Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Writing for Life

"Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else."
--Gloria Steinem,American journalist

This quote warms my heart. Countless times I am in the process of doing something and thinking about doing 5 other things that maybe I should be doing instead. I used to believe that this was a neurotic impulse, that my multi-tasking has crossed over from a necessity of high productivity to a bonafide illness. Now I know that's not true - it's just that I preferred to be writing.

For some people a looming paper brings stress and discomfort. For me, it's always generated a sense of calm and well-being. It makes me feel productive and alive. It makes me feel that "all of this" is worth it once I can put it into my writing or into a story. And it shows me the importance of doing something you love, and how that activity can rewire your behavior and thought patterns.

I've heard some people say that making a job out of doing what you love ruins that love. I disagree - I can't imagine how anyone gets though the work day doing something they dislike or "don't really mind" when all the while they'd prefer to be doing something else. What more in life could you ask for than to spend your time doing what you love best?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Marshmallows and spaghetti

I began teaching today - my first class in what I hope will be a long series of workshops geared toward igniting creativity and infusing work with fun. We started with Peter Skillman's game to build the tallest free-standing structure with spaghetti, string, and tape that supports the weight of a marshmallow. And with this seemingly simple activity, the laughter began, and the eyes lit up.

One of the participants said at the start of the activity, "I'm at a complete loss of what to do." It was the greatest way to start our discussion. Innovation, along with creativity and design, begins with this simple statement. We are confronted with a problem, and the only thing we have to help us move forward is our own imagination. This is where the fun begins.

The best thing I fond about beginning with a game, and laughter, is that it opens people up. We flew through the two subsequent powerpoint presentations and got to the good stuff - the questions and exchange of ideas on how to further fold new thinking into an old company. The group taught me as much, if no more than, I had taught them. It's the best thing about being a teacher - with the right questions it puts you in the position of being a student as well.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Dreaming of Cuba

I've been in love with Cuba since watching the movie For Love or Country with Andy Garcia. The white sand beaches, the music, the food, the art, and the language. I considered hopping over the border and entering illegally though after my South Africa passport debacle, I don't think that would be wise. Instead, I have been waiting for Mr. Castro to pass on or step down as the US government has made it abundantly clear that they will not lift the ban on Americans traveling to Cuba with him in power.

And he has stepped down. Though his brother has assumed power, it seems that change may be afoot on that small island only 90 miles from Miami. In my lifetime, I may get to sink my feet into that white sand, take in the music and the art, drink my authentic Cuban coffee with my authentic Cuban sandwich, and drown in the beauty of the language and the people who have so long been isolated from us. 

One can only hope that love and country no longer have to be mutually exclusive.      

The above photo can be found at:


"If you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room." ~ Anita Roddick

What I lack in height I try to make up for in personality - small and mighty. For the first time in my life I am working a full-time job at a large corporate headquarters office. Though I work in a small, close-knit team with a supportive boss, there are plenty of times that I feel a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of people I don't know in the hallways. I'm used to knowing everyone where I work. 

A large number of people in a company can cause us to feel helpless at times, passed over, or insignificant. While there is strength in numbers, there is also anonymity, and with anonymity can come frustration or the feeling of being fully replaceable. I was having one of these moments recently and then read this quote by Anita Roddick. 

So how do we have an impact being a very small fish in a very large pond? We carve out our own piece of that pond. Though there may be 1500 people in my office building, they are all individuals and we make personal connections one person at a time. Before we know it Cindy introduces us to Jane who introduces us to John and so on. The web starts to build and with a little effort and a little patience, that place where we felt we had no impact becomes a place we can influence, one person at a time.    

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Michael Pollan's Rules of Thumb for Healthful Eating

I am a huge fan of Michael Pollan, the author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma. He has joined forces with one of my favorite blogs,, and posted up his 10 rules of thumb for healthful eating. I've printed them out and posted them up in my kitchen. Clever, witty, and easy to remember, they are:

1.) Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
2.) Avoid food products with more than five ingredients; with ingredients you can't pronounce.
3.) Don't eat anything that won't eventually rot.
4.) Shop the perimeter of the supermarket, where the food is least processed.
5.) Avoid food products that make health claims.
6.) Eat meals and eat them only at tables. (And no, a desk is not a table.)
7.) Eat only until you're 4/5 full. (An ancient Japanese injunction.)
8.) Pay more, eat less.
9.) Diversify your diet and eat wild foods when you can.
10.) Eat slowly, with other people whenever possible, and always with pleasure.

