Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving break

turkeyHello dear readers.

I'm taking a few days break from blogging for Thanksgiving. (I'm thankful for you!)

I'll be back on Monday, December 1st.

Happy thanksgiving! If you're not in the USA, take a moment to be thankful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A new place to put it

pizza adsA rare thing happened in the Merrill household - on Halloween, we bought takeaway pizza for the evening meal.

A new spot for advertising showed its face to me - ads were pasted on the box. I'm very used to seeing self-promotional ads on pizza boxes, but this was a new one on me - a real estate concern was featured.

The takeaway for you? Though it is quite annoying to be surrounded by advertising in every possible nook and cranny of our lives, we need to be creative in how we get our message out. What are some creative ways you can communicate your message today?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


pianoOur son Ben has made piano his instrument. He's the piano player for his middle school jazz band. The result is that I hear a few pieces over and over. Practice is essential to get it right. The fallout is that I get to hear those musical themes enough that they become part of my dreams at night.

I have a difficult time filtering music out of my consciousness. It's front-and-center, whether I like it or not.

What noise is there in your life and how do you deal with it?

Monday, November 24, 2008

You can make a difference

(In my small little world...)

If you do a Google search for "Paul Merrill" and see my stuff, just hit that little arrow next to the result to bump me to the top. (This is a new feature that debuted last week, and I think it only works if you are signed into your Google account - if you have one.)

If all of you do that, I will be at the top for all Google Paul Merrill searches all over the world.

Thanks for your love and support.

Friday, November 21, 2008

For the richest

tiffany&coWe have all heard a lot about the economic downturn and this newest recession.

I did want to remind you that some are not feeling any pain in their pocketbook. In last Sunday's Denver newspaper, there was a full-page ad for Tiffany & Co. They were advertising rings priced from $2,750 to $14,750.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why is it that we always want to be somewhere else?

We rarely wear "I'm here and I love it" t-shirts. In other words, when was the last time you saw an Alabama resident wearing an Alabama t-shirt in Alabama? Far more common would be an Alabama dweller sporting a t-shirt featuring New York City. Beach dwellers have t-shirts of the mountains.

At the Thin Air Summit conference, I saw a neighbor's computer desktop with a photo of her daughter on the beach. It was a great reminder of a fun family vacation. We'd prefer to look at those memories, rather than at what's outside our window, no matter how beautiful that view might be.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fiercely monolingual

In the USA we speak one language. English.

Yes, in reality, there are literally thousands of language that are spoken in the States. But our governments recognize only one.

This is changing - I see more and more packaging that is in Spanish and English.

I would suggest that we should be open to more languages being OK here. It is just part of accepting other cultures.

(The envelope is a return from Canada - note the words on the label. I sent some goodies to some friends in Vancouver, and I forgot that they had moved. Anyhow, even though Vancouver has few French speakers, all of Canada is bi-lingual in the eyes of the government.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

5 photos

Jon Swanson tagged me. (5 things is the meme. 5 pictures is my particular assignment.)

From the top:

a) Littleton, Colorado - the sunset out our front door.

b) Grave marker in England.

c) Pancakes.

d) Reno, Nevada.

e) The 2003 Denver snowstorm - that's our picnic table!

I tag Eddie: 5 most memorable restaurant experiences. Marti: 5 most relaxing vacation moments. Barb: 5 best home-schooling moments. Richard: 5 best grandparent times. (All - don't feel like you have to participate.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

6 random things about me

1. I lived overseas for eight years.

2. I sang for Edward Kennedy, when I was in high school. (It was a choir tour. He met us on the steps of the Senate.)

3. I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and reached the summit: 19,340 feet (5,895 meters).

4. My mother was an aerographer's mate in the Navy.

5. I had tickets to see Miles Davis, but it turned out to be the same weekend as my dad's funeral.

6. I wanted two kids and Heather wanted three. Heather won. I'm so glad, as Rachel has been part of our lives for the last seven years!

This is a meme from Richard. I'm not passing the baton, as I'm tagging a few friends tomorrow morning with a different meme.

Information: give them shishkabob

Information is like steak and shishkabob. In the old days, we were all used to sitting down for a big meal. Now everyone just eats snacks.

A week ago, I attended the Thin Air Summit conference. One of the major highlights was a keynote talk by Jeremiah Owyang, a luminary in social media (and beyond). He urged us, as communicators, to package the information we give into bite-sized chunks, so that the public can get our point quickly. Or at least we need to use newspaper-like hierarchy in saying our main point right up at the top - and then trickling down to the finer points.

