Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

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Tagged personal

Using numbers to look your best

suit

ABC

The world is full of qualitative statements. Exaggerations. Subjectiveness that cannot be measured. The people that make such statements are easily forgotten.

Quantitative statements, on the other hand, leave an impression. They measure your place in life. My father taught me this at an early age.

When I was nine years old, I ran a fast 400 meter dash, which is no easy feat. The thing about the 400 is not a lot of people run it. It’s difficult, because it’s not quite a sprint and not quite a distance race. As such, few amateurs compete in it. At least that was the case when I ran it.

So my father encouraged me to run the 400. I did. All the way to the ’88 state finals. Here’s how it happened:  Continue reading…

Critic turned fan: Just how “happy” is Disneyland?

Illustration Blake Snow/Disney

Disney

ANAHEIM, Ca.—Comedian Jim Gaffigan once joked, “My favorite ride at Disney was the air conditioned bus back to the airport.” When asked why he paid so much money to wait in long lines for underwhelming rides, he replied, “Because I love my children.”

I love my children, too. But unlike Gaffigan, I’ve been unwilling to visit Disney until recently because I viewed it as a rip-off, an unneeded parental sacrifice, and not nearly as rewarding as natural wonder. Although I have fond memories of visiting Disneyland with my family as an eight year old boy, I have fonder memories of visiting the nearby Laguna Beach that same week. “So I’ll take my kids to more majestic, less expensive places instead,” I’ve told myself ever since.

Deep down, however, I wanted to know: Could so many people be wrong? Why do over 70 million folks visit one of Disney’s templated parks each year, making it the third most-visited tourist attraction on Earth, according to Travel and Leisure? Can a place that averages 4.5 out of 5 visitor stars really be an overpriced tourist trap?

To find out, I caved recently and booked my family for two-day passes to Disneyland. Tickets cost $100 each per day; children were $5 off (that’s it?!). In fact, admittance to the park totaled more than the combined airfare and four-day stay we paid for a well-rated hotel across the street, not to mention the expensive dining we were sure to encounter inside the park.

Upon realizing that, I had buyer’s remorse. Had I make a mistake? Was I turning into sheep? Maybe. But I was determined to find out for myself, if not for humanity’s sake.  Continue reading…

Here’s what happened when a billionaire overpaid me by $20,000

Fox Networks

Fox Networks

Even if you think you’re honest person, your integrity will forever be challenged, usually when you least expect it.

I recently learned this lesson after a client tried to overpay me by $20,000 on two separate occasions. The first time they simply wired the money into my account without realizing I was already paid. “Either they sent duplicate payment or liked my work so much they gave me a huge bonus,” I thought to myself. I knew it was the former, but sat on the blunder for a few days before notifying the client.

The reason: The devil on my left shoulder made a convincing argument. “Blake,” he said, “maybe you didn’t invoice them the first time?” Nope, I checked my records. I’ve been paid in full. “Okay,” he went on, “but they’re a billion dollar company. They won’t even notice the misplaced $10,000.”

“I doubt it,” the angel on my right shoulder replied. “Imagine if someone got fired for this. Besides, you didn’t earn this money. It doesn’t matter if you omit or commit theft—stealing is wrong. You’re better than this.”  Continue reading…

Can’t hold me down: I make a living sitting down and can no longer sit down

My deffective lower lumbar

My defective lower lumbar

Thanks to genetics, I inherited two bad discs in my back, the neurologist told me. (Sorry kids, you’re next.)

For no particular reason, the first one broke six years ago. It laid me up for six straight weeks, forcing me to work lying down for a month and a half. After surgery, I could thankfully sit, run, and walk again with a normal gait.

I was also given a clean bill of health. “Blake, I’ve had patients scale Mount Everest and play two hours of basketball every morning for the rest of their lives after similar surgery,” the doctor told me. “Except for moving refrigerators and pianos, you have my blessing to do whatever physically adventurous things you want.”

I took his counsel to heart, got fit, ate more plants, and experienced a renaissance of outdoor exploits and saw a lot of wonderful things since then. In a way, breaking my back was the best thing to happen to me since marrying Lindsey, fathering children, and being awesome.

Now I get to do it all over. Last week, I broke my back again. Continue reading…

How my daughter helps me “master” life

Photo: Blake Snow

Photo: Blake Snow

Last month, my eight year-old daughter subdued me in a remarkable way.

Our dog Harley had just disobeyed orders. As I confronted him, he urinated on our floor for the umpteenth time.

Now, there are a lot of things I dislike about Harley. He pees like a girl. Recoils from house flies. And his nervous system is a little too nervous. But my least favorite thing about Harley is his knack for urinating a few teaspoons at times when I—the perceived “leader” of the pack—order or reprimand him.

It’s called submissive urination and it’s downright annoying for two reasons. First, I’ve had to clean up dog urine, several times a day, even though he’s been house trained for months. Second, I have no idea when to expect it, even though Harley is normally an obedient dog.  Continue reading…

Why everyone should embrace frugality

Warner Bros. / Blake Snow

Warner Bros. / Blake Snow

My stomach turns anytime I witness waste, lavishness, or squandering. I smile whenever I see thrift, frugality, or resourcefulness. (See also: The difference between cheap and frugal)

In fact, the latter is a life-long pursuit of mine: To be resourceful in everything I do, including my personal and business endeavorers.