For the full post from Omnivoracious:

For more information on Michael Pollan:

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Meet Mac

My new love - my Mac. After months of trying to justify the cost of a new laptop, even though my current laptop works just fine (most of the time), I took the plunge. I'd done my research, I'd attended some workshops, and finally made an evening appointment with the Mac concierge service. They were waiting for me when I arrived and I was out of there in 15 minutes with my new Mac in hand, plus a free printer / scanner / fax/ personal assistant to make me breakfast in bed. 

Their reputation for excellent service is well-deserved. Paul, my Apple guy, was friendly, funny, and best of all, honest. I happily wrote him a note and one for his boss on his behalf as soon as I arrived home. It was the best retail experience I've ever had - and I am a very tough sell when it comes to service. In just minutes I was up and running. 

It is amazing what I can now do with photos, my music, personal websites. Even powerpoint presentations are a joy to build. This is the ultimate toy. And it's so intuitive that I find myself having to unlearn all of the work-arounds I've had to learn over the years to operate a PC. I almost have to be re-trained to think naturally about how a machine operates.  

My Mac is also affording me the opportunity to learn design skills and expand my creativity to movie making and original music. I could go on and on, but I really need to get back to Mac. He's got a lot to teach me. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

They're all choices

"I was part of that strange race of people aptly described as spending their lives doing things they detest to make money they don't want to buy things they don't need to impress people they dislike." ~ Emile Henry Gavreau

It's review time at the office in many companies. The sales have been tallied for the fiscal year, the plans for the coming year have been set. Now the moment of truth - did all your hard work pay off? And what is it you'd like to do in the coming year? My boss and I began to informally talk about my review. I've been at my job for just over 7 months, just enough "to be dangerous" as my boss likes to say. 

The beginning of our discussion about my review led us to a deeper conversation about the choices that the review process necessitates - not in terms of bonuses or promotions, but in terms of the choices individuals need to make about their lives going forward. Too often people see their hands as tied by an employer. "My job requires me to work X number of (very long) hours." "I have to do X or Y even if I don't agree with it because my boss says I have to." My boss and I came to the conclusion that in fact no one has to do anything. Sure, there will be consequences for any action, good or bad, but ultimately the choice of what to do with one's career and in one's job is that person's decision. You are the only one who has to live with you. As my favorite Native American poem asks, "in the empty moments, do you like the company you keep?"

Too often we do things to keep up, show off, puff out our chests, and strut around with a badge of honor for some great sacrifice we've made on our employer's behalf. And sadly, too often that sacrifice is our health or our loved ones or worst of all, our happiness. The truth of the matter is that whether or not we work for that employer, we have to be genuinely proud of who we are and the choices we make at every moment. Companies fall away, people move on, the ink on contracts fades. And no matter who signs my paycheck, the only person I see in the mirror every morning is me. Defining ourselves on our own terms, on our own turf, is the most important work we will ever do because who we choose to become travels with us wherever we go.

Where are who we've been

"One faces the future with one's past." ~ Pearl S. Buck

I visited my first toy fair today. My boss and I walked the show after a morning meeting downtown with a design shop that has a property that we are hoping to carry in our stores. My boss made the connection at the design shop, and with a number of people at the toy fair, through friendships that have spanned decades.

One of the joys of getting older is appreciating the circle of life. People come into our lives, and sometimes drift out, and again drift back to us. We find ourselves in familiar situations. Paths cross and criss-cross. And that reacquainting gives me a lot of comfort.

I'm learning quickly that few people ever leave our lives completely and always. It's incredible how many people keep showing up in the most unexpected places, especially when we need them most. And in the process of meeting these people again, we re-discover parts of ourselves that reside with the experiences we had with those people. In a sense, they complete us.

Friday, February 15, 2008


There are 5.5 million pre-school children in the U.S. who are Hispanic. Their parents are interested in preserving their culture and raising their children to speak Spanish. V-Me is a new network that has launched to serve this population, as well as those parents who are interested in having their children learn Spanish. 6 hours / day, 6 days / week, V-Me provides Spanish-language programming for pre-schoolers.

