Ask the Grim Reaper

No real value in this post, but something just for fun (although, maybe a bit morbid!). I think all of us know at least a handful of celebrities who share our birthday, but do you know who you've outlived?

Check out Dead At Your Age to find out the famous people who have died younger than you. Just put in your birthday and you'll be given results with details about each person who passed before you're current age (noted in years and days). I found it interesting that my top result was that I lived longer than a well-known Los Angeles Times reporter (considering I used to work at The Times).

So give it a whirl. At minimum, it's good fodder for your next cocktail party!

Tweet in Klingon

Are you a sci-fi geek? If so, this might be just the thing to send you over the moon.

If you and your friends are Trekkies, you'll want to check out Tweet in Klingon. You can put in your 140 characters and it will convert your English to Klingon, and send a tweet to all your followers.

DaH jaH vo' je mugh, ngan (that's Klingon for "Now go forth and translate, Earthlings.").

The Twitterific of 2009

As the year winds down, I want to take a moment to thank those in the Twitterverse who have made 2009 pretty memorable for me. Twitter has been so influential in my life this year and I would be remiss without acknowledging those who have made it something extra special.

@jeffpulver - Thank you for extending a scholarship to me and allowing an unemployed girl to attend your two-day Twitter conference. Because of your generosity, I forged many relationships that I know will last a lifetime. I have you to thank for that.

@ericgreenspan - I appreciate your invitation to join the planning team for the first-ever #140conf Los Angeles meetup. Your positive energy is contagious. Working with you was a great experience and it was so gratifying that our first collaboration was a real success!

@modelsupplies - Thank you for your never-ending support and amazing kindness. I'm still in shock that anyone would tweet about posts from both my blogs. You are an incredible person with such a generous spirit. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Anita.

@jeffrago - You possess the most remarkable Twitter etiquette. From our very first tweets, you made me feel included and heard. I am constantly impressed with your effort to acknowledge everyone who retweets you and your unending sense of gratitude. #GR8FL4U

- Thank you for including me, extending your friendship, and for welcoming me into your world. Not only do your tweets provide great information, but you are such a nice person. I consider myself lucky to be one of Calvin's Angels!

@forrestkoba - I am glad that we connected via Twitter and am happy to count you among my most favorite tweeps. Thanks for the interesting links you provide to the Twittersphere and for always being such a stand-up guy.

@staceysoleil - You have a remarkable way of connecting with people and making them adore you within two tweets or less. Thank you for your winning ways and for being someone who can always be counted on to give good tweet.

@regb232 - I think you retweet me more than anyone else. I know I'm not that fascinating, but thank you for making me feel as if I am.

Also a special shoutout to: @debssweet, @sinanyukali, @bigheadasian, @anythinganthony, @weileycoyote, @maddiemarshall1, @hoda007, @janewmeade, @jeanettejoy, @3lunches, @topbrokerOC, @robertmoranla, @ribeezie, @elayneboosler, @dvinmsm, @seanmalarkey, @jonathan360, @abutterflyloves, @pillpushera, @onegreengnome, @ladybead, and @funnykeithlyle.

Thank you all for making 2009 so Twitterific!

What are your resolutions for the new year?

As the year comes to an end and people start to contemplate their New Year's resolutions, I can't help but to find inspiration in this oldie, but goodie, from Baz Luhrmann.

Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen) was released in 1998 as a guide to the graduating class of 1999. However, even 11 years later, the song is still as powerful and true as it ever was.

Think you need to make big changes in your life next year? Don't do a thing until you watch the video below. It'll be instrumental in helping you get your priorities straight.

Want to follow along? The brilliant lyrics can be found HERE.

Do you report GOOD customer service?

I am an equal opportunity tattletale. When I get really bad service, I'm not shy about speaking with the manager or the corporate office. However, along with reporting subpar service I strongly believe comes the duty to report excellent service, as well. Lately, I'm pleased to say I've had several really great customer service experiences.

My most recent positive encounter came this week at the dentist's office. After I almost fell asleep in the chair waiting for the dentist, the assistant stopped by and did his best to help me pass the time. We bonded over music (a conversation which was prompted by the Muzak being piped into the office) and, ironically, we discovered we had the same birthday! I'm skeptical, so I did ask to see his driver's license and, no lie, it was the same day.

It only took a little bit of friendliness and humanness to turn a long wait into a fun conversation that helped take my mind off the clock. And, when the dentist finally arrived I told him how delightful Julio had been and how much I appreciated his great people skills.

