Friday, May 31, 2013

Confucius says

"A common man marvels at uncommon things; a wise man marvels at the commonplace."

A common man marvels at uncommon things: Beware of the seduction of the "next shiny object" promoted by the media in an attempt to convince you to buy that product or service.

A wise man marvels at the commonplace: Everything is a miracle.

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."

Six new words I learned from the National Spelling Bee

An ill-tempered person who finds fault in everything, taken from Laurence Sterne's A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy.

An important or self-important person, coined by the dramatist Samuel Foote.

Behavior befitting a second-rate actor, otherwise known as hamming it up for the audience.

An abnormal hatred of new ideas.

Senseless babble; foolish or stupid talk.

Divination by consulting with the shadows of the dead.

San Francisco/Silicon Valley vs New York

If New York and San Francisco/Silicon Valley (which I will henceforth refer to as the Greater Bay Area) were compared, who would make the better "leader"?

According to Auren Hoffman (a native New Yorker who now resides in San Francisco), in the Greater Bay Area it is more profitable to be ethical than it is in the ecosystem of New York. Hoffman uses spousal fidelity to demonstrate ethics:

"In my twelve years here, I have only known one SF guy who cheated on his significant other. Only one. (for some reason, I have known five SF women that were not true to their spouses). This is probably because the town is so small, one would likely get caught. Hence it is more profitable to be ethical.

In New York, by contrast, cheating on girlfriends and wives, while not commonplace and still unacceptable, is much more common.

And whether it is one's sex life, or their business transactions, one can screw over a lot more people in New York before one's reputation globally suffers." (Source.)

Hoffman observes that New Yorkers also tend to judge others more on their appearance as opposed to judging others by their brain power. Judging others by status symbols of address, clothes, family name – materialistic traps of the Industrial Age. New Yorkers are less open-minded, they tend to box others in with labels associated with religion, ethnicity, education, family ties - so not relevant in creative techno-wizardry of the Greater Bay Area, incubator and home of techno-geniuses... Like Hoffman, I have experienced the coldness of the people in the Greater Bay Area. New Yorkers are friendlier and my techy neighbors are connectors; they will connect you with an entity that can help. I read somewhere that Silicon Valley has the most greedy people in the USA, but also have some of the best public services. Generosity is not a trait I would associate with my neighbors, but generosity is a quality of the politics here where social services make for a more ethical appearing community. So, I conclude that the appearance of being ethical in the Greater bay Area is a driving force or, at least, being associated with a socially ethical community is a driving force. Maybe it's easier to obtain tax money if you have an "ethical" political agenda, at least in the Greater Bay Area?... Business connections are important in both cities, but in New York business relationships are coveted, networks are within old money circles, and found within embedded family relationships and established networks; whereas the Greater Bay Area is more collaborative and encourages new ideas and innovation.

My conclusion is that the Greater Bay Area (consisting of San Francisco and Silicon Valley) is the "leader". Home of creativity and innovation.

To sum up, Hoffman says,

"And clubs ... how many people in SF do you know that joined a social club? I think I might know three. But many of the people I know in New York are part of some club -- whether it is the Harvard Club, the Metropolitan Club, the banana-split with all the toppings club ...
Why the difference?
Because New York is about those boxes ... SF is about off with the suit and tie ..." (Source.)

Managers vs Leaders

There's a lot of hype online about "leadership" lately. I don't believe that the average worker really grasps what a leader is, so their expectations are low. Low for their company's leadership and low for their own aptitude to become a leader. I didn't know. I had a juvenile idea of leadership: the kid on the playground who was loud, dominant, often quick, and sometimes threatening. Those qualities may be relevant in some groups, but undesirable nevertheless... My first graduate school assignment was to write a 1200 word essay explaining the difference between managers and leaders. (Just so you know, it was a Master of Science in Management degree.) I really had never thought much about those two terms before, I just thought that managers were delegators of work and did performance evals, which they do, but I had never understood what differentiates a manager from a leader. Basically, a leader is a visionary. A leader is the inspiration to go the distance and reach the goal, whatever that goal may be... Who wouldn't prefer to be managed by a leader? In fact, who wouldn't prefer to have others around who have these leadership traits:

Managers give answers. Leaders ask questions.
Managers criticize mistakes. Leaders call attention to mistakes indirectly.
Managers forget to praise. Leaders reward even the smallest improvement.
Managers focus on the bad. Leaders emphasize the good.
Managers want credit. Leaders credit their teams.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

I love artist/maker/giver Sal Randolph and the "Gift Economy"

My son met Sal Randolph in Portland, Oregon, while filming a documentary. 

