Sunday, November 27, 2011

A very technology Thanksgiving

It's hard to believe Thanksgiving is here and gone already.   But whoosh, there it went, and now comes a slog of a couple of weeks filled with work days that are too long and evenings that are too short for all of the Christmas revelry that presents itself. 

But before we skip to the eggnog and laments about the difficulties of attending Christmas parties alone, let's recap the last week or so.  Since the National Arts Marketing Project, I've enjoyed blasting back in time to the 80's via the kick ass rock musical Rock of Ages.  Sadly, there were many folks who decided, for whatever reason, not to see this show, and to them, all I can say is you missed out.  Hearing "Don't Stop Believing" performed live by some pretty talented singers was way, way better than Glee.  Also, during this time, my love affair with Twitter has only increased, aided by a new experience, a Twitter party, with the Arkansas Women Bloggers network.  This was something else.  It turns out that there are dozens of "chat" programs you can use to aggregate tweets on twitter, and follow certain hashtags (like #nampc and #arwb, for example).  While this may be old news to many, it was new to me, and pretty cool.  I've got a bunch of new followers and followees, so here's my official plug, ladies of the Mid-South: head on over to Arkansas Women Bloggers (using the convenient linked image at right) and register.  It's free and it seems like a good bunch of gals to have on your side, especially if you like to cook and have kids (neither of which applies to me, but hey, every party needs an odd one out, right?)

Anyway, I got to enjoy this online community on Monday, while also watching the Pats on Monday Night Football, which sums up the dichotomy that is me pretty handily.  Then came a shortened week of way too many meetings and deadlines for the few days before Thanksgiving, accompanied by some seriously frantic cleaning that included me scrubbing the floors by hand, mowing the lawn in the fading twilight, and vacuuming twice.  Twice.  I must have lost my mind.

Then, my parents arrived.

My folks are, in a word, awesome.  They worked their butts off their entire lives and retired just this past spring, selling the family business and setting themselves up for a life of leisure from here on.  So instead of flying to see me, they spare my mom from dealing with motion sickness and road trip it, stopping off for a little gambling in Mississippi along the way.  How cool is that? 

So they arrived on Weds and we went to Hugo's for dinner, followed by a stroll around the Fayetteville Square for Lights of the Ozarks, then went shopping.  Some slight changes in plans meant that we had Thanksgiving at my place instead of a friend's, so we slapped the card table next to my dining room table and made a feast of it. There was some football thrown in there, a few trips to the dog park and a visit to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.  And I regret that I don't have any photos of either of my parents sprawled out on the floor "wrassling" with my dog, but it did happen, and is just another example of their awesomeness.

But really, the weekend was about technology; specifically, the indignity that I suffered when my mom got to show off their fancy new IPhone 4.  I still have a, harumph, 3G.  This seems rather unfair considering that my parents have never sent a text in their lives before now, but life isn't fair, as our parents loved to tell us growing up.  :) Thus I found myself playing the role of tech support, trying to explain the difference between a text message and an email, how the IPhone automatically (and sometimes randomly) put aps into folders and how to set up voicemail.

Now, to be fair, my mom picked it up pretty quick, and was soon sending pictures and texts like a pro.  But it really became hysterical when we went to the museum, and we got separated.  I had the idle thought that, if I was with my friends, I'd text them to find out where they were, but I was enjoying the paintings and didn't really think of it (plus the service in the museum is pretty spotty).  So when my dad and I emerged into the light again, we found my mom waiting for us.  She promptly turned to me and said "Jodi, I texted you three times!  Where were you?" 

OMG.  LOL.  As I checked the phone, it got better: she even used texting parlance:  "where r u?"

We headed off to dinner at a pretty amazing restaurant called Tavola Trattoria in Bentonville, as as we were waiting for our table to be ready, mom was busy emailing photos to her friend.  Then, as we sat down at the table, she pulled out the phone again, saying "I don't want to be rude but I want to make sure I did this right!"  This struck me (and my brother, via text) as hysterical, more so when our food arrived and my dad tasted it and said "Wow.  This is really good.  Do I need to text someone about it?"