When was the last time you encountered a cashier who gave you a sincere smile and salutation? Do you remember a time when a clerk or waiter(ess) went above and beyond to get you what you needed? And, when was the last time you made sure the manager knew how much you appreciated that employee?

Good customer service is dependent on all of us. If we don't tell management about the good eggs, we can't complain about all the bad ones.

My avatar gets a thumbs up

I am extremely honored today to be included as a "good example" in Forrest Kobayashi's blog post about Twitter avatars. In addition to his regular, awesome blog, Forrest has started a second blog all about Twitter. TweetsPost has great Twitter tips and I'm sure will soon become a trusted resource for many savvy social media folks.

Click HERE to check out Forrest's piece on how to improve your Twitter profile photo. And, if you're inclined, leave a comment (we bloggers LOVE comments!).

Wanna raid a stranger's closet?

Love clothes, but don't have the budget to shop as much as you'd like? Well, ThredUP might just be your new best friend.

ThredUP is actually an interesting concept (especially in these economic times). It's kinda of like an online clothing swap. Essentially you register with ThredUP and tell them your size, brand preferences, and the kinds of clothing you would like. Then, you are notified when they find another member who has an item matching your criteria. To get the item, you need to send in a piece of clothing of your own for someone else to choose.

ThredUP asks that all clothes be in good condition (e.g. no stains, missing buttons, or holes), in style (i.e. no parachute pants!), and that you only give away what you'd be willing to receive. The trading is free, but ThredUP charges you for the pre-paid envelopes to send your clothes (three swaps cost $12.50).

If you have clothing that you never wear just sitting in your closet or drawers, ThredUP might be worth a look. If you decide to use their service, I hope you stop back by and leave a comment about your experience. It's a unique idea, but obviously not for everyone.

Your Twitter autobiography

Are you looking for the perfect holiday gift for one of your Twitter friends? Well, look no further, the 140bio is the perfect combination of high-tech and old school!

For only $18.99, you can purchase the Twitter fanatic in your life a paperback microbiography, complete with his/her last 3,200 tweets! This bound, soft-cover book includes the person's Twitter handle on the front and there are two design options for the artwork. You can also choose to print all tweets or exclude @replies (click HERE for a sample of the final product).

Thirty-two hundred tweets is quite a bit, and can span a significant amount of time for most of us. By having them all printed and bound, it's a wonderful way to reflect back on the events, emotions, and encounters that have shaped our lives.

So, what do you think? Is the 140bio going to make it onto your shopping list?

Black Friday and homelessness

This year I went to my first Black Friday sale. Like many others, I showed up in the wee hours of the night to wait in line. I had expected my subsequent blog post would be about the camaraderie I felt with these strangers as we all waited in line for cheap stuff. However, my experience was much more profound.

My friend and I showed up a bit past midnight and the store opened at 5am. Only five measly hours outside in Southern California, no worries. I knew it was a bit chilly, so I wore a t-shirt, a long-sleeved tee, and a sweatshirt. On the bottom I had sweatpants and knee-highs. That should be enough, I thought, it is California and Californians rarely don a heavy jacket.

About a half-hour into our wait, my friend could no longer hold her book steady because her hands were shaking so violently from the cold. I pulled up my hood and slipped on a second sweatshirt, promptly pulling that hood up over my head, too. A half hour later, I put on my gloves, pulled a second pair of socks out of the gym bag in my car, and put on my heavier tennies. I had a pain in my feet so severe I could barely stand it. I don't think my tootsies have ever been so cold. And, despite the four layers of clothes I had on top, I felt like I was only wearing a tank top.

I began to think about the poor folks who have no choice but to sleep outside every night. Sure, one would think it's easier to be homeless in Los Angeles than Chicago, but even the West Coast is no picnic if you're forced to find warmth where none exists. In my mere five hours outside, all my layers of clothes were useless in taking the chill from my bones. What I needed was a heavy coat and some really good insulated boots. Then came my "A-ha!" moment.

This holiday season, I will no longer just be donating money to my favorite charities. I will be going through my closet to pull out all the coats and boots that sit there year after year, waiting for a ski vacation. I will be asking my friends and family to do the same. In addition to taking the majority of the items to my local homeless shelter, I will also throw some in the trunk of my car to give to anyone I happen to see in need. Since I also have a soft spot for animals, I'm going to donate some doggie sweaters and jackets as well, since so many homeless people have canine companions.