Which is why I relate to Amazon’s leadership principle on frugality, explained like this Continue reading…

Here’s the part where I declare new year self-improvement

blake-snow

Excepting more embarrassing personal stuff, here are the changes I hope to make next year:

  1. I’m gonna speak softly to my kids. I’m loud. With my choice of words and opinions as much as my volume. Children don’t need that extra emotion as they’re figuring out the world. Often times I bark at my kids when they make a mistake or disobey. On a whim recently, I tried something different. Instead of scolding my three year old with a mean face and verbal outburst, I kneeled down, leveled my eyes with hers, softly expressed my disappointment, and encouraged her to change. She lovingly accepted and immediately improved her behavior. After overhearing the exchange, her older sister said, “Dad, I like when you talk to us like that. I feel a warm spirit in the room when you do that.” Then this happened. Then I resolved to speak kindly when disciplining my children from that day forward.  Continue reading…

3 reasons this is still the best toothbrush I’ve ever used

reach-total-care-plus-whitening-toothbrush

The Reach Total Care + Whitening. Seriously, this thing is my version of the Ora-Dent for the following reasons:

  1. Unlike most plastic bristles, these babies don’t just slide across your rocks, they actually have grip and texture, which help remove build-up. After using this brush, your teeth feel as though the’ve just been polished by a dental hygienist. I know because I lick my teeth after every brush now.
  2. The angle of the brush gives you maximum leverage, making it easier than any brush I’ve used before to access those hard-to-reach places.
  3. Most brush handles narrow towards the end. Not the Reach Total Care + Whitening. This handle widens at the end, providing the best grip possible. I own my teeth now!

That said, I don’t fully buy the whitening bit. If Reach is saying the brush is capable of removing more external gunk than other brushes thanks to the above, then fine. But if they’re claiming it whitens like my bleech trays, I’ll call their bluff. After all, they’re whitening claim is asterisked by “lab tests,” aka “clinically proven,” aka “this doesn’t really do what we claim, but we’d like to think it does.”

Secondly, at $3.50 a pop, the brush is 3X the price of average brushes. Regardless, I’ll never buy another toothbrush. It’s that good.

(For what it’s worth, here is the toothpaste I use. Also awesome.)

Originally published March 2011

Buy this: My absolute favorite brand of cheese. You’re welcome.

cabot-seriously-sharp-cheddar

I’m a cheese lover. I’ve sampled some of the finest from three different continents. In fact, I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like, except for Colby. (Yuck!)

My absolute favorite varient of cheese, however, is Cabot’s Seriously Sharp Cheddar. It comes from grass-fed cows in Vermont that sleep on warm blankets and are often whispered words of encouragement by loving humans. It’s gluten-free, low-carb, 100% organic, and makes your bowel movements smell like cinnamon. It’s aged for 24 hours, helps save the planet, and will even impress your sycophant friends.

Not really. But Seriously Sharp is the most pungent and satisfying cheese I’ve ever tasted. It’s perfectly textured—slightly crumbly without being overly dry. Dense and mouthwatering. It’s so delectable, I often sink in my chair after savoring the final slice.

Goes well with red grapes, almonds, crackers, french bread and salami, strawberries, cantaloup, and white sauces. I buy it at Walmart right after doorbell ditching struggling mom-and-pop grocers.

Enjoy.

Anxiously engaged: 5 hobbies I like

blake

My wife looked at me with bright amber eyes the other day and laughed in my face. “Is no hobby off limits for you?” she mused.

We were cleaning our attic and going through an old box of mine. It was a veritable time capsule of previous hobbies I once held dear. The one that made Lindsey laugh most were my magic tricks.

“How much did you spend on these?” she asked. “A few hundred,” I responded. “Let me guess, you only played with them for a few weeks,” she countered.

Probably.

You see, I lose interest in hobbies as quickly as I discover them. I do have lifelong passions—music and sports chief among them. But most of my hobbies are fleeting. I get what I need and then move on to new hobbies. The old ones remain as slice of my former self; a talking point with anyone who has shared my enthusiasm for x, y, or z.

But it’s not out of boredom that I lose interest in hobbies. It’s out of a desire to experience as many things as I can. Someday I’ll list a comprehensive set of passions that I chased in this life. But for now, here are personal hobbies I’m particularly keen on at the moment: Continue reading…

Weight is a lousy motivator for long-term health. Find a real cause today.

blake-first-marathonIf you’re happy with your health, nutrition and self-image, skip to the next post. If not, read on.

In nine years of marriage, Lindsey and I have never owned a weight scale. Not one.

Why? Because they’re superficial, largely meaningless, and a lousy motivator of long-term health. Continue reading…

How I made a living last year

As an independent contractor, I get asked a lot on how I make a living. The easiest answer is “I work from home.” If that doesn’t satisfy the interviewer, however, I’ll usually say “I’m a writer,” which is only partly true.

In many ways, I’m a jack of all trades. Writing and developing content for others is my forte. But I also enjoy critiquing software and games, moonlighting in online advertising, content marketing, and one-off projects that present a unique but hard-to-screw up challenge.

That said, I never over promise. I’m quick to tell a potential client or existing client “I don’t do that” when asked about other disciplines and send them on their way—mostly because I do crappy work when I’m not passionate about it. That and I refuse to engage in work I don’t like doing, regardless of how well it pays.

(Seriously, doing stuff you don’t enjoy solely for money or status is the epitome of living a lie. I realize some people have no choice in the short-term and often have to take one for the team to make ends me. But EVERYONE has a choice in the long term. It just takes planning, sacrifice, and guts.)

Anways, long story short, here’s how I became a thousandaire last year: Continue reading…

The first time I told my wife I loved her

imageSaying “I love you” for the first time is always a crap shoot.

It’s easier to do when the other one says it first. Difficult to do when you’re the emotional, head-over-heals, and “want to lay it on the line” type like me.

That was the case when I first expressed my love to Lindsey. If I remember right, the conversation went something like this (probably after one of our legendary make-out sessions):

Me: “I love you.”

Lindsey: “Thank you.”

Crash and burn.

Not to worry, though. I was flying high again a few months later, after hot stuff reciprocated. And we lived happily ever after.

Thank you, Lindsey.

See also:

Like father, like son: Using the bathroom for peace and quiet

toilet-newMy dad won’t like me for repeating this on the intertubes, but it’s too good not to.

Growing up, my old man would regularly sneak off to his tiny toilet room to get away from his loud wife and six, know-it-all children. It was one of those “bathroom within a bathroom” type deals where the toilet had its own lockable door—you know, for added privacy and to keep the fumes from offending a significant other using the sinks, bath, or shower.

Funny thing is, that toilet room would have been claustrophobic for an undersized gnome. While sitting on the toilet, small children could have (and regularly did) touch opposing side walls with ease. It couldn’t have been longer than six feet.

