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Alrighty … 2 comments

… now we're gettin' somewhere … 🙂 … Please come to the New Handbasket (Blogging v 3.0) and please remember to update your subscriptions at the new site.

I'll be more of a lurker/reader over here now … and will try to make my presence known with commentary and just general rabble-rousing … so much fun to meet so many cool people here @ Vox.

Stay well, all …


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TypePad’s Loss … WordPress’ Gain 5 comments

Well, after almost two weeks of pulling my hair out and getting nowhere that I wanted to be, I've pulled the plug on my TypePad account and am self-hosting WordPress. I'm thrilled … WordPress is slick, "problems" are easy to solve, it looks great and gives me (almost) total control. I just started things up yesterday afternoon and am already farther ahead than I was yesterday. Lots more work to do and no time to do it today, but here is my latest work in progress. I have a different look in mind eventually … but the current template will do for now.

(with apologies to karen and others in the six apart universe … )

Five Reasons TypePad Lost My Business:
Interface too hard to use. It feels like one of those things that is intuitive for the people who built it and can visualize the relationship between the structure of the GUI and the architecture … but it is NOT easy for folks who did not participate in its development.

Results poor. No matter how much the various "help" menus assured me I could do this or that with the design, it never quite worked out as it should. Or as I would wish it.

Promised functionality not delivered. Come on. I signed up for TypePad years and years ago, for free I think, under a completely different alias. For reasons beyond my understanding, when I upgraded my old account and started to add folders of content and different blogs, the original folder structure and naming conventions stuck and my new material NEVER appeared anywhere that could have a domain mapped to it. Come on. This isn't rocket science, it is Networking 101. Folder structures. Naming conventions. Pointing. Addressing. Get with the program people. This is what you are supposed to know how to do. Furthermore, widgets promising this or that functionality never worked, nor did they ever really "look" right when placed in the sidebars.

Customer service … too little, too late. I was assured yesteday, after many days of not hearing from anyone and me pleading for information, that they were "working on" the domain mapping problem and would have it fixed "within a week". A week?!? I'm at the second highest level of membership, this has been a stupid problem since day one, the entire crux of why I'm doing this blog switch involves me being able to map specific domains to specific locations … and you are going to take almost three weeks to let me know whether or not this is even possible?!? When your own bumpf assures users that it is "a breeeze"? What other delights await?

I'm paying for this? Given all the above, what exactly is it that I'm paying for? At the second highest level of membership?

I will say that TypePad made membership cancellation easy and they sent me a survey that allowed me to communicate all this effectively and, I hope, constructively. But, as of mid-afternoon yesterday, I'm a total WordPress convert. I'd been afraid of the self-hosting option as being possibly too complex for me, but it turns out that it is pretty damn easy. And I'm already paying for the privilege so this is actually "free" for me.

I feel like my blogging self is almost back on track now after being lost in the wilderness. Hurrah! 🙂

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Here I Am Again 3 comments

It was 1990, late summer/early fall. First L-T love and I were living in a gorgeous, quirky apartment over a tailor shop on Church St. in St. Catharines. I had a rather fun job with a steel distribution company that included bookkeeping on a new-fangled computer program called "Gem", making inside sales calls, and using a forklift to load and unload steel from the trucks as they arrived at the warehouse. I was the only "worker", other than the outside sales people – all men. There were four – count'em four – senior managers, only two of whom were actively involved in the day to day running of the joint. It was a cool little entrepreneurial venture launched by a bunch of senior execs from Toronto who were tired of living in the big city and wanted a taste of small town life. Basically, I got to do everything including, on occasion, accompany them on their negotiation trips with the larger steel suppliers.

Things were going ok, for the most part. Computers as integral parts of our lives were not yet present and, yet, this small exposure at work intrigued me. Through a family connection, I had an opportunity to buy a "real" computer for a vastly reduced – at the time – price. I remember it clearly: $2,500 got you a 386 Pentium and a 14" monitor, a dot matrix printer and Windows 3.0, running over MS DOS 5.1. Actually, it was a brief flirtation with something IBM called "PC DOS" round about then as they were feeling a wee bit pissy with Mr. Gates. Anyway, at the time, I didn't know anything about all that. Based on the stability of my job, I went and got a line of credit at the bank and invested in the computer as, at this price, at the time, it was a steal. We hauled the very large boxes home, took an entire day to set it up, and stared at it for a long time. Figured out how to turn it on and watched with frustration as Windows revealed its penchant for the blue screen of death.

