Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Half Empty: Raising the bar

They say that when you hit your 40s, your life is half over. We prefer to think of it as HALF EMPTY. Our age has finally caught up with our outlook on life. Remember, it is possible to turn that frown upside down...but you might pull a muscle.

"Raising the bar"

By Rick Kaempfer & Dave Stern

It’s now considered a cliché: “I gave it 110% effort.”

We’re not here to argue the mathematical impossibility of that statement. We accept the fact that some people are so driven, so hard-working, and so intense, that to describe their full effort as merely 100% seems insufficient. And we tip our caps to them.

The Rest of Us

“If you don’t like your job, you don’t strike! You just go in there every day and do it really half-assed. That’s the American way!”
--Homer Simpson

Unfortunately, for those of you who like to do things a little... ahem...half-hearted, that raises the bar for you too. It’s no longer good enough to simply give it 50% effort. You’re now expected to give it 55% just to remain half-assed. We know what you’re thinking. Where are you going to get that extra 5%?

This is where you good buddies Rick and Dave come in. We’ve done a careful analysis of some every day tasks in life, and have managed to identify a few tasks that can very easily be third assed, quarter-assed, and fifth-assed. This will give you excess effort to put into more important pursuits. Your new results could get you to the 60% mark.

Don’t worry about having too much effort on your hands. It’s just a matter of time before someone takes it up to 120% effort. When they do, you’ll be able to wear your half-ass like a comfortable old shoe.

33% Effort Required

“A pint of sweat saves a gallon of blood.”
George S. Patton, General (1885-1945)

What General Patton said may be true, but remember this: The blood banks give you a free snack for the blood you donate, and nobody gives you anything for your sweat. You might as well keep that precious moisture in your body. You’re going to need it, because let’s face it, the refrigerator is all the way on the other side of the room, and that beverage won’t come to you by itself.

So where can you cut back? Since you’re already giving it the full 50% at work (because they are paying you do to so), the first place to look for opportunities is at home. While your family does expect you to do certain things for them, they don’t expect you to do them well. After all, these people are your blood. Right, General Patton?

Here are a few examples in which the good ol’ 33% effort is more than enough.

*Giving Backrubs To Your Wife – Now, we’re not saying don’t give your wife a back massage. We’re just saying don’t get particularly good at it. Two reasons: 1) The better you are, the longer she’s going to want you to do it and quite frankly, it hurts. 2) If you get really good at it, she’s going to tell all her friends and that’s going to tick off your buddies. Go through the motions and make sure you can still see the TV.

*Reading to Toddlers—They can’t read, and there’s very little chance they will care or notice if you skip paragraphs or entire pages. They’re looking at the pictures. Point out the different things in the pictures. “Look, honey, the pig. Can you say ‘pig’? Good. Can you say ‘The End’? Good. Sleep tight, sweetheart.” We know you just read her a Duck on a Bike and went from the pig to the goat and totally blew off the chicken, mouse and cow and it made no sense, but remember this: It’s about poultry riding two-wheelers. How much sense could it ever make?

25% Effort Required

“If you cut every corner,
It is really not so bad.
Everybody does it,
Even Mom and Dad.
If nobody sees,
Then nobody gets mad.
It’s the American Way!”

--Mary Poppins (on the Simpsons)

While it’s important to start cutting corners wherever you can, you have to give it some thought and plan ahead. With a little forethought, your every day tasks can be done with little to no effort. It’s a crucial component for eventually reaching that magical 55% threshold.

*Selecting Fruit –We’ve all seen the way people pluck, smell, rattle, shake and listen to kiwi before they buy it. There is absolutely no proof that any of this helps. Here’s a tip, if you see any tire tracks or hypodermic needles in the fruit don’t buy it.

*Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
– You could get out the frying pan, butter both sides of the bread, and make it the old fashioned way. Or, you could put two pieces of bread in the toaster, then put a piece of cheese between the toasted bread, and microwave it for twenty seconds. Your choice—it tastes pretty much the same.

*Shoveling Snow – OK, due to certain municipal ordinances you have to do this one. Yet, there is nothing in the law that says you have to be good at it. Make a single shovel width path and that’s it. There is no need to clean the entire sidewalk or be neat. When was the last time the Vienna Boys choir walked in front of your house? Oh and by the way, have you ever heard of the sun?

*Washing the Car – You’ll hear all sorts of doomsayers tell you that allowing the winter salt to remain on your car will cause rust eventually. This is true. Ten years from now, when the car is worth squat, it will begin to rust. This may cost you a hundred bucks or so...ten years from now. Your time is worth much more than that. If the good Lord wanted you to wash the car, he wouldn’t have invented nature’s car wash: Rain.

