Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The guy nod and the 'moue'

Today I read this in a blog I read:
"I just passed my neighbor in the street and he gave me the New England salute: a "moue."

He might have waved his hand, nodded, smiled, flashed his eyebrows, or even stopped to chat. But, no, what he had for me was a moue.

This is a small gesture of the mouth. Lips are pulled back and compressed, as if someone were about to play the trumpet. it happens very quickly. If you are not watching very closely, you'll miss it. (In the image to the right, President Bush is making what might be a moue.)
He gets more in-depth about what is being communicated with the 'moue'. "...the moue feels stingy. It feels like a withholding." He writes. He goes on to point out that a cheery hello is a better thing than the moue.

Me though, I'm less interested in exactly what is being communicated in a moue, or a nod, or a smile. I'll agree that a hello is better, but I'm more interested in our need to feel a connection with the person we're passing on the street. Even more so, why do we ask people how they are when we really have no interest in how they are?

I wrote a lengthy post once about the guy nod. I even guy nodded once with Ryan Miller, on my street. My argument was then, and is now, that there are things going on with us humans that transcends language. Duh, you might say. But as a marketer, there are things we communicate without words. There are gestures that say more than all the words in this post. And that's neat. And I'm glad to read others are thinking about this. It makes me feel connected.

And for the record, I have no idea what relevance this has to anything.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Stress free

When you’re stressed, you stop growing. It’s a well-documented thing. Serious stress, serious nightmares, and person will stop growing.

Consider this:
Barrie was born to a family of Scottish weavers in Kirriemuir, Angus, the ninth child of ten. When he was six, his brother David, his mother's favorite, died in a skating accident on the eve of his 14th birthday. His mother never recovered from the loss, and ignored the young Barrie. One time he entered her room, and heard her say "Is that you?" "I thought it was the dead boy she was speaking to," wrote Barrie in his biographical account of his mother, Margaret Ogilvy (1896), "and I said in a little lonely voice, 'No, it's no' him, it's just me.'" Barrie's mother found comfort in the fact that her dead son would remain a boy forever, never to grow up and leave her. This had a profound impact on Barrie: he never grew much beyond five foot, and some authors have speculated that Peter Pan was inspired by the traumatic events of his own childhood. At the age of 13, Barrie was sent away to boarding school at Dumfries Academy. Here he and his friends spent time in the garden of Moat Brae house, playing pirates "in a sort of Odyssey that was long afterwards to become the play of Peter Pan".
Just in case you're wondering, we plan to make Autumn's early life stress free.

Save the world

Five things you can do.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Bubble Fest

the buffalo science center offered Bubble-Fest today. One of the few words Autumn can say is BUBBLE... she loves bubbles, loves them. So, when we heard about Bubble-Fest we had to go. We walked through the Science Center- marveling at everything... but clearly the bubbles were the best part (except maybe the ice cream).

Freedom isn't free

(Note: this is straight up politics. If you want to see a picture of Autumn, click here:)

The Nightmare is winning:

A few weeks ago I watched a BBC documentary called the Power Of Nightmares. Here's the trailer:

I think the series should be required viewing. It says that there's a theory about defeating Liberalism in the US. Make the people believe in a bad guy, and they will be led. Guys like Bill Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz admit to it on tape. And by liberalism, they don't mean Democrats, they mean your freedoms. And it's working:

The government is monitoring your phone calls and can read your e-mails and open your snail mail.

The government can access records of your large financial transactions, such as buying a house.

Law enforcement officers can bust into your home when you're not there, riffle through your belongings, plant a recording device on your computer, and leave without notifying you for at least thirty days -- and maybe a lot more.

You no longer have the right to protest where the president or vice president can see you, or at major public events when they aren't even present.

Law enforcement officers can now monitor you in public if you are merely exercising your political rights.

They can infiltrate your political organizations.

And they can keep track of you at your place of worship. The government can find out from bookstores and libraries the material you've been reading, and the bookstore owner and the librarian can't talk about it, except to their lawyers, for a whole year -- or more.

The government can hold you in preventive detention for months on end as a "material witness."

