Saturday, April 4, 2009

Rest in peace, Lawnie

Poor Lawnie, our faithful lawnmower, wheezed her last and dropped dead in the yard today.

The old girl could only manage to get through about half the front yard before she called it quits. It's always sad to lose a member of the family, kids.

My wife and I bought Lawnie back in the spring of 2002 after I had thrown a fit. Yes, I was mad as usual and my wife agreed to a new lawnmower to shut me up.

We had this horrible Lawn-Boy mower and I was to the point where I was going to throw it in a lake somewhere. I know people love those Lawn-Boy mowers but I sincerely hate them. They're heavy, clunky, expensive pieces of crap. Oh, and you've got to pour oil in their gas, too. What a drag.

After lugging that awful thing around my yard for a few weeks, I decided I couldn't take it anymore. I hated the thing, in fact, and wanted to go to a smaller, simpler machine. That's when we got Lawnie -- a Murray mower powered by a Briggs & Stratton engine. Not only did that mower allow us to get rid of the hated Lawn-Boy, I managed to keep it running for seven years -- not bad for a machine that cost me $100.

I'm certain my son is even more torn up over the loss of Lawnie than I am. A few years ago, I was thinking about buying a riding lawnmower. But then I realized something -- I've got a son. Yes, I'm sure he loved having the task of mowing the lawn every week during the spring and summer. I'm certain he loves the idea of contributing some effort to the betterment of the household. All that dancing and whooping he was doing when it became obvious that Lawnie had given up the ghost was merely his way of disguising his pain.

His true emotions came to the surface after my wife and I got back from the store and presented our son with his new mower -- another push mower powered by a Briggs & Stratton engine. We named that one Junior and then our son got upset. He was howling about not wanting to mow the lawn and I just know he was only doing that because he didn't feel right about mowing with anything other than his beloved Lawnie.

I'd like to think that, at least.

Oh, and by the way, I will get my riding lawn mower one day. That, however, won't be until my kids are gone and I have to mow the lawn myself. It just wouldn't be fair to let them get attached to Junior and then replace it with something else, would it?

Paid ads at Entrecard

All of you fine Entrecard members are aware by now that the site is accepting paid ads. You'll not find one paid ad on my Entrecard widget here or on the other blogs I control -- Straight Shooting Real Estate and All Arkie Army. Why? My emphasis is on the advertisers who have saved up their credits and have chosen to spend them here. I'll not share that Entrecard widget with anyone who has thrown a few bucks into the system.

And, yes, those paid ads are shared on that widget, meaning people who spend their Entrecard credits on a blog that accepts paid advertisements will only appear half the time on that widget. Want to spend those Entrecard credits here? Good for you! Your ad won't fight for time with a paid ad. Count on it.

On further consideration...

I may just accept some of those paid ads on the All Arkie Army blog. Why? I want to do a little experimenting -- see how that one fares in rank against the two that don't accept them. It's my guess that this blog and the real estate one will be rather ostracized at Epinions while the "good soldier" blog will benefit in some way.

I'll just have to see, won't I?

The Hawg figures out the value of

For the past few weeks, I've been wondering about how to get more traffic.

Now, I'm a member of Entrecard and this little blog owes a lot to that great service (if you've got a blog, get an Entrecard account, by the way -- trust me on this). I've gotten a lot of traffic from Entrecard and was thinking it would be nice to find some other service to drive traffic over here.

A thought occurred to me while I was searching around here and there. The fact that traffic comes over from Entrecard is great, but that's not really what matters. What is important about Entrecard is that the service puts bloggers together and they are naturally inclined to interact -- to leave comments, visit blogs regularly and write content for an audience.

Yes, Entrecard has received its fair share of criticism, but I've run across more quality bloggers through that service than through anything else. Sure, people will say it's one of those "drop and run" sites that encourages people to stick around long enough to grab a credit and then head to another site in an attempt to pump up their traffic stats.

There is some truth to that, but people who simply drop and run without slowing down and reading some great blogs are only hurting themselves. No, the real value of Entrecard is relationship building -- we all blog in hopes of getting and audience, and that's not going to happen if you merely get a credit then zip to another blog without slowing down to read and comment.