Almost immediately after making this investment, I got laid off. The senior execs had a falling out amongst themselves, much legal wrangling, and the whole operation was being moved to a new location, far away.

Because the special opportunity to buy the computer was through an employee program, there was no returning it for a refund. I now had debt and a big plaster-coloured monster on my desk that I had no idea what to do with. Or what it could do.

It came with something called a 2600 baud modem and a phone cable. I plugged it in.

What followed was three months, the better part of a winter, of me getting up, kissing my partner good-bye after making coffee and having breakfast, and heading upstairs to sit in front of this … thing … for eight to ten hours a day, figuring it out. It wasn't like I was forcing myself to do it. I was drawn to it. I learned all about MS/PC DOS (same diff), learned how Windows "sat on top" of it, learned command lines, learned the limitations of Windows as an "operating system", learned how to use the modem (uh oh), and learned about Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs). Me and my coffee, pre-Internet, pouring over books, cranking up the long distance bills, and learning almost strictly and entirely by trial and error.

I learned a lot. I sat with my L-T partner's brother, someone who passed for a computer geek at the time, and would listen to his lively explanations of the internal workings of the computer and that really helped. I tried to ask intelligent questions but, not being formally trained, I felt really quite inadequate and in awe of anyone who actually Knew How These Things Worked.

By the end of the winter self-directed tutorial, I had started two businesses, one of which I sold 20 months later after starting it from nothing. (That business taught me the basics of databases.) The other lives on, after several morphs, as my consulting practice.

Flash forward – wow – eighteen years. In some respects, I'm still sitting here, pointing and clicking and wondering what will happen next. But, this week especially, it feels like I'm back at square one.

See, I'm branching out my creative and business online activities. I'm in the process of moving this blog, The HandBasket, to TypePad. I have plans for an additional five, count'em five, blogs that will also be on TypePad. Here on Vox, we are all producing content and driving traffic to vox.com from which they benefit enormously in terms of ad revenues. One could be resentful of this, but it isn't until one has tried to set up a blog, including domain mapping and advertising, from scratch, in the still quite buggy TypePad interface that one appreciates the slickness and cozy-cushy comfort of Vox.

Of course, Vox and TypePad are part of the same company, so many elements feel somewhat familiar. But the experience of "blogging" is quite different in the TypePad world. First – and this is what I'm working on now – the creation of a visually-attractive look/feel for the blog is trickier for those of us who are not particularly design-oriented. I'm thanking my lucky stars that I have retained some sense and basic "hunt/peck" skill about HTML and CSS. Still, I'm never sure what is possible or desirable, design-wise. It is – as it was eighteen years ago – all trial and error. I keep trying stuff and thinking, oh, I like that or euw that sucks. This will take a while.

Then there are crazy bugs, like trying to put one's blog on FeedBurner and being told that the feed is not verifiable. Then going through the verification process to slice out, line by line, the orphan/stray code that has been inserted but will not pass the feed test. Ref. my gratitude at having a passing familiarity with HTML.

Then there are "widgets". I've inserted about a dozen of them into the new HandBasket, only to find that they don't actually work without significant tweaking, some of which require a fair amount of fiddly concentration and not a small amount of frustration.

There is the interaction, selection and placement of ads which, in TypePad , will be entirely under my control. According to the stats monitor I've been keeping, The HandBasket (at Vox) has drawn an oddly consistent and ever-growing flow of traffic however I have NO expectation that it will be a money-maker for me. I'm using this blog as my sandbox at TypePad to figure out how it all works and what works best in terms of layout and types of ads. As with my experience eighteen years ago, it is a matter of trial and error. I feel that once I get this process in place and under my belt with The HandBasket, even with no expected revenues, the creation of several "real" revenue-generating blogs will be much easier.

