Sunday, November 30, 2014

Be Prepared.

Save the date - Strike Action. 

The Belgians are striking. Apparently they love Monday strikes because they are having them for the next three Mondays.

Tomorrow's strike will impact rail routes going to Germany. If you have a meeting in Hamburg, I highly recommend rescheduling. If you are planning to get to London, you are golden. If you want to get to the airport, I suggest booking a car service or cab. Nothing like getting all sweaty walking to the station to find out that the trains are also out of service and then having to fight someone for a cab.
Strikes can take a crap on your travel plans.

The next two strikes are predicted to be more severe. Eurostar services are cancelled, as are local and international services and the airport transportation will be shut down.  If you are planning on leaving on Brussels on the 15th, think again.

I appreciate getting the notice of these strikes.  The Italian railways announce strikes months ahead of time.  I feel like each strike needs a save the date card sent out with the information because you are likely to forget it. I recommend special ordering fridge magnets striking workers of the world for each action or in the case of the Belgians a set of three. They are really cute and handy.

Joking aside, I understand the need to strike and the consideration by those striking to allow others to make alternate arrangements, but does this lessen the impact of your strike?

What if you had a strike action that closed the airport and no one came?

Not always. Be prepared. Carry a good book, your charger, know your rights and always use the bathroom before you board your flight.  
On that note, always check with your transportation carrier ahead of time for strikes, flight cancellations, ticket cancellations (me,twice in this trip) and be a savvy traveler. No one is going to do you favors, even if you are super zirconium status. Your concierge may have taken the weekend off and you may be SOL.

Happy Trails my friends.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Backing up is hard to do - not

At the Quai aux briques, it is all about the Fish. 

Hello from the land of the waffle.

I was going to wax poetically about my feelings about Christmas markets, but I'll spare you right now.

I take a lot of pictures, some of them are awesome even without Instagram filters, some of them not so much, but I get to make that decision after I look at my pictures on a screen that is bigger than phone. That requires actually getting my photos from off my phone and somewhere secure.

I have a few hard drives that have thousands of photo and music backups, but to be honest, I never use them any more. I do check them on occasion and they seem stable. I do worry about the discs failing as they are getting old. I've experienced the heartbreak of losing physical SD cards and while I can't ever recover those pictures, they memories of the places are still so vivid in my mind.

Backing up these days is not hard to do.

My iPhone photos get backed up to my hard drive, but that isn't fail safe.  Laptops get stolen, hard disks crash and photos get deleted.  I still love Flickr, but I have all but abandoned it because the interface can be clunky.  I never took to other photo sharing sites, other that Instagram.  I love the fact that Instagram integrates with other apps as well.

I'm using Dropbox/Carousel now to upload my camera uploads automatically when I'm connected to wifi.  You can love or hate Dropbox or the cloud,  but now I have the peace of mind that my photos are getting uploaded while I'm traveling.

There are a million places you can store your photos - Evernote, Flickr, Dropbox, Smugmug, Google Drive - some cost and some are free. The important thing is to back them up somewhere. It's not hard and having photos sit on your phone or on a memory card moldering a drawer is just ridiculous these days. View them, share them, critique them and your photography will improve and you'll get to relive the awesome things you've seen on your travels.

What exactly are you waiting for?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Happy Friday from Bruges

Mine was spent thinking about how someone named Eclair could be so disparaging about cupcakes and enjoying multimodal transport to finally arrive in Bruges.

Will I love Walloonlandia more than Brussels is yet to be seen. 

Happy Friday

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Being Thankful

Leave Freely.

Love fiercely.

Breath freely. 

Speak Freely.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On Ferguson a guest post by TH

I usually don't use this blog to discuss anything other than my mundane life, but watching the protests all over the country and in some cases, the looting that takes place because clearly we need more beer and Red-bull to sustain our marches breaks my heart and TH's.

These are her words, but they are my sentiments as well.