"Sal Randolph lives in New York and makes art involving gift economies, social interactions, public spaces and publishing, including Opsound, (an site for the exchange of copyleft music) the Free Biennial and Free Manifesta (a pair of open “biennials”), Free Words (a book infiltrated into bookstores and libraries), and Money Actions (an ongoing series of interventions in which she has given away several thousand dollars to members of the public). She is currently investigating games, recipes, algorithms, codes, and texts, and is writing about about experience and participation in art." Source:

15 social media strategy blogs I should read:

Here's the to-read list:
1) Pam Moore
2) Socially Sorted
3) The Social Skinny
4) My Social Game Plan
5) Top Dog Social Media
6) Social Media Revolver
7) Social Media Examiner
8) Razor Social
9) Ignite Social Media
10) Sprout Insights
11) Scott Monty
12) Social Media Collective Research
13) Radian 6 Blog
14) Chris Brogan
15) More Visibility

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Six strengths introverts use to influence others

I am an introvert - and proud of it! Freud was an introvert as well. Kahnweiler, author of Quiet Influence, reveals the six strengths introverts use to influence others: 1) taking quiet time; 2) preparation; 3) engaged listening; 4) focused conversations; 5) writing; and 6) thoughtful use of social media. Kahnweiler recommends that introverts should deliberately act with intent and utilize these qualities to their advantage. Is this the Age of the Introvert? Will people, instead of striving to be more extroverted, need counseling to learn how to be more introverted? Maybe... but I just want to be me. I make things happen with my introversion (not despite of it - this blog for example). Introverts don't like it when they are required to react; for example, to answer the phone. Introverts like choices. Give introverts the freedom to choose, and they'll answer the phone. Maybe they'll listen to the voicemail first. That's because they need time to think and reflect upon how they feel; they like to be prepared. Being thoughtful, reflective, and prepared is good. Good for conversing, good for creating. Good for social media. And social media is good for success in the 21st century.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Artists spun illusions for US military in WWII

Renderings and images of a few of the artist-warriors from exhibit catalog.

"The CIA Iran rescue operation featured in Argo isn't the first time the U.S. has used the arts to foil a bitter enemy...Armies have been using subterfuge to fool enemy forces for eons, but the Ghost Army was unusually audacious, and especially good at its job: Designing and deploying inflatable tanks, airplanes, and artillery, plus sound effects and other illusion-spinning tactics, to convince the German army that the Allied forces were stronger and more omnipresent than they were.

[Artists such as Bill] Blass and his brothers in arms were recruited from art schools and ad agencies. They were sought for their acting skills. They were selected for their creativity. They were soldiers whose most effective weapon was artistry." Read more here.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

be free - create a void

Image by Tim Walker, photographer and visual storyteller.

Someone recently  asked me, "What inspires you as a designer?"
Me: "Everything and anything. Especially other people's art whether it be music, film, fashion, poetry, literature, fine art, graphic design, etc. And, if you follow my blog, you will find many treasures that inspire my creativity."  (Such as the Tim Walker visual, above.)

"Absence extinguishes small passions and increases great ones,
as the wind blows out a candle, and blows in a fire."
- Fran├žois de la Rochefoucauld

"I discovered that what's really important for a creator isn't what we vaguely define as inspiration or even what it is we want to say, recall, regret, or rebel against.
No, what's important is the way we say it. Art is all about craftsmanship. Others can interpret craftsmanship as style if they wish. Style is what unites memory or recollection, ideology, sentiment, nostalgia, presentiment, to the way we express all that.
It's not what we say, but how we say it that matters."
- Federico Fellini

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler."
- Henry David Thoreau 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Artsy furniture

Tree dresser by aoneko. Created with painter's masking tape.

Graduated colors - not just for kid's room...

Wallpapered chest of drawers.

Metallic paint.

Love the country feeling...

Reminds me of New Orleans eclectic...

I love this chest of drawers by junkdrawerdivas.

Goes with this quote I found on Mona Simpson's eulogy to her brother, Steve Jobs:

 “Fashion is what seems beautiful now but looks ugly later; art can be ugly at first but it becomes beautiful later.”

Another chest of drawers by junkdrawerdivas...

Also by junkdrawerdivas...

wallpapered drawers

Visit here to see more vanities.

Red barrel-back captain's chairs.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lemony Greek Yogurt Pie

Graham Cracker Crust 
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs (6-8 whole cookies)
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup melted butter (plus 1-2 tsp for preparing pan)
Preheat oven to 300° F. Break cookies and place in food processor.* Pulse until ground into medium-fine crumbs. Put into medium mixing bowl, and stir in butter and sugar. Turn out into a buttered nine-inch springform pan and, using your fingers, press mixture into an even crust along the bottom. You can also use a buttered glass pie plate and form the crumbs into a traditional crust along the bottom and up the sides. Bake for 10-15 minutes until firm and dry. Remove from oven and set on a wire rack.

