Saturday, October 31, 2009

Reaching Out To .006%


I was just reading Ian Aspin's blog ReallyGoodThinking – I go there a lot because Ian is a very talented fellow who makes me think.


After reading today's piece – I started thinking about who is really reading headstuffing. Who am I reaching?


Headstuffing, from the emails that I get, and the comments left, and from what my friends tell me when I see them, is read pretty much by people of all types.


That's pretty cool.


All though the younger crowd doesn't really get me.


That's pretty cool too.


But I like to try to bring everything down to one common denominator. So I spent a lot of time thinking what are the most two most common characteristics of people who enjoy my little ramblings?


After a lot of thought – too much really, because I am very busy and should be putting my amazing thinking powers to more immediate concerns right now like raking the back yard leaves or finally putting the new door knob on the garage door (there's a big hole there now and I have to move a chair in front to keep the stupid door closed), or hanging the Halloween decorations for tonight's festivities! – I finally came down to my two lowest common denominators of who reads headstuffing:


They have to be able to read the English language - or at least my impression of what I think the English language is.


And they have to be able to use the Internet to get to headstuffing.


Okay, that's three lowest common denominators.


Then it struck me. There are roughly somewhere between eight and ten billion people on the planet earth right now. Of those eight to ten billion people, how many are literate, English reading Internet users?


Being one myself, I thought I would find out like all literate English reading Internet users learn research stuff now-a-days.


I'll Google it.


I typed in this simple question to the Google search bar:


"How many internet users speak English?"


I figure if you're using the internet you most likely can read – otherwise the web browser is pretty useless … right?


The answer came up on the first selection.

464 million. That's a lot.

But out of say … 10 billion? That's only 5% of the Earth's population?

That's not very many.


Over the course of three years of writing headstuffing, my Google Analytics account tells me I have had about 250,000 unique visitors.


So that's only .006% percent of the total potential persons -people that I can reach?


That's not very good.

But it's pretty close to the percentage of people that I know that think like I do.


Headstuffing would likely touch a lot more people that think like me if I could publish it in different language. According to the chart, 251 million Internet users read in Chinese.


Hmmm. Would the Chinese get me?


I work with a lot of Chinese people at the office. We get along really well … I think – I can't really understand what they are saying when they talk amongst themselves. I doubt I ever actually come up in conversation.


So I called up one of my colleagues at home – Lo Hi. I think he was still sleeping.


"What you want Brill?"


"Hi Lo, I was wondering if you had ever read my headstuffing blog?"


"You woke me up to ask me stupid question like that?"


"I'm doing research actually, sorry I woke you", I apologized. "I'll make sure I credit you in the post with your answer."


"Yeah, I read that stupid blog one time. You not very funny Brill!", and he hung up.


So, I guess that's not the answer I was hoping for.


That makes sense though, Lo never laughs at my jokes in development meetings.


So I guess that unless I either change my sense of humor, or I learn to speak, then write in another language, I am going to be stuck with reaching only .006% of the entire English speaking Internet community.


Which is ok I guess.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

If I Ever Get My Lewis Grizzard Book Back …


My lovely wife Darlene was out and about shopping the other day.


One of her stops was at a used bookstore she frequents. She normally doesn't look at the hard cover section – but for some reason this day, she did.


Peek inside this book ...She spotted a hard cover version of a book by my favorite writer, Lewis Grizzard. It was an autobiography he wrote called "If I Ever Get Back To Georgia, I'm Gonna Nail My Feet To The Ground".


I didn't have it.


I don't know how my lovely wife knew I didn't have it. She doesn't exactly pore over my collection of reading material on a regular basis. She likes books about fantasy, and Vampires, and medieval times, books of the Celts in Ireland, and books that have hunky looking guys on the cover with sappy titles like "The Masters Pet" or such. I don't know if there is such a book – but if there is I will bet it's the drivel of Harlequin Romance standards and has words in it like pulsating or throbbing – and a cover with a painting of a long haired blond guy with a silky white shirt open and blowing in the wind with a castle in the background.


She leaves them lying around, you know.


I like books about baseball, and golf, and the history of baseball and the history of golf. Educational material. I like stories where a hero is out to thwart evil. I like stuff that makes me think.