As interesting as the content of V-Me is their business model – it is the first hybrid in television to be a public TV partner and have private investors. While many public companies strive to create content with a good return that is good for the public, many are willing to tell you that when push comes to shove, the money doesn’t play second fiddle to content. Production, after all, is very expensive. V-Me has the challenge of putting financial return on a level playing field with content.

A recent partnership of interest is with iTunes. V-Me content will be the first iTunes partner to have children’s content in Spanish. 

Thinking like a kid

“Be proud of yourself because sometimes you’re all you’ve got.” ~ Dennis the Menace

At the Kidscreen Summit, I have heard over and over again about the importance of being able to think like a child and being proud of having an imagination that never grows up. Easier said than done. Our past disappointments and successes sometimes turn us into cynics. We grow jaded with the years, as if we are operating in a world is that is static. In an effort maximize our own comfort, we assume that we’ve seen it all, done it all, or know someone who has. Nothing can ever be new.

With this mindset it is tough to imagine being a child. We’ve lost touch with that sense of wonder and curiosity that children exhibit and experience every day. They look at the entire world with new eyes, and in the process they see things, experience things, and imagine things that we may be unable to imagine due to that huge chip on our shoulder.

The fun thing about the Kidscreen Summit is that being child-like is celebrated. It’s actually crucial to their business. They can’t afford to be jaded, financially or in spirit. Their jaded attitude would come at far too high a cost. They’d miss their greatest opportunities. 

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Child soldiers

I just finished the book A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah. Ishmael was a child soldier in Sierra Leone. Through his own bravery and with the help of the U.N., he was able to escape to the U.S. to begin a new life and start down his road to recovery. I finished the book in a couple of days - Ishmael's honest and plain-speaking memoir make the book impossible to put down.

NBC Nightly News is also covering the issue of child soldiers this week with Ann Curry based in Congo. It is a frightening tale - these children are facing such devastating circumstances, hopped up on drugs and armed with some of the deadliest weapons on Earth. One boy said he has no way of knowing how many people he killed before he as rescued by the same U.N. program that saved Ishmael. 

I am very interested in volunteering time to help with programs like this one. I have left a message for Ann Curry on her blog and if I hear back from her on ways that Americans can help these children, I will post the information here. In the meantime, visit the NBC site covering Ann Curry's trip:

Retail running to catch up

I am quite proud to say that I believe I am the sole retail representative at the Kidsummit today. One of the moderators in a meeting today said to me, “that’s great that you are here. You people don’t usually come to our events.” And she’s right. Retail in general is an industry that lags behind in almost every way. If you want to feel like an enlightened, terrifically-smart individual, go work for a retailer and keep your ear to the ground for news from other industries.

Why is this? Personal consumer consumption, and in turn retail, makes up the vast majority of our GDP. So why are we behind the times? As a whole, shouldn’t we believing the charge toward newness. In short, yes, we should. Though in reality, no, we don’t. And that must change. It’s no wonder that so much shopping is flocking to .com and independent retailers, and away from chains. The creators of truly innovative and new properties are fed up with the brick and mortar mentality. I don’t blame them – at times, I am fed up, too. Brick and mortar, as physical objects, can’t flex, can’t adapt to change. Their rigidity, sadly, translates to the mindsets of many, though not all, people who make their careers in retail. Unfortunate, yes. Inevitable, no.

In an effort to disclose my motivation in writing this post, without violating my company blogging policy (a violation of which could have me immediately fired), I think I am safe to say that I work for a retailer that is attempting to stage a turn-around. Welcome to the club, right? We only need to look to the front page of any major newspaper last week to learn that retailers are laying off managers in droves. The health of retail companies is directly and strongly correlated to the health of the economy. If the U.S. housing market leads the charge toward the dreaded “R” word, then retail companies will find themselves in a pinch in no time. Once Target starts reporting negative comps, you can be sure the rest will soon follow.

So how can I, a retail manager, possibly be optimistic about the immediate future of the industry? For one, I studied economics. The idea of cycles cannot be better illustrated that in the history of economies. They go up, they go down, and then back up again.

Two, while yes I do work in retail, I work in a department called Trend and Innovation. Some people think we don’t do anything of value because we do no blocking and tackling. I would go to the mat with anyone who takes that view – I would argue that to not innovate, to not pay attention to trend is to commit economic suicide. “Reinvent, or die.” Do I wish we took projects from concept to execution? Sure – my entire career has embraced the whole process, and I love that. I miss it. For all the sexiness surrounding jobs in “strategy” and “big ideas”, strategy is rendered useless in the absence of flawless execution.