*Don't have a food processor? You can also make crumbs in the blender or by hand. Place crackers in a heavy duty plastic freezer bag and crush with a rolling pin.
Lemon Greek Yogurt Filling
4 eggs
¾ cup sugar
1 tbs. cornstarch
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups plain Greek Yogurt (whole or 2%)
1 tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
If you used a food processor to make the crust, just wipe it out with a dry paper towel and clean off the blade. Pulse eggs a few times to beat (or use an electric mixer). Pulse in sugar, cornstarch, salt, vanilla, and yogurt until light and slightly bubbly. Add lemon and lemon zest and pulse or beat briefly to incorporate. Pour mixture into prepared crust (it's fine if the crust is still warm).
Place in center of oven. Start checking cheesecake after 50 minutes and then every 5-10 minutes after that. Shake pan gently. The filling should look creamy but firm at the edges, and still appear slightly jiggly in the center. It will firm up as it cools. Remove from oven and set on a wire rack. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or overnight) before serving.
Optional topping: 3 cups sliced strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or mixed berries tossed with two tablespoons sugar. Let mixture sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour so the berries get nice and juicy. Spoon desired amount of topping over a slice of cheesecake before serving.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How to be more creative

Be curious. Ask questions. Reflect on other points of view.

Jot down ideas. Document everything. Assimilate thoughts and observations. Review and implement.

Go flat (as opposed to hierarchies) - think like Silicon Valley companies. This is not the norm in the public sector where you are expected to "do as you are told", realize that that to be creative requires more than just one commander at the realm.

Stuck in a negative environment? Be an example of success. (Think of how many successful musicians have come out of slums.)

Be authentic - the new word for "true to yourself" - and stay consistently so.

Be daring. Throw your ideas all out there and see what survives.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rules about being happy. Now.

"To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth."

One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy - and one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself...  Therefore, I can build a happy life only on the foundation of my own nature. Happy people make people happy, but I can’t make someone be happy, and no one else can make me happy."

Source: Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project

 “Happiness,” wrote  William Butler Yeats,  “is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.”

Sunday, May 12, 2013

I love vintage clothes.

Carlyle lace dress.

1930s silk robe.

Conspiracy Theory or Truth?

Found this [funny] conspiracy theory: U.S. government workers are actually shapeshiftersRead more here.

I found the following quote on the web:

“are their really US officials who are aliens dressed as humans. i mean i have eyewitnessed a news castor blinking very fast then his eyes went completely black then back to normal. so are aliens really walking amongst us now to monitor us”   - source unknown

A new conspiracy video claims the Secret Service assigned a shapeshifting alien to President Obama's security detail, but the White House dismisses the claim, adding that even if they did have such a program, it would likely be cut due to the sequester.
I watched the video here. (I can alter any video in Adobe Premiere Pro, too, BTW.)

I find many of these theories amusing - and I think that Hollywood is making too much of aliens invading the earth. And I'm really sick of zombie games. I cannot figure out why are people attracted to horror. 

p.s. I am a federal employee and I am not an alien from another planet despite being an artist.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Soundtracks that synchronize your heart rate and brainwaves

"Weightless" soundtrack is the most biologically relaxing sound, causing your heart rate and brainwaves to synchronize. The next ten soundtracks for relaxing are:

Have you ever how Americans sound and seem like to foreigners? Watch/hear this...

Not a single word in Adriano Celentano’s song, “Prisencolinensinanciusol,” means anything. 
It doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it sure does sound a lot like English. Released as a single on November 3, 1972, the song was designed to seem like American English. A satirical parody, it was written to highlight the fact that many Italian artists were singing American pop classics without knowing a single word of the language.  
The result is a hysterical glimpse into just how Americans sound to foreigners. Spoiler alert: we sound awesome. We're not bad dancers either. Sort of sexy warriors...   

Read more:

Friday, May 10, 2013

Best Pie in America - contest winner!

Sittin' on a Sandbar Key Lime Pie 

2 cups crushed vanilla wafers
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons melted butter
Filling 8 ounces Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1-15 ounce can Eagle Brand condensed milk
¾ cup Coco Lopez (Cream of Coconut)
¾ cup key lime juice
Whipped Cream Layer 1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup powdered sugar
Garnish Lime slices & white chocolate sea shells 
Directions: 1. In a bowl, combine vanilla wafer crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Press into a 9- inch deep dish pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Allow to cool to the touch before filling.
2. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add eggs & egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add condensed milk and beat well. Add key lime juice and Coco Lopez and beat well. Pour into crust. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes or until center is set to the touch. Allow to cool before refrigerating.
3. In a cold bowl, beat whipping cream and powdered sugar until stiff. Pipe large rosettes around edges.
*To make white chocolate sea shells, melt white chocolate almond bark or white chocolate pieces in microwave. Pour into seashell molds. Chill until set.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Desserts for Summer