Yes, the Entrecard members who stop long enough to read my prattle and leave a comment are the ones I'm more likely to visit often. When enough people react that way, you wind up building audiences and that pushes you to come up with meaningful content which leads to even more traffic. Who wants to take the time to run a blog and update it often if all that work is for naught because people don't bother reading anything?

And, let's not forget the importance of backlinks. I found out about those a few months ago when noticed that both my Alexa ranking and Google Page Rank had swelled. Why? The only thing I could keep up with is that I'm a gabby sort and tend to comment regularly.

BlogExplosion has the same potential to lead to that relationship building if it's used right. I do get a traffic boost by participating on BlogExplosion (if you visit two blogs, you get a credit in the system that's good for a visit to yours), but the traffic is really secondary just like it is with Entrecard.

I might visit 40 sites a day through BlogExplosion, and that's good enough for about 20 return visits. I'm a member on BlogExplosion, primarily, to run across some great blogs, develop some backlinks and find an audience. Getting BlogExplosion to work well for you takes some time, but it's worth it.

After all, it's hard to sift through the blogs out there that are rotten or that I simply don't want to read. Sites like Entrecard and BlogExplosion make it easy to identify great blogs and I appreciate the heck out of that. There's a lot of stuff on the Internet, after all, so having a service to direct you to some blogs you might not have heard of is something I truly appreciate.

Speaking of backlinks, I'll mention that I'm still looking to exchange reciprocal links with some great bloggers. Interested? Want to get on that sidebar o' mine. Send a comment my way and I'll be glad to consider it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A keyless lock? I want one!

That 12-year-old son of mine (the rascal) gets home from school before my wife and I get home from work every night.

So, he's got a house key. He's had several of them, in fact. That kid would lose his head if it wasn't screwed on tight and he's misplaced a ton of house keys. Yes, he'll come home from school, throw his backpack on the floor, toss his key somewhere and the thing will just vanish (magic!) So we've got a few spares around here.

Now, the folks over at Axxis Biometrics have come up with something that looks downright ideal for Casa de Hawg -- a keyless lock system. As the name implies, there are no keys to worry about when you've got a keyless lock on the exterior doors of your home. The locks pick up on your fingerprint and that's very convenient.

That's right. No more keys to lose. No more buying a slew of keys for your a kid who careless throws his house key here and there. No more worrying that said careless kid dropped left the key at school or in some other public place so that anyone who happened buy could have access to your home.

A keyless lock system, in my mind, is right up there with sliced bread, the tankless water heater, the Fender Stratocaster electric guitar and a host of other technological marvels. Just think about it -- if you've got a finger, you can access a keyless lock system and not worry about keeping up with a house key.

And, get this -- the systems from Axxis can be programmed to allow temporary access when necessary. That's right -- set it up so the cleaning service, the neighbor feeding your pets when you're on vacation and other people can access your home temporarily.

It's a nifty little device, to be sure. I need to get one at some point.

Shameless self promotion!

Folks, every now and again something good happens and you've just got to mention it so many times that you get annoying.

I'm doing that right now.

Last month, I agreed to do some freelance real estate reporting for the Daily Record here in Little Rock, Ark. That move, of course, has caused much rejoicing in Little Rock. Riots between The Hawg fans and our less enlightened citizens have broken out throughout central Arkansas, too.

Well, that's not true. However, it has netted me some extra cash and I've gotten to use my long-dormant skill of reporting. Yes, I've spent most of my career writing for newspapers and I've missed working in journalism. I get to keep my toe in that world, at least, while still holding down my more lucrative public relations job. That's not a bad deal.

And the Daily Record gig is perfect for me as work in public relations in real estate. So I do pick up on a lot of great stories. Here is the latest batch of them so click away like crazy:

* A profile on Greenbrier Realtor Rhonda Rowlett

* An article about the joys of refinancing mortgages at low interest rates

* Home rentals on the rise?

Meanwhile, should anyone be interested in real estate markets in Arkansas, I've posted the February market report on behalf of my employer (the Arkansas Realtors Association) and I've talked about it a bit, too. Read all about that by clicking right here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Hawg gets fooled

Yes, I went ahead and pulled my April Fool's trick on my wife -- I hid her soap last night because she's the first one to take a shower in the morning.

