March Madness For Dummies

spartybracketmath

Here’s a fun fact that you may not know about me; I am a Spartan.

No, I don’t mean that I am spartan: marked by simplicity, frugality, or avoidance of luxury and comfort. In that regard I am more of a sybarite: a voluptuary or hedonist.

I mean that I am a proud graduate and loyal daughter of Michigan State University. And just because I don’t follow college sports and, as a matter of fact, don’t know very much about such things, that doesn’t mean I can’t claim full bragging rights because the MSU men’s basketball team has made it to the Fantastic Four.

Go Green!

For those not familiar with this great tradition, a fever grips colleges all across the land at this time of year.   Students abandon their scholastic pursuits and get drunk because it is spring break. But that does not concern us right now.  They also abandon their scholastic pursuits and get drunk when it is Thursday.  We’re not getting into that, either.

I want to talk about this magical time for college basketball that is known as The Spring Fling.

The NCAA (National Council on Avoiding studying in April) breaks the country up into 4 divisions: East, Midwest, South and West. There is no North division because the northern schools’ only sport is playing hockey against Canada.  Each college plays the other schools in their division until each has a winner. Michigan State, for example, which is generally considered be in the Midwest of the contiguous United States map-wise, is in the Eastern division for basketball purposes. We play all the other Eastern teams like the one bordering the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana.

Before any games may be played, however, every adult male in the nation (and many intrepid females) must formulate their brackets.  This is a complicated process which involves calculating wins divided by losses multiplied by free throws, all carried to a power equal to the number of tattoos the point guard has. Sports fans are cautioned to keep in mind the Order of Operations rule, working from left to right except that equations within parentheses and brackets come first. That’s how they got the name.   At the end of these logarithms, each person winds up with their own, personal ranking of teams going from dead last, which position they call Unable To Get Alumni Donations, to the team they think will win the whole tournament, called The Big Kahuna.

This process is so complex that many men find it necessary to abandon their work pursuits and get drunk EVEN IF THEY ARE NOT IN COLLEGE!

Formulating and betting on brackets is a vital part of the U.S. economy during this time, and it accounts for a full 67% of the Gross Domestic Product of Las Vegas. Every time anyone anywhere says they bet their team will go all the way, they have to send $50 to Antonio “Sonny” Parmigiano-Reggiano at the Sands Hotel & Casino.

The first round of games is called the Sudden Death Double Elimination. That’s also what they called it during the playoffs sophomore year, when I spent the night on the bathroom floor with a bucket after I had enjoyed the Little Caesar’s 2-for-1 anchovy pizza deal along with 5 shots of tequila.  But I don’t want to talk about THAT, either.   All you have to know is that MSU beat Virginia in this round to get into the Sixteen Candles.

Go White!

Michigan State was unstoppable as they whupped another East coast powerhouse, Oklahoma (formerly known as a Great Plains state before they migrated East,) to advance to the Crazy Eights.

Go Green!

Then came Sunday’s nail-biter. That game went into overtime before MSU emerged victorious over Louisville to earn a place in the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Go White!

This weekend will be major. No, I’m not talking about the events marking the passion, death and resurrection of our lord and savior, Jesus Christ, although that’s big, too.   I mean the two games on Saturday that will determine who goes to the final showdown.  If MSU wins, we play for all the marbles on Monday as one of the Dynamic Duo.

This is big.

Of course it’s not as big as in 1978-79 when MSU won the Big Ten championships in football, baseball and cheer-leading, and went all the way  to #1 in the country in basketball.  I’m sure all the athletes worked really hard that year, but was it merely coincidence that I had just transferred in to MSU at the start of that Never-To-Be-Repeated-Year-Of-Glory?  You decide.

Be sure to cheer for Michigan State this weekend.  All of us loyal Spartans will sing the fight song loud and clear.  And if anyone still wonders why the song is “fighting with A vim” (as in only one vim; wouldn’t it be better to have a whole bunch of vim (vims? vimi?) for the big game?) that won’t diminish our enthusiasm for our team.  My money is on MSU to go all the way.

(The $50 is in the mail, Sonny.)

Go Green! Go White!

