Acquiescing To Inferiority


Since you’re reading this blog, you’re likely a pretty intelligent individual. How do I know that? Well, aside from pandering to your intellectual side, I know that most humans will tend to seek out individuals who are similar to them in some way. Since gender, ethnicity, nationality, and many other visible personality traits are often equalized by the facelessness of the internet, our non-visible traits come to light more easily, specifically intellect.

And might I say, what a big brain you have…right here…on the internet.

Kid tested, Foley approved. Image credit realmickfoley.com

About a year ago, I wrote a rather ranty post discussing how not to blog. Many of you have likely already read that post, and it actually was able to garner a bit of notoriety thanks to 20 Something Bloggers and their Speakeasy Awards. However, what I haven’t shared is why that post was written.

You see, about the time I wrote that post, I was actually in the process of comparing a short story I’d written to that of another blogger. In my opinion, the story I’d written was better than the other story…so much so that I actually called it “a poorly conceived work of fiction” and “inferior to most children’s books” to a friend of mine. Harsh? Absolutely. Over the line? Perhaps. Completely accurate? Yes and no.

On one hand, the assessment of the story was completely accurate. The story’s content wasn’t my ideal subject matter, however I could appreciate that some people enjoy sappy love stories. However, when you use the same verb eight times in a four sentence paragraph and you’re not going for a literary device of some kind, you should probably bust out a thesaurus.

They’re really quite dapper. Image credit icanhascheezburger.com

And yet, some time shortly after the start of the pounding migraine that I got from reading the story, I read through the comments of the post itself. People loved the story. And it wasn’t just a “oh, hey, great job!” type of love. It was a “shut up and take my money” type of love. I didn’t get it. How could someone who had written so poorly be so loved by their readers. You know, outside of Snooki or Bill O’Reilly.

Then it hit me like a ton of heavily padded bricks. The story wasn’t what had sold the readers on the tale being told. Rather, it was the interaction that the author of the story had with others (particularly a few high-profile commentors) that made the story so loved. The content wasn’t great, it was just packaged in a pretty container and marketed well. Think Coca-Cola, only in word form.

As a blogger, marketing will rarely be your worst enemy. You can become a successful blogger without having a great marketing strategy on your side. That said, it’s the equivalent of trying to drive from New York to Los Angeles on a child’s pedal bike. You’ll get there with enough time and effort, however you’ll exert far more force than you need to.

Admittedly, I’m not the best marketer around. Hell, I just made my first blog ad less than three weeks ago. However, had it not been for a brush with a work I considered inferior, I wouldn’t have started marketing at all.

What do you do to market your blog? Do you have any tips/tricks you’d like to share with other readers?

Gallery

Cleaning Out The Camera


In the past two weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to go to both a MLB game and a NBA game. The baseball game was thanks to The Guitarfather’s bachelor party, while the basketball game was part of a work event. I felt this would be a good time to share some of the pictures I took involving these events (admittedly there’s very few, as I’m neither a baseball nor basketball fan).

For those wondering which games I went to, the Minnesota Twins defeated the Cleveland Indians 7-3 on April 5th, and the Boston Celtics defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 111-99 on April 12th. Cleveland teams (Cavs, Indians, Browns, and Rockers) are now 0-5 all time when I show up…and I’m okay with that.

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Friday Five – Fast Food Failures


With the United States (and on a larger scale, the world) becoming a faster moving entity, the fast food industry has seen an exponential growth. This explosion has come both in terms of the total number of food locations that are open, as well as in the variety of locations open. While there are quality fast food places in existence, what most people more commonly associate with fast food is an eating experience that is subpar at best (if not awful).

For this week’s Friday Five, we’ll take a look at the five worst fast food places you can find in the USA. As a note, I’ve only listed places I’ve personally eaten at in either this list or the honorable mention at the bottom. White Castle’s reputation precedes itself to the point where I’ll never willingly eat there. Think of it as a lifetime achievement award.

5. Quiznos (Global, though mostly US and Canada)

Image credit wikimedia.org

Quizno’s biggest competitor may be Subway, however no one could actually confuse the two in terms of taste and presentation. While Subway actually has some semblance of healthy items on its menu, most Quizno’s items have more grease rolling off of them than a large pepperoni pizza. The only thing that keeps Quizno’s from being higher on this list is the presence of their hot pepper bar at most locations, which is one of the nicer touches at any fast food location.

4. Del Taco (Western U.S., as well as Detroit)

Image credit foodbeast.com

If you think Taco Bell has the market cornered on below-average Mexican food with better marketing than taste, you’ve obviously never been to a Del Taco. The chain is huge in the desert southwest, most noticeably for running its frequent $.29 taco special. Needless to say, you get what you pay for.

