Thursday, October 09, 2008

Corporate Babble 101

I'll admit it, I'm a corporate hack. I use words like "innovation," "incrementalism" and "breakthrough" in my everyday language. When I try to explain my job, I have to translate the description that comes to my mind into words that people can actually understand.


That doesn't keep me from laughing when I see other companies putting that kind of BS out into the world at large. Case in point:

This is the new "brand identity" for the recently merged Wendy's/Arby's group. Ok, it's not terribly offensive... doesn't really do anything for me, but I didn't running screaming from the image. Their description of how they arrived at it, however?

"The Wendy's/Arby's Group brand identity is designed not only as an acronym, but as a spiral continuum, maintaining the idea of continuous, flexible movement forward," said Margaret Wiatrowski, creative director, KCSA Strategic Communications. "The overall visual direction remains neutral by introducing entirely new elements to the combined entity, both formalistically and typographically. The two entities are symbolically combined through a mutual sense of innovation, authenticity and tradition."

Um. Whatever.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Proof of Beer Goggles!

A recent study in the UK found proof of beer goggles...
In the study, volunteers were randomly allocated a drink – some with alcohol and some without. Then, both groups were asked to rate the attractiveness of 20 male and 20 female faces. Those who drank the alcohol scored the faces about 10 percent higher than the non-drinkers.
The real question is: how many dates can a 10% increase in your HQ (Hottness Quotient) lead to??

Monday, September 01, 2008

Are You My Mother?

First--something of an apology.

An apology because I know I expend far too much digital energy typing tales of creatures that don't speak here on this (infrequently updated) blog. I'm sure accounts with actual dialogue would be a great deal more entertaining than my latest encounter with winged and four-legged creatures. But I do this for a few reasons:

1. I'm fascinated by animals and nature. Strange things happen there. Strange things that I think are worth telling other people about.

2. Being a single woman who lives alone with a dog--you tend to get a little more attuned to animals, spending a significant amount of time around at least one.

3. I believe animals do communicate. I'm not saying they have higher order thinking and can solve complicated tasks or anything, but I do believe in their own little animal ways, they are capable of telling the rest of the world what's on their minds (even if it's something simple, like FOOD).

Don't worry--I'm not to Amy Adams status just yet, conferring with chipmunks and ordering rats and pigeons to make my house sparkle. But my interest in the natural world probably isn't going to go away. Especially not when weird things happen to me.

Do you remember the children's book, "Are You My Mother?" It's this cute little tale (which I mistakenly thought was a Dr. Seuss book until I just looked it up on Amazon) about a baby bird who loses its mom and hops all around the neighborhood, asking other creatures if they might, in fact, be the bird's mother.

This SO just happened to me.

Casey and I were out on our walk. She was being particularly stubborn, trying to make it clear to me that she would rather be napping in the cool air conditioning rather than taking a few laps around the neighborhood in the 90-degree heat. But I wanted a real walk, and so every time she tried to make a beeline for the house, I pulled her back onto the path I wanted to take. She finally yielded and let me drag her up to the Katy trail.

When we walk on the Katy, Casey is not one to stick to the path itself, much preferring the weeds and brush alongside the path. I often find myself walking through thick grasses and muddy puddles to accommodate her sniffing along the fence line. And so that's where we were tonight, right up against the treeline, looking for grass or animals or whatever goodies she could find.

About 20 yards from where we hopped on, Casey was ambling happily along when some movement behind us caught my eye. I turned and saw not far behind us a tiny, baby squirrel, probably no longer than 7 or eight inches with a thin but bushy and quivering tail and bright, shiny squirrel eyes, staring up at me. I don't think I had ever seen a baby squirrel before and it startled me--even more so because it didn't seem to be afraid. Fortunately, Casey hadn't seen the runt and was still tracking whatever she was smelling up ahead. Not wanting to cause trouble (and knowing Casey's reaction to squirrels) I turned and kept walking.

Except the damn thing was following us.

No doubt about it, I turned and he stopped and sat up, looking at me, tiny hands in front of his chest and head cocked just so slightly. I stopped. Then it came running up behind us, right up behind Casey's back legs, so close he probably could have nipped her.

Not knowing what to do, I stopped. Casey, wondering what all the stopping and starting was about, stopped and turned as well, finally noticing her fan behind her. She lunged --but not menacingly and I was able to hold her back without much force. The little guy was not intimidated. He sat right where he had been, convinced he was in the right place.

Then he started to cry.

Seriously, have you ever heard a baby squirrel CRY before? It damn near broke my heart. It was this loud, high pitched bark that sounded like a cross between Casey's squeaky toys and a crow's caw. He opened up his tiny little mouth and barked at us, as if to say, "Help me! Help me! I'm lost!"

Not wanting Casey to take action, I decided to start walking again. I turned and saw he wasn't following, but wasn't moving, either. I had visions of the next dog on the path coming on him and swallowing him whole, in one tremendous gobble. I stood for a minute.

A group of three women came up, and saw the dog straining at the leash in the squirrel's direction, and then noticed the baby. "Awwww! It's so cute!" "Did it fall out of its nest?"

"It must have," I said. "It followed my dog like it thought she was its mother."

"Let's take it home!" "What should we do?"

Little guy, suddenly frustrated with all the attention, started to cry again.

"Awwwwww!!!" "Does its mother have to come get it? We can't touch it, right, or she'll kill it?"

"I don't know," I said. As one of the girls inched toward him, finally, he retreated off under a tree, where he at least would be hidden from other walkers and dogs. Satisfied, the women walked off.

Casey and I turned too, resuming our walk. I was surprised that Casey had been so calm. Even though she seemed curious, I don't know that she would have attacked the thing--but I was fairly sure that he was too young to know he should have been afraid.

It's a funny thing to think about--the idea that there is an innate innocence in every creature. That fear may be a learned behavior. That curiosity and trust are the natural responses of most living things, traits that must be unlearned through experience and exposure to the world.

I hope my little friend finds his nest and gets to live long enough to unlearn.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Damn it feels good...

Some b-school humor for Friday, sent on by my friend VA (yes, she's from Duke).

A few lyrics NSFW.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Do you ever get sucked in by infomercials? I do. There have been several that have gotten me--usually exercise equipment (Taebo; the bun & thigh rocker; some crazy small exercise ball I can't even remember the name of but popped within a month). I always want to believe whatever the cheesy exercise guru of the moment wants to tell me. "Tighter abs!" "Rock hard buns!" "Get fit while having fun!"

So when I met Tony Horton, it was instant love.

I was sitting in the nail salon, having a pedicure while sitting in one of those giant, comfortable massage chairs that they let you control. Having nothing to look at (other than my toes, of course) I ended up zoning out while staring at the giant flatscreen TVs mounted on the far wall. The program they had tuned to? Nothing other than an hour-long infomercial for Mr. Horton's newest program, 10 minute Trainer. A series of 10 moves in 10 minutes! You'll have a hot bod in no time! He's trained CEOs and grandmas with this routine, and look at 'em now! Who doesn't have 10 minutes!

Even the woman scrubbing on my feet knew it was a bad idea, shaking her head and clucking at me as I stared, mesmerized. Of course I bought it. (I won't say how much I paid for it. But at least I found the best price I could.)

This weekend, I finally decided it was time to bust out Tony's advice. One handy little thing he included, in addition to the videos, tension rope, door attachment and weight belt, was his "10-day lean jean program." It's essentially a 10-day diet and exercise regimen designed to provide you with the optimal balance of proteins and carbs that will maximize a short but intense workout period. He touts it as a great way to kick off a healthier eating and exercise routine. And so, like any good lemming, that's what I'm doing.

I'm into Day 2 of what I'm calling the Detox program (I've noticed that people react a little more favorably when you pose it that way instead of calling it a "diet"). I made it through Day 1--surprisingly--without having terrible pangs of hunger. There's something to this balance of carbs and proteins. I stood at a colleague's desk for 15 minutes and didn't once have an urge to grab one of the Dove dark chocolates out of her goody bin. I will say that once I got home at the end of the day and made my dinner, I started to crave everything except the food I was making--the banana on the table looked good, the box of crackers was calling my name, that last soda that I didn't get around to finishing before I started... But I resisted.

This morning, however, was different. The breakfast meal on the card was nothing less than my very first ever protein shake.

Worst. Thing. Ever.