Nevertheless, my dad would retreat there for what seemed like hours, reading Rand-McNally maps or whatever almanac or resource books he left in there. It was his sole sanctuary, that is until he took over the entire second floor after the kids left home.

As a stunning teenager, I remember thinking something like this: “Dude bought this big ole house and everything in it, and yet the only space he has to himself is a 6×3′ toilet room.”

Now, as the children have begun overrunning my own house, I have found myself in similar situations. Granted, I have it better than he did. I enjoy a private home office that is only occasionally open to the kids for impromptu dance sessions (since my desktop doubles as the house’s best hi-fi). And my “toilet room” is much larger than his.

But I still stay in the bathroom longer than I should. The only difference is instead of Rand-McNallys, an iPad comes with me.

(Note: I defer all flagging concerns to George Costanza)

My Dad on being a great basketball shooter

hoosiers_new-subsample

I wish I could have seen my Dad play basketball.

My uncle tells me he was a phenomenal shooter, regularly putting up 30+ points a night against amateur competition. My old man reputedly scored 50 points in a single half of intramural college ball once (!).

More impressive from a precision standpoint, he shot 50 consecutive free throws at my neighbor’s house when I was a boy. He stopped before missing his first shot so he could get home “for supper,” he says. Talk about ending on a high note.

Marveling at other great shooters this year, including Jimmer Fredette, whom I’ve watched at close range, I asked my Dad what it takes to be a great percentage shooter. His reply:

“It is a combination of natural and great physical skill, thousands of hours of practice and playing, and the ability after reaching a certain point of physical excellence to take your mind out of shooting and letting your body do it! That’s the groove that is spoken of. Not very many reach the ‘groove’ consistently. When it happens, it is like heaven on earth.”

High five, pops!

5+ bands I’m digging right now

dj-headphonesIn addition to this recent discovery, the following have been in heavy rotation on my iTunes lately:

  1. Miike Snow. Incredible album. All songs either 4- or 5-star rated. Standouts include Animal, Song for No One, Burial, and Faker. (previously on Smooth Harold)
  2. Helio Sequence. With exception to the last two songs (boring), this is a lovely album. Hallelujah is the most awesome.
  3. Kid Cudi. The non glamorous lyrics and futuristic beats are a breath of fresh air. Still, this is sometimes indulgent hip-hop. So I bought the clean version ‘cuz I’m like that (Hi, kids).
  4. Empire of the Sun. Only half of this album is good (the first four songs plus the last). But man are they good.
  5. Loscil. Mmm, space music. Excellent background sounds that still keep things interesting.

Honorable mention: Gregory Brothers, if only for their sweet auto-tune remix skills.

10 reasons my dad is awesome

dad

I forgot my Dad’s birthday yesterday. Maybe I should start consulting my calendar on weekends again. Or plan accordingly when something important doesn’t fall on a weekday.

In any case, here are 10 reasons I love my Dad. Yup, I said love. But I say that in a man-to-man sort of way. If that makes any sense. Which it doesn’t. So just read on. Continue reading…

Overheard in family prayer: “Please help me forget scary movies”

Samsung PN50C450 2010While considering a TV upgrade, Lindsey and I were price checking a nearby retailer yesterday. Thankfully for us, the outfit was showing a kids movie, so parents could shop around.

Lindsey and I didn’t wait to take advantage. After a few minutes, I glanced towards the girls to find my four year-old looking the opposite direction, peeking through tiny fingers, and squirming in her skin as she watched a sci-fi movie on a different TV. I then rushed over to rescue her from the gnarly Alien surgery taking place on screen.

She was pretty upset. And I’m sad to say I didn’t notice the movie beforehand. (Was neck deep in materialism—not parenting— at the time, okay?) She cried when we got home. Her mother wisely recommended prayer. I offered. It helped.

This morning, it was Sadie’s turn to pray. “Please help me forget scary movies,” she supplicated.

Cutest. Prayer. Ever.

My two-year old is a rocker

headbangerLike her daddy, I recently learned that my two-year old has a fetish for really good blues rock.

While listening to Band of Skulls on the way to St. George this weekend, Lindsey and Sadie weren’t as excited to hear the band. Meanwhile, I caught Maddie in a self-taught and deliberate headbang—she enjoyed it so much.

Rock. On.

Unfriending inappropriate Facebook relationships

funny-facebook-you're doing it wrong

If there’s one thing this world isn’t short on, it’s attractive women. Seriously, mature females are the most aesthetically pleasing things to look at. Heck, even girls can’t keep their eyes of each other.

But there’s a big difference between appreciating beauty and lusting after it. Which is why some dudes are unfriending attractive females on Facebook, in an effort to stay Marriedbook (crash cymbal please).

“I deleted an old high-school girlfriend,” a colleague told me recently. “She was posting some pretty racy photos of hereself, and I realized I didn’t need to be seeing that as a married man.”

In similar shoes, I felt empowered upon hearing this. Indeed, before quitting Facebook, I had to remove a couple of contacts from my account for similar reasons. But it’s encouraging to hear other married men fighting to stay happily married. It gives me hope.

On that note, do you have any electronic relationships that need deleting?

Remember when I almost killed myself running?

I like running.

With exception to an injury hiatus, I ran several times a week over the past two years. And since reading Born To Run, I do so enthusiastically (not begrudgingly like I once did).

I normally run continuously for 45 minutes to an hour. On occasion, two hours—whatever I feel like really. I don’t time myself or track miles—an act that makes running feel like work—I just run.

Two weeks ago, I was feeling especially light on my feet. When I left the house on an empty stomach that Saturday, I didn’t plan on running for three plus hours, but I did. I also didn’t take water or food with me, and nearly put myself in the hospital as a result.

Continue reading…

56 reasons my wife is better than yours

lindsey

True to chain letter form, Lindsey emailed me the following “friend survey” today. With exception to nos. 23 and 41, her responses made me proud to call her my wife—especially with Valentine’s around the corner. They also make me look chivalrous, which is always a good thing.