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Good Writing vs. Kim Kardashian’s Butt

WordPressStatsKardashian

 

It has been a heck of a week.

An old post of mine, R.I.P. Bunny Bixler, went mini-viral last week. Someone with a lot of followers pushed a link to this post on Facebook, and I still don’t know much more than that.  Things are getting back to normal around here now, like Fort Lauderdale after the frat boys go home.  As I walk around picking up empty beer cans, I’m asking myself, “what’s it all about, Alfie?”

My best single day for traffic on the blog happened 3 years ago when a Freshly Pressed piece got 4700 views. Now the number to beat is 5500 and I hit that two days in a row. Bunny Bixler is my top post of all time with more than 17,000 views. That may be chump change to you, but it’s a whole lot to me.   Major.

Above is a graph from my stats page.  See the numbers that came before last week?  It looks like this joint was a ghost town until then.  Yet those blips represent solid blog posts: pieces that I was rather proud to run, and that got a respectable number of views from a number of respectable viewers.  They’ve been reduced to nothing more than the tiny bumps of a hopeful, 12-year-old girl compared to the Dolly Partons that follow.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m grateful for the tourism.  I want to attract lots of visitors.  This means there’s a chance that when WordAds pays me for running their commercials on my page, the next check will arrive in less than the 2 years it took to get the first one.

But this numbers business has me conflicted.

I can’t help thinking that the Kardashian Machine built an entire empire out of nothing by pushing up their numbers. They now have a separate brand for:

  • The Kardashian family
  • Kim and her sister Chloe
  • Kim and Bruce Jenner
  • Kim and her skinny, underage model sisters
  • Kim and Kanye
  • Kim, Kanye and Cheesepuff, or whatever they named that poor kid
  • Kim
  • Kim’s butt.

Each brand has its own TV show (past, present or in negotiation,) its own perfume, and its own publicist whose sole job is to ratchet up their numbers, which they got because they’re famous, which they are because they ratcheted up their numbers, which they got because they’re famous, etc. It’s like that Escher print of the continually looping staircase and it makes my brain hurt.

I signed up for Twitter a couple of weeks ago to build MY numbers and get in with the hep cats and cool dudes. I haven’t done much since then. One blogging friend retweeted one of my tweets so, not knowing the etiquette, I replied with a thank you. She was kind enough to let me know that what I actually did was retweet and thank MYSELF. She thought I was being funny. I knew I was being clueless.

I’m somehow following or linked in to all kinds of people I don’t even know and I’m supposed to feed this ravenous Twitter engine with an endless supply of tweets, favorites, retweets, and hashtags.  It’s got me totally flummoxed. #stoptheworldIwanttogetoff.

One recent tweet from a friend of a friend was a link to a post that explained how to grow your blog using Twitter. The post said you need to do hashtag reposts on Mondays, rehash tag posts on Tuesday, corned beef hashtags on Wednesday, on and on throughout the week. She freely admits that she doesn’t have time to actually READ any of the stuff she’s recommending to everyone – how can you read 150 pieces every day? But if we all push one another’s stuff, we’ll jack the numbers and build community.

That’s not building community, that’s blogging by the numbers.

I love my online community.   These are people I like and people whose work I like. Oftentimes I’m lucky and they’re the same person.  I’m always open to meeting and liking new people, but I won’t pretend to be besties with 17,000 strangers.

Here’s what I want.  I want…

1) Fame & Fortune.  Yes, I do.  I want it a lot.  But I want to earn it because people like the things that I…

2) Write.   I want to write good stuff.  I want to make folks laugh or think or merely experience a mild twitch of the lips because, “gee, that Peg has a tidy way with a phrase.” I want to write things that people want to…

3) Read.  I want people to read my stuff. I want EVERYone to read it and tell their friends. Once everyone on earth is reading and loving my work, I’ll arrive at item #1.

I’m going to keep trying to do my best work so people will want to read it and share it. If I do this right, someday the Peg-o-Leg brand will be as famous as Kim Kardashian’s butt.

 

PS If you have managed to figure out Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Press This, Pinterest and such, feel free to look through my archives, choose your favorite posts and push the hell out of them.  In the interest of building community.

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Who Are You, And Why Are You Here?

