Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Solar power evolved: harness the heat, get more power

This is a brilliant idea: the evolution of solar power. I read this and thought, duh, of course! there's more heat than light and the science behind it makes more sense as to why this is the better way to go. I'm sure there are alternate thoughts on this point, and I'll keep an eye out for those as well.

New York Times' article called "In the Desert, Harnessing the Power of the Sun by Capturing Heat Instead of Light" printed 17 July 2007 by Matthew L. Wald

Bayer's change management

I have to say, one of the most influential phrases ever uttered to me was "it's all about the process." From a grad-school instructor who was often talking about change management, organizational development and business management. At the time I thought he was full of it, but in the past few years since I heard it, I've realized he's absolutely correct and right-on. Thanks, Richard.

There was an interesting article it the Financial Times about Bayer's CEO and their past years of change management. I have a strange interest in pharma after working on a group project that featured Pfizer, Roche, Schering, and others. (One of my teammates worked for Roche at the time.)

Here are some of the segments I found most interesting:

"Communicating the board's thinking and winning over the workforce was a longer process, in spite of his reputation as a down-to-earth character." {Key here is that clear, consistent, and meaningful communication is the difference between something being successfully understood and being just more words in the corporate sphere.}

"A new, compact, four-floor organizational 'nerve center' has meant most people who are needed for big decisions are within shouting distance." {I liked this name instead of war room since I think the military culture in the US is too entrenched (see? see?) in US business and business thinking.}

"'I think we were driving at the limit over the past few years. A lot of things had to be shouldered by the same people,' says Mr Wenning. 'But we never gave up anything we wanted to do.'" {I thought this was a nice point about how if you are in a significant role within a company and you care about what happens you are in the position to deal with more than most and if you are smart about it and the conditions are right, it can work out for the best. You just may be more worn than others. It's the passion, hopefully, that gets you through.}

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ecofriendly version of Google search

This is exceptional because of how a single change can make such a potentially large impact.

When your screen is white - an empty word page, or the Google page, your computer consumes 74 watts, and when it’s black it consumes only 59 watts.

Mark Ontkush wrote an article about the energy saving that would be achieved if Google had a black screen, taking in account the huge number of page views. According to his calculations, 750 mWh per year would be saved. That’s the kWh per year that 1,000 average US refrigerators would use. Ok, so it’s not an enormous amount to stave off global warming, but it’s significant just by doing something small like changing the color. (Of course in the world of graphic or visual design, changing a color isn’t small.)

In a response to this article Google created a black version of its search engine, called BLACKLE, with the exact same functions as the white version but with a lower energy consumption.
Check it out !

P.S. Bank of America is a key sponsor of the NYC campaign from City Hall, GreeNYC, which promotes suggestions to fulfill its tagline: “Small Steps, Big Strides”. GE and ConEd are the other two corporate sponsors.

Monday, July 23, 2007

great design interface for politics

This undecided interface made me want to be Canadian for a few minutes while I did it. How nicely organized and concise. I not only understood the issues but each party's stand on each. Brilliant! (I'm just wondering how to make this fun interaction WCAG or Section 508 compliant.)

"Undecided" is (what their creators at refer to as:

A product which provides new tools for making decisions through comparative analysis, seeking to provide an alternate model for voter participation through online networks. Voters inform party policy, and parties present platforms to potential supporters. Each of the major parties are allowed to put forward a limited number of issues. These issues then make up the core criteria of The Undecided. The parties are required to take a stance on each issue, which affords side-by-side comparison for undecided voters.

What I really dig about this is its unbiased approach to choosing a political platform - sorta working in reverse like one of those personality tests you find in Cosmo (I don't read Cosmo - just sayin'). And not unlike one of those tests, you learn some pretty shocking things about yourself, politically speaking.

Apart from its obvious agenda, the UI is also really clean and simple – surprisingly fun to navigate. Check it out:

Good communication, product and customer service design

This was from a post from a co-worker, so not mine. I thought this was such great stuff that I wanted to share it:

Today I came home to find an unexpected package sitting on my front porch. It was a small box from Samuel Adams Brewing Company. Inside the box was a note, a small booklet, and 2 glasses designed to maximize the enjoyment of their beer. The glasses were sent to me free of charge from Sam Adams for being a subscriber to Beer Advocate magazine. The glasses were designed by Jim Koch, Brewmaster at Sam Adams, along with several several beer and wine critics. The goal was to design a glass to enhance the flavor of the beer, just like different wine glasses enhance the flavor of different wines. The end result was glass with a unique shape designed to highlight malty beers and bring out the aroma of hops.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any Boston Lager in the house, but I did have some Sam Adams Summer Ale. The glass did seem a bit small, but it held a 12oz bottle perfectly, with the head stopping at the rim. The bottom of the glass has a very thin circle etched into it, which released a slow stream of bubbles. The walls are very thin, similar to those on wine glasses. The beer seemed to swirl into the larger bulge as you drank it, releasing a nice hoppy aroma. The beers head was also retained longer than it does in typical pint glass. The beer did seem to finish smoother using this glass when compared to a bottle.