She wasn't happy. She told me I wasn't funny at all, in fact. I emailed a picture of a bar of soap to my wife while she was at work today just to annoy her a bit (she's ex-Army and that's playing with fire). Ah, but she got me back by taping down the handle on the kitchen sink sprayer. I got soaked and laughs were had by all.

I think she's won this round, but I'll be back next year with something bold. All I need is a minister, a paramedic, an undertaker, a totaled car that is the exact replica of mine and a policeman with a sense of humor.

I'm still working out the details. I'll fool my wife but good next year.

Meanwhile, some wacky blogger went and pulled an April Fool's trick on me. I was looking at the traffic stats on for another blog of mine, Straight Shooting Real Estate, and noticed that my blog had been stumbled.

Great news, right? Well, kind of. Yes, my real estate blog is listed at StumbleUpon as a pornography site. Ah, someone out there has a sense of humor, seemingly. That's funny as hell.

Lessons learned

As I mentioned right here, I bought a shiny new bicycle. Rather than going to a bicycle shop and purchasing one, I bought it online.

That was a stupid mistake. Why? The gears weren't set right when the bike arrived, meaning I could only use 12 of my 21 gears. I didn't want to mess with setting everything up because I read that my chain could fly off if I got something wrong. That would be a problem.

So I took it to a bicycle shop tonight and should have it back tomorrow. I'll be out some money for that and I also bought a new seat because the one on my bike is terrible. I started adding everything up and figured out that I could have spent just a little more money at the bicycle shop and would have something that was already set up and ready to go.

I'll be glad to get my bike back so I can start zipping around the neighborhood again, but I'll be heading to the bike shop when it's time to buy something new (I saw a couple of bikes from Fuji and Giant that I'd love to own).

Oh well. I did order a couple of bells so my wife and I can go around the neighborhood on our bikes and annoy people with them. Maybe we should ride around, ring our bells and yell at kids.

"You kids think you're pretty cool with your rock n' roll and your funny books," we could holler. Great fun.

My daughter learned something new this week, too. She's on a softball team again this year (the appropriately-named Maniacs) and had a game last night. My daughter had the ball and was running to tag a girl that was running to second base.

She looked like she was tired of chasing that kid, so she stopped, rared back and pegged the poor child right in the back with the softball (yes, she's about as aggressive as my wife). My daughter learned that merely hitting a kid with a ball isn't enough to get her out -- you've got to tag the base runner or get a force out, seemingly.

I told my daughter she simply wasn't allowed to hit a kid in the back with a softball.

"I didn't hit her in the back, daddy."

"Yes you did. I was watching you!"

"I didn't hit her in the back. I hit her helmet."

Maybe she hasn't learned as much as I'd hoped.

Now, my daughter is on a team for seven and eight-year-old girls. The opening session was the other night and we were treated to a parade of the softball teams here in Saline County. The division for five and six-year-old girls is a hoot.

Now, a lot of the teams for older girls have fairly aggressive names -- the Maniacs, the Callahan Crushers, Chaos, etc. That's not the case for the teams for the youngest girls, one of which is called the Pink Ponies.

I couldn't help but think that's not exactly a name that strikes fear in the hearts of opponents, is it? The Pink Ponies? I hope those girls form a great team and stomp everyone who opposes them.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

April Fool's fun, a birthday, link baiting, top Entrecard droppers and my wonderful Toyota

Well, I've got a lot of stuff to go through with this post, so I'll get right to it.

First of all, happy April Fool's day to everyone. I had the ultimate April Fool's day prank ready, but my wife told me I couldn't use it.

Here was my plan -- I was going to turn in my letter of resignation and write "April Fool's!" at the end. My darling wife figured my employer might decide, once and for all, that I'm more trouble than I'm worth.

She may be right.

Speaking of my wife, I've already pulled my April Fool's prank on her. Yes, it's about 11:30 p.m. and I've hidden all the soap in the shower. Why? She takes the first shower in the morning. Heh, heh. I can't wait to hear the yelling.

I considered doing a little something for April Fool's on this here blog. Yes, I was going to find the crummiest, slowest running scripts I could find and stick them here and there on this fine blog. I'm talking about those browser-crashing scripts Java script things that are coded so badly you'd think a drug addict wrote them.

I decided against that, however. I've hit enough blogs running those things to know that those scripts aren't amusing at all.

