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Expand Your Mind: All Good Things…

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

expand-your-mindToday has good news and bad news.

The good news is that of the three startups I am part of two of them are taking off.

That means an escalation of the time I allot to them and that means less time for other things.

This brings us to the (possibly) bad news.

If I had a way to add hours to a day I’d have a product that would sell better than Love Potion Number 9, but I don’t.

That means I need to take time from something else and that something else is MAPping Company Success.

So, for now, I’m suspending weekend posts, i.e., MAPping Company Success will be published Monday through Friday.

I’m hoping this will allow me to rearrange my work sufficiently to provide the additional hours I need, at least for the short-term.

If any of you have thoughts on this please share them in comments or feel free to write me directly.

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

Expand Your Mind: Just for Fun

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

expand-your-mindOK, I admit it. I don’t feel like putting together a meaningful group of articles that offer insights or enhance your professional persona. Instead, I’m going to share four articles that I found interesting and/or amusing that provide little outside of interesting dinner conversation.

Winter weather often annoys gardeners; either the weather is yucky enough to take reduce the pleasure of being out (me) or so bad it’s impossible. This article is an almost lyrical look at winter gardens, especially for those who live in areas of true winter (not me) where everything seems to die except the evergreens.

We cry that the earth is draggy, the garden defunct. But as usual we’re actually whimpering about ourselves. (…) For in truth, our gardens haven’t gone anywhere at all. It is we who have elected to migrate someplace else for the season; that is, to a cocoon made of duvet, cookie crumbs and tubs of Eucerin.

I am a firm and vocal proponent of “doing good by doing [it] right” and so was fascinated to read an excerpt from the story of the building of Grand Central Station, which shows the idea has been around a lot longer than most people realize.

William J. Wilgus, the chief engineer for the New York Central Railroad, unabashedly proclaimed, “marked the opening of a remarkable opportunity for the accomplishment of a public good with considerations of private gain in behalf of the corporation involved.”

Libraries loan out all kinds of media these days, but it took a librarian’s innovative turn-of-mind to think of loaning out a donated doll.

When Ms. Taube became the children’s librarian in 2004, she found Kirsten languishing on a forgotten shelf in a library office within earshot of the busy children’s room, because library workers considered her too expensive to risk damage by displaying. (…) “I thought, ‘Well, we loan out books that are that expensive, so why can’t we lend her out too?’” said Ms. Taube, who hoped the doll would attract more children to the branch, leading them to read the doll books.

Last, but not least, is an opinion piece from the one and only Woody Allen who took time from his busy schedule to explain the difference between a hypochondriac and an alarmist. (This is especially for Julie.)

…I am not a hypochondriac but a totally different genus of crackpot? What I am is an alarmist, which is in the same ballpark as the hypochondriac or, should I say, the same emergency room. Still there is a fundamental difference. I don’t experience imaginary maladies — my maladies are real.

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

Expand Your Mind: Words, Phrases and Pictures

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

expand-your-mindAs you know, I have a fascination with words, their meanings, usage and contrariness; phrases, too, because their longevity in a world as transient as ours is surprising.

Both words and phrases can go out of style in days or be lasting—at least enough to make a 2012 list of most the popular, but only time will tell their staying power.

ALL due credit to petroleum and technology, social media and memes, and the humbling power of the weather, for their ability to generate and sustain new words. And the 2012 elections also made for a bountiful harvest of new political expressions.

For staying power, as well as mystery, you’ll have to go a long way to match the phrase the whole nine yards? Did you ever wonder where it came from?

For decades the answer to that question has been the Bigfoot of word origins, chased around wild speculative corners by amateur word freaks, with exasperated lexicographers and debunkers of folk etymologies in hot pursuit.

How many words does it take to create a dialog? Try six. A few years ago I introduced you to Smith Magazine, where people sum up their life in 6 words. Michele Norris, the National Public Radio host started a dialog about by asking people for their six-word thoughts on race.

She asked for just six words. (…)Two years later, the cards have become almost a parallel career for Norris, best known for her work on the NPR show All Things Considered. She and an assistant have catalogued more than 12,000 submissions on theracecardproject.com. People now send them via Facebook and Twitter or type them directly into the website, leading to vibrant online discussions.

