Monday, November 23, 2009

What's in a name?



I'll be the first one to admit, I've got a rather unusual name. Most people I come in contact with do not know any other Ladd's, and for that matter, neither do I. It's a rare occasion to introduce myself to somebody for the first time without getting a question or two about its pronunciation, origin, or what it's short for. Often times, I've decided, it's just not worth the trouble of telling people my name, because the effort each introduction involves is exhausting.

Here's a typical first encounter:

Me: "Hi, I'm Ladd, nice to meet you."
Them: "Hi Lance, it's a pleasure."
Me: "No, ah, actually it's Ladd, not Lance."
Them: "OHHH, Larry, I'm sorry."
Me: "No, it's LAAAAAD-dah"
Them: "OOOH LAAAD... like L-A-D?"
Me: "No, like L-A-D-D."
Them: "Wow I've never heard that, is that short for something?"
Me: "No, it's just Ladd."
Them: "Sounds Irish. Are you a "good Ladd"? (chuckle, chuckle)
Me: "HA! That's funny. I've never heard that one before."
Them: "So, how'd you get that name?"
Me: "Same way you got yours."

To avoid these excruciating conversations, I have several aliases on standby for things like restaurant reservations, dealing with the dry cleaner, pizza delivery, taxi cabs, bartenders - or anyone who has that look, like they need to have the conversation seen above. They can call me Kin-Tahn-Tee for all I care, so long as I don't have to go through that again.

As a kid, it's difficult having a name that's unusual. The gift shops never had my name on a keychain or a coffee mug, or a bracelet. On roll call, the substitute teachers would always murder every name that wasn't John or Mary, and mine always ended up hacked beyond recognition. I mean, really? It's a mono-syllabic name. How can I believe that you are going to teach this class effectively if you can't successfully pronounce my name in three attempts? Other kids liked to joke that if I was a girl, I would have been named Lassie (or they'd just flat out call me Lassie, because it was utterly hilarious). Even my father would occasionally torture me by singing a nauseating melody with a refrain that went something like "Ladd's bad and Dad's glad."

Suffice to say, it took me a fairly long time to get beyond the idiosyncratic nature of Ladd, and begin appreciating my name for what it is. Even as I write this blog, I have to look beyond the fact that each instance where I use my name, the computer dutifully reminds me that the word Ladd is not in it's database of recognized vocabulary, and I should change the word to 'lid' as quickly as possible. Apparently even Bill Gates thinks my name is funny.

Easily, the best thing that the name Ladd has going for it is its uniquity. Sure, there are others out there, but Ladd is almost exclusively a surname, not a first name. Complicating matters further is the fact that my last name, Keegan, is most commonly used as a first name. At least my parents clearly must have had a good sense of humor.

Of course, it's not all bad. I've taken a few moments to compile some notably good things about Ladd, and here are just a few of them:

  • Ladd Syndrome, I am an extremely rare genetic disorder characterized by abnormalities affecting the lacrimal and salivary glands and ducts, ears, teeth and fingers and toes. (http://children.webmd.com/ladd-syndrome), which also relates to


  • Ladd Air, I am a fantastic, one-aircraft charter airline based in Dayton, Ohio - operating since 2004 and never crashed! (http://laddair.com/)
  • Ladd, Illinois - I am a village in Bureau County, Illinois, population 1,313 (as of 2000 census - since then I'm sure it's exploded with popularity). According to Wikipedia, "Ladd is most notable for the large hill in the middle of town." It is also the undisputed center of the local music scene, with The Cancun in Ladd hosting shows at least once per month. (http://www.city-data.com/city/Ladd-Illinois.html)
  • Ladd Observatory, I am a historic observatory at Brown University opened in 1891 by Professor Winslow Upton. I'm open to the public on Tuesday nights from 7pm-9pm, weather permitting. (http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Physics/Ladd/index.html). **Please note that Ladd will be closed tonight due to the weather.**
Outside Ladd


So this begs the question, what would my life be like without Ladd? Surely enough, things would be quite different. I suspect that had I been named Mike or Dave or Sean that this blog entry would read quite differently than it does now.

Not long ago, I finally asked my parents, "what on Earth were you thinking when you named me Ladd?"

They said, "we're not sure, but aren't you happy we did?"

There was only one thing I could say. "You're God damn right I am."