The Crotchety Old Man was born on April Fool's Day!

It's no secret that Crotchety is one of my favorite bloggers out there. He celebrates his birthday on April Fool's, so make sure to head over to his blog by clicking right here and leave him a comment or two, huh?

Avoid the trite references to his birthday being on a dubious holiday, huh? He's heard them all and is sick of them.

At any rate, happy birthday and many happy returns, Crotchety! Go out and have fun.

Link baiting for fun and profit

Well, fun at least because there's not just a whole lot of profit to be had in blogging, is there?

Regardless, I've decided this world would be much better if people couldn't help but run across references to The Hawg all over the Internet. Indeed, can anyone possibly get enough Arkansas-centric nonsense? I say no -- no, they can't.

To that end, I'm working on building up some reciprocal links so that I can inflict my rambling on even more people than have suffered through it already. I've added some blogs to my sidebar and want to add more. Let me know if you want to trade links and I just may do it. Come on, folks. Let's trade links. Let's get all famous and stuff.

I'll be unveiling a similar link-grubbing endeavor on another blog of mine, Straight Shooting Real Estate, so be on the lookout for that, too. Jeepers!

Top Entrecard droppers for March

Thanks to Entrecard, even a lovable rascal like me can get some traffic to a blog. I appreciate the heck out of those fine Entrecard members who spend a lot of time over here and try to show it by encouraging everyone to pay them a visit. Here are the top Entrecard droppers for March:


2. Computer Aid

3. The Modern Historian

4. Lisgold

5. Programming Made Easy

6. theysaY

7. Mr. Soleh's Outburst

8. The Way I See It

9. Computer Help and Advice

10. On the Bricks

Thanks, folks!

Bob hates my Toyotas

Ah, here's my favorite post I've seen in quite some time. It seems a retired Chrysler worker named Bob thinks we all ought to buy American cars because we should go out of the way to support our economy. You can read about Bob and his dislike of my Toyotas right here.

I've already beaten this topic to death and won't do it again. You can read about my views on why GM and Chrysler deserve to fail right here if you're so inclined.

Meanwhile, I'll just mention to good old Bob that it's a pretty low-rent tactic to attack someone and not allow him to leave a comment in defense of his position (particularly after you've left a comment on his blog calling him a liar). But considering the kind of trash that's been coming out of Detroit lately, I can't say I'm a bit surprised.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Music Monday -- Toni Basil!

If this one doesn't make you grin like an idiot, you've got no soul.

Before (or after) watching Ms. Basil hop around and sing "Hey Mickey," why not head over to another blog o' mine, Straight shooting real estate, and read this important announcement about a policy change at I'm starting to like that Today site -- I really am.

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. One simple rule, leave ONLY the actual post link here. You can grab this code at LJL Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.

A red letter day for The Hawg!

Folks, Friday was a great day. A wonderful day. A red letter day.

Why? Because three great things happened to me at once and that's unusual. Well, if you're a kid that's not unusual, but such fine days are hard to come by when you're an adult.

First of all, I got my new modem in a few days earlier. As I griped about just last week, my DSL modem up and died on me. I called AT&T about it and they said to expect a replacement modem on Wednesday. It arrived five days early, so I had my Internet access back. That's good news.

What else was in the mail? Why, my shiny, new bicycle! Yes, I had some money sitting in my PayPal account, thanks to my engaging in some of that mean ol' paid posting (I love the stuff). Rather than spend a bunch of cash on a great bicycle, I saved some money and found one that's decent -- a Kent Sierra Madre with an aluminum frame and a Shimano gear set.

I love the thing and I've truly appreciated the opportunity to learn just how out of shape I am. I'll be riding that thing quite a bit, I believe, and I'll let that paid posting money build up until I can figure out the exact bike I need and have the money to get it.

Ah, and my wife will be riding a bike with me. Why? I got a check in from my Epinions account and was able to buy her a dandy cruiser. Her bike has a coaster brake, no gears and she loves it. Soon we'll both be in shape, right? I had enough left over to grab my daughter a new softball bat and I got my son a bike to replace my old Schwinn Mag Scrambler that he'd been riding (truth be told, he likes the old Schwinn more, but at least he doesn't have to feel like he's peddling around on a hand-me-down).

All in all, Friday was a great day.