Today, as the holiday season is in full swing, I'm most grateful for the roof over my head and the walls that keep the cold at bay. And, after my five hours outside in the chilly, winter night, the new 32" TV I snagged doesn't seem nearly as important.

Arrrrr you bored with Facebook?

I'm bored with Facebook. It's not that my friends aren't absolutely fascinating, because they're all that with whipped cream on top. But, the whole experience has just gotten a bit old lately.

Luckily for me, I stumbled across a handy lil' tip from Make It Work Inc. suggesting that I try changing my language preference from English to pirate. And, alas, ye mateys, me tale of boredom is headed to the plank with that varmint Davy Jones!

Seriously, it's a fun diversion that transforms your Facebook notifications, options, boxes, and emails into something worthy of Long John Silver! You no longer "like" something, instead it "be pleasin' to yer eye". Someone doesn't just "leave a comment", but they "be havin' somethin' to say abou' yer hoist" or "flappin' gums 'bout yer recent tales". Your hometown is your "port of origin". And, minutes don't pass, but pints o' rum are the way time is measured. Yo ho ho!

If you need to breathe a bit of fresh air into your FB experience, consider adjustin' yer riggins and abandoning ship on the usual. Directions on how to upgrade to pirate can be found on the Make it Work blog. Now get blabberin' 'bout this here treasure and spread the word to yer lassies! Arrrr.

M&M's tries to attract new customers

A popular candy since 1941, M&M's are sold in more than 100 countries and recognizable to billions of people across the globe. Now, that chocolaty treat is getting a 21st century makeover. Customizable candies are now hitting the virtual marketplace!

Consumers can imprint slogans, photos, or logos on the hard-shelled chocolate treats and even choose from a variety of colorsincluding new shimmery hues. Perfect for special occasions like holidays, weddings, birthdays, graduations, promotions, and proposals, the candies can add that extra little something to any festive gathering. Also, a fun gimmick for businesses to utilize at meetings, conferences, and other promotional appearances.

Think anyone will print "Candy is bad for you" on any of them?

Using Twitter for a better commute

Awhile back I wrote about how someone was using Twitter to find a friend's missing dad, all the while wondering why law enforcement hasn't embraced the tool to send Amber Alerts. Today, as local and state governments cry poverty like never before, I continue to wonder why public service offices haven't flocked to Twitter to enhance their community outreach efforts. However, I had to say, I have finally stumbled across a worthy example of government using Twitter for the public good.

This month, construction began on the 91 freeway in Southern California. The expansion will widen six miles of the eastbound Riverside Freeway and, undoubtedly, cause a huge bottleneck in the process. To its credit, the Orange County Transportation Authority opened a Twitter account (@91fwy) to educate locals about the project. The first several tweets were about activities leading up to the construction, and after it began, tweets were sent to keep motorists abreast of closures and traffic disruptions.

Now, to be honest, I think the posting is much too light, with only 44 tweets this month. But, to be fair, there are only 82 followers so it's not like the citizens are actively engaged. That said, I have to give the OCTA credit for at least thinking to incorporate social media into its efforts. This is huge, especially in an area that is usually riddled with governmental red tape.

As more people hop on the Twitter bandwagon, I hope efforts like this will become more common place. I know I'd like to get my traffic info via tweet so I can avoid traffic snafus and construction holdups. How about you?

The 21st century pen pal

Depending on your age, your teacher may have set you up with a pen pal when you were a child. Someone in a far away land who you traded letters with; learning what life was like on the other side of the globe. I remember my classmates getting all excited on the day pen pals were issued, many of whom would later bring in letters and pictures from their new, foreign friends for Show and Tell day. (My self-elected pen pal was my former BFF from pre-school. Her family left the Westside and moved 20 miles across town when I was seven. She wrote to me about the oddities of the San Fernando Valley and I kept her up to date about life at the beach.)

Today, I can't help but to realize that the pen pal concept is no longer relevant (at least not in its original form). Yes, I know there are several sites online that will match kids and adults with pen pals, but who needs that? People can hop on their computers and meet folks in different countries any time they like.

Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and other social networking sites, lots of us have cyber friends all over the world. We share Twitpics and tweets with far away "followers" and post comments on the walls of Facebook friends in exotic places. Yesterday, I connected with someone interesting from Turkey and traded tweets with him about blogging and animals.

