Cheerleading November 2012: Devon MacGregor

Male CheerleaderNaNoWriMo and Movember are two exceptionally great things that come about each November. This year, I’m not participating in either, but I know people who are, and I want to do everything I can to cheer them on.

To kick off this cheerleading racket, I would like to lead the cheer for one Devon MacGregor, who is participating in her very first NaNoWriMo!  Devon, as you may or may not know, is my illustrious wife and mother to my daughter Aliena, and Devon claims she is not a writer.  This may be the case, if you count being “more of an editor” the same thing as “not a writer.”  But she’s got the skills, and she’s got a graduate certificate in publishing from the University of Denver, so don’t think for one moment that this lady can’t put down 50,000 words in a thirty-day window.

Her novel is unexpectedly science-fictiony, and because I live with her, I’ve had some sneak previews.  I love what I see so far.  When she hit 15,000 words, I high-fived her so hard I shattered my hand.

Let’s give this girl all the cheer she can get!  GO, DEVON, GO!  GO, DEVON, GO!

I’d really love to link to her author page, but she doesn’t really have one, so instead, I’ll encourage everyone to go visit her Instagram feed.  She’s really talented visually, as well.

SEO Has Taken Over My Life And It’s Rad

I wanted an image to accurately portray the mood, so I did a Google Image search for “Barren Wasteland” and this is what I got.

Here I am, in the future! You’ve all aged about five months, but not a single second seems to have gone by for me…

Just kidding. I know this blog has been sorely neglected for five months, or at least it would seem that way. I don’t apologize for not blogging. If anyone needed an apology, chances are someone would have said within the last five months, “Hey, why haven’t you posted on your blog lately?” So the hell with apologies. The hell with excuses, too.

But interesting things have indeed been happening, and they have indeed been time-consuming. I suspect no one’s noticed that BilGaines.com has not been updated for five months because we had, you know, the Olympics and the whole election thing to distract us. I hadn’t even noticed myself until just now.

In brief: In February I was hired part-time as an SEO specialist for a very cool company called Intrapromote. This meant that in addition to commuting 50 miles each way from Oxnard to Santa Monica and back every single day to work at Edmunds.com as an account manager, I was also donating eight hours of time and energy to a second gig. That was nine hours in Santa Monica, three hours total on the road, and two hours of SEO after putting the baby to sleep. That was my typical workday. I don’t remember what I did on weekends during that period.

In May, I started full-time for Intrapromote, which meant that although I loved my Edmunds co-workers dearly, I left them behind to work at home and adopt new, seemingly robotic co-workers. They only seemed robotic, though, because I “met” them all over the internet. Mostly over Yammer, but some IM me and I do hear a few voices on the occasional phone call. I know our HR director from our mutual time spent in the Chicago theatre scene and I met the president in person when he flew out to L.A. to give some presentations to a Southern California-based client. We ate at the best pizza joint in Hollywood and he remembered the bartender from, like, four years ago. And the bartender remembered him, too, because they were both from Indiana and people from Indiana never forget each other.

Since then, it’s been a whirlwind of parenting, travelling, and exploring the area I actually live in, i.e. Ventura County. I’ve seen very few people I know, but I’ve seen a lot of them, and it’s been great.

Also, as it turns out, my new remote coworkers are amazingly hip and groovy and cool and all kinds of other positive adjectives. And my new job is super-sweet. I’m doing something that keeps me interested ALL DAY LONG (usually) and I get to work from home. This means more time with my daughter Alie and my wife Devon.

With this new job, I actually HAVE been blogging, just not on BilGaines.com. I blog regularly for Intrapromote and I do a good amount of ghost blogging for clients. It’s awesome. This makes me a professional blogger, technically, but I will never describe myself to another as “professional blogger,” because every time I see someone call themselves a “professional blogger,” I instantly lose respect for them. I don’t know why, it just happens.

So, why start up again with BilGaines.com?

Many reasons, but mainly:

  • You should always warm up. This self-re-introductory post is a warm-up.
  • Small changes have been made – not important enough to call attention to, but a fresh blog post gets better PageRank on Google, and I want the new changes to be seen by strangers.
  • This is a teaser. Consider yourself teased. I am (again) changing course regarding SharkBlog (major DEmotion this time) and will probably meander a bit until I find a proper focus for the site, but know this: I have a small series planned regarding Instagram optimization. I will have data that I pulled myself on my very own Excel spreadsheet, and I will have my very own hand-drawn infographics.
  • I aim to sell you something.

