Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Ergonomic Mice

When I used the term "ergonomic mice" with my husband, he looked askance at me. Seemed like a perfectly normal pairing of words to me. Especially considering this case of mouser shoulder I've been experiencing. "Mouser shoulder" - I coined the term recently to describe the pain in my shoulder and neck from over using a computer mouse. Only, it turns out that I didn't really coin it. I googled the term "mouser shoulder" and "mouser's shoulder" and came up with five hits, about three of which were actually relevant. Which just goes to show, if you think of something you consider to be truly original, odds are someone else beat you to it.

Anyway, I'm wondering how prevelant mouser shoulder is going to become given the amount of time kids now spend on the computer. I'm trying to find ways to alleviate the problem before it becomes permanent. Ergonomic mice, neck and shoulder braces, chiropractic treatments, and repositioning the mouse (left-hand use, lower the position) are possible solutions. In hopes of keeping the shoulders of my kids, along with the shoulders of kids around the world, from suffering the dreaded ache of mouser shoulder, here are some sites that might help. (Did you know they make mice that are foot operated? They're about $200. Go ahead! Squish that mouse!)

Ergonomic mice from ErgonomicResource.com

Ergonomic mice from Fentek Industries, Inc.

Clavicle support from SeniorShops.com (This was the least expensive shoulder brace I could find. The others appear to be for heavy-duty physical therapy and run between $50-$100.)

Neck collars and braces from PainReliever.com

Happy mousing!

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Monday, October 30, 2006


Throwing Stones

The hubby and I went for a walk at the state park yesterday. Fine day for it. There's a creek that runs through the park, and an overlook that's suffering a sandy erosion. At the overlook, the kids started throwing stones down into the creek and we, good parents and environmentalists that we are, told the kids to stop. The hubby told one son that those stones would eventually alter the course of the creek. It seems like such an obvious thing, the fact that human beings automatically change their environment - moving stones from an eroding river bank down into the creek bottom. We feel bad for doing such a thing, but should we? If you're paying attention, you'll discover that nature changes itself. A deer scrapes a tree; branches fall into creeks, damming up the water flow; squirrels leave midden piles; animals crap all over the place, plant roots wend their way through soil. Just the act of us walking through the woods changes the woods. Is nature meant to be static? Or, is it okay to alter the course of the creek by throwing stones?

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Sunday, October 29, 2006



The Washington Post published an article recently that makes me want to say, "Aha! Gotcha!" It's called "In Teens' Web World, MySpace Is So Last Year," and discusses how MySpace is losing popularity among teens. It never ceases to amaze me how companies fall all over their tongues in attempting to get to the 18-34 demographic, a group not known for its constancy. While this demographic as a whole may bring in some big bucks, its fickleness doesn't bode well for the long-term success of businesses that cater solely to it.

Even more than giving me a self-satisfied "I told you so" feeling, what struck me was a comment by high schooler Evan Hansen at the very end of the article:

"Over time, people are going to get sick of talking to people on the computer," he said. "I just think people will want to spend more time with each other -- without the wall of technology."

Here, here! We can all spend our time rushing to adopt every ounce of technology thrown at us at the speed of light, completely eschewing physical reality, or we can relax and enjoy a balance of both the physical and digital worlds. I'm going for the latter. Who's with me?

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Writing + Marketing = A Lot in Common

Writing and marketing have a lot in common. Both depend on the ability to tell a believable story. The difference is that in marketing, a story is used to sell a product or service. In writing, it's the story that's being sold.

Marketer Kathy Sierra has posted common writing tips on her site Creating Passionate Users in order to teach people how to give interesting technical presentations. She includes suggestions for the beginnings of presentations so that listeners will be hooked, instead of lolling and drooling on their skinny conference tables.

My problem has never been beginnings. It's always those blasted middles that do me in.

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FtTP - Beck + Anyone else

I caught the tail end of Saturday Night Live last night and saw Beck's performance of a song I'll call "Clap Hands," because that could be the title, but I'm not sure. Beck is flaming originality incarnate. "Clap Hands" was a stripped down ditty wherein Beck played a cheesy, cheap-looking small guitar - truly, it looked like a toy - and his bandmates played flatware on a table and on the dishes on the table. Catchy, it was.

Beck was featured in the September 2006 issue of Wired Magazine. He's reinventing the concept of an album in the digital age, deciding that a static 13-track CD just isn't going to cut it. With his new album, Guero, he created a variety of versions of songs for consumers and provided stickers with his CDs so that users can customize the cover. For his forward-thinking attitude, I'd Frankenstein the Talent Pool by adding Beck to anyone else in any other field just to see what he'd come up with.

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Saturday, October 28, 2006



I was flipping through my dictionary, making sure mythologize was truly a word, when I came across this gem:


which means "of, relating to, or being a marriage between a member of a royal or noble family and a person of inferior rank in which the rank of the inferior partner remains unchanged, and the children of the marriage do not succeed to the titles, fiefs, or entailed property of higher rank." (Merriam-Webster's Colliegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition)

I did not know such a thing could be summed up in just one word - and quite an interesting word at that.

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I got a chance to write today. Everyone was efficient about pitching in on housework today, so all the everything that had to be done got done and I had some free time. Natch! I'm working on a new short story. When I'm working on a story, I try not to divulge the details before I have it done - ideally. If, however, it takes a while for a story to work itself out of me, then I'll let pieces out to a handful of trusted souls. The story I'm working on is too new, so, sorry, nothing to report yet. I can tell you this much . . .

(What follows relates. Trust me on this.)