Does the glass actually help one enjoy the taste of the beer? It depends on who you ask. In countries known for their beer (Belgian, Ireland, Germany, etc), the answer is yes. In the US, most bars don’t take the time to serve the beer as the brewer intended. Beer Advocate has a breakdown of what type of glass should be used for what types of beer at

As a home brewer, and a beer lover, its great to see an American brewery trying to stick out from the crowd. The booklet was designed very well, explaining the features of the glass. The glasses lived up to the hype, and gave me a reason to sit down and enjoy a Sam Adams. Hopefully other brewers will pay close attention to what Sam Adams and other Craft brewers are doing to revive the American beer industry.

Steve Jobs' advice for giving a good pitch

I still think our training in Pratt's Design Management prepared us all for making excellent pitches. Here's a view being circulated online:

Here’s a quick five-step deconstruct of Steve Job’s January 2007 MacWorld presentation / pitch (where he introduced the iPhone for the first time) ...

From Business Week:

1. Build Tension

A good novelist doesn't lay out the entire plot and conclusion on the first page of the book. He builds up to it. Jobs begins his presentation by reviewing the "revolutionary" products Apple has introduced. According to Jobs, "every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything…Apple has been fortunate to introduce a few things into the world." Jobs continues by describing the 1984 launch of the Macintosh as an event that "changed the entire computer industry." The same goes for the introduction of the first iPod in 2001, a product that he says "changed the entire music industry."

After laying the groundwork, Jobs builds up to the new device by teasing the audience: "Today, we are introducing three revolutionary products. The first is a wide-screen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary new mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device." Jobs continues to build tension. He repeats the three devices several times then says, "Are you getting it? These are not three separate devices. This is one device…today Apple is going to reinvent the phone!" The crowd goes wild.

Jobs conducts a presentation like a symphony, with ebbs and flows, buildups and climaxes. It leaves his listeners wildly excited. The takeaway? Build up to something unexpected in your presentations.

2. Stick to One Theme Per Slide

A brilliant designer once told me that effective presentation slides only have one message per slide. One slide, one key point. When Jobs introduced the "three revolutionary products" in the description above, he didn't show one slide with three devices. When he spoke about each feature (a widescreen iPod, a mobile phone, and an Internet communicator), a slide would appear with an image of each feature.

Jobs also makes the slides highly visual. At no place in his presentation does the audience see slides with bullet points or mind-numbing data. An image is all he needs. The simplicity of the slides keeps the audience's attention on the speaker, where it should be. Images are memorable, and more important, can complement the speaker. Too much text on a slide distracts from the speaker's words. Prepare slides that are visually stimulating and focused on one key point.

3. Add Pizzazz to Your Delivery

Jobs modulates his vocal delivery to build up the excitement. When he opens his presentation by describing the revolutionary products Apple created in the past, his volume is low and he speaks slowly, almost in a reverential tone. His volume continues to build until his line, "Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone." Be an electrifying speaker by varying the speed at which you speak and by raising and lowering your voice at the appropriate times.

4. Practice

Jobs makes presentations look effortless because he takes nothing for granted. Jobs is known to rehearse demonstrations for hours prior to launch events. I can name many high-profile chief executives who decide to wing it. It shows. It always amazes me that many business leaders spend tens of thousands of dollars on designing presentations, but next to no time actually rehearsing. I usually get the call after the speaker bombs. Don't lose your audience. Rehearse a presentation out loud until you've nailed it.

5. Be Honest and Show Enthusiasm

If you believe that your particular product or service will change the world, then say so. Have fun with the content. During the iPhone launch, Jobs uses many adjectives to describe the new product, including "remarkable," "revolutionary," and "cool." He jokes that the touch-screen features of the phone "work like magic…and boy have we patented it."

I think speakers are so afraid of over-hyping a product that they go to the opposite extreme and make their presentations boring. If you're passionate about a product, service, or company, let your listeners know. Give yourself permission to loosen up, have fun, and express your enthusiasm!

Map your own way with Google

Google Maps now allows you to drag and drop points of your route to override the default and redraw the route from new waypoints. While planning our wedding and putting a map (that my graphic designer husband created on his own in Illustrator based on directions we got from Google Maps) I would have LOVED this feature about 7 months ago! There is a video demo of the feature here:

I haven't had a chance to play with this yet, but I encourage you to go have a look. It's especially good, most likely, for people who live in or near big cities where the default directions aren't bad but don't 'know' about local traffic patterns and can often send you into or across toll roads to go half a mile. Try to send someone from Fort Lee, NJ to Hoboken, NJ and not have your directions send you across the George Washington Bridge and then back through the Lincoln Tunnel. It's happened to me in the past, and I can't tell you what a bad idea that route would be.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Design Degrees: Masters vs. PhD

debating the value(s) of a masters vs PhD degree and then also that a degree in design, especially big D design is a professional degree (like Design Management's MPS from Pratt). So it's less about the academic than the professional application. I'm not sure how I feel about this assessment. I think she's right that PhD is more about having an ultimate question that needs to be answered and so much more in-depth research in many more fields and perspectives is required. For me the question is: does that alone make you a better 'big D' design professional or academic?

Here's another viewpoint from my all-favorite Design Council:

I like the comment that :
Too many designers forget that the focus of design is not self expression...' because as we all know that would be art, not design.

