Sunday, September 28, 2008

World Travel One Couch at a Time


A friend just told me about the site www.couchsurfing.com -- a website that facilitates strangers staying at the homes of other strangers when traveling.

My friend said his wife is obsessed, spending hours connecting to people in different groups on the site. And he and his wife have had people from all over the world staying with them. Plus he and his wife have stayed with other strangers when traveling.

I'm not advocating this website, although it is an interesting concept that you might want to check out for yourself. It's certainly a unique use of a social networking website.

Bon voyage!

Technorati Tags:
, ,

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Self-Publishing: Valuable Reference Book for Comparing Companies

Stacie Vander Pol, author of the new book TOP SELF PUBLISHING FIRMS, asked me to review her book for Amazon. I have just posted my five-star review there, and I wanted to mention the book here in case any of you are considering self-publishing.

There are so many self-publishing firms to choose from that it can be very hard to decide which company to use. And what I learned from Stacie's book is that, if you're not careful, instead of comparing apples to apples, you'll be comparing apples to bananas and oranges and kiwi and every other fruit that exists.

Her book's comparison chart can be an invaluable tool to a prospective author overwhelmed with choices. And her advice, particularly on the trickiness of evaluating royalties, is excellent.

If people you know are considering self-publishing, tell them about this book. They'll be glad you did.

Technorati Tags:
, , ,

Friday, September 26, 2008

Gluten-Free Brownies and Cookies That Taste Really Good

I wanted to share with you that a Los Angeles bakery whose products are gluten free (and therefore wheat free), dairy free (no casein) and kosher ships brownies and cookies throughout the United States. For those of you with food sensitivities who long for truly delicious treats, this is a place to check out. (I personally vouch for how good the treats are.)

The website is www.thesensitivebaker.com, and this could be a great place to find gifts for people who have everything -- except treats they can eat!

Technorati Tags:
, , ,

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Facebook: Important Basic Rules for Beginners on This Social Media Platform


I’ve just started a group on Facebook called Information Mavens – a place for people to post information that can help others.

Because of this new group, I’ve “friended” two women new to Facebook, and on both their profile pages I’ve noticed some basic “errors” about which I’ve told them.

Thus I wanted to write a quick post about these plus one major “error” that many people do in order to help other people:

• Do NOT put your birth year on your profile (it is NOT required). It’s good to put your birth month and date so people can wish you happy birthday. But to protect against identify theft, leave your year off.

Your profile photo should be of you alone and a close-up so we can see what you look like. As Chris Brogan said when I heard him speak in LA yesterday, if you have a good photo of yourself on social media platforms, you can be recognized when people meet you at a live event. (If you’d like more advice on profile photos, get my free report “7 Mistakes to Avoid to Protect Your Image on Facebook” at www.millermosaic.com.)

• Privacy settings are very adjustable on Facebook – it’s up to you how much you want people to see without being your Facebook friend. To make this decision, you need to decide what your purpose is on Facebook. If, like me, you want people to know about your novel and your blogs and your online businesses, you want to let as many people as possible find out about you. (But I still don’t put my telephone number and email on my profile page.)

And here’s the fourth important point thanks to MaryPat Kavanagh (www.queenofmarketing.com) and her valuable Facebook webinars:

• With a friend request – always include a reason you are asking someone to friend you (unless it is someone you already know personally). Do NOT just click the friend request without adding a personal message. If you have a connection, say what that connection is. Or if you just like the person’s profile info, say what in the profile info attracted you to making a friend request.

Although I do want to expand my friend circle on Facebook, after learning this advice from MaryPat I usually ignore friend requests of people I don’t know who don’t write a personal comment with the friend request. I figure it’s not a real request to start a Facebook relationship but just a numbers game.

Facebook can be a wonderful venue for making friends, learning new things, and promoting your blogs and businesses. But it is NOT a magic wand. You do have to put in effort and interest in order to get a good return on your investment.

I’d love for you to friend me on Facebook if we’re not already friends. Just be sure to tell me where we “met.”