I'm interested in the concept of mythologizing people. This idea came to me while crossing the river bridge some time in the past six months. I've been studying the history of the county for the last ten years through my job and the sheer repetition of particular details helps things stick. This led to that and that led to this, and then this happened, which changed everything, but not really. As I was driving across the river bridge, it dawned on me that the town was mythological in some sense. Myth arises from forgetting. Tell the story, but leave out some details. As the story gets handed down through time, only the striking parts of the story are left. In essence, the myth.

I've started seeing myself through this mythological lens. The glossing over
, which we're all guilty of if we're honest with ourselves, leads to the myth of ourselves. I've written an essay about myself in the third person and, wooha!, does that make me feel strange. But it was fun, too.

So, this story I'm working on . . . it's my attempt to mythologize another person. That's all I'll say for now.

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Friday, October 27, 2006


Fragile Things

I don't know what to write . . . I don't know what to write . . . I don't know what to write. I knew what I wanted to write yesterday, but the yester has passed and I didn't post then because I'm being strict about not spending every living moment in front of a glowing screen. Blogging has made me much more fond of pen and paper. Easier on the eyes, easier on the neck and shoulders.

Speaking of neck and shoulders, I finally found a new chiropractor who adjusted me the way my old chiropractor did - tweaking every little bone and joint - putting my ribs back into place (yes, ribs can go out) - loosening up my locked shoulder. After the adjustment, I just wanted to sleep. Haven't done that yet, although I did doze while reading Neil Gaiman's new collection of short stories, Fragile Things. Trust me, it wasn't the book that made me doze. I was fighting adjustment-induced sleepiness in order to finish reading a story. Gaiman's a fine writer. I love the tenor of his stories - all the mysticism, myth and creepiness, but not malicious in the way slasher films are. Gaiman has another collection of short stories, Smoke & Mirrors, that I equally enjoyed. He gives a brief explanation to each story in the intro. I find myself reading the explanation right before I dive into a story, which gives me a nice background to keep in mind - a frame of reference, if you will. Author explanations are fun. Period.

I aspire to Neil Gaiman's ability. Perhaps it will come to me as I dream . . . .

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Ask and You Shall Receive

It's amazing how the universe aligns to answer the questions I have. I wondered where the good news was about Africa, or, at least, a more balanced view and I got just what I wanted. The Travel Channel premiered Bob Geldof in Africa on Monday. It was a 2-hour show that was fabulous in its wide-ranging view of the various people of the continent. Yes, there were stories of war and famine and the slave trade, but there were also stories of people living creatively, living happily, from the Maasai to the people of Somaliland. And, oh! those glorious fabrics! Why aren't these more widely available as an export? As a fabric artist, I'd snap these up in a heartbeat. (Geldof discussed how countries in Africa could be exporting more finished products, but they've been sorely outmatched by the rest of the world in making trade agreements, so they get the short end of the stick.)

What I appreciated about the program was Geldof's explanation of why it has been so difficult to build civilization on portions of the continent. A lot of it has to do with the inhospitable terrain and the lack of population in large areas. His discussion of the fighting in Somalia (which led to Somaliland seceding from the country in 1991), led me to realize how important the guarantee of safety and security is in building a town or a country. There are dozens of tribes fighting each other for control of Somalia, and those with the most guns win.

In honor of elucidating the African story, here are more articles I found on the web:

From The Independent: Bob Geldof: Aid isn't the answer. Africa must be allowed to trade its way out of poverty

From The New York Times: African Grandmothers Rally for AIDS Orphans

From The New York Times: Neglected Poor in Africa Make Their Own Safety Nets

From Akuko: Top 10 Attractions in Africa

Child of Afrika Contemporary Fine Art Gallery

Play pumps used in South Africa

From Damn Cool Pics: Kings of Africa

From CNN: An article on the inauguration of Africa's first elected female head of state - and another on the same topic from BBC News - (Tell me who's the third-world country now.)

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Monday, October 23, 2006


I Got the Consumption, Arrrrgh!

I posted my Noble Africa blog entry on reddit.com because I thought it might be of interest to a general audience. I got one comment back through reddit and two (from the same person) to my blog. Here's what Cypherx had to say on reddit:

I agree with most of the post except this silly bit:

I'm not sure encouraging Americans to consume more is the best way to go about [fighting aids in Africa]

Leave the consumers alone! They get something they want, they contribute to something good. It's the best arrangement possible and well intended anti-consumerism can only muck things up.

In fact, I think the consumerism the author loathes is also the cure for his chief complaint. Africa can become the "equal" of the rich Northern countries...if it makes lots of products that appeal to our consumers (either by style, quality or price). Until then, most of the continent will remain a sad charity case.

It is not consumerism per se that I have a problem with. Every living thing on earth, humans, animals, plants, consume. That's part of life. It's consumption for the sake of consumption, rather than for need, that bothers me. It's George W. telling us to not worry our pretty heads and just go shopping after 9/11.

I came of age with Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. American consumption is ravenous and doesn't fit with the Reduce part of the equation. The more we (individually and as a country) ramp up our consumption, the more others feel they have to buy to keep up. When there are people in the world without a roof over their heads, how many immodest houses can some of us justify having? How many cars? How many baubles collecting dust in the backs of our closets? I'm as guilty as anyone in a well-off country of over-consumption. I try to curb it where I can, difficult as that is. I don't think I'll ever reach the point of owning only 55 personal items like Dan Ho.

Of course, Cypherx is right about Africa. The continent can become the equal of America through making appealing consumer products (if I need a T-shirt or tennies, I'll consider the attractive ones offered through the (RED) campaign), but a deeper, human equality does not rest on materialism. Does someone become less human because he doesn't have the proper clothing, the right car, impressive shelter? It's the inherent humanity, and the basic goodness housed within, that I wanted people to recognize about Africa.

