August 30, 2011

blogging quandary

How is someone’s personal blog evaluated in terms of his or her professional capabilities?

Must a personal blog be limited to a single topic to be taken seriously?

If another influence-related indicator (e.g., a Klout score) is positive, does that “make up for” scant comments on someone’s personal blog?

Here’s the thing.

I enjoy blogging, and I have been happy with lierrepoet’s format. I also haven’t minded the lack of feedback recorded here because I’ve received positive comments about my posts in person or via email; I know I’ve reached people.

You know a but is coming, right?

But I think blogging for professional purposes is a good skill to have, and I don’t have an opportunity to develop that skill where I work (I am allowed to write video, audio, print and web copy, but blogging and social copy for clients now belongs to only a single department at the agency. I am not making a judgment about that. It’s just how we’re structured.)

All that to say that my personal blog may be the only outlet I have for developing professional blogging abilities, so I’m wondering how (or if) I should alter my blog.

I’m just not sure what’s best for me to do in this case.  

dancing with alber

I am smitten with the Fall 2011 Lanvin print ads. They’re full of elegance and power, and yet there’s something about them that’s a bit awkward. I like that. I also like that the same quirkiness—complete with a cameo by Alber Elbaz himself—is at play in the video.

See it. Love it. Then get up and dance.

(P.S. Unfortunately, you cannot watch the video on this page, but you can click the still below to launch it in a separate YouTube window. Sorry about that.)

problem with problems

A crisis is a problem, but problems often are not crises.

Yet so many problems are treated with the same 
weight, anxiety or panic as a crisis.

If the problem is not life-and-death, please take a deep breath 
and save your energy for what really matters.

I am saying this for all of us. 

August 29, 2011

play the man

This scene came to mind on Friday, and it kept coming up all weekend. I like the one-size-does-not-fit-all message at the core of the scene, as well as the nods to risk taking and being present.

 P.S.  If you’ve never seen the whole movie, perhaps you should. It’s one of my longtime favorites.

amen, stylish sister

“Fashion and the way we look
are a part of our human condition.
It’s tribal and social and personal.
I don’t think it’s superficial;
it’s quite profound.”

—Helen Mirren

August 26, 2011

the best in others: friends

This quote attributed to Frances Ward Weller showed up in my Twitter feed on Monday:
“A friend can tell you things you don’t want to tell yourself.”
I almost responded to it the tweet, but realized 140 characters just wasn’t going to cut it. So I’m responding here, and I’m going to tell you why I dislike the quote.

1.     It’s a sentiment that’s abused by people claiming they’re telling you something “for your own good,” when they really don’t have your best interests in mind at all. They’re deriving pleasure or a sense of superiority from pointing out a flaw. The flaw may not even be real. Or it may be exaggerated. All because if they can make you look bad, they feel better about themselves. A real friend will not do that.

2.     The idea also assumes the friend has an unbiased opinion about what the other person needs to hear. I don’t think that’s possible. Everyone has a bias built upon personal experiences. The thing you know you’d need to tell yourself if you were in a friend’s situation may not be the same thing that will resonate with your friend. 

3.     People often learn most effectively when they’re guided to figure out things on their own rather than having lessons pushed at them. Asking thoughtful, non-judgmental questions can be one way to provide guidance. Encouraging someone’s efforts to become her best possible self and to work on things that are holding her back—without being patronizing—is another.

As with anything, there are exceptions. When people are engaged in clearly destructive behavior (e.g., physically harming themselves or others), the cold splash of truth may be necessary. But in most cases, that’s not necessary, nor is it ultimately helpful or kind. 

the best in others: colleagues

Here are a few things I’ve noticed related to people’s professional growth.

1.     The best leaders don’t want copies of themselves. Instead, they draw out a person’s inherent talents and strengths.

2.     Criticism is rarely constructive when it’s reactionary or when it’s a veiled excuse for someone to vent their personal dislikes about someone or something.

3.     Communicating “areas for improvement” is rarely helpful if it’s not backed up by a range of techniques a person can try in order to achieve the improvement. What’s even better (although rare) is when these techniques take into account how a person’s strengths can aid them in improving.

4.     When asked in a non-confrontational way, one of the most powerful questions a manager can ask is, “What do you want?” Discovering what someone’s desire is can be the key to drawing out the best work from him. 

5.     People will never learn if, after their first attempt at something fails, they are not given a chance to try again.

6.     Becoming a manager is not the optimal career path for everyone. If you’re a manager who consistently does the work, rather than directing or managing it, consider if being in management is the best fit for you.

