Monday, December 19, 2011

Religion comes into play

I usually resist talking about politics or religion, even though both are front and center these days. With the 2012 elections underway since, well, 2008, I've learned to keep my finger on the mute button of the remote.

I wish I could do the same with religion, which I view as a personal matter not well suited for public displays. But public displays and declarations abound.
  • Controversy continues over the "Keep Christ in Christmas" sign in Pitman, N.J. I guess the locals forget that those who don't celebrate Christmas might not want to live under the banner of someone else's religion.
  • This season of Survivor: South Pacific was the most prayerful ever -- as if who would win immunity was a matter of divine intervention.
  • Then there's the Denver Bronco's Tim Tebow, whose kneeling in prayer on the playing field has become a phenomenon. The best response to "tebowing" is this skit from Saturday Night Live (after brief ad).

So when it comes to politics or religion, I really don't have to say anything at all. There are enough voices in the mix as it is. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hello Dear...Upgrade Needed

I've become quite cynical about emails from strangers, deleting them upon receipt. I've adopted a "Just Say No" mantra. But this one almost got me.

Subject: Adobe Acrobat: Upgrade Needed

I thought it odd for Adobe to email me, much less attach a zip file, so my suspicions were raised. But I probably did need an upgrade, so I continued reading.

The details seemed legit: 

Adobe is pleased to announce new version upgrades for Adobe Acrobat Reader. Advanced features include:

- Collaborate across borders
- Create rich, polished PDF files from any application that prints
- Ensure visual fidelity
- Encrypt and share PDF files more securely
- Use the standard for document archival and exchange

To upgrade and enhance your work productivity today please open attached file.

Copyright 2011 Adobe Systems Incorporated. All rights reserved.
TrackNum: RBN098-2772687
Adobe Systems Incorporated,
Wed, 30 Nov 2011 16:56:18 +0200

Then I re-read the greeting: "Hello Dear." And hit delete.

"Hello Kitty" would have been more believable. 

Score one more for the suspicious consumer, another zero for spammers.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Don’t be a tool

Who hasn’t heard someone say:

“I’m a Mac person.”
“I’m a PC person.”
“I’m a Facebook person.”
“I’m a Twitter person.”
“I’m a (insert digital tool name here) person.”

Wasn’t technology supposed to bring us together? Instead it has us splitting into factions.

"I’m an iPad person.
"I’m a Kindle person.

Can’t we all just get along? Why this need to choose? It makes much better sense to pick the best tool for the job at hand.

And speaking of tools, there’s a saying that if all you have is a hammer, then every problem is a nail. So what happens when you have a screw loose?

I don’t want to be defined by the device I use. I don’t want to be a tool. I’m a person, plain and simple. One who likes to use neat, new technology, knowing that devices will evolve to neater, newer technology in short order.

My smartphone has been a great help in my one-woman business. I can’t imagine ever giving it up. But I’m not pledging allegiance to BlackBerry or iPhone or Android. They’re only a tool...and I am not.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's all about ME

Imagine a camera designed to put you at the center of every picture, every time. That may not have been the original idea behind the Throwable Ball Camera, but that's what it does. Along with capturing an amazing panorama overhead.

The ball also has captured the attention of sports fans, who see its potential for revolutionizing sports coverage. (See ThePostGame.)

Who wouldn’t want this camera/toy/device/equipment? It takes the current ME culture one step further to put ME at the center of my universe in a concrete and visual way.

Every single picture I take would feature ME with my arms outstretched, ready to embrace the world. Or rule it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Marathon cycle of life

Marathons used to be for elite runners only. No one else would even think of entering.

Today, marathons are packed with entrants of all abilities, as competitive runners lead the ever-growing pack of serious runners, casual runners, joggers, and walkers.

Even pregnant women are completing marathons, just hours before giving birth. Such was the case at the Chicago Marathon, on October 9. Amber Miller had many previous marathons under her belt; for this one, she had a ready-to-pop baby girl under her belt.

No footage of Amber’s finish exists, so Conan O’Brien called upon his Peanut Players to re-enact the marathon baby drama.