TH  grew up going to Old Oakland every Saturday with her father to do their weekly shopping - deli meats and olive oil at Ratto's, coffee at Peerless and visiting the wholesale produce market well before it was gentrified and hip. Many of these businesses stuck it out in Oakland when others fled for the safer enclaves. They survive today thanks to an influx of new people living and working in downtown Oakland and maybe kids or grandkids of others who grew up shopping downtown.

Alas, Susie, this is not true.  Among the businesses looted in the past two days are Genova Delicatessen, Smart and Final, and a Walgreen's drugstore.  Nearby and in danger are food icons such as Ratto's, Cafe 817, and Bakesale Betty.  These are the places that are truly a part of the fabric of Oakland.  Genova has created amazing sandwiches and ravioli for generations.  Smart and Final provides wholesale and retail restaurant supplies for small restaurants in Oakland's Chinatown and for many other nearby restaurants.  The also sell quart bottles of vanilla extract to us overeager bakers.  Walgreen's brings a drug store to a a very underserved neighborhood.

While it is easy to say "oh insurance will cover their damage", these are institutions that have provided food and pharmacy services to a center city that many institutions abandoned.  They remained and worked to rejuvenate old Oakland and Telegraph Avenue and helped sustain the city's revival.  Their insurance may cover the damage, but insurance is not free.  Their rates go up every time there is such wanton looting.  And even if they are not looted they have to board windows, and lose sales and patronage, time and time again.  Eventually they may well say "enough is enough" and close or leave.  And other small businesses may be less inclined to take the risk of investing in Oakland.  These kinds of small losses truly destroy Oakland's social fabric.

Yup. Small losses grow big.  Save Oakland.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

Get me off your #$IO# mailing list

There is a story going around the interwebs about an article that was "published" in an on-line science journal that basically repeats the same thing in the abstract, introduction, material and methods, results, discussion et al which is "Take me off your effing mailing list".  While the article points out that these new online science journals will take anything for a buck and should be considered disreputable, the premise of the article is solid.

Let me go.  Don't make it hard for me to unsubscribe from your content.

The internet is really a give and take thing - I give you some awesome content you think you need and in return, I demand your email address so that I can send you marketing materials.  Just giving someone your email address is really low currency when you compare it sites that basically demand to know everything about you and your business before allowing you to download their content.  I can't imagine that everyone fills out the information the same way every time, nor do they do so truthfully.

Ask me too many questions and I may end up stretching the truth.

As a marketer, you really don't want that.

As a marketer to B2B you may want a little more information about me so you can have your sales person suss me out, I respect that.

As a person, I ask that you limit the number of questions you ask about my occupation and my goals.

As a busy person, I ask that you make it easy for me to opt-out of any related marketing schlub.

As a busy marketing person, I ask that you don't consider my name and information as a lead until I engage you again. I hate for you to be disappointed.

As a busy marketing person who hates waiting in line and trying to remember why I am getting information from you, I ask that you remind me why you are sending me something.

As a potential lead, I ask that your content be engaging, concise and sincere enough that I'll consider reading past the first paragraph and perhaps click on the link and read further.
Try harder and check your work.

As a person, I ask that if you eff-up when you send me email, that you admit to your mistake and apologize.
Me and Sylvester Stallone. 

As a person I ask that you consider that my gender may not match my name and to spend a little time making sure your marketing automation tools are filling in the blanks.

As both a marketer and a consumer, I demand that you make it easy and clear how to unsubscribe from your literature.  Please don't ask me why I'm leaving, because if you have to ask..... Please do not send me a follow up email to confirm my removal from your list.  Please do not have me sign onto the website to update my preferences.  Just set me free.

My opinion of you and your product may not just be based on your quality or content, it is also based on my ability to decide to leave at will.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Keep Calm and Panic Later

Hoxton Station, way out there. 

Update - Hyatt has honored our reservation at their other property without any intervention on my part. I love the AndaZ and will talk about why in a new post. 

What to do when the hotel you have reservations at suffers an unfortunate kitchen explosion and has evacuated all guests until they can determine if it is safe or not.