Lastly, I draw some of my optimism from bars and pubs. At the first sign of recession, even in the midst of the Great Depression, bars prosper because of their ability to comfort people and provide a sense of community in times of sadness and distress. Retailers, particularly family-friendly ones, have the rare opportunity to also be places of community, inspiration. They can help people rediscover wonder and imagination, if they are willing to invest in imagination themselves. Disney flourished in the 1930’s, amidst very difficult economic times. That decade saw the birth of Pluto, Goofy, DOnald Duck, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Mr. Disney was a genius, not because of his education or professional background, but because of his ability to embrace the very best attributes of a child – the ability to “get through” by using his imagination.

"D" is for Digital

"This instrument [TV] can teach, it can illuminate, yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends," he said. "Otherwise, it is merely wires and lights in a box." ~ Edward R. Murrow

Some marvelous learnings from the Kidscreen Summit. I just finished a morning session entitled “D is for Digital”, put together by the fine folks at Sesame Street Workshop. The panel featured representation from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, Sesame Street Workshop, Commonsense Media (a parent advocacy group centered around media), PBS Kids, and Media Kidz (a research organization).

Some cool and interesting properties that are worth viewing: – an on-line community for kids tat features characters who live on an island that floats around. Kids can navigate between five different languages on the fly, can create an avatar in a number of global settings, and encourages acceptance and exploration of different cultures around the world. One of those things that will make you say “I wish I had that when I was a kid.”

Okami – a Japanese video game property that interests boys and girls of a variety of ages.
Word Girl – my boss and I read about this property during the mid-summer when the New York Times ran an article on it. Word Girl is one of the newer properties for PBS, and on the web platform, kids can submit their favorite words as well as play a variety of games to build vocabulary.
Sesame Street Video Player – currently in Beta at – parents and kids can find Sesame Street video clips tagged with character names, text, and, best of all, education concepts such as “sharing” or “friendship”.

And some facts:
The average age of on-set for digital media use is 6.5 years old, down from 8 years of age just two years ago.
96% of tweens and teens use some sort of social networking
71% of parents have had some on-line issues arising with their children
81% of parents say that the internet has helped their child’s learning
The difficulty of “rating up” – a Bain sudy has found increasingly that what used to be considered PG-13 or even R-rated material, now largely is rated as PG or even G content.
Kids are their own programmers – they choose when, where, and what to watch
Kids spend 45 hours per week interacting with media, 30 hours per week in school, and 17 hours per week with their parents.

Proliferation of virtual worlds
Casual gaming
Video content and user-generated content on the web
On-line curriculum building separate from educators – PBS is exploring ways to build series of games to lead kids, particularly pre-schoolers, along a path in skills such as literacy by batching and sequencing the games.

The big opportunities:
Focus on literacy
Creative problem sovling
Other skills that kids will need a global economy
Few video games of educational promise really exist today. This is an area of tremendous opportunity for developers and producers of video games.
The bridge between research, industry, and the nonprofit world – the most exciting possibility for me since I have experience and passion in all three areas.
The use of media devices such as cell phones to distribute batches of content in snippets – playing into the trend of our “snack culture”. PBS has done some work around literacy for pre-schoolers in which everyday their parents received a text message from Elmo encouraging them to look for things like foods in the grocery store that begin with the “letter of the day.” After the study, kids who participated were fond to know their alphabet song better and have an increased awareness of the learning opportunities that are all around them.

In conclusion, Sholly Fisch of Media Kidz, made an excellent point that is the underlying driver for the expanded research currently being done on kids and media: kids today are faced with constant change and the increasing need for comfort with ambiguity, though kids are still kids. They still need to be encouraged, loved and cared for. The challenge and opportunity for all of us in the youth space lies in how can we use media as a tool to deliver a rich p-to-date experience to kids that nurtures them in this world of uncertainty and change.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Dragon, Fish, and Chameleon in the Middle

Recently, I read a magazine advertisement by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Please put aside that this is a boring big 4 (or is it 5 or 6) accounting firm. The ad features a woman (in accounting?), Gail Vennitti, a principal at the company, explaining how her placement in the family line up – middle child – make her well-suited for her job. This is exciting to me. I am also a middle child, and most of the time the connotation of being in the middle is not good. To complicate matters, I was boring in the year of the Dragon, under the zodiac sign of Pisces, and on the Day of the Aerialist. I am by all accounts a dreamy-eyed wandered. Yikes! Who the heck am I???