And I like to read anything by Lewis Grizzard.


If you don't know – and there is no shame in not knowing – Lewis Grizzard used to be a great columnist for the Atlanta Constitution. I used to read him everyday since University. When I left Georgia, I used to try to find what papers he was published in at the Library and read his columns there.


It was Lewis Grizzard that made me want to be a journalist. But truth be told – I didn't really want to be a journalist – or even a sports writer – I just wanted to write a great sideline column like his.


Then I found his books – quite by accident (the Internet wasn't available to us back then like today – where I can type "Lewis Grizzard" in a Google search window and get 2000 potential links to great articles, tributes, and videos of the man himself speaking as though he were a standup comedian.


A couple of years ago – when I started writing headstuffing – I needed a voice to speak in – and I borrowed Mr. Grizzard's – to the best of my ability anyways – and found my own voice in the process.


Although I still like Lewis Grizzard's voice better. He did a better impression of himself than I can.


When I came home from work on this particular evening – my lovely wife was looking at me with an odd smile.


"I got you something today", she said in that singing voice she will use when trying to tease me.


I expected it might be a new back massager machine – for me to use on her back when she gets all knotted up. That is how she sang to me when she got our last back massager.


"I'll bite, what?"


She handed me a plastic bag with a book in it. I opened the bag, and as I opened it, the treasure of the book was revealed.


I quickly thumbed through the pages – the type was in large print. I admit I was a little offended at that.


"I know – it's in large print", answered my lovely wife before I could audibly complain.


"Large print isn't a bad thing, my eyes are going and I can't afford new glasses now", I replied.


It was in perfect shape. Even the book jacket was perfectly intact. I flipped through pages again looking for pencil or pen marks, dog ears, or even a crease in the binding to show it had been left open face down. There was nothing wrong with it.


"There is not a mark on it, darlin'. It's like brand new!"


Then I peeled back the jacket cover. Yup, there it was. The name of the last person that owned it.


I read the name out loud.


Darlene came over quickly and looked – and she grabbed the book away from me.


"Oh my God!", she exclaimed. "Do you remember me saying that someone from my Dad's legion passed away a couple of days ago?"


"Yeah?"


"This is his book!".


Wow.


"That's what happens when you live in a small town darlin'!", I replied.


I took the new treasure of a gift and sat down promptly on the couch and started reading the introduction. It was full of the same old Grizzard wit. And I got lost in the pages while my lovely wife called her Mom and Dad to tell them of the freaky incident, and to try to draw some crazy half-baked omen out of the one-in- a-couple-thousand coincidence of circumstance.


When supper was ready, I laid the book down on the couch and went to the table to help set up the girls for dinner. Ashley-Rae – who is the sweetest little blond seven year old in the world – picked my book up and started reading – at a seven year olds pace. She caught my attention with the question …


"Daddy, is Bugs Bunny really gay?"


I looked at little Ashley-Rae, and took the book from her. Grizzard was recounting what he claimed to be all the lies he ever wrote as a newspaper columnist. One of them was that Bugs Bunny was gay.


I laughed. And I didn't answer the question.


How many times do you remember Bugs dressing up in women's clothes to fool Elmer Fudd or Yosemite Sam? A lot. Lipstick and all.


And he "wasn't a bad looking dame" either.


"Yes, Ashley-Rae – Bugs is a very happy bunny".


After supper, I picked the book up again. And on the cover were two price stickers. The oldest one said $3.00. The newer one overlapping it said $1.00.


What a crime. What a shame, I thought to myself. Don't these people know what gold this book contains?


Then I thought again. What a bargain.


I went into the kitchen with the book, and gave Darlene a kiss on the cheek.


"You realize of course that you could have hidden this book from me and wrapped it up as a Christmas present, and it would have been easily one of my favorite – if not my favorite – present of the year, right?"


"Crap." Said my lovely wife Darlene. "I didn't think of that!"


"For the mere cost of a measly dollar, you could have tossed away my whole Christmas wish-list and simply bought me this book." I said to rub it in.


And I haven't seen that damned book since.







Saturday, October 17, 2009

An Epiphany of Destiny

Sometimes we see a destiny unfold before our eyes and we do not see it as destiny.

By destiny, I mean a predisposed purpose – a plan prepared for us that we have no choice to fulfill.