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Gambler



This morning I woke up, and my heart is no longer racing. The agony of defeat is no longer palpable in my mouth, the stomach has stopped wrenching, and the dust has settled on another chapter of the Indy-New England rivalry. Yet, for some unknown reason, my instincts want me to cry (I've already picked out a few good hiding places around the office should the urge be too much to fight off). I know very well that it's time for us to look forward to watching the team take out some of this frustration on the Jets next Sunday; I know we need to learn from the loss and move on. We, as fans, need to learn from this, and move on.

I say to you folks, let's try to keep it all in perspective.

One, we played a tough game against one of the toughest teams in the league, and we dominated them for the better part of 60 minutes.

Two, Peyton Manning has an explosive offense that can strike at will against the best defenses in the NFL. And he does so with ease, and without a viable running game.

Three, the last four match-ups between the Pats & Colts were won by the team who came back from behind.

Four, if you have a chance to put it in the bag, you take it. When the go-ahead was given on 4th-and-2 on our own 28, my emotions were high, and I had difficulty containing my anger for Coach BB and the lousy call to shoot the moon. I was surprised at the call, and even more shocked that we came out with nobody in the backfield to run. But it was a play they knew, they'd practiced, and it had been successful several times already during the game.

Five, they made a good play. They completed it. It was just [a little] short. It's a game of inches, and inches decided the game. With no red flag to throw, and the booth unable to review, there was little the Pats could do but pray to stop the Indy offense machine from reaching the short 29 yards to the end zone.

Look, it was a gamble. No true Patriots fan can look me in the eye and tell me that Bill Belichick isn't a gambler. And we'd all better thank God he is. Praise be to Allah, only somebody like Belichick will release a pro-bowl, first-round quarterback (Bledsoe) in favor of a young, barely proven, 6th round unknown. But think about where we'd be if he hadn't. Only somebody like Belichick will send a reliable, veteran defensive lineman (Seymour) to another AFC rival in exchange for a draft pick in two years. Only somebody like Bill Belichick can make decisions that make little sense in the present time, but result in 3 Superbowl Rings in 4 years, plus an almost undefeated season.

Alas, only somebody like Belichick will go for it on 4th-and-2 deep in our own territory, with the game in the balance. Afterall, BB is the king of going for it on 4th. Bill could have been a hero this morning. Instead, some will question his play calling, and the effects it may have on the team moving forward.

I got news for you Patriots fans - facing that situation, with Peyton Manning ready to take the field, Billy will take that risk every time. Everyone knows that to get the rainbow, you're going to have to put up with a little rain. Sometimes, we're going to miss.

I'll still follow that guy to the fire everyday of the week, and all day Sunday. Even more, anybody who walks onto that field wearing a New England Patriots jersey had better agree with that, or they can pack their bags and head for greener pastures (Jets perhaps?). Otherwise, it's time for us all to grit the ol' teeth and start making the gameplan for our next visit to Indy, which may be just around the corner.

So if you're still pissed off with Bill this morning, I recommend you cut him some slack. After all, he deserves it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cheeseburger In Paradise



If you're ever in DC, and you get that hankerin' for a damn good burger, hit up Fuddruckers. 1/4, 1/3, and 1/2 lb. burgers with a whole slew of fixin's at your disposal. I guarantee satisfaction with your experience, or your next burger is on me.

Comes with a beer or a soda and fries.

What could be better than that?

***offer only valid in certain states, for certain people. Subject to terms and conditions, including picking up the next round, automatic DD responsibilities for the next three drinking events, and other miscellaneous responsibilities as assigned. void where prohibited by law.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Social Networking



About three years ago, at the urging of my wife and several members of my family, I joined a social networking site. At the time I had only one previous experience with internet social networking under my belt in the form of the primordial Friendster, which I found to be relatively unamusing and seriously lacking stimulation. I struggled to find reasons to sign in and visit the site with any kind of regularity. So the pitch to buy into this whole idea again was considerably easy to rebut.

I was well aware of the dangers of posting personal information and photographs on the internet. I also knew that potential employers and other unintended people could feasibly get their hands on my information. Yet, for some unknown reason, like a kid lighting up a cigarette for the first time, I acquiesced to the pressure.

At first, the site appeared to be remarkably similar to the one I had been a member of previously, except now I had a few more people to talk to, and I could "write on their walls". BFD. As the site grew in popularity, I became intrigued with the idea that this could truly offer a way to regain contact with people from deep in my past. This, of course, is the double-edged sword of the site: if put yourself out there to reconnect with certain people from way back, it's inevitable that you're going to reconnect with certain people that you never wanted to think about again. Ever.