  1.  Be happy that they didn't just say, oops and laugh it off and blame it on a pot of beans 
  2. Be relieved they have moved all guests into neighboring hotels and will not allow for occupancy until the hotel checks out to be safe 
  3.   Be relieved that while one person was seriously hurt, very few suffered injuries 
  4. Realize that your stay is two weeks away and a lot of things can happen in two weeks, so you should chill
  5.  Make alternative plans because even though you know they'll take care of you, you want to take care of yourself 
  6.  Not call the Customer Service line to bitch and moan because you applied an upgrade to your reservation and you will not accept a downgrade 
  7.  Read the frequent flyer thread on the incident with some amusement and realize everyone thinks their crisis is more important than their fellow travelers 
  8. Keep abreast of changes through the hotel's social media streams 
  9.  All of the above I

I'm going with all of the above.

There is too much other drama in my life and I can wait a little longer to make sure my stay details are going to change. Follow @hyattconcierge and @hyattchurchill on twitter to track the status of the Hyatt Regency Churchill reopening.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Let them eat cake, the Saturday edition

Today I baked two cakes in loaf pans so they could be considered breads, but let's not.

Savory Salami cake and Pain d'epices, to be blogged, for realz.

Then we all sat down and ate them.

My friends are really talented. Top right  - Pain d'epices, Bottom right -Pavlova, Bottom left - Cauliflower Cake, Top left, Victoria Sponge with strawberries, Middle -Carrot Cake with Caramel. Not pictured the Broccoli Cake and the Salami Cake and myriads of jellies and jams.

We ate Pain d'epices, Pavlova, Broccoli Cake, Cauliflower Cake, Salami, Pistachio and Sun Dried Tomato Cake, Victoria Sponge, Carrot cake and all sorts other of good things. All those vegetables count as dinner right? I took a three hour nap after all that cake.

I made this pie a year ago, but it looks nearly the same - that is my friend Leslie Seaton's home made apple brandy and I'm not sharing.  Recipe to be blogged, really, it is so good.

And then spent the next two hours making pie.

All in all a good day.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Single Payer System

Le Crillon, Dec. 2013. We are so fancy.

I love travel, loyalty programs and  I love eating. These are the three truths. I also love to plan. I would have made a terrible hostel goer or backpacker back in the day.  I am not a seat of the pants traveller either, I like to have a decent idea of where I'm going and what I'm going to see.

I also hate waiting in lines, all of them.

I'm a big fan of online reservation systems that ensure that I don't have to wait in line for food, museum exhibitions and ticket machines that only take exact change. For dining, I use OpenTable as much as possible to make restaurant bookings. I have even been known to fire up the app on the way to a restaurant just to ensure I'm not going to be hanging out in the parking lot with one of those ugly pagers.

Restaurants sometimes run promotions through OpenTable to get people to dine during off hours. Typically a diner earns 100 points for booking through OpenTable, but sometimes that bumps up to 1000 points.  Points start to add up fast when you book them at these odd hours and for those who love their points, it can mean convincing your loved one eating dinner at 545 is really a very late lunch.

What does this have to do with the Single Payer System?  Most of these promos require a party of two to get the 1000 points.  The solo traveller is just as likely to eat either earlier or late, but they don't qualify for the promotion.  Shouldn't we be getting at least 500 points?

I know that the restaurants pay to be part of the OpenTable program and it costs them x number of dollars to give out these points, but who is to say the solo traveller is not going to order a more expensive entree, a better glass of wine and perhaps linger over a cappuccino before heading back to their room to watch Dog the Bounty Hunter?

The same thing goes for restaurants that will not book tables for one. I use the French and UK equivalents of OpenTable to book restaurants and often times they will not take a solo diner.  I end up booking for two and bring my bear to lunch (Kidding, sort of) . Instead I'll sheepishly say that my companion was not going to make it and hope they don't put me next to the bussing station.