Wish I'd had an Auntie Mame.

One of my idols.

I am a deep thinker.  Sure, my main thing is humor, but I’m also a thoughtful gal – like a still pool in a forest glen, I’m deep.    As a matter of fact, one of the posts I am most proud of asks the existential question, “why am I here?”  But that’s not important right now.

I’ve had over 12,000 hits on an old blog post in the last 2 days, and I want to know why.

The post in question is R.I.P. “Bunny” Bixler.  This was a tongue-in-cheek obituary for a fictional character who is mentioned, but never shown, in the delightful 1950s Rosalind Russell movie, Auntie Mame.  I really like this movie.  A lot.   I always wanted to BE Auntie Mame, but the closest I’ve come is doing a pretty good rendition of Little Glory recounting the ping-pong incident.

I wrote this post in January of 2011 when I had been engaged in the blogging business a grand total of 3 months.   In that short period I had figured out how to upload pictures, embed movies and curb the impulse to make every post a novel.  I think most of my 7 readers liked the piece – I did.   But what I want to know is why everyone and their brother is reading it NOW.

I’ve been doing some sleuthing and there are a couple of possibilities.

1) A couple of months after I wrote this, I discovered the existence of a Pittsburgh drag queen who had adopted this stage name.  Fearing the “real” Bunny Bixler had died, last night I rushed to her Twitter page to check.  Based on her “favorite” response to my inquiry about her health, she is still very much alive.

2) Several people have tweeted links to this post.  I asked one how he had come to me, and he said my post had been shared on Facebook by Bobby Rivers.  I assume that would be the movie critic, talk show host and onetime Food Network host, but I don’t see anything about me on his page.

I’m not complaining about this mini attack of going viral – au contraire! (that’s French for “hell no.”)  It’s just that I need to know the source of all the attention so I can figure out how to exploit it.  Oops – didn’t mean to say that.  I meant so I can say thank you to my kind benefactor.

Given the number of subscribed readers I have (who are the best on WordPress, by the way.  Have I told you that lately?) you would be excused for thinking that every post gets 12,000 views.  Hell no!  (that’s American for “au contraire.”)   The sad fact is that only about 2% of readers usually bother to READ the drivel I put up here.  Even Freshly Pressed posts don’t gather that number of reads.

I’m stumped.  Delighted, but stumped.  Any ideas?

 

 

 

 

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Things Grown-Up You Does That 10-Year-Old You Would Never Do

smokingundertheporch

It was really cold this morning. When the alarm went off I wanted to hit the snooze button and burrow back down under the covers but, being a responsible adult, I didn’t. I got up and went through my morning routine.

I was making the bed when it occurred to me that 10-year-old me wouldn’t bother with it. She didn’t make her bed unless Mom was standing over her threatening dire punishment. 10-year-old Peg would say, “What’s the point? It will only get messed up again tonight.” And she would be right.

We grown-ups do a lot of things that our 10-year-old selves would never do. Things like:

9-to-5 Job: While grown-up Peg finds insurance a rewarding and challenging career, 10-year-old Peg would be horrified at the thought of being stuck behind a desk doing boring paperwork all day (her words, not mine.) The only career options that 10-year-old Peg saw on her horizon were: world famous explorer, world famous ballerina, world famous actress, world famous writer, or nun. Preferably a world famous nun.

Thong Underwear: 10-year-old Peg would have thought that wearing these would be like walking around with a dental-floss wedgie all day – uncomfortable and kinda gross. Grown-up Peg has to go along with her on this one.

Smoking: Grown-up Peg smoked for many years and had a hard time quitting. 10-year-old Peg thought it looked cool, but when she tried it once under Katie Loop’s porch she turned a peculiar shade of pea-soup green and just about lost her lunch.

Pantyhose: These have practically gone the way of the dinosaur for young women, but not for women of a “certain age.” Grown-up Peg appreciates the way they tame the tummy and camouflage a snow-white-with-blue-veins leg. 10-year-old Peg would die laughing to see the gymnastics required to get into a pair of these, especially in a 2’ x 2’ bathroom stall on a steamy, summer day.