7.     Professionally-oriented lists like this, whether from hobbyist bloggers or renowned experts, should never be viewed as commandments. They’re just ideas. And they won’t apply in every situation.*

* So shut up about what Frank Chimero says already. 

colorful travel

 I love, love, love the Wallpaper* City Guides from Phaidon Press.

They’re smart, concise, well-designed and have a modern perspective I appreciate.

If you’re a Lonely Planet or Rick Steves devotee, you might not appreciate these, but everyone else should check them out.

I even have a few I could loan you if you’d like.

But I had better get them back.

August 21, 2011

caution served hot

Many PDXers: Where is summer? Where is the sun? Boo! Hiss!

The sun: You want me? Fine. How about some sweltering temperatures. The kind that’ll make you seek whatever A/C you can find, so you’re not actually outside enjoying summer.

Moral of the story: Be careful what you wish for. Especially if that wish involves a fiery ball of gas.

inside out reflection

Yesterday afternoon I was thinking about why I may be changing my mind about certain cosmetic procedures, and I was wondering how to sum it up in a blog post.

But then @DrGhaheri perfectly captured the essence of what I wanted to say on The Wrinkle Whisper early this morning.
“Generally speaking, people don’t wake up in the morning and think to themselves ‘I’d like to have bigger lips and fewer wrinkles for no good reason at all, other than sheer boredom.’ Instead, it is an issue of self-confidence.  The way they feel inside doesn’t match what they look like outside, and it bothers them.”
It does bother me that there are lines under the outer corners of my eyes that don’t reflect how alive and confident I’ve begun to feel in the past couple of years. I’m still unsure if I’ll get over that or not. But if I don’t, I won’t feel vain about trying to match my appearance to my feelings.   

P.S. Of course, I might not be in this situation if I hadn’t waited until I was 34 to start caring for my skin. I wish I had learned the importance of sunscreen and staying hydrated much, much sooner.   

August 20, 2011

simple success

Why did Google succeed as a search engine organization when others failed or haven’t done as well?

You can find myriad answers to this question online and offline. So I’m sure my opinion won’t be new. It just may be one you haven’t considered before.

When it arrived, Google appeared to be more powerful in finding relevant results, of course. But more than that, it had a clean, approachable and easy-to-use appearance.

While Altavista, WebCrawler and Yahoo! flooded their main pages with lots of search subcategory text, which could feel like a visual assault, Google kept things simple. It greeted (and continues to greet) people with a logo, a single search field, a couple of buttons, a few links in a header and footer, and oodles of white space.

The amount of white space is actually a big deal. Bing may share some of Google’s simplicity, but its background is more cluttered with imagery or design elements. It doesn’t feel like a breath of fresh air; it feels like it’s trying too hard to prove it’s not copying Google. And that complexity (ahem, vanity) gets in the way of making search feel as friendly, I think.

I am curious about what would happen if Google made its other services as visually inviting as its home/search page. I’m not advocating a dumbed-down solution, but rather a way that presents powerful functionality in a more attractive way. Would people stop abandoning Blogger for WordPress? Would people want to spend more time building their Google+ circles? Would YouTube seem a bit more respectable (the way Vimeo does)?

Sometimes rapid growth can make people forget what made them successful in the first place. And in Google’s case, I think it was an irresistible sense of simplicity. 

brand perceptions

Poor customer service. A large-scale mistake that becomes a PR nightmare. Advertising that appears discriminatory. If you consider what tarnishes a brand, these are the types of things that might immediately spring to mind. But I wonder about other things, less obvious things that can affect a brand (either negatively or positively).

Consider a company’s employees (regardless of if they’re customer-facing or not). Do you support the businesses where your friends work or avoid the businesses that employee people you dislike? If several friends or acquaintances you admire work at the same organization, do you have a more positive impression of it? Or a negative opinion of one that seems to contain only jerks?

I’d like to say I am immune to these things, and perhaps everyone wishes that. Yet, I know I can be (and have been) susceptible to those influences. For example, I know I am a bit more critical of a brand I loved after their ad agency displayed some narrow-minded snobbery. Perhaps it’s not fair, or even wise, of me to allow my perception to be shifted like that, but that doesn’t change the fact that it happened. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear you have a similar story.

Because here’s the thing. A company is not inorganic; it’s not a machine. It’s a group of people, and those in charge of the group make decisionsfrom who they hire and collaborate with to their image crafted by advertising and marketingthat affect how the rest of us see the company. And that can ultimately contribute to the success of the company, no?

August 17, 2011

japanese italian

Did you know a Fiat 500 and a Vespa had a baby (an impractical, but utterly adorable, Dihatsu baby)? I think they must have. 

Found via the fabulous Mrs. Lilien, of course.