I think it is time for the single payer/diner to be recognized.  We can easily just order room service and sit in our pjs, but we choose to adventure out and try the newest kombucha on tap hotspot, so rejoice and give us our damn points for trying.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Throw back Thursday, the very tired and must go to bed edition

I bought a slide scanner earlier this summer and I am completely driven to scan all that I have to lessen my photo footprint. There will be more on that soon. These are a few of my memories of Rome, shot on film.

Finding beauty in all the right places, Rome 2000.

Passegiata, Rome 1997.

Not to scale, Ghetto, Rome 1997,

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How to feed a startup

Pecan shortbread dipped in bittersweet chocolate, likely never to be blogged. 

I bake a lot.

This is not a secret.

Every week I bake a few quick breads or a batch of cookies and take them into work. We're not huge (yet), so it is not an onerous task.  It is something I enjoy doing. It gives me a chance to try some new things out to a very appreciative audience who is happy to give me feedback on this week's treat. 

Getting feedback is a great thing. It makes me a better baker and if I make the same batch of cookies again, you get to experience the improved product. If you are lucky, I'll tell you about it the recipe and why I chose to bake it. I may even share the recipe with you and you'll take the cookies to your next potluck. You might decide to share the same recipe with friends via your blog, Instagram or Pinterest that might get spread further through social media and continue this cycle of sharing.  As a cookie baker, you may want to make some changes to make it even better and hopefully you'll include me in the loop and I'll make some of those tweaks to the recipe over time.

Friends, this is how you feed a startup.

Eat, tell, share, rave.

Our product is in beta and I would love for you to try it.   We've developed a web app, ClipCard that connects to Dropbox, Google Drive, and other apps and let's you see across all of them at the same time from one place.  ClipCard helps me connect the dots and see the relationships between my files and contacts and get things done without spending a lot of time and falling down a rabbit hole of irrelevant searching.

Join at

If you sign up, post a comment and I'll be sure to send you an sweet acknowledgement for your help.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The festive lunch

                                      Getting festive. St. John, Spitalfields, Dec. 2010. 

Today  I Googled "date night restaurants in London" and read through various and sundry lists of places to have a romantic or quiet dinner with decent food.  On the lists are places that I have dined and had a great time. For the most part they were great places to eat, but definitely not places for date night. Date night to me means that you can actually hear and interact with your object of affection.
Having to scream or lip read because the restaurant is so loud does not for a great date make.  

Perhaps the issue is that we really only go to London during the festive period - the first weekend to the third weekend of December. This is the time when colleagues celebrate their good fortunes at work by booking lovely long luxurious dinners and lunches at places sought out by foodies and have a jolly time. Unfortunately, it is usually at the expense of anyone else who has had the misfortune of booking at the same time.  I'm talking about being seated next to 18 tops at St. John and six tops at Nopi.  We've seen it all at both dinner and lunch - no time is immune from festive bookings these days.

I have two dinners next month free in London. I'm hoping I don't hit the party circuit and get to actually enjoy the company of my date and friends without a megaphone. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Accidents will happen

They say that most accidents happen in the house or near your house. I'm living proof of this.  Accidents happen to me because I cannot leave well alone or better yet, just SLOW THE HECK DOWN.

Most of my accidents involve gravity and stairs. I'm pinching myself, throwing salt behind my back and knocking wood as we speak.  Today I took an awesome tumble down the stairs to the basement because I looked up instead of down.

It could have really sucked, instead I am just wincing when I sit down and trying to figure out how to start slowing things down so these things don't  happen. Each "accident" or setback, whether it be falling down a flight of stairs or having to redo a bunch of calculations because you didn't check your work and think things through are big wastes of time.

They are also sometimes caused by our need to say "Yes" and "No problem" and try to complete a task without thinking all the steps through. Friends, we need to start saying "yes, no problem, but give me a few minutes to come up with a way to do this right". Most of us are not brain surgeons, bomb detonators or sharpshooters.  We're folks trying to make sure we fill out the form correctly to get that bomb squad person hired.

You think the bomb squad person rushes? Nope.

So, a few advil from now I may no longer wince when I sit down, but hopefully I'll still be reminded of the need to slow down to get something done correctly and safely.