Flightless posted two links showing another, more positive, side to Africa, specifically the country of South Africa:

A video on YouTube called Today I Woke Up in a Country. This gave me shivers. And, the website for the International Marketing Council of South Africa.

The question for today: Would you be willing to take less so that someone with less can have more?

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Sunday, October 22, 2006


Musicians in the Family

I'm forever whining that I'm not musical - at least not musically talented. I love to listen to music and let it sink deeply into my marrow, but that doesn't seem to count as the practice of music. The message I've gotten is that one has to play, and play well, to be considered musical.

I used to think that my family had no musical talent whatsoever. I didn't know a single family member from a previous generation who played an instrument. Not long ago, I asked my mom about this. Was there anyone in our extended family who was known for playing music? Turns out that a great uncle of mine was quite the accordian player, with a good rep for his skill.

The music bug has bitten several family members in my generation - two cousins on my dad's side, and, most notably for me, my brother John. He started playing bass and guitar when he was a teenager and has since taught himself drums, and the recording process. He also sings, but is tentative about it. He has a recording studio set up in his basement and would like nothing more than to work in the music biz in some capacity. He has a website called Tres-Huevos that features one of his songs, Waltz #2.

I married into a musical family. My husband Erik played flute in school. He also plays both acoustic and electric guitar, mostly by ear. And he has a good ear. All of his siblings are musical, with his sister Jill concentrating her talent on bringing new music into main-line churches. She has two websites, one for her personal music, and one for her church mission. The latter is called Tributaries of Faith. One of Jill's songs, Imago Dei, was recently accepted for the new United Church of Canada hymnal.

I'm pleased that I now have so many musicians in my family. Maybe some of that talent will eventually rub off.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006


FtTP - Say Goodbye + Very

This Frankensteining the Talent Pool is about two songs that are soul mates. The first of these to make its way into my consciousness was "Say Goodbye" by the Dave Matthews Band. It's on their album Crash.

A sampling of the lyrics:

So here we are tonight, you and me together
The storm outside, the fire is bright
And in your eyes I see what's on my mind
You've got me wild turned around inside

The other song is "Very" by Moby, from his Hotel album. The song is sung by Laura Dawn, who has a voice so hot it could melt iron.

A sample of the lyrics:

Now, we will make it, just you, you and me
Soon, we will take it, just you, you and me
Hey, it's cold out there, so come inside
Hey, it's warm in here, so come inside

As soon as I heard "Very," I wanted to hear it blended with "Say Goodbye." Laura's voice with Dave's voice would be an interesting contrast, as would the two styles of music. Alas, I am not a musician, so this mash-up isn't going to occur through any skill of mine. (Plus, there's that thing called copyright that keeps me from going there.)

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Friday, October 20, 2006


Playing Favorites

I feel compelled to explain the Seth Godin jag I've been on lately. Whenever I'm impressed with a writer, an artist, a band or musician, I tend to snarfle down whatever I can find by said creative person. I've not gone off my rocker or slipped into some obsessive ga-ga world that I can't get out of, although that's the way it might appear to those living outside my cranium. When my aesthetic has been tickled, I binge with delight until the intensity wears off. And, it WILL wear off. The length of the binge depends upon how much material the artiste has created and how varied that material is. In the past, I've binged on Duran Duran, Ultravox, Enya, Neil Gaiman, Carol Bly, Christopher Moore, U2, Peter Mayer, Queen, INXS, Matchbox 20, Conversations with God, self-help books, Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, unsolved mysteries, Alfred Hitchcock short stories, quilting, beading, ABBA, homeopathy, Depeche Mode, Dave Matthews Band, Moby, marketing, feng shui, astrology . . . the list goes on (and I see that I've also binged on topics, as well as artistes). Once the intensity of my interest subsides, I fast, sometimes deliberately avoiding said artiste or topic for a time. It's at this time that my brain seems to be deciding what I'm going to incorporate into my quirky worldview, and what I'm going to discard as pure bunk or clutter. However, the fondness for past favorites never goes away. When I return to one of them, my thrill returns, but not in its original technicolor splash. Instead, a soft pearlescent affection overcomes me.

Seth, too, shall pass.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Impression Management

My husband is currently taking a college class in communications. His current group assignment deals with impression management. This is a fancy term for trying to make a good impression by watching what you say, how you dress, your manners, & etc. In general, sucking up in order to get what you want.

That means no butt scratching, nose picking, foul language, speaking out of turn, chewing fingernails, breaking into sudden song or dance, or any other spontaneous, minor, socially unacceptable action. Just you watch it, buddy, or you won't be getting that date, or that job, or that promotion, or that . . . .

Have you ever noticed that you can engage in all of these slobby, spontaneous actions when you're all by yourself? If you believe in God (and I do - just not the Guy in the Sky version), and you believe that God is all-knowing, all-seeing, and good, then you've got to know that you're not really alone when you do these things. And guess what? God's letting you get away with it. No smoting here.

Judgment comes from other PEOPLE. God's cool with you.

You know you've found love when the people you surround yourself with are as cool with your silly behaviors as God is.

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FtTP - Billy Mays + HeadOn

You may not know him by name, but surely you've seen Billy Mays in action. He's the vein-popping shouting dude on the Oxy-Clean commercials. I saw him on said commercial this evening and had a brainstorm that could lead to the general insanity of the entire population. What if Billy Mays was hawking HeadOn?

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Monday, October 16, 2006


Heaving Peevishness

Ever use an online service, have trouble with that service, write an email asking for help, and get no response?

I don't know about you, but this throws me into a state of heaving peevishness. I froth at the mouth, spit, swear, cry in frustration, and about go bald pulling tufts of hair out of my head. An aneurysm threatens to form and burst in my brain.