So, in many ways, I guess my cyber friends are, indeed, 21st century pen pals. People who tell me about their lives, their families, their hobbies, and life in their part of the world. Instant communication that, thanks to character limits, probably takes no longer to read or write than a child's pen pal letter. No waiting for the mail to arrive; no postage stamps to purchase.

It's no wonder the U.S. Postal Service is sinking faster than a blow-up raft with an anvil on it.

Ink it up and help break a world record

Today is Friday the 13th and what better way to ward off the evil spirits than with some killer ink! Yes, tat fans, Broken Art in Los Angeles is having a 24-hour tattoo-a-thon today. Why, you ask? The goal is for ink artist Jeremy Swan to break a Guinness World Record set by Hollis Cantrell nearly a year ago today. To do so, he hopes to complete 900 tattoos in one day (priced to please at just $20 a pop and $10 for each additional one).

If I were the tattoo type (I think I'm the only one in my neighborhood with virgin skin), it would make for a good story to say I helped break a world record and got inked with a bat on Friday the 13th. In my mind, though, it would somehow seem wrong to get something cutesy like a heart with wings on an ominous day riddled with fear and suspicion. But, that's just me.

So, my ultra cool friends, if you happen to be in the LA area today, have been jonesing for a tat, and want to help Jeremy get into the record books, why not make this a Friday the 13th worth remembering?

* 11/14/09 UPDATE: Jeremy Swan broke the Guinness World Record and was able to complete 875 tattoos on Friday the 13th. He had hoped to make it to 900, but the old record was 801 so he still had more than enough tats to take him into the record books!

Great skills + positive attitude = valuable employee

I blog about a variety of things pertaining to business and media. Today I'm going to blog about something near and dear to me: me.

As you may have gathered from some of my posts, I got laid off a few months agoa victim of downsizing and this terrible economy. Job openings are few and far between unless you are one of those in a revenue-generating field such as sales or development. The handful of companies that are hiring are being slammed with so many resumes that the weight of them all could topple the Brooklyn Bridge.

So, I'm using my cyber real estate today to pitch myself to whoever may be reading this. If you see anything below that could be of benefit to your company, if you know of an unpublished job opening that you think is a good match, or if you have any career advice to throw my way, I'm listening.

Here are the highlights:

- Former TV/radio reporter
- Former magazine and book editor
- Award-winning journalist
- Top-notch employee communications strategist
- Corporate communications pro
- Media relations/PR experience
- Social media savvy
- Versatile writer
- Deadline driven
- Excellent work ethic
- Creative
- Stellar recommendations from high-level executives
- Background in corporate and nonprofit environments*

* Previous employers include: The Los Angeles Times, KTVA-TV, and The American Youth Soccer Organization.
If you'd like to know more, please connect with me on LinkedIn. And, if you're the kind soul who helps me land some work, dinner is on me.

My Twitter metamorphosis

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend the 140 Characters Conference sponsored by the amazing and big-hearted Jeff Pulver (@jeffpulver). Thanks to Jeff's generous scholarship (I tweeted to compete for a free ticket and Jeff was kind enough to help a gal with a meager budget), I was able the hear and meet some of the social media industry's most interesting characters.

For two days, panels and people preached about the golden rules of Twitter: be authentic, provide value, connect, and engage. Whether you're an individual, or tweeting on behalf of a business, Twitter is all about community. The speakers had great analogies such as: Twitter is word of mouth with a megaphone, if Twitter was the phone company it'd be a partyline, and Twitter is a cocktail party. This all makes perfect sense and it's how I see Twitter today, however it made me reflect back on my first few weeks of tweeting.

When I worked at the Los Angeles Times, there was a gal who sent daily email blasts about what was happening in the media space. It was great because she sifted through all the industry news on the internet and compiled it for us with links. When I got on Twitter earlier this year, I thought I'd do something similar. I tweeted facts and stats from articles and thought I was providing a valuable service. I didn't send people @replies, I didn't write anything personal, I didn't participate in the amazing Twitter community. People probably thought I was a bot! Looking back, it's a bit embarrassing.

If you're just starting out on Twitter, don't make the mistake I made. Join the conversation. You're not interrupting, you're not being rude, you are contributing. The people who "get" Twitter will respond in kindand maybe even become some of your closest friends and connections.

Today, I'm fully immersed in the Twittersphere and appreciate all that it offers. Like most things, Twitter is what you make of it. So tweet, connect, engage, be real, and promote others more than you promote yourself. And, most importantly, remember that Twitter is not a spectator's sport.