Stay tuned. I will go ahead and publish this article right now, on Sunday night, the WORST TIME TO PUBLISH A BLOG, because I frankly don’t care about this particular article. This is not the one I want everybody to read. (If you are reading it, thanks! You’re awesome.)

But it’s good to be blogging on my own little website once again. I can say “fuck” as much as I want to.

New Gig: SEO Specialist (For Realsies)

Extremely good news, ladies and gentlemen!

I have landed a part-time gig as a Search Engine Optimization Specialist.  The words are capitalized because that’s the official title.  I’ll give plenty of detail, I’m sure, on the company itself and all the amazing goings on that occur on a daily basis just as soon as full-time work is written in stone with these folks.  We’re expecting sometime in the spring.  But for now, I’ll just let the world know I’ve got  up to eight hours a week of SEO work, and that is what I’ve been after.

To become really good at something (such as SEO), one needs not only theory but also practice and mentorship.  With Sharkblog, I’ve been giving myself a very small amount of practice, and there has been no mentorship.  This SEO gig should cover all three areas, and I aim to improve my skills dramatically in a short time.  The more SEO work I produce, the more powerful I shall become.

It’ll be rough until I can do it full-time.  In the meantime, I’ll still be working at Edmunds.com in Santa Monica, a 50-mile commute each way from my place in Oxnard.  So this new work will be on top of that.

But it will be worth it, because if I can prove I don’t suck at life and actually get hired on with this company, I will transition from working 50 miles away to working at home.  My commute will be upstairs.

Even better than the non-commute, however, will be the work itself.  I’ve got no particular complaints with being an account manager for an automotive advertising & lead company, but account-managing has never been a passion of mine.  And the life-after-account-management career path is both vague and uninteresting.  The places I can go after being an SEO peon are way more attractive to a personality like mine.

What’s more, there’ll be more time at home to spend with my super-awesome baby girl Aliena.  I can’t even describe what a relief that is for the Parenting Department.  I can’t.  Even.  Describe.  (See: Harry Chapin – Cat’s in the Cradle)

I’m also anticipating a slight increase in productivity as far as personal writing projects goes.  In my current situation, I have very little time and even less energy to devote to the pile of StuffIAmWorkingOn.  By telecommuting, I open up about three hours each day.  And by not wearing myself down with driving those three hours, my brain, I expect, will be more useful.  So maybe I can finally complete 1) the adaptation of a play I’ve written into a screenplay, 2) a short story I started that gets longer and longer the more I write it, 3) a refresh of the novel I completed a draft for last year, 4) that book of poetry with those sketches I’ve been drawing, and 5) everything else that I’ve been planning to start but haven’t because of the previous four.

And the wonderful thing here, the truly wonderful thing here, is that I’ll be happy with my day job.  It won’t be just a day job.  It’ll be a day career.  It’ll actually be an inspiration to the personal projects instead of a hindrance.  I’ll be happy to do the work, I’ll aspire to go further, I’ll be proud to describe what I do.  More on this topic later.  As I write this, I’m actually at the office in Santa Monica.  I should get back to work.

Have a lovely long weekend!

Yours truly,

Bil
SEO Specialist

P.S. Awesome.

Sharkblog: Analytics Check-In, Keyword Analysis, October 18, 2011

Keywords are a pretty major part of my SEO “strategy,” so I figured I’d take a look at keyword performance. I’d never actually looked at that little section of Google Analytics before. I don’t know why. I think my thinking was that I’d just ramble for several months about anything and everything as opportunity saw fit, and then I’d do some retrospective analysis. By a strange coincidence, that is exactly what I’ve done.

To start, I assumed that only the most recent month was relevant. This assumption is not based on anything factual at all, I just didn’t want to go back any further. Call it laziness, call it what you will, but I’ll put all the effort I need to into backing this assumption as valid, so let’s just move on.

I’ve classified the various keywords I found into seven different categories: Shark hybrid-related searches, Shark non-hybrid-related searches, searches for me or some variant of my name, searches for up-and-coming artists I know in Chicago, searches for actual celebrities, car-related searches, and other miscellaneous random crap.