Why does this situation cause such a visceral reaction? Because it is a massive slap in the face - an outright refusal of assistance - the ultimate in disrespect.

I had an attack of heaving peevishness this past weekend. The culprit? Haloscan, my commenting and trackback service for the blog. For some odd reason, the comment and trackback links were not appearing with my blog entries. I went to Haloscan for answers. Before asking for help, Haloscan requires users to look through its Forum. I obliged and found that other users had the same problem, but no real solution was given. I wanted to post to the Forum so that Haloscan could see how wide-spread the problem was. I was already logged in to my Haloscan account, which should automatically give me access to comment on the Forum. The Forum, however, insisted that I was a guest and asked me to sign in. I tried signing in and got the following message:

Sorry, the password was wrong. All passwords are case sensitive

Understand that I entered the very same user name and password that had already logged me into Haloscan. Entering and re-entering this data got me the same response. Now I had two problems, so I decided to contact Haloscan via their email address, which is practically impossible to find on their website. Somehow I stumbled upon it, but it comes with a warning. No one is allowed to use it for commenting issues, which was exactly the trouble I was having. WHAT!?! You have a contact email address, but people aren't allowed to use it to get help? What kind of customer service is this? Instead, we are redirected to the Forum, where we are supposed to sift through about 473 posts and comments in order to find a solution.

Being persnickety, I used the email address anyway. I haven't gotten a response. More heaving peevishness.

Haloscan isn't the only culprit in the no response game. I've had the same trouble with Technorati and PubSub. (I wrote about PubSub in my Newbies post.)

Seth Godin is forever pushing companies to become remarkable. Well, not a single one of these online companies will be remarkable until they take customer service (including responding to individual emails) seriously. I don't care if they have a staff of two. I don't care how hard it is for them to get their work done. I don't care if the service is free to users and they think that non-paying users are less important than paying customers. Without making customer service an essential piece of their business model, they will never be great businesses. (Frankly, I'm not asking them to do anything I wouldn't do myself at my job.)

An online business that gets it right is Blogger. Every question I've ever had about the interface is built so intuitively into their Help pages that I have never had a need to contact Blogger. Then, to be sure each Help page is truly helpful, Blogger asks at the end of each topic if it was helpful to you. Bliss!

If you're trying to become a remarkable online business, here's my advice to you:

1. As you're designing your website, think about how you're going to handle customer service. Make it a priority.

2. Make it easy to contact you. Make your contact link or button obvious and put it on every page in the same location.

3. Respond to email queries. If you can't cope with bad feedback constructively, learn how to do it. It's inevitable. Deal with it gracefully, and your ticked off customer will start praising you.

4. If you have Help pages on your website, make them easy to use. Don't shunt us off to Forums, hunting and pecking for answers. Put your FAQs on a FAQs page and make the page easy to find.

5. Don't expect everyone to be web savvy. People don't always think to look at Help pages or FAQs, so don't get bent out of shape if they contact you via email when the answer is already on your website. When heaving peevishness hits, people are even less willing to hunt for answers. They want something done NOW and email is the quickest way they can think of to ask their question.

'nuf said.

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Sunday, October 15, 2006



I wrote a story not long ago about entropy. It's called As Above, Not So Below. I love the idea of human constructions falling into entropy with the forces of nature doing the work. There was an illustration of this idea posted on reddit.com a few days ago. It definitely gives one hope that nature will eventually win out.

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Saturday, October 14, 2006


Noble Africa

Bono was on Oprah yesterday. He was touting a new initiative that will raise funds to fight AIDS in Africa. The initiative is called (RED) and it plays on America's unending materialism. By purchasing (RED) products (T-shirts, jeans, tennies, jackets, cellphones, iPods), Americans can feel good about themselves by knowing that approximately half the proceeds from each purchase go toward supplying AIDS medications to people in Africa.

If I sound a tinge cynical, it's not because I don't think the cause is worthy. Absolutely, it is. But, I'm not sure encouraging Americans to consume more is the best way to go about it. The T-shirts are cute and one of the pairs of Chuck Taylor tennis shoes available from Converse (one of the sponsors of the cause) is made of African mud cloth. Bono said that much of the stuff is made in Africa, so people there are working toward their cure.

Here's my frustration: Why is it that practically the only images we ever see of Africa are of bone-crushing poverty, starvation, female genital mutilation, AIDS, or civil war? Why do we not see the people who are doing well? Where are this continent's leaders? Why are they not helping their own people? Where are Africa's success stories? Surely, these exist.

There's an imbalance here and it does not bode well for Africa. As the situation sits, Africa is pitied by the world because we rarely hear the positives about the continent. Most of the good stories come when some foreigner rushes in and gives a particular African country or cause monetary assistance, or adopts a child. The continent has been presented as lowly and incapable of helping itself. We sling around the term "third-world country" with impunity in reference to Africa. The continent is the world's charity case, and it's very easy for well-off people to see charity cases as not being equal. And, that's the problem with the (RED) campaign. It reinforces our belief that Africa is not equal to America. As we buy, we think, "Oh, those poor people!" In (RED)'s defense, the manifesto says this is not about charity, but that message can't easily be over-ridden by years of bad press.

The world needs to start paying as much attention to Africa's success stories as it does to its frailties. Who hasn't heard of Nelson Mandela and the overthrow of Apartheid by native South Africans? More positive stories such as these will help to alleviate the perceived inequalities between Africa and the rest of the world. When we start thinking of Africa as noble and dignified, we can purchase our (RED) goods without a simpering pity, but with a sense of fair exchange among the world's compatriots.