Yes, marathoners can be a little nutty.

But the unusual experiences of any number of marathoners don’t detract from the serious endeavor of running 26.2 miles. It can be a fatal experience, and many runners have died during races. In fact, two have died during the Chicago Marathon: one this year, and one in 2007.

Some people make “running a marathon” a line item on their bucket list. But no one wants it to be the last thing they do on this Earth.

For me, running a marathon is the last thing in the world I would ever choose to do. Except for running a marathon...and then giving birth.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

ROTFL in a fuzzy way

I heard it well before I saw it. Something, somewhere was laughing out of control. In a mechanical, but infectious kind of way.

Then I saw it. A gaggle (flock? rookery? herd? colony?) of stuffed animals rolling on the floor laughing (literally ROTFL).
I first thought: Another cute but cheesy marketing idea. But something about the laughter drew me in. As well it should. Apparently laughter is good for you, whether it's real and spontaneous or faked and forced:
These days it can be hard to find something that makes you laugh out loud. But do it anyway. I did, right in the middle of the Fort Myers (Fla.) airport. And that made other people laugh -- either at the Giggle Buddies or me, it didn't matter which. We all walked away feeling better for it. At least that's what the experts would say.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Where are you now?

I recently received an invitation from someone I have never met to join the social networking site WAYN, an acronym for “Where Are You Now?”

My first response is, “Who wants to know?” Next, “Who cares?”

WAYN wants to know where I am now. Foursquare wants me to check in on my mobile phone wherever I go. And Facebook wants to know my status. 

The very essence of social networking websites is to share with friends what you’re doing, watching, reading, listening to, photographing, buying, thinking, planning. Most of these friends you may never even have met face to face or not seen in years. And there are many, many flavors of social sites, just check the growing list on Wikipedia.

Yet as a nation, we are so worried about privacy that we enact the U.S. HIPAA Privacy Rule, unleashing a bureaucracy of forms to sign, virtually unread, at every medical office you visit. Thanks to HIPAA, the nursing home could only tell me an aunt’s “status had changed” instead of informing me she had passed away in her sleep. At least her privacy was safe, while I drove like a madwoman to see if I could reach her bedside in time.

Yet we have IDs and passwords and security questions and special images for dozens of websites where we conduct business, because transactions contain sensitive information we never want to share. Too bad hackers are finding ever more insidious ways to break through these barriers.

Yet our cable provider now offers a comprehensive home security system so we can watch streaming video of our home when we’re away from home and even get text and email alerts when someone comes in the door or the system is armed or disarmed.That's how closely we could be watching our home for intruders...or our family members.

And yet…and yet…we willingly give away to the world who we are, where we are, what we’re doing, both in word and visuals. So much for personal privacy.

I guess freedom really is just another word for nothing left to lose.

P.S: In the interest of full disclosure, you can follow me on this blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, or  ;-)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Write like you (should) speak

Plain English. Simple language. Conversational style. I'm all for it.

Often, this approach is called "writing like you speak" -- advice that doesn't take into account how some people talk.

One guy I know sounds like a corporate memo, even when speaking to his kids -- with planned discussions and agreements about coming to an understanding.

Another is the opposite, sounding more like a kid (OMG!) than an adult.

And others ramble on and on (and on), without any sure path toward clear meaning or interesting storytelling.

What's a writer to do? These postings have some observations and suggestions:
  • Don't Write Like You Talk by Robert Warren offers several solid tips about writing in a conversational tone.
  • How to Write Like You Talk by Richard Skaare has three recommendations for upgrading the quality of written conversations.
  • Miss Lola writes like she speaks and says, "both are lacking discipline."
Here's what I suggest if your speaking or writing style are somewhat suspect: Write like other people talk -- people you find interesting, persuasive, easy to understand. If you copy their effective communication styles long enough, you will surely end up creating one that's distinctly your own.

And when that happens, I want to hear all about it.

Peace out.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Is it still August?

It's only 11 days into August -- barely one-third through the month -- and already I feel rushed into September and October.

It's always like this. I work on projects with deadlines that draw me into the future.