August 16, 2011

next time

Don’t wait. Say what you mean. Say what you want. Be fearlessly encouraging. Listen to actions, but don’t overanalyze them. Remember you’re not a mind reader. (Neither is anyone else.) Don’t assume the worst, but don’t surrender to false hope either. Find out what you want to know—and be willing to argue for what matters to you. Accept that so much of what you think is in your control actually is not. So why not risk more? Why merely listen to your heart when what it really wants is for you to follow it? Be braver and bolder than you planned on being. Even if you failed at being as bold as you wanted to be last time. The failure may just be the foundation for a more sparkling success next time. And the next time can start whenever you want. Like right now.

August 14, 2011


Pain always passes
She recalls in near darkness
Just one star, glowing

August 13, 2011

good help

I was skeptical about seeing The Help because:
  1. I loved the book and didn’t want to see it ruined.
  2. I am not a Bryce Dallas Howard fan.
  3. The previews made it seem too much like a vanilla feel-good movie.
But wow, was it good. I mean wow.

See it.

boomerang tweet

This week I felt inspired to post the following tweet:
Is there a story you want to read or see that hasn’t been written, filmed or staged yet? Well then, it’s up to you to tell it. Start now.
Less than eight hours later, I realized that my online search for a specific kind of travel-related content was going nowhere. What I was looking for just didn’t exist.


Oh yes. The advice we give others often ends up being the very advice we need to take ourselves.

August 10, 2011

music with style

As I was falling down the delightful rabbit hole that is vespoe, I found this:

(I so want the xylophone bangles.)

August 9, 2011

personal business

The agency I work for has a parent company that’s been in the local paper lately. It’s difficult to remain optimistic and not feel overly cautious in the face of this news and a variety of unknowns surrounding it. Yet I’m trying, and I think my favorite colleagues are, too. I’m also hoping that the brand tagline I wrote for them many years ago, which is still in use, remains true.

welcome ajb

Two dear friends welcomed their first child into the world on Saturday, and I am so happy for them.

At the baby shower a couple of months ago, guests were asked to write a letter to the boy-to-be about with advice for him. The following is a draft of that letter (the final version belongs to him alone).
Welcome to your life. It’s the best gift your parents will ever give you, and believe me, they’ll give you lots of great gifts in their time with you. They’ll teach you fundamental skills everyone needs, like language and hygiene, nutrition and numbers, safety and reasoning. Along the way they’ll also give you their unique perspectives about how to enjoy life and how to treat people and all living things on this planet. You will also receive some of these lessons from your extended family and your parents’ friends (I think your mother would call all of us your tribe, and I like that. I hope you do, too.) Eventually, your teachers and your friends will start influencing how you live, too.

But remember this—no one else can teach you to be who you really are. It’s up to you to determine that, and the older you get, the more opportunities you’ll have to define yourself and how you want to live your life. As you do so, you’ll make mistakes. That’s okay. Honestly, most mistakes aren’t that serious or irreparable. Many can even help propel you forward if you’re willing to learn from them and admit responsibility when necessary. Being open to learning is important. It helps you better understand other people and cultures, and it provides new avenues for adventure and fun.

There’s another thing I want to mention that I hope you’ll figure out sooner than I did. While being kind and thoughtful to others is better than being a self-centered jerk, there are people who will abuse your kind-natured habits if you let them. Sometimes it’s best to say no to a request. Sometimes it’s better to distance yourselves from people who perpetually take without giving anything positive in return.

Then there are the people who will fiercely love you, while allowing you to thrive in your own unique way. Treasure these people and return the respect they extend to you. They will make every celebration more enjoyable and every disappointment more bearable. They are part of what makes life so good.

In case someone else hasn’t already told you, here are few more suggestions: read a lot; travel a lot; if you feel anxious or tense, sit still and take deep breaths for a few minutes; learn to love the rules of grammar—and how to stylishly break them; don’t be afraid of poetry; wear jeans that fit properly; don’t run with scissors (or any other sharp objects for that matter); once in a while, jump in a puddle or a pile of leaves; eat ice cream for breakfast just once in your life (you’ll see why once is all need); and try not to break too many hearts, will ya?

August 7, 2011

type explained

I may not have the skill, software or time to create typography my designer friends would applaud, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a type geek. Oh am I ever. But even non-type geeks can appreciate how influential type—especially good type—can be. 

faux logos

If I were a designer, I think I would love, love, love to have the job of creating logos for fictional organizations seen in movies and TV shows. Perhaps you never noticed these logos before, but you will now thanks to FAUXGO (where, p.s., I found the logo shown above). 


