it was four by the time he was back to sleep.  He didn't really fuss this time, so that wasn't the reason for being up an hour.  I just added in a diaper change because I correctly assumed all the bottle feeding was going to turn my son into a pee fountain.  Plus I just don't work very efficiently at 3 am.

Then, we played the game all over again at 7.  I can deal with 7.  I often wake up before that time.  Though not when I've spent an hour awake in the middle of the night, though.  I assumed he'd be ready for another changing and a good feeding.  This one was much faster, and he has been asleep ever since.

It was a very different night than the miracle that was my 5 days of single parenting back in May.  I blame it on teething.  He really was amazing during the day.  I'm not sure if his gums became more painful at night.  He definitely needs more comforting.  We essentially cuddled for two hours.  I like my son cuddles.  I prefer them during a time that isn't designated for him to be sleeping.

Oh well, I've got one more night to try it all again.  I am actually feeling more rested than I assumed I would be.

The most important part is I've once again survived a night of single parenting.  Because I just don't think Summit is ready to take on this role.