Gail takes a unique spin on her middle child attribute. As middle children, Gail and I have at one time or another had to be all things to all people. We have to negotiate in a variety of situations – sometimes were the older child, and sometimes we’re the younger child. We are forced to be empathic; to operate in an ever changing world. We fight to be individuals, though recognize the value of being part of a group. In short, we grow comfortable with ambiguity at an alarming rate. Like chameleons we change ourselves to suit our situation, never once being disingenuous. We change when change is needed.

To complicate matters, my Piscean sign and Chinese year make me equally interested in art and science, with an intense imagination and a fierce sense of love and loyalty to causes and people I care about. I have passionate opinions, and love beautiful things. I have a somewhat split personality – there never seems to be an end in what interests me. I can fit in with a batch of surgeons, and in the same breathe address a crowd of cartoonists.

I used to be embarrassed by all of this. I wondered why I could never seem to have one defining interest, and people nearly always seemed confused by my dual-nature. As I get older, like Gail, I am beginning to see my duality as a bonus. It’s the ability to live in the world of the imagination with my feet firmly on the ground that I hope will ultimately lead toward a fulfilling and rewarding life with tangible results that at one time could only be dreamed of.

Kidscreen Summit Prep

I’m at home getting ready for the Kidscreen Summit, which begins tomorrow. Over 1330 companies in the field of youth entertainment will be represented and we will noodle through a number of issues to learn about new products, services, and ways of doing business. New technologies and entrepreneurs looking for a break will abound. I know I should be excited. Truthfully, I am terrified.

My fear stems from several things: 1.) my company has paid a fairly large amount of money to attend, and I am its sole representative at the Summit despite the fact that I’ve only been there for 7 months; 2.) as a result of #1, I feel a tremendous pressure to find something cool to bring back to validate the expense. This is not good – it’s kind of like working very hard only to get promoted or to make money. Wrong motivation = missed learnings and poor decisions; 3.) I’ve been in this field 7 months – seriously, what will I have to contribute in a conversation with people who have dedicated their entire lives to youth entertainment?

I hate fear; and I hate the feeling of stress it imbibes. I have to calm myself down. So let’s take these fears one at a time. 1.) though the money that was paid seems large to me, it’s within our budget, and for three days of learning that could give the company a competitive advantage, it’s a drop in the bucket. Check. 2.) There is cool stuff to be had – one only need to look at the agenda and list of exhibitors. I’ve have to be on another planet to miss all the cool stuff that will be available. 3.) I had this same fear when I started business school. In a finance class, what could I contribute coming from a nonprofit and theatre background in a room full of investment bankers. As it turns out, a lot. The beauty of tremendously complex fields, it turns out that no one has all the answers, regardless of how long they’ve worked in a field. Times change, and industries change with those times.

Okay, I feel a bit better. But what is really going to get me over my fear of this Summit – two things. First, I am pretty darn lucky to have a boss who believes in me enough to send me as a representative to this conference. Second, if wifi and an electric outlet are accessible, I’ll be live blogging from the Summit. It’s amazing how many fears can be dissipated if they can be formulated into a story. Check back tomorrow for the latest update….

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Biomimicry - creative inspiration for designers

If we, a designers, truly inspect and respect what nature has to teach us, then the creative inspiration around us is limitless. Business Week's Green Design blog has recently published an enormous amount of new information, largely through pictures, to its site. No doubt that the contents are getting increased attention due to the U.N. General Assembly discussions this week around climate change.

The most fasincating posts to me are those relating to biomimicry, a new discipline that studies intently studies nature and then mimics nature's designs and processes to solve human problems. How much time do we spend trying to reinvent the wheel, and then in the process chase our own tails? We need look no further than out our own windows to be inspired by new and innovative thinking.

Finally, these sets of articles and the principles of biomimicry have provided me with the vocabularly to articulate why the environment is such a precious resource and why I am so passionate about its protection. To lose any part of it, be in flora or fauna, is to lose hundreds of thousands of years of design study. The wisdom encapsulated in a snail shell or the leaf pattern of a maple is irreplaceable. To lose that wisdom, in my eyes, is an awful as book burning or the banishing of the freedom of expression. As Mayor Bloomberg intimated this week, to not protect the environment is tantamount to terrorism.