Society defines many actions through words, but what happens when the actions change and society has no viable words that fit? People have to come up with their own.

…what to call two people who act as if they are married but are not. (…) One might imagine we would be less tongue-tied. The faux spouse is a pretty ho-hum cultural specimen for such a gaping verbal lacuna. But none of the word choices are good.

Finally, for those who prefer pictures, or at least visually enhanced content, there are infographics (and how to make them).

Many people don’t realise that the term information graphic, or ‘infographic’ was first coined over 100 years ago, with the Coxcomb chart by Florence Nightingale in 1857 being one of earliest recognised examples. They have existed in many forms since then, but only in the past few years have infographics developed into the art form we know today.

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

Quotable Quotes: Have You Ever Wondered(Words)

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tedxnjlibraries/4610197264/I love plays on words and playing with words; I hope you do, too. The following were accumulated from a variety of sources just for your enjoyment.

I grew up playing with a dictionary and my mother used the same language with me that she used with her friends; if I didn’t understand something I was told to look it up in the dictionary, but why is the word dictionary in the dictionary?

Another thing that always worried me and made me wonder was if a word in the dictionary were misspelled, how would we know?

Spelling is my bane (spell check is my salvation); I sounded out words, but why isn’t phonetic spelled the way it sounds?

If adding ‘in’ makes opposites, e.g., cautious and incautious, why do flammable and inflammable mean the same thing?

I don’t know about other languages, but English is confusing; for example, if a pronoun is a word used in place of a noun, is a proverb a word used in place of a verb?

Riddle me this, is an oxymoron a really dumb bovine?

Finally, in a nod to my techie friends I ask, are part-time band leaders semi-conductors?

Flickr image credit: TEDxNJLibraries

Expand Your Mind: Redemption

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

Here are four stories that come after the exposés that happen when things go wrong. I find it interesting to learn the aftermath, even if it’s a work-in-progress, especially when it is positive.

Just as Nike and others were in the spotlight in previous years, top electronic companies like Apple and Hewlet-Packard have increasingly come under the gun for the conditions in their overseas contract-manufacturing facilities, such as Foxconn, where just one factory has 164,000 employees and they have dozens. Now Apple is moving to change that—but not as a leader.

But the shifts under way in China may prove as transformative to global manufacturing as the iPhone was to consumer technology, say officials at over a dozen electronics companies, worker advocates and even longtime factory critics. (…) Changing the company’s culture is slow going. But the needed reforms, executives at Apple and Foxconn hope and believe, are falling into place.

What would you do if you woke up one morning at the age of 51 to find that what you had worked your whole career to achieve was gone and you were on the street with no job? That’s what happened to employees Lehman Brothers and many other banking houses in the Fall of 2008. Most were devastated, but Canadian Michael Tory took stock

“How did I feel? I woke up that Monday morning and I had my health, my family, my reputation and energy, I had lost nothing, really. It was a profound revelation to me. I had lost nothing important and, that day, I decided to start my own company.”

and proceeded to start a pure advisory firm focused on its clients (unlike Wall Street).

None of the partners would get stinking rich, but, equally, they would not have to act as shills, eternally pushing services or products because they paid jackpot returns, not necessarily because they were in the best interests of the client.

Anyone at all involved with the  tech world, and many who aren’t, heard when Yahoo CEO and ex-president of PayPal Scott Thompson was fired for listing a computer science degree on his resume that he didn’t have. Now Thompson is heading up a tiny startup called ShopRunner and just joined the board of PaySimple, another startup. According to Wedge Partners analyst Martin Pyykkonen Thompson need to prove himself.

“You have to kind of re-earn your stripes and your credibility and do something meaningful,” Pyykkonen said. “If he can pull it off with a small company, maybe that leads to the next tier up.”

but Thompson has a totally different take on what he’s doing.

“The only person I really need to prove anything to is myself. The jury’s still out, but I’m having a great time.”

Brian Lam interned at Wired and spent five years as editor of Gizmodo, Gawker Media’s gadget blog, where he nearly destroyed himself. Now, still on the Net, he’s redeemed his life.