3. Whataburger (southern U.S., primarily Texas)

Image credit commercialappeal.com

I’ll give Whataburger credit, running their breakfast menu from 11pm-11am is a phenomenal business model. The trouble is, none of their food is good enough to serve for any amount of time. While their burgers are giant, they’re typically tasteless and dry.

2. Dunkin Donuts (Global)

Image credit grubgrade.com

What do you get when you combine bad coffee with overpriced donuts, tons of hype, and poor customer service? Your average Dunkin’ Donuts. The diaspora of people from the Northeastern US allows Dunkin’ to flourish outside of its traditional home, however if you want better coffee, I’d recommend Tim Hortons (or Starbucks…or Caribou…or your local gas station…or most work coffee pots).

1. Hardees (Global and Eastern US) /Carl’s Jr. (Global and Western US)

Image credit elmenus.com

So for those unaware, Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. is basically Arby’s, only instead of your food actually tasting good before your get explosive diarrhea, it tastes like you’re eating a yoga mat. The worst part is that even their marketing department can’t find a way to make the food look appetizing. I spent twenty minutes on this page trying to find a picture that made Hardee’s food look good. If that’s not a sign of low-quality fast food, I don’t know what is.

Honorable Mention: In-N-Out Burger, Denny’s (which isn’t fast food persay, but it sure is awful), Jimmy John’s, El Pollo Loco, Sbarro.

300


Blah, blah, blah, madness, Sparta, dining in hell.

Now that all of the obvious jokes are out-of-the-way (with the possible exception of confusing Gerard Butler and Jean Girard), today’s post marks the 300th post I’ve written for this site. As I’ve mentioned before, the post count includes items I ported over from the old blog, however a large majority of the posts on this blog are new content that I specifically wrote for this site. It’s at milestone posts like these that I feel somewhat self-congratulatory.

That’s right, Gerard Butler! Show these people how I celebrate! Image credit sportsprovocateur.wordpress.com

I got to thinking about what it means to have blogging longevity. First and foremost, it means that you’ve typed a lot of words. This may mean you have a lot on your mind, or it may mean that you’re merely saying the same thing over and over again with your sentences in a different order. Either way, it’s a lot of words. More realistically though, once you’re to 300 posts written, you’ve started to build a brand as a blogger. People begin to expect a certain type of content from you in terms of your style, your frequency of posting, your opinions, even your responsiveness to comments.

If you want a good example of blogging brand, take a look at Break the Sky. While the content changes post to post, you know the quality of post you expect to receive when you go to read there. Yes, some posts are vlogs rather than true blog posts, however the same effort goes into those posts as well. Additionally, the site’s look and feel is consistent and easy to navigate — an important task when it comes to blogging — all while using advertising without being in your face about it.

Of course the second result on a GIS for In Your Face Ads is Ron Burgundy. Why wouldn’t it be? Image credit: adweek.com

Blog look and feel consistency has been my biggest struggle since I started blogging (on this blog or otherwise). For example, since this blog’s inception in September of 2012, it has had seven different themes, including the new one that went up recently in anticipation of this post.

Why so many? Frankly, before now I haven’t really had any desire to have direction as to my blog’s brand. That changed though when I managed to win ad space as part of my run to the semifinals of 20SB’s Bootleg Awards. I had to make an ad. What did I want the image of my blog to be? What is my brand? What is my identity?

Existential crises aside, I put some pretty lengthy thought into deciding what I want my blog — and by extension, my writing brand — to look like. I’ve already been formulating my content and developing the brand that way for some time now. I like to think of my writing as both personable and intelligent, witty yet provocative. While I might not succeed in that writing goal with every single post, I feel as though more often than not I do alright for myself.

What I wanted for my blog is a theme that’s clean and modern looking, with a very strong focus on the content I write daily. I also would have a preference for the theme to be dark, however it’s not a requirement. At this point in life, I’m not in a position to be paying for a custom blog theme, so that was out of the question. I’m still looking for a theme that’s to my liking, and I’ll be trying out a few over the next couple of weeks to see what I end up liking.

Additionally, I’ve joined WordPress’ Blogging 201: Branding, Traffic, and Growth challenge for the month of April. The challenge actually started yesterday, though I’ll be starting up my contributions toward the project on Friday. This will likely mean you’ll be seeing a few posts that are a bit different from my normal posts, however hopefully it’ll help in my quest to brand my blog better.

Likewise, I realize many of you have followed by blog updates on my personal Twitter account up to this point. As much as I feel like that was a good decision at one point in time, if I really want my blog to take off and reach my 30 for 30 goal of 100,000 visitors before I turn 30, I figured I’d be best to have a dedicated Twitter account for the blog. You can now follow this site on Twitter @SSandSBlog.

Finally, I turn this post over to you, the reader. How do you market your blog? Does your blog have a brand? Sound off in the comments.