Does anyone who has applied their Masters or PhD degree at work (or to start a new business) feel that having one versus the other makes a difference in practice?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

the perfect burger must wait

I love going to Shake Shack. Sometimes the almost hour-long wait makes me question my sanity, and yet it helps make me even hungrier and therefore the food and drink even more enjoyable. I secretly think that this helps with the success of their business.

So in my usual excitement, I got a group of friends to go with me tonight to Shake Shack for dinner. We waited on line for about 40 minutes and got to have one of those beeper things each a s we waited for them to get our food ready. It was an improvement (experience) instead of waiting around the order window for them to call the number on our receipt. Anyway, the friend that went before me got her food about 5 minutes after we sat down. Then 15 minutes later the friend just after me got hers. Then another few minutes and the other 4 friends got their meals. So I go up and ask about my order. It's almost ready but the shake isn't ready. So I go back to the table and wait.

I wait for another 5-10 minutes. So I've been waiting patiently for my food for over an hour all in all. I finally get my little beeper go off and get my food. The guy behind the counter who I asked about my food minutes before says "Guess you've been waiting a long time for your order, eh?" I just smiled and said "Well, yes, it's been a while."

I sit down and start on my Shack Burger (yummy!) and it's not quite hot. The cheese fries are a little cold and the cheese is just a yummy blob -- neither of which are hot. Just about warm. The thing that I had to wait for the longest, it turns out, was my Arnold Palmer. I discovered this drink two summers ago and haven't looked back. Half iced tea and half lemonade. YUMMY and refreshing.

So will I never go back to Shake Shack? Of course I'll go back. Will I talk smack about their wait times. Probably. But I was expectedly hungry and so it was super tasty even though it was late. And like I knew before I got on line. Waiting will only make it taste better -- and it's true.

I have to say, if the staff weren't so friendly I'd be more resentful of waiting. (I've worked in Customer Service for 3 years and at supermarkets in various positions for another 3 during high school. So my expectations of what someone in a service position can and can't do or be like is pretty high and also tolerant. I know what it's like to deal with the public and that's why I haven't done much of it since 1998.)

getting married and giving something 'green' as a favor

I wanted to give our wedding guests something special as a thank you. Keep it in line with my environmentally responsible values and something that represented good design as the way to an eco-friendly product. I did some research when we first started planning our wedding and decided that between his love of coffee and my strong belief that coffee beans are great product to do organic, fair traded, and compostable end-product. I started reading up on Rainforest Alliance certified coffee and that led me to Good Coffee Online.

I have to say that one of the only stress-free things about wedding plans was getting coffee from
I dealt with Gary there for about 6 months over email. He helped me figure out what blend and to make a personalized message on the 2.5oz bags we'd be putting at everyone's place at the tables. It was completely enjoyable to deal with the company and they made it as easy for me as possible. I don't think they make a lot of money from doing an event like this and believe that they enjoy getting people to enjoy good coffee that makes a difference as much as I do.

If you want to give something different to your wedding (or any event) guests, go for it. Give Gary and his team a call (or email).

I'm so grateful to them for making this one less thing for me to fret about, and as it's 2 weeks to go, the fretting is increasingly almost daily.

EU sets the way for product and environmental laws and guidelines

"Standard Bearer: How the EU exports its laws"

I don't care who sets the standards as long as the standards adopted by most of the world are better and sensible than what came before it. And as much as I make comments that Brussels/EC are anal and narrow-minded, sometimes that turns out to be a very good thing. I just wish the US would follow -- and maybe Gov. Schwartzenegger is right. Don't wait for the federal government, do it yourself. And good design is the way forward, laws or no laws.

Sections of note:
"finding it increasingly hard to escape the clutches of the Brussels regulatory machine: "The relative impact of EU regulation on US public policy and US business has been dramatically enhanced. Even if a country does not adopt the [European] standards, the firms that export to the EU do. And since most firms do export to the EU, they have adopted the EU's more stringent standards.""

"Compared with other jurisdictions, the EU's rules tend to be stricter, especially where product safety, consumer protection and environmental and health requirements are concerned."

"the global impact of three recent EU laws on chemicals, electronic waste and hazardous substances: "The EU is increasingly replacing the United States as the defacto setter of globalproduct standards and the centre of much global regulatory standard setting is shifting from Washington DC to Brussels."Japan, for example, has copied a whole batch of EU environmental laws..."

"Immediate EU neighbours such as Switzerland and Norway as well as countries in eastern Europe, the Balkans and North Africa are committed to keeping their regulatory regimes as close as possible to the EU approach to ease trade. Countries hoping to join the 27 must in any case incorporate the Union's rules and regulations down to the very last line."

"But the key factor is having the highest standard. Global companies develop products for the global market and that means they have to follow the highest standard - which today tends to be European."

"This means European automotive groups such as Volkswagen or Renault can export their vehicles to Japan, India or China without having to remodel their cars or seek the approval of foreign safety authorities. Their US rivals, meanwhile, are often forced to invest in additional tests and costly tweaks to their models before they can be shipped abroad."

"They all know that Brussels is slowly but steadily emerging as the regulatory capital of the world. As much as some loathe it, it is a trend that business leaders and policymakers from Tokyo to Washington feel they cannot afford to ignore."

