Thursday, October 29, 2009

Headline of the week: 10 Things Corporations Can Learn from Pro Wrestling

Sam Ford at Fast Company wrote a gem of a piece: 10 Things Corporations Can Learn from Pro Wrestling. The headline is nearly as attention-grabbing as the oversized mouthpieces of the WWE, but the content actually has some substance. I'm trying to work in a wrestling analogy, like seeing The Rock on Saturday Night Live and discovering that there's a little more to him than just what he's cookin', but I'm too sleepy to come up with anything good.

Anyway, back to the article: There's lots of sound advice here for businesses, nonprofits (yes, including libraries), and even individuals attempting to market themselves in a competitive economy. My favorite quote:

Brands who have active audiences online have probably learned the hard way how often passionate customers will tell everyone around them, and the brand, what they think. The key is to understand that this feedback is crucial and, if anything, should be encouraged, if your goal is to develop a long-term and transparent relationship with your target audiences.

In other words, don't be afraid of feedback - even negative feedback. I work with a Vendor-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named whose staff usually become very defensive (and sometimes downright unpleasant) when anyone suggests their products are less than perfect. I wish they could understand that candid feedback is a gift. Someone is taking time out of his or her overscheduled life to tell you how to make or do something better. Whether you're selling a product or just trying to do your job better, the appropriate response is a heartfelt "thank you." Then analyze that feedback and try to make use of it. If someone is unhappy, they're going to tell someone; if you're lucky, it'll be you. Usually they just tell 20 of their closest friends or post a negative review of your product.

There's lots more good advice in the article. Definitely worth a read.

Friday, August 21, 2009

How to Pack for a Beach Trip in the Pacific Northwest

Tomorrow I leave for four lazy, relaxing days in Seaside, so tonight I'm packing. Well, at the moment I'm procrastinating writing, but I'll be packing shortly. Because I prefer wasting time writing to packing, I'll explain to my California friends--and anyone else who lives where beaches are warm and sunny as God intended--how a Northwesterner packs for a trip to the coast. Here's what most of the world packs when going to the beach:

  • shorts
  • tank tops
  • sunglasses
  • swimwear
  • flip-flops
  • sunscreen
  • a light jacket for chilly evenings
  • boogie board or other fun thing to use in the water

Now, here's what we Northwesterners take:

  • jeans
  • long-sleeved t-shirts
  • sweatshirts
  • rain gear
  • hiking boots
  • movies, books, or other indoor activities to keep us busy till the rain lets up and the wind drops below 60 mph

The fact that I'm taking sunglasses, a swimsuit, sunscreen, and flip-flops can only be explained by one (or both) of the following:

  • Old habits die hard (I'm a native Californian)
  • The triumph of hope over experience

See y'all next week.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Today's spam subject line is...

Today's spam subject line is:

Conjugate like a hero.

Which hero? Grammar Man?

Hmm... come to think of it, Grammar Man is a great idea for a superhero. He could swoop down to punish all the apostrophe-abusing, word-misusing, preposition-misplacing evildoers out there. Does anyone have ideas for a costume or weapon of choice?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Things I've Learned Recently

I was cleaning the bedroom tonight (try not to faint from the shock) and found some draft blog posts I scribbled out at various times over the last few months. Sometimes when I'm stuck waiting somewhere and didn't bring a book, I'll grab a scrap of paper and start writing. Then I bring the papers home and put them down somewhere "till I can get to them." Months go by, and they get buried under other things to which I plan to get. Then by the time I unearth them, they're way out of date. This time, though, I found some I can still use. Here's the first one:

Things I've Learned Recently

  1. It's impossible to sneak up on someone while wearing flip-flops.
  2. No matter how much you pay for health insurance, your money buys you the right to wait over a month for a doctor's appointment, sometimes while in terrible pain.
  3. It takes 2 people to catch a skittish chicken, and the process involves lots of swearing.
  4. Sometimes we don't recognize the major turning points in our lives till later--sometimes years later. A corollary:Major events in our lives sometimes hinge on small, mundane decisions. And a corollary to that: Everything happens for a reason, but sometimes it's a really trivial or lame reason rather than a grand, cosmic one.
  5. We'd all be better off with more conversations and fewer assumptions.
  6. 5-day-old pizza is gross.
  7. Most hour-long meetings could be replaced with a couple of paragraphs of information that would take about a minute to read. But since we're all inundated with information, we need to hold meetings to get people's attention.
  8. Most hour-long conference presentations could be replaced by a few well-crafted PowerPoint slides that would take less than 10 minutes to read. But since we're all inundated with information, we wouldn't bother to read them, so we need in-person presentations to get our attention.
  9. Despite all the high-tech medical advances, many doctors are still baffled by--and uncomfortable hearing about--pain.
  10. Emotional energy is finite.
  11. When life kicks us in the butt, we can laugh or cry. Crying usually makes more sense, but laughing is a lot more fun.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Then and now

