Sunday, June 27, 2010

CTSO's, Children, and Canned Unicorn Meat

Happy Sunday, faithful readers!

This is the longest I've gone without blogging since I started the blog, for which you have my apologies. The life of a freelance-consultant/father-to-be/guy-who's-packing-up-the-house proves busier than expected.  No deep leadership insights at this time for you... I've made little to no progress on my research over the last week.  Instead, I've been spending my time reading up on organizational behavior research techniques, and I've been pleasantly surprised at how much of it I'm already at least familiar with.

Instead, I've got new kid pictures, which is quite an accomplishment considering that the light of day has yet to ever touch my babies-to-be.  But before we get to that... a few words on the National Pork Board.

One of my favorite websites is because, yes, I'm a geek.  Recently they were served a cease-and-desist letter (my favorite kind!) by the good people at the National Pork Board.  Now, normally I'm behind the Pork people no matter what... after all, they're the group that promotes bacon.  But this time... not so much.  Here's a pic of the ThinkGeek product the Pork People were prepared to sue over:

That's right... unicorn meat.

See, every April Fool's Day, ThinkGeek rolls out a bunch of fake advertisements for joke products that don't actually exist, like an E-Z Bake Oven with USB connectivity, or Spazztroids Caffeinated Breakfast Cereal.  This year they went with unicorn meat, calling it "The New White Meat."  The National Pork Board, seeing their trademark of The Other White Meat in jeopardy, immediately moved for legal action to prevent Thinkgeek from selling... canned unicorn meat.

It's a bit of an embarrassing situation for the plaintiffs (you can read all about it here:, but the moral of the story is this: we should all just lighten up.

Speaking of lightening up, that's exactly the opposite of what Debby is doing right now.  Instead, she continues to grow her baby-filled girth to mammoth new proportions... which, when you're pregnant with twins, is a Very Good Thing. Recently we got new ultrasound pics of both of them, including one 3-D model of Baby A!  Unfortunately, Baby A wasn't too happy with his picture session, as Baby B kept kicking him in the face. Cutest darn thing you ever virtually saw.

Baby A

Baby B

Sadly, there are not yet names beyond the alphabet for the two boys:  Debby steadfastly refuses my suggestion of "Nathaniel" and "SuperFly" despite near unanimous agreement from our friends and family. Heavy sigh.  We're still taking suggestions (and in case you were going there, she's also vetoed Bill and Ted, Bugs and Daffy, and Voltron and Optimus Prime).

Last week I had the honor of training the Louisiana CTSO state officers in Baton Rouge, and I learned quite a few things from them. I'll close with some life lessons from the conference:
  • Leadership is best demonstrated not by certain behaviors, not by certain traits, and not by certain appearances... but rather by the ability to actually get amazing things done.
  • I heard one of them listening to a Kenny Chesney tune on their iPods... I resisted the urge to throw the offender out of the training!
  • Never underestimate FCCLA.  Those girls (and one guy) are tough competitors.
  • The Technology Students of America should add acting to their list of exciting new innovations.  I've never seen so many buy so much, when absolutely nothing was for sale!
  • Louisiana DECA continues to amaze me with their propensity for an almost frightening degree of intelligence.  If you haven't heard about these guys yet, you will.  A simply amazing team.
  • I'm very disappointed that FBLA, of which I am a former national president, was only able to send less than half of their officer team. Where's the love? But despite that... that was a heck of a balloon tower, wasn't it?
  • And, okay, sure, FFA didn't win the CTSO Cup.  But FFA is and always will be My People: in the words of my old National Vice-President, they'll rock your momma's booty somethin' awful.
And speaking of mommas, I saw mine last week for the first time in years. She looked very awkward at the chance meeting and made an excuse to leave as quickly as she could, before I had a chance to strike up any kind of conversation.  She didn't seem to want to talk to me, but despite that, I learned that I apparently have a little half-brother now. Who knew?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

What's a Sales Manager's Job, Anyway?

For some reason, I think spurred by my recent research on self-monitoring or maybe because I've been chatting a lot with one of my old friends from those days, I find myself thinking a lot about my time with a certain company I used to work for lately.