English candy bars rule! (Yes, really, they do)

I completely agree with this article.
"The World's Best Candybars, English of course"

I never thought that Hershey's was good, it was just chocolate. My first trip to England and my first candy bar there made me realize what I had been missing. And oh, how completely exciting and fun it was to look a the candies and chocolates on their storeshelves, how totally different and more interesting!

I was thinking, THIS is what Cadbury's is supposed to taste like? What the hell is with that crap they give us at home? And then, and THEN I had hot chocolate in Paris that blew my mind, and friends gave me chocolates from Germany and Switzerland. But the candy bars from the UK do totally and completely rule!

I'm just grateful that between Carry On Tea & Sympathy and Myers of Keswick (shops both in the West Village, in what should be re-named "Little Britain") are nearby.

Carlos Slim is #1

What I find most interesting about Carlos Slim is his name. Yes, ha ha he's not slim. But what kind of last name is that? He's Mexican of Lebanese immigrants. But is Slim a Lebanese last name?

What I find most interesting about the article is that his rise to financial dominance is because of his desire for power. And just like the Beatles said 'can't buy me love', and maybe for my point here it would have been better to say 'can't buy me health.' Now Mr. Slim is a widower and may be suffering from heart-related health problems. Maybe that's why he's looking to be more generous with his financial fortune and not give up his monopoly.

As I see it: He earned loads of cash because he wanted more power, not money. Power begat money and now his health is possibly waning, which money may help fix but can't guarantee. Does he not care so much for the money as long as he keeps the power to make him feel alive? So he donates because it's not the money that he values.

From a story I heard, 'As long as I put my two feet on the floor in the morning, it's a good day.' I wonder if Mr. Slim would feel the same way.

a history lover ponders this future

"Liberal Catholics in Turmoil Over Return of Latin Mass"

I love to know about history. Really, I like to know why things are the way they are and inevitably going back far enough in history and comparing different parts of the world's experiences gives you some reasonable answer.

I don't know a ton about Vatican II or why it was a good or bad idea. I have heard over the years from my family that it was when the church tried to be modern and a lot of the stalwart traditions of the Catholic mass were changed. I've been to a traditional mass in Latin. It was much more enjoyable than the ones in English. I even like the ones in Italian or Spanish. Any language where I understand less makes something very familiar to me seem more interesting. I'm not much for the priests' sermons. Most of them really do play on the you-must-feel-guilty-and-repent -- and the few that are worthwhile seem to be from priests who are in demand and don't stay long as a single parish.

I'm a bad Catholic. My family and my husband's family are very good Catholics. They go to mass, they pray, they believe (really) in the holy trinity, they think that everyone has the right to practice their own religion (or none), they believe in God, and the Mexican side even confess regularly. I'm my cousin's daughter's godmother. I've been to mass about 10 times in the last two years. I believe that having a church around the corner from my apartment that I've been to twice gives me no excuse for not going. It's right there.

I'm a bad Catholic because I'm a hypocrite.

I, like most humans, enjoy a routine and therefore find something 'safe' in tradition. I like the idea of mass. I like the idea of reading the bible and cross referencing it with other historical documents. I have a problem with the church. Well, truthfully I have a problem with being told what to think about big concepts. I completely disagree, like most Catholics, that the bible should be taken literally. I'm not a fundamentalist and if anyone wants to believe that the men of the Old Testament really lived to 900 years, then go ahead. I'll still think you're a bit nuts and you'll still think I'm a harlot. I, therefore, think that some of what got translated into English is probably a bit off and if it's not. I don't want to have anything to do with a Latin mass that states there's anything wrong with Jews or being of the Jewish faith. I'll let those who know argue that point out (see the article's main position of why "Liberal Catholics" are having a problem with the conservative Pope's decision to allow Latin mass again.)

I'll tell you what I do know: I'm a hypocrite. I really cringe inside every time I think about it. I think the church is antiquated and an interesting political machine in the middle ages (my favorite time in history). I don't go to mass, I don't confess regularly, I actively disagree with statements by the Pope (well this one more than the last, John Paul II was a great people person so I would at least listen), and I have a very hard time with the concept of the holy trinity and immaculate conception. So i don't have faith, because that's what faith is. It's believing in something you can't prove. Or at least that's my take on what faith is.

But I do believe in god. Maybe it's for fear of not believing and then when I die I'll be wrong. Or that believing in it makes me feel less like a speck on the planet which is barely a spec in the known universe. But I want my children to be baptized in a Catholic church. I want them to go to holy communion and get their confirmation. This is where I'm a hypocrite and a traditionalist. I don't want to have much to do with the church, yet I'm getting married in it in two weeks. I don't feel that our civil wedding last year has the same authority or validity as the church wedding will in two weeks. I love my husband and so getting married twice is okay even if the planning is driving me up a wall.

Thing is I want the church wedding. I want my children to go to mass and learn about our families' religion. And yet I want to have nothing to do with it on a daily basis. Hardly the model for any child who I expect to take it seriously. And that's the thing about it for me. I don't expect them to take it all in very seriously. I want them to know what religious traditions they come from. If they want to go and convert to another religion, then we can figure that out when it comes up. I'm a huge fan of Buddhism. We visited a Buddhist temple in Seoul and watched my Thai friend do prayers. She was welcome because she is Buddhist even if she isn't a Korean Buddhist. So not anyone can participate, plus it's really complicated motion if you don't know what they're doing. And that made me think: Do Catholics let in anyone? Not always.