Anyway, this is probably only funny to me, but it was just such a great reminder that one should never underestimate one's parents. 

So, 2011 is almost over.  The next weeks will be a whirlwind, I'm sure, so for now, I'm glad I had a weekend of leisure with my folks, followed by probably the laziest Sunday I've spent in a while (my DVR queue is pretty empty thanks to today).  My tree is up, my shopping has begun (sort of), and Cookiefest is next weekend.  Bring it on, St. Nick.  I'm ready for some holiday cheer (a little mistletoe wouldn't go amiss, either).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The National Arts Marketing Project Conference

Well, so it's been a busy few weeks 'round these parts.  In the midst of it, I was able to attend the National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Louahvull, KY (that's Louisville for you Yankees out there) last weekend.  As I mentioned in a previous entry, it was an unusual conference for me, one where I listened more than spoke.  This, it turns out, is a good strategy.  It allows for new ideas to take root and dented confidence to heal a bit.

As I've said before, hanging out with marketers is cathartic if you are one yourself.  After all, no one but a marketer can understand how hard we work to make good decisions, accept as many ideas as we can, and make the sales that make it possible for our colleagues to keep getting a paycheck.  And how, despite our best efforts, a lot of it comes down to making guesses, educated ones, some good, some bad, but guesses nonetheless. 

This year's conference was far more social media heavy than any conference I've been to, and I admit, it got a bit tedious.  But it was a riot to be part of the twitteratti (#nampc) at the conference, and I used twitter as a form of note-taking, recording gems from our amazing keynote speakers and some of the more profound presenters.  I also found myself tweeting with the guy sitting next to me, and met a woman I'd been following on twitter, only to find that, once we'd introduced ourselves, there was nothing left to say.  Awkward.  :) And I also, to my embarrassment and sheepish pride, received a basket full of fabulous bourbon goodies for tweeting the "funniest tweet" of the conference, which, it turns out, was quoting someone else quoting someone else.  Good thing there's no copyright on tweets. 

We got to visit the Louisville Slugger factory and museum (I held both Mickey Mantle and David Ortiz's bats!), and ate some pretty great food at the 21C Hotel's restaurant, Proof

As for the wisdom gleaned from the conference, I think it can be summed up by the following: 

*Research is key (good thing, cause I need some!)

*Let the data drive your decisions (and, it turns out, your need to manage up (your boss), down (your staff) and sideways (your peers))

*Engage rather than broadcast (so hard to do when everything is about sales)

*Your front line staff have more power than you ever will. 

*Prayer should not be a marketing strategy (this was the tweet that was deemed funniest, which gives you an idea of how serious we marketers can be)

So all in all, it was a worthwhile weekend, capped off with a trip to Lynn's Paradise Cafe where I ate a world-famous Hot Brown, an incredible cheese/turkey sandwich in a bowl which probably set my diet back by two years. And now I'm back, and blissfully travel-free until Christmas.  Thank goodness.  My dog might eventually remember who she belongs to.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It's so easy to be bad...

Just a quick note to reflect on how very easy it is in modern America to do the wrong thing.  And I'm not talking about police pepper-spraying students.  That's too big and scary for me to tackle right now.  So I'll stick to the mundane.

The Sonic Effect

Today, I was scrubbing the floor a-la Cinderella, and mentally making plans to take my dog to the dog park.  While also reflecting on how thirsty I was, this was my thought process:

Lazy Self:
Hmmm...this is hard work, this floor scrubbing.  I could sure use a giant iced tea right about now. Oh, idea!  If I drove to the dog park instead of walking, I could swing by Sonic during Happy Hour and get a huge iced tea.  That would be awesome.
Self who is trying to lose weight:
Um, Lazy Self, wtf?  One, you have tap water and sugar free iced tea mix right here in your house.  Two, the tap water and sugar free mix you will drink here has no calories and is already paid for. Three, if you drive to the dog park, you are not exercising your dog, which is the whole point of going to the park. Four, if you to drive to the dog park, you are not exercising YOURSELF, who needs it most of any of us involved in this conversation.   And five, if you get a big iced tea from Sonic, it comes in a giant Styrofoam cup, which will be here on earth for, oh, I don't know, 10 MILLION YEARS. 
Lazy Self, ducking head in shame:
Ok, ok, jeez, we'll walk. 
But the fact is, Lazy Self had the easier idea.  Seems like most of the bad choices are the easier ones. 