Everyone who is a member knows what it's like to receive that friend request - the one where you say, "holy crap, why are they friending me?" You consider it for a few minutes, and then like an ancient Roman Emporer deciding someone's fate in front of thousands at the Coliseum, you give them the symbolic thumbs up/thumbs down on their future in your network kingdom: ACCEPT or IGNORE. Your decision becomes a virtual indictment of whatever feelings you may have toward that person, and a test of your ability (or inability) to let bygones be bygones. Immediately after you see the name, your mental database begins searching for any memories containing the words "Dan Froman". You start thinking about that time in high school when he told you where to put it, or how he intentionally snubbed you and made you look like an ass at Mark's Halloween party in 1992. You cross reference his name with "positive memories". Then like an empty Microsoft windows search returns with no matches, you realize that you can't think of a time in history when you ever actually liked this guy.

Let's try forget for a moment that wastebook is a colossal waste of time and energy. As it is, most corporations have wised up and blocked their employees from the time-sucking wasteland that it is, where hours of paid overtime wages are sucked into a black hole never to be seen or heard from again. Studies have proven that productivity in the workplace suffers measurable setbacks when wastebook use is allowed (Facebook cuts productivity). This is in addition to the vacuums of Twitter and Myspace, which if an employee is regularly using all three they shouldn't be fired, they should be shot. Nonetheless, in the midst of this horrible economy, 72% of over 300 million users still update their status at work, tag photos that nobody wants to see, and invite everyone on their list to join them in a game of Farmville - thereby diluting their 8.5 hour work day into about 2 hours or less of actual productive activity. Some people even go so far as to forget that they friended their boss before they go on a rant about how much they hate them.

Put that all aside. What about the idea that people come into your life, and then leave your life for a reason? In a world without wastebook, I would never have come back into contact with Jillian Thurber or Leanne Moxley, or Tom Drew or Kyle Xillas - and I am (was) perfectly comfortable with the idea that I'd never interact with any of these people again. But instead, now I get regular updates on the frequent bowel movements of Jillian's 14-month old, Leanne's complete disdain for her mother-in-law, Tom's excessively hairy chest, and Kyle's tragic attempt at starting his own internet business (he never did strike me as the workhorse type). At what point did we as a people decide that there was any need for this kind of information circulating in our heads? Life was complicated enough before all of this.

So how do I get out? I need my job, I value my privacy, and frankly I don't need the hassle of responding to wall posts containing absolutely no substance whatsoever. I envision a class action-style intervention to the entire wastebook community: the first step is admitting we have a problem. The second step is to get help.

I sought the advice of several Facebook friends who have displayed a remarkable aptitude at keeping their pages up to date around the clock, 7 days a week. When questioned about providing me assistance, Meghan Barnaby, a ubiquitous wastebook user replied, "Why would you ever want to get rid of wastebook? I love it, it helps me breathe." Kim Redmond, a veterinary nursing specialist from Portland concurred. "Look, I posted a picture of my dog Nibbles as my wastebook photo. Want to see it?"

It appeared that I wasn't going to get any help getting off drugs from the drug dealer, so I solicited help from Kelly Sheridan, a non-wastebook individual that I work with. I remember a few weeks ago she told a group of us that she "hates the whole idea of wastebook", and "I just can't see ever signing up for something so stupid." I approached her optimistically, figuring she'd be an individual of critical importance to ending my wastebook dependence. "Funny you ask," she said, "I just joined wastebook on Monday, and I already have 14 friends!"

Still, I remained positive that there's still hope for people like me, who see that it's all gone a little too far. I volunteered my opinion in an email to an old friend who is now the Director of Information Technology Management at a major public corporation. He spearheads a group of over 50 computer science engineers and support specialists to manage and protect the information and systems of over 20,000 employees worldwide. My offering was met with an Out of Office Autoreply, indicating that he was on holiday and would return a week from Monday. His reply indicated that if I needed further assistance, I should contact his assistant, or visit him at www.facebook.com/mikev********. Have a great day!

I'm not sure if I'll follow up with him when he gets back.

In the meantime, I'm consciously spending less time keeping up with the lives of my wastebook pals, and focusing more on my job performance and other fruitful activities... such as keeping up this blog, which I've spent roughly the last two hours writing. So much for productivity. Yet, I can still offer hope to those out there who find themselves stuck smoking two packs of wastebook a day, and feel like there's no way out.... there is help out there. The only problem is, nobody seems to want to find it.

(the names used in this article are fictional)