Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Gun Protest in Philadelphia: Missing the Target

Christmas is fast approaching, and a Christmas tree ornament has sparked a loud protest.


In short, Urban Outfitters recently began selling a small selection of Christmas ornaments, including a skull and crossbones ornament, a hamburger ornament, a beer ornament, and a plastic gun ornament, among others.

Unfortunately, the city of Philadelphia, where Urban Outfitters is headquartered (full disclosure: writer holds shares in this stock) has been having a major problem with homicides caused by gun shootings. This is indeed a terrible trend, and the city needs all the help it can get in protecting its citizens from low-life scumbag gun slingers. But perhaps more unfortunately, Men United for a Better Philadelphia, a well-meaning and dedicated group looking to quell the violence in the city, protested the sale of these gun ornaments outside of an Urban Outfitters store yesterday.

I see their point and most definitely appreciate their outspokeness. As I said, something needs to be done about gun violence in Philly and around the world, and we need more people like them.

But perhaps this protest is a bit misdirected.

For starters, I'd prefer to see Men United or other groups protesting gun shops, if anything. This is where the killers go to pack heat. Confront them at the source and maybe divert some potential problems, such as gun straw buying. But that's not really my point here.

Instead of just protesting the company, the group could work with Urban Outfitters and include a pamphlet or notice along with the purchase of these guns to alert buyers to the unfortunate problem that real guns are causing in the city. Perhaps they could even work with Urban Outfitters to donate a portion of the ornament's sales to Men United's worthy cause. Or even ask to put a sticker on the box with a link to Men United's website.

The point being, use that positive energy to work with the major corporation to help improve lives and gain positive attention for your cause, rather than trying to bring negative publicity to the store, which has subsequently sold out of the ornament and plans to reorder because it was such a hot item. If Men United were trying to prevent the sales, their plan backfired. (Sorry, bad pun.)

Happy holidays and have fun shopping!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs: Greatest Innovation of Our Time?

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), in my humble opinion, may prove to be one of the greatest innovations of our time. Okay, I know what you're saying, the light bulb has been around for ages, and there have been hundreds, perhaps thousands of amazing inventions over the past couple of decades. But hear me out!

Here are some of my reasons as to why I praise these bulbs so highly:

1. CFLs last at least four times as long as incandescent bulbs. This means fewer trips to the store to buy them, and fewer bulbs to purchase (in spite of the higher price of CFLs) making it more convenient and economical for everyone involved.

2. According to Energy Star, CFLs use about 2/3 less energy than incandescents use. With the world's growing problems in dealing with energy consumption and global warming, any significant reduction in energy usage helps solve (or at least ease) both of these frightening problems.

3. Energy Star also claims that each bulb can save over $30 in energy costs over its lifetime (not including the cost saved of not having to buy new bulbs more frequently). Not one person will ever complain about having to save money, making it much easier for this product to be adopted more widely.

4. Virtually every building has a need for light bulbs. It makes economic sense for each home, office, hospital, dormitory, or other facility to replace as many bulbs as they can.

5. It is an extremely simple way for people to feel like they're making a difference in the world. Many people unfortunately could care less about preserving the planet, but if getting new CFL bulbs is a start for these people, then so be it.

6. Though CFL bulbs have small amounts of mercury, recycling facilities are likely to become more available; what's more, the mercury produced by the bulbs is significantly less than that of which would be produced by burning more coal to power incandescent bulbs. Over time, mercury emissions from CFL bulbs will be less of a problem than emissions caused by incandescents.

7. Ultimately, this innovation may lead to more similar innovations if people show their willingness to adapt. If CFLs become a hot item, more companies will look to innovate and improve on current technology in order to reap potential profits.

So, in conclusion, it's easy to see that CFLs are a simple, cost effective, and environmentally friendly way of improving lives on an everyday basis for the masses. How many other recent innovations can claim that?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Click to Donate

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Check out The Hunger Site now!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

6 Ways to Make Money on Black Friday

Yes, you too can profit on Black Friday, just like the millions of stores that will be packed with hungry shoppers, trying to knock off their extensive gift lists. It's times like these when people get a little (okay, a lot) nutty and will do just about anything to make their day go a little smoother. So why not make a few bucks while you're at it?!? Here are six ways to pick up some extra cash just by "being there"...