Where is that inflatable donut?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The week that was or wasn't

I came down with some kind of flu on Friday. I'm delighted to say I managed to hold it together and manage public transport, a walk home and to change my clothes before I fell to pieces.  Lots of crap happened here while I was out and I thank the gods daily for TH and her ability to get things done while I was sleeping off this thing.

I have lots of awesome things I was going to write about, but honestly, if I can manage to get a load of laundry into wash, write this post, pack my work bag and clear out my mail from the weekend, I'm high-fiving myself to bits.

High Five.

Getting through those mails.



I read most of my mail on my phone. This is not unusual. The average wage slave consumes mail and work information from a mobile device. In fact, they may own more than one, maybe even three and a half.  Hell, I have possession of four right now.

Well, no matter what, I still let things fall through the crack because it is pretty darn hard to keep track of the 100 to 140 mail messages I get a day over five or six accounts.

This is also not an unusual thing. Most of us (wage slaves or not) have more than one mail account. We may read them from one place, but mail comes from a million places and it is getting harder to manage.

Not only do we have mail now, most of use instant message (iMessage, jabber, yammer) or collaboration tools (Slack, HipChat, Lync) within our work groups to communication internally to minimize the interruptions that caused by email threads.

How can we keep track of all this?

I'm not sure we can.  Lots of tools allow you to get organized with all this information - you can set alerts and notifications, defer answering mail, archive messages, set rules within your mail and other good things.

For me, I'm trying to read my mail quickly from my phone, but when I get to my office, I'll triage what I can from my laptop.  I try really hard to keep email at bay by not answering it as it comes in, but in one bulk slug. I pick either push notifications or emails when dealing with collaborative tools - I refuse to double the amount of attention that software commands of my resources. 

When I get home from work, I let it pile up and read it after dinner.

As for the fun email from my other five accounts - that gets read the same way. Triage, bulk and a decent purge through once a week and a lot of unsubscribing.

Unsubscribing is your friend. You will never miss what you didn't know existed.  Trust me.

How do you handle all this information to keep yourself productive and on top of your game?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Converting the Customer - Airbnb - you rock.

Note - This post was written a few months ago for a marketing class. I thought it was worth sharing with a larger audience.  Thanks a million @airbnb and @FourSeasons for making me love you even more and making my colleagues really happy.

I'm not slouch when it comes to social media. I understand the power of the voice of the consumer and how marketing is used to make me want something now or change my behavior for the long run. Sometimes I think social media marketing and outreach is a little like dating - or stalking.  There is a little flirting, then some digging and then a call to action - a proposition.  You are at the mercy of your target.  She may spurn you if you don't get your act together.

June 2013, we went to Hawaii for a few days.  On the way through Honolulu,  I started a conversation with the resort's social media person (we follow each other on Twitter) about National Donut Day.  We bantered back and forth about the lack of donut shops on the island and how sad it would be not to celebrate this event.  Fast forward, three hours and we're sitting by the pool, waiting for lunch and and what should appear with my wrap - a plate of donuts.

The resort's social media manager arranged to make my Donut day.  Yes, I did tweet about it.

Later that month, I engaged in an hour long travel chat on Twitter.  Airbnb asked me what would get me to leave a resort to stay in an Airbnb property. I  replied (jokingly) that until they offered me donut delivery at the pool, it wasn't going to happen.

The following week, I was summoned to our reception area. Two dozen donuts had been delivered to me by @airbnb with a note to the effect - "We can't offer you pool side donuts, but we can bring deliver them to you at your desk" -  Regards,  your friends at Airbnb

Airbnb identified me as someone to convert from a resort going travel savvy consumer to someone who might be willing to try out their service.  They had someone from their Marketing department seek me out on LinkedIn, find out where I was working and to arrange to have two boxes of donuts delivered to my office. Did it impress? Certainly. Did they convert me? Well, not quite.  I downloaded the app and searched for apartments for a few stays I had planned overseas, but have yet to pull the trigger on booking a reservation.  Do I think that if I had a problem with a Airbnb property, I would feel like they are listening? Sure. They went the extra step.

