Sunday, November 30, 2008

Learning to Build

As usual, I have overextended myself. After finishing campaign mode, I've been in "play" mode. My inability to say "no" has landed me as Producer of the Wilton Playshop's holiday production of A Christmas Story. And as the playshop is overseen by the wife of the very nice man who has employed my son as a trainee chef in his restaurants for the past two years, I really couldn't say "no" when she asked me to produce.

For the past three weeks I have found myself engaged in volunteer wrangling, set building, set painting, organizing and begging.

Last night I reached a new level of building expertise. I actually built the railing for these stairs. I drilled the holes and bolted in the anchor boards -- using a ratchet wrench to tighten everything up. I measured, used a chop saw, and built the railings, screwing in a side rail and covered rail on top. Then I attached the rail to the wall, again, measuring and sawing to make it all just right.

For many, this is an easy thing. For me, not so much. But it is more fun than my day job (seriously). And while it doesn't result in an article that makes my client famous, it does result in a solid piece of foundation. I'm not ready to give up my career, but this is quite rewarding.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Doing My Job

Nothing still thrills me like seeing a story I helped create make it on the page. And when it's the Wall Street Journal, nothing could be sweeter.

We all need validation that we know what we're doing. That we know how to do our job well. So my validation pill is a story where my client looks good in the WSJ. If I could only take that pill everyday.... Check it out.

Monday, November 24, 2008

PR - An Ethical Dilemna

In my networking attempts, I reached out to a friend asking if he knew of some financial advisors looking to start reaching out to clients and media. It seems to me that when things are in flux, confusing and somewhat dire, keeping your clients informed - even if it's just to let them know you have their back - is vital.

He told me to check out this new PR Firm and even suggested I "hook up" with them. The firm in question is quite interesting. It's being created by CNBC analyst Dan Abrams (pictured) who was passed over for a larger gig at the network. So he thought he'd start a PR Agency that would tap into the expertise of working journalists - and those journalists who due to the hard times we're in today, are no longer "working."

At first blush it seems an interesting proposition. PR is all about getting your message out with as much control as you can negotiate. But for a working journalist to get paid for giving PR advise, it does cross that ethical boundary. And given the transparent world we live in today, it invites even more questions about the sanctity and independence of the press.

We all know Fox News, WSJ and NY Post -- or any news outlet owned by Rupert Murdoch has bias. But knowing that bias is there, we can read between the lines.

When the insights and machinations that go on behind the scenes to negotiate a story are influenced by reporters, we don't know what lines to read between.

As a former reporter and longtime PR person I know that I frequently interview reporters about potential clients to get their view of the landscape. But these same reporters are not going to help me guide a story when I then come to them with a pitch. Or even when they come to me wanting to confirm some rumor.

The challenge today for businesses in every sphere is keeping up with the blogosphere and having influence on blogs. While like trade pubs of old they are derided inside companies as nothing more than gossip rags, we all know that where there is a little smoke, there's a little fire. We also need to realize you can't control everything. Far better to try to conduct your business in an open and honest way. Any reporter whose credibility is intact will never forgive the slightest misleading comments or influence. These are tough times. Facing it honestly is the way to go. Trying to influence it with spin control will make it worse.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cleaning Up

I knew I had another life lesson from my grade-school friend Barbara but couldn't remember what it was until the other day. (By the way - this is not my kitchen, but it could be...)

I was making my "famous" macaroni & cheese. Usually it starts at one end of my kitchen and goes to the other. That's because it requires a lot of pans for a simple dish. But as I was going from one prep to the next, there was a voice in my head that kept saying: "if you clean up as you go along, it will be easier." So I kept cleaning up and putting things away as I went along. By the time the dish was done, the kitchen was relatively clean. And the dish was delicious. Thanks Barbara - a lesson learned (though one I'm not sure I can always follow).

To give you an idea of how I make macaroni & cheese just know that it includes the use of 4 pans, three measuring cups, cutting board. And misc. cooking tools.

Here's what I do: boil water for pasta. Chop onion. Cook bacon to be mixed into dish. Shred cheese (I use Cheddar and pepper jack). Drain pasta and in the pasta pot melt butter. Cook onion in butter then add flour for roux. Add cumin and coriander, salt and pepper. Add milk in a stream and mix with whisk. Let mixture boil. Add cheese. Add pasta. Mix in bacon. Then, butter a large casserole pan, add pasta mixture to pan. Let set. Melt butter and add breadcrumbs - I like panko. Then top pasta with breadcrumb mixture. Bake in oven 1/2 hour or until crispy on top.

Let me know if you want the recipe. But clean up as you go along.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Making Rain

So the hunt is on. My destiny is in my hands and I'm going on the hunt for business. When I went out on my own, I did so with the deep sense that I never wanted to work at a company again and be subject to its internal politics. My fate would be in my hands.

So now I seem to be at a crossroads. Having worked with one of my clients for 10-years, I have broken my own rule about being part of an organization. The ability to function as a consultant and advisor -- whose advice is actually listened to -- has been lost with the ebb and flow of changing management. I believe my value is not recognized and I am now seen as part of the internal hive.

I need to reassert my independence. And I have many options. I'm actually excited.

I spoke to one of my oldest first time clients today and was reinspired. He helped me remember what I do best. And he also suggested a strategy for articulating my value to the current client in disarry by going directly to the new CEO and telling him my story.

At the same time, I'm going to go through all my contacts and start the process to see what else is out there. Stay posted. I hope to learn a lot.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Keep your Enemies Closer (or Rivals...)

Brilliant move by Obama - Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State.

Not only is she a great choice and will make a terrific cabinet member, but the choise shows how serious a leader Obama will be for our country. While the pundits are saying that this move is one of the lessons that Obama learned from Lincoln about keeping your rivals close, I think it is more than that.

Obama is showing that he is a true unifier. Earlier today he met with McCain. Now comes word of Hillary's selection. I wouldn't be surprised to see a republican on his cabinet. This is going to be so much fun to watch. Let the change begin.

Blackberry Out

Poor Barack. He is in the beginning stages of blackberry withdrawl. As POTUS, every single letter, text, etc is part of Public Information and as a result, the use of the blackberry device and even email is tightly controlled.

I'm guessing he can't even send a text to the girls asking WTF (which is what I text to my son all the time).

I went through a little blackberry withdrawl myself today. I forgot it at home. I found that I didn't miss it as much for the messages and constant mewing, more that I had my calandar and contacts.

Amazing the role that technology plays in our lives. My favorite vacation is the technology out vacation. We go to the middle of nowhere in Canada and fish. No phone, no internet, no TV. Totally out of it. And I look forward to it every year.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Writing on the Wall

When my husband was fired from a job many years ago, I suggested that it was actually a good thing. The job was making him miserable. He wouldn't have left on his own, and perhaps this was just what he needed to get excited about something new.

Let's just say all didn't go as planned and now some 20-years later, he's finally on the right track.

So now that I've gotten a strong hint that one of my clients is not totally in love with me - a client I've had for 10 years and provides 80% of my income - I too now have an opportunity to do something about it -- luckily before they do it to me.

I've complained about the constant change in management, the lack of clear direction and the issues with the current team in charge. Truth is, I've been unhappy. But because the money is good, the job a challenge and everyday offers up something new, I've stuck with it.

Now the hard truth is that I should really be looking hard at how I might fire them. I need to realize that I probably can't match the income. But I can find a better client. One who respects what I have to offer. I still get a charge everytime a story ends up with high visibility. I enjoy giving advice that I know makes a difference. Being able to zero in on a solution and know that its the right thing to do, makes my day.

So I love what I do. Now I need to find someone else to do it with. The search is on. Stay tuned.

Puppy Cam - watch Dogs Sleep

My sister said I had to post this puppy cam. But as the embed code is broken, to see it you need to go to the link I've posted in the comments (I'm having some technical difficulties)

It is a live video cam of six Shiba Inu puppies who spend 90% of their time sleeping. At first I thought this was ridiculously silly. And I kind of dismissed it as evidence that people will watch just about anything. But as it's been playing in the background, I find myself going back again and again to see what the puppies are doing. And everytime there's a bark in the background, my dogs bark back.

Judging by all the internet chatter on this, it has gotten almost as much attention as Sarah Palin's shopping spree.

I do want to see what happens when they get bigger. It might get more interesting.

Monday, November 10, 2008


So after being urged to visit many different sites - smart bargins, nordstrom, zappos, etc., I finally just decided to find the right boots - then figure out where to get them.

Since my old dying pair are Donald Pliner, I searched for specifics - Donald Pliner Black Suede ankel boots. Shit - where would we all be without Google?

I found a pair very similar to the ones I own. A little added search found them for the lowest price on Piperlime - this is a relativiley new shoe shopping site brought to you by Gap. What it does is aggregate different brands and prices. I thought the interface was very friendly and they had what I wanted. So I took the plunge and bought them. What a relief. Free shipping too.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Spending Diet

Since I came back from San Francisco in July, I've been on a spending diet. It's been going better than my "sea food" diet. The one in which I eat everything in sight.