I agree with the Church of England and Lutherans on this point. Invite everyone, God is a benevolent entity, and we're not too sure about the Pope making decisions for us all. I even think that the Muslims make more sense than the Catholics sometimes. But like every religion, it depends on who you're talking to and what their take on the 'party line' is. I might just know some level-headed people to discuss these things with...

I don't even know what to make of this 'perfidis ludaeis'. Even if it "only" means 'anti-faith' that's still pretty insulting. So they have a different faith than Catholics, does that mean that Jewish faith isn't valid? This may be a good time to have not failed out of Latin classes. Maybe I'd understand the context in which those two words showed up. More importantly, does anyone think that the Jews feel that Catholics have a more valid religion than they do? No, of course now. So why would it work the other way around. Catholics and Jews are like two fighting brothers. We're not going to agree, let's just not try to piss each other off.

I was in Salt Lake City last year. I think that Mormons are a little odd. I, however, don't think my family's religion is better or worse than theirs. And I believe that I would find talking to a Mormon about their practices and faith would be terribly interesting. I'll bet my finding them odd is because I don't understand. Or maybe not. I've been watching "Big Love" to get some insight and I know it's just drama.

To finish this explanation: I wanted to be Jewish around the time I was 13. It's fairly easy to figure out why, that's when all my Jewish classmates were having bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah. Who doesn't want a party the size of a wedding when you're 13? I went to two temples and sat through two services. I was impressed. I liked that most of it was in Hebrew and my friends were up there trying to remember their 'lines.' I should have avoided the bagel with lox at that time. I didn't become a fan of that until MUCH later.

There was something vaguely familiar about Judiasm and it took me a little moment before I realized their Torahs are the Old Testament. Plus their torahs are old and historic artifacts, which I love. And I have a problem with believing some dude was the son of god, too. So I felt a bond there. I'm just not waiting for the messiah to come. Maybe he's already showed up, maybe they have come and gone many times, or maybe it's not coming. I don't know and more importantly I don't care, so I'm not going to engage anyone in conversation about it. I'll just piss someone off by my own ignorance and that's hardly the way to have a day.

No matter what's going on, I'm a hypocrite and trying to deal with that. Really figure out why I want all these important moments to be validated by an entity I claim I don't respect. If my grandparents were still alive (and I wish they were most days) they would probably be disappointed in me. Still love and accept me but be disappointed that I don't share their beliefs which were really so very important to them. I think they'd like my husband though, he's a much better Catholic than I am.

Will travel for food... steamed buns in China, yummy.

"Steamed Buns on the Bund"

I haven' t yet had the chance or true inclination to travel to China until last week. (See article for why)

Let me think about my travels to Asia at all. I've always wanted to go to Japan (still haven't) for their noodles, city lights, high-speed trains, cultural differences and to experience the Tokyo subway. Oh and to see Hokkaido (I'm a sucker for all novels by Murakami and "A Wild Sheep Chase" just got me really curious about Japan's northern island of Hokkaido. I wanted to go to South Korea and had the chance, and excuse, to spend the money in January for a very close friend's wedding in Seoul. I want to go to Thailand to see why they love their king so much and get myself an 'i love the king' yellow tshirt. I've even wanted to go to India, see what all the fuss is about, check out some ancient architecture, and of course the food. So my travels to Asia have been only one and my dreams of it have been many.

I once went with two friends on the Chunnel from London to Paris to get the best hot chocolate in Paris, based only on one of the two's recommendation that it was. She was right. It was incredible. It was about 8 hours in one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen, and I saw it on one of the most rainy days ever. So we ran through the Louve, and then straight to Cafe Angelique. The hot chocolate was the best I've ever had. I didn't get to see the Eiffel Tower since it was covered by fog and gray sky. I remember the food. I will always travel for food.

When we were in Florence last summer, our last day there before heading to Pesaro I found a sandwich shop that made the tastiest sandwiches because they used regionally-grown extra virgin olive oil that tasted like something. I bought a bottle of one whose flavor I loved and used it protectively over the past year. I enjoyed every smell and feeling from that bottle.

I also really have a thing for two pastas that I was able to find in Pesaro and not in New York. They're not THAT unusual and yet, I saved the label and bags they came in and would bring them with me to Italian shops in the city. No luck. I'm so very grateful my lovely friend from Pesaro is going to bring me two bags when she comes to visit in a week or two. I'm very excited about the pasta. Light, eggy, like air. You wouldn't drown it in some heavy sauce. The most lighly seasoned and freshly chopped tomato. Simple, simple, simple. That's what Italian food means to me. Something tastes like something, don't hide it. Match it with other tastes and make them all shine better.

I've also been to Wagamama on Lexington St in London about 10 times. I went five times once during a week long trip to London. Yes, I love Japanese style noodles in soup. I feel like I have to pace myself, but I could really eat them several times a week (if not more often). I also love a particular fish and chip shop in an town just outside of Ilford (East London/Essex). I know how to get there by car from a stop in Ilford on the 123 bus. I've had fish and chips in New York at A Salt and Battery a bunch of times. It's the closest to the stuff from 'home.' But it's the travel there that makes the experience of the food better. I really love British food. They really do know how to do a nice dinner. Toad in the Hole and Spotted dick, yorkshire pudding and roasted, well, everything. It's the place I learned to enjoy vegetables and that cooking with onion was a pleasure. (I come from a very Italian family and it took me living in England for a year to come to love onions and garlic, go figure.)