Blue Cheese: 10-year-old Peg would have responded with a finger-down-the-throat barfing pantomime at the suggestion that she would ever eat stuff like blue cheese, sardines or buttermilk. She knew that these were foods that only Dad could like. Grown-up Peg loves nothing better than a good blue cheese, but buttermilk still earns the barf signal.

Daily Bathing: Grown-up Peg relishes a nice, hot shower and would stand in one for an hour every day if she didn’t need to worry about the well going dry. 10-year-old-Peg only took a weekly bath because of her mom’s strange obsession with cleanliness. 10-year-old-Peg thought that Eau De Gym Class Funk was a perfectly fine scent.

Sex: 10-year-old Peg faked bored sophistication when she first learned about the mechanics involved in this, but secretly she thought, “Ewww. No way.”   When it occurred to her that with 8 siblings her parents must have done that 9 times, her reaction was, “EWWWWWW. NO WAY!!!!!”

I could add lots more things to this list, but I don’t want to. Don’t wanna, not gonna and you can’t make me, so THERE! pbbbt!

 

 

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A Facebook Post That Will Heal The World

Facebook to change the worlddownsized(This is easier to read if you enlarge it by clicking on the lovely picture of my barn.)

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I Love Old People – All Of You

Whatever happened to sweet, baby Peg-o?

Whatever happened to sweet, baby Peg-o?

I’m a fake.

A couple of years ago, desperate to get my name in print, I convinced a local baby boomers magazine to let me do an occasional column.  I agreed to take out an expensive business ad in return, so I basically paid them.   I was so excited about getting my drivel published that I didn’t think this through properly.   That publication is for “people of a certain age,” and I’m not old.   I’m young.   I barely even qualify as a boomer – only in the most technical sense of the word.

If the baby boomer generation were a game of Crack the Whip, I would be the kid at the tail end of the line who gets whipped across the playground and ends up with their palms and knees bloodied.

The vast age difference between me and their readers was brought home a couple months ago. I did a column about the funky stuff going on in my body and a woman stopped me on the street to tell me how much she liked it. Naturally, I was flattered. Then she warbled, “I know exactly what you’re talking about, because I have the same problems. It’s nice to know we’re not alone” and she patted my hand.   I couldn’t help but recoil in horror – this woman was at least 112 years old!

I thought, “Whoa, there, Grandma Moses, we can’t be going through the same body issues – I’m w-a-a-a-a-y younger than you.  You look like the Crypt Keeper!” What with the surprise of the moment and all, I may have actually said that out loud.  Don’t worry; her feelings weren’t hurt. She wasn’t wearing her ear trumpet so she didn’t hear a word I said.

It’s not that I have anything against old people. I will be delighted to be one…someday.  In the far, far, distant future.  But for now, I’m not.

In fact, I’m the youngest member of our social set.  That’s merely a coincidence, of course.  I don’t deliberately choose friends who are older to make myself seem younger by comparison. That would make me one of those pathetic people who feels the need to blow out someone else’s candle to make hers look brighter.  Someone who is desperately clinging to Fleeting Youth though Cruel Age has her firmly in its relentless grasp.  It is laughable to even suggest such a thing – ha ha!

If that were the case, I wouldn’t hang out with these people at all because, when I really stop and think about it, it occurs to me that although they are a few years older, all of my friends are smarter, funnier and better looking than I am.

So…..that’s good. I’m happy about that. Really happy.

But, you know, it’s easy to get in a rut when you hang around with the same people all the time. Sometimes you need to change things up to grow as a person. Maybe it’s time for me to find some new friends.

If you’re interested in adding a sparkling, younger member to your social circle, let’s get together. And if everyone else in the group is stupid, ugly and dull, I’m sure we’ll be the best of friends in no time.

 

 

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The Good, The Bad, And The Low Flush Toilet

floater

There is a point at which love of the environment runs headlong into a need to preserve modesty and decorum.   That collision happens on the seat of a low flush toilet.

I love the environment.   I want it to be clean and sustainable for generations to come, world without end, amen.   I’m especially aware of the need to conserve water because we have a well and it has run dry.  Having said that, I’m lobbying for a universal return to the 10-gallon-per-flush toilet after what happened to, er, um, a friend of mine.