There seems to be a myriad of tools out there promising great things in terms of keeping track of stats, providing search functionality, feeds, hits, bounces, referrers, etc. etc. Again, trial and error … good solid learning that also takes the most time.

Then, there is the domain-mapping issue. TypePad makes this seem fairly straight-forward but, in reality, something has screwed up in their folder structure that has made it impossible for me to map my totally cool new domain names to anything in my TypePad account. They have acknowledged this and are working on the problem, apparently. I think it is only a matter of aligning the folders properly.  (Cut to visual of me drumming my fingers on the table.)

Oh, and for reasons not yet known to me, I can't upload files through the upload button on the toolbar. Control panel, yes. Upload button, no. (More finger drumming.)

See, here at Vox, this is all pre-fab. When it is time to write, one logs in, clicks create, and away you go. Wanna change your design? Click on "design" and click on a template. Boom, done. Wanna upload something? No problem. I'm trying to create a similarly cosy environment for myself as a creative sort of person at TypePad. I want to log in, understand the shortest, clearest route to expressing myself, and have it done. Afterall, there is a huge relationship between form and content. If I don't find the process or the results pleasing, I won't keep at it. This learning curve has given me a new appreciation for the effort that has gone into creating Vox and I feel less resentful for the lack of ad revenue sharing.

It sure reminds me of that intense learning time, oh so long ago, when I had to force myself to channel my creativity through a technological interface I did not completely understand. Let's hope my results yield something pleasing to both me and you, dear readers.

Watch my work-in-progress at the not-yet-launched new HandBasket. Stay tuned for the new domain name which I'll announce at the point in time when I'm ready to fully switch from Vox. Which is not yet. The search thingy doesn't work, the ads aren't quite right, and I'm not happy with the lay-out yet. But I'll get there … 🙂

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If The World Could Vote … 2 comments

This reminds me of that song …

I'd like to teach the world to vote
In perfect harmony
I'd like to hold it in my arms and keep it company
I'd like to see the world for once
All standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills "Ah, peace throughout the land"

But in lieu of teaching the world to vote, here is a web site that is collecting, in a highly non-scientific manner, votes from around the world. A world opinion on the US election. Kinda neat … worth visiting.

Check out the bar graphs on the results page. Some surprising stuff there. Of the countries that I have a particular interest in …

Canada is 88.4% in favour of Obama, out of 73,183 votes thus far. I'm disappointed this percentage isn't higher but, hey, we just re-elected Stephen Harper with a bigger minority government so he could make cabinet ministers out of one in four of his MPs. To govern 33 million people, apparently Mr. Harper needs a cabinet of 38 ministers, larger than that deployed by the UK (22), the US (15), and most other Western nations. He needs a lot of help, obviously.

Denmark is 95.2% in favour of Obama, out of 9,836 votes. My experience of Denmark is skewed as a tad more right wing than this.

Iran is 80.6% in favour of Obama, out of 3,270 votes. Fascinating. Too bad they don't skew this way for their own elections.

Lebanon is 87.9% in favour of Obama, with 406 votes. Maybe the electricity isn't on long enough for them to build up voting momentum.

Liberia has offered 100% of its five votes to Obama. See note above re. electricity. Burkina Faso and Burundi have each managed seven votes, 71.4% and 85.7% in favour of Obama, respectively.

Mauritius (pop. 1.25 million people) weighs in with a whopping 2,118 votes @ 92.2% in favour of Obama. Seriously?!? 2,118 votes? 1,712 more than Lebanon? No wonder the Internet connection is sketchy – everyone is using up the bandwidth voting at this site.

Sri Lanka (pop. 21.1 million people) can only manage 269 votes and tilts towards Obama as well, by about 92.2%. My dear Sri Lankans seem almost lazy by comparison to the Mauritians.

Uganda, with its 179 votes, is also in favour of Obama, by 92.2%. Call me crazy, but I don't find this especially comforting, somehow.

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When The Gods Seek To Punish … Click Here To Comment!