Since my site is not about celebrities per se, that category doesn’t count. Those make up about 12% of the total searches that led surfers to my site. So that’s 12% of my organic traffic that doesn’t count.

My site is, in part, dedicated half-assedly to miscellaneous crap, but since the keyword results that fall under that category all have a 100% bounce rate, that category also doesn’t count. I can justify this because keyword searches in this category are all pretty specific and somewhat long-tail, so I can safely assume these folks were looking for something specific that they didn’t find on my site. Searches included “content strategist title crap,” “narcissism experiment,” “anthropomorphization focus group,” and “god has a me-complex.” Obviously they were looking for something else. Anyway, that’s another 34.5% of my organic traffic that doesn’t count.

Up-and-coming Chicago artists aren’t the focus of my website, but since I know a few, I’m more than happy to drop their names left and right. They comprise a friendly 7% or so of the organic traffic. “Mishelle Apalategui” has brought in more traffic than “Bil Gaines” has, and my name is on every single page of this website. This means she’s already more famous than I am. The takeaway: I should talk about these people more.

Mishelle Apalategui Randall Colburn Jeremy Menekseoglu Chelsea Marcantel Nathan Robbel Ronan Marra Erin Orr Lance Hall Trevor Watkin Cupcakes. There, that should help.

What interests me most is that while BilGaines.com is not wholly about Sharkblog, shark-related searches make up the majority of my organic searches. The non-hybrid-related searches are over 8.5% and the hybrid-related searches are nearly 26%. Together, that’s about 34.5%. The miscellaneous searches match that, and they don’t count. Everything else is thin slices. Also, the shark searches tend to get the highest average time on the site and the lowest bounceback rate. Takeaway: Sharkblog is the strongest driver of organic search to this site. This is pretty awesome, since I initially declared that Sharkblog is an experiment in SEO.

Bil: one; Universe: zero.

Of course, there’s room for improvement. Lots of room. Quantity matters (as I’ve recently discovered) and I have been slacking pretty hard in the Sharkblog department since Aliena was born.

Not to worry: Halloween is coming up soon enough, and yes, I bought that baby shark costume from Amazon. I can’t believe what an easy target I am sometimes.

Next up: Cyclops Albino Shark!

Sharkblog: Analytics check-in, October 12, 2011

Self-analysis is a very important aspect of Sharkblog, and I have been, shall we say, less than prolific with this experiment.  (I have a brand-new baby.  Life is really goddamn tough.  Cut me some slack.)

When it comes to SEO — not just with Sharkblog, but with the entire website — my first lesson has been has been that consistent, frequent updates are the key.  I’ve been told many times by many smartypants experts that content is king, and let’s face it: a king without a kingdom is not a very good king.  I looked at the ol’ Google Analytics the week after I posted a six-article miniseries (the process of the completion of Operation: Move to California as Soon as Possible) at the rate of one article per day, and that week was my highest-traffic week EVER.  I classified it in my mind as “showing excellent growth.”  I had little to post after that, though, and accordingly, my traffic was back to “pretty shitty.”

BUT…traffic is better than the week before that miniseries, so it looks like some of it stuck.  This is happy news.

So now I’m thinking that in addition to quality, for which I’m still hammering out a Sharkblog keyword strategy, I’ll need to post literally as often as possible.

And I know that not every post needs to be long.  In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that short-to-mid-length posts will strengthen Sharkblog, if anything.  The shorter the post, the easier it is to read.  And I’d like whole posts to get read.  I have a pretty terrible fucking bounce rate right now (72.06%, you bunch of dickheads!) and I think with shorter posts, I’ll be able to reduce that.  We’ll see.

Shorter posts should also be (in theory) quicker to compose, so this whole new-baby business should be less of a roadblock and more of a source of inspiration.

Also, moving forward, I’ll be leaving teasers for the next article whenever possible.

Next up: let’s talk chat babble articulate speculate conversate ventriloquize yak about keyword strategy.

The Emigration To California: Epilogue

The day after we landed, Trevor took off again.  You never saw a guy so jacked up on adrenaline and caffeine for the entire duration of a 2,000 mile road trip. That plane ride home must have been a sleepy one.   He had a layover in Salt Lake on his way back to Chicago.  I don’t think Utah will ever be the same for him.