Now, back to my original point, I will travel for food. And if food will travel to me, that's good too. It's why I live in New York City. I don't enjoy working too many hours or the subway in the summer, but it's a foodies' city and I love it here.

When I was a kid, Big Bird from Sesame Street either went to China or made friends with a little Chinese girl. Either way, I learned how to say 'hello' (nee-how) and saw the Great Wall of China and got interested. I must have been about six. More recently, I've read loads about how advanced China is in some urban planning, cutting edge design, and how totally environmentally destructive Bejing is, poor quality (food, products -- recent export fiascos) and how very soon there will be more English speakers in China than in the US. But this article made me want to go. It was about a lovely experience with food.

soccer, futbol, David Beckham and the US

Why Beckham Must Woo America's Soccer Moms"

Yes, I know, another article I note from the Financial Times. I can't help it. It's a more enjoyable read than the Wall Street Journal and satisfies my anglophile need to know a non-US perspective on world events.

I really liked this commentary article for two reasons: (1) It explains pretty well why plenty of people in the US watch lots of non-US soccer (aka futbol) and not US soccer, and (2) why hiring David Beckham for LA Galaxy is probably misguided. Beckham is no Pele, and even Pele couldn't get the States to want to watch the game after he stopped playing for the Cosmos.

I also really enjoy the anonomous nod to my (and others) support of the game on a world level. Calling in 'sick' when the World Cup or Champions League matches are mid-week and at some ungodly hour for someone in NYC to be watching TV if that same person expects to be ready for a 9am meeting at work.

Here are excerpts of the article I thought were poignant:

"The game has thrived as a pastime for kids such as Stone precisely because there is no big soccer in America. The soccer moms are glad that it is not a big professional sport such as basketball or American football. Many Americans are fed up with their professional sports, whose stars do lousy and unethical things such as shooting their limousine drivers."

"He [David Beckham] will find that impossible, because soccer is already on the map in America. The US has a strong soccer culture. It is simply different from any other country's soccer culture, and will remain different in spite of Beckham."

"Today more American kids under 12 play soccer than baseball, American football and ice hockey combined. Admittedly, they rarely watch it. By the lake, Stone said that in spite of playing the game all his childhood, he could never have named five professional players. In fact, he hadn't even been conscious of the professional game's existence. His was a very American suburban story. "It became a standing joke", writes David Wangerin in his book Soccer in a Football World, "that the reason so many Americans played soccer was that it enabled them to avoid watching it"."

"Many of America's ethnic groups follow foreign soccer. So does what Stone called the game's "geek cult following", a growing American demographic that bunks off work in mid-afternoon to watch Champions League matches. During World Cups, even some suburbanites switch on. Nearly 17m Americans saw last year's World Cup final, 4m more than watched an average game in the NBA finals and almost as many as saw the average World Series baseball game in 2006."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dude, turn off your power strips when you're out and save money!

I'm serious, try this at home!

Plug all your computer, printer, lights, cable box, wireless router, stereo, DVD player, TV, etc in one or two power strips. You know, the stuff you don't have on when you're not home and the stuff that you don't need to have on while you're out.

Then before you leave your house/apartment each day turn off the power strip. (You will, of course, have to turn it back on when you come home, and your cable TV and router may take a minute or two to start up. But if you can hold back the addiction a few minutes, your wallet will be heavier each month because of it.)

When you're not using them UNPLUG your microwave, coffee maker, toaster, and other SmALL kitchen appliances (don't turn off your oven or refrigerator, please). Or just turn off the powerstrip in your kitchen (if you have a place big enough that you have a kitchen), where all the little appliances are plugged in.

Unplug your hair dryer, curling iron, straightener, electric toothbrush, etc. Even unplug your A/C when you're not at home.

I did this just for shits and giggles for a month after my friend, Jee, told me a friend of hers did it but she wasn't sure she was going to try it. When i got my next bill I had reduced it by $17 (which my average bill is about $30). So I kept doing it. Then I switched from traditional energy to ConEd Solutions (a blend of various environmentally friendly options) which was a few cents per KwH higher than traditional energy supply. And my bill was still lower year-on-year monthly comparisons. THEN! THEN! After a year of this, I recently switched to wind-energy only (again through ConEd) and I'm still lower year-on-year monthly spending on electricity and gas than I was.

So now I'm all happy that I'm saving money and using only wind-powered electricity (assuming all the informational packets from ConEd are truthful, and I hope they are). Hooray for me and my self-righteous saving of my money and environmental guilt. You should try it yourself.

If it doesn't work as part of your daily routine, then try it the next time you take a vacation. Going away for the weekend? week? two weeks? a month (lucky you!)? Try it. You won't be there to know the difference and when your bill comes the following month, you will absolutely see a lower $$ due.

Here's some more reading about it from Ideal Bite. (I get the daily biter newsletters.)
"Turning it off" and using motion sensors to save energy and money, too. Article is called "Is clapping the easiest way to turn on the lights?"