This is true more for the Gen Y and Gen Z people, as they are so completely used to getting information that way. Digital immigrants, such as myself, don't mind a steak every once in a while.

Here is the slideshow of his talk. Here is a great summary by Carol Ross.

What are some of the ways you can make your information more digestible?

Friday, November 14, 2008

First snow of the season

It was lovely to wake up this morning to see snow falling. (You can watch here.)

The career I never did

In college I was a DJ. Back in those days, that meant I worked at a radio station and played records - as in vinyl.

It was great. I did the Friday morning shift - 6 to 9 am. I turned the transmitter on. It took about 20 minutes to warm up.

On Sunday afternoons, I played Christian rock with my buddy Craig (and later with John and Jeff). We interviewed all the stars that came through town. It was fun to meet Amy Grant, who was at the top of the charts back then.

So I never went in that career direction. Radio was fun but not how I wanted to spend my life. Also, I discovered that after I spent three hours playing all the music I loved, I got "music-ed out" - I didn't want to hear anything for a day or two. I decided that if I made my career out of something I loved that much, it would take the love out of it for me.

(The letter is from a radio station I applied to.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Helvetica, the shoe

adidas romHeather and I recently saw Helvetica, the movie. If you're a designer, it's sort of a must-see.

Heather's comment was that it reminded her of some of the reasons she fell in love with me - the quirkiness of the designers and their perspectives made her think of me.

My old Adidas Rom shoes made me think of Helvetica. They are a classic and timeless style.

Adidas no longer makes them anymore. Back in about 1985, I somehow knew they were going to be discontinued, so I bought about three pairs. The last pair is still going, though they are worn in places that sadly can't be repaired.

Adidas was originally a German company. Swiss design and German design are sometimes related. In the case of Helvetica, the type designer was Swiss, but he worked for a German company.

As to Helvetica, I must side with the designers who are bored with the typeface and pretty much ban it from any use.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sieze the day

concordeTime magazine came with a luxury living supplement recently. I love those sorts of things, maybe for the vicarious pleasure they bring.

Some of the luxuries mentioned are so far from my reality that they are laughable. (A crocodile men's bag from Dolce & Gabbana for a mere $45,695 - that has a waiting list of those wanting to buy it?! And then there were the $5,400 casual driving shoes.)

Famous industrial designer Karim Rasid said flying on a Concorde jet was his best travel experience - three weeks before they ended service in 2003. While we lived in England, we could have flown on a Concorde for a short hop from London to Finland for (almost) cheap. We didn't. So I will never get to fly on the Concorde.

People are way more important than flying on a Concorde. Some people will only be in our lives for a short time. What person do you need to spend time with that you may never be able to again?

Photo courtesy of Air France.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Just a little perspective

In the spirit of blogging and those who don't blog, I'm blogging for my friend Tracey, who works with disabled children in Kenya (among other things). She recently wrote:

"I was able to take Mark to a clinic today for his clubbed foot that has been swollen. I was definitely the only white person within miles and did not do very well waiting for hours in line ... until a guy came to stand next to me and he had no legs, so he was actually kneeling with plastic cups on his knees. I felt so convicted that I was irritated about waiting in line to see the doctor when this guy probably traveled a great distance to get into the clinic. God is always ready to show me things when I least expect it!"

(By the way, the lady shown works with Tracy and is with one of the disabled kids.)

Social media is the new graffiti

Dave Taylor spoke at a conference I attended over the weekend, the Thin Air Summit. He basically said that social media (blogs, video blogs and podcasts) is the way people can express themselves in a rebellious way without defacing public property.

It's true!

A million new blogs are started every minute and few are actually read by very many. One of the reasons for this is the "seed on shallow ground" paradigm - people start with a lot of excitement and then fade away after a few weeks or months. The "hot sun" of life's busyness kills off their desire to keep it going. Or they simply lose their passion for posting stuff.

It would be fun to find a statistic about how many people start blogs and quit within the first six months. And it would be fun to see how many blogs have lasted more than three years. (I have been blogging since August 2005, which makes me a grandaddy in the world of blogging.)

Why do you keep blogging, if you are still out there? Why did you quit, if you're done blogging?

By the way, the photo is from my buddy Josh in Kenya - he shot it in a remote canyon in a national park there! Obama is well-loved all around Kenya.

