Monday, August 24, 2009

It's right, but feels so wrong

Being sound in mind and body takes work, especially as we age. Healthcare experts now advocate exercising your brain. This can take a variety of forms, from crossword puzzles to learning a new skill to using your opposite hand for common tasks.

If these things truly rejuvenate your brain, I should be good to go for another decade or so. My husband and I just got back from two weeks in Ireland where we tackled a bunch of brain-taxing skills:
  • Driving on the opposite side of the road. On the opposite side of the car. Shifting with the opposite hand.
  • Navigating in a place where the streets have no names. Or, if they do, they're not posted anywhere.
  • Reconciling the differences in directions given by a Garmin GPS, Ordnance Survey maps, and locals.
  • Dodging cows, sheep, and buses on narrow, rock-wall lined roads, which are more like foot paths.
It was all a little scary, but we survived with nary a scratch to animal or vehicle. And now we should be reaping the benefits to our brains for years to come.

If you're inclined to give this a try, you should first read up on Irish driving. One good source is "Surviving Driving in Ireland" by Rick Steeves. Then be bold and take the wheel -- the right-hand drive wheel. It may feel wrong, but it's the right way to go.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Simpsonize me

It seems everyone I know loves the The Simpsons for one reason or other. While I find myself fidgeting whenever I watch the show, I have my own reasons for being a fan.

  • Not one, but two ways to "Simpsonize" yourself. At the Web site for the Simpsons movie, you can create an avatar (like mine here) and play a game. Or, you can upload your own photo at the SimpsonizeMe site and be automotically transformed.

  • Recently, I found one more reason to be a fan. Stormy weather and Delta airlines had joined forces to delay my trip to Ireland for a night. Instead of being airborn, I was housebound. I turned on The Simpsons in time to see, "In the Name of the Grandfather," in which the family flies to Ireland (on Derry Air) so Grampa can revisit a pub where he had the best night of his life. They also visit several places I've been to and some on the itinerary of my delayed trip. Many thanks to Homor and Marge and the rest for letting me see a wee bit of Ireland in advance.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Brand smart?

Branding helps companies create a personality for themselves, instant recognition in the general public, and customer loyalty to certain products and services. At least it does when done right.

Most companies put a lot of time and money into the numerous components of branding, which starts with the company name. So what happens when that name -- the first thing a potential customer or employee or business partner sees -- is less than appealing?

Here are some of my un-faves:
  • The Dump: TV ads for this bargain furniture store stick in my head because of the amazing number of times the announcer repeats the company name in an annoying way. As for the name, I thought the whole reason to buy new furniture was to keep your home from looking like a dump.
  • Rent-A-Wreck: This name under promises and over delivers. That's usually a recipe for success. But with cars, the word "wreck" is an accident waiting to happen. It makes me think the car I rent won't be reliable, and it doesn't matter if I trash it because it's a wreck anyway.
  • Goof Off: I actually use (and like) this self-proclaimed "miracle remover" (another misnomer because it doesn't really remove miracles). What it does remove are all the spills, drips, and splotches I leave behind. But Goof Off? If I'm working that hard to clean up after myself, I'm certainly not goofing off. But I guess it's a better name than Obsessive Compulsive Cleaner.
I thought long and hard before naming my own business. It was in the midst of trying out some options when AMY INK became shorthand for this venture I started in 2000. And the moniker stuck. Still, it can create confusion. Some people say it's a good thing I'm a writer, with a name like Amy Ink.