Warning: some of her answers are a little sappy. But this is my blog—not yours. You can get lost if you have a problem with that! Continue reading…

Too much milk: My worst nightmare

I’m not the kind of person to relate my past dreams to others. In fact, I never do. They’re usually boring, meaningless, and nonsensical—merely the brain recalling past memories or feelings as it tries to get some shut eye. So I only share the following dream because it’s pathetic and telling:

Since my two-year old drinks milk like nobody’s business, I go to the grocer to buy some more. Unsure if we have any remaining at home, I purchase four gallons. Upon my return, I notice there was a full gallon discreetly placed in the fridge door. Gasp! I’m now sitting on five gallons of milk and freakin’ out. “What are we going to do with five gallons!?” I ask my wife. “How are we going to drink all this milk before it expires!!??”

That’s the dream. My worst nightmare: too much milk. Doubting reality, I drank an extra tall glass of the good stuff this morning just to be sure.

Incredible: Unread email actually waits for you on your computer!

gmail

OREM, Utah — After four convenient but usually bad-habit forming years, I canceled my Blackberry email/data plan with T-Mobile last week. To my surprise, I was amazed that my email would actually wait for me on the computer, as opposed to following me around wherever I went. Now, if I’m away from my desk, my email will tell me how many unread messages I have upon my return, so as not to overlook anything. (Some fancy email programs even support audible alerts, such as “You’ve got mail!” Really neat stuff.)

In a flurry of discovery, and in search of more answers, I asked a representative of ARPANET, the inventor of email, for comment. “The great thing about email is that it’s free, provided you don’t give money to your cell phone provider for the same service,” the spokesman said. “And unlike the Post Office, you don’t have to put a hold on your mail if you’re away, say on nights and weekends. If it fits, it ships—which is all the time.”

Continue reading…

“You rock too hard”—the greatest compliment I’ve ever been paid

thumb_ROCK_SYMBOLPrior to graduating in 2004, I played drums in a trio band. We mostly played Killers, Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, and Led Zeppelin covers in our bassist’s basement. We maybe played once a week for a month or so and didn’t even have a proper name. But we still wanted to rock.

Anxious to play a live set, we caught wind of an “Acoustic Battle of the Bands” to be played at BYU’s 22,000 seat capacity Marriott Center. I remember thinking, “Who says we can’t rock that? It says ‘acoustic,’ not low energy or slow tempo.” So we traded our electric guitar for an acoustic/electric and proceeded to tryouts that were being held in some small theater room in the English building.

Upon arrival, we were clearly out of place. As we lugged our full drum kit, half stack bass rig, and guitar amp down the hall, dozens of Dave Mathew wannabes practiced three chord love songs in squeaky voices to admiring girlfriends. My opinion of humanity worsened a little that day. But I digress. Our name was called, we entered the room and setup stage.

Continue reading…

Don’t mind me and this overturned stroller—I’m just trying to run

stroller1I had a bit of a senior moment this morning. While crossing over a contoured section of the sidewalk, I tripped over my toes, lunged forward, and overturned the jogging stroller. I landed in someone’s flower bed. The girls landed in the gutter—on their heads!

Moments before, a lady in her forties was approaching us. Being the gentleman that I am, I crossed onto the street to let her pass. I don’t know about other runners, but it takes my legs a good five minutes to warm in the morning. So at the time of the accident, I was dragging my feet a little. Hence, the stumble when crossing back over to the sidewalk.

Outside of insecurity and one hurt ego, everybody was fine. But I’ll be using that wrist strap religiously froim now on, so as not to send the girls rolling into the road the next time I trip.

Smooth Harold’s alter ego has a new homepage

Blake Snow

In an effort to centralize my online identity, I launched BlakeSnow.com this week. The site features state of the art HTML, some fancy javascript animation, and an enlarged photo of my shapely cranium. I’ll still be blogging under my pseudonym here, and maintain other websites as well, but this will serve as an entry point for people who don’t know me. Plus it makes me look cooler than I really am.

(Thanks, Robert)

Working harder for your dollar

dollar

MSNBC published a story yesterday that confirms what many of us already know: The almighty dollar is a lot more elusive these days, as Americans are working harder for less money. That’s been my experience, as I have to scrap a lot more now to make deals happen. Thankfully, there are still deals. For that I’m grateful. But my Mom put it best when she said, “They party’s over!” It sure is, Mom. It sure is. The upside: I got complacent at the party. So the down economy has been just the kick in the pants I’ve needed to double my creative efforts. The paper chase lives on!

I didn’t have cell reception in Montana… and it was awesome.

BlackBerry with lots of unread messages

The girls and I just got back from a sweet vacation to Teton, Yellowstone, and Montana. It was one of the best vacations I’ve ever had, given all the sights and activities we were able to participate in. One of the coolest “features” of the trip: no cell reception, internet, or TV at our cabin. We were utterly disconnected, which allowed us to be completely present in the moment. “It totally changes the dynamic of the group,” my wife told me yesterday. It sure did, for the better. Can’t wait to go even longer without a connection next time.

I’ve never looked this cool

Blake Snow surfing in San Diego California, June 2009

While in San Diego recently, I went surfing for the first time. As my wife will tell you, I’m pretty proud of myself. Regrettably, I was unable to stand after two hours of riding. But I did get up on both knees a couple of times, so that was pretty cool. The score so far: Ocean 1, Blake 0. In any case, I’m totally taking up surfing as a hobby. Just need to find a nearby ocean.

Where’s Brooks when I need him?

punchout-wii

I got the new Punch-Out for Wii today and have been reveling in the nostolgia and reliving the combos required to beat each opponent. Currently I’m stuck on that frackin’ Great Tiger, who uses tricky teleportation punches to win. Cheater. My older brother Brooks was always better at this game. Where’s a good wing man when you need one?

Overheard at the Snow’s house: “You look like a five year-old”

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Is it possible to have an identity complex a year before turning 30? After changing my hair two weeks ago, I decided to wear high socks with shorts today (I need new pants, plus the weather is nice, okay?). Excited about my throw back to ’90s sock fashion, I asked Lindsey what she thought. “You look like a five year-old,” she proclaimed. Maybe so, but I’m tired of anklet socks. Besides, it’s kind of fun to be different, and who do I need to impress? (I’m married.)

