And on the Eighth Day, Excel Made Man

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Made with Excel

Today I received notice that I was running out of room on my phone’s cloud storage, so I went online to see if there were any files I could eliminate. Included in this photo stream were all of pictures I’ve deleted off my phones in the past three years. One of these pictures, shown above, reveals an Excel gaffe from a couple years ago.

The capacity to present data with visual impact is a skill worth developing, but it is possible to try too hard to make a lasting impression. I had been tasked with comparing the same data, week by week, from two consecutive years. In Excel, there are many choices in creating a chart, and some of these options just translate to a mess. For example, I have yet to encounter any scenario where 3D cones best illustrate a data trend. Perhaps the cone option will finally find its voice in plotting this year’s election results, and said chart will have its legend, title, and axis labels done in an absurd font, too.

In my Excel fiasco shown above, I had first made a chart with simple lines for both years, but the result looked forgettable. I then tried showing each data point as a small circle, only to have a chart full of mixed peppercorns. I thought, what the hell, let’s try formatting those circles, giving them a warmer palette, and enlarging them to the limit of the chart space. I made all of these changes wholesale, clicked OK, and suddenly beheld a Freudian landscape.

While I was striving to show improvement over time with this chart, I only demonstrated decline. At a glance, it says, “look how much our dick has shrunk since last year.”

I learned a few things from this interlude:

  • Sometimes simplicity is better than originality
  • Data can speak so loudly that the message cannot be heard.
  • In illustration, a dick will resist representing anything but itself.

Hard Luck Woman

Country music is like root beer. If you do not acquire a taste for it in your early days, it stands little chance of being loved. I rarely heard country music while I was growing up, so most of it sounds like maudlin static to me. I blamed Garth Brooks most of all for the great country infestation of pop radio. In the end, I think pop won that siege. When I hear country radio these days (almost never intentionally), it sounds like pop dressed in pedal steel, arpeggios and twang.

Pair Garth Brooks and KISS, and there’s a combo burrito of two brands of macho I can barely stand. I don’t want a dude in spandex wearing a top that looks like an underwire bra for his chest hair singing about licking anything. Even less do I want to see a man wearing a belt buckle big enough to cut him in two strut around on stage.

I’m not sure why I didn’t seek the nearest fallout shelter when they appeared on stage together twenty-two years ago. I figured that a song from a tribute album called Kiss My Ass might be worth a listen. Back then, I suspected that the pairing was so absurd it could work, and it did.

“Hard Luck Woman” suits Garth Brooks so well that it’s hard to believe that this song wasn’t written for a country singer in the first place.

I guess I shouldn’t blame for Garth Brooks for rise of country music into the mainstream. Along with bands like the Eagles and Lynyrd Skynyrd, KISS helped open the ears of America to songs about trucks, tractors and badadonka donk donks.

On Memes and Clickbait

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This post would not be complete without an appearance from a creepy clown.

If Richard II were alive today, he’d give his kingdom for a well-done meme instead of a horse. Memes have the potential to be the mythical perpetual motion machine of marketing, as long as the message in the meme is renewed periodically. I wish I could write a good meme, but the economy, simplicity and relatablity of memecraft escapes me.

I did some writing on the internet before the dot-com bust, and the digital landscape was so much kinder to writers in that day. The steps were simple then: learn to dress your writing with graphics and basic html, talk Yahoo into listing your site in their directory, and run some advertising on your pages. There was no need for near constant updates to content. It’s not like the internet was some sort of creative desert back then, either.

It seems that the value of the written word busted along with the dot-com bubble. Fast forward 15 years later, and we have just 1200×630 pixels dressed in 30 words or less to capture an audience.

I’ve decided that I will tilt at windmills by making some empty memes. I will infuse these memes with the rise of another regrettable internet phenomenon, clickbait. I recently read what must be the most absurd clickbait headline ever, “What Hitler’s Son Did With His Life Will Shock You!”