This morning as I was lying in bed – in that blissful period between waking up and sleeping, it dawned on me.

I was brought down here to Windsor from London to fulfill a purpose.

The problem is that when one has a destiny, you don't know what it us until it has unfolded. Taken place.

You see, I was living quite a lonely existence before then. Living alone in an apartment, only my work to define who I was.

But now, married with two little girls (and a wife who loves bingo!), I feel much more satisfied … content.

But I didn't see it coming.

And it happened so fast.

Within the course of a year.

Suddenly I am here – nine years later – working for a company of purpose … with purpose … for a purpose.

But what in the world is that purpose?

Was I supposed to have an impact or an influence on someone else, someone that would make a difference in the future events to unfold?

Perhaps.

Perhaps it's my own little girls – who would not even exist had I not been re-routed that fateful summer of 2000?

That makes sense.

Or am I the one who will make that impact, somehow, in some way? I don't know.

Am I supposed to go look for this destiny? Or will it find me, running into me like a speeding locomotive – forcing a reaction that makes a difference.

I think it will find me, that's why I was put here in this place – to be in position when the time arrives.

Or has it already arrived?

Has it already taken place and I am just too close to see it? Or it has just not yet unfolded far enough yet for me to recognize I did it?

Or am I crazy, simply trying to rationalize a series of random events into something meaningful, when in fact this is just the way life unfolds?

Truth be told, life is pretty good right now. I have a good little family in a nice little home and a job that has some meaning – and some potential for deeper meaning.

I choose my friends very carefully – and those I call friends right now are a wonderful bunch of individuals. In fact my lovely wife Darlene and I may be the catalyst for some of our friends to be friends with each other – and maybe the difference I make simply lays there?

But patience is something that I have always known. And patience has always paid off for me in the past. I am a very patient person – for the most part anyway.

The time will come, if it has not come already. But I hope the day will come when I recognize what that purpose is – and I hope that it will be an outcome I can be proud of.

All I know now is that my coffee is growing cold in the cup on the table beside me. Fall is falling and the deck is cold on Saturday mornings. But yet I sit here and continue to write my posts.

I write my posts for you to read.

Maybe it's you?

Maybe as you read this you will have an epiphany of your destiny – a life changing thought. An inspiration to move into a direction of great impact?

Maybe.

If it is you, do me a favor an let me know.

The suspense is killing me.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Good Stuff

It's a Monday. And I am once again sitting out on the back deck beside the pool with my faithful black lab Suzy lying at my feet.

Only today it is cold out.

The pool is covered by the new black tarp we bought to replace the last one Suzy ripped when she wandered out on to the tarp to get one of her chewy toys.

I dug my brown suede winter coat out, and my cup of warm coffee turns cold quickly.

The tree behind us has changed to a brilliant crimson red. Not many leaves have fallen yet, but some lay in the rain water collected in the black tarp.

Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. A good long weekend perfect for finishing up the yard work projects on my property.

I have spent the last two days working on the yard, pulling weeds clearing the flower beds and trying to figure out how to make my lawn look as good as it once did using only the "green" fertilizer and weed-killer products available now to us in Canada.

They outlawed the good stuff.

That's what we all call the lawn fertilizers and weed killers we used to put on our lawns to keep them pristine and lush and full. The good stuff. You just can't buy that stuff anymore. The chemicals in those products were deemed to be hazardous to the environment.

A fellow came by in the spring to roll and dethatch my front lawn. As he was making his pitch for us to use his services all year long, he proclaimed "I only use the good stuff. I have it stockpiled in my barn".

My neighbor across the street has the best lawn in the neighborhood. Even as winter approaches his lawn is a deep rich green lush and full with not a single bad patch on the lot.

You kind of want to take your shoes off and go run around on this guy's lawn.

How does he do it?

I can see a bunch of riding lawn mower fanatics gathering over beers in a garage to discuss why the one neighbor's lawn looks so good.

"I hear he's using the good stuff", one would whisper.

"Really? Wonder where he gets his?" would reply the flannel shirt wearing buddy.

"Word is he gets it from the co-op!" would say the third.

"Let's go!" they would all mutually agree – and hop into the fourth guys pick-up truck to go investigate the underground network supply of good stuff fertilizers and weed killers, only to find the co-op had no such inventory.