Not all fortune cookies are duds

I haven’t taken a fortune cookie serious — let alone keep one — since… well, forever. Rather than predicting actual fortunes, almost all of them instead state the obvious or reference vague generalizations like, “Your friends have heartbeats,” or, “You’ll never know what you can do until you try.”

Dumb.

My latest fortune cookie, acquired last month after overpaying for an uneasy meal, was a keeper, however: “The project you have in mind will soon gain momentum.” I excitedly thought to myself, “Really? Which one? How soon? Tell me, omniscient Confucius!” I then slipped the two-inch piece of paper into my pocket and later onto my desk as a reminder of my fortune. After a discouraging precursor to Q1, I was willing to let even a cheap, dry cookie have an effect on my professional life.

Yesterday, I closed one of those deals — a reputable and ongoing account that is sure to bolster my portfolio and bank account. As a result, my faith in fortune cookies has been restored. My faith in suspect Chinese joints, on the other hand, has not.

Related: Let me dislike sushi in peace, please

“Dad, are you being a jerk?”

Last month, after an unresolved argument with my wife Lindsey, my three year old (Sadie) walked into my home office and on her own initiative asked, “Dad, are you being a jerk?”

Ouch. Her assumption was dead on. Out of frustration, I had been spiteful with her mother only moments before. I bashfully answered in the affirmative, and with her outreached hand in approval, proceeded to make amends with my better half, who was calmly sitting in the next room.

I knew from experience that kids say the darnedest things, but I had no idea they could cut to the core at such a young age. In any case, I’ll take all the help I can get.

I got a hair cut

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After seven long years, I have finally retired spiky (aka disheveled) hair, some three to four years since it went out of style. In recent years, I would periodically rock the faux hawk for fun, but my decade mainstay was usually spiky — until now.

Before the spike, it was an outdated Caesar cut. Before that it was a naturally curly shag and sometimes Afro cut while in high school. Before that it was a bowl cut in middle school. And before that it was a clean-cut part in elementary school — no funny business.

I’m not sure what to call my new do, but I’ve started “swirling” it from my non-parted side to my parted side, thereby disguising any part whatsoever. I guess you could technically call it a “Reverse Cowlick.” Some hipsters I see when traveling to San Francisco or New York display a variation of this cut, but much more delicately than me.

Whatever it is, I’m happy to be spike free. It was time.

Books I’d like to read this year

After a seven month hiatus (having only read 4-5 books last year), I caught the reading bug again. To stay the course, here are a dozen classics I’d like to read in 2009:

Anna Karenina
1984
War and Peace
The Adventures of Huck Finn
In Search of Lost Time
The Stories of Anton Chekhov
Middlemarch
Moby Dick
The Catcher in the Rye
For Whom the Bell Tolls

I’m currently reading Out of Africa and plan to re-read the following: Hamlet, The Great Gatsby, The Old Man and the Sea, and To Kill a Mockingbird (I remember liking them in high school). Off a recommendation from a well-read friend, I’m also excited to read Water for Elephants and The Kite Runner. And for cheap thrills, I’m going to read The Firm and The Rainmaker, two Grisham novels I missed.

Anything I should add?

UPDATE: Robinson Crusoe, The Count of Monte Cristo, Of Mice and Men, Measure for Measure, the complete Jane Austen collection, Man’s Search for Meaning.

Fort Lauderdale is pretty in January

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Amid the great economic apocalypse of 2009, Lindsey and I sheepishly took an undeserved (as opposed to the popular “well-deserved”) vacation to Fort Lauderdale this month, while my mom watched the girls. It was the best trip I’ve had in a while, considering the stunning beach, lovely weather, great food, and cheap airfare and accommodations. We liked it so much, we plan on returning with the girls as soon as possible. Here are some of my favorite photos taken during our stay: Continue reading…

Felllow runners, will I ever be a robot runner?

Some runners are automatic. Day in, day out, they hop on treadmills, negotiate cross-country trails, or sidestep pedestrians and cars in the city. It’s as if “Just do it” was baked into their DNA.

I am not one of them. Despite my efforts, I still get discouraged and have to continually assure myself while running that “I can do it.”

To be fair, I haven’t run that much. I ran the 400m in grade school, taking the coveted, second-to-last-place finish at state finals. I ran religiously for four months in 2005, after making a fleeting new year’s resolution, which resulted in my quitting. And I ran intensively for another four months last year in preparation for a half-marathon, an event I had to postpone due to a ruptured disc in my lower back, which also put my running on hold until earlier this month.

I admit that my limited running accomplishments get me through my runs better than I would without, but I feel almost as discouraged now as I did while training for my first long-distance race. Is it unrealistic to hope to become a robot runner — one that doesn’t have to play mind games during every workout — say after running three times weekly for an entire year? I’ll keep on trucking regardless, but it sure would be nice.

I’m the Grinch that stole Consumermas

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Lindsey and I gave few gifts for Christmas this year — virtually none to friends and family (gulp). I justified the stinginess given the imminent economic apocalypse.

Now, as the wee hours of Christmas are upon me, I feel like a grinch. Only I have no sleigh full of toys to return to double the size of my heart. Happy Holidays?

At least my three year-old is getting something.

I’m a bedroom DJ again

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After a three year hiatus, I exhumed my turntables from under my bed last month. The “wheels of steel” proudly rest beneath Joe DiMaggio in my office now, and I’ve officially rekindled my love for analog sound, which is deeper and more “alive” than the high-fidelity of DVDs.

It’s hard to explain the enjoyment that comes from mixing and interacting with records (also known as blending or beat-syncing). It’s not as liberating as playing an instrument, but it’s not as passive as listening to a CD or MP3. The turntables are more microphone than music player. The records are the voices and are highly manipulable, thanks to the hands-on approach and tempo-shifting abilities of standard direct-drive tables.

Continue reading…

Ditching the internet for four and a half days was liberating

000image.jpg“Blake is abandoning the internet until Monday,” I wrote Wednesday afternoon on my Facebook status. It wasn’t a pithy attempt to grab attention. I meant it. And I’m happy to report that I stayed the course.