1. Get 4, 5, or 6 friends to drive separately to a mall late Thanksgiving night when the lots are empty. Leave all of the cars but one in the prime spots there, and have the last person drive everybody back home. Come back to the mall in mid-morning and sell your spot to desperate people who don't feel like walking and pick up 15, 25, or 50 bucks (maybe even more, depending on your location and clientele). You can laugh all your way to the bank, and drive home at your own leisure. Estimated going rate: $20 per spot.

2. Offer to stand in line for someone while they shop. Inevitably, check-out lines will be zig-zagging through countless red ropes. Why not save somebody the trouble of actually waiting and take a spot for them in line while they do their actual shopping. No fuss, no muss! Estimated going rate: $5 per person.

3. Bring your own cart to the mall and offer to lug shoppers' goods to their car for them on their way out. Hmm, I could see this being a little skeevy to most people, but hey, it could work! Estimated going rate: $2 per trip.

4. Print up a checklist of all the big sales that are going on inside of the mall that day and sell it to people entering the mall. This takes some legwork beforehand, but most stores will list their sales on their websites or in the paper. This saves people time from having to do their own research and also trying to go through every store to find the best deals. Estimated going rate: $1 per sheet.

5. Where available, set up a cart on a busy street or outside of a mall with a chock full of snacks, drinks, coffee, etc. People will be hungry and cranky, and you might just catch them at the right time! Estimated going rate: $1-2 per item.

6. Go into various stores and write down all of the good things and bad things you see going on. Make sure you point out names of employees when available when they do great things. Then, at night, send an email or letter to the store's boss/manager/PR person and let them know of what a great/terrible job you saw today. The company may likely thank you for your candor and send you coupons or free stuff for your help! (Or they may ignore you completely if they're a lame corporation.) Estimated going rate: Varies, but potentially a bunch of free samples.

So as you can see, it's pretty easy to bring home the bacon on this shopping holiday with just a little ingenuity and elbow grease.

Have fun, be safe, and happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Blue Moon, I Saw You Leading the Way

My favorite football (soccer) club in the world is Manchester City, the boys in blue. Lately, they have made me proud.

Not because of their results on the pitch, mind you, although that would be tremendous. (Some day...)

But anyway, in addition to maintaining a high level squad, they are tackling a bigger problem in the world, that of greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. The team recently announced that they would be installing a wind turbine right outside of the City of Manchester Stadium, its home grounds, to power the stadium as well as homes nearby.

To me this is an ingenius idea. Does it get any better than having a Premiership team showing proper stewardship to this Earth, let alone being the first team in the world to do something like this? Not a chance. Positively brilliant.

And that's why I'm 'City Til I Die'!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Lessons from a Magnetic Dart Board

As I sit at my computer here at home, I have the pleasure of being able to gaze at my Simpsons magnetic dart board that I got as an engagement gift from my parents (presumably because my lovely fiancee got all the other gifts), featuring classic characters from the show-- namely Homer, Moe, Duffman, and more. Simple, innocent, and good old-fashioned fun stuff.

But in staring at this dart board, in a moment of introspection, I realize this particular magnetic dart board may have a lesson or two glaring right at me, such as...

1. Creativity goes a lonnnnnngggggg way. The Simpsons have been around for a good 17 years or so and going strong (they even have a Simpsons movie coming out). It's the creative characters, story lines, and humor that has kept them around for so long. And expanding the product line to a dart board, a Homermobile model (also hanging on my wall), and so on and so forth show the strength of the creativity of this famous brand.

2. A magnetic dart board is a very imprecise game. You toss the dart at it, the dart slips a little bit once it hits the board, and the magnetic point is so wide that you can hit a fairly broad area, thus overlapping on different scores. "So?" you ask. So, just think about how imprecise life is, and how not everything is perfect, yet you can still hit the mark, without having to make the perfect shot each time.

3. Darts are fun!

Now, I wonder what lessons we can learn from donuts....

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sports and marketing

Today I attended a Philadelphia Eagles football game. Yes, I am a fan of "the Iggles". (Okay, you can stop laughing now... it's a tough team to follow at times, I know, but I still love 'em. It's a weird Philly thing.) Terrible loss today on many fronts, but that's not what I'm here to discuss.

As a marketing rep at a full-service marketing agency, I am well aware of the influence that marketing has on people's lives. Sometimes I terribly regret the way marketing is shoved down everybody's throats.

For example, it's gotten to the point where professional sports games have transcended the athletic prowess of the athletes, and has instead become one gigantic billboard for corporations. At today's game, nary a second went by when I was not bombarded with some sort of ad placement, whether it was a sign, an announcement, or a sponsored winner of something or other. I suppose that this is just a fact of life nowadays, but that doesn't mean I have to like it! Here's where marketing failed, in my mind:

1. Campbell's Soup sponsored a section of fans, whereby every fan in that section won a can of soup. Gee, wow. Lucky day. Oh and by the way, this came on a day when there was a big food drive at the game to feed the poor on Thanksgiving. So not only do the fans get to win a WHOLE can of soup, but these poor saps look like complete jerks if they don't drop the can into the food drive collection box. So much for winning something for once!

2. Speaking of winning, US Airways had this ingenious idea: give away a gift certificate for $200 on a future flight. First of all, this is a lame prize if you can't afford to go away in the first place. It's not like it's a $200 gift certificate to a nice restaurant or something, where your meal is covered and everything is basically paid in full. No, you have to use this gift certificate to pay for a flight, where you then have to spend more money because you're going away! Secondly, what if you hate flying? Thirdly, well, I could go on, but you get the idea.

3. Lastly, when the players are introduced, they run out of a long inflatable tunnel and through a giant Eagles helmet. Emblazoned along the, dare I say, shaft, of the tunnel is the word "Levitra", the name of an erectile dysfunction drug. Ok, I don't mean to be gross here, but that is not not the kind of mental picture I want to have in my mind--- a bunch of beefy men charging together in a group out of a hole. Ugh. If the word were plastered across the tight-fitting Lycra of the cheerleaders, that may be a different story. But as it stands now, this marketing attempt is very flaccid.

4. Virtually all of the rest of the ads/plugs/sponsorships are lost in the fog of my memory. Way to go to guys. Nice job in spending those ad dollars.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Minor victory of the day

As we men get older, hair tends to recede from some territories and conquer new territories. As one's scalp becomes a prime terrain for skin to take over where hair once used to dominate, other landscapes find hair overtaking the prominence of skin. This tends to be a downward process as the years add up, so perhaps it's gravity related.

At any rate, today I had a minor victory of man vs. hair. As I was scratching my left ear, I felt some fuzz and a long hair or two poking out from that weird little ridge where the earlobe starts. A similar pattern had taken shape on my right ear.

Fortunately, I had my mini- Swiss Army knife with those tiny scissors handy, so I went to battle.

I gently pinched the long hairs between my fingers and snipped away at the base of the hairs. I managed to do this without the benefit of a mirror, or without the result of blood gushing from a skin gash. To me this is a minor victory, even though I know these hairs will return in due time.

Sometimes these minor accomplishments are what keep me going through the day. After starting the day by cleaning up my cat's urine and spit-up, I'll take this minor victory and celebrate. It's the simple joys in life that keep me happy.

If you have any minory victory stories, please share. I'm all ears.

Taking the plunge

Though I am no plumber, I do like to think I know how to clear a clogged toilet.

Option A:

Step 1- Grab plunger.
Step 2- Insert rubber end of plunger into toilet drain.
Step 3- Deftly push down ("plunge") on wooden end.
Step 4- Lift up.
Repeat steps 2-4 until water drains. Try flushing again.

Option B:

Pour hot water into toilet, in hopes that this will, shall we say, loosen things up.

Option C:

Put on rubber gloves and root around.

Option D:


What's the metaphor here? Beats me. I'll leave that part up to you. At any rate, I hope to open the door to ideas of new ways of doing things, or ways of getting out of a mess, or who knows what.

Thanks for joining. Let's have some fun, shall we?