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Month: August 2013

Jumping the Shark

You know those moments when a book or a series of books just goes a little too sideways? When the author uses some crazy plot twist to make things work, as a substitute for good writing? Well, I happens to every writer from time to time. There are even terms for it, but my favorite has to be “Jumping the Shark.” Why? Because I remember the episode well.

It was Hollywood (Part 3) from Happy Days originally aired September 20, 1977. In parts one and two, the Cunninghams accompanied Fonzie (Henry Winkler) to Hollywood as he’s been discovered and a director thinks he is the next James Dean. Turns out, they like Ritchie (Ron Howard) and want to sign him to a 5 year contract. He must decide between Hollywood and college. The Fonz is challenged by the ‘California Kid’ (Hollywood’s equivalent Fonz) to perform a dangerous stunt, jumping a shark on water skis. (Watch an excerpt from the episode below)

Fonzie was cool, but never a water skier. However, clad in swim trunks, a life preserver belt strapped over his signature leather jacket, he climbed on to the skis, and did it. Horrible. Even as a kid, I thought it was horrible.  But did I stop being a fan of ‘Happy Days’? No.

Infused with some better writing, the series went on to be successful until 1984, and then went into syndication. Old episodes actually were re-aired on ABC while new episodes were being filmed, and were titled “Happy Days Again.” Overall the series  aired for 10 years, from 1974 top 1984, and ran in syndication for years.

Someone tell you this book or this story of yours doesn’t work for them. Maybe they even say they are no longer a fan of yours? Take heart. Maybe you just ‘jumped the shark.’ Maybe they just don’t like that story, or certain words that you used. However, maybe, just maybe you’re the next Happy Days, and will go on to great success for years to come.

 Your useless trivia fact for the day, brought to you by, and the Samuel Elijah Johnson series. Also thanks to the letter “e” without which this post would have been impossible.

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A Review: The Barley Brothers Traveling Beer Show

HotblondeThis week, we met some friends at Brewforia, a restaurant in Meridian. Great food and great beer. The next afternoon, when I was simply no longer being productive, I trolled my Facebook feed, and saw a competition for some free tickets to the Barley Brother’s Traveling Beer Show sponsored by Brewforia, given away by Move2Boise, a great service we used when we moved to Kuna this spring. We had company this weekend, and I thought it would be a good event to take her to while my wife slept off night shift.

I won! The tickets would have cost me $35 apiece, so it was a relief to get them for nothing. Here’s how the event works: for your money you get a wristband and a sample cup, and you wander around to various tents, sampling whatever kind of beer each booth offers. It’s essentially an open beer bar featuring some of the best regional offerings. In addition, there are food vendors, and some great music.

The Good: Good? This event was fantastic. Food from The Grind? Great! And I found one of the best beers I’ve ever tried, not that those from Payette, Sockeye, Crooked Fence, and Grand Teton weren’t stellar. But Barley Brown’s Hot Blonde? It complements any beef or Mexican dish. If I could get in in bottles I would. Made with a blend of lemon grass, lime zest and jalapeños, it left an aftertaste that deserved to be savored. The beer itself could serve as a marinade for steaks, or even be injected in a roast.

102_4735The Bad: I was informed the tickets would be in will-call. Move2Boise has been great to me, so I anticipated no issues. However, they couldn’t find my name. Tatiana Martz, general manager of Brewforia even said with some irritation that she hadn’t even talked to anyone about the contest. I was ready to just go home, but I messaged Move2Boise on Facebook and called the rep we worked with when we relocated. After contacting Robb, the owner, and Michelle, the PR person who set up the contest, she insisted she had talked to Tatiana, and our tickets would be in will call. After a series of phone calls, we went back over. Still no luck. The general manager still denied talking to Michelle, and denied knowing about any contest.  Suddenly, after a third or fourth look, the volunteer found our names, and handed over the tickets. Whew! Tatiana? Still snotty and aloof. No apologies. If I’d paid for the tickets and they hadn’t found my name, and I’d been treated like I was trying to scam my way in, I would’ve been livid. In her defe3nse, I was wearing my Dude Abides shirt, so she may have assumed I was ‘between careers.’ Still, the experience and the customer service getting tickets? Horrible.

