Thursday, August 30, 2012

LOFT LIFE: Really?

You guys know I used to be a food critic, right? True. In California, I was invited into the inner sanctum of the California Restaurant Writers Association. They audition you--I mean you have to go through an interview, screening and acceptance, and then you have to follow a set of guidelines, one of which is that you never trade your review for any goods or services. They want to make sure you are incognito, that you are truly giving an opinion not traded for gain, and that you are a real critic, not an advertiser. It is really quite an honor.
I say all that to let you know that I passed! That means my food reviews have some credibility. Oh, don’t start laughing. 

This is just to introduce to you how much I love food, talking about food, eating food, criticizing food, etc. I also subscribe to a few food sites, where they send me recipes. The best of these is where they have formed a truly meaningful community around sharing food stories, recipes, and even blogs. (My Spinning blog is on there.)

Today I received a recipe from Cooking Light, the magazine of which I used to read. Today’s recipe was for, get this, Cobb salad pizza. The name screams, “What?”

                          PhotoCredit: John Autry, styling, Mindi Shapiro

Maybe it’s just me, but that strikes me as hilarious. I mean, if you want a salad, why add bread underneath it, and frozen pizza dough bread even? Wouldn’t you want a nice, crusty whole grain aside your Cobb so you can enjoy the salad, fresh and cold without the baked white bread?

It also calls for mixed baby greens. So I had to do this research in order not to lose what of my mind I may still have left. Here’s what wikipedia says:

Various stories of how the salad was invented exist. One says that it came about in the 1930s at the Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant, where it became a signature dish. It is named for the restaurant's owner, Robert Howard Cobb.[1] Stories vary as to whether the salad was invented by Cobb or by his chef, Chuck Wilson. The legend is that Cobb had not eaten until near midnight, and so he mixed together leftovers he found in the kitchen, along with some bacon cooked by the line cook, and tossed it with their French dressing.[2] This version of the story (dated to 1937) is retold in episode 3, season 2, of comedy series Curb Your Enthusiasm, when Larry David searches for evidence to prove that another character has falsely claimed that his grandfather invented the salad.
Another version of the creation is that Robert Kreis, executive chef at the restaurant, created the salad in 1929 and named it in honor of Bob Cobb, the owner.[3] The same source confirms that 1937 was the reported date of the version noted above, with Cobb making the salad.
And here is what the original ingredients supposedly were:
iceberg lettuce, watercress, endive, Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, chicken breast, hard-boiled eggs, avocado, chives, Roquefort cheese, red-wine vinaigrette.

  Does this scream, please put frozen pizza dough under me?
The pizza Cobb deletes the original kinds of greens, substitutes the more trendy “mixed baby greens,” deletes the hard-boiled egg, substitutes blue cheese for Roquefort, which is not the same, and drizzles the whole mess with a white-, not red-wine vinaigrette, and the pizza salad version includes Dijon mustard.
Now I’m not saying you can’t adapt a recipe. I’m not even saying some might not find this pizza thing tasty. I’m just saying, it’s not a Cobb. Now, I ask you? And, Why? 

Now your turn to opine.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

LOFT LIFE: I'll trade you 3 Tweets for 1 blog comment

Remember when you used to while away your free time writing a letter, playing a board game, chatting on the phone, or maybe reading a book? Ah, those were the days.

Forgive me if you are a reader here under 30 or a tech savvy senior even, and this next bit of info is obvious. But those days are gone for a lot of us. 

It’s not that we don’t have choice in how we spend our free time, or even our revenue-producing time, for that matter. We do.

But, it is the age-old dilemma of whether we will choose to be dinosaurs and luddites (The Luddites were a social movement of 19th-century English textile artisans who protested—often by destroying mechanized looms—against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution...), or whether we will step into the “new world” and learn new things.

Such a dilemma is challenging me lately, namely, “to Tweet or not to Tweet.”
   I have elected to Tweet. That has taken on far greater dimensions than I expected.

Some of you will just say, “I don’t want any part of that waste of time. Others will say, “Duh, why not! How hard can it be?” And, still others, my dear friend, will say, “I don’t want to lose the old-fashioned art of real, personal, communication.

Those may all be valid concerns, but here is my dilemma:

I do marketing, advertising. I claim to have expertise in communications. So doesn’t it “behoove” me to include every efficient, effective form of communication for what I do for my clientele?  I think it does. (Don’t worry, I still know words like behoove. lol)

So lately, I have begun to explore other people’s blogs--younger people--who know the Twitter game, and other social networking, social marketing tools.

Let me tell you, this is VERY time consuming. I can attest that in my practice tries, over the past few days, I have become better and better at this.

Twittering requires spending a lot of time checking and rechecking your Tweets and responses. That is OK, because to do my job, I have to be online most of the time, and the checking is a few seconds, or maybe a couple of minutes if a response is called for.

But, the element of giving exposure on Twitter I didn’t count on, is how reciprocal this communication needs to be.

In other words, if I ask you to read and share my Tweets, and then forward you on to my blog, for instance, I am feeling really obligated to read your stuff and comment as well. Getting my “followers” and “comments” to increase, requires a certain amount of trading with those from whom I am seeing follow me and make comments. This can become as time-consuming as I wish it to be, or maybe more. 