At the high point of my career with this company, I was in charge of a $30 million business unit and loving every minute of it.  Sales were booming, profits were increasing, our workforce was growing, good people were getting promoted, and we were getting rid of the people who didn't want to contribute.  During a time when the company at a whole was shrinking at a frightening pace, my territory led the nation in customer growth.  I won a whole bunch of interesting awards, from that huge bronze swan on my coffee table, to the leather bag I used yesterday for the trip to visit the mother-in-law, to the beautiful Swarovski crystal swan that somebody stole at that last banquet. Believe it or not, I think I remember being offered tickets to a Kenny Chesney concert at one point.

The reason we were doing so well was not so much because I was great at what I did, but because I developed a talent for surrounding myself with amazing people... and then finding ways of keeping them.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Joy of New Orleans Winning

"I'm going to Albertson's to improve my business casual wardrobe."

I gave voice to that sentence today, the first time in my life that particular statement has passed my lips.  Now that I think about it, it's probably the first time that sentence has ever been spoken anywhere, by anybody.

One of the best things about the undeniable and eternal fact that the New Orleans Saints (the greatest football team ever in the history of the mankind) are Super Bowl Champions, is that this lifelong Saints fan can finally find Saints stuff for sale.  When I was a kid, I wanted a Saints t-shirt, but I had trouble finding one. If I wanted a cap, I might have to special-order it. Posters were impossible to find in my neck of the woods. Today, on the other hand... if I want something as obscure as a limited-edition-collectible-Saints-Super-Bowl-Express trainset, I can get it quickly and easily for only three easy payments of $23.32, plus shipping and handling.

Hence, my desire to go to Albertson's, one of the many grocery stores in town with a large assortment of Saints merchandise in the front of the check-out area.  They have nice polos there, and I feel a strong force compelling me to beef up my Saints attire in advance of my move to Atlanta, home of the Atlanta Falcons, who, as everyone knows are Not Half The Team The Saints Are.

It's hard to explain to anybody who didn't grow up in Louisiana what it was like the night the Saints won... after forty years of utter, utter failure (as the Great Gonzo would say, "If at first you don't succeed, fail, fail again!") we in the New Orleans area finally had something to celebrate. Traffic was stopped on the interstate because we were dancing on top of our cars.  You couldn't walk down the street without a stranger hugging you and asking you about your momma. For one magical night there was no crime in the city... everyone was celebrating together.  Sandwiched between two Gulf Coast disasters as it was (though we still liked BP at the time), it's one of the truly great sports stories for the ages.

Of course, Barack Obama had picked the Colts to win.  There's something there for the examining, I think. I'll bet Kenny Chesney picked the Colts, too.

But somehow, despite all the cool Saints merchandise I'm finally inundated with... despite the shirts, shorts, hats, glasses, steins, posters, signs, wastebaskets, luggage tags, drink-warmers, flags, windsocks, bobbleheads, train sets, footballs, baseball bats, special-edition Monopoly games, and even sexual novelties, I can't help thinking that something was left out.  Something that would be a fantastic addition to our office desks and our children's toychests:

Action Figures.

Here's the starting line-up as I see it, keeping in mind that every toy set needs some good guys and some bad guys:
  • Drew Brees:  With quick-firing arm action, the Drew figure comes with a football accessory which, when placed into the patented Arm Launcher, can be propelled over 30 feet forward with enough forward momentum to break a six-inch board of balsa wood.
  • Marques Colston:  Right out of the packaging, this figure's hands are covered with super glue. Like Gorilla Glue. The first thing he touches, that figure's going to be stuck to for the rest of your natural life.
  • Tom Benson:  No action features... doesn't really do much of anything anymore... thank God his daughter took over. Comes with a clipboard that references trading Reggie Bush and Drew Brees to Cleveland for a Big Mac and fries, and a miniature tassled parasol.
  • Peyton Manning:  With new Peyton-Pout technology, this figure's face can go from determined football hero to sulky grumpy five-year-old at the touch of a button!  This figure comes with a Reebok shoe, a Mastercard, a pack of Oreos, a bottle of Gatorade, and a box of Wheaties.
  • Brett Favre: No real action features on this one, but on impact the leg joints will bend any way imaginable on a three hundred sixty degree axis.  Accessories: a waffle.  Unlike the other figures, the Favre figure is specifically made to lay flat rather than stand, as in the following classic portrait:

Okay, that was a cheap shot, I admit.