As I wrote this piece, it crossed my mind that perhaps I've been ill-informed, that I've missed the good news about Africa, so I googled "africa good news" and was rewarded with an article from the Christian Science Monitor dated May26, 2005. It's called, "Africans ask: 'Why isn't anyone telling the good news?'" I could not have asked for a more relevant article. As the article is over a year old, there's still work to be done in boosting Africa's image.

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I have a weakness for marketing books. Right now, I have a stack of Seth Godin's books beside my bed. (Surely you've noticed that I've mentioned him before?) He's inspirational & motivational & cutting edge where there is no edge, yet he has a fairly simple message overall. His book, All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World, can be summed up with the following:

1. Be remarkable.
2. Be authentic.
3. Tell a good story.
4. Believe the story.
5. Live the story.

There are a couple of caveats.

1. Whatever you're selling, be it a product, a service, your fine personality, be sure that it will not cause long-term damage to your audience or the world. Of course, if the thing you're selling does cause damage, then it's not really remarkable or authentic, is it?

2. Pick an audience whose worldview meshes with your story, or adapt your story to fit a particular worldview. Audiences at the fringes of society (those without a homogenized worldview) are best.

Marketers are not the only ones telling whoppers. Fiction writers do the same, only we place more emphasis on creating a believable story, because that's what makes our stories authentic and remarkable.

I wonder if Seth has ever tried his hand at fiction . . . .

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Thursday, October 12, 2006


Of Prigs & Popinjays

My brother called last night. During our conversation, he used the word "prig." What an incredibly good word. Four letters say it all. Even without knowing the meaning, you can probably picture a person who is a prig.

My brother found some related words on the internet - coxcomb, fop and popinjay. Old words, but so full of character that they're going to have to make their way into my writing sometime. For definitions, head over to Dictionary.com, but be careful. You might get lost, especially if you're a word junkie like I am.

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The Long Tail of Consumers

I've finished reading Chris Anderson's book, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More. The book explains how the shift in retail sales from physical stores to the internet has caused consumption to move away from cultural hits to cultural niches. The hits cause a spike on one end of the retail sales chart. The niche sales cause a long tail along the rest of the sales chart, hence the title. With the internet driving niche sales, it turns out that the combined sales along the tail are greater than sales occurring on the hill of hits. Chris posits that retailers better get their act together and start paying more attention to the customers purchasing on the long tail.

Whenever I read a book that puts forth a new theory, I inevitably end up with questions. So it goes with this book. Marketers have broken customers up into groups based on age. You've heard of these groups, I'm sure. There's the Greatest Generation (those who lived through the Depression & World War II), the Baby Boomers (a.k.a. Boomers), the Gen Xers (a.k.a. Slackers), and the Millenials (a.k.a. Gen Y). The coveted demographic for marketers is the group comprised of 18-34 year-old males. (See pages 166 & 194 of The Long Tail) Even though this group is at forefront of using digital technology (the internet et. al.), and presumably driving the demand for niche culture, could this same group also be considered the "cultural hit" of demographics? Could it be that all the rest of us are considered the long tail and thus are niche consumers? The long tail isn't just about the products; it's also about the customers. Are you paying attention, marketers?

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Sight & Sound Fun

Here are links to some sites my sons have been having fun with on the web:

Pyro Sand Game

New Sand Falling Game

Whitney Music Box - disturbing & mesmerizing all at once - there are variations to choose on the side



Birthday Snow & Stars

Today's my birthday. Winter has descended upon central Minnesota with a great whip and a crash. That's how it goes here - summer one day, winter the next - or very near that anyway. We're used to the weather's manic-depressive cycle. It keeps us on our toes.

We had snow flurries and rapacious cold today. I can remember this happening on my birthday once, maybe twice, before, which means that snow in mid-October is a rarity in Minnesota (despite what you may have heard about constant winters in our great state.)

Upon hearing the forecast, I spent yesterday evening cleaning the yard. When winter hits, I like to be prepared. Forlorn rakes and spades, a stiff, serpentine hose that threatens to split, a glass jar in a trench - these are not things that ought to spend the winter buried under snow. So, I scurried around in the cold half-light, putting things away and generally tidying up. I'm ready to become house-bound and cozy, with irregular shoveling and snow-shoeing forays.

Because this is my birthday, I've been mulling an astrologically-related idea. Eleanor Roosevelt (one of my heroes) and Elmore Leonard (sorry to say, I've never read his books) share my birthday, along with a gal in the next block and a gal in my son' s class.

I was deep into astrology when I was a teenager, figuring out astrological charts for me and my friends. I still have my first astrology book, which has most of those charts recorded in it. (No small feat for a person who thinks writing in books is a sacrilege.) I even spent $11 to order a professionally drawn personal chart. This was not a small sum at the time. The overall gist of this chart seemed to indicate that I'd be a late bloomer creatively. I still have the chart, though I haven't looked at it in ages.

Now, I like woo-woo mystical stuff as much as a lot of us human beings do, but I'm also attracted to science and want to come up with ways to either prove or disprove some of this stuff. Because astrology tries to attribute personality types to the movements of the planets, it might stand to reason that those born under the same sun sign might share the same taste in aesthetics. Those born on the same day at the same time might be even more similar in taste. So far, astrology has been deemed a load of bunk, but has anyone taken the time to see if there is a statistically significant relationship between taste and birthday?

What has me wondering is that my neighbor who shares my birthday and I happen to be crazy for the same band. If a band with a large following could survey the birthdates of its fans, might a statistical relationship become obvious? Hmmm . . .

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One mighty fine thing about blogging is that people can continue to comment on the archived stuff, so something you think no one's ever going to look at again gets looked at again. Back on September 17, 2006, I posted on Made-up Words, one of those words being "glio." A new potential definition for this word just arrived. Have a look-see and take a stab at your own definition if you're feeling particularly poetic.