This forward thinking is so much a part of my life that I find it difficult to stay present in the present.

And, really, how can anyone take it one day at a time when back-to-school sales beckon and previews of the fall TV lineup are sprinkled into daily programming?

I went to the Internet for answers, as I do for most things. Among all the workshops and DVDs and books on offer were several sites with rational (or only slightly strange) advice. Here are a few to get you (and me) started:

A short search and many tips later, I've come to the conclusion that I'm not alone is my inability to focus on today, everyday.

One bit of advice I can surely remember -- probably because my yoga instructor repeats it every class -- is to take a deep breath...and then let it all go. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

More books please

I've been looking for good books this summer. Some I read on my Kindle, others in hardcover or paperback. The format matters little; it's the content that keeps me reading.

Still, there are a few things about books that e-readers can't match:

1. You don't have to turn them off for take-off and landing in airplanes.

2. Gather enough of them together and they fill bookshelves in colorful ways.

3. They can be decorative items in and of themselves, left open on a coffee table or used in a short stack under a plant or lamp.

4. They hold down the corners of beach towels, and the sand won't gum up their works.

5. You can read them in the bathtub, and the water won't fry any electronics. (Soggy pages eventually dry out.)

6. They can steady a wobbly table by adding length to a short leg.

7. Books are readily available from stores, libraries, friends, flea markets, and sidewalk sales.

8. They're easy to lend and give as gifts.

9. There are many informal book exchanges (at B&Bs, vacation homes, club houses, community centers).

10. They can be signed by the author.

And so on and so on.

I'm sure there are similar lists for digital books and even specific e-readers.

For those who love to read, it doesn't have to be either/or. It's nice that it can be either/more.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Visible value

When I first began taking photographs, I started a collection that continues to this day.

I now have boxes and albums and binders full of prints, negatives, and transparencies.

I never see them, but I know where they are.

With digital cameras (and smartphones) came even more photographs I could store away for that rare occasion when I needed an image.

Now I have a digital photo frame that's finally allowing my many fave pics to see the light of day.

I've loaded the memory card with pictures of people, places and plants in bloom.

The display of images reminds me of moments captured and the cycle of seasons.

It's documentation and reaffirmation all in one.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The utility of art

In today's app-happy culture, I've run across an entirely different display of creative applications.

Most visits to restaurant restrooms are brief in-and-out episodes, no cameras please. But in this case, I took the time to mark the occasion with a photo. The National Mechanics Bar & Restaurant in Old City Philadelphia offered this plumbing twist. It makes you wonder which came first: the artful concept or a workable fix for a bad piece of planning.

The mechanical mailbox presented another fresh approach to old technology. Was this a case of using (or reusing) the supplies at hand -- or searching for a novel way to recycle a piece of the past?

This last example is more organic. It reminds me of the cairns I've seen in my travels, most recently in Stanley Park, Vancouver. There is less overt utility here, although it does have some promotional value. The squash cairn was used to draw shoppers into the nearby Hidden Treasures Antiques in Gradyville, Pennsylvania.

There are times when I like to stroll through art galleries, but my visits are few in number these days. So when I can stumble across art in real life (or life imitating art), it's a wonderful treat.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Does not compute

For me, the only thing better than buying new stuff is getting rid of old stuff. By "rid" I mean donating, handing down, or recycling.

I like cleaning out my basement, but not clogging landfills.

Recently, I ran across a news item in the local weekly paper about an electronics recycling day. Just about anything with a power cord would be taken.

I could easily compile a decent list of no-longer-powerful objects I wanted to part with:
  • an 11-year-old CPU;
  • a telephone from, maybe, the 1970s;
  • a battery recharger with nothing left to give.
It was almost fun to drive through the recycling line, having eager volunteers take the stuff out of my car and off my hands. I don't know who was happier: me, for clearing out my obsolete stash; or them, for adding to their collection.

I left feeling lighter -- and immediately began a mental list of things to put aside for the next time:  computer cables, power cords, a boom box. And I'm just getting started.

Buying new technology must be akin to buying a boat. They say the second happiest day of your life is when you buy your boat; the happiest is when you sell it.