Ten or so days after that, our stuff arrived from the shitty movers.  They had not been careful, and much of it was either damaged or destroyed.  They are shitty, shitty movers, and I hate them.

We’re still not fully unpacked, but at least we’re in California, in our little place by the beach.  Our daughter is now a California girl.  Born in Chicago, she’ll be a California girl with California parents from now on.  That’s how we wanted it.

So.  Life.  All of it.  Permanently changed.

To say that a little dust has been unsettled is like saying Mt. Saint Helens chucked up a little dirt.

But it’s falling into place, speck by speck.

So, here we have the end of Operation: Move to California as Soon as Possible.  It wasn’t easy, but it was fast.

What to do now that we’re here?  Primarily: raise Aliena to be the best possible human being we can raise her to be.  Secondarily: chip away at those writing projects.  Diligence, patience, and constant learning will be the keys in both endeavors.

Also, I have a surfboard I’ve been meaning to take out on the water.  Someday soon, I’ll get around to that.

Trip takeaway – beer list:

Recap:
Prologue
Trying To Leave Chicago
Chicago To Kansas City
Kansas City To Denver
Denver To The Middle Of Utah
The Middle Of Utah To Southern California

The Emigration To California: Trying To Leave Chicago

The day our professional movers showed up was the same day Devon, her mother, and her sister took Aliena out to California by jet.  They went ahead while my best pal Trevor & I drove the car across the country.

It was a scheduled four-day trip, and we were scheduled to leave the day before the movers came.  However, as we watched our next door neighbors’ professional movers taking two days to move all their stuff instead of just one, we worried that our own professional moving service might also take a long time.  So Trevor & I changed our plans to wait until the movers were truly done with it all.  We hung back a day, planning now to leave Tuesday afternoon, after they had all our junk packed in their big truck.

I had to eat the cost of a hotels.com hotel, because hotels.com will not let you change the date on a reservation.  You have to just get another room another night, at that other night’s rates, so you could potentially pay more than double what you intended to if your plans change.  BEWARE OF THIS FACT WHEN USING HOTELS.COM.

But Tuesday afternoon arrived with no end in sight for the movers. Devon & her entourage had to leave for the airport, so it was definitely a good thing Trevor & I held back.

As Tuesday afternoon slowly turned into Tuesday evening, it became clear that Trevor & I were not going to leave at all on Tuesday.  We would have to leave Wednesday.  Which meant another change in hotel stays, which meant another eaten cost from hotels.com.  They are cheap, but those nights add up REAL fast.  There is no way around this.  Trust me, I spent 45 minutes on the phone with those assholes.  Wouldn’t budge.

Speaking of companies to avoid, New Planet Moving & Storage also totally blows. Idiot dispatchers sent only two guys to pack up and load an entire two bedroom apartment during the worst heat wave Chicago had seen in ten years.  To say that we were all rather sweaty would be an understatement.  If you could freeze-frame a shot from Raiders of the Lost Ark at about halfway through the face-melting process the Nazis suffer at the end of the movie, you’d have a pretty good picture of what we looked like.

Imagine going into a coffee shop and the guys behind the counter are dying of heat exhaustion to the point where they can barely function. So you have to go behind the counter and brew your own coffee, and they are making a mess and it’s all disorganized, and when your coffee is finally ready, they charge you for a large when you asked for a small, because all they had available were large cups.  And then you had to leave a tip in the tip jar or else you’d feel like an enormous douchebag.  Now multiply that by two thousand, and that was pretty much our experience with New Planet.  They suck.

The movers were on the road by 11:00 PM.  They had been there for twelve and a half hours.

Now, I love Chicago, so if there was one day of toil and shit that could make me happy to leave it behind, it was this.  Goodbye, apartment, I thought, it’s been a hot oneTomorrow I’ll say goodbye to the skyline, but tonight, it’s just goodbye to this cramped little century-old third-floor Lincoln Square apartment.  Goodbye.

 Next: “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”
Previous: “My empire is cumbling!”

The Emigration To California: Prologue


Several weeks have passed since the mini-apocalypse crashed what was otherwise a manageable life, and I remember it all, despite my efforts to forget, or at least remember it differently.

First of all, the greatest thing ever happened.  That was the start of my troubles.

My daughter, Aliena Evelyn Gaines, was born exactly on her due date.  As labors go, you couldn’t ask for an easier time.  Quick and complication-free.  Magnificent.