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Monday, October 09, 2006


Time consuming

It's Monday, and as such, it's a writing day. I'm writing alright, but not my story. Here I am, poking around in my blog and on the net. For those of you considering a blog, know from the outset that this is a time-consuming business. The writing isn't so much the problem. I could probably beat out a paragraph or two within a half-an-hour or less. It's the linking and the surfing that eat the time. One of the Holy Rules of blogging is to credit whoever or whatever you are commenting on. You'll notice from my previous posts that I like to comment on many of the things that swirl around us in this crazy info-ridden culture. That makes my posts quite linky. Finding the appropriate links takes time, but it's also easy to get sidetracked and start looking at other websites along the way. Oooh, look! A shiny toy! Lemme see!

The other part of blogging that is time-consuming is all the thinking that goes into it when I'm not actually posting. "What should I write on my blog?" is a perpetual question. I'll hear something and think, "That'd be good for the blog. I've gotta write that down." Blog-think crowds out story-think.

I'm hoping that the more I blog, the less novel blogging will become, and this blog-think will settle down so that story-think will come back. I'm heartened by the fact that I woke in the middle of last night and was mulling the series of stories I'm working on. The story-think is still there. To help it along, I am also considering taking a break from the blog a couple of days a week. My fear here, of course, is that once I take a break, I won't want to come back. When you're a writer, you have to constantly coax yourself to the page. If you don't, the rest of life presses in and takes over.

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Sunday, October 08, 2006


FtTP - Corinne Bailey Rae + Michael Buble

Corinne Bailey Rae was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live last night. (Thanks, SNL - now my youngest son is eating whole heads of lettuce because of you.) Corinne has an ease and grace about her that matches my definition of what the Buddha was like. Her voice is rich, smooth, and sweet, like milk chocolate. Delicious. And, she has the warmest smile. She seems genuinely delighted to be performing.

Michael Buble shares Corinne's ease and comfort in front of an audience, along with a satiny voice. The two of them also have websites that give visitors a preview of their music. This pairing would be a natural.

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FtTP - k. d. lang + K. T. Tunstall

I caught a bit of an interview with k. d. lang on MPR not long ago. Her newest album is called Reintarnation. I've also heard a couple of songs on the radio by musician K. T. Tunstall, notably Black Horse & the Cherry Tree (which I think of as the Woo Hoo song) and Suddenly I See from the album Eye to the Telescope.

The similarities in lang's and Tunstall's styles are easy to see. A duet is in order here. And, I'm not the only one who thinks so. I did my research on this Frankensteining the Talent Pool idea. Tunstall and lang haven't done anything together yet, that I can find, but another blogger is of the same mind that I am. The blog, KhaiLee.info, even publishes photos showing similarities in appearance between lang and Tunstall.

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Saturday, October 07, 2006


I hate to say I told you so . . .

I just found this post on reddit.com. What was I just saying about our freedom of speech being taken away by the Bush Administration no more than 4 posts ago? A guy in Colorado was arrested in June for simply telling Vice President Cheney that he didn't like the administration's policies. Read the article at The Progressive. I was afraid I was being a little alarmist, but it seems I wasn't at all.

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FtTP - George W. Bush + U2

My husband found a great mash-up video on FileCabi.net. Someone has spliced video clips of George W. Bush together so that he appears to be singing U2's Sunday Bloody Sunday. For the amount of work this has obviously taken, I'm wondering if the creator has much of a life.

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Blog Banning

A friend sent me a podcast from Public Citizen. In it, Public Citizen attorney Greg Beck talks about the state of Kentucky banning all of its employees from reading blogs at work. The podcast is called Podcasts on Internet Freedom of Speech.

I'm of a mixed mind about this. I don't care to see freedom of speech squelched, but I do understand employers not wanting employees coasting around on the web all day, not getting their work done.
However, if the work is compelling, employees won't feel a need to surf the web. On the other hand, periodic mental breaks from work make employees more effective. They can also use what they've learned in other avenues to assist them at their jobs. This be the case for me. The stuff I learn outside of work helps me to do my job more creatively and efficiently. My thought on the Kentucky matter is that they not be so rigid and simply allow limited blog reading, as long as it's work-related (lotta good tech blogs out there) or it's done on break time.

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Friday, October 06, 2006



My husband called me at work today. He had a small problem. He was attempting to print a document from a website, but the printer function wasn't working - no matter what he tried. I pulled up the website at work and took a look. He was attempting to print Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail from The King Center website. Turns out that the print function is disabled on the site. If I had to make an educated guess, I'd say this is for copyright reasons. However, until my husband called me, he blamed himself for the print function not working.

I, too, had a problem with technology today. I couldn't figure out how to get the screen from a laptop to display through a PowerPoint projector. Did I blame the troubleshooting guide for not walking me through every single step? No. I blamed myself. Why do we do this? Why don't we immediately assume that there is something wrong with the design of whatever it is we are working with? But, no, self-recrimination is the order of the day - that and a few choice swear words.

Seth Godin recognizes that some technology is poorly designed in two recent posts: Where are the tweakers? and More on Tweaking. His posts aren't about huge design flaws, but little ones that may be pretty easy to fix. Once fixed, or tweaked, they will bring much greater satisfaction to the user.

Kathy Sierra, on her blog Creating Passionate Users, also touches on ideas that would keep tech users from feeling disabled, specifically in her post Featuritis vs. the Happy User Peak and Why they don't upgrade (and what to do about it). In the latter post, she says,

People don't upgrade because they don't want to move back into the "Suck Zone."