There is no Ugly: Would I go again? You bet. Next time I would even pay for tickets. After about 15 samples I switched to water since I had to drive home. Next year? A cab ride for sure. Sorry Tatiana and Brewforia, I won’t be putting my tickets in will call though. I’ll pay at the door, thanks. Although you have some nice folks working for you too, I’m not sure your restaurant/bar stayed in my top ten so far in Boise.

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Insecure: Bike Friendly Businesses

Ever feel insecure riding your bike, and wonder if you will have a place to lock it up when you arrive at your destination? No? Then you haven’t cycled much for transportation, at least not with a bike worth much. I’ve harped on this before in this series, so watch this video on insecurity, a photo survey of local businesses (in my area) to see if they are really “bike friendly.”

At least on the security front.


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Telecommuting is Work and It’s Working

If this isn't work, I don't know what is.
If this isn’t work, I don’t know what is.

The Human Powered Season 5: 

Part of any self-powered endeavor is laced with doubt and doubters. I’m not one to listen to them much, and I usually could care less what others think of me and what I do. This philosophy radiates across my life: from what I do for work to my appearance; from religion to personal morals; from what I eat to how I raise my kids. Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t mean I won’t listen. It just means I take what others think with a grain of salt.

It’s tough when those are people close to you, or people that those close to you care about. Perception is often their reality, and truth a stranger to them. So to go only slightly off topic, here is a related human powered/minimalist rant:

Conserve Resources and Money by Working at Home. The benefits are many, but let me just name a few:

  • Less overhead. I already rent (or own) this space, I’m heating or cooling it, and I sport a thirty step commute. I consume less energy and reduce my impact on the environment (even if you are just talking local) by not commuting physically to work or renting a separate office. The tax savings? Please, don’t get me started. That’s a blog post by itself.
  • No uniforms. I can work in my underwear if I so desire. I don’t. I feel more businesslike if I actually dress like I’m working in an office. I don’t wear a tie, but usually at least business casual is the order of the day. Sometimes I’m a little lax on that when it is very early, or I dress to run or bike, work first, and then go workout as a break. But I don’t have to buy, launder, and care for specific uniforms or types of clothing.
  • No car needed. Can the family do with one gas-powered vehicle? You bet, especially during the school year. Is it inconvenient sometimes? Yep. The money t I save in gas, repairs, and insurance alone makes it well worth the hassle. That’s living in a rural area. Live in New York or L.A., or even Boise Metro area? Lose your motorized transport, and save tons of money and trouble.

I’m more efficient than you are. Okay, that sounds arrogant, but working at home, while having some disadvantages, is efficient. Here’s why:

  • I need to take care of something work related, I don’t have to go anywhere or bring files home. My files and work stations are already at home. A client calls at 5 a.m. (because it’s 10 a.m. in Scotland) and asks for something? I’m not running to work to get it, or worse leaving my house for work at 4 a.m. so I can serve those clients.
  • No commute. I said this already, but it costs more than money to commute. It takes valuable time. Your time is worth money Ask any accountant to explain it to you if you don’t understand. They can break it down to cost per minute if you want.
  • More hours in the chair. Okay, this can be good and bad, but I don’t have to socialize with coworkers around the water cooler, I don’t have to go out for lunch, and I take breaks on my own terms. It means that when I’m working, I can actually be working. I can get more done in less time.
  • If you air drum and sing, no one stares. Okay, so the dogs howl and the kids stare when they are home, but you can create whatever environment you need to be at your best: listen to your music, decorate your way, and use your own system of organization.

The drawbacks. Okay, so when you tell people you are a freelance writer and editor, they chuckle and ask what you do for money. There are distractions, but you can turn your wireless router off (I read somewhere that they even have a switch and a power cord). It’s hard to isolate yourself: it takes discipline.

Bottom line: part of a human powered transport and more minimalist lifestyle involves sacrifice. Some of that sacrifice is facing the misunderstanding and the misconstrued perceptions of others. Too bad. They are the ones missing out on something great.

7:00 a.m.? I’ve been working for two hours, so I guess I should go get dressed now. Write on, and ride on!

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