*Balancing Your Check Book – In the history of the world there have been exactly three people who have found bank errors. Those three people got a total credit of $1.26. Have you gotten an overdraft notice? No? Then what’s the problem?

*Laundry – Wash everything in warm. Dry everything on medium. End of story.

20% Effort Required

“Why push when you go through a revolving door? Somebody else will show up sooner or later.”
--Milton Berle

There are some tasks that even the “110% effort people” don’t do with full gusto. Those that do should be put away before they harm someone. Here are tasks that require no more than 20% effort. You owe it to yourself and your rest.

*Flossing – Most dentists feel you should spend up to 3 minutes everyday flossing. Who’s got that much time? They say you should count about ten up and down strokes on each tooth. Do the math. Most people have 28 teeth, that’s 280 strokes! Talk about overkill. Just get the big hunks of the Heath Bar in front and you’re fine. Our buddy Nick agrees and he’s a dentist. He also wanted us to mention that he takes all major medical and is open 6 days a week.

*Selecting Greeting Cards for Men – You’re a guy. You’re buying a card for a guy. Just take the first card you see. He won’t care. Honestly, he doesn’t read them. If you don’t believe me, next time watch his eyes while he is “reading” your card. They don’t move. All of us have practiced that dopey smile and head nod. This of course only pertains to serious cards. For the mean funny cards we’ve also practiced the fake laugh. Trust us, if you’re giving a bald guy a wacky birthday card he’s seen it before. We open the card and look for cash, after that it’s all show.

*Making the Bed –
Unless you live in a studio apartment, there’s an invention that can help you overcome the need to make your bed. It’s called a bedroom door. Close it. Let’s face it, you won’t be entertaining guests in the bedroom (if you do, we want to party with you), and you don’t care if your bed is made or not. Door closed: Case closed.

Doing the Math

Society is changing, and you have to change with it.

If you follow our simple suggestions, your effort reservoir will begin to fill up. A quarter effort here, a third effort here, a fifth effort there, and before you know it, you’ll be up past 55%--the new half-assed water mark.

No need to thank us for helping you get there. It’s not worth the effort.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Suburban Man: Boys will be Boys

Sorry for the late posting. Our power went out last night and only came back on this morning.

By Rick Kaempfer

Between 7:30 a.m. when Bridget leaves for work, and 6:00 p.m or so when she returns, our house is uni-gender: Just Dad and his three boys.

I’ve always relished this arrangement and so have the boys. Any parent knows that boys and girls have some genetic tendencies (from birth) that cannot be denied. While our situation does not fit all gender stereotypes because I’m a stay-at-home dad, my boys undoubtedly have some genetic male tendencies, and some of them have been heightened by spending so much time with Dad. For instance, the way we communicate is very stereotypically male.

*Logic is our friend.

*What you see is what you get.

*Substance trumps style.

*There are no secrets.

*It’s always OK to joke around.

We slipped into this comfortable lifestyle effortlessly after I became the primary caregiver of the household. In each of the five ways listed above, I think our male-dominant home is a little bit different than a female-dominated home….and in a good way. We spend a lot of time laughing and almost no time at all engaged in needless mind games.

On the other hand, we also fit the gender stereotypes in ways which are a little less admirable.

*Diplomacy is not our friend.

*Modesty is virtually non-existent.

*Negotiation is always a three step process.
1) State your case and expect agreement.
2) Threaten.
3) Make your point physically.

*Hygiene is not a top priority.

I’ve been working hard on making the boys a little less stereotypically male on these last four points, but so far I’m losing the battle.

Especially with the modesty issue.

The boys are so cavalier about modesty that they think nothing of walking around the house naked after they come out of the shower. This is no big deal when it’s just the four of us, but it’s a huge problem when we have company. All three of them still have a hard time making that distinction at times.

My youngest son Sean takes the modesty issue to extremes. He has the Pavlovian habit of stripping down whenever he hears the shower running. He’ll part the curtains and jump right in. That doesn’t really bother his brothers, but it really bothers my sister and mother when he stays at their homes. They’ve learned to ALWAYS lock the door. (I’ve talked to him about this, but the Pavlovian effect is difficult to wipe out.)

The bathroom, in general, is a problem. When they take care of business, they bring an entire library with them. I understand their need for uninterrupted solitude, but it turns out the teachers at school don’t share that understanding. Neither do our friends and relatives. A house party deprived of unoccupied bathrooms has a tendency to cause problems…especially when beverages are served.

But we’re working on these issues, we really are.

Don’t look at me that way. I know what you’re thinking.