25 years ago today, I graduated from high school. I can't quite wrap my mind around the idea that it's been that long, and I'm sure if you'd asked me that night what I thought I'd be doing in 25 years, I would have had no idea. I remember that I couldn't imagine a life beyond school, so I guess it was a good thing I was college-bound. It freaks me out a little to think how much my life--and I--have changed in the last quarter century.

Then: Scrambling around trying to get all my graduation stuff together and plan my post-graduation partying.
Today: Scrambling around trying to get errands done and move furniture so we can have our new kitchen floor installed.

Then: Driving around listening to Night Ranger's "Sister Christian" and being overemotional about leaving high school behind.
Today: Sitting around typing a nostalgic blog post and being overemotional about it having been 25 years since my high school graduation.

Then: Trying to a) figure out how I felt about a guy in my life and b) get the nerve to let him know once I figured it out.
Today: Glad that that guy is back in my life as a good friend, even though he's many miles away.

Then: Wondering who I'd stay in touch with and who I'd never see again.
Today: Marveling at how many people I've gotten back in touch with (thank you, Classmates, MySpace, and Facebook!) and how much we still care about each other, even though we hardly ever see each other in person.

Then: Looking forward to college with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.
Today: Looking forward to another work week starting tomorrow. My life is much more predictable now, with fewer huge changes, but that's mostly a good thing. I do wonder sometimes what the next great adventure will be, but the status quo is pretty good.

Then: Needing a bigger box for my record collection.
Today: Enjoying the bigger hard drive I just bought for my MP3 collection.

Then: Wondering when my parents would join the 20th century and get a microwave.
Today: Thinking about replacing the microwave they bought a year after I graduated, which we're still using.

Then: Planning what I would take to my new dorm room
Today: Planning what I will put in my currently-being-redone kitchen.

Then: Marveling at how long 4 years sounded when I was a freshman and how quickly it went by.
Today: Marveling at how long 25 years sounded when I was in high school and how quickly it went by.

25 years ago, I was 17, on the verge of becoming an adult but clueless about life, relationships, and pretty much everything else. 25 years from now, I'll be 67, probably just starting my retirement years and contemplating the end of my life at some (hopefully distant) point. So I'm more or less in the middle, between the beginning of my adult life and the beginning of my "golden years." I guess that means I'm truly middle-aged. *Sigh*

Monday, January 26, 2009

Star Trek Mad Libs - How Nerdy Can You Get?

I've loved Mad Libs ever since middle school, so as soon as my son got old enough to appreciate them, we bought a stack, and the hilarity commenced. My son is a Star Trek nerd, so awhile back he asked me if there were any Star Trek Mad Libs. As far as I could determine, there weren't, so we did what any self-respecting nerd family would do: we made our own! Dear Son has a book called The Star Trek Compendiumthat includes summaries of all the episodes of the original series. I Mad Lib-ized one of the summaries, we filled in our own words, and the results were hilarious. In case you, dear readers, would like to share the fun, I've included our homemade Star Trek Mad Lib below. Just copy it into a blank document, get your friends to suggest some words to fill in the blanks, and prepare to laugh. Helpful hint: It's especially funny with lots of potty-mouth words. Have fun!

Balance of Terror

Stardate _________ (number): The Enterprise is ____________ (verb ending in –ing) along the Romulan ___________ (adjective) Zone, a border between the Federation and the Romulan _____________ (noun). As Captain Kirk is performing the wedding _____________ (noun) of crewmembers ______________ (name of person - female) and _______________ (name of person - male), an Earth outpost announces that it is under attack from the Romulans. Kirk witnesses the destruction of the _______________ (noun) but is helpless to __________ (verb). The Romulans have perfected a/an _______________ (noun) that renders their _______________ (plural noun) invisible, and Kirk reasons he must _______________ (verb) and _______________ (verb) the enemy _______________ (noun) before it can return home. To the surprise of all, _______________ (plural noun) intercepted from the Romulan _______________ (noun) reveal that they look almost exactly like _______________ (nationality – plural), which causes Lieutenant _______________ (last name of person in room) to express his distrust of Mr. Spock. When the Romulan _______________ (noun) is finally cornered, he _______________ (verb ending in -s) his _______________ (noun) rather than surrender—and _______________ (same last name of person in room), whose _______________ (noun) has been saved by Spock, realizes his prejudicial attitude is _______________ (adjective).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Facebook ads are funny