My friend, whose name is…Mabel – yeah, Mabel, was at work when nature called.   It was nature of a more substantial nature, if you get my drift.  She went to the Ladies Room, did her business in one of the two stalls, and flushed.   As she prepared to leave the stall, she looked down to make sure business had, in fact, been successfully completed.  This was not the case.

She had a floater.

Mabel stood before the porcelain throne and patiently waited until the bowl completely refilled with water and the tank stopped burbling.   At this point, someone else entered the Ladies Room and went into the other stall.  Mabel tried not to listen to what was going on next door as she waited for the silence in her stall that would signal it was OK to reflush.

Once more she pushed down on the handle and this time the offending remnant swirled down, down and out of sight.  Mission accomplished!

Mabel turned to the door.  She had her hand on the latch and was prepared to shove it back when she shot a quick, “just in case” glance over her shoulder.   At that moment, Unsinkable Molly Brown popped up from the bowels of the toilet.

The lady in the next stall finished, washed her hands and left the room. Mabel remained in her stall, tapping her foot.  She wondered how it could take 10 minutes for a scant 1/2 cup of water to run into the bowl.

The door to the Ladies opened again and she heard 2 co-workers talking as they entered the room.   Two!   One entered the neighboring stall.   The tank hadn’t stopped gurgling. Mabel knew it was too soon, she KNEW it, but she couldn’t help herself.   She pushed down on the handle.  No whirlpool resulted, of course, the water just shimmered a bit.   Her heart sank.   Her Baby Ruth bar did not.

She quietly took the top off the tank the better to watch the snails-pace ascent of the red, rubber ball that now controlled her fate, and she seethed with impotent rage.

Mabel knew the woman waiting for a stall was bending to peer under the door.   She could practically feel her gaze on her feet.  The fact that she would see the stiletto heels of Mabel’s red pumps instead of the toes would tell the whole, miserable tale.   She quickly spun around to face forward.

She didn’t recall eating marshmallows and feathers for breakfast, but what else could explain the disgusting, yet light and fluffy results?

Mabel racked her brain for a way out of her dilemma.  Obviously she would have to wait for these people to leave.  Should she then go and try to find some sort of extraction implement in her desk – perhaps a ruler?  Then what?  Should she make a dash for it and leave the problem for the next toilet traveler, praying that nobody would connect her with this debacle?   With her luck she would be opening the bathroom door at the exact moment the office’s biggest gossip came in, went to “her” stall and the jig would be up.

What was the protocol for this situation – as captain, was she morally obligated to go down with this ship?

She envisioned spending the rest of the work day trapped in that stall.  She could be there for all of eternity. Mabel: Sisyphus of the Flush.  Her quest for toileting closure would probably drain the municipal water reservoir.  The entire community would be plunged into a drought because this $%&*@ low flush toilet couldn’t get the job done!

By this time the person in the next stall was washing her hands and the second woman had taken her place.  Mabel waited until they were finished and the bathroom door closed on their chatter.  She squared her shoulders and turned, resolute, to face her nemesis.  The theme song from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly played softly in her head.

The tank had stopped gurgling.  The water in the bowl was a sheet of glass reflecting the overhead light fixture, undisturbed but for the wee guest which had out-stayed its welcome.  Mabel set her jaw, said a silent prayer to the restroom gods and pushed down firmly on the handle.   She held her breath.

The water swirled down, down and down, taking the Lincoln Log with it.  So far so good.  But she remained vigilant; she’d been burned before.   She waited.  She waited until the downward flow of water reversed and the bowl started to refill.  She waited as the water whooshed, then burbled, then shimmered.  Only when the Ladies Room was completely silent, the bowl empty of all but clear, still water touched with the faintest hint of blue, did Mabel throw back the bolt on the door of her prison.  She stepped out into the light of day on legs grown shaky from disuse.

As she washed her hands, she vowed that henceforth she would do all of her personal business in the safety and comfort of her home bathroom, with its 10-gallon-per-flush toilet.   Mabel left the Ladies Room a sadder but wiser gal.

Addendum: Anybody have any coupons for Industrial Strength Depends? For Mabel.

 

 

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