I swear it really isn’t a case of monkey-see, monkey-do. I don’t do any of these things myself because I had it beaten out of me growing up in a home with a mother and a sister. My mistake was not doing the same thing with my boys when they exhibited these natural male tendencies. Unfortunately, because there were no women around, and it wasn’t really disrupting our household, I didn’t crack down on this behavior. As it turns out, that was a huge mistake.

God only knows what other mistakes I’ve already made that haven’t yet reared their ugly heads. Sometimes I worry that I’m raising boys with an entirely skewed view of the world, but all I can do is keep doing my best, and hope that I’m not causing any long-term damage.

On the bright side, I know I’m raising boys who are self-assured, reasonable, substantive, and funny. That can take them a long way in life.

The question is: Will the world ever discover that if they never get out of the bathroom?

If you missed a previous Suburban Man column, click here:

Monday, October 02, 2006

Best Day Ever

Bears win big versus Seattle. The only undefeated team in the NFC. Time to bring back a certain song...

The Super Bowl Shuffle

How long before these guys return? (Note: Look out for the Bulls this year too)

The Super Fans

AND...Andy McFail forced out as the President of the Cubs.

The Cubs in 2007

Life has never been this good.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


In 1992, Loop Scoop Magazine asked me to appear on Kevin Matthews Show (then on AM 1000--10:30-3PM) and interview sportscaster Jim Shorts. It was one of the strangest experiences of my life. The following is a partial transcript of that interview.

By Rick Kaempfer

Jim Shorts is one of a kind: brash, violent, lady killer. But what is he really like? LOOP SCOOP decided the only way to find out was to subject him to the type of tough, uncompromising interview he himself has made famous. We sent out our reporter, Rick Kaempfer, to find out if the "real" Jim Shorts differs from his bigger-than-life persona heard every day on the Kevin Matthews Show.

RK: We've gotten to know your parents over the years. They seem to be loving and giving. Tell us something they did to you, that has screwed you up for life.

JS: They let my brother Glenn throw gasoline on me, and Glenn held up a match to me, but it didn't burst. And they made me go on a weekend trip with my Uncle.

RK: Which Uncle?

JS: I can't say. He's still in prison.

RK: Jim, just out of curiosity, I've noticed your father keeps calling you Richard. Is that your real name?

JS: I can't say. No comment.

RK: Fine. Everybody in radio seems to have a story about a boss somewhere that made them change their name. Are there any bad radio names you rejected?

JS: Yeah, Jack Silver and Shemp.

RK: What do you think of Kevin?

RK: What about your Wang. A recent poll of our listeners showed that only 10% actually believe you two are "just good friends". When are you going to get off your high horse, admit it, and marry the girl?

JS: It is very hard to bridle a stallion.

RK: Well, if Wang isn't the one, what kind of girl are you looking for?

JS: Hair. She has to have hair.

RK: Speaking of hair...Jim, you are as bald as a cueball, but yet you are self-assured, almost cocky. I'm sure your bald fans would love to know the secret.

JS: I call Tom Thayer. He's like my support group.

RK: Jim, what don't you sing anymore?

JS: I do. I'm actually putting a band together. It will be called Jim Shorts and the Melody Makers. And if you're a senior citizen in a rest home, write us and we'll come out and play for you.

RK: Play now.

JS: I'm not a monkey.

RK: Yes, but your child is. Every proud papa has a cute story about their little ones. Tell us about Luger.

JS: I almost cried the first time we clapped our hands together and he did a little backflip.

RK: Having a kid makes us all get a little philosophical. Let me ask you this, and I'll let you go. If a genie suddenly appeared on your doorstep and granted you a wish, anything at all, what would you wish for?

JS: Anything?


JS: Anything in the entire world?

RK: Yup..

JS: A new hip for Red Kerr.

*Kevin Matthews is now on the air in Grand Rapids, Michigan and I caught up with him a few months ago and interviewed him for SHORE Magazine

RK: You were in Grand Rapids for years. It must help returning to town as a known quantity.

Kevin: Yeah. Even when I was at AM 1000 (in Chicago), the signal reached to this part of Western Michigan.

RK: How are things going?

Kevin: It’s been really wonderful. I went to school here, got married here, my son Trevor was born here, and I’m working with the guy who first hired me in radio (newsman Ed Buchanan). It’s good to be home.

RK: How does the Grand Rapids market differ from Chicago?

Kevin: It’s just as competitive, but this is a historic classic rock station (96.9 FM, WLAV), and it’s incredible working somewhere people actually want to work instead of a place where people are handing out their resumes.

RK: Is Jim still a part of the show?

Kevin: Oh yeah.