At least none that they would share.

We have become quite used to depending on these products to make our properties look as good as we can. Now we will have to do it the old fashioned way – pulling weeds – making up concoctions from recipes we find on the internet to keep those nasty weeds and crabgrass at bay.

These concoctions could be more deadly than the environmentalist's claim the good stuff was.

Some urban centers are dealing with "meth labs" – people manufacturing their own methamphetamine – a nasty horrible addictive drug that seemingly destroys people's lives by merely thinking about it.

But in Canada, we will now also have homemade labs for making fertilizers, weed-killers and pesticides. To replace the good stuff we all became so dependent on.

The United States has not gone so far as to regulate these yard care products as Canada has. In fact I am not sure if all the other provinces in Canada even have.

It may only be Ontario that is trying to lead the way in the regulation of domestic fertilizers and weed killers.

I can see those same bunch of guys now – disappointed by their inability to get their hands on the good stuff from the local agriculture co-op – scheming and plotting their trip across the bridge or tunnel to the American side – a small lawn and garden shop in the suburbs of Detroit – to get their stash of the good stuff and smuggle it back into Canada – back into Ontario – hiding the massive pile in the flat bed of the pickup truck under a pile of blankets.

Nervously they pull up to the customs officer's booth on the Canadian side of the Ambassador Bridge.

"Do you have anything to declare?" the officer would ask the group of four suburban home owners.

"Uh – nope" would say the driver.

"Any guns, alcohol, firearms?"

"Nope".

"Any tobacco products, meats, vegetables?"

"Nope"

The officer steps outside the comfort of his secured roost in the booth and walks around the pickup truck.

"That's a lot of blankets." He would say. As he lifted the small pile up, he would discover the stockpile of the good stuff.

The boys would be told they couldn't bring such toxic products into Ontario – and the stockpile of the good stuff would be seized – the foursome warned not to ever try that trick again – and they would be sent home.

Is it right or wrong that these fertilizers and weed killers be banned from our province? I don't know.

But it does say something about our culture in that we feel the need to keep our lawns so perfect that we are willing to contaminate our environment – our ecosystem with these chemicals that must do some kind of harm to us and the wildlife that lives in suburbia.

Truth be told, I still have two bags of the good stuff. Left over from last year. I was smart enough to stock pile away.

But I haven't used it. I thought I would give this green experiment a try. And this year my lawn was so bad I was an embarrassment to the neighbors. Yesterday I pulled three big lawn bags of weeds from my front lawn. Weeds that I have no idea where they came from. Stuff that I have never seen grow in a lawn before. Four hours of back breaking bending, yanking and pulling. Even my super-duper weed pulling device I bought this spring couldn't get some of them.

So am I tempted to go dip into my stash of the good stuff?

Damn right I am.

One night next spring – around two in the morning, I will make sure all the lights are off in my house. I will go around to all my solar powered garden lights and disassemble them so they will not give me away. And in the pitch black of night I will feed my spreader with the good stuff and apply it to my lawn.

Because I think my lawn is addicted to the stuff.

And I can't stand to watch it go through another summer next year of withdrawal.


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Mighty Caseys of Detroit



What a game.


The regular season playoffs against the Twins was one of the greatest games I ever watched.


One of them.


After twelve innings of play – the Twins squeaked in a run from second on a short fly ball to right field - a gork ... a dying quail that landed gently over base path from first to second – and the throw to the plate was not even close.

A real battle.


But you can read a recap of the game on any news service. You don't need me to replay it over for you.


I just don't have the heart to relive it all right now.


Maybe in December.


But if the truth be told, the better team won.


I wish it wasn't true.


The Detroit Tigers went on a power slide of a losing streak just when they needed to win the most.


They split two with Minnesota at Comerica, and then lost two of three to the White Sox – all in their home yard – Comerica Park.


I was at the final home game against the White Sox – the one they won. My Lovely wife Darlene and I were thrilled as the Tigers handily took the White Sox in the 162nd contest of the 2009 season.


The Tigers had to win that game, and the Twins had to lose – but watching the scoreboard in right-center field – the Twins were just pounding the Royals 7-0.

That left the Twins and the Tigers tied for first place.

