Apr 052013

So I am writing this post using the WordPress app on my new iPad. I do not mention this as some kind of surreptitious brag, but more as a form of disclaimer to head off any criticisms of horrible spelling or wretched formatting that may appear below.

I do have a totally awesome new iPad, though.

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Jan 312013

Well, I got another email from the folks over at www.costumes4less.com. This time from their Marketing Specialist.

My name is Candice, I’m the marketing specialist at Costumes4Less. I read you post about Costumes4Less and also talked to my management. Please accept our sincerest apologizes. Our SEO team is in the process of getting SPAMMy websites to remove any links to us. Our SEO team is only trying to remove links that they believe to be “unnatural” and clearly theyhave mistaked that with your post. I read your “Sexy Halloween History” and feel that you are spot on and I enjoyed your humor!! This email from our SEO dept should not have been sent to you. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.  We are taking actions to see why they made this mistake.  You do not need to remove the link. Once again please accept sincerest apologies from us.  Please email me with questions/concerns.  I’m also sorry to hear we won’t have your business if there is anything we can do to change your mind please let me know.  Thank you for your time and I’m so sorry for this mess!

As I said to Candice in my reply, I very much appreciate her reaching out to me and I accept their apology completely.

What I find most interesting about this is the fact that I didn’t contact the company directly at all. I never replied to the email requesting that the link be taken down.


Jan 302013

So I got an interesting email this morning.

Hi Michael ,

I am the owner of the website www.costumes4less.com. I would  request you to remove my post/link from your website at your earliest , as the same is affecting our website’s reputation in Search Engine. Please see the below link where my link has been placed:


Waiting for your positive response.

Thanks & Regards

Now when I first read this, I thought he/she was actually talking about my Sexy Halloween History post. I knew I had written about sexy Halloween costumes at one point in the past, and I figured the owner of this site didn’t want me linking to something on his where I was bagging on said costumes. Fair enough, I suppose. I mean, I’m generally under the impression that traffic is traffic, but whatever. If I was bagging on one of his costumes and he didn’t want the link, so be it. I can take that down.

But, no. This was not a post about sexy costumes at all. This was a post about how my Mother had cobbled together a Zorro costume for me when I was a kid. It’s a post about my low self-esteem and how I love Halloween and wish I had the confidence in my physical appearance to actually dress up for it.

And THAT is bad for the reputation of his site? Really?

So, ok. I decided to do a little research. Maybe my SEO is just so damned incredible that I rank higher for people looking for hats than the site that actually sells them.


Hrm. Nope. I even dug through several pages. I don’t show up anywhere.

So the only thing I can think is that, at some point, someone has read my post and clicked on the link, and that showed up in their analytic reports. This, somehow, is bad for their reputation.

Well, I’m sorry that www.costumes4less.com isn’t interested in traffic from my site. I’m sorry that www.costumes4less.com feels that I’m bad for their image. But mostly? I’m sorry that www.costumes4less.com is run by someone who apparently can’t even put together an intelligible email or actually do some research into the posts he is claiming are so very bad for his “website reputation in Search Engine.”

I’m also sorry, but he won’t be getting any business from me in the future.

Edit – The company has reached out to me at this point and offered up a pretty sincere sounding apology.

Jun 202012

Image courtesy of upside of inertia via flickr

I often wonder what the actual threshold is for being able to claim that you are a “professional” in any given activity. The basic definition I have always used is whether or not you get paid for what you do. I have been paid to act in every production I have been in since 2001 (with one exception), so I am comfortable calling myself a professional actor. Is that enough, though? I mean, if you do ONE show in your entire life when you get a paycheck can you call yourself a professional? Is there a minimum number of shows you should do? Should you have to have an Equity card? Perhaps you can only say you are a professional if you actually make a living acting.

I was recently part of a production of Biloxi Blues that was criticized by Tampa Bay Times writer John Flemming as being “amateurish” because nobody in the cast was a member of Actors’ Equity. This caused a bit of a stir in the Tampa Bay area, because the fact is that around here most of the paid actors who appear on our stages are NOT members of the union. He, in a nutshell, called anyone out who didn’t have a card as being an amateur. Needless to say, that rankled.

I feel this way about my blogging on occasion as well. This blog has never generated any kind of revenue in the past. I have sold a few of my Cafe Press T-shirts, but those sales have come through direct links on my Twitter feed or through people stumbling across my shirts in the Cafe Press store. I got some work at WoWInsider as a result of being a part of the now-defunct ShrinkGeek blog, though, so I wonder if I can now say I’m a professional blogger? I’ve been paid to write for a blog that gets millions of page views every month, so does that count? Or do I have to actually be working full-time as a blogger to earn this achievement.

My former boss decided, after his position with our company was eliminated, that he was going to try earning his keep by playing poker. Does that make him a professional poker player, or does he only get that distinction if he shows up on ESPN in one of those big tournaments? Is it enough for him to make his living by playing through a web site like [redacted]?

Does the fact that I’m now getting offers to place paid advertisements on my blog make me a professional?

Or does it make me a sell out?