So remember this when lusting after that hottest electronic must-have: today's next-generation technology is tomorrow's recycling.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

This space intentionally left blank

Sometimes it feels like I spend my day breaking rocks. At least that's the sense I get when I'm chipping away at a project day after day, with little visible progress.

When I'm caught up in a project or deadlines are looming, it's hard to find enough spare brain cells to post anything interesting on this blog. Now I understand why so many financial reports have pages bearing the single sentence: "This space intentionally left blank." Although, in that case, there probably isn't an accountant who can simply explain what's been going on behind the scenes.

At any rate, I'm not alone when it comes to blogging brain freeze. There are enough of us to provide ample fodder for one guy who's been tracking the apologies people post for not blogging.

Cory Arcangel has created a blog that re-posts other people's posts about not blogging. He calls it Sorry I Haven't Posted: "Inspiring Apologies from Today's World Wide Web." Among those he has collected: 
  • "Hey gang. Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I recently had a very, very, very, minor, very, very, very, mild heart attack."
  • “For a very long time, I wanted nothing more than to be a writer. This blog was one of the ways I tried to follow that. But simply put, I’m tired of slamming my head up against the wall and getting nowhere." 
You get the idea.

If nothing else, these apologies are inspiring as a collective statement on blogging -- or the lack of it. If I have something to say or share, you'll find it here. If not, well, what does blank space look like in a blog anyway.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Keyboard classics

What happens if a monkey types on a keyboard for an infinite amount of time and doesn’t produce the complete works of William Shakespeare? You could easily wind up with the kind of convoluted copy I’ve come across lately.

  • Letter from a financial company:
    “A recharacterization nullifies a previous contribution or conversion; it’s as if the contribution or conversion never occurred.
  • The seat belt section of a car owners manual:
    “The physical principles of a frontal collision are simple. Both the moving vehicle and the passenger in the vehicle possess energy, which varies with vehicle speed and body weight. Engineers call this energy ‘kinetic energy.’”
Then there is the painfully obvious style of writing:
  • Instructions for hair styling iron: “Never use while drowsy or while sleeping.”
  • Again, the car owners manual: “Always make sure that no one is in the way of the power sunroof when it is closing.”
My advice for copywriters? Write for the reader. Not the lawyer. Not the courtroom your client is trying to avoid. Not for what you think might be the lowest common denominator. Give your customers a little more credit than that. Please.

The infinite monkey (or cat) theorem makes a fine metaphor for exploring the mathematics of probability, just don’t monkey with the concepts of clarity and common sense in the content of your writing.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Car Sense

It's been three weeks now, and I'm still getting used to my new GTI. It's not as easy as "sign and drive," as Volkswagen would have you believe.

First you have to figure out where everything to turn it on...and, even more important, how to turn it off. Fog lights? Who knew you had to pull out the push knob?

Of course there's the owners manual, but wading through all the sidebars of warnings makes for disjointed and annoying reading, while limiting sustained comprehension.

Some differences between now and the last time I bought a car, in 1998:
  • A seat heater with three settings: on, really warm, and ouch.
  • A manual transmission with six gears. I learned to drive when three was the norm; what do I do with the leftovers?
  • A stick shift with "hill hold," so you don't slip backward on hills when getting into first gear from a dead stop. It's a verrrrrry nice feature that I often forget about while I'm feathering the gas and clutch.
  • A keyless entry system -- another wonderful feature because I can open the door without routing through my pocketbook for the key. I just don't trust the car not to lock me out with my pocketbook (and key) inside it.
I'm sure that I'll eventually learn every nook and cranny of this new car, just as I did my 12-year-old BMW. In the meantime, I'm having lots of fun just winging it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hands-on driving

I’ve been driving a BMW for more than a dozen years. That’s not to brag; it’s the same car. I got in two jobs and a career change ago.

Still, I’ve put less than 85,000 miles on it, mostly because my commute has shrunk from across state lines to down the hall.

It’s the classic story of a gently used car owned by a little old lady who only drives it around town.