If you're not a citizen the government can deport you on a technicality or for mere political association.

If you're not a citizen the government can label you an "enemy combatant" and send you to secret prisons around the world, where you may never see the light of day again -- much less a lawyer or a judge. And even if you are a citizen, the government can label you an enemy combatant and hold you in solitary confinement here in the United States.

Bush says you're with us, or you're against us

That kind of simplistic look at the world means we’re easier to lead. Believe in evil-doers, and it's easy to rationalize the lack of freedoms. Opening your mail, listening to your phone conversations becomes the Terrorist Surveillance Program. Who isn't for monitoring terrorists?

But then, perhaps you realize that our freedoms have been taken away because of people living in caves. No wait, that's not true: we wouldn't give up our freedoms because of people living in caves on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border.In order to make the narrative work, add 'sleeper cells', 'Terror Warnings', an unsolved Anthrax attack. Add the 'gut' feeling of the guy in charge of Homeland Security. That helps sell the notion that the people in caves are really everyone.

That's the premise of the Power of Nightmares. And it points out that Neocons admit they were at it before. It used to be communists where everywhere. Now it's radical Muslims. They are everywhere, and they want to kill us. That's taken as fact.

Here's my take: Freedom is messy. Period. If you want freedom, it comes with risk. The freedom to own a gun means there's a risk of getting shot. The US used to have a constitution that didn't allow search. So even if a serial killer was killing people in my neighborhood, the government run police couldn't enter my home searching for evidence that I'm the killer. Even though a search through every home would save lives, American's didn't used to allow it. American's would never have allowed the Serial Killer Surveillance Act. But they allow the government to issue a Terrorist Surveillance Act.

I think the American people are beginning to wake up to the last 6 years. I think that's why prominent republicans have actually been wondering about the possibility of an attack. They have bought the notion that we're in danger and almost long for us to get attacked. A friend of mine, a republican wrote this in an e-mail:
Also, if you think GW is a threat to freedoms in this country now wait until the next big attack. No mater who is in office they will take away so many liberties next time it will make Jefferson roll over in the grave.
I responded that if he thinks this, then he should be for a withdraw from Iraq. The terrorists have already won.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Our neighborhood is pretty walkable

There's a website called Walk Score. It basically lets you know if you live in a city. Offering a cool google map mashup that figures out what's around your house that's worth walking to, and then scores your ability to walk there. There's something weird about being told there are things worth walking to by your computer. Still, we walk Autumn a lot. And there's usually a lot to see, so we already thought we were walkable. Here's the proof.

Oh, and google maps has even more mash-ups. Check out my maps on google maps. I kinda dig the I want to see a movie now feature.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Unity where there isn't any

The Iraqi soccer team is in the final of the Asian Cup. The European Cup is a hug deal, but just for the record, the Asian Cup is equally special -- if you happen to be Asian. There are world class teams in this event. So the Iraqi's understandably happy. But there's another angle, of course, to this story:

From here a quote:
Iraq's run in the Asian Cup has been a cause of rare joy in the Gulf nation, where people are saying the national team, with its mix of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, demonstrates that the warring ethnic and religious factions can unite despite years of sectarian violence.
Can a soccer game save a country? Many people smarter than me will debate that. And they'll point out that bombs killed people celebrating the win in Iraq earlier. But we'll see right?


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Holy smokes, this is cool

I think this is gonna change the way we do ads. I really do. And as a copywriter, I'm psyched by the possibilities of infinite space.

Some laughing by a big girl

wherein, she laughs.

We have a big girl

After dropping off Autumn off at day-care, Rhona sent me this message:
i had to sign a paper today.

autumn will now be sleeping in a cot, not a crib.
also, she will not be sitting in high chairs anymore, but at a table when she eats. as i was leaving she had a plate of food and a fork in her hand.
Our little girl is getting big.

Monday, July 23, 2007


Ladies and Gentleman, Autumn Created has been spammed. A little. Therefore, I've turned on Word Verification. Meaning, if you comment, you have to match a little code. I apologize, but it keeps the spammers away.

baby watching

It's me and Autumn. Mano a mano. Or babo a dado, I'm not sure. With mom still enjoying the fruits of Toronto, and nanny and granddad gone back to Brampton, it's me and her. Until tonight.