In doing so, I was able to unconditionally enjoy my family’s company during Thanksgiving. It also reinvigorated my professional spirits, ideas, and motivation as I turned to off-line content (you know, books). Granted, I rarely, if ever, have a case of the “Mundayz,” because I enjoy what I do. But today, I’m rearing to go, more than normal. And the break provided some much needed inspiration.

I’ve gone longer than four days without using the internet, namely during designated week-long vacations. But from now on, I’m committed to doing so on the weekends as well. What a novel idea, eh? Taking a break on the weekend.

Note: I’m (still) planning my attempt to ditch the Internet for an entire year

Smooth Harold counts his many blessings: 2008 edition

Lindsey Snow, Sadie Snow, Maddie Snow 2008

This year felt a lot like last for me. I liked that.

That’s not to say thetr weren’t any life improvements — there most definitely were. But it did feel like business as usual with a few notable exceptions. Lindsey and I went on a lovely vacation to the Caribbean in February. Sadie started dance class and abandoned diapers over the summer (rad). Maddie started walking and her colorful personality has filled our house with 100% more smiles. We visited my parents home in Georgia for the first time in three years. And I started two new writing gigs.

In sum, here is what I am most thankful for this year: Continue reading…

“I need some privacy”

Confession: We do not shut bathroom doors in our house while relieving ourselves, that is unless guests are over.

Lindsey and I inadvertently started the bad habit as newlyweds living in a small condo, wanting to maximize our conversation time. The practice has stuck, and often times one of use will even sit in the hallway to carry on a conversation, as if the other was merely sitting down as opposed to going to the bathroom. I guess we’re a modern day Adam’s Family.

Last week, I was making lunch for the girls while Sadie, our three-year old, dispensed u-boats in the guest bathroom toilet. As usual, the bathroom door was wide open so Sadie and I could talk should the “urge” arise. It didn’t take long.

Continue reading…

Words to live by: Don’t be stupid!

Don’t be stupid

Lindsey and I took the girls and our friends The Andersen’s on Friday to Jumping Jacks, an indoor playhouse with more than 6 dozen connected trampolines. I especially liked the warning sign: “Please jump in control. Don’t be stupid!”

I love taking jumps in life, so long as they’re “in control,” and I hate the consequences associated with being stupid. Definitely words to live by. A cute picture of Lindsey and the girls after the break…

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Locked doors remind me of my daughter’s presence

Sadie Snow, three years oldFor reasons beyond me, my three year old has begun using her hair clips to lock all the doors in our house. With clip in hand, sure turns the outside locks from the horizontal position to vertical, “to keep things safe,” she tells me.

In honesty, it’s been kind of annoying over the last two weeks. I’m forced to grab a nickle almost every time to unlock either the bathroom, office, or bedroom.

Last night, I went to check on my sleeping 1 year old. I turned the knob, and of course, it was locked. Rather than becoming frustrated, however, I found a nickel and smiled — perhaps this is my daughter’s way of reminding me she’s here.

My proven guide to dumping and avoiding fake friends

Real friends

Lindsey and I have been blessed with many genuine friends — ones that make us laugh, can celebrate our accomplishments, and extend considerate help.

This week, while visiting one such family, we discovered that they’ve been dealing with some “friends” that reputedly became envious and judgmental of our friends’ recent good fortune. For shame — time is too precious to waste on such superficial friends.

With that in mind, here’s my proven guide to ditching and avoiding fake friends, so you can better enjoy your days in the sun. Continue reading…

Against my will, I’ve become a “Sorry, I got a bad back” guy

I ruptured a disc in my lower back on July 4. I successfully ran a 10K that day, but the spine cushion (as it is called) blew due to genetics, not physical exertion, I’m told. The demanding event and requisite training only aggravated an already degenerative disc.

On Friday, I had a discectomy to cure the problem, which slices through my back, drills a hole in my vertebrae, and traverses the sacred spinal canal to remove the loose fragment that was pinning my sciatic nerve against my bone, causing pain throughout my entire right leg.

Continue reading…

I don’t ever want to manscape

austin powers manscaping

Confession: I hope I never require manscaping. And by manscaping I mean below the neck body hair in general, not below the belt (get your head out of the gutter!).

But yeah, as I near 30 years of age, I’ve spotted some undesirably scragglies on my back. And I can’t even grow a beard. It’s coming, I fear.

So gentlemen, do you manscape? I know you metro sexual gym rats do — what with your baby smooth arms and legs. Ladies, do you encourage it?

In any case, I want no part of it.

Kids still say the darnedest things

“That not look good, daddy,” my clever, almost 3-year old girl said in broken but piercing English on Monday, upon seeing my newly purchased white leather belt around my waist. “That looks better,” she assured me, after I switched to a brown belt.

My confidence in fashion judgment is at an all time low right now. To make matters worse, Sadie told me I was “stinky” over the weekend. Great — out of style and stinky. Just what I need.

“Hey, I’m in the band!”

The Swing (2003)

Before high school graduation, a mission, college, marriage, two children, and a semi-real job, I was an aspiring rock star. I learned to play guitar and wrote my first song at age 14. I joined my first band (a trio named Formaldehyde) at 15, as singer and guitarist. We were kind of a big deal in po dunk Carrollton at the time (insert smiley face). I even got stopped at the local Blockbuster and movie theater by adoring fans (for reals).

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My right leg hates me right now.

Herniated Disc

After four weeks of inexplicable pain in my right leg, I was diagnosed with a herniated (possibly ruptured) disc in my lower back yesterday. Said injury partially blocks my sciatic nerve, making my right leg mad at me.

In all seriousness, it’s rather disabling — causing limping, an inability to sit or stand for long periods of time, and loss of feeling in my foot. Unbeknownst to me, it seems I sustained the injury during my 10K run on July 4.

If only I had maintained my previous life of idleness and extreme atrophy, none of this would have happened. ;)

(I should be fine, by the way, with at least a shot, physical therapy, and time. If not, routine surgery should take care of it. UPDATE: I had surgery in late August. It was a success and I’m on my way back to 100%.)