Lately I’ve been thinking a bunch about the time I lived in Seattle. I remember vividly how much I disliked living there, and yet it was an important experience for me to have. When I moved there, I had just graduated from college, was barely 22, and basically knew no one (beyond the people I met during my interview). Today if I had to move to a city where I knew no one, I’d have an easier time of it. I have skills and a perspective now that I didn’t have before.

But would it be the best thing to do?

For me, the answer is no.

I could do it well enough alright. That doesn’t mean I should.

The thing is, the Portland area is where I feel most at home, where I have a support system, and where I have a strong sense of familiarity. I’ve learned these qualities form the ideal foundation I need to grow and explore life—and the world beyond Portland. If I lived elsewhere I would surely be challenged into growing of course, but my ability to do so might be hampered by expending so much energy trying to build the foundation I need. I won’t say this will always be the case, but it currently is.   

Now I ask you to consider this about your own life. What are the roots you need to optimally grow and enjoy life? What things could you do, but perhaps shouldn’t do because they’d compromise those roots in some way?

And how might this idea apply to a business or organization you’re helping to shape? (Consider this to be a more human approach to the question of “core competencies.”)

All of us have different needs, and all of us have different strengths. I say let’s play to them rather than proving we can do something else.

summer stress

Does anyone else get the sense that this summer—and perhaps the previous two summers—has been more frantic and stressful at work?

I remember many summers when timelines were longer and workload was lighter, primarily because so many clients were out on holiday. Now clients seem to be taking less time off and are certainly less lax than they’ve been previously. Plus, several new projects for new clients seem to be launching, whereas that used to seem like more of an autumnal trend.

These changes really aren’t so surprising, are they? We’re all hungry. We’re all increasingly desperate. We’re all still in a crap economy that launched us into survival mode. If we play too much—or at all—we may lose our competitive edges and then what will become of us and our businesses?

I wish we weren’t operating out of so much fear, but once again I’m reminded you can’t always get what you want.

Ah, la vie. 

August 6, 2011

petite witticism

“It isn’t easy to get wit right—not too bitter or clever, not too light or dumb—but when it is right it allows soul to enter through the cracks in our seriousness.”

—Thomas Moore

August 4, 2011

style & substance

Imagine this:

First, someone explains the goal of a new technological feature or device and you think something like, “That’s great. That will make things so much easier.”

Next, you are shown an example.

Then, something else happens (this is the Choose Your Own Adventure part of the post). You:

A)    Think it really is great, it will make your life easier, and you can’t wait to get it.

B)     Think it’s a great idea, but the application of the idea is either so needlessly complex or visually overwhelming you want nothing to do with it.

C)    Think it’s a great theory, but the application makes you realize you’ve been cast into the latest production of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Of course, the answer depends on the technology or feature being demonstrated, but I often answer B. Although I recently realized that the way we answer probably has as much to do with what gives us a sense of rightness and order in general as much as how an idea is implemented.

Whatever do I mean by that?

Well, for a girl who feels ill-at-ease when her home environment isn’t tidy, a piece of technology that presents features and data in a visually complex manner can make me a bit anxious—no matter how great the features are. Someone who feels comfortable and happy in a cluttered or less-than-tidy space might feel differently about the same piece of technology.  If the features were presented in a more pared-down or stark fashion, they might not want to use it. But I might.

All this to say that I don’t think one style is right for every type of substance.

I wish more engineers thought that way (or were empowered to act upon it).


fb pigs

If I hear or read one more statement about Facebook’s success being due to its initial exclusivity I will exhibit some unreasonable expression of anger.

Listen, was anyone really saying, “Oh, I’m so sad I can’t be on Facebook because I’m not in college. College kids must be so much cooler than I am because they have access to something I don’t. Waaaaaa.”

I’m thinking no.

What I am thinking is that the college kids, who may adopt new technology more easily than most, were perfect guinea pigs. They got to test out Facebook and essentially help refine it. So by the time it was available to the rest of us, it was something we actually wanted to use.

That’s probably too simplistic, but it makes a lot more sense to me than the cool argument.


August 2, 2011

family trivia

I may have a slight addiction to It would be easy to blame NBC and their silly celebs-in-search-of-their-ancestors show, but really it’s just because I’m a curious girl. I like solving mysteries and discovering bits of trivia.
For example, I found out that one of my great-great-grandfathers was born on the day that would become—109 years later—my birthday. I’m not saying that has anything to do with why Orion is my favorite constellation, but it is kind of funny, non?

August 1, 2011

jr. pompidou

While doing research for next year’s European Extravaganza, I found that Centre Pompidou not only has a children’s gallery (I may have known that but forgotten), but it also has a corresponding website that’s such a treat. Follow this link, click on your language and have fun exploring. Note that if you want practical information, such as the current exhibit and its map, click the bubble labeled more art