Now it’s time to part ways, as I take ownership of a 2011 VW GTI on Friday. The old Bimmer has a lot of life left in her, so I uploaded a page to the Web to tout her qualities. Now I'm responding to inquiries.

The only sticking point so far has been the stick. Yes, it’s a manual transmission. A stick shift. Four on the floor.  (Actually, it’s a five speed.)

And that’s an issue.

So not only am I selling a car, I’m coaching people about learning to drive stick. Imagine that. Where are all the hard-core driving enthusiasts? The feel-of-the-road guys? The performance drivers? How have so many been lulled into automatics?

Used or not, my car remains one of the “ultimate driving machines,” according to BMW branding. It's a stick; my previous car was a stick; and my new car is...a stick.

Hard to believe so many people are missing out on the fun of real hands-on driving.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Fun for fools

I'm not looking for a full-time job. I'm not even looking for a part-time job. AMY INK keeps me quite busy, I'm happy to say. Still, I never miss an issue of Ned's Job of the Week. I read the Monday morning email regularly -- and pass it on when I think one of my colleagues might have an interest.

With today being April Fools' Day, do yourself a favor by skimming through this fun read. The issue for March 32, 2011, is packed with clever turns on the usual job-search stuff.

And don't miss the "One Haiku Pitch." For example...

(From Milton Longfellow:)
I’m a hard worker;
And the restraining order
Expires in two weeks.

(From Nigel Turntable:)
Looking for a change.
Actually, I need change;
Must pay Comcast bill.

I know that being out of work, or looking for a better job, is certainly no joke. I hope Ned's April Fools' edition helps to lighten your day.

***To subscribe to Ned's weekly job listings, send a blank e-mail to:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Annual rites of spring

Spring is known for many things, one of the more esoteric being corporate annual reports. I eagerly await their arrival in my mailbox and welcome the faint aroma of ink on the pages. (Yes, I like the printed book best, even though I often also view the online version.)

While each book, each year is different, they're all alike in one way: their reputation takes a beating. Financially savvy folk love to denigrate the publication. “I never read them,” they say. “I just ‘file’ annual reports in my recycling bin,” they smirk.

Too bad. That’s their loss. If they read only the cut-and-dried legal financial forms, they miss getting a more rounded view of the companies they follow.

Every element of every book is a clue that speaks to the personality behind the name on the cover. What theme was chosen as a headline for the year? Do the photographs of people and products help to better visualize the brand? How well does the writing convey not only what the company has done, but why it made those moves...and what's next?

When I want to know about a company, I check the annual report. Not just the financials, but how it chooses to present itself each year to a wide variety of audiences. Is this a company I would want to work for? Invest in? Purchase products and services from? Trust as a member of my community?

It’s hard to tell the real picture of a company from any one year, but year after year, a personality emerges. That's true even with accountants and lawyers and auditors scrubbing the book of bold, declarative statements to make sure it’s safe, defensible content.

I’ve been writing annual reports for more years than I care to count, first as a corporate staffer and now as a freelance writer. And every spring, along with daffodils and tulips, I wait for the annual reports to arrive.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Turning the world upside down

There are many ways in which your world can turn upside down. Most are unplanned, unforeseeable, and unlucky occurrences. But not all.

In yoga class, it's intentional, starting with your physical practice. Any inversion changes your perspective about what's up and what's down: handstands, headstands, arm balancing poses. Even the basic downward-facing dog pose makes the floor your visual ceiling.

This changed perspective used to seem like an optical illusion. My brain would puzzle over point of view and horizon lines. Then I gave up analyzing and accepted what my eyes spied. This made inversions a little less scary, if not always doable.

The hardest part of doing an inversion is everything but the actual pose. It's the fear of falling, the worry in wobbling. It's the anticipation and counting how long it's been since last attempting to defy gravity in such an obvious way.

A few years ago, while walking on the beach, I saw two young girls practicing handstands. They made it look effortless -- and like a lot of fun. Basically, they were just playing around and laughing at their inverted world. Yes, they fell, but the soft sand provided a well-padded landing.

My first adult handstand was on a much harder surface, but in the supportive environment of my yoga class. Many pairs of hands helped me to reach and hold my balance. Then I was the one laughing, with the surprise of standing on my hands.

