The Evening News

It’s 6pm, shouldn’t you be watching the evening news?  I mean, nothing like a heavy dose of murder, rape, drug raids, unemployment, and recession talk to finish your day. It’s hard to imagine a more depressing 60 minutes on television.  Yet millions of us subject ourselves to this nonsense.

I listened to a great interview with Rabbi Schmuley “America’s Rabbi” on last month’s Success CD recently. Here is one of the takeaways:

“We’re surrounded in a culture that is just obsessed with death. Watch the evening news any given night, whether it’s NBC, CBS, ABC. Every one of those broadcasts starts with the end of the world.  ‘The Mississippi River is overflowing everyone is going to drown. Tornadoes, oil leaks, hurricanes, we’re all Gonna die! The economy is collapsing, no one owns a home anymore. I mean God Almighty, I’m sick and tired of these prophets of doom.

These aren’t the right values. The right values are these are challenges, but we believe in life and we’re a culture of life and we’re going to overcome them.”

It is critical to stay informed and abreast of  the serious challenges our country is facing, but it’s time to focus on the positive and find solutions. Instead of watching the local evening news, pickup a magazine or book and learn something constructive. Read the newspaper where you can skip those murder articles.  Stay informed, but save the hyperbole for someone else.

-JM

-JM

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Why Every Guy Should Love Soap.com

Does any guy like going to the drug store? I sure don’t. Up until recently, it felt like I was there every other day.  I would write down everything I’d need for the next few weeks and think I was good to go. A typical list would look something like this:

  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Soap
  • Rogaine (I’m not going down without a fight)
  • Garbage bags
  • Birthday card

You get the idea.  I’d walk over to Duane Reade, pick up everything I need, stand in line for 10 minutes and drop $120. Walking home I’d think “at least I won’t be back for a while.”

I’d be getting ready for bed that night only to discover I forgot floss, the reason I needed to go in the first place!

I know this has happened to you too.

Lucky for us, Soap.com came along.  With its amazing selection, reasonable prices, user-friendly layout and fast delivery; it’s hard not to believe it wasn’t started by a guy who thought:  “I can do better.”

Their customer service is also impeccable – I once sent them an email and got a response in 12 minutes. The shopping experience is similar to Zappos.com, so don’t be surprised if you receive your shipment the very next day.

Even if you forget to order something via Soap.com and need to visit the drug store, at least you saved yourself a trip.

Visit Soap.com to see what I mean. Here are a couple of discount codes to get you started.

  • 20% off household items ‘HOUSEHOLD20’
  • 15% off everything else that isn’t a household item – ‘SAVE15MORE’

Enjoy.

-JM

Follow me on Twitter @averagegents

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Book Review: Fire Season

Finished a great book last week called Fire Season by Philip Connors.

Two Sentence Breakdown:

Former Editor for the Wall St. Journal leaves Manhattan and moves to New Mexico to serve as one of the last fire lookouts in America. The book chronicles a season as lookout, which lasts from April-August.

Here is the description on Amazon.com followed by my personal thoughts.

A decade ago Philip Connors left work as an editor at the Wall Street Journal and talked his way into a job far from the streets of lower Manhattan: working as one of the last fire lookouts in America. Spending nearly half the year in a 7′ x 7′ tower, 10,000 feet above sea level in remote New Mexico, his tasks were simple: keep watch over one of the most fire-prone forests in the country and sound the alarm at the first sign of smoke.

Fire Season is Connors’s remarkable reflection on work, our place in the wild, and the charms of solitude. The landscape over which he keeps watch is rugged and roadless—it was the first region in the world to be officially placed off limits to industrial machines—and it typically gets hit by lightning more than 30,000 times per year. Connors recounts his days and nights in this forbidding land, untethered from the comforts of modern life: the eerie pleasure of being alone in his glass-walled perch with only his dog Alice for company; occasional visits from smokejumpers and long-distance hikers; the strange dance of communion and wariness with bears, elk, and other wild creatures; trips to visit the hidden graves of buffalo soldiers slain during the Apache wars of the nineteenth century; and always the majesty and might of lightning storms and untamed fire.