For example, when dining out, we all know the right thing to do is set aside half of a meal to pay attention to portion size.  Have you ever done that?  Whipped out your tupperware in the middle of a restaurant?  I didn't think so.  It's inconvenient, and basically says to the world "Hey!  I'm overweight and I'm trying not to be!  Isn't that great?  Go ahead, look at me with pity.  I love that." 

On the flip side, there are the annoyingly easy tips like "Drink skim milk. Switch to diet soda."  Great, thanks.  I've only been doing that for my entire overweight life. 

Ah well, if it were easy, we'd all be skinny, I guess. 

But the good news is that since Self who is trying to lose weight won this debate (today, at least), this was the result:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

8 minute blog entry

I have 8 minutes to complete this entry before heading to a dinner while at a conference here in lovely Louisville. Actually, I have no idea if it's lovely since I've yet to be outside in the daylight. 

Crap, 30 seconds wasted on typing that.  Moving on.

Anyway, I'm here for the National Arts Marketing Conference, and I wanted to blog so I could document a really odd occurance.  So far, I have enjoyed this gathering immesley because all I want to do is listen.  Usually I sit at a table, steaming, because I want to be presenting myself, or sharing my great ideas. 

Today, none of that.  I'm soaking it all in, and having some fun retweeting the wisdom I'm hearing from others. 

I feel this must be a sign of something - that I'm getting older and wiser, that I've either got more confidence in my ideas, such that I don't have to share them (unlikely) or that I have less confidence in my ideas, thus being oh-so-open to other people's brilliance (far more likely). 

Either way, I like it.  Now I'm off to have dinner at the 21C hotel, a branch of which will be opening up in my home region soon. 

Whew.  2 minutes to spare.  Not bad!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

When art is not good for your health...

This painting does not appear at Crystal Bridges Museum of
American Art, but a similar one does.
The South Shore Newport, Rhode Island,
Near Boat House Point
, 1874

by William Trost Richards

So, here's the situation.  I'm sick.  I have head cold that is threatening to ruin some weekend travel, and I should have been in bed an hour ago. 

However, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opens this Friday, and on Monday, I got a sneak peek in the galleries (well, my second one, really, but who's counting?).  And I have become slightly obsessed.

My first time there, as we zipped through the 19th century room (full of Hudson River School work, so I'm told by those who know), I was drawn to a painting of breaking waves.  I immediately wanted to stop and stand in front of it for hours and examine it.  As I pondered the remarkable fact that I could in fact do this once the museum opens (since it's located just 30 minutes from my house.  30 minutes.  !!), the tour rushed on, and I abandoned the painting.

Then Monday, I was there again, and we were being kicked out of that same gallery as the party wound down.  So tonight, in honor of my head cold, I gave my preview passes to some friends, and settled in with my dog and some TV to try to recuperate.  However, I couldn't stop thinking of this painting. 

So I begged one of my pass-users to find the painting and tell me the artist so I could google him.  She did.  His name is William Trost Richards.  I've never heard of him, which is no big surprise since I'm not up on such things. The painting, according to the label, is called "Along the Shore" and it was painted in 1903.  Oil on canvas. 

Here's the issue - I can't find this painting on the interwebs.  Google is hiding it.  Where in the world did Alice Walton get it, and why isn't it listed in the lists of this guy's work?  What am I doing wrong? Where are my art history friends when I need them?

The good news is that the museum, and their library, is nearby, so eventually I'll figure this all out.  But now, I can only marvel that I have spent a significant portion of my evening trying to track down information about a painting by an artist I'd never heard of until today. 

I guess this is what happens when a major American Art museum comes to my town. 

I'll take it.