The following day, the day that was supposed to be the rest up day before the start of the playoffs against the Yankees, but instead became the limbo day before the single game playoff with the Twins.

News broke that morning that the Friday night before – superstar slugger and American League candidate for MVP Miguel Cabrera had been out drinking with friends from the White Sox - the opposing team we had to beat the next day and the day after that to secure the American League pennant - until five in the morning – and had an altercation with the missus as he drunkenly returned (somehow) to his house.

In Saturdays game – unquestionably still affected by the partying and the embarrassment of police intervention that forced Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski to Pick Cabrera up at a suburban Detroit police station – during that ever critical game that if won, the Tigers would have made the playoffs, Miguel Cabrera – superstar slugger and MVP candidate for 2009 went-oh- for four at the plate and looked like a wet rag.

But the Twins kept on pounding away. Chipping away at a lead that was once seven games with a month left, and was three games up with four to play – caught the Tigers on the 161st game of the season to finally force the single game elimination – at Minnesota's Metropolitan Dome – the dome from hell.


And of course after one of the most exciting twelve inning matches I ever witnessed – the Twins of Minnesota danced around the dome joyously as the AL Central Division pennant winners .

On that night – for the first time since May 10, the Tigers were no longer in first place.


We've all heard the poem "Mighty Casey". The last stanza sums it up:

Oh! somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville -- mighty Casey has struck out.

That about sums it up.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Detroit Tigers – Start of the Playoffs or End of the Season?



I'm sitting in the parking lot of our local community center.


My little girls are inside taking their weekly gymnastics class. They close the door on these sessions, so the parents can either sit in the lobby and wait, or go off to do their weekend chores while the kids are occupied.


I chose to sit in the jeep and listen to the radio.


And write. There's just not enough time to write anymore.


The talk on the sports radio station is spread across all the current happenings.


The University of Michigan is playing Michigan State University right now. A big deal across the river as both Big Ten conference teams are bitter rivals.


The Lions are playing tomorrow against the Chicago Bears. And some think the Lions have a chance to actually win.


But the big talk today is about the Tigers. My beloved Detroit Tigers are one game up in the AL Central over the Minnesota Twins. The Tigers are playing the Chicago White Sox. The Twins are playing the Kansas City Royals. And the American League Central pennant race is coming down to the wire, with tomorrow being the end of the regular season.


My lovely wife Darlene and I will be at that game tomorrow. We thought the game would be a mere formality – meaning nothing with the division already won by the Tigers. But it looks like it will be the make or break game of the season.


I know it's silly to care so much about a baseball team.


But I do.


Four weeks the Tigers had a seven game lead. But they failed miserably down this final stretch – most notably losing so many to the Twins both in the horrid Metropolitan Dome in Minneapolis – and in their own yard at Comerica Park.


I predicted in the first week of August that this scenario was not only possible – but likely. And now that prediction seems pathetically prophetic. You could see this scenario coming like a slow train on the prairies coming up to the depot. The land is so flat you can see the train coming the night befoe.


And flat is a great way to describe these Detroit Tigers.


These Tigers are playing almost as though they are scared to win. The pitching has been mediocre when it needs to be stellar. The hitting needs to be explosive but instead it's more of a fizzled out fuse. And the decisions made by Tiger's Manager Jim Leyland have been questionable to say the least.


While they have a one game lead with two to play, you can tell the fans have already determined the Twins will win this thing.


Of course I hope that's not true.


Darlene and I have not yet been to a game yet this year. Tomorrow is the game we chose, and we splurged on premium seats. The Tigers have held first place since May 10th. To watch it slip away on this last game of the year, sitting in the expensive chairs, and having to drive home afterwards is unacceptable.


Today the Twins face Kansas City's ace Zack Greinke. This is the Royal's best opportunity to help the Tigers stave off the on-coming-like-a-freight-train Twins.


That's encouraging.


So who are the Tigers starting tonight against the White Sox?


A rookie named Alberto Figaro. Yes, like the operatic aria.


A rookie who has only pitched two games in the big leagues. They were both good outings, but hey – this game means something.


So this 2009 season seems to be closing down like a tragedy packed opera – staring who else but Figaro to sing what could be the final act.


I only hope the fat lady doesn't sing.



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