Details here are disgusting, so I’ll wrap up that topic by mentioning that for the last three months, she’s been a bright and shiny star, just the absolute cutest and most well-behaved baby the world has ever known.  This is not an exaggeration.

The very next thing that happened was the second greatest thing I could have asked for, and that was really when things turned horrible.  Literally ten days after she was born, I got hired by Edmunds.com and was given about three weeks to pack up and move from Chicago to Southern California.  When you say it nonchalantly, it doesn’t sound like a hard thing to do, but keep in mind a) I had a job still that I wanted to give two weeks’ notice for, so I had two weeks of still working to take time away from getting ready to do any prep work at all for a big move, and b) I had a brand new baby to figure out.

So.  Three weeks.  Two weeks at work, and an estimated four days on the road.  New baby, very little sleep.  Friends to bid farewell to.  Utility accounts to close.  A hoarders’ apartment’s worth of closets to sort out.  Biggest heat wave the eastern half of the US has seen in a decade.

Stressful?  Yes.

Exciting?  Also yes.

Obstacles?  Bring ‘em on, I thought, I’ll kick their ass.

I probably only thought this because of the sleep deprivation.  I had no idea what was coming.

Spoiler alert: I did kick their ass.  I moved my new little family out to Southern California.  We made it.  But it took a whole team of pro-Gaines vigilantes and technicians, and I owe the splendor of my new life to some people who may never fully realize how amazing they are for it.

Next: “We gotta get outta this place, if it’s the last thing we ever do!”

New Side Gig: Writer

Writing is ultimately how I would like to make my living, and for the first time in my life I’ll be able to call myself a steady professional. I’ve made a few bucks from publishing before, but now I have a title and consistency. I’ve officially published the first of many Examiner.com articles as the Chicago Green Parenting Examiner.  Check me out.

My goal with this gig is to write two or three articles per week on the sensitive subject of environmentally-friendly child-rearing.  It’s a big deal.  I started it all off with something I really do care a lot about: cloth diapering.  My entire angle is to make “green parenting” less of a hippie-dippy drug-trip lifestyle, and more of just a set of responsible and money-saving lifestyle habits.

Obviously, this is not the bright burning glory of a one-off published piece of fiction, and I doubt it will pay more than one small bill per month, but hey – a part-time professional writer is still a professional writer.

Score one for Bil.

Sharkblog: Holy Crap, They’ve Got My Number

Sharkblog Shark Baby Costume

Geez, no sooner do I write this post where I just happen to link to a baby shark costume on Amazon.com than do I start seeing targeted ads from Amazon.com on other websites.  They are targeting me because they know I know about them and linked to them.  I have been behaviorally targeted.

Here’s the dumb part: they are trying to sell me the exact thing I already linked to.  Idiots.  How about showing me some other baby costumes?  Or perhaps some shark costumes for different ages?

But their timing was pretty awesome, because I actually saw this ad on the right hand side of a Search Engine Journal article called “5 Often Surprisingly Overlooked SEO Tactics.”  It’s a terrible title (it should be called “5 Surprisingly Often-Overlooked SEO Tactics”), but the content is good.  It’s about – you guessed it – SEO tactics.  What was my interest in this article?  Why, how to get Sharkblog‘s search engine results to improve, of course.  Fitting, then, that I would see a baby shark costume advertised here.

I have no particular content strategy other than to simply write the shit I would write anyway, and then tweak it so that Sharkblog gets organic search results better than any other independent blog on sharks or shark-monster hybrid creatures.  My process is kind of like throwing a net into the sea and hoping that I pull up not only a bunch of shrimp but also some gold doubloons.  It’s not terribly accurate and it’s not terribly predictable but the bonus is that I will eventually happen upon some things that are valuable, and that I hadn’t planned on getting.  Like maybe some silver or a nice pair of boots.

What I’m hoping to learn over time is how to find the water with the shrimp AND the gold doubloons AND all the other crazy cool stuff.

At any rate: Sharks + Human Babies = winning combination.  And for only $30?  You keep tempting me, Amazon.com, I may actually purchase that costume.  Baby’s first Halloween is only a few months away.

Analytics Check-Up

Search engine optimization takes a while, and to be honest, I don’t have a content strategy. Which is fine, because I also don’t have anything to sell at this time.  Really, what’s happening is that I’m blathering on like an idiot and hoping to repeat myself often enough to get the search engines to point to me for certain keywords.  Keywords like Sharkblog.