Seriously, though, I hope Favre's back for the rematch that opens the season. I think the Vikings have a really good shot with him at the helm, but I'll still put my money on the black and gold.  It's a great time to be a Saints fan... how many times in our lives have we had the opportunity to say that?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I Can't Believe I'm Blogging About the Golden Girls

Hey, two followers! I've doubled my following!! Woo-hoo!!!

I've noted that most of my recent posts have been of a rather serious nature, so instead I thought I'd ramble a bit.

A very unfortunate side effect of my wife's pregnancy has been her fascination (one is tempted to use the word 'fetish') with pregnancy shows on the various offshoots of the Discovery Channel.  For those lucky souls who've never been forced to watch them, these 30-minute shows follow a reality-show documentary-format in introducing us to a pregnant young lass and her loving husband/boyfriend/one-night-stand-partner. After attempting to humanize the subject (she loves exercising!), we get to hear how excited she is to be pregnant. And then we find out that there's a terrible problem that endangers the life of the mother/baby/both. And then after some dramatic music plays, we see a tremendously disgusting birth scene, and then the money shot: happy, makeup-running, sweaty mother and usually-ugly, slimy child are united.

Then the show ends and the next one starts. And the exact same thing happens again.  And 30 minutes later, again.  And 30 minutes later, again.  And 30 minutes later, again.  Ad infinitum, on and on, the exact same plot, the exact same facial expressions, the exact same body parts getting cut open, the exact same music.

I counted thirty-two installments of these shows on my DVR last week, nestled amongst the chick flicks and the reruns of Shaun the Sheep (of which I heartily approve). I'm sure hormones are at work here, but I just can't understand the appeal. You know, maybe it was nice the first time... but after twenty or so identical happy-to-be-pregnant/health-problem/emergency-medical-activity/healthy-but-disgusting-birth cycles, it really starts to get old to me.

Every time I ask my wife if she's sick of it yet, or when I ask her if she's noticed the utter predictability of it, or when I point out that that baby on the screen is absolutely the opposite of cute, or when I start predicting what the doctors will say before they say it... she just tells me to go away.  She offered to change the channel once, and she turned it to... a Kenny Chesney concert. How well my wife knows me.

When she's not watching the nonstop birthing parade on Discovery Health, she invariably finds a Golden Girls marathon on some other channel (which I can only assume is the Lifetime network).  No red-blooded man could be expected to retain his masculinity while having to decide between the Golden Girls and pregnancy surgeries, but whenever offered any kind of choice, the intelligent human must vote with whichever side includes Betty White. I never understood the universal appeal of Bea Arthur (in fact, I must admit that there have been nightmares), but Betty, Rue, and Estelle were comedic masterminds.

I hope that I didn't lose any manhood points for that comment.

I always likened the Golden Girls to the Muppets (but then, I've likened most everything I've encountered to the Muppets).  The character of Blanche, the sexually liberated Southern Belle, was just like Miss Piggy - a tough, independent woman who was very secure in her femininity, but probably ate a bit too much cheesecake.  The character of Dorothy, the more mature and sensible grounded woman, had a lot in common with my childhood idol Kermit the Frog (and I hope Kermit will forgive me for the comparison) - they both seemed to be the only sane characters on their respective shows, and didn't have much luck with significant others.  The character of Rose, the sweet but not altogether intelligent girl from St. Olaf, was just like Gonzo - a devil-may-care optimist whose ideas would be limited by neither taste, likelihood, nor good sense.

And of course, the crotchety old Sophia was just like Statler and Waldorf, always ready to put a negative spin on any success with a carefully placed one-liner, or delight with childish glee in any failure.  Just as the two old men in the balcony enjoyed tormenting Fozzie and the rest of the Muppets with their nonstop heckling, Sophia could always be trusted to make everyone around her look even more foolish. And if there's one thing the modern television viewer enjoys watching, it's someone being made to look foolish.

This is, after all, why reality TV shows are so popular.

Yes, it had sappy plots that made me change the channel, and yes, I hated the theme song, and yes, Bea Arthur still scares me a bit... but I've got to admit, there were five to ten minutes of comedy gold in any given Golden Girls episode. And how many TV shows out there in the last sixty years have dared to star an ensemble of four grandmothers?