This isn't a feat I can reproduce at will, as the fear of falling is ever present. And I need the support of a wall or willing spotters.

Still, on the rare occasions when the stars align and I'm feeling brave, holding an inversion -- even attempting one -- turns my world upside down. Literally, and for a long time after.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Right on Target

I'm not much of a football fan, but I'm always game to watch the Super Bowl ads. This year, they were a disappointment. Maybe companies aren't putting as much creative juice into traditional media, I thought.

Then I saw the new commercials Target created just for the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards, on February 13. Under the umbrella of "Awards Show Meltdown," Target ran a series of six ads as part of its ongoing campaign called "Life's a Moving Target."

The ads were funny and on point. And if you missed them, you'll have to watch them on YouTube as they're not scheduled to be rebroadcast on TV.

Target is definitely working the magic of the medium, whichever medium it engages. Forget that Target was to be a new idea in discount stores. Today it has become more of a preferred shopping destination. Me? I walk in for one or two items and leave with bags and bags of stuff that's been on my mental shopping list for months. I've even heard corporate executives talk about their shopping trips to "Tar-shay."

Who said bricks-and-mortar stores were a dying breed?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Grasping at groundhogs

It's been a long, tough winter here in the Northeast...and throughout the nation. More than small talk, the weather has become big news. Especially as storm after storm after storm brings snow and ice.

And so today, on Feb. 2, many eyes turned to Punxsutawney Phil, the ceremonial groundhog who predicts spring's arrival. What was once folklore has become a Groundhog Day extravaganza in Punxsutawney. I guess there's nothing better to do on a winter's day in western Pennsylvania. Still, the pseudo-event brings hope that one day the sun will again shine, crocus will bloom, and grass will grow.

For those of you who haven't heard the news, Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow. This means he predicts an early spring.

If you don't believe me, you can watch the excitement for yourself on the Commonwealth Media Hub.

And if you keep planning to get out and play in the snow, but like me have yet to do so, you'd better get moving. Spring is just around the corner. Or so says Phil.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tweeting the Trenta

Tweets about the new 31 oz. "Trenta" size drink at Starbucks just keep rolling in. At least the Trenta has eclipsed talk about the revised Starbucks logo. A smattering of Trenta tidbits from Twitter:

@ConanOBrien Conan O'Brien
I can't wait to try the new gigantic Starbucks size, "Trenta". Or as it's called in The Midwest, "A Medium". 

@CocosNumber2Fan Laurel Noel
Is the Starbucks Trenta THRICE as big as the tall? @ConanOBrien @TeamCoco 

@denisleary Denis Leary
Starbucks has a new giant coffee named Trenta. Comes w/ David Blaine inside holding his breath. 

Kindergarten teachers, you can thank Starbuck's when, 5 years from now, every other kid in your class is named "Trenta". 

@HideSeekMedia Hide and Seek Media
Is the New Starbucks "Trenta Cup" Bigger Than Your Stomach?   

@curiouslyp Simon Kendrick
Seriously, who would want a litre of coffee from Starbucks? Trenta size fail 

@Oksanap Oksana Poltavets
RT @FTFnews Did you hear that @Starbucks is rolling out a new 31ozTrenta size?! - this could feed an army! 

@dclovesfood W. Mark Felt
Folks - just b/c Starbucks is serving the trenta, doesn't mean you have to drink it 

@slkfinger Shawn Finger
Is the point of the #trenta to match your ounce size to your BMI? 

@Leslie_Kerr Leslie Kerr
every1 realizes the @starbucks trenta is not the 1st drink of that size, right? It just evens the playing field w/DD, McD 

@angryczeck Jeremy Harper
My bladder has waved a preemptive flag of surrender to Starbucks Trenta. 

@atzezwirs atze zwirs
Can you die from #caffeine!? #starbucks introduces the #trenta which is bigger then your stomach! 

@wovencharlie Charles Schulze
What did he die of officer? Well mam he tried to finish his Trenta without a bathroom break. 