33 Word Love Story #5


The inspiration for the following story came from this post. (Private blog, though one of the best blogs I’ve ever read…linking to the post in case the author decides to go public one day in the future)

Why do writers, artists, musicians, and nobles the world over
Still attempt to put the grace and beauty of love into words
When the actions of humanity are all the words it needs?

Plating Means Nothing: Chicken And Dumplings


This post is part of the Plating Means Nothing series, where I share recipes that are delicious, independent of what they look like on your plate. If you realize that real meals don’t look like what they show on Food Network, you’ve found a wonderful place.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve talked about the fact that there were three really common meals I had growing up courtesy of my dad. All of them became somewhat of a comfort food as I grew older, though as I teen, I semi-sarcastically referred to them as the Land, Sea, and Air trio.

Land – Beef and Noodles
Air – Chicken and Dumplings
Sea – Biscuits with Tuna Gravy

That leaves this post with covering the chicken and dumplings recipe. Doing so means two things. First and foremost, we have the return of Satan’s canisters in a recipe.

They’re baaaaaaaaaaacccckkkk. Image courtesy littlebirdiesecrets.blogspot.com

Secondly, and probably more importantly for purposes of this post, I chose to make my chicken and dumplings slow cooker recipe for a potluck at work. While this was a wonderful idea in theory, it made for two changes to the recipe itself. First, I precooked the chicken prior to placing it into the slow cooker. I’ve kept this part in the instructions below, if for no other reason than the chicken was amazing even before it went into the slow cooker. The other fact that came out of this process was the fact that I got no pictures. Being too busy at work prevented me from spending much more than a couple of seconds here and there with the crockpot.

Chicken and Dumplings

Ingredients

1.5-2.5 lbs boneless chicken breast meat
1/4 teaspoon dill weed
1/2 teaspoon savory
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 (14 oz) can chicken broth
1 (10 oz) can cream of chicken soup
1 (1 oz) package powdered chicken gravy
5.5 cups water (separated into 2 cups and 3.5 cups)
1 (5 piece) can of biscuits

Preparation

1. Bring 2 cups of water, garlic salt, savory, black pepper, and dill weed to a slow boil in a saucepan. Once the water reaches boiling, add chicken breast meat. Reduce heat and cover. Let boil for 20-30 minutes, marking certain that the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Remove chicken from heat and drain. Cut chicken into small pieces (approximately 1/2 inch cubes).

3. Set slow cooker to High setting. Add butter and chicken chunks to crockpot. Let cook for 15-20 minutes, or until chicken starts to brown slightly.

4. Add remaining water, chicken broth, cream of chicken soup, and gravy mix to slow cooker. Mix well. Cover and let cook for 2-3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.

5. Open biscuit dough and cut biscuits in half, creating 10 half-sized biscuits. Place biscuit dough on top of soup mixture. Recover crockpot and cook for 30-45 minutes. Serve hot.

Dish Thoughts

One of the advantages and disadvantages to cooking at work is that there are times when you can’t get a good picture of your finished product. While often this is because you don’t have the time to devote to careful cooking watch like you would at home, I also learned that this can be because people are quick. I sat my chicken and dumplings out and walked downstairs to get bowls/spoons for the potluck, only to come back up and see three people already had some on their plates. On the bright side, at least that means it was good.

Item #15 – White Noise


If you had asked me six months ago to make a list of the five most annoying television shows you could put on TV for me to watch, it would have been Arrested Development, Parenthood, Seinfeld, The Office, and Say Yes To The Dress in some order. Each show had its own reason as to why it annoyed the hell out of me, and four of the five shows still do. That said, in an admission that I’m sure will be much to the delight of both the fiancee as well as The Guitarfather, one of those shows has come off of the list.

While it’s not my favorite show, I’ve come to learn to tolerate The Office. Unlike the other shows on the list in the first paragraph, The Office was the only one I even chuckled at before recently, so perhaps it was the most likely to end up in this place all along. That said, part of why I didn’t enjoy it before was due to the combination of my intense hatred for how annoying Mindy Kaling’s character is, and my disappointment that the show was the least funny thing Steve Carrell has been involved in.

What ended up selling me on it was two things. First and foremost, Creed is of great amusement to me. While he’s a very minor character in the show itself, his interactions with most people are completely ridiculous in an office setting. That said, everyone has someone (or multiple someones) in their family like Creed. He’s relatable and amusing, which I greatly appreciated. Second was the eternal war between Jim and Dwight. Their shenanigans had provided me the few chuckles I had before, however this scene is what sold it for me. Apologies for the horrid video quality, however this was the only video on YouTube of the part I wanted.

Yes, Mindy Kaling’s character is still insufferable. And yes, Steve Carrell was still better on The Daily Show. That said, I can now watch The Office without wanting to impale myself. And that means there’s one more item off of my 30 for 30 list.