Thanfully, she's soundo right now. Her nap began at 11:30. And since she slept through the night last night, she should sleep until sometime after one. Lucy and I had some chicken noodle soup, cleaned up a little, folded some clothes, and now, I doth blog.

It's when she wakes up that things will get interesting. To be honest, I have no idea what we're going to do. My stock answer is take her for a walk, but I don't think that's practical for the entire afternoon. We have some movies to take back, and some dinner to contemplate, so a little RT to the library and the cosy-op could be in order. We'll play in the sand (weather permitting), and perhaps we'll dance and roll around the living room.

I'll try to let you all know tonight what we did.

For anyone who ever thought I had too much time

This woman knitted a Ferrari. Yes, knitted.

Knitted Ferrari

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

mom's away

That sounds like bombs away, which is sort of what it feels like right now. This will officially be the longest Rhona and Autumn are apart.

It's almost 11:00PM. Mom's in Toronto seeing the Police. Chances are, right now, she's out of the concert. (Who knows how long these older guys can play for?).

Anyway, today we had nanny and granddad in town to help out. Which was good. Because she's really establishing her boundaries. For instance, she'll be smiling away. Laughing, maybe even rolling on the floor. And instantly, she'll turn into a crying baby, arms outstretched, looking for a hug. It's teething. It's being a baby. it's fine, but not as easy as when mom's here.

Rhona is a great mom. She anticipates Autumn's needs. She has a feel for what food she should eat. Today for instance, Autumn ate two things of yogurt, some blueberries, a bit of pancake, and a dash of chicken food-like baby food. No, it's chicken but I forget what kind. It's like this weird orange color, which leads me to think it's Chicken Vegetable Soup. Or something.

My point is, late in the process, I remembered the apple and sweet potato stuff in the freezer. Rhona can pull that out and in seconds feed it to Autumn. I semi failed. It was too hot, then too cold. Then she was done. Baby's aren't that patient.

Anyway, lest anyone wonder, we miss mom. We hope she has fun, but can't wait for her return.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Autumn and expectations

A doctor from a Chicago ER was sent to the front lines during world war two to treat soldiers. He'd seen people get shot before, but noticed something different on the front lines. When Soldiers were shot in a war, they didn't really feel a lot of pain in comparison to people who were shot in Chicago. And the theory is that it's the 'narrative' around the event that translates the pain. Consider:

A soldier has an expectation of getting shot. And thus, if they do, their first thought is, "Cool, I'm alive." The first thought is good news. Next, they consider the other good things: they can go home. They get a medal. They are war heroes. They get to eat better food. They still get paid. The list of 'good things' far outweigh the list of bad ones.

Now think about the narrative around a person in Chicago getting shot. It's unexpected. They can't work. They can't feed their family. They have to pay for the care to get fixed (this hypothetical takes place in America). All bad parts.

Thus, in the second narrative, the brain hurts more. Or so, that's the theory. I think it's about expectations. And Autumn is currently testing them. We all know this scenario: a baby falls, looks around, sees that no one is watching, and gets up. Same baby, same fall, sees someone watching and cries. I think this is about expectations. You can call it attention seeking as well.

These days, Autumn is really into hugging. When mom and dad hug, it makes her laugh. When we include her, it makes her day. So we try to have family hugs a lot. But those are a little different to hugs on falls. Those are about setting up expectations. The expectation that every time she falls, one of us will come running with a hug. But if we always come running, she'll expect it. And, so the theory goes, it will 'hurt' more.

Now, before you think we're gonna abandon her, there's no set rule. Obviously if the fall is big, we'll run. But if it's merely a fall on her bum, something that happens often, then it's best we don't set the expectation that we're coming. That way, she'll realize it doesn't hurt.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

An Ill-Informed people can be ruled.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."
--Thomas Jefferson to C. Yancey, 1816.

Thom’s point: the less you know about something, the more power government will have over you.

Every person that believes Saddam Hussein had a role in planning 911 gives power to the government.

Every person who thinks “We’re fighting the same people in Iraq who flew planes into buildings” means power to the government.

And finally, everyone who thinks “They hate us for our freedoms” or “They want to kill us” means power to the government.

Because none of them are true. Not one. One would think though, that the internet could change this. With the internet, information
becomes free. With all the information in the world at your finger
tips, one would think the population would be more engaged. They aren't. More people could name the Vice President in 1989 than today. Here are the five questions:

*Who is the vice president? Who is your state's
governor? Does the US have a trade deficit or surplus? Which party
controls the House of Representatives? Is the chief justice of the
Supreme Court a liberal, moderate, or conservative?"

Infoporn: Despite the Web, Americans Remain Woefully Ill-Informed

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

cruisin' for a bruisin'

it is happening. i can feel it. you know how you can tell you are embarking on a bad habit? Whatever it is for you; social smoking, excessive eating, biting your nails... well- i have a new nasty habit- driving and i can't stop it.

has started to pitch fits... on occasion.

autumn suddenly doesn't want or like to fall asleep during the day. she screams at the top of her little lungs until i think she might throw up. she used to cuddle into my body and let me rock her to sleep- angelic like. not anymore.

so, i pack her in the car in sheer frustration and inevitably she falls asleep within minutes. this morning i think she was asleep before i hit the end of the driveway. but i still drove for a few minutes out of sheer fear that she would wake up. in fact, as i type this i am like the teenqueen in the horror movie convniced she hears a sound- a terrible sound ... the sound of a child awakening!!!

this DRIVING is a bad habit. i can tell. but like munching on chocolate chip cookies after 8pm- i just can't stop myself. anyone have any suggestions?

Monday, July 16, 2007

some pictures for Nanny

My mom, aka nanny, says there aren't enough pictures of Autumn on this blog. Well, then:

Also note the labels at the bottom. The one that says photo. Click on it, and all posts with photos will magically come up.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Memories fade, but the blog still lingers

There's a theory that goes like this: each time you remember something, your mind is actually recreating it.

From scratch. Meaning, there is no place in your mind for memories. You, me, Autumn, none of us actually have a real memory of something. What happens is that our minds recreate the event for us.

It all started with experiments to block memories. Researchers taught a rat that a sound will be followed by a shock. The next time the rat hears the sound, it braces for the shock.

That's a memory. (It's also learning, but learning really can be defined as remembering certain criteria).

Anyway, researchers repeat the experiment, but this time give the rat a drug that stops the memory from happening. The next time the sound comes, no bracing for the shock.

It was thought though, that once the memory got in there, once in became ingrained in the little rat, the memory would be there. For good. Admittedly, no one really knew where 'there' was, but that doesn't mean there wasn't a 'there' there. Then along came an idea.

What if they gave the rat the drug right when they made the sound? Would that rid the rat of the memory? Turns out, it does. And not only in rats. It's been tested on humans. A woman who was raped was asked to remember, and while remembering, given the drug. It didn't erase the memory, but it weakened the emotion impact of the memory.

So, the theory goes like this: you experience something. The next time you 'remember' it, you mind rebuilds the experience. From scratch.

Your brain already plays goofy tricks on you. My favorite is blinking. Every time we blink, we should see black. But we don't. Our brain takes a snapshot of what we're looking at, and pretends it's there. No black. In essence, our brain tricks, well, our brain. The recreation of memories is another trick.

The thing is though, the more we pull up a memory, so the theory goes, the more it will likely change -- and thus not be an exact replica of the original event. Strangely, the most pure event we could remember is one we never remember.

However. This blog, and the digital images and file we have of Autumn will aid our apparently faulty memories. We'll be able to remember events. She'll be able to look back at events. With apologies to Tears for Fears, if the memory fades, the blog will still linger.

I learned all this on my new favorite radio show. Take a listen.

Friday, July 13, 2007

"There is only one outstanding Elephant, over."

Some elephants escaped from the circus on the east end of Toronto. This is the 911 call.

Caller: "We, um, found an elephant."
911 dispatcher: "Sorry"
911 dispatcher: "How big are we talkin' here?"

This is the link for the police and the dispatcher talking about the escaped elephants. The best line, "We have only one outstanding elephant."


this morning

We look like ghosts. Weird. This is kinda better:

Hey, if you're looking for real time, you don't always get a perfect pose. Oh and by the way, she's back to sleeping through the night. Yippee!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Look at her looking at you!

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New browser

I am writing this post using Flock. And I have to tell you, if this whole social-networking thing continues to take off, people will be flocking to flock.

Billed as a Social Networking Browser, this is what it says on the Flock website:
Flock simplifies social and web-based applications by bringing them one step closer to the user and integrating them directly into the browser. People can easily discover, access, create and share videos, photos and comments across social communities, media providers, and popular websites
Indeed. And for people who offer content, like say, a blogger, it connects things in a simple intuitive way and allows for even easier sharing.

Currently, it's easy to share Flickr images or YouTube videos. It's a couple of clicks from the respective website. However with Flock, it's from the browser. I know, for people who don't blog this might not make sense. But understand this: sharing pictures of Autumn will be a lot easier. I just dragged into the frame. Call me a geek, but I am loving this.

Now I have to go an update my flickr page.

Sicko and healthcare

Sicko has premiered in America. If you haven't seen it, go see it. Hopefully it will rekindle the argument for universal health care.

America is the only 'Western Country' without Universal Health Care. When I first moved here, I often forgot that I had to pay to see the doctor. If I needed a test of some sort, I had to pay for the test. One time my doctor wanted me to have an asthma test -- I really thought against having it since it was going to cost $10. And I'm insured.

The people against Universal health care use the term "Socialized medicine". It's a boogyman term, meant to conjure up scares of communists, and anti-capitalist. In Sicko, Moore treats the word "Socialism" with over the type frightening images and music, making it almost laughable.

To Americans, Socialism screams Russia. And Ronald Reagan said they were evil. Meaning, the theories they used were also evil. it's a simplistic worldview call Manichean whereby everyone is either Good or Evil. It currently has the President as a believer, but that's a whole different post.

Regardless of the origins, and the why's, the reality is that Socialism is the scary word. But it makes me wonder, for a second, about US Healthcare. Assuming it isn't socialist medicine, then what is it? If it was free market, I should have had options for my asthma test. I should have been able to get the test for $1 from the person who came last in their class. But I can't shop around. My choice was get it or not. And really, that's our health care 'choice'.

Advocates of the system would scream at that, saying I have way more choice. But honestly -- when is the last time someone shopped around for care? We did shop around for a pediatrician for Autumn, sort of. We went to a place, checked to see if our health care would be accepted, and it was. Thus, we took them. But, and this is important, we didn't sign them up as our doctor because of price. Or service -- you can't know that. We like our pediatrician: he runs marathons, has a couple of little girls; in short, we have a lot in common with him. But I have no idea how much he costs. We saw that he had a diploma, and it says he's a doctor, but I didn't gauge his ability to care. And that's the point: in this free market system, we're left making personal, yes social choices for our doctor.

Do people 'shop around'? Are we really free to make a free market choice other than switching doctors? Because in Canada, I was free to switch doctors. I did a few times actually. So does the US system really just give the illusion of choice?

Since we get health care through my work, the only 'choice' I truly have is where I work. But switching jobs to switch care doesn't exactly seem like a 'free market' to me. So what is American Health Care?

Well, according to Sicko, it's an industry that is required, under the law, to be profitable to its shareholders. As the American population's belts expand, the need for care increases. And a business must cut corners, and raise prices in order to be profitable. That's the US system.

Finally, Moore offered ammunition to the debate on health care. He rightly pointed out that America has socialized police and socialized firefighters. The heroes of 911 work for the government on our behalf. If you're in the process of getting mugged, you don't have to pay for a cop. But if the mugger breaks your leg, you have to pay to get it fixed.

Likewise, if you're house is burning down, a government run system will come to your house and put out the fire for free. But if you got smoke inhalation, you have to pay to get that looked at.

Make sense of that.

And one more thing while we're at it: listen to this deal.

For $35 per month, your whole family can be insured. It includes unlimited doctor office visits of your choosing; covers all accidents, routine exams, physical therapy, labs and X-rays; and the like; unlimited hospital visits and stays; certain chronic care and rehab; full prescription coverage; and unlimited specialty consultations. There are no deductibles, no co-pays. All for thirty-five dollars!

Plus, the group awarded this insurance looks forward to a full pension and continued coverage until their deaths.

On your dime. Because this group is Congress. So, while you and I don't get Universal Health Care, Congress basically does ($35 a month is laughable).

I'm getting angrier.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Why this matters

Sen. David Vitter, a leading Christian Social ConservativeRepublican Senator David Vitter of Louisiana was not merely a supporter of last year's proposed constitutional amendment to "protect the sanctity of traditional marriages" by amending our Constitution to ban same-sex marriages, but he was one of its chief sponsors. And not only was Vitter one of its chief sponsors, he was also one of the nation's most extremist supporters of the amendment.
Glenn Greenwald - Salon

Yesterday, WAPO reported that Senator Vitter was in the phone directory of a Washington Madam. In a statement, Vitter says he confessed to God, his wife and has moved on. Oh, and he's sorry.

Really now.

Is this hypocritical? Is it hypocrisy to be a Senator from Louisiana and suggest that "I don't believe there's any issue that's more important than this one." It wouldn't be if that issue was protecting a broken state from another Hurricane. But of course, it isn't. That issue is the aforementioned amendment to the constitution prohibiting same sex marriage. I could give him a pass if he was from just about any other state. But he isn't. He's from Louisiana.

Now, one might think he he said those words before Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged his state. This 'joke' shows he didn't:

In his statements at the luncheon, Vitter referred to the impact of both hurricanes on the Lafayette area. "Unfortunately, it's the crossroads where Katrina meets Rita," said Vitter. "I always knew I was against same-sex unions."

There have been many, many people who protest about the morals of the country whilst doing things a common citizen would find immoral. Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson courting the social conservative vote stand out. The thing is, I think I feel the most sorry for the people of Louisiana. With leadership like this, how will they ever fully recover?

In 2000, Wendy Vitter, wife of the guy above, told Newhouse News Service she could not be as forgiving as Hillary Clinton.

"I'm a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary," she said. "If he does something like that, I'm walking away with one thing, and it's not alimony, trust me."

See, now I feel sorry for her too.

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A follow up to last night

Dear Autumn,

You woke up this morning at 3:30AM. You tried to go back to sleep, you really did. You drank a bottle, you rubbed your eyes, you even closed them for a few seconds.

But it was not meant to be. We called it at 4:45AM. Which is when I got up with you. At first, we played in the dark in the living room. I thought maybe it would dawn on you that it wasn't dawn yet, and you'd go back to sleep.

It didn't work. You're cute, don't get me wrong. But we have to work on this sleep thing.

Love Dad.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Can you sleep through the night?

Dear Autumn,

It's hot. I can't argue that. Today was 90. But you're room has AC. It's an even 75 in there. Ask the cat, in between me having to give him pills for a thyroid problem, he wants to be in your room.

For the last three nights, you've woken up, on average, four times. Sometimes it's just screaming. Other times, it's flat out wide awakeness -- which even isn't a word, I know. You were so tired, you went to bed tonight at 6:00PM!

It's now 10:00PM. You've been down for 4 hours, and I take it instead of the nap we thought you were having, this is it for the night. Okay then. Sleep. Honestly, it will be good for me, your mom, and even Lucy who isn't sure what to do when we get up at 1:00AM.

Think about it.


Love Dad.

The list of recalled Chinese products

Regular readers will know that I'm not a big fan of things "Made in China", especially things for Autumn. Books printed in China sometimes use lead-based ink, and the plastic 'stuff', while cheap, there's a hidden cost to the thing. The first is the cost to American commerce. Money spent on something from China goes to China. Second, the cost of transporting materials to China to be assembled and then from China to be sold. That's a hidden cost.

Then there's a cost of quality. it's a less well-defined cost, because it involves a lot of things. But one of them is hazard. So here is a list of products recalled due to hazard.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A day out picking fruit

We decide to go for an outing on Sunday afternoon. Since fruits are currently in season, we thought we'd take Autumn berry picking. Blueberries and Raspberries in particular. We had to go out all the way to where these live:

And this is what happened:

Some pictures

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Sochi, Russia won the winter olympics

It was announced the other day that Sochi, Russia, will host the 2014 Winter Olympics. It's sort of a shocker in that Sochi is a resort town that sits on the Black Sea. Sochi has palm trees as you can see in this picture.

Curling with Palm Trees. It's almost like California.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Smily, clingy

She's awesome. And lately, she's turned clingy. if mom or I hold out our arms, she'll run over to us and give us a hug. If we say kiss, she'll come in hard, mouth open, and give us a smooch. It's messy, but awesome.

But yes, she's in clingy mode. Last night we had dinner at a friend's house. They have two little girls 7 and 4. The little girls were fascinated with Autumn, and sometimes got a little close to her, scaring her a little. Every time, she would look for one of us (whoever was seen first) and throw up her arms looking for help. And when we grab her, she throws her head into our shoulder and gives us a squeeze.

These are fun times to be around her. And really, I am posting this picture more because I want to look at her.

What else do we 'know'?

Stop me if you've heard this one: The Chinese word for 'crisis' includes the symbols for 'danger' and 'opportunity'. Thus, this ancient Chinese wisdom suggests, look for opportunity in every crisis.

Standing on it's own, it's a nice piece of wisdom. But it's completely wrong:
"The of wēijī, in fact, means something like "incipient moment; crucial point (when something begins or changes)." Thus, a wēijī is indeed a genuine crisis, a dangerous moment, a time when things start to go awry. A wēijī indicates a perilous situation when one should be especially wary. It is not a juncture when one goes looking for advantages and benefits. In a crisis, one wants above all to save one's skin and neck! Any would-be guru who advocates opportunism in the face of crisis should be run out of town on a rail, for his / her advice will only compound the danger of the crisis."

There's no real danger to thinking that in every crisis one should look for opportunity.

One of the best examples of that, I think, was the Tylenol scare. Tylenol bottles were tampered with, and resulted in the deaths of seven people. It's still unsolved. However, Johnson and Johnson, the makers of Tylenol, responded with triple sealed safety bottles to ensure no bottle could be tampered with again. So while Tylenol took an initial hit, it came back aggressively and won back even more market share.

In a crisis, they found opportunity. But not right away. Right away, they had a huge nightmare on their hands. It took them two months to reintroduce their new packaging. And they had a plan to discount the bottles. But when you really think about even this, you wonder what other choice they had. Clearly the new packaging was more expensive, meaning they lost margin. They basically had to respond.

The point is, the Chinese wisdom almost welcomes crisis. Which really is a scary thought. No one is looking for it. And when crisis comes, there isn't always an obvious answer.

But the whole point of this is, what else do we think we know, but actually don't?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

What day is it?

I can't tell. It feels like Monday, but not really, and plus tomorrow is Friday. Weird. There should be a card for this kind of day. Maybe they'll get one at this site one day. Hope all the Americans reading this had a good fourth. Hope the rest of you had a good Wednesday.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Fourth

This, I have to admit, is weird. A Wednesday off to celebrate the birth of a Nation. It should go without saying that this isn't just any nation. This is one of the only ones on the planet with an official start date. One day it was 13 colonies, the next, a country. Other places enjoyed (or suffered) revolutions, but this is the first to come out of it as a country.

Canada never really had a start date. More like an evolution. That's why in Canada, if July 1st (Canada Day) falls on a Wednesday, the holiday is moved to the Friday. That way, Canadians get a long weekend, instead of a day off in the middle of the week. I'm not saying one is better than the other. Indeed, hump day off is nice in that weird way. And those times when the 4th falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday virtually guarantee a four day weekend.