@andreastokes andrea stokes
@johnson_s RT @angryczeck: The Starbucks Trenta doesn't look *that* big on Google Earth. 

@AkaashAchreja Akaash Achreja
Is the Starbucks Trenta REALLY necessary? I mean, are people out there finishing their Ventis and saying "If only this were 50% larger...."? 

@ordinarycitizen Justin Phillips
Trenta? Really, Starbucks? Who needs 30 ounces of coffee? Are you trying to turn everyone into Gary Busey? 

@DSKinsel d.s. kinsel
@Starbucks got a new fancy named size coming out....#Trenta....y cant they just call it the "big azz" size...who drinks tht much coffee? 

@MarshallRamsey MarshallRamsey
Starbucks named it's new biggest drink size, "Trenta" because "Bladder Splatter" wasn't as cool sounding. 

@mcrumr mcrumr
Starbucks extra large size is named Trenta...I think that's French for bladder explosion 

@Mushy187 Matua
Starbucks to offer Trenta sized drinks. It's nice to have another ridiculously named size that I can avoid purchasing. 

@shawndecker shawndecker
Cool that @starbucks has named a drink the "Trenta" to say congrats to @trent_reznor for winning a Golden Globe. 

@DeanneGetreu Deanne Getreu
#Starbucks named their new 31oz. drink #Trenta because it's shorter than "liquid diabetes and colon cancer". 

@UrbanB Ben Urbanski
Starbucks announces a 31oz sized drink. Named Trenta. SO EXCITED TO DIE OF CAFFEINE OVERDOSE!!!

Monday, January 17, 2011

A better mousetrap?

For some reason, mousetraps are often invoked when the subject of product innovation is discussed. "Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door."

I get the concept, but sometimes its application escapes me. Take dental floss. It's the one product I know where only a small bit gets used. You pull off a long string, wrap it around your fingers several times, and then use a little section for just a few seconds before throwing it away.

So how many types of dental floss does the world really need? A lot, apparently, as I found on my last trip down the dental-supply aisle. Once home, a quick search on Amazon returned 864 results for dental floss and flossers (for those who want to add another level of sophistication to the process).

It amazes me to find soooooooo many varieties of something I used to consider a commodity.

There's woven floss and waxed shred-resistant tape. Procter & Gamble's Crest brand sells Glide and a new, improved version -- Comfort Plus -- billed as "Twice as Soft as Glide Original!" Johnson & Johnson sells Reach, a brand that includes a "Gum Care" version embedded with fluoride and "Total Care Plus Whitening," which has "micro-grooves technology plus baking soda" to remove stains "like coffee, tea and wine." 

And let's not forget flavors: mint, cinnamon, even banana (from Monkey Floss, natch).

Talk about brand extensions. Geesh. I don't know if all this innovation has made the orally conscious beat a path to J&J's or P&G's doors, but my own medicine cabinet is messy with samples spilling off the shelves.

I can't believe one type of floss is that much better than another; still, it doesn't hurt to try.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Multilingual or lingua-phobic?

Learning a second language -- or even three or four -- can give you a clear advantage in a globally connected world. If you can converse with people in their native tongue, it's much easier to get around and to get along.

I've traveled to places overseas where key phrases and sign language were all I could muster, but as long as I made the effort, all was good. And in most tourist destinations, English was usually spoken or, at least, somewhat understood.

I wish we had the same appreciation for languages here in the U.S. In my own hometown of Philadelphia, there was the now infamous controversy over a sign at Gino's Steaks that read, "This is America: When ordering please 'SPEAK ENGLISH.'"

That was several years ago, but the incident came to mind after reading a business flyer that was stuck in my mailbox yesterday. One of the claims from this cleaning service is, "We speak ENGLISH."

To which I say: Pourquoi? I didn't know housecleaning required discourse.

I may be firmly rooted in the English language, but I aspire to appreciate, if not completely understand, other languages and cultures. I've even taken a first step to reacquaint myself with the little bit of French I learned in high school by buying the beginner Rosetta Stone course. The initial immersion lesson seemed effective; I've just got to make it a priority to complete Level 1.

Good thing there's plenty of time before my next trip to Paris.