I'm in Denver for some meetings, so I'm accessing the internet from my hotel. I log into Facebook and accept a gift someone sent me with one of the *many* Facebook gift apps (Do we really need so many? But that's a rant for a different post.), and I see this:

Facebook ads are funny

Now I've been in Denver since last night, and I've spent almost all that time in my hotel room, so I find it hard to believe that 2 people here have crushes on me and 3 people hate me. I suppose the room service person might hate me, because I was short of cash and didn't tip as well as I normally would. And maybe one of the loud pot smoking guys I passed on the sidewalk last night has a crush on me (weed does strange things to some people), but somehow I doubt it. Does anyone ever click on such ridiculous ads? Even their target audience--teenagers--are probably savvy enough to recognize such obvious BS. But then I can't understand how spammers make any money, but they must. Apparently H.L. Mencken was right--No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people. *Sigh*

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Byron Hot Springs and other New Years fun in California

I've been really slacking on my blogging lately. I'm blaming Facebook. Anyhoo, when I haven't been working or Facebooking, I've been traveling. We were supposed to go to Crater Lake over New Years, but our workhorse SUV got damaged from driving in the snow and ice of Christmas week. Our temporary replacement rental car wouldn't make it over the snowy passes, so we (by "we" I mean "I") decided we should go to California instead. Specifically, we (by "we" I mean "I") decided we should go to my lovely (ahem!) home town of Tracy. It's a *long* drive from Portland--about 10 hours for normal people and 12 hours for my family, because certain family members (I'm talking to *you*, Tony) are incapable of making a bathroom stop that takes less than 20 minutes.

Goodbye Oregon, Hello California!
Goodbye Oregon, Hello California

Mount Shasta from the car window:
Mount Shasta through the car window

We did finally arrive, late in the evening on New Years Eve. I headed out to a party (Hey, it was New Years Eve. So what if I'd been on the road for 12 hours!), then over to visit a friend, finally dragging my exhausted butt back to the hotel at about 3 AM. We spent New Years Day in San Francisco and San Jose, exploring Fort Point (SF side of the Golden Gate Bridge) and the Winchester Mystery House. Fort Point was beautiful but windy and cold. The Winchester Mystery House is interesting but a bit too expensive for what you get. Still, it was a fun trip. Here are a few pics:

Golden Gate Bridge from near Fort Point:
Golden Gate Bridge from the Presidio

Plaque in front of the Winchester House:
Plaque in front of the Winchester House

Friday was, "Janet plays with her friends day." First was breakfast with Diana. Then I headed out to Byron Hot Springs with John and his daughter. If you haven't been out there, I highly recommend it. Byron Hot Springs was a 5-star hotel and hot springs resort, a playground for the wealthy from about 1870 through the 1940s. Eventually it closed and was abandoned. The ruins are still standing in what is now a cow pasture. The building is reasonably safe if you look where you're going (i.e. don't step into the elevator shaft or any of the many holes in the ground - and watch out for cow patties even in the building), and it's fascinating to explore. Even the graffiti is interesting. There's also an abandoned house on the property, plus the remains of a couple houses that burned down long ago. I think it would make a great setting for a low-budget horror flick or music video. It was so cool that I went back again later in the day, this time with the family. You can get a sense of the creepy vibe from some pictures:

Front and side of the old hotel:

Stairway into what was probably the lobby:
(That's Tony and Corbin in the doorway and Jerry on the stairs)

Jerry sits on the main staircase:

Anyone need a potty break? Or a broken potty?

Some positive graffiti:
Yes. Yes they are. And this trip provided lots of evidence of that.

Creepy hallway:

Elevator shaft. Lookout below!

Kitchen and lobby area:

And then there's the surreal--how about a cow grazing among the palm trees?

If you're interested in the history of the place, there's a book about it, which I have ordered from Amazon but not yet received. There's also a short blurb about it in the Wikipedia entry for Byron, CA and a page about the site's use as an interrogation center during World War II. The current owner is a wealthy developer with plans to restore the place to its former glory, according to this article on

Saturday we headed back to Portland. Apparently the family learned how to speed up their bathroom stops, because we made it in only 11 hours. Let's hear it for efficiency!

Can I go back now? I'm tired of the Portland rain! Maybe I could camp in the old hotel...