Written with narrative verve and startling beauty, and filled with reflections on his literary forebears who also served as lookouts—among them Edward Abbey, Jack Kerouac, Norman Maclean, and Gary Snyder—Fire Season is a book to stand the test of time.

My Take

This is a great book, and most guys will enjoy it.  Fire Season actually inspired my Grass Isn’t Greener posts. Philip is in the woods with only his dog Alice as company. A classic man and best friend vs. nature story.

While I sometimes thought Philip went into too much detail about the various peaks around him, I appreciate why he did. It is very obvious that he loves what he does.

My favorite parts included his thoughts on solitude, the adjustment each year to working the lookout, his relationship with his wife (who is extremely understanding), and the transition from Manhattan to New Mexico.

I think every guy, at some point, considers leaving the rat race to go off in the forest and live a simple life. Philip Connors is a guy who did and lived to tell about it. You can buy the book at Amazon.com here.

Additional Details

Published:  April 5, 2011

Pages: 246

Hardcover:  $15.05

Kindle:  $11.99

-JM

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The Need for Tweed

With Labor Day almost here, it’s time to start thinking about cooler temperatures and how to keep looking your best. A good start is with the Colburn Tweed Sportcoat from J. Crew.

Stat line:

  • Made with English wool
  • Cost: $278
  • Offered in Heather and Dark Charcoal
  • Fully lined with flap pockets

Photo Courtesy of J. Crew

BONUS

Check out this cool case for the iPad2 by DODOcase.  It looks sharp and allows for hands free use.

Stat line:

  • Cost: $59.95
  • Front cover folds back as a stand so it can be propped up
  • Allows access to all buttons and ports

Photo courtesy of J. Crew

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Pre-Season Rankings

Here we are again. The weekend guys around the country wait for all year: football season.  The kids in college kick it off this weekend, with the NFL joining the fray next week. Does life get better than this?

Yet as a sports fan, I am routinely frustrated with the terrible media coverage in sports (actually it’s not just limited to sports). As a Giants fan, I prefer listening to Bob Papa and Carl Banks on the radio vs. the yahoos on ESPN, FOX and CBS (NBC isn’t too bad). As sports fans we are accustomed to quantity vs. quality when it comes to coverage. And even when the “experts” are proven wrong time after time, no one ever calls them out.

Reading an article about the 2011 college football pre-season rankings last week, I started to think about how meaningless pre-season rankings are. Does anyone follow-up on them? Unlikely. Do you see USA Today/AP coming out with article saying “Here’s where we got it wrong.” No way.

As I read about Oklahoma, Oregon and Alabama I thought it was time to see how close the 2010 pre-season rankings were vs. the final 2010 BCS Standings. Here are the results:

USA Today/Coaches Poll

AP

Final BCS Standings

1. Alabama 1. Alabama 1. Auburn
2. Ohio State 2. Ohio State 2. Oregon
3. Florida 3. Boise State 3. TCU
4. Texas 4. Florida 4. Stanford
5. Boise State 5. Texas 5. Wisconsin
6. Virginia Tech 6. TCU 6. Ohio State
7. TCU 7. Oklahoma 7. Oklahoma
8. Oklahoma 8. Nebraska 8. Arkansas
9. Nebraska 9. Iowa 9. Michigan State
10. Iowa 10. Virginia Tech 10. Boise State
11. Oregon 11. Oregon 11. LSU
12. Wisconsin 12. Wisconsin 12. Missouri
13. Miami (FL) 13. Miami (FL) 13. Virginia Tech
14. Penn State 14. USC 14. Oklahoma State
15. Pitt 15. Pitt 15. Nevada
16. LSU 16. Georgia Tech 16. Alabama
17. Georgia Tech 17. Arkansas 17. Texas A&M
18. North Carolina 18. North Carolina 18. Nebraska
19. Arkansas 19. Penn State 19. Utah
20. Florida State 20. Florida State 20. South Carolina
21. Georgia 21. LSU 21. Mississippi State
22. Oregon State 22. Auburn 22. West Virginia
23. Auburn 23. Georgia 23. Florida State
24. Utah 24. Oregon State 24. Hawaii
25. West Virginia 25. West Virginia 25. UCF