Thank you again to the kind Jeff Pulver for allowing me to attend his wonderful conference. I appreciate your generosity, Jeff, and promise to pay it forward.

* If you want to read a great account of what the conference was like for a first-timer, I suggest you read the beautifully-written blog post by the amazing Jeff Rago (@jeffrago). And, if you weren't able to attend #140conf, check out the RealPlayer SP Channel on YouTube to see some of the great presentations and panels.

Rediscover the wonder of books

If you log on to Twitter today, you'll see that it's Authors Day (#authorsday). A day to tweet about your favorite writers and books, and share your love of reading with your followers. I thought I'd take my tweet one step further (you only have 140 characters, after all), and share a bit more about my new, favorite author.

I have to admit, up until a few months ago I hadn't picked up a book for sheer pleasure for awhile. Online reading or a book on business seemed to take precedence. However, I'm glad to say that's all changed, thanks to my mom thrusting a book into my hands one day. "This is an easy read," she said. "You'll like it; just read it." And read it, I did.

The book was one in a long series of titles from Janet Evanovich. Her most popular series follows a bounty hunter named Stephanie Plum. Stephanie is scared of guns, loves donuts, and manages to bring in wayward felons by sheer luck. So far there are 19 Stephanie Plum adventures, and I've now read nine of them. It's a fun, easy read that is hard to put down; my mom was right.

Books are amazing. Why not pick one up on this Authors Day and discover new people, exciting places, and wonderful adventures? And check out Janet, she's a great writer. I promise you'll get caught up in Stephanie Plum's crazy Jersey anticsand set the book down feeling a bit hungry for baked goods.

U2 gets an A+

A few days ago I wrote about the live webcast of U2's Rose Bowl concert in California. Did you watch it last night? I did. And, for almost three hours the world felt a little smallera little closer.

I watched the Twitter scroll on YouTube and saw comments from fans around the globe. People tweeting in different languages, from faraway lands. I also went to Twitter directly, where 33 percent of the trending topics were U2 related. People who were up in the middle of the night on the other side of Earth, watching and tweeting during this spectacular, free concert. Folks who shared something in common; the universal language of music.

Generally big name entertainers see the opportunity to make loads of easy cash by allowing fans to "attend" these mega-events via outrageously-priced, cable pay-per-view shows. But, U2 has never been your run of the mill rock band. Bono continues to push the envelope in such new and exciting ways that it no longer even resembles an envelope.

U2 is a band that practices what it preaches. It's all about inclusion, change, enlightenment, philanthropy, and heart. The webcast was yet another example of that. U2 embodies everything that rock stars should be. Everything that any rock band could be, if they cared a little more about the music and the missionand less about the moola.

Thanks for a great evening, guys.

Use your unique skills to benefit others

Saturday is National Make a Difference Day. Now, many people recognize this day by performing one day of service: cleaning a beach, reading to children at the hospital, or working at a soup kitchen. However, there is a very easy way to volunteer on a regular basis by doing something that is uniquely you.

As someone in the professional world, you undoubtedly possess skills that have taken you years to learn and hone. Accountants, IT wizards, marketing pros, and ad folks all have talents that the general public does not. Why not offer your valuable and unique skills to benefit a local charity?

In the past, I've offered my services to a few nonprofits to assist in ways that most of their volunteers could not. I've written press releases, brochures, and other collateral materials for groups that provide community services that I value. If an organization is large, they probably have someone on staff to provide these skills. However, the small, local groups can use all the help they can get.

So, why not find a local nonprofit that supports a cause that resonates with you and see if the folks there can utilize your professional skills. Do they have a computer that needs repair? Do they need help designing an ad? Could they benefit from some guidance on their taxes? Do they need someone to set up a Twitter or Facebook page for them to raise awareness? Since it's your area of expertise, you'll be able to do it better and faster than they ever could.

And, remember the great quote by the famous philosopher and writer Henry David Thoreau, "One is not born into the world to do everything, but to do something." Now, go forth and serve.

Free U2 concert

Can't make it to U2's concert at the Rose Bowl this Sunday? I've got the next best thing for you. YouTube will be streaming the concert live! U2 fans in 16 countries, including the US, UK, and Australia, will be able to enjoy the music of one of rock's biggest actsfor free. (Click HERE for YouTube channel and showtimes.)