In both cases, the resort and Airbnb, they both went out of their way to flirt (engage), dig a little deeper (look at my profile, my habits, my position), and act in an attempt to win me over with a call to action that took some effort and creativity. Social marketing seems easy to some, but in other cases, it really is about going that extra mile.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sarah Morris for Longchamp - A pop of color

When I returned from Paris, my colleague asked me how many bags I picked up.

Yup, he knows me well.


I have a thing for bags - clutches, totes, purses, messenger bags - you name it, I love it.

The latest Longchamp collaboration with Sarah Morris is divine and I highly recommend you go pick one up before they disappear.

Sarah Morris has reimagined the eponymous, yet useful and practical les Pliages range into something new and edgy.  I fell in love when I saw them on the Longchamp site and was delighted to find the range at the rue St. HonorĂ© branch.

I love all the colors and the black handles on the purse and travel bag are a nice change for the tan. The white leather used for the long handled shopping totes looked nice, but given the grubby nature of bus commuting I decided to stay with the black.  

The signature pieces modeled after her painting - "The Eclipse"  would go with everything, but the white background would stain easily. I know others have had luck washing their les Pliages bags and removing stains, so you may want to try that one out.  

Now on to the bags I bought - a handbag and a travel bag which look very similar.

The handbag feels more like a luggage tote - it's exceedingly roomy, maybe a little too roomy.  I could see over filling it and lugging more than you needed around for the day.  The travel bag is your standard "I bought too much on vacation and I need to check my bag" extra bag. 

The only drawback I see to these bags - or the ones I looked at is the white interior of the bags. White is great for finding things, but not so great for keeping clean. 

The hardest thing was picking a color. I loved the green, gray, blue and black.  I finally decided on the royal blue because it coordinates well with my current wardrobe and is vastly different from the tan, black, orange and olive pieces I already own and might brighten up a dull Seattle day.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The boring bits

Pain aux raisins at the Park Hyatt Vendome. These could be my most favorite things in the world. 

In October, I went on a modified Elimination diet. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't the bellyaching bitch fest that most folks seem to discuss on the social networks. Like most things in my life these days, it had a start and stop date. For four weeks, I stopped eating oats, wheat and wheat like products, some fruits and vegetables, sugar, eggs, almonds and dairy from my diet. I did not remove coffee and chocolate from my life because that was going too far, but didn't seek them out either. I felt great for those weeks. I had more energy and not as hungry as I had feared. I tried really hard not to bore people with my elimination diet. I travelled twice during the time and managed okay both times. Sashimi was my friend and I was glad rice and potatoes did not make the hit list.

 I learned that I could live without goat cheese and hemp milk wasn't as crappy tasting as I had feared.

 I added bunch of stuff back to "challenge" my system while I was in France. I felt okay, nothing really awful happened. It wasn't like a sat down and ate an Emmenthal and ham sandwich dipped in beet juice followed by an almond milk chaser. I tried a little of this (bread) with a little of that (grand mariner souffle) and some of this (cheese). The world did not end, I did not start raising funds for my elimination diet video channel and meal planning kit kickstarter. I listened to my body, gauged how I felt after each item was introduced and moved on.

 What I did realize was that I love my boring and predictable food choices and I'm happy to abide by them the 280 days a year I'm at home. I'll try some things when I'm out of my comfort zone, but really I would be much happier in my comfort zone. I could have walked 10 minutes from my hotel and gotten a juice bar experience or I could crossed the Avenue de l'Opera to visit Starbucks and get a soy latte. Instead I decided that my choice would be to skip the smoothie and have fruit instead. I drank more cafes than cappucinos and as TH has pointed out, the tisanes are a far superior to their coffee.

 I'm easing back into my home routine for the next two weeks. I look forward to cooking this weekend and my 3 pm hummus and carrots. It may be boring, but sometimes that is all it takes.