Clickbait usually begs a question with some sort of trickery, and that one delivered on that score.  Have you noticed how often the word “trick” is used in clickbait? They try to deceive your attention through the promise of teaching deception. Fool your insurance company into charging you less. Fool your body into losing weight with this little pill.

On some uncharted slope of the Andes, Dr. Oz is writing the Gospel According to the Three Foods You Must Never Eat, and the superfruit he discovered there will leave you speechless!

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Lady K

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Autocorrect changes my husband’s lunch.

My husband let me know that he ate a bowl of cereal and a “lady k” of hot dogs for lunch. I hesitated to ask about Lady K. Was this a bit of slang from yesteryear that I should know? Then I asked anyway and discovered that my husband’s phone invented Lady K.

Who was Lady K and how did she get a pack of hot dogs named for her? She was a moonshiner who had a St.-Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus moment when she was weary of sneaking yet another 1000 lb. load of sugar in the back of her pickup truck. Unloading the last bag, she studied the sagging frame and tired axle of her truck. She saw her way out of this dirty business: she would trade her last gallon of moonshine for a meat grinder.

With that grinder she made the finest batch of hot dogs she ever tasted. She sold them in a ever-widening circle, starting with her past moonshine clients. One of them suggested that she could be famous if she solved the problem of having more hot dogs than buns.

So she set about the alchemy of baking a 10 pack of buns that could be sold together with 10 hot dogs. Thus was born the Lady K of hot dogs.

Of course the Lady drove a pickup truck. I struggle to create fiction beyond photo moments, but there is usually something in that mental picture that makes me think the person I imagine would drive a truck. Maybe this is because I can make up stories about as well as I can drive a truck. I failed my driving test three times, by the way.

I once created a truck-driving father for my nephew’s ex-girlfriend. While my nephew was dating her, I wondered a few times what her father thought of him. I imagined her dad washing his cracked hands with Lava soap in the kitchen sink, weary from hauling stuff in his pickup truck and shaking his head over the antics of my renegade nephew. He’d hear “Young Turks” by Rod Stewart and resign himself to the fact there will always be some boy who drives “his pickup like a lunatic.”

He was once that boy. Maybe his daughter was like the 10 lb baby born in that song, too, a love child born to runaways.

The real opinion of this young woman’s father would remain a mystery. A couple years after I had first wondered about him, I heard that there was no man living in her home. A single woman had adopted her and her two siblings.

I imagined that a man at work with an unruly beard would drive a pickup truck to a sparsely furnished home, where alone he’d read the works of John Muir and craft dining room furniture from reclaimed wood. This fellow actually drove a Jetta and had a growing family.

Back to my husband, I will tell you that I didn’t need to imagine him in a truck, for I first saw him getting into one. I was impressed that he could hop into a truck without jiggling or holding onto the door for balance. For short folks like him and me, this is a feat of grace.

His truck was ruined in an accident a couple years ago. By the time his truck was gone, I could see him as he was, free of the illusions that ease the start of any relationship. I know that he is not any more perfect inside or out than I am, and I still love him.

This morning he showed me that his truck has disappeared from online satellite photos of our home. I often think of how he looked the first time I saw him jump into that truck, but I prefer the man I see today, the man who can hop into a Honda Fit after eating an entire pack of hot dogs.

Autocorrect

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This pleasant water lily photo of mine has no relevance whatsoever to the post below. I can’t imagine what sort of image would pertain to it, other than a smart phone screen shot, and that’s been done ad infinitum.

My new phone autocorrected the word fart to dart. This new device has much to learn about me.

I can dart about as well I can drive a semi, and if you notice that anything or anyone darts in my writing, know that I was at a loss in choosing an action verb.

I play darts so badly that I could support a small drywall repair business if I made a regular habit of that game.

Life itself has lent me more expertise in farts and farting. I can’t imagine anyone being a better darter than farter. Farts are free from artifice and class. Rather, the attempt to conceal farts speaks of everything but farts themselves.

Can I delete the word dart from my phone’s user dictionary?

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