Have a look at the Green Design site at

Monday, February 11, 2008

6 myths harmful to the creative movement

"Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties." --Erich Fromm

Though this article is a few years old, the principles of the study it describes still hold weight, and sadly the myths are all too prevalent - particularly at companies where old thinking reigns. Teresa Amabile, the author of a new study on creativity in the workplace, heads the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School and is one of the country's foremost explorers of business innovation.

In summary, she busts the following myths when discussing corporate creativity:
1. Creativity Comes From Creative Types
2. Money Is a Creativity Motivator
3. Time Pressure Fuels Creativity
4. Fear Forces Breakthroughs
5. Competition Beats Collaboration
6. A Streamlined Organization Is a Creative Organization

Read the full article from Fast Company at

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Spicing up FAO Schwarz

I've had some experience with celebrities from my time working in theatre. Now that I'm currently not directly connected to the enertainment industry, that experience has diminshed somewhat. I'm always curious about how celebrities deal with not being able to do normal things like grocery shopping.

After my shock at how busy the Apple store on 5th Avenue was today, I toddled over to FAO. I was greeted by a Peter Rabbit taller than I am and a toy soldier. Just as I was about to enter the store, a stretch SUV pulled up and a mass of photographers were pushed to one side. I stood in between the Peter Rabbit and the toy soldier - they had no idea who was in the car either. Enter, Posh Spice, a.k.a. Victoria Beckham, and her pint-size, adorable son.

I snapped a photo of her, amidst dozens of other flashes going off and following her into the building, or at least attempting to. The good folks at FAO wouldn't let the paparazzi in the store so they hung around at the door, and would wait for her to exit with whatever goodies they picked up inside. Mrs. Beckham wasn't smiling, and neither was her son. I am sure that celebrity has its perks, though I imagine it reaches a point of diminishing returns. If a trip to FAO can't put a smile on someone's face, then what can? And is celebrity really worth that?

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Everyday Environmentalist

I have been a supporter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Sierra Club and at one time worked for Conservation International (CI) because I am passionate about the planet and helping to protect it. TNC has launched a site called "Everyday Environmentalist" in an effort to create a central platform for people to share their green tips on-line. The tips range from the practical like taking the stairs rather than an elevator to the creative such as 101 uses for a bike trailer.

Have a look at what's posted, and then post your own eco-tips at

Thursday, February 7, 2008

We Need More Than Eyes to See

"The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision." --Helen Keller

Today my boss was telling me about someone he knows who is so color blind that the man's wife needs to help him get dressed in the monring. His world is one of varying shades of gray, and nothing else. And I wonder that must be like to never live in color, to never even be able to understand it. I feel the same way about a lack of imagination, or an inability to see possibility alongside reality. There is something so spectacular completely missing from that picure, too. A lack of imagination is just another form of gray.

The amount of opportunity that exists in this world is staggering - the possibilities to shape our lives, our business, our physical environment, our relationships are endless. The sheer number of options is so great that it seems impossible that we would ever feel boundaries. And yet, boundaries are inescapable. We live in boxes: those we put ourselves in, those we put others in, those others put us in, and those other people put themselves in. We make our world small rather than opening it up. We concede to the level road of gray rather than making the climb in color.

Our vision and imagination are assets, and to not make full use of them is to waste the resources we are God-given. In a time when we have so much latitude to invent an original life, we owe it ourselves to live the greatest life we can envision.

The above photo can be found at

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Cartoon a Day to Chase the Blues Away

February can bring out the blues in all of us. Yesterday I went hoem a bit early with a massive headache - the perfect storm of gloomy weather, flourescent lights, and 8 hours toiling away in front of a computer screen. I'm lucky that an enormous part of my job requires me to read close to 100 news sources every day - from newspapers to blogs to magazine to trade journals, and many of them contain creative content.

One of my favorite daily checks is the blog created by New Yorker cartoonists. I wish I could draw well, or rather, I wish it didn't take me so long to draw well. I long to be one of those people who easily takes ink to paper to draft up a piece of witty genius in a matter of minutes. Everyone's got to have a goal to reach for, right?