And then, he burned out at age 34. He loved the ocean, but his frantic digital existence meant his surfboard was gathering cobwebs. “I came to hate the Web, hated chasing the next post or rewriting other people’s posts just for the traffic,” he told me. “People shouldn’t live like robots.” (…)  And now he actually has time to ride them. In that sense, Mr. Lam is living out that initial dream of the Web: working from home, working with friends, making something that saves others time and money.

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

Expand Your Mind: 6 Internet Odd Bits for 2012

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

Everybody and their brother are doing Best and Worst for 2012 lists on dozens of topics, so I thought I’d provide something a different. Below are links to six odd bits involving the Internet.

Do you consider yourself Internet savvy? Too smart to click on iffy links or fall for the latest in phishing stories? That’s great, but how are you at avoiding extortion?

Essentially online extortion, ransomware involves infecting a user’s computer with a virus that locks it. The attackers demand money before the computer will be unlocked, but once the money is paid, they rarely unlock it.

If extortion is what it took to get you to focus on security you would probably appreciate some info on how to create passwords that hackers hate.

Hackers regularly exploit tools like John the Ripper, a free password-cracking program that use lists of commonly used passwords from breached sites and can test millions of passwords per second.

The Internet is the greatest face-to-face avoidance tool ever invented; in most cases that not good, but there are times when doing things at a distance and avoiding direct contact is a boon for all involved.

Let’s just say that no matter how well ex-spouses and still-parents coordinate, there’s a good chance of teary phone calls, angry exchanges during drop-off, and all-out fights about who’s not saving enough for college, often played out smack in front of the children. Unless, of course, it’s all done remotely. (…) It’s joint custody — at a distance.

But divorce is an exception; in most cases building an active cyber-life is no substitute for real-world, real-life interaction as multiple startups are proving.

“We have an internal tagline: Use the Internet to get off the Internet,” said Kathryn Fink, community manager at Meetup, an online-to-offline start-up with 11 million members. (…) Hybrid social networks are connecting strangers with similar interests online, then directing them to meet in person for dinners, bar-hopping, bowling or biking excursions. Unlike dating or networking sites, these start-ups are focused simply on helping users make new friends and hang out face to face. If a hookup or job interview results — well, that’s just an added bonus.

While cell phones don’t fit technically into a review of Internet odd bits, I thought you would find this article on nomophobia of interest.

Doctors at a California recovery center say they are working with more and more patients suffering from nomophobia, or the fear of being away from their mobile devices, and that the condition can seriously interfere with people’s lives. (…) “One of the biggest things is anxiety or fear or panic at even the thought of losing their phone,” she said. “They make sure their phone is constantly in their reach, obsessively checking the battery life, and take their phone into inappropriate places to use it.”

Finally, while people may be familiar with Harvey Ball, the guy who designed the yellow smiley face in 1963, fewer recognize the name of Scott Fahlman, who created the :-) 20 years later.

In 1982, as a young professor at Carnegie Mellon University, he realized the need for a symbol to temper the bickering that plagued online forums. The Internet was just a baby then, and yet already flame wars raged. Fahlman decided that a smiley face could be useful as a “joke marker” (as he called it) to take the sting out of mocking statements or pranks.

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

Expand Your Mind: Short, Sweet and Fun

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

Today will be short, because I just burned my hand and typing isn’t fun.

Take a fascinating tour of the mindset of those born in 1994.

Ever wonder what extreme thirty and forty-something Wall Street types do for fun?

And if you’re in New York and looking for something different to do, try exploring the Museum of Mathematics at Madison Square Park.

If you think a cat owner would be thrilled getting a call from Hollywood for their cat to appear in the “Heathcliff” movie you would be wrong, especially if that cat were Maru, whose videos have been viewed some 160 million times.

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho YouTube: Basket00Case

Expand Your Mind: a Study of Studies

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

Organic foods may make you less generous. Men are dumber around women. People filter language through their fingers. New fathers pay less. Women use red to impress men.

Fascinating nuggets and just a small sample of the topics that are/have been researched and studied.

In the spirit of TMI, I found an op-ed lamenting the current fixation on sharing all life’s’ details to be hilarious.