Does the fact that I wrote an entire post about the subject in order to include a paragraph that was relevant to the advertisement that was purchased add or detract to my sell out factor?

Do you see what I did there?

Yeah, I figured you did.

Maybe I’m less professional and more prostitute, but daddy has bills to pay and this blog ain’t paying for itself.

Edit – April 24, 2014

So I was asked to remove the link to the site in question due to my advertising no longer being needed. Funny, that. They only paid me for a year, but I completely forgot about this and they could have just let it ride forever rent-free. Ah well.

Aug 122011

I’ve recently come to the realization that I have never owned a pair of pants that fit me properly. This is largely due to the fact that it is nigh on impossible for me to find the “proper” cut of pants in a retail store. I have a large waist, wide hips, and I’m tall. Most retailers seem to think that if you’re overweight you have to be short, so in order to avoid having a horrible case of “moose knuckle” I wear my pants low on my hips, under my belly. This is fine in most situations, but if I wear a shirt tucked in I get a horrible case of Dunlap’s Disease. In researching my dilemma online it appears as though the solution to my problem lies in a pants with a high “rise.” They have an extra inch of length between the crotch and the waist line to give the boys more room and prevent the dreaded moose knuckle.

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Feb 122011

Forget fire and brimstone. Convince me that Hell looks like this and I'll be at church every week. Photo courtesy of the International Monetary Fund via Flickr.

As much as I may not like to admit it, I work in Corporate America. My company is a not-for-profit credit union, but regardless of that there are certain aspects of the organization that are no different than any other small to mid-sized corporation. We have a “culture,” we have a dress code, we have rules about what exits you can use to leave the building and what kind of decorations you can have in your cubicle. We make five-year plans and talk about improving efficiency. We have department rivalries, rumor mills, and the occasional scandal. Like I said, in a lot of ways we’re pretty much your average every day organization. The big difference, of course, is that we’re not bending our members over for billions of dollars in profits that are being paid out to shareholders or overpaid executives.

So we have that going for us anyway.

We also have meetings. Lots and lots of meetings.

I hate meetings.

A lot.

I do not, however, hate alot of meetings. The presence of an alot at a meeting would make it infinitely more interesting.

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Apr 082010

The post that follows is not intended as an attack on any individuals religious beliefs, nor is it intended to offend. It is an honest account of my personal feelings on a very sensitive subject. If you read on, please understand that this is how I feel about the subject and respect that. I will do the same for you.

I did a search on the old blog here and have discovered that, much to my surprise, I do not seem to have ever chronicled the story behind what prompted me to turn my back on God. I’ve told the story many times in the past, but for some reason I don’t seem to have ever jotted it down here.

As some of you are aware I was recently in a church production called “The Case For Christ” in which I actually played Jesus. I did this as a favor for a former teacher of mine from middle school who was a key player in my early development as an actor and who I will, as a result, always owe a debt of gratitude to. Beyond that, I consider her a friend. One of my super close inner circle? No, perhaps not. But she was one of those people who actually treated me like a human being back when I wasn’t even sure I was one, and during those transitional years when you are crossing from childhood to being a young adult it’s important who have people that treat you like you didn’t just step out of diapers the day before. She did that, and she’s awesome for it.

The play in and of itself was written and being performed by members of her church. This was not something that was intended to be a piece of high art. It was intended to tell part of the story of Jesus and to, perhaps, convince some people to accept him into their lives. It was, for all intents and purposes, a sermon in theatrical format.

I won’t go into too much more detail about the play itself, as it will one day be an episode in my podcast about the theater. Suffice it to say that before I agreed to do the show I warned her that I was an agnostic and that I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable if they found that out. She assured me that it was ok, and as a favor to her I agreed to do the show.

In the aftermath she sent me an email to ask about my beliefs. I thought I’d be able to take the easy way out and point her to a post here. When I realized that I could not do so, I decided I’d go ahead and correct that oversight.

So here we go.

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Feb 192010

While I have a disclaimer on my blog here stating that the opinions here are not those of my employer I feel the need, considering the subject I am about to discuss, to state it again. What I am about to write is my opinion and my opinion alone, and in no way reflects the views of my employer.

Ok, I got that out of the way…Now…

On my way in to work this morning I heard a bit on the radio about how the new credit card regulations were going to be horrible for people who, traditionally, are responsible with their credit cards. These “responsible” credit card users are now going to be asked to carry the burden of the “irresponsible” people who have abused their credit cards, paid late, and carried high balances. This type of rage is generally accompanied by vitriol aimed at the Obama administration and how this is yet another step towards socialism.

There are certain aspects of this that I cannot dispute. Banks ARE going to raise fees on people who pay their balances on time and have good credit. They are, and have been, raising interest rates on those people for no good reason. This is, without question, a direct response to the new regulation and an effort by the credit industry to recoup the money they are going to lose as a result of it.