They worked too damn hard to reach a level of competence and the thought of sinking back down--however briefly--into that awful state they clawed their way out of--is too unpleasant. We've trained users to fear upgrades. Raise your hand if you've ever installed an upgrade only to find yourself back in that confused I-have-no-frickin'-clue-where-they-put-that-dialog-box state? Raise your hand if you felt the upgrade just wasn't worth it, even though you knew that the way you did things in the current version was pretty much an inefficient hack. Raise your hand if you felt intimidated and maybe even a bit humiliated that after upgrading you could no longer do some of the simplest things.

Bingo! We've got a winner! I HATE feeling disabled by technology. I HATE blaming myself for technology's failings. My husband calls computer technology "the tool of the Devil." That's because, when it's not working, we become possessed. Exorcism, anyone?

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Thursday, October 05, 2006


U. S. Cancels Elections

How would you like to wake up one morning and see that headline in the newspaper? Pretty freaky, huh? After reading my Media Matters weekly post, I'm beginning to wonder if this is in our future. Here's part of the post I got:

Is your daughter a future detainee? What the media didn't tell you about the new anti-terror bill or Bush's power grab

The Senate just passed by a vote of 65-34 a bill that, among other things, allows the president to imprison forever, without trial, your neighbor's son -- a lawful permanent resident in the United States -- for emailing his Muslim roommate who went home to visit his family. Your daughter who organizes a protest at the Pentagon that gets a little more attention than the president thinks it should could become a detainee, held indefinitely. The bill says generally what activities qualify one as an "unlawful enemy combatant" subject to detention, but if the government can postpone that review indefinitely, who's going to tell the president that detention is illegal?

Think we're exaggerating? Think the bill goes after only terrorists or people who support them? Think again. The president is expected to sign it imminently. If you just read news reports, you won't have any idea how far this bill goes. Read it. Yes, it's too late to do anything, aside from letting your representatives know what they have done. They and the media have failed you. Read it.

But don't stop there. President Bush certainly hasn't. The bill's suspension of access to habeas corpus explicitly applies only to "aliens," which it defines as non-citizens -- in other words, legal permanent residents of the United States -- but the Bush administration has taken the position that it can detain anyone -- anyone, U.S. citizens included -- by, in its sole discretion, labeling that person an enemy combatant.

Given this, what's to stop the current administration from arbitrarily cancelling U. S. elections? What's to stop them from doing any darn thing they want? My post on fear yesterday? This is what I was scared of, disagreeing in writing with the actions of the current administration. I had to really think about this before posting, because I don't want to end up in the hooscow, locked up for expressing my views in a country that's supposed to be about democracy, a country that's supposed to guarantee our right to free speech, but that is quickly stripping us of those rights.

My brother gave me some advice this past week. He said that I should do something I'm scared to do every day. This post is it.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006


I Can't Resist

I accidently came across this article from The Onion while surfing and couldn't resist posting it:

Dave Matthews Not That Into Himself Anymore

Dave looks a little deer-in-the-headlights to me.

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Feeling Powerful

There's a serious topic I'd like to discuss, but I'm feeling rather squeamish about it. Fear is a writer's constant companion. How will my words be received? What will be the consequences of what I write? So, I'm going to jack myself up by thinking about automatic doors. Whenever I come to an automatic door that slides open sideways, I wave my hands in a flourish, as though I'm commanding the doors to open for me. Think of Moses parting the Red Sea and you'll have it. This simple small action makes me feel very powerful.

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FtTP - Stephen Colbert + Gil Grissom

I received the following Frankensteining the Talent Pool suggestion from a reader, who gave me permission to post it, but didn't say whether to include a name with the post.

"I was talking with my friend [name removed] on the internet, and we got to talking about perfect personality combinations. We decided that a combination between gil Grissom and Stephen Colbert would be ideal, especially for politics. Combine Colbert's wit, political experience, and poputlarity with Grissom's calm, extremely intelligent and respectable demeanor, and you get the perfect politician to get things done right the first time in Washington. It's just a thought we came up with late last night..."

I believe this is our first FtTP that pairs a fictional character with a real person. Although, Stephen Colbert certainly dons a fictional persona for The Colbert Report, and I have a feeling that William Petersen, the actor who plays Gil Grissom on CSI, is as calm and put together as his character is. Thanks, Reader (and friend) for your suggestion.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006



Have you ever noticed how famous people get better looking the more famous they become? When they're just starting out, their talent shines through, but they tend to look like average Janes and Joes. Once they've reached a certain level of popularity, they look spit-polished and haute. Amy Lee, from the band Evanescence, is a case in point. I just caught the band's new video on VH1 this morning and noticed that Amy has undergone THE SHIFT. Her makeup is perfect, her hair is perfect, her threads are perfect, and the special effects in the video are top-of-the-line, people-flying-around, Matrix effects. She's come a long way, baby.

According to the book "Get What You Deserve! How to Guerrilla Market Yourself" by Jay Levinson and Seth Godin, one thing that helps us to get what we deserve (job, spouse, whatever), is dressing the part. If we want to be taken seriously, we have to dress like we should be taken seriously. Nice looking duds, beautiful grooming, not smelling like a moldy piece of cheese, etc. etc.

Judging by all the makeover shows on TV, apparently this is a lot harder than it seems. While clothes shopping with my daughter, I saw scads of teenage girls take armloads of clothes into dressing rooms to try on. When they were finished, they had maybe one piece they liked. My daughter tried on 30 pairs of jeans during one shopping trip and found only one pair that fit correctly.

This is just the clothing aspect of being one's best. Then there are all the annoying habits we pick up that we have to cure, plus the interpersonal weirdness we engage in (like complaining about someone behind his/her back, but being unwilling to talk to that someone face-to-face). Most of us are out of shape. We don't know how to behave in front of a camera, or speak in front of a crowd. The great lot of us are FLAWED. How do we get out of bed every day?