I’m already at the top of the search results for “Bil Gaines.”  I’m pretty confident in that one. Google is constantly coming up with sneaky new ways to “tailor” their search results to be more “in tune” what what they think I “want” (see Google Is People?) but I have a feeling that by now almost anybody who searches for my name will find my website.*

Thanks to Google Analytics, I now know that more people have come to my website by searching “HydraHeston” than by searching “Bil Gaines.”  That’s pretty awesome.  It means my content strategy is working.

*If you want a video that encapsulates both my growing paranoia and simultaneous illicit love of Google into one convenient and well-constructed argument (complete with engaging slideshow), I recommend Eli Pariser’s TED talk:

I have a lot of thoughts on this topic, and perhaps I can expand on them in another post down the line, but this video sums it up succinctly. I really am considering purchasing his book, but first I’d have to finish the “I, Robot” series and then I’d have to get over my distaste for hardcover books.

By the way, public service announcement: Shark Week starts on July 31.  I feel like I want to do something special for the occasion, but I’m not sure what.  I will have a baby by then, perhaps I’ll celebrate Shark Week by dressing her up as a shark.  It’ll be good for father-daughter bonding.  Also, it’s good for children to have nightmares.  I read that somewhere.

The Microwave Finally Died

Microwave HeavenThe history of our microwave oven is patchy at best.  Facts get confused all the way down to the origin of how we acquired him.  Scientists believe we acquired him shortly after we moved to Chicago five and a half years ago.  We probably picked him up for some ridiculously low price at what is believed to be a Wal-Mart somewhere in the suburbs.

We were poor and the microwave was cheap.  We were wide-eyed wanderers in a brand new town, and we had just gotten married.  The microwave was as unknown to us as the life we were just starting.  The situation wasn’t ironic, wasn’t memorable, but it was perfect in its own quiet way.  Our microwave was a reflection of us, and we used that microwave for many meals.

Tonight, while attempting to heat some casserole, I discovered our microwave had died.  Completely died.  He went peacefully, in his sleep.  There was no pain.

…Which was rather inconvenient, really.  I had to use the conventional oven to heat up dinner.

But the timing, however annoying, is almost poetic.  We bought our microwave at the same time as we bought our guest bed linens.  Quite fitting, then, that he should crap out on us now that our guest bed is gone in favor of a baby room.

We’re not going to get a baby microwave, though.  That would be ridiculous.

But our baby will need to grow up with a microwave of her own, and we have some decisions to make.  We may decide to replace him with the old clunker of a microwave that is currently taking up space in our pantry.  How we got that other microwave is even more of a mystery.  I think we picked it up on the side of a road in Boston many years ago.

At any rate, the old microwave was with us through good times and bad times for almost our entire time here in Chicago, and he deserves a proper farewell as we send him off to Microwave Heaven…

Free Cocaine!

Not really.

But now that I have your attention, I’d like to officially welcome you to BilGaines.com, and invite you to bask in the glory of our grand opening on this day, May 5, 2011, my 30th birthday.

The site is not complete yet, but I figure there’s enough here to gather some interest in returning, and that’s what I’m truly interested in.  I’ll be using this website as my personal playground for search engine optimization experiments.  I’m also hoping to provide enough interesting content to create a “readership” or “following” or whatever you want to call my cult of devotees.

I’ll be using the ever-handy Google Analytics to create my own infographics and share the results up here.  I love infographics – like, a lot – and I hope to contribute some back to the universe that provides so many for me.

Here’s a video briefly explaining why I’m such a geek for infographics:

“Pie charts suck, be wary of them.”

Honestly and truly, I want to offer my personal guarantee that every link you see on this website is worth clicking.  Here are some particularly interesting sections:

Sharkblog
The SEO component of this journey will rely most heavily on Sharkblog, where I discuss the hybridization of sharks and other beasts.  Also, the splicing and fusing of sharks and movies, sharks and advertising, sharks and music…basically sharks and shark monsters in pop culture.

Gaines the Photographer
I am also offering up my own photography.  Steal away, I won’t come after you over copyright infringement.  Be aware: my wife & I are expecting our first child ever in the middle of June, so there’s going to be an explosion of baby photos coming my way over the next year.  I’ll try to only put up the really interesting ones.