But there is a new urge to behave as if life were some global high-school reunion at which everyone has taken some horrific tell-all drug.

A few days later I saw a study from Harvard explaining why.

Her goal: to determine when we’re most likely to divulge intimate facts and when we’re apt to keep our lives to ourselves.

TMI has another incarnation in the form of the not-bragging brag, which is truly annoying.

Enter the self-deprecating boast known as the “humblebrag,” a term devised by the comedian Harris Wittels, a writer for the NBC series “Parks and Recreation…”

Finally, if you love words as I do, it is interesting to note that similar sensationalism is found in the hard copy world, too.

Last week, the British newspaper The Guardian broke a story from the dictionary world that seemed, at first blush, to be quite scandalous indeed.

PS Sorry to be so late. I wrote this and forgot to click publish:(

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

Expand Your Mind: Rich Travails

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

Today is the first day of the last month of the year and it finds me in a not very business-serious frame of mind. That means the next few Saturdays probably won’t have much in the way of business-redeeming content, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be interesting or just plain fun.

Knowing that my readers share my concern for the downtrodden I thought it would be a nice gesture to check and make sure that the folks who toil in the canyons of Wall Street on the latest efforts to screw up the economy aren’t being mistreated. Nope! Looks like they are doing just fine.

The report showed that total compensation on Wall Street last year rose 4 percent, to more than $60 billion. That was higher than any total except those in 2007 and 2008 — before the financial crisis fully took its toll on pay. The average pay package of securities industry employees in New York State was $362,950, up 16.6 percent over the last two years.

Now that we know their income is safe let’s take a look at how they’re spending it and the difficulties they face starting with housing.

After paying $15.5 million last November for a 3,000-square-foot apartment at the Carlyle, (…) there is the little matter of the $455,352 a year that Mr. Grey, the chairman of Paramount Pictures, will have to cough up in maintenance charges.

But don’t fret for Mr. Grey; he didn’t buy a home he actually bought Art (with a capital a)

“Art is what people are willing to pay for, and an apartment like this is like a piece of art,” the Long Island real estate developer Steven Klar told a colleague of mine at The Times, Alexei Barrionuevo, in late July as he listed his penthouse on West 56th Street for $100 million.

And then there is the yachting crowd’s expenses, of which the boat is the least of it.

“When we’re cruising and burning 100 gallons of fuel an hour, I don’t think it’s costing me $300 an hour,” said Bob Schmetterer, the former chairman and chief executive of Euro RSCG Worldwide, the giant advertising and marketing company, referring to his 80-foot Marlow Explorer. (It holds 3,000 gallons, and he was moored aboard it in Maine when we spoke.)

Finally, there is Vaunte, the ultra-exclusive consignment site for those who want provenance along with fashion.

The site’s founders, Christian Leone and Leah Park, both Gilt Groupe veterans, aim to put a haute spin and a higher-than-usual price on their wares by applying to consignment shopping roughly the same precepts that govern the sale of art and antiques: in short, calling out an item’s provenance to close the deal.

Which brings us to next Saturday and a look at unusual holiday gifts; some of which even the rest of us can afford.

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

Expand Your Mind: Try Jookin

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

I call Saturday Expand Your Mind and I try and provide links to articles and information of which you may be unaware or that gives you a different view of something you already know.

Along the way I learn a lot—both new stuff and new ways of looking at old stuff—just like you.

What I want to share today has nothing to do with business or anything about which I usually write.

But it blew my mind and I thought it was likely to have a similar effect on you.

A little background.

Street dancing, for lack of a better term, fascinates me. The athleticism is amazing and the skill required is obvious.

As with any art form, innovation has moved it in new directions, with multiple offshoots.

My knowledge is miniscule, so I read with great interest an article on a form called “jookin” and its stellar practitioner, Lil Buck.

In the last few years Memphis jookin has acquired international celebrity, principally because of the exceptional young performer Lil Buck (real name, Charles Riley). An extraordinary YouTube clip of Lil Buck dancing “The Swan” to the cello playing of Yo-Yo Ma in April 2011 caused a sensation.

Of course I watched the clip and that’s what blew my mind.

What do you think?

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho; YouTube credit: OpeningCeremonyNY’s

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