I’ve broken up with books

Though I’m embarrassed to say it, especially given that my livelihood (read: writing) depends on it, I’ve seemingly broken up with nutritious reading this year. Without noticing, I’ve gone more than seven months without reading a single book (okay, maybe one). I’m not even sure why.

I still read junk literature on a daily basis (i.e. online articles), but those don’t count. I need more Hemmingway, Austen, and Potok in my diet. Unfortunately, I have no desire to open a book, due to a prolonged state of atrophy and laziness. I want to fall in love again and admire my wife and colleagues who remain passionate about the medium.

Have you ever broken up with books? If so, how did you rekindle the fire?

Please, don’t talk to me while cleaning my teeth

Lindsey and I both had teeth cleanings on Monday.

Unfortunately for us, the “lab tech” polishing are pearlies couldn’t keep her mouth shut. She talked about past boyfriends, the lack of air conditioning, the wall decorations, how the new dentist is having a hard time paying bills (that makes me feel better), and other small-talk minutia ad nauseum.

Now, I rather enjoy listening to strangers and asking questions to learn more about them. But not when I can’t say anything in response; not when the discussion is mindless generalities. And definitely not when I’m getting my teeth cleaned (something I’ve always enjoyed).

To top off the bad experience, I was seemingly misdiagnosed in my exam, and my the dentist was all but begging my wife for repeat business. I guess it’s time to find a new dentist.

How do you achieve mental toughness?

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Lindsey and I have been training for a long distance run this fall. It’s one of the toughest physical goals I’ve ever set, at least in terms of endurance, which often leaves me discouraged. In short, while my body is not fatiguing, my mind is. It makes me feel mentally soft.

So I ask you, dear Smooth Harold readers. What do you do to obtain, maintain, and demonstrate mental toughness when the going get tough? What do you do to get “in the zone” and find the courage to keep pressing on physically when the finish line seems so far off?

I frackin’ love summer.

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Earlier this morning, I drove to the store to get gas for Lindsey — she was running late and still getting ready for an upcoming appointment with the girls. I walk outside, and I’m greeted with the warm blanket and smell of liberty that is summer weather. I love it.

Last weekend, I helped chaperone a youth camp in Eden, Utah for 10 boys and nine girls (a deflated tubeing ride pictured). Notice the contrast of the bluish lake, the rolling green hills, the snow-caped mountains, and clear sky in the background. Beautiful, not to mention the 85 degree weather the group enjoyed that day.

So if I had to rank my favorite seasons, they would be as follows: 1) Summer, by a long shot; 2) Fall; 3) Spring; and 4) Winter, a very distant fourth (I say “boo” to you, cold weather). What’s your favorite time of the year?

Giving someone the benefit of the doubt lessens aggravation in life

The Utah Department of Transportation is currently widening the road (800 N) in front of my apartment. It hasn’t been the end of the world, but it’s still a nuisance — not only for local residents but for street side retailers trying to drive business.

One such retailer, a truck dealership, began commandeering the unfinished lanes in front of his property over the weekends (while UDOT isn’t working) to showcase his trucks and lure in customers. When I first saw this a couple months back, I said to myself in snooty fashion: “He can’t do that. He doesn’t own those lanes — those are public.”

Continue reading…

I got ‘high’ while running last week

Homer runningI started running again in March and have so far been consistent with my efforts. It marks the first time that I’ve done so in three years.

Last week, I had quite the experience towards extending my determination: I got high while running — a natural/adrenaline high, that is. But it wasn’t the kind that enthuses for a passing moment. It was one of the strongest, most euphoric natural highs I’ve ever had. So much in fact that it encouraged me to run farther and longer than I ever have.

This unshapely body isn’t dead yet!

My eccentric taste in music doesn’t go unnoticed

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My whole life I’ve been ridiculed by numerous persons for my taste in music, my wife Lindsey included. Imagine my satisfaction then, to discover her current iTunes playlist, of which 43 percent of the songs were introduced to her by yours truly (highlighted in blue). Not bad, eh?

I can’t take all the credit, however. The following individuals have greatly influenced my love of music from five years of age to my current 28: My mom and dad. My sisters Summer and Lexia (Cami and Sara weren’t the most vanguard at the time). My brother Brooks. Dylan Denney. Josh Rhine. Wesley Lovvorn. Tim Mobley. Chris Carrino. Chris Chatlean. Tim Ormond. Micah Alldrege. Jon Reed. Jared Richards. Lindsey Snow. Eric Larsen. Steven Smith. Matt Andersen. David Cole. Chris Morell. Kyle Crane.

I’m forgetting several more, but those are the ones that stand out. Thanks for tipping me off to distinct tune-age, all!

Back in the camping saddle again

I work as a volunteer youth leader in my not-so-spare time. Last week, I offered to chaperone a campout for the following Friday, even though I hadn’t been camping in more than five years (note: I define camping as at least sleeping in a tent).

To be honest, I initially decided to go to merely show my support for the younglings. Up until then, I had largely written-off camping as a boring activity I’d like to avoid in favor of sleeping on a comfy Serta mattress in a controlled environment.

I have since changed my mind, however, taking a strong liking to the removal of technology and simple satisfaction found in pitching a tent, cooking a limited meal, and surrounding a fire with friends. My recent experience was so positive, in fact, that I convinced Lindsey to let me splurge on a complete camping set the following Saturday.

Suffice it to say I’ll be going more frequently now. I’m still camping retarded, but I’m anxious to become one with nature again… and then return to my comfy Serta.