Although YouTube has streamed live before in the past, this event has some nice touches that make it unique. During the show, viewers will be able to chat live with one another on the site (via Twitter) and can also donate to Bono's RED charity by means of a "Donate Now" button on the screen.

In 1997, U2 streamed a live Boston concert from its PopMart tour on MSN, but this one incorporates the interactive experience and the philanthropic angle that was lacking back then.

So, set your DVR for your favorite Sunday shows and get comfy in front of your computer. It promises to be a legendary experience.

Coffee fiends: ideas wanted

I'm not much of a coffee drinker, so maybe I'm late to the party on this one. However, for those of you who were in the dark like me, you might find this interesting.

Did you know that Starbucks has a site exclusively for collecting customer suggestions? My Starbucks Idea is pretty cool in that it isn't just an online form you complete and submit, but it's a more interactive experience. You can share your ideas, vote on other people's suggestions, comment on items, and even see which proposals Starbucks has decided to implement.

If you spend time at your local Starbucks, why not sound off and help shape your experience? Your local coffee buddies might thank you!

No nap time for these crazy babies!

The #1 spot of the Viral Video Chart this week goes to the great ad by Evian water. The product's new tagline, Live Young, launched this summer and lays the groundwork for a fun and memorable commercial which features rollerskating toddlers. Kind of like Anne Geddes babies on steroids.

Check it out below (and go get yourself some Evian; everyone needs to have this much energy!):

Are you a Facebook addict?

This is just something fun for a Friday. The comic says it all, no need for commentary.

Oh, and hey, subscribe to Dan Piraro's blog to see all his great Bizarro stuff. A very talented cartoonist with a heart of gold.

Bud is for buddies

Budweiser will start airing its new series of TV commercials tonight during the Major League Baseball series. Trying to reconnect with consumers, the new spots are all about camaraderie. From how guys greet one another (e.g. the chest bump to the fist tapping guy hug) to how they razz each other (including the great line "Even Europe thinks your pants are too tight."), the campaign is geared to bring an emotional connection back to the brand.

The spot below highlights the many creative ways to carry Bud back for your buds. To see the other two, click here and here.

Dog lovers can now hit the road in style

The new, dog-friendly Honda Element is almost here. It should be arriving at dealerships any day now and Fido can hardly wait!

As you may recall, the 2010 pet-focused vehicle was introduced this Spring at the New York Auto Show. It's Dog Friendly™ Pet Accommodation Package only costs $995 and boasts an extendable ramp for easy entry, spill resistant bowl, cushioned pet bed, dedicated fan, rubber floor mats with a doggy bone pattern (this design can also be extended to the second row of passenger seats), and nylon webbing to keep Lassie safely confined in the back.

For those who like to bring their dogs with them on trips, the new option is a little slice of Heaven. Ah, make that a little slice of Snausage.

Doing business with the Sharks

If you haven't watched Shark Tank on ABC yet, then you need to tune in tonight. For those of you who own your own business, or those who are entrepreneurs, this is definitely time well spent. For the rest of you, I promise that it's just good TV.

The premise is that five top moneymakers listen to pitches from ordinary business people. If they like the idea; they invest. The Sharks are pretty cutthroat, hence the name, but if you pay attention you'll undoubtedly learn something about how investors are likely to see your business. If you're new to the show, you'll quickly glean that Kevin O. is pretty unlikeable—the Simon Cowell of the group, if you will. And Barbara is a soft touch, but she turned a $1,000 loan into an empire so she knows her stuff. Personally, Robert is my favorite Shark (a nice combination of business sense and compassion).

I was an early fan of Shark Tank and started watching over the summer. Apparently, others liked it, too, because it was given a permanent spot on the Fall schedule. And, for those of you who need more convincing, it's a Mark Burnett show (of Survivor and The Apprentice fame) so you know it's good reality TV.

Check out the video below to get the full scoop on Shark Tank. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Be a hero by just watching TV

Tonight is the 22nd season premiere of America's Most Wanted on FOX. During its run, AMW has been responsible for the apprehension of 1,090 criminals worldwide. Fifty missing children have also found their way home due to the tireless efforts of John Walsh and his team.

This show is such an amazing public service. It provides hope to the parents of missing children, justice for the victims of violent crimes, and gives us all the power to make a difference in our communities.

When this show was cancelled back in 1996, public outrage and a massive backlash from law enforcement and government officials reinstated the show. Since then, the combo block of COPS and America's Most Wanted on Saturday evenings has remained unchanged (and is the longest, unchanged primetime schedule on American television to date).