Me: Wow – it is 7:35 p.m. and here I am, home from an early hockey game. After … how many nights in a row out/entertaining? … I can relax for an evening. Put my feet up. Watch a hockey game. Putter around. Maybe answer some of the … let's see … 48 e-mails waiting for me … write something interesting … set up the new blogs … great!

Big smile on my face. 🙂

EXACTLY two minutes later, the gods of such things responded with the second false fire alarm in as many days. It is now 8:31 p.m. and the piercingly loud alarm, the kind that makes you want to rip the speaker out of the wall, is STILL sounding. The fire department has been and left. And still the alarm goes. On and on …

Yes, I have a "nice evening at home". No, it is not quiet. NOT amused. 🙁

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Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Give Blood This Weekend 5 comments

10. It is probably the only time in your adult life that you'll get to eat Dad's Oatmeal Cookies.

9. The Dad's Oatmeal Cookies come with kinda yummy fake peach juice, in unlimited quantities.

8. When you donate for the first time you get a cool red and white enamel pin.

7. When you donate for the third time, you get an even BETTER cool red and white enamel pin!

6. *Some of the nurses are cute. (*Note qualifier.)

5. With all the fake blood you will see this weekend, it is grounding to spend time around the real stuff.

4. You will learn whether or not your iron levels are up where they should be (esp. women).

3. You can test your poise and composure as the very professional intake nurse asks you some very personal questions. In a very non-sexy, non-flirty way. (Don't flirt with this nurse.)

2. If you, or someone you care about, wind up in an unfortunate way (goddess forbid) and in need of blood products in the near future, you'll be grateful to every single person who donated in advance to help.

And, finally, the most important reason …

1. Canadian Blood Services is running critically low on blood products of almost every description and they need your blood. Now.

Here is a link to a clinic locator.

Go. It only takes a hour. It only hurts a little. Remember … there are cookies after! 🙂

Pass it on.

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Phew 2 comments

I forgot about the mid-term thing that happens to instructors each semester. In addition to keeping up with class prep and general administrative stuff related to teaching, there is usually a boatload of papers, assignments and mid-term tests that all seem to arrive at the same time. You can try to plan it out differently, but it always seems to happen that there is a time crunch in the middle of term. You can't ask more of students earlier, in terms of major assignments, as they are just getting their feet under them. You really have to get some work in, assessed, graded and returned to them so they know where to improve before the end of term. As of last night, I'm done with the bulk of it. I'm behind on a few things but that will get all caught up by the end of the day today.

I've had several weeks of practically no unstructured time at all. Even my social engagements have been blocked in as has prep time to cook for friends, which I'm always thrilled to do. I love that so much. So, I don't mean to say that "no unstructured time" = "no fun". It has had to be calculated, planned-for fun. And there has been plenty of it, I'm happy to say.

But if I don't get some time to putter around my house, write, stare out the window, sip my coffee, listen to CBC, blog, write some more … I'm going to bust a vessel in some critical place, I swear.

Here is my new favourite lamb curry recipe. I have no idea if it is "low fat" but it doesn't use any coconut milk or other dangerously thigh-busting ingredients. The "rich" taste comes from cooking down apples, raisins, onions and lemons. (I always use more onions than called for, and I always buy the "sweet" onions, even for cooking.) Here is my new "standard" channa masala, which appears to be vegan. I love the vagueness of some of the measurements here – It really does mimic how I cook. I made this Baked Seitan from a recipe right here off Method's Vox blog about vegan cooking, and it totally rocked, although I don't recommend it in a curry. As happens in the blogosphere, I have no idea who this person is, but she takes photographs of vegan food that make this omnivore think twice. And her recipes rock. 

I think I'm going to spend a chunk of this winter learning how to make better curries, although the folks who have sampled the lamb seemed pretty pleased with my efforts. I think I can do better, especially if I can find more "low-fat" recipes.

Because I forgot about the mid-term thing, I booked a bunch of social stuff into these last few weeks. I wouldn't change any of it … might spread it out a little more next time. 🙂 This past weekend was a big "foodie" weekend, as was the weekend previously …

Thursday night, late after class: Shopping for cooking projects. I was the woman staggering out of Bulk Barn at 10:00 p.m. carrying items I only vaguely understood how to use. Like "nutritional yeast". What the hell is that?