One rule-of-thumb I am learning from other marketers, is that over-Tweeting is a no-no. Whew. That’s a relief. Wouldn’t want to over-Tweet.

Like anything we learn to do, eventually, we get better at it, and learn to discriminate, to select the good input, and leave the fluff. But, in that learning period, there is a lot of information overload. Big time!

I remember where I was when I first looked at a PC and a monitor, and wondered whether I would ever learn to use this new medium effectively. That was in 1981. Today, I can’t imagine life without my MacBook Pro, my IPad and my Kindle, email, texting, and now Tweets. (Haven’t succumbed to a smart phone yet, but I know it is in the cards, because the culture is USING these for things we need to do, like buying things. Is this the mark of the beast some ask?)

Bottom line: I have to learn new media, new networking and marketing techniques, if I expect people to pay me for my expertise. I have to keep up, become savvy about social networking and marketing with these tools. So even though I might prefer relaxing more, leaving technology for a few hours every day, the truth is, it fascinates me to see how quickly these new modes have taken over, and it is amazing to experience their power.

For instance, I Tweeted teasers for my blog (this is my test to see how it works for my clients before I do it wrong on their stuff), and I increased my readership more than SIX times what it has been in ONE DAY. That is incredible to me.

Do you know there are Tweeters who specialize in re-Tweeting? I follow one such person, and she faithfully re-Tweets my posts. 


In all sales, if you develop third party resources who will multiply your efforts by promoting your services to their networks, you are way ahead of the game.

The downside: I still wonder about negative responses where you multiply complaints. For my clients in small towns, that could become serious. I have avoided creating Facebook pages for them for just this reason. I know I can monitor and moderate these comments, but that requires daily perusal to make things current.

I am still learning. I need to get better at this. I need experts and experienced social media people to tell me what pitfalls to avoid. 

Since there is no dearth of help on these questions for the avid, consistent researcher, I am sure by next month, I will find answers to these. One of the new market niches is obviously people to help us newbies navigate it all.

Please let me know what your thoughts are and your experiences with using social media for business.

Friday, August 10, 2012

LOFT LIFE: Maps and me

I have made a big point of telling you all how bad my visual skills are. But, when it comes to maps, I am really good at them. I am the navigator on all of our road trips. On foot, my brother always said I can’t find my way to the back door, but in the car, I seem to have a natural sense of direction, especially when there is sun.

When I lived in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, I traveled completely without maps or directions, and since everything looks the same--farmlands, barns, crops, etc., that wasn’t easy. But I followed the sun and knew if I were heading west, for instance, any road west should take me close to my destination.

This method of farmland navigation was really tested in Illinois, when I transversed Boone County looking for the food pantry to volunteer. I finally called the director for help. She asked me where I was, and all I had was a name on a mailbox. On hold, while she called her husband who grew up around there, she got back to me and directed me out of the maze with only that mailbox name. Amazing.

As you know, I don’t do Interstates, so this is all on surface, smaller roads, I am talking.

All was well until I moved to New England, where I opine frequently that they do not have enough money to pay for signs. Maps seem almost irrelevant in Massachusetts, where you could literally travel for 10 miles or more without knowing if you are 1) on the right route, 2) the name of the street. They do have street names at the perpendiculars, but that does you no good if you made a wrong turn five miles back--which I do often because the roads don’t really seem to match up to the map.

I map out a route ahead of time, study the names of streets, and still have no idea where I am on the actual road because it doesn’t make sense. And, I tell you, I am good at maps. 

My friends suggest I get GPS, which really raises hackles, because I AM the GPS system for my family. Also, I hate that smug woman’s voice telling me what to do. I feel like screaming at her and throwing the little device through the windshield. OK, maybe a slight overreaction, but I feel she is encroaching on my territory and she isn’t always right anyway. Then my friend suggested GPS’s have a choice of voices. Didn’t know that. I could get a friendly Australian male voice, which I might like.

Recently, on my way to a friend’s house, I was happily following my map to her place, 15 miles from my home, when I slammed into a snag--road construction. Pretty typical in New England summers.The police officers were re-routing people so I didn’t know the area well enough to navigate this well. Where I was supposed to turn left, after a right, I did that, and then asked the officer if I was on the road I thought I should be on--and I was not. Had I turned right there, as I found out later, I would have been two blocks from her house. As it turned out, I meandered northwest and ended up at the very intersection I had mapped out to avoid. Geesh. This was not good. Now I was late, and still had no idea where I was. Correction. I knew where I was. I just didn’t know where I was going. 

I called my friend, and she stayed on her cell to direct me back to within two blocks of where I had made the wrong turn.

Suffice to say, now I know how to map around the detour. 


But, really, even though I do pay my fair share and much more, I am willing to donate some tax money for Massachusetts to put up a few signs in my area. 

But, my Mass. friends tell me they don’t repost them when they are vandalized because they will just be lifted again by those hoodlums. Oh dear.

So, do you think I should break down and get that Aussie to help me? But, then there is the risk of my car being vandalized to get the GPS. An officer patrolling a shopping center parking lot even told me once that thieves break into cars even if they see the adhesive remnants on the windshield. So other than my protective feelings about my role as navigator-in-chief, since I cannot be pilot-in-chief, I do not need to worry about someone breaking my car windows.

What’s a navigator to do?