Showing posts from 2014

The annual family holiday portrait: bloody nose edition

A version of this column first appeared in The Dallas Morning News and on Please check out the site.

As we drove toward the oversize closet in the department store, fancifully called a portrait studio, my wife and I briefed our three sons.
No fighting, we said. No goofy faces. And no horseplay, a word that has been ready to roll in my frontal lobe since having multiple kids.
Given enough reminders, and sometimes bribes, the boys usually behave well. But the window of opportunity is small for the annual family photo, which goes in an album and gets sent out with Christmas cards. (Just so you know, we don’t include one of those obnoxious holiday brag letters. I think the photo clearly shows that my kids have genius IQs and are working on a cure for cancer.)
My wife and I were part of annual family portraits growing up, and we’ve continued the tradition despite living in the photo-saturated digital age. It’s nice to have one family portrait that serves as a so…

Is Black Friday dying? If so, it's a slow death

A version of this column first appeared in The Dallas Morning News and on Please check out the site.
On the day after Thanksgiving in 2005, I set out to write about the wildness and weirdness of Black Friday. The plan was to be in the thick of the frenzy, experience the adrenaline rush as bargain hunters shifted into turbo mode and be on hand for any moment when Black Friday turned into black-eye Friday.

Which is always possible, of course. Sleep deprivation plus competitiveness can lead to a willingness to get physical over a particularly dazzling item, such as a Sesame Street 2-in-1 Giggle Guitar.
Nine years later, the thing that stands out most about that day – other than the amount of abandoned shopping carts rolling across parking lots -- was the time when the stores began opening. I had to be there at 5 a.m., and I thought that was crazy early.

Now 5 a.m. on Black Friday, at least in terms of when the holiday shopping season begins, is crazy late. Mo…

Want my feedback? I've had it with surveys

A version of this column first appeared in The Dallas Morning News and on Please check out the site.

In my tweens and early teens, I had the typical jobs of the original MTV generation. I mowed lawns, although probably not well, and I delivered newspapers, although definitely not well. (Extra! Extra! Read all about it: your paper might be in the bushes, or on the roof, or somewhere in the nativity scene you set up for Christmas).

A much more exciting job, which I had sporadically over a couple of years, was as a market research consultant. That sounds less impressive when described as “guy who gets paid to eat stuff,” but it was in that role that I helped bring to the American consumer – ta-da! – Hot Pockets.
Yes, I really contributed to one of the most iconic microwaveable products to ever burn the top of your mouth. You’re welcome. And I’m sorry.

Obviously, this Hot Pockets role requires more explanation. But first, although this might seem like a no-sig…

80s Flashback: Revenge of the Nerds

It's Friday, which is always a fun day for an '80s Flashback.

This week's flashback is brought to you by Fun Dip, the candy that is still around now but was especially popular in the '80s. It was recommended by four out of five dentists who wanted to make more money by filling cavities in kids' teeth.

OK ... Can you remember the '80s movie that featured a fictional university called "Adams" with the fictional mascot of "Atoms"?

Also included these lines:

First guy: "Where are they?"
Second guy: "I think they're talking about us."

Ah yes, they were talking about nerds. Revenge of the Nerds -- I know it well.

I also know that it was filmed on the University of Arizona campus, where I would later attend college. In the clip below, the freshman dorm shown is Cochise Dorm, where I lived for two years. That makes sense, because I was a nerd. But I at least dressed a little better than Louis and Gilbert.

Here's the Revenge…

Nobody's in my class: memories of the first day of school

A version of this column first appeared in The Dallas Morning News and on Please check out the site.

Children may be the leaders of tomorrow, but as another school year begins, they’re the grumblers of today. It’s back-to-school time, when kids bemoan the end of summer and parents look forward to seeing their little Einsteins learn new things, strive for new goals and leave the house for eight consecutive hours.
For students in the elementary grades, the learning begins before they even get to a classroom. They arrive at school, scan through the names on the class lists, and then learn that the world has ended.
I don't have any friends in my class!
I remember feeling that pain, and that’s saying something because I don’t remember much about elementary school. My recall of the first through fifth grades is a spotty mental slide show of classrooms, teachers and playground equipment that was so fun it was later considered unsafe. I also have scattered memorie…

The classic family road trip is still fun, and yes, mind-numbingly boring

A version of this column first appeared in The Dallas Morning News and on Please check out the site.
On the first day of the road trip to Arizona, we loaded the minivan with our three kids and topped off the gas tank for a 10-hour drive. My wife and I knew it would be the toughest day.
The first big haul came on a stretch of U.S. Highway 287, highly regarded for its scenic views of cattle, abandoned gas stations and billboards for XXX video shops. We were just past Decatur, about 75 miles into our planned 650 miles for the day, when my 6-year-old asked a question from the middle row.
No, it wasn’t the classic “Are we there yet?”
Nathan had already asked that. He was on to bigger things.
“Are we still in the same country?” he asked.
Obviously, Nathan isn’t quite ready for a geography bee. And I’m not sure he was ready, along with his 9-year-old and 11-year-old brothers, for our trip to see cousins, uncles, parents and grandparents. Our trip included a stop at the…