Even though it's so foggy out right now that I can't even see the lake that's only a few hundred feet from me, I'm smiling because of the cartoonists over at The New Yorker. This month, the New Yorker Cartoonist blog is features Michael Maslin. I love the honesty and simplicity of his cartoons and the stories they present. Check him out at

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Charley Harper: Illustrator

This weekend on CBS Sunday Morning, I saw a clip about the illustrator Charley Harper and fell in love with his work. He creates animals and natural settings from a variety of every day geometric shapes. To watch him work was to see a technical artist at play.

Todd Oldham, an LA-based designer, re-doscovered Harper's work by a sheer act of serendipity, and spent years archiving Harper's illustrations as well as getting to know him personally. Oldham has compiled his findings in a new book published by AMMO. A quick flip through the pages, and you're bound to find a picture that takes your imagination to the next level. Even better, Charley Harper's work will help you see nature with a new found respect for its magnificent sense of design and order.

You can take a peak at the book through AMMO's site:

The picture above can be found at

A Topic for Controversy

When a thing ceases to be a subject of controversy, it ceases to be a subject of interest.
~ William Hazlitt, English essayist and literary critic

Another milestone for this blog- my 200th post in less than 9 months. Not too bad. Constantly writing leads me to constantly think about topics of interest, and as a result of topics of controversy. At work, we always seem to be shoulder-deep in the later. And while it's all well-intentioned, it can on occassion be tiresome. However, the controversy is necessary if we are to move forward.

I freely admit that I have a distinct reluctance to engage in controversy. Not that I have a problem with carving my own path, considering and re-considering emotional and complicated issues, or speaking my mind. On the contrary, I excel at all three of those things. What I have a tough time with is belaboring number after number with no consideration of the information contained within those numbers. I have little tolerance for the constant rehashing of the same material over and over again. I can't stand constant controversy over a single topic. I am a firm believer in the "get on board this ship or find a new one" when it comes to the strategic direction of a company. And some times I get on board, and some times I bail. But I never get on board if I don't fully believe that the ship is being steered by an able navigator. Once the controversy is settled, the real work of moving down the chosen path begins. A company can't move forward while the seas of controversy rage.

This time of year there is plenty of controversy to go around - what to do about the economy, the next Presidential administration, our own foreign relations, the war in Iraq, our environment, and the list goes on. No matter what side of the fence we fall on with these issues, the interest and passion has yet to wane. And for that, I'm grateful. We don't have the best answers yet. We have huge problems in this world, and we need the controversy and its companion, interest, to unearth the the best solutions. However, at some point soon, on many if not all of these topics, we will have to make a choice. As one co-worker said to me recently as we left a particularly heated meeting "it's amazing how quickly something gets done when it absolutely has to get done." At that point, the topic of controversy has to shift to resolution, as does the interest of those involved.

People need a mission - something to keep them going when the going gets tough. For some it's work, for others it's family and friends. Could be a hobby or volunteer work. The folks at take pride in making a stranger's day a little bit easier and then asking those strangers to pay the favor forward to others.

A few months ago I signed up for their weekly email, Smile Newsletter, that records the antics of good samaritans across the globe. A story from this week's newsletter, below, made me laugh and reminded me that even when it comes to doing good deeds, it's helpful to be flexible. Enjoy!

"I went into a laundrymat today to leave money for someone to find to do their wash, so I had my coins and tape and was looking around for a spot to leave them when this distraught lady said, 'Oh you have tape! I really need some my top is cracked and won't stay on and I didn't know what I was going to do!' I'm not sure what was exactly wrong but I was happy to give her some tape and a smile. When I was walking away I heard her say, 'Thank you, God!' I went in for one reason but clearly there was another purpose in my being there, even if it was so simple as sharing a piece of tape. It definitely put a smile in my heart!" --RaeofSunshine

Monday, February 4, 2008

100 books every child should read

I've blogged before about my infatuation with lists of all kinds. Today on, there is a post entitled "100 books every child should read, UK-style." The focus is on fun and adventurous reads as opposed to telling kids things they "ought to know." Finally!

The list is divided up into early, middle, and early teen years. I had a blast flipping through the list, remembering how much I loved some of these books. And I was also pleasantly surprised to see some I'd never even heard of! Most of them have a decidedly creative bent, allowing children's imaginations to wander over into the realm of the impossible, which is the only way toward real progress.

The list was compiled by the Telegraph, and can be accessed at;jsessionid=XESKHTCWTJIMNQFIQMFSFGGAVCBQ0IV0?xml=/arts/2008/01/19/bokidsbooks119.xml