My commentary on recent happenings

img5.jpgI returned home from a press junket to Baton Rouge on Wednesday, and here are some thoughts I haven’t had time to talk about:

  • I enjoy coming home from a trip and am convinced the flight into Salt Lake City is one of the prettiest in the nation.
  • Blackened alligator is better than sushi — confirmed!
  • Louisianians fry more food than my native Georgia. Impressive.
  • As has been customary, I’m entering the travel period of my year as the gaming industry gears up for its big fall push. I travel only 6-7 times a year, and prefer it that way. I’m an unadventurous city-slicker who is also a homebody. I even choke up a little when leaving for a short trip.
  • Maddie, my six-month old looks really cute in shades.
  • My wife’s sausage manicotti is delicious.
  • Regular exercise is difficult for me. After three weeks of steady running, I let it slip this week.
  • On a personal note, I just learned of the sudden passing of Jeff Jones in December at the hands of Leukemia. I considered Jeff a close, friendly, and respected professional colleague and worked extensively with him in 2006 and early 2007 before losing touch last summer. I would have his surviving family, friends, and associates know that Jeff was genuinely one of the kindest individuals I’ve had the pleasure of working with. He will be missed.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Now with 100% more milkman

According to Wikipedia, milk was first delivered in bottles on January 11, 1878. As of April 14, 2008, it is still delivered to Wasatch Front doorsteps in plastic jugs.

Though Lindsey and I had heard and tried Winder Dairy in the past, we recently become customers in a cooperative with our downstairs neighbors, the Johnstuns. We pay about a dollar more per gallon than we would at retail. The milk (not to mention bread, cheese, and whatnot) is not only deliciously fresh, but it’s delivery method is loaded with history, something I’m convinced makes the cow extract taste even better.

To my surprise, milk is still delivered in isolated regions of the United States, but it’s seemingly a rare luxury for most. It’s amazing how long older technologies can endure, and with the quiet resurgence of web-to-order grocery delivery, the milkman may still have a future.

Fun Fact: I was in talks with Winder Dairy many years ago as a web consultant to redesign their website.

Fondue is my new favorite food

For whatever reason, Lindsey started making delicious cheese and chocolate fondue for dinner last December. We’ve had it five or six times in little more than three months now, and I’m in love — particularly with the cheese dipped French bread.

My wife’s recipe is even better than the Melting Pot (no kidding) and comes at a substantial discount. For a mere $40, you can feed six adults fresh bread, strawberries, apples, bananas, lil’ smokies, pound cake, pretzels, marshmallows, and oreos with chocolate to spare. It’s so win.

So dust off that fondue set you received as a wedding gift but never used. You won’t be disappointed. In the off chance you are, I’ll harass you like sushi-junkie.

Fun fact: The Swiss invented fondue to enable the digestion of stale bread that had become so hard it could be “chopped with an ax.” Oh, and don’t mouth the dipping fork, you pig.

Major gas leaks are heinous, man

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I looked outside my living room window last week to find quite the commotion. There were numerous service vehicles, police officers, firemen, and gas technicians eerily backing away from my condo. It should be noted that the department of transportation is widening the road in front of my place.

So I step outside my door to hear and smell a gas leak. A pretty sizable one, according to my senses. Continue reading…

Ask questions first, spank later

225_shrek2.jpgI learned a valuable and humbling lesson as a parent yesterday: the unharmed sister or brother isn’t necessarily the one to blame. In other words, don’t jump to conclusions.

After feeding both Sadie and Maddie early in the morning while Lindsey slumbered, I laid Maddie on our tall ottoman to perfect my laptop father skills. Moments later, while entrenched in technology, I heard a “Maddie’s falling” accompanied by a heavy thud. I looked up from my PowerBook to find a suspicious looking Sadie standing over a fallen Maddie, who was now crying loudly.

Continue reading…

It feels good to even up with Uncle Sam

Lindsey and I finished our taxes early this year, e-filing on Tuesday with our people. It feels good to put that one in the “completed” folder.

What’s more, I saved a grundle in 2007 by filing as an s-corp instead of a partnership (note: the federal government does not recognize an LLC, a state entity, so Uncle Sam defaults to a partnership filing for tax purposes). Couple that with an additional tax credit for our second child born in October, and the Snow family will be spoiled with its first return in three years.

The downside: flat revenues also contributed to the return, though I honestly can’t complain. Not one bit. Have you done your taxes?

Gordon B. Hinckley dies at 97

A statement from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reads: “President Gordon B. Hinckley, who led The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through twelve years of global expansion, has died at the age of 97… from causes incident to age.

“His quick wit and humor, combined with an eloquent style at the pulpit, made him one of the most loved of modern Church leaders. A profoundly spiritual man, he had a great fondness for history and often peppered his sermons with stories from the Church’s pioneer past.”

In my lifetime, I respected this man as a prophet of God.

Cultural Learnings of 2007 for Make Benefit of Smooth Harold

BoratI’m no fan of new year’s resolutions. I think individuals should resolve to improve on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, not yearly. But I am big believer in learning from the previous year, which brings me to my list of top educational attainments and the last post of 2007.

  1. More really is merrier.
    I’m the proud father of two girls instead of one as of October. Before the latest arrival (Hi, Maddie!), I errantly thought that two kids would double the parenting workload. In reality, it feels more like a 1.5 workload with a 2.5 return. Challenging, yes, but even more rewarding than I imagined. Continue reading…

My wife likes near-empty trash bags; I like to pack it in

We have a little trash extraction system in the Snow household: Lindsey empties our trash cans with haste and leaves the bag just outside our front door for me to take down to the dumpster at a later time so she doesn’t have to scale the three flights of stairs from our penthouse rental. It’s a good system.

I didn’t always think that way, however, as Lindsey apparently doesn’t like to fill the trash bags with dross before readying them for the dump truck (not to mention the fact that she buys the nicest, most expensive bags money can buy). It gets worse just before company comes over as was the case yesterday. Before the company arrived, I took out a trash bag that was less than two-thirds full.

This would have bothered me in our first year of marriage having been reared in a house where you literally had to jump on a trash bag to fit everything in. But now being a “seasoned” married individual of more than four years, I just chuckle when taking out light loads.

The upside to Lindsey’s fastidious trash habit? We’ve never had a spill, leaky bag, or stinky kitchen in our house during marriage.

The Story Behind Each of My Scars

The wife and I were talking over the weekend about our corporal markings and how we got them. Breathtaking conversation, I know. But we both thought it was interesting how a scar is really just a physical story from your past.

With that, here are the stories behind my engraved blemishes in the order I received them. Some dates are educated guesses of course. Not that you asked, but I thought I would document them none-the-less: Continue reading…