Saturday, January 25, 2014

Billions Sold - Almost

McDonalds Hamburgers has displayed several variations of “Billions Served” on its signage for many years.  Periodically they change the number from 50 to 100 to 257 to whatever the sign reads now.  Maybe it just says “Billions” served.  Whatever the number or verbiage, it is a tremendous number of things severed.  Was it burgers, fries or people?  Do you care?  “Billions served” just numbs the mind.

Well, I care about the number.  That phrase makes my book sales look puny and insignificant.  Even a million copy bestseller is 100,000 times smaller (check my math) than “billions served.”  I could rationalize and say that I wrote the book for my self-image or as part of some writing therapy or that my agent was on my case to produce something (that’s a lie).  Or just that I had nothing to do at night, since I don’t play poker or care about TV.  But once I got started I enjoyed it too much to stop.  I am not interested in numbers, just a good product.

The end result is that I wrote just one novel, Far from Newark, and have only sold a modest number.  In fact, I may have given away more than I sold.

My hometown of Newark NJ was listed as the un-friendliest city in 2013, it beat out Islamabad.  It really wasn’t that bad when I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s.  I think the survey was taken at Newark Airport, which probably skewed the results towards the negative side.  Current and former residents of Newark are actually quite proud of Newark.  Many famous people were born in Newark: Philip Roth, Aaron Burr, Ed Koch, Whitney Houston, Chris Christie and many others.  Newarkers even have a Facebook page, Newark N.J. Born and Raised !!  And you have to be invited to be a Friend.

The title of my book came from a saying that I had been known to use often when asked, “Where are you from?”  I get that I lot especially with my accent in San Antonio Texas.  My answer is often, “From Newark, far from.”  That phrase or variations of it appear in my book in several places and became the natural title for the book.

I am proud to say that “Far from Newark” has sold dozens.  Take that McDonalds.  Watch for the sequel, “Return.”  It should be out by the end of 2014 and I certainly intend to claim, “More than dozens sold.”   Don’t be surprised when you order my book on-line if you are asked, “Do you want fries with it?”  But for a true Newarker a sausage, pepper and onion sandwich served on an Italian roll would be much better.

Go to Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Smashwords to find my book.

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Solution to a Problem

We’ve heard the statement Men Don't Ask for Directions many times and most of us accept it as truth. And as a man I must admit I resist asking for directions unless I am absolutely, without a doubt lost with a capital L. From direct experience I know that the more times my wife tells me to get directions the likelihood that I actually will ask for directions is decreased. Bookies in Las Vegas might calculate the odds at a 1000 to 1 or greater. Any takers on this bet?

Which way honey?

Now that we have moved to acceptance that men don’t ask for directions the question becomes why it is true and how do we solve this monumental societal issue. Most people think the problem is because men have a self-image of being problem solvers and to ask for directions would indicate failure. There is a certain element of truth to that. Our image of prehistoric man is the ultimate provider, get that deer, hunt that tiger, and bring home the bacon. If he failed he and his family went hungry. But these ancient hunters probably conferred with each other to locate the best places to hunt and how to get there. They weren’t stupid, they were well motivated. They asked for directions. Either that or go hungry.

Men are proud of their accomplishments. I’ve got a bigger boat than you, my TV is 99 inches, or my computer has a “fill in the blank” feature are typical male comments. Driving is an extension of that attitude. I am a better driver than you, whoever you are. Faster, safer and I can parallel park and you can’t. I know several men who are exactly like that. They also go on more exotic vacations that anyone else. And have photos from a 100 megapixel camera to document of their exploits. Or a trophy deer head stuffed on the family room wall.

Failure can cause embarrassment and asking for directions from a gas station attendant or the clerk at convenience store is the ultimate failure. I’d rather ask Stephen Hawking how to solve a problem than Joe for the corner store which sale item is a better deal. I’d rather get advice from Stephen King than the clerk at Costco for a book recommendation.  Since we can't get in contact with Hawking or King we don't ask. 

I’ve read research that indicates that men and women find their way around using different mechanisms. Women navigate by landmarks: go to the Mall turn left and go down the street to the nail place etc. Men on the other hand utilize compass directions to find their way around: go north two miles on Highway 6 and then turn east on Route 12 and drive around one mile to the auto parts store and so on.

There are probably many studies and more antidotal evidence giving credence to one theory or another; Google has over 100 million hits on the question. Men not asking for directions must obviously be a pressing problem otherwise why would a Google search have such a large number of hits. In that mass of information I think I discovered the answer: Men don’t think they are lost. All typical male stereotypes lead to this conclusion. I am not lost and I will argue that I am merely taking another route to my destination.

“We are close, it is right near here.” Might be an answer given by a man as to why he doesn’t ask for directions.

Getting around is an adventure. Finding new places, driving in different neighborhoods is fun. Taking a hunting trip without going to Africa or Alaska is fun. It takes one million sperm to fertilize one egg; they are on an adventure and it was fun. Who cares if only one successfully made the entire trip?

Not asking for directions does have one big downside: it causes arguments. Every extra turn, wasted minute, missed appointment increases the chances of a conflict between the driver (man) and the passenger (wife).

Forget the cause, just eliminate the problem.

How? Gadgets. The solution is to embrace men’s love of gadgets. The solution already exists in phones, stand alone devices, tablets and preinstalled in cars which should be sufficient to help men find their way. Men: play with your gadgets, use your GPS apps. Don’t get or stay lost. But they are missing one key element to have universal usage.

The missing component from the GPS apps is a reward component. Just getting to your destination is not enough for most men. Every time the device is used and you reach the proverbial Grand Ma’s house you should get points. Every time you reach a location on time or without a disagreement the user should get points. Score extra points for arriving at that great new restaurant on time for your reservation. Points, points: that is the ultimate goal. Bonus points can be awarded if you use the devise before being told to ask for directions. And one more thought men aren’t going to ask Siri, after all she is a woman. Redeem the points for beer, books or uninterrupted TV time.

You can have the boyz over to watch the Super Bowl without having to get permission if you accumulate a very large number of points.

However, the real solution is to allow your wife, significant other, or partner to drive because driving while using gadgets is dangerous. Sit back and watch videos or sports on your gadget while someone else drives. But men, be careful not to become a back seat driver; you’re probably wrong and that might result in the loss of points. And God knows we (men) need all the points we can get.

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