Before you get too depressed, just think, we flawed folks make the celebs shine in sparkly, splendiferous wonder. Our schlumpy-ness allows them to serve as our guides in how not to be so schlumpy. What's their secret? Sssh! It's personal.

They have personal stylists . . . personal trainers . . . personal tailors . . . personal marketers . . . personal "how-to-look-natural-in-front-of-a-camera" instructors . . . personal speech coaches . . . personal life coaches . . . personal people that help make them look perfect, even if they don't always behave perfectly. (All that perfection takes its toll.)

How beautiful would we all be if we had a few personal coaches assigned to us? Would we be able to tolerate the glare?

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Monday, October 02, 2006


Writing Day

It's Monday and, as such, this is my typical set-aside writing day. This is when I have a large(r) block of time in which to work on short stories and essays. If you talk to most writers, they will say that they are always writing. 'Tis true for me. My writing brain never shuts off. There are story ideas everywhere, plus I'm constantly working out the plots and characters for stuff I've started. I take notes continually. I use cheapy ten-cent school notebooks to record my ideas. Right now, I'm working out of three of them. One is for Filter & Splice ideas, one is a catch-all notebook, and one is for a series of linked short stories I'm writing.

Because I typically have to wait until Mondays to flesh things out, sometimes it's hard to get in the groove of writing. To warm up, I have a journal I keep on my computer. Normally, I vomit out all the whiny stuff, or talk about what I'm currently writing. After a page or so, I'm ready to write. Today, I'm using my blog as my warm-up. When I write in my computer journal, I take a print-out of the current day's entry. Then, if my computer crashes (God forbid!), I have a hard copy. I'm tempted to print out my blog for the same reason.

One of the nice things about my computer journal is that I can see how long it's taken me to write a story because I tend to record when I start a story and when I finish it. The story I'm currently working on was started back in April. It's been a tough one to finish because over the summer my writing got interrupted by warm-weather activities. I'm trying to work my way back into the head of my main character. While I am the character's creator, the character is also distinct from me, so it's not that easy to tap into her psychology once I've let it go. That's the goal for today.

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Sunday, October 01, 2006


FtTP - Moby + Blue Man Group

Maybe it's just the bald head, but I can picture Moby painting himself blue and working with Blue Man Group. The music might have something to do with it, too.

October 2, 2006 - Update

Well, folks, this one's been done. Moby and Blue Man Group performed together at the 2001 Grammy Awards. There is an interview with Moby and the Blue dudes on YouTube. The Blue dudes aren't saying anything, but check out what they do toward the end of the clip.

Obviously, someone else thought all those bald heads should go together. I only wish that Moby would have taken a dip in the blue paint, too.

You know, maybe I should call my blog "Always late to the party and inappropriately dressed." That, or I should learn to do a search on my Frankensteining the Talent Pool ideas before I post them. Live and learn.

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Hurray for Repetition!

That Resentment post of mine sure shows my cranky side. Gosh, I hate missing out on important information. But, I'm also a cup-half-full kind of gal, so here's the up side. Even though I resent not having gotten most of the tech memos sent out, at least I don't stay in the dark forever. If the information is important enough for me to know, eventually I'll catch on, or it'll catch me. The key to this is REPETITION.

I love that human beings keep repeating stuff to each other, be it the latest gossip, the newest toy, the coolest YouTube video, the most critical healthcare report. There's so much information whirling around our heads that it's impossible to track it all. Hearing something once, unless it's REALLY important, is not likely to stick with us. I watched the Numa Numa video a couple of times yesterday. Do I remember the song today? Nope. Gotta listen again.

When I really want to understand something, I go out of my way to enhance the repetition. For example, I listen to the music of Dave Matthews Band over and over again (ad nauseum, if you ask my family), so that I can cement it in my head and comprehend its nuances.
As a creative person, the understanding gained from this form of repetition assists me in splicing together my own creative products. A side benefit to this particular repetition of songs is that it allows me to turn my brain into an iPod. Instant download if there's no exterior music source to listen to.

Repetition = Eventually being in the know.
Repetiton = Enhancement of creativity.
Repetition = Exercise for our neural synapses.
Repetition = Memory booster.

Hurray for Repetition!

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The Ultimate Filter

I'm half-way through reading Chris Anderson's The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. I don't know about you, but I want to discuss books as I read them. I find that I'm asking questions of the authors as I go and then discovering the answers a few pages after I anticipated them - a little literary ESP, if you will.

Chapter 7 is called "The New Tastemakers" and discusses how anyone, with the help of the internet, can propel a long tail product to popularity, not just our typical cultural critics, A&R folks, and giant media corporations.

There's a section in this chapter called "Filters Rule." With so many more songs, books, movies, products & etc. to choose from via the internet, there has to be someone or something out there willing to help us sort through all of it and find what we want. According to Anderson, "The job of filters is to screen out that noise." (pg. 115) Google is one such filter. Amazon's book rankings are another such filter.

The Ultimate Filter, however, is a human being. Not just me. Not just you. But every single one of us is a filter. Of course, not all of us share the opinions and tastes we acquire through our filtering activities. Some keep them quietly to themselves. Some, the tastemakers and cultural mavens, boldly broadcast their tastes and opinions.

I'd never thought of myself as a tastemaker, still don't really. My interests are too scattershot to have much impact. In fact, if you look at my profile, you'll see some pretty disparate topics. How could they possibly hang together in a coherent fashion? Yet, what gives them an affinity is that they filter through me, a single individual, just like your disparate interests filter through you, and your neighbor's interests filter through him and on and on and on. The cohesiveness and eventual creativity (the splicing) comes from the uniqueness of each of us Ultimate Filters.

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