So here we are. July 4th. A nation celebrates. Only, last night I watched Sicko. And around that, I'm reading "A Tragic Legacy" by my new favorite political writer, Glenn Greenwald.

It's perhaps the combination of these two things that has me wondering about the future of this country. In the movie Sicko (which I urge you to see), Michael Moore asks: "Who are we?". Meaning, who is America?

He does it after a sequence that will leave shaking your head in utter disbelief. It's near the end of a movie that will anger you, sadden you, make you feel hopeless and hopeful, and make you laugh.

Today this country celebrates a birthday. But if you're reading a book that explains plainly what makes George Bush and his supporters tick, and you just watched Sicko, it's worth reminding oneself of the possible greatness of this land.

America is about potential. It's about hope. And yet right now, there appears a movement afoot designed expressly to leave only fear and hopelessness. And I wonder when America breaks out.

Happy Birthday America. Thanks for taking me in. I promise to keep hoping for the best.

Autumn is one

This is the video we watched when Autumn turned one. I actually made it into a DVD. It's presumptuous, I know, but if you want a copy, I can mail it.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

You get what you pay for

In a blog entry called, "The China Price", Nigel Hollis asks if "you get what you pay for" when it comes to China. He reports that 80% of the world's toys come from China, and that "wooden railway toys coated with lead paint" were recently discovered.

This is straight economics. When the price is pushed hard, quality is often the loser. In the US, consumers push price hard. We're told that price is the number one factor in the purchasing decision. Nigel says this:
People are not to blame for wanting the best price, but Western retailers and manufacturers who try to provide the best price by buying their products or ingredients from the cheapest supplier (at home or abroad) are potentially vulnerable.
I agree. People aren't to blame for wanting the lowest price. But they are to blame for not factoring in other hidden costs. People must be aware that when they buy a shirt from Wal-Mart for $1.99 with a Made in China label that there are hidden costs associated with that shirt. Quality is certainly one. The China brand isn't yet associated with quality. But there's also an intuitive cost associated with the shirt. Like 'quality', it's hard to quantify, but that doesn't mean it's hard to identify.

He finishes his post with this question:
Who is ultimately responsible for the quality and safety of the goods we buy?
Some will argue that the market should be responsible. If the "China brand" continues to be blasted with lead toys, bad fish, poisonous toothpaste, there will be a tipping point whereby people will avoid it. However, there could be changes in the labeling laws that make it harder to avoid. How does one avoid eating Chinese ascorbic acid (vitamin C) if it isn't labeled? Likewise, how does one avoid eating Chinese fish if it's merely fish in your local Wal-Mart?

My feeling is, and always has been that there are cost hidden within the China Brand. Although, avoiding it altogether is tough, consumers can make smarter decisions about purchases that will move the market to items that combine quality, safety and price.

Finally, I know this: I would not want to be on the creative team selling brand China.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Help Autumn win $2,500 in the Great American Photo Contest!

Update: Don't vote. It's a scam trying to sell you stuff. Ignore this whole post.

I was looking for something for one of our clients, and found this website. I just entered Autumn into some photo contest. Because she's the cutest ever. Apparently, if you vote for her, we might win $2,500. They ask you for more information than just e-mail address, so feel free to abstain. Here is the text of the e-mail they want me to send you:

"I just entered Autumn in the Great American Photo Contest. The baby with most votes this month wins $2,500 (that could be a nice amount to put away now for college!!). Please do me a big favor and click on this and vote for Autumn. It takes a minute. I really appreciate it, and so does Autumn . Thanks in advance.

Matt Hames

p.s. Tell your friends to tell their friends!"

Don't tell all your friends. And like I said, feel free to say no. This might be a too good to be true thing.

Here's the picture I entered: Love the boots and the measuring cup.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Autumn's Birthday party

We did it. We had 20 plus people over (almost entirely family on the Hames side). We fed 'em, we gave 'em drinks, and we had a good time. Here are some pictures.

This is the cake that Mom lovingly baked for Autumn.

She really did have a good time. We'll tell you a little more later.