NB This all assumes that you have your electricity priced by actual readings. If your home or building is billed by estimates, then you won't see a difference the next month. If you can, get your local energy company to take actual monthly readings. No sense overpaying (which you will) based on estimates if you can avoid it. Some buildings it's not possible to get actual readings, and sometimes they'll let you do your own readings over the phone with them if YOU can get to your meter. I could go on, but I won't.

InterSections design conference (Oct 2007) UK

InterSections design conference "Design know-how for a new era"
in Newcastle (UK) October 25-26 2007

Tim Brown (IDEO), Peter Saville (once of Factory Records), Deyan Sudjic (orig editor of Blueprint magazine), Iain Ellewood (head of strategy at Interbrand), Allan Chochinov (partner at Core77), and of course loads more. It will, as usual, be laden with product and industrial designers. Design as a business discipline still hasn't picked up -- so I'll settle for design as product and graphic design if I must.

My all-time favorite, Design Council, is one of the sponsors. If you're in the UK during this weekend and you get to go. Let me know what happened. (Please and thank you.)

NYC Kwik-e Mart (The Simpsons, you know)

If you don't know already, there's a Kwik-e Mart in Times Square (42nd St b/w 8th & 9th Aves). If you work around midtown like I do (ugh!) it's probably worth a visit. I know I want to visit.

I'd love to say I've been, since it's only about 5 blocks from my office, but I almost never get out of the office during the day. I wonder what the lack of sunlight is doing to my health -- in particular my mental health!

Want some more? How about all of The Simpson's movie marketing. And if you haven't made your own avatar, what kind of person are you?! Go, now! Make a Simpson's avatar of yourself. Do it, do it, do it!

Save energy, say no to neckties!

The was recently a surprisingly unsurprising comment from those in Brussels about a way to cut carbon emissions in the EU. European Commission is known for being anal and ultra-detail oriented when it comes to the EU... Anyone remember their famous list of measurements on what qualifies for a "button mushroom" sold in RU member states? Probably not, good for you.

They want to encourage (or force) offices to have a casual business attire policy to discourage the use of neckties, so that offices can raise the temperature of their A/C therefore use less energy during summer months and therefore create less carbon emissions.

Of course the EC offices don't intend to have the same policy apply to their offices, but who knows maybe they'll join their own bandwagon.

I'm not sure what I think about business casual for all offices. I'm a bit of a traditionalist, I prefer man in an office with a tie or jacket on. (Women, too!) I think dressing more formally naturally creates a work environment of stuffy professionalism. If, however, dropping the social and business custom of the necktie means less energy use during the summer -- I'm in favor of it. I suppose the necktie (a distant descendant of the napkin/bib anyway) could be replaced with something else fashionable... like saving money on your energy bills!

Patron, social networking, branding

The community is an extension of the brand's "Simply Perfect" global, integrated marketing campaign. Members are encouraged to "ID" their PatrĂ³n bottles by entering the handwritten numbers on their bottles of tequila to find out the history of that specific bottle, such as the field in Jalisco, Mexico, where the agave was grown and the year it was harvested, distilled and bottled--a way of deepening the connection between consumers and the brand.

Members are also encouraged to contribute their stories related to a variety of topics: drinks, cars, food, technology, music, and more.

There’s not too much content on the site now but it’s a pretty cool idea. It reminds me of a site that was out a few years ago where you typed in the number on your dollar bill and you could see the "travel history" of the bill if others had done the same. Clearly it was all community-based and not something that was tapped in to the US Treasury since the bills don't have RFID otherwise they'd be tracked and no one needs that.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

One-click award. I love the Japanese

I just get a giggle every time I play this. I don't really know why. Maybe it's because I'm a big fan of Japanese humor and design. Make sure to right-click at one point when they're running around.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

marketers, banner ads, the future of?

Marketers Seek a Banner-Blindness Cure -

I think they're missing the point. It's not something that needs a cure, it's something that people are blocking on because it has been and continues to be a lot of crap. More often than not, something that you don't want and just collects your personal information (cookies) for the marketers own use.

Did anyone else experience on Yahoo! mail the 10-day auction for something about American Express and NBC? All I know is that the damn banner ad was in Flash, took over the top half of my browser screen for a few, precious seconds to get my attention with what felt like 50 times during two days. I didn't want it, I couldn't tell it to stop, and I inadvertently clicked on it twice. It opened a new window which I promptly closed and was annoyed to have to do. Forget reading it or being enticed to find out more.

It's not a blindness it's a purposeful avoidance of having your time wasted and cookies put on your machine.

tagged articles for your enjoyment

Want something to read? check out what I've bothered to note as interesting:

An example of change management (what not to do)

Order to cut prices empties shelves in Harare
In the face of crisis, you have many options. The one most people tend to take is to pull in the reigns REALLY HARD in an attempt to stop more change from happening. What often happens, depending on how hard you pull and at what point. Here's an example of what not to do, even in the face of absurd inflation...

The death of print to come? Maybe it's just an education.

Sweet and Loman: Annalee Newitz on “The future of paper”

Digital Journalism, Paper Packaging

Full disclosure, I read the first few sentences and then skimmed the rest. I'm probably not talking to all the points and therefore proving myself out as a reliable source. Continue readings (or skimming) if you can be bothered.