Gaines the Writer
Furthermore, you can read some scripts I’ve written.  You can even produce them if you want, royalty-free.
*Note: The scripts page is not yet finished – I’ve only got a few up right now – but I’ll be adding more over the next few days, so check back often!  (See what I did there?  String ’em along, Bil, string ’em along.  Keep the wolves hungry, they’ll come back for more.)

I’ll also occasionally throw a music video into blog posts, because music videos are one of my favorite forms of entertainment.

Lenka – We Will Not Grow Old

At any rate, this is just a little bit of what you’ll find here.  Hope you like it.

Hope to see you again soon.

Real-Life Surprises

Holy Shit!
Good one.

Surprise!

She never saw it coming.  Her jaw dropped wide open and her eyebrows jumped straight off her forehead.  She couldn’t formulate words for several minutes because her brain was in such a state of shock and confusion.  Even more dumbfounded than when we found out we were having the kid.

Luckily, she did NOT go into early labor, which was a genuine concern of mine.

All in all, Devon’s super-secret surprise baby shower was a massive success.  A few dozen of our favorite Chicago residents, ridiculous amounts of food (including the galaxy’s raddest cupcakes*), and sufficient quantities of carbonated beverages (some with alcohol) came together for one glorious evening of showering.

None of this would have been possible without the efforts of our dear friend Trevor Watkin, who organized it all.  Kudos, amigo, job well done.

And now that it’s done with, I can be fully honest with my wife again.  I must say, keeping a secret party a secret for roughly three months is no picnic when you live with the intended subject.

It’s also really goddamn difficult to get guests to commit and arrive on time when you can’t yak it up on Facebook.  I do not know how Trevor was able to do it, but I was mightily impressed.

I guess there are the old-fashioned ways of communicating: e-mail, telephone, talking in person.

I’m finding more and more that anything other than Facebook is a secondary option in just about all my marketing efforts.  I get frustrated when people tell me they are not on Facebook.  Seriously?  Get real.  Everyone is on Facebook.

I get even more frustrated when people tell me they are on Facebook, but that they almost never check it.  What’s the goddamn point, man?  Why go on living at all?

Therein lies my problem.  Facebook is nobody’s friend.  Facebook makes things too easy.

I love it because it’s free.  I can get to people for free.  A lot of people.  And I can give them a photo for free.  I don’t even have to cut down a single tree to get visual entertainment to a targeted audience.**

But you pay for what you get, and how easy is it for everyone to ignore a Facebook invite?  It’s even easier than it is to send one.

So the old-school forms of marketing – hell, even old-school forms of inviting people to a party – aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

Let me clarify.  I work for the internet, and I firmly believe that internet advertising is the best – trackable, easier to target your audience, way more effective than TV, radio, and print.  But the internet has been around long enough that we’ve seen various fads come and go.  Evites are still in use, but not nearly as much as five years ago.  MySpace is still around, but it’s a laughingstock.  Even QR codes are on their way out – Google is abandoning the technology, shouldn’t everyone?  Twitter may die out in time, who knows, nothing lasts forever.  So when I say “old-school” I mean the mainstays of the last seven to ten years.  My guess is that Google and Facebook will be the last titans duking it out at the end of the world, but just like Anthony Kiedis’ long hair, all things must end.

And as much as I love Facebook for being both a keeping-in-touch tool and a marketing tool, I have to remind myself constantly that Facebook is not the end of the line for either.  It shouldn’t even be the starting point.

What I’m getting at here is that I want to un-train myself from thinking of Facebook first when reaching out.  It’s so easy and so fun that I want to use it for everything, but the real world is just a thousand times better.  I’d like to use the real world more.  I want to train myself to think first of direct e-mail, or actual physical mail when I can, or perhaps even the telephone (which I hate so, so much, but let’s face it – it’s more personal).  If I can get your attention face-to-face, that’s even better.  I need to try the harder methods first and Facebook second.

Because all those people typing “Surprise!” on her Facebook wall would have been no substitute for them actually standing in our apartment, using their voices, taking pictures and offering hugs.

 

 

* Cupakes:

Peep babies + disembodied heads = BEST CUPCAKES EVER.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

** Facebook invite:

Free and easy. That's how we got into this mess.