Technorati Tags:
, , , ,

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Asthma and Allergy Advice: Check out the Website of Allergy and Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics

This morning at Starbucks two conversations about trying to solve asthma/allergy problems of children were taking place around me. As I personally know the frustration of trying to find the answer to a child’s medical issues, I wanted to share with you here the link to the organization that made such a difference in my family’s life when my children were young.

Allergy and Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics can be a literal life-saver for parents who are at their wits’ end concerning their undiagnosed (or diagnosed correctly) children.

In a recent newsletter from this organization, an article brought tears to my eyes as I read the saga of a mother whose child’s doctors did not “see” that the child had classic asthma and allergy symptoms. Only when the desperate mother stopped accepting the doctors’ brush-offs did she find the medical help her child needed.

And what was most surprising in the article was that, for anyone who knows anything about asthma and allergies, the symptoms were classic. (This is in contrast to symptoms that don’t present as classic.) So why didn’t the child’s doctors notice what was going on?

Parents whose children are continually sick without any specific diagnosis must educate themselves in order to get the right medical care.

And if you’re on Facebook, join my new group Information Mavens. I’m hoping this group page will serve as a place for people to post information that can make other people’s lives easier.

Technorati Tags:
, , , , ,

Friday, September 19, 2008

No Problem: These Words Should Be Banished from Everyone’s Speech

I just renewed my online subscription to Daily Variety (an entertainment industry newspaper) that I have had for several years. Daily Variety is NOT the only game in town, so you would think that the subscription person would take the opportunity to say something along the lines of “we appreciate your continued subscription.”

Okay, I can keep my blood pressure down if I’m not thanked. But when I thanked the subscription person for her help, her reply was “no problem.” And that reply of “no problem” sent me immediately to my computer to let off steam by ranting in this blog.

When will people who use that expression understand that they sound as if they are saying the opposite?

The word “problem” connotes a negative response. Instead of saying “no problem” as if assuring the other person it wasn’t a problem, the reply should be something along the lines of “it was a pleasure” or “I was glad to be able to help.”

These are examples of a positive response that produces a pleasant feeling in the other person rather than the annoying feeling produced by “no problem.”

Let’s all unite to banish “no problem” from the English language!

Technorati Tags:
, ,

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Project Runway Cuts a Designer for Dressing a Professional Woman in a Suit

I’m addicted to watching Bravo TV’s PROJECT RUNWAY even though I know little about fashion and care even less. It’s the creativity motivated by each challenge that intrigues me.

This week’s episode found the remaining six designers facing the assignment of designing a makeover look for recent college grads starting out on the path of their professional lives. And the designers had to also please the mothers of these young women.

The young women ranged in career paths from possible med school to photographer to graphic designer. And it was for the graphic designer that the hapless fashion designer created a suit look.

One of the judges reamed him for creating a look with all the “clich├ęs” – a woman in a suit with a pocket square in her breast pocket.

Personally, I’m old enough to remember when it was novel that designers created suits for business women. I even did a news story for the (now defunct) Philadelphia Bulletin about a Philly department store that opened a department for suits for professional women (rather than suits for traditional social functions attended by “ladies”).

In fact, I was so excited to be able to buy such a suit in which to interview as I neared graduation from Wharton’s MBA program that I actually made the fashion mistake of buying a purple linen suit to wear in March in LA. Only once in LA wearing my purple linen suit and surrounded by women in dark suits did I realize that professional women wore “winter” colors and fabrics in LA during the winter months.

The look that got the fashion designer cut from Project Runway was surely too formal for a young woman interviewing for a graphic designer position. Yet in my time the brightly patterned blouse worn under the pinstripe suit material would probably have produced fainting spells among any women and men who spotted the off-beat blouse.

I’m happy for young women starting out today that fashion dictates now allow them a much wider range of styles in which to express themselves and still look professional.

Technorati Tags:
, , , ,

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

College Applications: Announcing My First Special Report on This Subject

I coach high school students on overall planning for their college applications based on my FLIPPING BURGERS philosophy of following their passion in high school. The best time to start this overall planning is the summer before 9th grade – before their high school curriculum has been set in stone by what they take in 9th grade.

As I coached students I became more and more frustrated that students with good grades, great SAT scores and high school extracurricular activities would wait until the end of 11th grade or the beginning of 12th grade to think about college applications. At this point these students usually didn’t have anything outstanding on their college application resumes – outstanding being defined as different from other college applicants with the same grades, test scores and routine high school activities.

So I wrote a book with advice that began before 9th grade and continued through college and afterwards for help with first jobs based on the FLIPPING BURGERS philosophy of following your passion.

Publishers rejected the book because they couldn’t figure out where to categorize the book – it wasn’t just a college application book or a first jobs book – it was a system that could be used for college applications as well as first jobs.

And while I was contemplating self-publishing the book, I learned about Web 2.0 and the selling on the internet of special reports. Voila! The solution to my wanting to make this information available was at hand. I would publish on the internet special reports based on the material in my book. Students could buy the reports that they needed when they needed them.

Thus I’m happy to announce the availability of the first report – a special college application planning report called THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW AND DO TO BE AHEAD OF THE GAME OF COLLEGE APPLICATIONS.

If you know of any 8th or 9th graders or their parents and mentors for whom this advice could be helpful, tell them about this report. You may earn their undying thanks if you save them major aggravation and hassles when the student is in 11th or 12th grade.

Technorati Tags:
, , , ,

Sunday, September 14, 2008

When Will Gender Stereotyping Ever End?

My business partner Susie told me that her two-year-old granddaughter doesn’t like Minnie Mouse but likes Mickey Mouse. But the child’s mother is very frustrated because she can’t find any girls’ clothes with Mickey Mouse. All the girls’ clothes have Minnie Mouse.

Luckily I was already exercising on the treadmill so I didn’t have to take out my anger on anything else. “I’ve been fighting this battle for 27 years,” I said to Susie. “And things don’t change.”

This gender stereotyping is so wrong and so pervasive. Years and years ago I wrote to Lego explaining that, if they only showed pictures of boys on the Lego boxes and on the tv commercials, the company would achieve a self-fulfilling prophecy that only boys wanted to play with the Lego block sets.

Of course my letter didn’t make any impact on Lego. And the marketing gurus of Lego continued to address my younger daughter with a boy’s name when she sent for the free Lego offers.

And then Lego brought out pastel-colored Legos targeted at girls, which as I recall bombed. (Who wants to build interesting structures in pastel-colors?) My daughter bought numerous castle sets (she later fenced saber and majored in Medieval/Renaissance literature at college) along with other sets targeted only at boys.

And, yes, I know that Lego and Disney marketing gurus can probably point to studies that “prove” that there aren’t enough girls interested in Mickey Mouse clothes or Lego building kits to warrant changing their “business as usual” models. But I did learn in my statistics class in Wharton’s MBA program that you can set up a survey in a specific way to get a specific result if you understand the mechanics of survey questions.

So there’s no excuse for these gender-stereotyping products except the prejudices (and I do mean prejudices) of the marketing people making the decisions (aided and abetted by their advertising agencies). I do so hope that in the transparent world of Web 2.0 some of these things will finally begin to change.

Technorati Tags:
, , , , ,

Monday, September 8, 2008

First Bill Gates-Jerry Seinfeld Television Ad: Not a Winner

You heard it here first. On August 21st I posted about the proposed Microsoft ad campaign featuring Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates– see http://snipurl.com/seinfeldgates. I said I couldn’t see how these proposed ads would work to make Microsoft seem more hip.

The September 8th Wall Street Journal article by Nick Wingfield and Suzanne Vranica titled “Critics Say Gates-Seinfeld Duo No Laughing Matter” had some harsh comments about the first ad in the series. (I had seen the ad a few days earlier and thought it off the wall without contributing to updating the Microsoft image.)

In the Journal article I particularly appreciated the quoted comments by Leslie Smolan, chief strategy officer at New York branding firm Carbone Smolan Agency:

Despite this attempt to be cool, the commercial does nothing to change Microsoft’s brand image. It’s big, it’s got deep pockets – certainly deep enough to buy any celebrity it wants. What it doesn’t have is creativity, the key ingredient Microsoft has always lacked.

That’s kicking Microsoft where it hurts!


Technorati Tags:
, , , , , ,

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Miller Mosaic LLC – Working to Make Your Life Easier: Our Company Website Is Now Live

Our company website www.millermosaic.com is now live! And we’re very excited to have this portal site leading to our various other projects including www.estateplanningforyou.com.

If you go to www.millermosaic.com you can get the free pdf download “7 Mistakes to Avoid to Protect Your Image on Facebook.” And if you go to www.estateplanningforyou.com you can get the free pdf download “4 Important Questions You Should Ask About a Living Trust.”

Both websites provide information to make your life easier by helping you to avoid unpleasant situations. At Miller Mosaic, LLC we’re committed to sharing our information with you.


Technorati Tags:
, , , , ,

Thursday, September 4, 2008

National Suicide Week Is Sept. 7-13 With No Help From the FDA

The September 3rd Wall Street Journal article “Elevated Rise of Teen Suicide Stirs Concern” by Sarah Rubenstein made me see red. Here’s a paragraph from the article:

The rise in suicides coincided with Food and Drug Administration advisories about antidepressants that led to an October 2004 decision to require strong “black box” warning on all antidepressants’ labels.

Hello, what did anyone think was going to happen after the FDA required “black box” warnings on antidepressant labels, scaring parents who took their children off the medication?

I’m going to provide the pull-out box from the Journal article because the information in the box is so revealing:

· 1990-2003: The suicide rate for people 10 to 24 years old slid more than 28%.

· 2003-2004: The FDA issued advisories on antidepressants and required “black box” warnings on labels

· 2003-2004: The suicide rate for young people rose 8%.

· 2004-2005: The teen suicide rate slipped but remained elevated.

In my opinion it was criminal of the FDA to suggest that teen suicides were on a rise due to antidepressants, conveniently overlooking the fact that people who take antidepressant medication often take it because they are already suicidal.

I hope that any parents who yanked their children off antidepressants because of the FDA’s advisories have now taken their children to be re-evaluated by a mental health professional and have re-considered medication.

On the bright side of National Suicide Week, read my blog post at http://snipurl.com/armysuicides for some reassuring news about the U.S Army’s new approach to preventing suicides.


Technorati Tags:
, , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Will Rogers State Park: A Fitting Tribute to Gary Eifer

On Sunday the family and friends of our dear late friend Gary Eifer gathered on the lawn in front of Will Rogers’ house to celebrate Gary’s life with the dedication of four rocking chairs especially made to re-create rockers from the time of Will Rogers.

(See http://willrogersranchfoundation.org/ for a special thanks about the chairs.)

In keeping with Will’s love of comic sayings, a storyteller regaled those of us commemorating Gary Eifer with tall and short tales.

Te choice of Will Rogers State Park for a memorial was particularly fitting because Gary collected art and furniture of the Old West and he loved the outdoors.

For those of you who don’t know who Will Rogers was, here’s an explanation from one of the websites about the park:

In the early 1930s, Will Rogers was the most popular and highest paid actor in Hollywood. From his start in vaudeville theater with a trick roping act, he rose to world-wide fame as a columnist, philosopher, radio personality, and movie star.

During the 1920s, he bought land in Santa Monica, where he developed a ranch. Eventually, the Rogers’ owned 186 acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean, in what is now known as Pacific Palisades.

The ranch became the place where Will Rogers could relax with his family and friends, pursuing his favorite pastimes of riding and roping.

At his untimely death in a plane crash in 1935, Will Rogers’ ranch consisted of a 31-room ranch house, a stable, corrals, riding ring, roping arena, polo field, golf course, and hiking trails.

When Will’s widow Betty died in 1944, she left the ranch to the State of California to become a state park.

Today the house is open to tours, and you can admire Will’s collection of furniture and art of the Wild West.

Both Will and Gary shared a love of spending time with family and friends, and both men died sudden unexpected deaths.

I highly recommend visiting Will Rogers State Park if you have the opportunity. Sit in the rocking chairs in front of Will’s house and think about two wonderful guys taken from our midst before their time.

To the memory of Gary Eifer.


Technorati Tags:
, ,