AMW is a show that should be mandatory viewing for every American. Keeping our cities and our families safe should be all of our responsibilities. So, do your part tonight and turn on the TV. Support a show that makes a difference; be a person who makes a difference.

"Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.” - Edmund Burke

Blue-haired beauty takes it off

Although The Simpsons got snubbed at the Emmy's, Marge isn't letting that get her down. In fact, she's upping her exposureliterally. In the November issue of Playboy, due out on October 16, she'll be taking it all off for The Heff (not to be confused with The Hoff). Supposedly it's tastefully done, but we'll have to be the judge of that.

Marge, what will Maggie think?

Do you ask for it in the can?

I love words, I love puns, and I love clever writing. What I don't love so much is catering to the lowest common denominator. Yes, potty humor has an audience, but I guess I'm just not in that crowd.

The latest commercial from Bud Light Lime is all about word play. And you don't have to have a dirty mind to immediately appreciate the innuendo.

Play the commercial below and see what you think. Is it funny? Or tacky? I need some objective opinions.

Glamour ups the nude factor

Today, the November issue of Glamour hits newsstands. The best part: seven nude women in their birthday suits, fat rolls and all.

As your may recall, in September, plus-size model Lizzy Miller posed nude for the magazine. Her pot belly out there for everyone to see. The response was overwhelmingly positive, especially from women who had grown tired of looking at stick figures with breasts.

To keep the positive momentum going, Glamour scheduled yet another photo shoot. This one, a group of nude, plus-size women showing off what their mamas gave 'em. Now, for men who don't know any better, keep in mind that "plus-size" is really only a size 12, the average size for women in America. (To hear from the models and Glamour's editor-in-chief about what this all means for the future of women's modeling and fashion, check out the video from their appearance on The Ellen Show.)

Now, I doubt men will be cheering about seeing overweight women shed their skivvies for the camera, but it is such a huge step for women. We're not perfect; we're real. We have flaws and few of us look like Victoria's Secret fashion models.

And, here's the beauty part. If more average-shaped women are shown in the media, maybe, just maybe, our daughters won't grow up in a world where they're ashamed of being real. Now that, my friends, is something to cheer about.

Smokey the Bear turns 65

Shortly after the last round of fires in Los Angeles, a PSA went up on the bus shelter down the street: Smokey the Bear. Just as recognizable as Ronald McDonald or Spongebob Squarepants, but Smokey has a laudable mission. He's the one who reminds us all to be responsible with matches and fire. To remember that we must all do our part to keep our communities safe. Unfortunately, Smokey's job seems to be getting harder instead of easier.

I grew up with Smokey, although back then he warned against forest fires. That's because fires were usually in remote wilderness areas, started by a campfire that wasn't completely doused or a cigarette flicked out the window by a careless motorist. Now, however, Smokey uses the word wildfires. I guess that's because urban sprawl has gotten out of hand over the years. What was once open land is now home to McMansions. Forest fires are now in our backyards.

In any case, I started to think about how this public service campaign is just as crucial today as it was when it started 65 years agoperhaps even more so. Humans are still careless and, unfortunately, fires have become an annual occurrence in many cities and towns. People lose their homes, animals lose their habitat, and most of the time the fire is a result of human carelessness.

If you visit Smokey's website, you can find lots of interesting information (e.g. resources for teachers, activities for kids, and fire safety information). However, what I found the most fascinating is how Smokey's marketing efforts have evolved over time. There is an interesting archive, broken down by decade, that features posters, promotional materials for schools, radio PSAs, videos, collectibles (e.g. bobbleheads, stuffed animals, comic books, etc.), and other such items that bear Smokey's message.

A 1940s poster has "Death" on a horse, riding through trees and flames with the message: Death rides the forest when man is careless. Artwork from a 1990s poster beautifully depicts the faces of woodland creatures with the tagline: Our family depends on your family. Only you can prevent forest fires. And, a wonderfully simple black and white photograph from 2001 has a bird nest with three eggs that says: The only fire protection this home has is YOU.

If you enjoy history and marketing, I think you'll find Smokey's archive worth a look. On one hand, I am so glad that Smokey is still going strong with his message of responsibility and accountability. On the other hand, I'm sorry he has to keep telling us something we should already know by now.

Do you tweet?