Notes From Childbirth Class

Oh, shit!

Devon and I took some childbirthing classes at the hospital last week, and nothing has ever shone so brightly as the fact that I just don’t know jack shit.

Here are the notes I took so I wouldn’t forget the important stuff:

  • Newbornchannel.com.
  • Vacuum/dust at least once a week.
  • Last two hours of labor, Mom will punch me.
  • Massage: long strokes.
    – Relaaaaaaax…
    – Keep Mom off her back.
    – Bring a massage tool…wrists will get tired.
    – Lotions? Scented, perhaps?
  • Don’t eat right beforehand.
    – Barf.
  • No coffee breath in Mom’s face.
  • Chapstick. Yes.
  • Mom shifts around between contractions = baby is moving around.
    – Periodic movement is okay…
  • Chanting helps relax Mom.
    – Yo-oh, yo-oh.
    – Oh-WEE-oh, yo-ho.
  • Figure out a communication plan.
  • Pilates ball!
    – Pelvic tilts.
    – Use as ottoman?
    – Figure-8’s.
    – Deep, abdominal breathing.
    – Roll the baby! (Tummy time!)
  • Hospital gowns are your friend.
  • Baby sticks around unless called away on business.
  • Slow, deep breathing.
    – Cleansing breath after contraction.
  • Monkey?
    – Focus.
  • Breathing: Hee-hah-hee-hah-who?
  • Avoid the Achilles’ Tendon!
  • Listen to music you know during labor.
    – Mom loves 80’s hair bands.
  • Warm water is great.
  • Good bag list: page 21.
  • Target has perfectly good bras.
  • Discomfort is not desirable. Rest is.
  • Get new shoes.
  • Foot twirls are a good idea.
  • Stand up straight. Toes forward. Shoulders back.
  • Potatoes help.
  • Nightmares are meaningless.
  • 14-20 hours is average.
  • Water brings truth.
    – False labor disappears.
    – True labor strengthens.
  • Note to self: find a copy of the Roadmap of Labor.
  • Check your posture!
  • Bring munchies.
    – Italian ice?
    – Snapple?
  • Mom throws up on Dad. It’s only fair.
  • Everybody! Chin to chest!
  • Telephone-cord hair ties!
  • Cord: nice, firm cut. Get it right the first time.
  • Babies party at night.
  • Drugs: page 56.
    – Think about dosage (and partial dosage).
  • Have a plan, but be flexible.
  • Sterile water? Brilliant!
  • Watch out for the spins…
  • After birth, avoid puppies and kittens.

Upon review of these notes, it occurs to me that they don’t actually make any sense, and I have forgotten everything.

We are doomed.

Make a Career

Eggberta, a girl.

So here’s the thing about my situation right now.  It’s nothing new to the human race, it’s only new to me.

But OHMYGOD isn’t it magical and transcendental and all kinds of wonderful!  Devon & I are having a little girl.  And she’s beeYOOOOtiful and healthy and perfect and she has ten toes and ten fingers.  And she looks just like me.  At least, I assume she does.

She’s so amazing already and we haven’t officially met.  Good gracious me, I would hate to disappoint…

It occurred to me that she’s going to give me so much joy, I probably owe it to her to give some joy in return.  I can’t rely on her to cheer me up after I get home from some job, that’s not fair.  I owe it to her to be awesome.  And in order for me to be full-time awesome, I better get a career I’m proud of.  Like, actually proud of.  Like, doing what I want to do and succeeding at it.

Hence Operation: No Day Job By 2016.  It used to be for me and for Devon, but now it’s for all three of us.  And any possible additions later on.  I need a career, not a day job.  A day job connotes that I’m only there because it’s a steady paycheck.  In many ways, that’s true.  I certainly got to where I am with the company I’m with by showing up for money.

And that’s not really cool anymore.  I can’t spend forty hours a week and most of my good energy at a job I wouldn’t have signed up for it you asked me back in college.

This, too, is nothing new to the human race, it’s only new to me.

So I’ll play it safe, but I’ll play it smart.  I’m gonna find myself a gig that satisfies me, so I can look at my daughter as a satisfied human being, and thus teach her to be a satisfied human being.  I will do my best to warn her not to take a job, but instead to make a career.

And in the meantime, I’m going to take my own advice.

STEP ONE: PLAN.
More on this later…