This thing is so nasty that I'm still trying to choke it down almost a full hour later. In theory, it shouldn't be so bad... ice, milk, strawberries, vanilla flavored protein powder. But really, I think that powder gives it this extra barf factor, like licking the erasers after scrubbing a particularly dirty chalkboard. Seriously. I don't know how competitive athletes can drink this stuff. The worst part of it is, I think there is one of these things on the diet at least every other day.

It's going to be a long 10 days.

Monday, July 21, 2008


If you've ever heard me rant and rave about the innately generic culture that makes up this sprawling Dallas metroplex, feast your eyes on a commentary that couldn't say it any better. Although he goes on to argue that cities don't actually need a sense of identity... I'm not sure I agree. Consider this quote from the end of his article:
People, the vast mass of people, will live in more and more generic and mass-produced environments in fewer and fewer truly unique locales, because that's the relentless math of population growth, pollution and politics. A chicken in every pot and a unique code on every titanium tube.
I don't know about you, but that just sounds damn depressing to me. There's something about picturing everyone and everything as indistinguishable that just makes me extremely uncomfortable. It's kind of like going home and realizing that your hometown suddenly looks like every other hometown in the country--a mall with a JC Penney, a Cracker Barrel and McDonald's. Maybe a Hampton Inn or a Best Western. Are we supposed to be OK with that?

Granted, he calls himself a "refugee" from this, but still argues that sense of place or history really has no meaning. I couldn't disagree more. I think those elements are some of the keys to nurturing and driving culture and new ideas.

Maybe it's the wannabe creative in me, the one who sees people who look at the world differently and try to create a different experience, who believes that their refusal to conform moves us farther along. I don't believe that sameness is something we should strive for. Is Dallas really the view of the future? Homogenized, bland, uncaring?

I was listening to the radio this morning on the way to work. Just as I was pulling into the garage, one of the deejays was talking about her experience at the movies, and how things have changed. She reminisced about how fun it used to be to try to sneak in outside food--how we would bundle them up in our coats and purses and hope no one checked. But today, no one seems to care. She actually saw one woman walk up to the ticket counter and then into the theater--carrying a full, steaming pizza box.


No, it's not about the pizza. It's about this decline into people not caring what others around them do, even if it is their job to care. We're adopting this laissez-faire attitude about everything--our jobs, our personal lives, the broader community... We've gotten so comfortable with the status quo that people have forgotten (or been discouraged from?) shaking things up, trying something new. We're letting other influences drive our fates, dictate to us what we will wear, where we will shop, what we should buy, where we should live...

Is originality dead?

I know, of course, that I am as guilty as anyone in getting sucked in by American pop culture. I listen to the same music, watch the same TV shows, go out in the same Dallas bars and shop in the same stores. I'm not living originally, and I am as big a contributor to the death of our culture as the stereotypical Dallas dude down the street. But I can tell you this: I don't believe becoming invisible is inevitable, nor do I think it's something we should celebrate.

Friday, July 18, 2008


There is nothing worse than the anticipation of a bad announcement. I've spent the last week tied up in knots over an impending "reorg" announcement here at work--an announcement that has started rumors and rumblings that my (new) job will change.

I feel like bad news is one of those things you'd rather experience like a band-aid--rip it off quickly, feel the sting, move on. Better to take you by sudden surprise. I think back to the employer who laid me off back in DC. I had heard nothing of a restructuring; in fact, the day I was let go was my first day back after a week's vacation. I had about a half an hour of warning that I was about to be called into a very, very bad meeting. I didn't have time to play through all the possible scenarios in my head, to torture myself about what might or might not happen.

But when you know something ugly is coming, it's incredibly difficult to brush it aside, to pretend you didn't hear it. I'm always struck by an insatiable desire to know what I don't know, to explain the uncertainty, to find clarity where there is only mist. And so I brood. And brood. And brood. And the worst part of it is, if the news ends up not being as bad as I had feared (and by my nature I almost always fear--or at least consider--the worst) then in some way it's tarnished, because in my head I've lived out the worst case scenario.

I admire those who are carefree, who can live without worry in a situation like this. Que sera sera, they say... and I know it is true, whatever happens will happen. But I just can't seem to stop myself from wondering what that might be.