Monday, November 10, 2008

How to teach responsibility?

I went to a seminar at the University of Denver on the morning after Halloween. There must have been some party - plastic beer cups were scattered along the edge of the road for blocks. (I picked some up to recycle them.)

This got me to thinking - how would it be possible to teach these college students how to put their waste into trash cans that are all over that area? Which begs the bigger question - how can we change our society to teach people responsibility? Many of the parents of these students don't litter, but they were not able to pass that value along to them.

Any ideas??

Friday, November 07, 2008

You can tell them by the car they drive

I'm pretty good at spotting whether a man or a woman will be behind the wheel, just by looking at the type of car. A new Nissan Altima Coupe is usually driven by a woman aged 35-55. On this example, you can tell by the license plate - a pink plate promoting the type of cancer that only strikes women.

I hate the fact that these stereotypes are usually true. I'd much rather drive a Nissan Altima Coupe than a Ford F-350 diesel 4x4. And a Mazda Miata than a Toyota Tundra long-bed.

Finally, to further prove my point about predictable car demographics, if you go to any JoAnn Fabrics store, you will find at least one 4-8 year old Cadillac in the parking lot.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Go see this movie


It's good. If you're married, I would almost go as far as saying it's required viewing.

The acting is a little uneven - some of the actors are great and others are stiff - and the directing might be a little shallow. But its potential impact on your marriage makes it worth wading through.

If it's still playing in your area, and if you can get discount tickets from your local grocery store it will be a relatively cheap date!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Kenyan response to Obama, part two

obama kenyaThe President of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki, declared Thursday the 6th as a national holiday, in honor of Obama winning the US election. (This photo is from Kenya's The Nation newspaper. More photos here. And thanks to Josh for the idea.)

Heather and I were highly amused when we saw a video on featuring a Kenyan man in western Kenya declaring that it would be very soon that Obama would fly Air Force One there [to join in their celebration]. (Obama's grandmother lives near there.)

Mercedes to lay off 4,000 in Alabama

The reason? The plant makes nothing but SUVs.

I have the answer - there's a wonderful car they already make - the A-Class. It is sold all over the rest of the world. (I even test-drove one in Nairobi.) It's about the size of a Honda Fit - small. America is totally ready for this car. The Fit is selling like hot cakes.

Mercedes should just re-tool the plant to make A-Classes. Expensive? Yes. But it would pay off in the long run. I guarantee.

The A-Class is just as safe as their larger cars. Of course it gets way better fuel economy and is cheaper than the rest of their line. You would be surprised at how much luggage space and passenger room there is inside.

I also heard that Mercedes is planning to stop building the A-Class. Hello, wake up!

ps Of course everyone's writing about Obama winning, but I thought you might enjoy reading a post that has nothing to do with that. Election results are more important than my post, but I thought you could use the break. The image is courtesy of the Mercedes Germany website.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Consumer tip, no. 371

gas pricesYes, it's the big election day, so here's a post to give you a break from Obama-McCain.

So here's the tip...Wait to fill up your tank till the warning light comes on.

Reason? If you wait another day, the price will probably drop a few more cents per gallon.

This is probably obvious - but maybe a few of you you hadn't thought of this.

Notes: 1) If your range to empty at that point is very small, be careful. 2) One buddy never does that, as he says there is sediment at the bottom of the tank that will foul up your motor. I believe him, but not strongly enough to heed that advice. 3) If the car is shared, discuss this with your fellow drivers. (They might get stressed if the fuel gauge gets anywhere close to the light coming on.)

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Kenyan response to Obama

Go here for my friend Claire's perspective on what Kenya thinks of Obama and the election.

Sometimes the big guys make mistakes

For work, I have been reading about SEO (search engine optimization), which when done properly is vital for successful marketing via the internet.

Apparently, Google's computers have been doing some reading too - this headline from Google News was not supposed to be the headline!

(I have written about Google News' mistakes before, here.)

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Coffee, the best way

Yes, even Starbucks says the best way to make coffee is with a coffee press. That is the way I do it. That is the way you should, if you can spare the time. I make time for that each morning, somewhere around 6:15.

As faithful readers will know, I am too lazy to grind the beans. (That would mean starting at 6:08, unless I got one of those coffee makers that does everything but put a hot cup in your cold hands.) I just buy them ground.

A warning however - the caffeine content is a bit higher when a press is used, compared to a filter.