Summary:

  • Between two polls and a possible 50 picks, only once was the ranking correct. AP picked Oklahoma to be #7.
  • The National Champions, Auburn, started at #22 and #23 by the AP and USA Today respectively.
  • Almost half of the teams in the final BCS Top 25 were not even included in the original polls by AP and USA Today:
  • AP – Stanford, Michigan State, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Nevada, Texas A&M, Utah, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Florida State, Hawaii, UCF (12 total)
  • USA Today – Stanford, Michigan State, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Nevada, Texas A&M, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Florida State, Hawaii, UCF (11 total)
  • I added up how much each ranking was off and found the average. For example, if AP picked TCU to be #7, and they finished #3 in the BCS, I assessed a -4. If a team was ranked in a pre-season poll and did not make the final Top 25, I assessed a -25. Here are the results:
  • AP – On average, AP was -16.  Thus, they were off by an average of 16 slots when ranking a team.
  • USA Today – On average, the USA Today/Coaches poll was off by -15.24 when ranking teams. Slightly better than AP.
To put this in perspective, in 2010 if AP ranked Arkansas at #2 in their pre-season rankings, on average, Arkansas would finish at #18.

Obviously it’s hard to determine what number a team will finish in the Top 25, especially given the way the BCS is set up. However, I think this analysis shows there is no reason for fans to get excited or upset by pre-season rankings.

War Eagle.

-JM

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Kane Mountain

The Mrs. and I spent some time in Upstate NY with my family this week.  We ate and drank too much, hit the lake, won some money in Saratoga, caught up on some sleep and I put in some time at the mill.

We capped it off with a short hike up Kane Mountain near Canada Lake.  A few pics from our hike below:

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You can follow me on Twitter via @averagegents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Problem with Facebook

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Don’t get me wrong, Facebook has its place.  It’s a good way to stay in touch with friends and family you don’t email or call on a regularly. Looking at photos is fun too.

Other than that, Facebook is a time waster and nothing more. You reached Level 42 in Farmville?  My new hero. I occasionally find myself spending 1-2 hours a day on FB. Sadly, that still puts me on the low-end of time spent by Facebook users.

The term “friends” on Facebook is also pretty subjective.  Do you really have 1,000 friends?  Doubtful. I actually went through an exercise where I defriended a bunch of people simply because I don’t talk to them anymore. It was nothing personal, comparable to donating clothes you don’t wear anymore. Within minutes I got an email from a former Facebook friend asking how I could do such a thing. Wow.

There is also the valid privacy/security concerns among Facebook users. It’s important to realize that Facebook is sitting on a treasure trove of information that companies would love to have. If Facebook is really worth an estimated $100 billion (they’re not), there has to be something of substance there – and it’s you.

Wasted time, weirdos, security breaches and corny apps don’t compare to the worst feature of Facebook: Lame posts.

Remember AOL Instant Messenger?  The popularity of this program was sky-high when I was in college.  See if you remember this classic away message:

Class, class, lunch, meeting, gym, class, back at 5! 

I probably posted that away message hundreds of times in college, along with thousands of other AOL users. What I really should have said is:  “I am a loser.” If that wasn’t bad enough most of us had corny quotes and love messages to our girlfriends of three months in our profiles. I still shudder at the thought of what I used to have in my profile. Luckily my friends still like to remind me from time to time.

Well, AOL away messages are back. This time in the form of Facebook profile posts.

Our friends are quick to tell us how they’re feeling or what they’re doing today.  Doing laundry? Heading to the grocery store? Upset with a spouse?  Feeling sick? Kid acting up?  Please, tell us more.

My wife shared a great quote with me from @FashionweekNYC on Twitter.

Fun Fact: Twitter makes me like people I’ve never met & Facebook makes me hate people I know in real life!

Truth.

Let us all try to keep our posts interesting and productive. Facebook is like anything else, good in moderation.

Now please excuse me while I post this on Facebook.

-JM

You can follow me on Twitter: @averagegents

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