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Sep 282009

I remember when the internet was still new and shiny.  Back then if you were one of the folks who actually had a computer and, on top of that, the “luxury” of an internet connection you could pick a handle to be known by and spout off whatever you wanted to online without fear of the people in your “real life” finding what you said.  Oh, sure…it happened on occasion.  I’ll bet most of us who were around back in those days had at least one uncomfortable moment where we were confronted with the person who we had slagged up one side and down the other on Live Journal.  There’s nothing quite like that sinking, horrible feeling you get in the pit of your stomach the first time someone says “I read something about me on your blog” when you didn’t know the person in question even could even figure out how to turn a computer ON.  On the whole, though, the internet was a vast anonymous playground in those days.  The people who knew you in meat space were likely in your social circle and could generally be counted on to be trusted confidants.  You could talk about anything you wanted to, and we did.  Oh did we.  We talked about our sexual conquests.  We talked about how insane our families made us.  We talked about our jobs, and what we really thought about them.  We talked about our secret dreams.  We talked about recreational drug use.

We swore a lot, too.

Those days are over.

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Aug 242009

I have to be honest with you.  The title of my post here is pretty much a bait-and-switch.  I don’t think Capitalism sucks.  At all.  I love making money.  Money is good.  Money lets me buy stuff, and I like having stuff.  Money lets me do things like take my son to GenCon or join thousands of insane geeks like myself for Dragon*Con in Atlanta.  Money lets me purchase memberships to Dungeons and Dragons Insider and spend hours upon hours trying to re-capture my childhood.  I’m a materialistic fool who doesn’t wanna share and capitalism is the way to go for me.

That being said, there are things about Capitalism that make me very sad in our current times.  Some of that, of course, focuses around the health care debate.  This post is NOT about the health care debate, but I feel this is worth mentioning at least in passing.  As much as I think he does more harm than good in regards to being the public face of liberalism, I do have to agree with Bill Maher when he says that there are certain things that simply should not be profit driven.  Health care is one of those things.  A system in which you are worth more if you are sick and dying is a broken system.

But, no.  This post is not about health care.  This post is really about something that has a much bigger impact on my daily life.

This post is about the internet and about how a bunch of greedy, lazy people are fucking it up.

I make no secret about the fact that one of the main reasons I started ShrinkGeek was to make money.  Allow me to re-direct you to the opening paragraph of this post.  I like money, and the idea of making money while helping people and writing is just delicious to me.  The thing is, we made a commitment when we put ShrinkGeek together that we weren’t going to sell our souls in order to turn a profit.  We want people to click on our advertisements.  We want people to click on our affiliate links.  We want to be attractive to advertisers so they give us lots of money to put their banners up on our site.  We’re not going to get there, though, by tricking people.  We’re genuinely trying to offer a valuable service to our readers.  We’re not doing article swaps or posting fake reviews that are supplied to us by PR firms.  We’re not using automated programs to get thousands of followers on our Twitter account.  We’re not trying to game the system.

As a result we’re also not making much money at this point, and there is frankly no guarantee we’ll ever end up doing so before we decide the effort is not worth the investment.

What has me thinking about this recently is the absolute proliferation of bots and marketers on Twitter.  It’s getting to the point where it is difficult to sift through the noise in order to decipher the signal, and that depresses me.  Twitter is an amazing tool, but at the rate the garbage is filling the stream it isn’t going to be long before people who genuinely want to use the service to connect with others are going to move on and all you’re going to have left are people who are trying to sell you something.  The same thing is happening with a lot of blogs these days.  What started as a genuine movement is rapidly devolving into everyone and their brother attempting to get rich quick by either recycling content that was written by someone else or tricking Google to visit your web site instead of Amazon.com.

And I get it…I really do.  I get the desire to make money without doing any real work.  I’d love to get rich for doing next to nothing.  I really would.  But on the flip side it makes me really, really sad to see so much potential in the form of communication getting lost in a sea of…shit.  There really isn’t any other way to put it.  The internet is becoming more and more polluted, and eventually I fear we’re going to get to a point where the only way you’re able to find real content is by paying a third party to filter through the shit for you.

Premium internet – where nothing of quality is available unless you’re paying for it.

Maybe that’s the plan.  I know the big media companies would really love for all of us to be paying to get to their content.  All I know is that more and more it seems like Twitter, in particular, is predominantly dominated by a bunch of Marketers trying to sell Marketing techniques to…well..other Marketers.  They aren’t offering anything new at all, but instead continue to re-package the same “10 sure fire ways to make money on the internet” and sell them to someone else, who is just going to try and re-package that information and try to sell it to someone else.  In the mean time these people set up spam bots trying to trick folks into clicking their links and start to scare away some of the people who are genuinely trying to use Twitter as a means of building networks and/or communicating with their Fan Base (folks like Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day, both of whom have complained about this recently).

I see so much potential out there.  We’re standing on the brink of a revolution that has the potential to fundamentally change the way we look at entertainment and information, but that potential is being watered down by sloth and greed.

I know that there is this ideal image of capitalism in which people who work hard and have good ideas are rewarded financially for that, but I don’t see that happening so much these days – especially when it comes to the internet.  That is why, in this regard, I kinda think capitalism sucks.