Friday: Cooking curries, baked seitan, vegan meat loaf … almost all day.

Friday night: Ethiopian Food with Jan. I really want to book their coffee ceremony sometime. The place smells so invitingly of frankencense and other spices. A really cosy, yummy spot.

Saturday morning: Breakfast with Cate, which is alway a treat. We restricted ourselves to poached eggs and eschewed, rather than chewed, breakfast meats. So well behaved, we were.

(Insert frantic grading and house-cleaning here)

Saturday evening: The long-promised home cooked vegetarian meal for the Woman With Beautiful Arms (WWBA). This followed me being put through my paces at the gym as I too wish to acquire beautiful arms. I hope chick peas have sufficient requisite protein for muscle repair.

Sunday morning: After another frantic cleaning / grading session, I joined a group of dim sum lovers at the Bright Pearl on Spadina for a total dim sum blow-out.

(Insert further grading, final food prep and frantic ironing here.)

Sunday evening: The long promised curry dinner for R and M-A. Freddie was a most excellent hostess and made her guests feel right at home.

Monday morning: Get up at 5:45 a.m. to do some power skating.

Just had to throw that last one in … 🙂

Somehow, after all that food, I managed to weigh in yesterday at my lowest all-time weight since starting to focus on weight loss, and I lost 1.25 inches off my waist in a week, which is a bit shocking.

There isn't a single item I would change or trade in the above itinerary – loved it all. Having so many terrific, amazing and beautiful people in my life is such a blessing and makes me very happy. What I excluded here was discussion of the time commitment to my dog, who has been with me for most of October, and the management of a new client that I took on earlier this month. I think I need a breather. 🙂

(Note to Readers: The Handbasket, i.e. this blog, will shortly be moved to a new home, after two years of cozy comfort here at Vox. The link to the new home will be made available when the switch is all set up, likely within the next few weeks. I hope you will join me there!)

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Anaïs Nin 4 comments

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across an Anaïs Nin quote that I'd forgotten about.

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

It captured something that I needed to be reminded of in that moment. Remembering this, I did a Google search for Anaïs Nin quotes and found quite the treasure chest. I thought I'd share some of what I found here.

Age does not protect you from love. But love, to some extent, protects you from age.
Do not seek the because – in love there is no because, no reason, no explanation, no solutions.

Dreams are necessary to life.

Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living.

I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing.

If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it.

It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.

Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.

My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.

People living deeply have no fear of death.

The dream was always running ahead of me. To catch up, to live for a moment in unison with it, that was the miracle.

The only abnormality is the incapacity to love.

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.

We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are. 

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Tales of Brand Management 2 comments

"You're a marketer, Venus … it's about personal brand management. Perception vs. reality," said Dry Ice when I told her of some of my most recent challenges. Which got me to thinking …

Tale #1 – The Hero Who Wasn't: When I was about 10, a new family moved to our rural farming community – always a cause for excitement. There were two older sisters who came to our school, and a boy who joined us in our Grade 5/6 class. The family had moved from a large American city to our humble little rural farming community.

The new boy was tough, mouthy, and full of bravado. He, and his sisters, were also the finest athletes any of us had ever seen. Where his social skills were rather rough around the edges, his physical presence was sleek and highly tuned, even at the tender age of 10.  It didn't take long for the new boy to isolate and hone in on the weakest among us. His preferred victim was Johnnie, the mentally and physically challenged 16 year old boy in the seventh grade. Johnnie was a member of one of the farming families in the community, a near permanent fixture in the school and, until the new boy showed up, simply a sweet and endearing presence among us. The new boy decided to make it his mission to pick on Johnnie, his favourite taunt being to grasp Johnnie's nose between his fingers and twist until Johnnie screamed out for mercy.