See the thing about all of no more books, newspapers or printed materials is that I just don't believe it to happen anytime in the next few centuries or at all. (Unless there is a technology that people are so comfortable with and it changes cultural and social behaviors that printed materials are so passe as to not even be necessary for official invitations).

Here's why: Education is still based on paper. So as long as we're teaching each generation by using paper, it's going to be the media preferred by the general public. I'm not even talking about just the US, I mean everywhere. Now, I realize my point is assuming the replacement is digital or a digital equivalent for paper. This may be a bad and wrong assumption, I may be very wrong. That's fine, I'm not in the business of prediction. What I do still think is that paper isn't going to die. Maybe tree-based paper will go away based on resources and energy and environmental trends. "Paper" will only go away when we as a species don't prefer to learn by it and don't a deep association with something tangible. I think it's a human trait to enjoy touching and looking at print on paper or a paper-like material. It's also an attractive Luddite-ish tendency I have to prefer having something that doesn't require a battery.

I also think that print designers, writers, printers, etc are (of course) differently disciplined than those of the web. I have a great respect for people who pull off great design in print. It's a strange bias to have as a web person (although I started my path as an English major, so there you go I guess.)

Print designers can't take it back from the world. They can cancel an order, they can do a reprint. A mistake is a mistake that has a permanent mark. How many of you have gotten a frantic call that there's a typo on a website and rushed off to fix it? Boom, done. Of course if the server crashed or there's a fatal flaw, it's got a bigger history and the web remembers.

Maybe it's my penchant for the printed word. I don't completely agree with the Internet is dumbing us down however I do agree that it's a push toward skimming a LOT (hello RSS feeds!) and only focusing interest on key points. It's the long tail, I suppose.

There are many bloggers, writers, commentators who work in the internet-only world had to work in print publishing they'd do it differently. Better? Perhaps. Many come from a print background, so perhaps I'm too harsh.

I've worked in publishing three times with a cumulative time of 8 years: once as a writer and editor (3 years), once in customer service (2 years), and once in media/interactive working with editors (3 years). I have to say, the respect I have for a good writer, editor and designer (and a good printer) is because of the diligence they have on their final product. This is not to say that anything produced for online consumption or experience is any less, it's just different. The respect of the greater US public is far less for online than print. People get print, it's easier to say that it'll take X amount of time, money and talent. You get balked at for doing digital if you properly assess how much time, money, effort, talent it takes.

People in certain spheres are consumed by what web 2.0 is going to do for education and what the "millenials" are learning. What most of them don't get is that it's all about efficiency. A smart leader once told me that and he's damn right. Students (since probably the beginning of time) have done whatever is most efficient. Students are people and people do whatever is efficient to get to spend more time on what they enjoy. For example, not doing the before class
is more efficient than doing it after. Why? Because reading it before is reading it out of context. A good professor puts the learning into context. So reading (or rather skimming, since that's more efficient) after class is more efficient. If at all, since not reading might be the most efficient, depending on the grading/course structure.

I'm not making my point as eloquently as I would like. I'll get it together eventually and repost.

Monday, July 2, 2007

If I could have dinner with anyone...

Well since Arthur Miller is deceased, I'd have to say Beatice K Otto is at the top of the list -- with a close second by Margaret Bruce. (Margaret Bruce is a leader in Design Management and co-author of one of my favorite books on DM, "Design in Business")

Beatrice K. Otto on Design Council's website. Ms. Otto not only covers my favorite topic at my favorite organization in the whole world, but well, actually that's it. Favorite topic, favorite organization -- therefore I'm a fan. I've never met Ms. Otto and so believe that having dinner with such a person would be stimulating conversation and hopefully in London at Wagamama on Lexington St in SoHo. My first and still favorite location.

(Yes, I'm an anglophile and absolutely in love with Wagamama. When I lived and travelled to Brighton (1998-1999) and London (1997-2001), Wagamama was only in the UK and one in Ireland (I think). Now it's spreading like the most delicious of trends. Finally there is Wagamama in Boston, but when will it come to my home of NYC?! Hopefully soon.)

If you want to know anything about good "big D" design believe that it's probably on the Design Council's website. the people search engine or something more?

I don't know that I want to be found, but if someone wants to find you, they will. Another new thing coming from the internet.

wanna get a PhD in Sustainable Studies?

please pass this on to interested researchers postdoc, 2 year position at Lund University
in Sustainability studies :

if architects had to work like web designers

A blast from the past and still completely relevant

GreeNYC and Bank of America

Bank of America doesn't win any of the sustainability awards from Financial Times [ ] , but looks like they are continuing their green push (after One Bryant Park building, sponsoring Planet Earth series, etc)

Anyone around Manhattan bus stops in the past week (and on busses) might have noticed the new ads. It’s recognizable with the little gray/green birdie on it and the tagline “small steps, big strides.”

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding Daniel L. Doctoroff today announced GreeNYC, an integrated marketing and advertising campaign that is the consumer education component of PlaNYC. The initiative, consisting of television, radio, print, online and outdoor advertisements supported by Bank of America, is designed to educate, engage and mobilize all New Yorkers on the simple steps they can take to reduce pollution and greenhouse gases, and to create a greener, greater New York City.

Here’s more about the plan itself, GreeNYC: