Blocked

I’m in the midst of the worse case of writer’s block I’ve had since 2004.  I don’t usually get writer’s block–I count myself fortunate for that–so I’ve never really developed any methods for getting through it.  I thought I’d give blogging a shot in the event that writing something, anything, would help me drag myself through the black pit that is currently my creative brain.

I’m supposed to be writing a script for a three-minute internal communications video.  THREE MINUTES.  That’s IT.  I’ve written much longer scripts!  I’ve written ridiculously longer stories, reports, chunks of novels, etc.! 

Here’s the root of my problem: one of my writing quirks has always been that I can’t write anything else until I have my lead, my first line, the epic beginning of whatever is to follow.  I don’t have an opener for this and it’s clogging up everything else that’s swimming around my head.    

I suppose this is an occupational hazard.  Accountants don’t come into work and forget how to navigate their spreadsheets.  Yet here I sit, the writer unable to write. 

Was it Hemingway that said he most feared a blank sheet of paper?

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On Harry Reid and Sharron Angle

I’m not particularly pleased with any of my options for Senate in Nevada, and two days before the election I’m still unsure of who is getting my vote.

I do know it will not be Harry Reid.  He’s forgotten completely about Nevada since rising to leadership in the Senate, and now is not a good time for our representatives to have their focus anywhere but home.

Sharron Angle, I believe, has exercised poor judgment during her campaign, and it makes me wonder if she’ll continue her string of bad decisions if elected.

My inclination is to vote for a third-party candidate, but I realize that’s more a vote for Reid than anything else, and so I remain torn.

One thing I have considered is that Angle will be able to do far less damage in her six-year team than Reid.  If re-elected, Reid will return to D.C. with all of his current clout, probably more, and continue right where he left everything.  Angle, on the other hand, will be a junior senator, with little power and thus be able to accomplish less–good or bad–than Reid in the next six years.  So, while I absolutely dislike her, I feel she is likely to spend her term mostly impotent…other than adding a vote to the Republican side which, I admit, doesn’t upset me.

On a side note, I wish the Harry Reid volunteers would compare notes–they’ve called here no less than a dozen times and each time I tell them that we won’t be voting for Reid.  You’d think they’d stop calling here to remind us to vote, given they know we’ll be casting our votes against their candidate!

 

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Marketing/PR: Not Everyone Can Do This Job

This is more a rant than anything else, but I do hope it raises some awareness about a specialized field that does, contrary to popular belief, require skills and training to do successfully.

I’ve spent my career working in communications–writing/editing, media relations, internal communications, public relations, event planning and marketing.  I love what I do, and I realize that what I do is interesting to a lot of people.  However, despite the fact that my field is largely a creative one, it does not mean that anyone can do it. 

For some reason, everyone seems to think they’re capable marketers/PR people.  People without marketing and/or PR training seem to think that none is required to do the job well, and so they spew their uninformed opinions at me (and others in my field–I’ve learned this is a shared pet peeve by people in the industry) and other decision-makers thinking that they’re about to make a huge and positive impact on the organization.  That is almost never the case. 

Words, tone, graphics–they all make a difference in effectively communicating.  While press releases seem to be a simple collection of words on a page, they are actually carefully chosen; written and re-written by people who have been trained or have a knack for knowing what will draw media attention.  And just because I might love something a graphic designer throws at me does not mean it will translate well to the group that is receiving it, and I have to be clever enough to know the difference. 

While it may look to an outsider like I’m splashing about in a utopia of creativity, there is a method to the madness, and it’s not something any old person can just sit down and do. 

For example, I recently had an arts group for a client and I worked meticulously to choose the right pieces of music to feature as teasers in the group’s marketing and PR materials.  I chose pieces that I thought would play well with the target audience.  I chose words for my press releases that I thought would make a reporter want to write about the concerts.  All of my choices were based on my years of experience and knowledge.  Audiences for the events averaged at about 900 people, which was great for this particular group. 

I resigned from this client during the summer and was not replaced.  Several members of the group’s board of directors tried to fill in for some of my activities.  They didn’t pursue all of the outlets that I did, their announcements were poorly timed, and they chose the wrong words to feature.  The first concert of this season was last night.  It was a mix of music that included Broadway, film, jazz and blues music.  Which words did they call out in the marketing/PR?  “Jazz” and “blues.”  Which words would I have called out?  “Broadway” and “film.”  This is simply because Broadway and movie music is far more popular with the target crowd than jazz and blues.  How many people were at the concert?  Probably 500 max.  That’s not a bad number, but it’s a significant decrease in numbers from previous concerts, and this season is only beginning for the group.   

I don’t avoid sending press releases on Fridays (unless it’s bad news!) because I like to take it easy at the end of the week–there’s a good reason for it, and it’s a reason people without PR experience don’t understand because they haven’t worked in the field.   

I have a great friend that works in market research and it occurs to me that I should ask her if she experiences this same phenomenon–because hers is a more quantitative field, I wonder if as many people purport to be able to do it without any real knowledge of what it takes to be successful in the job. 

My suspicion for the motive of people wanting to jump in and contribute to a marketing and PR plan is that the job seems like fun.  And it is.  It certainly allows me to get my creative juices flowing and have a great time hosting press conferences, gala events, and rolling out internal communications efforts.  But I do these things successfully because I have the experience to do them professionally; not just because I think they’re fun.  

A company cannot cut marketing and PR jobs–or re-assign them to cheaper/less experienced resources–and expect performance to remain the same.  Despite how it might seem, these are specialized positions that require specialized knowledge, and to presume that someone without the training or skill can do these jobs is to start a steady decline toward failure.  A good marketing and/or PR professional is worth his weight in gold, and don’t let anybody–especially someone not versed in the field–tell you otherwise.

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A Las Vegas Shooting and the Second Amendment

On July 10  a man named Erik Scott was killed by Metro police officers at a Las Vegas Costco store.  The details of the incident seem to still be unclear:   A Costco employee called 911 because Scott had a gun on him in the store and was behaving “erratically,” though the nature of this behavior remains in debate.  As customers, along with Scott, were evacuating the store, did Scott pull his gun and aim at officers?  Did he reach for his gun at all?  Did it remain in the holster?  Was he merely trying to surrender it after receiving conflicting commands from police officers?  Is it merely a coincidence that the surveillance footage covering the incident is damaged and not retrievable or is there something more sinister at play? 

A Coroner’s inquest is in progress here in Clark County (for more on that, check out the latest from the Las Vegas Sun here.), so debate about the events of July 10 is freshly raging.  One such debate took place on the radio this morning as I was driving to work–listeners were calling in and weighing in on the topic.  Some sided with Scott’s family (a former girlfriend of Scott was one of the callers) and others sided with the police (they have families to go home to and need to protect themselves). 

The conversation called to mind a story in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink.”  It was about police officers in the Bronx who, several years ago, gunned down a young man because they were certain they saw him pull a gun on them.  As it turned out, the man didn’t have a gun anywhere on his person.  So why, then, were the officers so sure that this man was pointing a gun at them that they confidently took him down?  The answer isn’t simple, so I recommend reading “Blink” for the full story and analysis–it has to do with rapid cognition, and the decisions we make quickly…in the blink of an eye.  Sometimes this works really well and other times it fails, as was illustrated in the Bronx debacle.     

But I do wonder:  did these Metro officers fall victim to the same circumstances as the policemen in the Bronx?  Did they only think they saw Scott pull a gun, when he really did not?

As the conversation continued on the radio, one of the hosts suddenly made a rather disturbing point:  why did Erik Scott take a gun to Costco in the first place?  Why did he need a gun on his person at a store?   A follow-up caller echoed her point and implied that he was asking to get into trouble with the police because he made the bad decision to carry a gun with him to the store.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!  Not only is it legal to carry a concealed weapon (with the proper permit) in Nevada, but open carry is also legal.  Did Erik Scott need to have a gun with him in Costco?  Probably not.  Was he asking for trouble simply by exercising his constitutional right?  Absolutely not!

I think it’s incredibly dangerous to say that we should stop exercising the civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution simply because “it’s asking for trouble.”  The implication of that statement is incredible!  

I’m no Second Amendment warrior, but I think if someone wants to legally carry a gun on his person, he should be able to do so without the fear of being harmed. 

Would these same people so easily give up their First Amendment rights?  Should we stop criticizing elected officials for fear of repercussion from them?

Erik Scott was not asking to be killed simply because he was carrying a gun in Costco.  Now, whether or not he did something else to merit being shot remains to be exposed–along with the other fuzzy details of this incident–but to relinquish civil rights in the blink of an eye is the poorest judgment of all.  That, I believe, is what’s asking for trouble.

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Detox

As mentioned in my previous entry, I embarked on a four-week detox at the beginning of August.   The program, called Clean, was designed by cardiologist Dr. Alejandro Junger and is detailed in his aptly-titled book “Clean.”  The book itself is a good read and I recommend it even to those who have no intention of detoxing–it raises awareness about the many, many toxins people encounter in everyday life and provides simple suggestions for reducing that exposure.

The purpose of the detox is to restore health to the body’s digestive tract, which is often overloaded and rarely given the opportunity to do a full purge.  Consequences of this can include bloating, weight gain, insomnia, arthritis, allergies, depression/anxiety, etc.  While anyone doing this detox is certain to lose weight, the purpose of Clean is much bigger than that and, thus, the committment is, too. 

The program is 21 days, but a suggested week of pre-detox brings the total to four weeks.  For the first week, I eliminated all allergy-causing foods (dairy, wheat, peanuts, sugar, etc.) and ate from a list of approved food for all meals.  Once the detox began, I used those same foods to make liquid breakfasts and dinners and ate solid meals for lunch (the book contains all the recipes needed for the detox).  A variety of supplements complement the eating plan, along with some guidelines on maximizing the effects of the cleanse.  

Today, I am starting my last week of Clean.  The last three weeks have gone fairly smoothly, with one exception.  The pre-detox week was actually the toughest because I broke my cravings and adjusted to the restricted menu.  Fortunately, sugar is my main vice–I didn’t have to deal with caffeine or cocktail withdrawals.  For the first few days of Clean, I was definitely hungry after my liquid dinner and wishing to snack, but that stopped by the middle of the first week.  The biggest annoyance, honestly, was having to turn down lunch and dinner invites–lunch was too restrictive for most restaurants and my liquid dinner requirements made me a less than fun date. 

Last Wednesday night, however, I temporarily lost my mind.  I ate my dinner shake and was still absolutely starving afterward.  I was consumed with thoughts of food and my efforts to fight it back failed.  I sliced a cucumber and ate it in a fit of desperation, but it did nothing to appease me.  I was also starting to feel very lethargic, which I chalked up to a calorie deficit.  Finally, at about 9 p.m., I cracked.  My husband and I raced to El Pollo Loco and we ended up splitting a combo meal.  We each had a piece of grilled chicken (allowable in the restricted diet) and a side (a cheat–I had mac and cheese and my husband had Mexican rice).  I felt so much better after eating that there was no guilt.  Thursday I continued on as planned.  

In the last three weeks, I’ve lost 20 lbs.  I have no idea how much is water weight; that remains to be seen after I finish.  I have experienced only minimal energy boosts, and though Dr. Junger suggests moderate exercise on Clean, I can’t imagine doing workouts with any regularity–I’m generally beat by the end of the day and have to drag myself out of bed in the morning.  Maybe it would be a different story if I wasn’t working full-time, but walking my dogs is about all the exercise I’ve been able to handle.  My allergies have not completely subsided, but that’s because I’m also allergic to my dogs and various plants.

So, I haven’t seen the drastic results described by some patients in the book, but I have seen some–enough that I would consider repeating this annually, as suggested by Dr. Junger.  It certainly requires an extreme amount of will power: I sat in a corporate training event last week where pizza was ordered for lunch.  It arrived a few minutes before the morning session ended, so I had to sit there with the smell of hot pizza wafting through the room for 10 minutes (it felt like an eternity!).  When we finally broke, I literally sprinted from the room–had I stayed a moment longer, I would have eaten some.

One very nice thing about this detox is that I still get to eat regular food.  So, while I may have to resist the temptation of pizza or cupcakes, I am still able to have a chicken breast and brown rice for lunch instead of a jar full of water and maple syrup (ala the Master Cleanse).  That goes a long way to making the 21 days bearable.  Another positive is that I’m never eating enough at one time to make myself completely full, and it’s really nice to be without that heavy feeling after eating, particularly after lunch. 

I will post again about Clean once I’ve completed the program…and once I’ve had my first meal off the plan.  I’m not yet sure what it will be, but it’s guaranteed to be good!

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The Best Pecan Pie in Vegas

I’m in the midst of a three-week detox (post on that to come), so it pains me to write about food right now, but I’ve been wanting to write this blog for more than a month–its delay is due to my starting a new job and taking a two-week vacation.  Let’s hope I make it through this without drooling all over the keyboard.

One of my favorite restaurants in Las Vegas is the Indian Curry Bowl, located in Centennial Hills at 5643 Centennial Center Blvd.  I know what you’re thinking.  Why is she writing about an Indian restaurant if this post is about pecan pie?  Stay with me, because I was thinking something similar when I saw pecan pie on the restaurant’s special menu.

Indian Curry Bowl is a new-ish and small restaurant that is owned by a very kind and talented family.  I’ve tried a good portion of the traditional Indian dishes that are on the menu and they’re all incredible–everything is made fresh and it tastes that way.  In fact, local Whole Foods Markets are now carrying the restaurant’s food!  I’m partial to the garlic naan, which I order as a side every time I’m there.

My husband and I went to Indian Curry Bowl for dinner in June and I noticed pecan pie on the special menu.  I mentioned to my husband that I found it odd to see pecan pie on an Indian restaurant’s menu, but before we finished our meal the owner convinced us to try his wife’s pecan pie, which he assured us would be the best we’d ever had.

Full disclosure: I don’t really like pecan pie.  I told the owner we’d take a piece to go and he suggested we get two pieces because one would not be enough.  I agreed for two reasons, the first being that he was so nice that I couldn’t bear to refuse him and, second, I figured that if we didn’t eat it, I would have helped pump a few more dollars into a local business.

Indian Curry Bowl's pecan pie

He brought out the pie to us in one to-go container and asked us to try a bite before we left; we obliged.  I almost leapt out of my seat this pie was so amazing!  It’s different from traditional pecan pie–beneath the pecan layer there is a fluffy cheesecake layer and beneath that a thin layer of custard.  This pie had a perfectly light but creamy texture and a vanilla flavor that complemented the pecans nicely.  The owner told us that his wife uses honey to sweeten the pie, which I appreciate because I’ve tasted some pecan pies that are so sweet they’re almost gritty; the sweetness in this pie was well-balanced.  This pecan pie was definitely the best I’ve ever had.

Not only did we devour both pieces before we ever left the restaurant, we took another piece home for later.  I’m embarrassed to admit we ate it before we went to bed that night!

It’s easy to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere at Indian Curry Bowl, its friendly service and the delish food.  It’s worth a drive to the northwest side of town for those that don’t live in the area, and for those that do, well, you might find it to be your new favorite neighborhood restaurant.

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The Impulse Porsche

My father-in-law just bought an impulse Porsche.

This is on a plane of impulse purchases to which I cannot relate.  My impulse purchases involve highly-caloric pastries and clearance shoes at TJ Maxx. 

I have tried to impulse buy more extravagant things–Louis Vuitton handbags and Jimmy Choo shoes–but I’ve never been able to go through with it.  I stand there with my plastic in hand, knowing the card can handle the purchase, but then I hear this voice in the back of my head (it’s probably my mother’s) telling me to not be so irresponsible.  And I leave, overcome by a mix of relief and disappointment. 

Knowing how tortuous it is for me to stand there considering a $900 handbag or pair of shoes (and never going through with the purchase), one can imagine that the mere thought of spending upwards of $40,000 on a car in the blink of an eye literally makes me nauseous.  If I visualize myself in that position, standing at a car dealership saying, “Yes, I’ll take that red turbo 911, thank you very much,” I could actually make myself vomit.

To be fair, it wasn’t entirely an impulse purchase.  He’d been mulling over this car for a few days and also considering the possibility that his current 911, which is getting up in mileage, might need thousands of dollars of work soon.  But, he didn’t need the car, and the fact is that he just really, really wanted it.  And so he bought it.  Just like that. 

It isn’t the first time–he has a long history of buying impulse cars.  In fact, there’s a great story about him pointing out a car to his wife while driving past a dealership in the 90s, and she responded, “it’s cute,” and he came home with it later that day to her shock and horror. 

Maybe it’s because I don’t love cars or maybe it’s because I’m not flush enough to contemplate spending so much so quickly, but I’m mildly shocked and horrified myself right now. 

Maybe someday, but for now…well, it’s back to chocolate croissants and marked-down pumps.

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