I clearly remember raging daily to my mother about this horrible new boy and his cruelty to Johnnie. Mom was sympathetic and horrified, too. I told her my plan, which was simply to beat the crap out of the new boy. "We're gonna get him," I can remember plotting and planning. Mom was even more horrified now. "Don't you DARE lay a finger on that boy!" she admonished. We argued for a few days when the subject came up, and there was something in her voice that made me hold back from executing the plan-du-jour. I couldn't understand why Mom was so insistent when, normally, she'd let me barrel on in and learn my lesson the hard way. We just HAD to step in and protect Johnnie, didn't we? Why was no one stepping in? I really didn't understand. Finally, after several days of me raging and railing and practicing my high karate kicks on imaginary new boys everywhere, my terrified mother blurted out, "You stay away from him, do you understand? You cannot beat up the black boy, under any circumstances, do you hear me?"

My mother, the spin doctor. Worried about the optics of the white farm kids (because this would need to have been a group effort) ganging up on the new black kid.  What it was – neutralizing a bully – was irrelevant. What mattered was what it looked like. Perception vs. reality. Wrongly perceived, as it surely would be, and our community brand would be severely damaged.

Tale #2 – The Princess Who Wasn't
: About a million years ago, my first l-t love needed to earn a bit more cash. Being a resourceful sort, she started to clean houses on the side. Being very good at this, she quickly built a substantial word-of-mouth client base. One day, she headed off to meet an acquaintance who was interested in having her come to clean her house which was in a lovely older upper middle class neighbourhood. When I met up with first l-t love after this interview, she recounted the following excerpt of conversation.

First L-T Love: So … this looks very doable, your house. Tell me – where do you keep your bee mop for the floors?

Potential Client: Bee Mop? What's a bee mop? Do I need to get one of those?

First L-T Love told this story with a snort and quite a bit of derision as she inferred, from the Potential Client's response, that PC had never washed a floor in her life since she was completely in the dark about the existence and location of the ubiquitous bee mop. We both had a good laugh over PC's clearly elitist and bourgeois perspective on floor washing.

As luck, fate, or complex small-town circumstances would have it, years later, Potential Client became my second long-term love. (pause to absorb … wall chart to follow)

Eventually, I got around to teasing Second L-T Love about this conversation.

Me: So, what's this with you not ever washing floors?

Second L-T Love: Huh?

Me: Well, you seemed kinda clueless about the Bee Mop thing.

Second L-T Love: Jaysus, Mary and Joseph – until my Aunt died, we couldn't afford mops. I used a bucket and rags, on my hands and knees, like everybody else!

The assumptions we make, based on the tiniest sliver of information, defy the bounds of logic. Potential Client, by virtue of having inherited enough money to buy their family's first "nice" home, also acquired a brand – upper middle class house holder -  the strength of which completely skewed First L-T Love's perception of her responses. So sure was First L-T Love of the accuracy of her perception that she didn't even make a motion towards checking out those assumptions. Perception = reality. Done deal. So trusting was I of First L-T Love's interpretation, so open to believing it as truth, that I shared the joke without question or reserve.

Tale #3 – "Just Go Around": My local Food Basics has great deals, but lacks something in the layout department. There are huge structural support columns in some of the aisles that unintentionally divide the aisle into "just barely cart width" and "not even close to cart width". If someone happens to be standing between a column and the shelves  on the side that IS cart width, you can't get down the aisle with a cart.

Recently, this very thing happened. As I stood with my cart staring at something on a shelf and pausing to consult my list, a woman came up the aisle towards me with a basket, dropped the basket loudly on the floor right beside a column, muttered something, and started to put noodle packages from the bottom shelf in her basket. She looked neat and well-dressed, urban-funky looking, perhaps a bit harried. Maybe in a bad mood. It was hard to say from my perspective as I'd only been paying a fragment of attention as I debated brands of chick peas on the opposite shelf.

After she had about 10 packages of noodles in her basket, the woman just stood upright, just stood there, staring straight down at her basket, muttering. I wondered if she was counting the packages. I waited a few moments, then I smiled my most charming, slightly apologetic smile, and said, in my sweetest voice, "Excuse me, could I just get through here?"

The woman turned slowly to look me up and down, finally leveling a gaze at me that would melt glass. "I'm so fuckin' tired of you women.You want me to move over? You want to get past? Me … move over … for you? You know how much of that I've done in my life? How much of that I've done just TODAY? Stand aside? … you just fuckin' turn and go around the other aisle this time, huh? Just go around … How does that feel? You see how that feels? You like it?"

Clearly, my brand in that moment read as "privileged white woman with a bad haircut" and I experienced poor product location, finding myself in a grocery store that is part of the St. Jamestown neighbourhood. I was perceived as out of place. Sensing the futility of debating the social constructs of race and class in a crowded grocery store aisle with a really pissed off woman, I went around.


Perception. Reality. What it is vs. what it looks like. I'm starting to think that as hard as some of us try to put the clearest, most consistent brand possible out there, the perception of that brand is always going to be skewed by the receiver's own set of assumptions or filters. Thus, one's brand becomes less about who one is and so much more about how one is perceived once filtered through the receiver's assumptions. The more powerful the assumptions we combat, the harder it is to be accurately perceived.

And this troubles me, especially when I have occasion to run into some pretty powerful assumptions in some pretty surprising places. 

Professional marketers place huge value on gaining a deep understanding their audience, identifying and analyzing their behaviours and assumptions. Knowing as much as possible about the receivers of a branding message will help craft that message appropriately. Will help avoid offensive product placement issues, for example. 

I don't think the parallel works so well for interpersonal branding because, in any given day, we each find ourselves in front of a series of demographically fragmented audiences. If we needed to severely adjust our brand for each new audience, we'd get schizophrenic in fairly short order. The essence – the importance and value – of who we are as unique individuals would get lost in the constantly shifting projections of facets of who we are. Yet – we do make shifts for different demographics in our lives, for various excellent and necessary reasons. In family settings. At work. With friends. With intimates. It is the degree of the shifting that needs some review, in my case anyway. Sometimes I need to shift more. Sometimes, less. I am, as always, a work in progress.

Nonetheless, I do find that as I get older, I have less and less patience for other people's misguided assumptions about me / my brand. Well, I have a lot of patience for that woman in the store. I just don't think her anger had anything to do with me, but rather with what I represented to her in that moment. Telling her "you go girl!" in that moment would have really messed her up.  I've also checked in with my own assumptions and discovered that, yes, I would have turned on the charm and said "excuse me" to any person of any race, gender, sexual orientation or religion in that moment. Furthermore, I have examined what this situation would have looked like if the tables were turned and, yes, I would have moved in a heartbeat if she had been the one asking. My request to her was not borne of oppression but of a desire for collaboration. That bit didn't make it through her filter, however.

I do wonder if our assumptions and filters – mine included – have become so rigid that we take our emotional response to incoming information as "truth" without really taking the time to examine for "assumption"?

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No Time For Time Out 1 comment

I feel a little bit like my head is in a vice this week – actually, for the next few weeks. I'd forgotten this part about academia and the dumptruck of stuff that tends to appear, regardless of every good organizational intention, in the mid-term. Exams, assignments, presentations – these need to be prepared, administered, graded. In this particular semester, due to a scheduling bungle, I have an entire class of "exceptions" to manage with regard to their mid-terms, and the usual number of students who forgot to self-identify as "exceptions" and thus need to be each treated as individual "exceptions", one-by-one, ad hoc, as they show up saying "oops". This is the most time-consuming and patience-testing part.

And I have a new client to tend to … and custody of my dog which imposes an unimpeachable rigour. Her needs must be obeyed. And I'm looking after a neighbour's cat. Thank goodness for post-it notes.

No time for gym, which doesn't help at all. I can hear some of you say "oh, make time for it". I've not ever mastered the "making time" concept. I've over-committed socially and that actually helps from a mental health perspective but not from a time management perspective.

The nuts and bolts of my life … I can manage them. It will be a stretch but it will all get done.

What is missing is the white space that one needs in every layout … the empty space to process, think and – for me – write about it all. When this goes missing, I know I get out of some kind of internal balance. I started to feel this a week or so ago … I think it is about to get worse … and I hope I can find a way to come up for air by the end of this month.

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