But I've resisted buying. Or at least resisted the high calorie binges. I bought a new bag at TJ Maxx. I successfully shoped for new shoes in Laura's cast-offs (scored some great boots and sandles - it was like minus calories).

It seems that as my spending has shrunk, my waist line has expanded.

But now I'm in trouble. I actually really need a new pair of boots. And not just any boots. I need to replace the great black suede ankle Donald Pliner boots I got on sale 3-years ago for $99. The problem is that the boots I want are like $400. That's fucking crazy. Who spends $400 on boots?

My sister says to think about how many times I'd wear them in a year and then figure out a cost per wear basis to make it more palatable. (Sorry about the food puns - they work).

In an effort to curb my hunger for the $400 Cole Haan Fiona's, I've been on a shopping frenzy. Loehmans, TJ Maxx and every shoe web site known to man. Nothing has satisfied the craving.

Then tonight I decided to check out the boots again at Cole Haan. Guess what? They are actually no longer on their web site. Can it be possible in this market that they have sold out of these ridiculously expensive luxury boots?

If anyone sees anything close to this perfect pair, let me know. I like a slightly pointy toe, a slender but rugged heal and prefer black leather or black suede. The search is one.

Maybe if I lose 10 pounds I'll buy the damn things. Zappos has them....

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Canadians Prank Palin

Just when you thought the fun with Sarah was over, check out this video. Palin got had by someone pretending to be French President Nicholas Sarkozy. How she didn't realize this was a fake call is proof of her total idiocy.

More to the point, how she would agree to a call with a sitting foreign President without getting the approval or even letting the McCain camp know about this proves how totally incompetent and clueless she is. Hopefully this will be the nail in the coffin of her political future. This is beyond belief! Oh! Canada!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Fried Squirrel

This morning the lights went out. All I could do was wonder how I'd be able to catch up on the morning news reports about the elction returns. Thankfully we put in a generator so imporotant house functions will work - ie, refrigerator, toilet and internet.

Then I read this story online and found out why we lost electricity. You just can't make this stuff up: From the Danbury NewTimes:

Squirrels strike again!

Staff Writer
Article Launched: 11/05/2008 01:47:53 PM EST

By Eugene Driscoll
DANBURY - A squirrel wandered into a CL&P substation on Triangle Street today, causing a 60-minute power failure that caused scores of traffic lights to go dark during the morning rush hour.
About 5,000 CL&P customers were without power.
It was the second time in six weeks a squirrel at the Triangle Street substation caused power to go out.
Are city squirrels suicidal?
No, said Mitch Grossman, spokesman for Connecticut Light & Power.
"It happens. It is part of maintaining the grid. These animals and birds sometimes step where they are not supposed to," Gross said.
How often does it happen?
In Georgia, squirrel-related power outages tripled between 2005 and 2006, according to an article in USA Today.
CL&P doesn't keep track of squirrel-related power problems, but Gross estimated animal-related outages - birds, squirrels, raccoons or other critters - have accounted for 17 percent of all power failures in Connecticut this year.
That is about 2,200 of about 13,000 power failures in the state.
Animal-related power failures are much more common than lightning strikes, which comprise only about 6 percent of all electrical problems.
Trees and their branches are still the power grid's nemesis, accounting for about 35 percent of all power failures this year (down from 50 percent last year, thanks to an aggressive CL&P tree-trimming operation, Gross said).
Squirrels do not get fried merely by touching an electrical line. The incidents happen when a squirrel touches the line and something nearby, such as the metal part of a transformer. Killer current then flows through its body.
At a substation, the equipment picks up on the disturbance and automatically shuts down. It takes about an hour for CL&P workers to inspect the area and turn the power on again, Gross said.
The utility company has equipment meant to ward off animals.
"In our substations we use squirrel guards. It is a device that covers certain equipment to hopefully keep them from going where they are not supposed to go," Gross said.
Squirrels are naturally curious animals. They could also be attracted to substations and utility pole transformers for warmth or shelter.
However, not everyone is worried about the fate of our furry friends.
"All Squirrels Must Die!" the Web site declares.
It features essays with titles such as "deadly encounters with squirrels," "stupid squirrel screwed up my new car," and "James Bond squirrel: This cunning squirrel faced a .22 assault head on while in a cage and escaped!"


What an amazing moment in history. I have Obama Lawn Signs!!! Who wants one?

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