Banana-Blueberry Buttermilk Bread 
3/4 cup nonfat or low-fat buttermilk 
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar 
1/4 cup canola oil 
2 large eggs 
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium) 
11/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour 
1 cup all-purpose flour 
11/2 teaspoons baking powder 
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
11/4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. 
2. Whisk buttermilk, brown sugar, oil and eggs in a large bowl. Stir in mashed bananas. 
3. Whisk whole-wheat pastry flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and nutmeg in a medium bowl. 
4. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in blueberries. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. 
5. Bake until the top is golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. 5. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Let cool for about 2 hours before slicing.
Make Ahead Tip: Wrap and store at room temperatre for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Ingredient note: Whole-wheat pastry flour, lower in protein than regular whole-wheat flour, has less gluten-forming potential, making it a better choice for tender baked goods. You can find it in the natural-foods section of large supermarkets and natural-foods stores. Store in the freezer. 
Muffin Variation: Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat 12 (1/2 cup) muffin cups with cooking spray or line with paper liners. Divide the batter among the muffin cups (they will be full). Bake until the tops are golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove and let cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes more before serving.

Creamy Lemon Squares
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon salt
 1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
4 large egg yolks
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line bottom with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides; butter paper.
2. Make crust: Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, and salt until light and fluffy. Add flour, and mix on low just until combined. Press dough into the bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of prepared pan; prick all over with a fork. Bake until lightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Make filling: In a large bowl, whisk together yolks, condensed milk, and lemon juice until smooth. Pour over hot crust in pan; return to oven, and bake until filling is set, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan.
4. Refrigerate until filling is firm, about 2 hours or up to 3 days. Using paper overhang, lift cake onto a work surface; cut into 16 squares, and dust with confectioners sugar.

Thoughts of the day.

Escape the Prison of Past Conditioning
That is my "thought of the day": to escape the prison of past conditioning. In every thing i do. In every decision i make. Of course, this doesn't mean i turn radical, or spend money i don't have - it simply means that I become less assuming, that I allow uncertainty to exist. To be fearlessly uncertain and step into the unknown.
1. Allow life to flow by being detached.
2. Accept that uncertainty is the path to freedom.
3. Anticipate the excitement of stepping into the field of all possibilities.
Source: The Chopra Center (for a daily inspiration)
My Creativity is always in demand. I am infinitely creative. 
Today I claim my power.
Source: Louise Hayes

How to attract upscale consumers? Print marketing.

I notice that there is a growing gap between consumers, the Have-Nots and the Have-It-Alls: the Have-Nots have very little discretionary income and shop at discount stores and the Have-It-Alls who are spoiled for choice seek experiences (for example, think about the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Sedona, AZ where you can "manifest your dreams"). And who wants an oppressive inventory of tangible goods that add to clutter or become an ostentatious display of wealth in our bad economy (so uncool)? Yet there is something that still catches the eye of the upscale consumer - beautifully designed marketing collateral - print collateral to be exact. How novel. Despite the convenience of the internet to promote ideas and services, there is a sophistication in printed marketing that adds glamour to marketing efforts. And no other medium can target as well as direct mail with  its sophistication, especially since it differentiates itself from competitors as being so, well, untechy. It is indeed a total conquest vehicle to target empty nesters (boomers). Printed marketing collateral speaks to a more affluent audience by drawing them in with a short message which then leads them to the product website to learn more. 

There are only 4 jobs in the world

"Everything starts with an idea. This is the first of the four jobs – the ThinkersBuilders convert these ideas into reality. This the second job. Improvers make this reality better. This is the third job. Producers do the work over and over again, delivering quality goods and services to the company’s customers in a repeatable manner. This is the fourth job. And then the process begins again with new ideas and new ways of doing business being developed as the old ones become stale."

As a company grows and reaches maturity, more of the work gets done by the Producers and Improvers. However, without a culture of consistent improvement, the Producers soon take over and implementing change becomes slower and slower until it stops. Long before this the Thinkers and Builders have left for some new venture. Improvers soon follow to join their former co-workers and hire new Producers to add some order to the newly created chaos. The old Producers who aren’t continually evolving, learning new skills and processes, are left behind to fend for themselves. Maintaining balance across all four work types is a constant, but a necessary struggle for a company to continue to grow, adapt, and survive...every person is comprised of a mix of each work type, with one or two dominant."

Source: Lou Adler

I am an Improver first and Thinker second in my place of employment; yet I am a Thinker first and all the other "jobs" second in my personal creative endeavors. Now, it makes total sense that my place of work is closing - "without a culture of consistent improvement, the Producers soon take over and implementing change becomes slower and slower until it stops" - without change there is nothing new to improve.