As I was clicking around cyberspace this morning, I happened to come across a great little piece. The 46 Stages of Twitter is a very accurate synopsis of many people's love/hate relationship with this newest form of media. If you're a Twitter hound, you simply must check it out.

I, however, never went through all 46 stages. I've stuck with it since day one, and now have three different Twitter accounts (partially for different interests/audiences and partially as an experiment). It's amazing how much information is out there. It's true, Facebook is about who you know; Twitter is about what you know.

Once you've achieved #27 on the list, embraced #39, overcome #42, and have comfortably landed on #46, you can officially call yourself a devotee of Twitter.

Oh, and by the way, follow me okay?

First the Hummer, now three-ply toilet paper

Did you know that there is a three-ply toilet paper on the market? Quilted Northern Ultra Plush is the first TP on the shelves to go triple-ply. Maybe those of you who demand a lot from your toilet tissue already knew that, but it was news to me. Sad news at that.

According to environmentalists, toilet paper is usually made from trees that are a few decadesor perhaps even a centuryold. The reason? Apparently, each sheet of TP is a web of wood fibers and quite simply put, the fibers from old growth trees are longer and produce a smoother web. Toilet paper made from recycled paper (e.g. newspaper, magazines, etc.) has shorter fibers, which are likely to be a bit coarser.

Now, some people may counter with the fact that toilet paper represents only a small percentage of products that are derived from trees in the forest. Frankly, I don't care. Do we really need to contribute to deforestation for an extra ply?

Then, there's the ripple effect. Wood pulp that comes from natural forests destroys ecosystems that wild animals and birds depend upon for their survival. And, pulp from wood farms takes up land that would otherwise be left in its natural state.

Europe is ahead of the U.S. in so many ways. Its citizens have been using toilet paper made from recycled paper goods for quite some time. But, here in America, we continue to be a society that makes purchases based on wants instead of needs. Consumer demands drive new products and until Americans truly embrace a lifestyle based on social responsibility, there is no real hope for the green movement in this country.

Soapbox derbies give you wings

If there's one company that does a killer job of sponsoring high-voltage events, it's Red Bull. From flugtag races and urban boulder climbing to b-boy dance contests and freestyle skiing competitions, Red Bull knows how to bring energy and excitement to the people.

This weekend, Red Bull is hosting one of its popular Soapbox Race events. For four years, it has organized races across the globe, including stops in Jamaica, Italy, Australia, South Africa, Finland, and of course, America. This Saturday's free event boasts 40 hand-made, non-motorized soapboxes. Some of the fun designs include a time-traveling DeLorean, a giant nose, a bunk bed, and an Aztec temple. The races are free to spectate and feature celebrity judges, including the popular Eric Estrada.

I love it when companies find smart ways to bring events into their marketing efforts. The Red Bull brand is all about silliness, action, energy, and fun. So, a soapbox derby with high speed action and whimsically decorated racecars is a perfect way to reinforce Red Bull's irreverent style and love for the outrageous.

If you happen to be in the L.A. area this Saturday, why not spend a day at the races? It promises to be a fun afternoon with lots of action. And, if the heat makes you sleepy, I'm sure there will be plenty of Red Bull on hand to give you that second wind.

Puma brings stripping to its new iPhone app

Puma unveiled a new iPhone app this week that is a bit unusual. No, it doesn't have a thing to do with running shoes or athletics. It's about the Dow Jones Index. No, folks, I'm not kidding. And this isn't even the odd part.

So, in a nutshell, here's how the app works (click on the player below to see the promotional video with the scantily clad hotties). If the Index (e.g. Dow, S&P, Dax) goes down, a bunch of jiggling beauties dance around on your iPhone and take off their clothes. If the Index goes up, the gals bundle up. During lulls in trading, the buxom babes do other things like wash cars or jump on trampolines (in whatever state of undress they were in last).

Yes, I realize this is meant to be a fun way to make a bad situation a bit more bearable, but c'mon. Really, women wiggling out of the jeans if the Dow takes a hit?

Obviously this free app isn't targeted at me, even though I do have the option of selecting a hot, half-naked, firefighter-type guy with a bulldog puppy to dance around for me to make my financial losses a bit easier to bear (or is that bare?). Yes, I know sex sells. But is Puma so desperate for attention that this is how they want to show off their new line of underwear?

Personally, I think the whole thing is incredibly distasteful. But, I'm not the type of gal who frequents strip joints. What's your take? Will you get the new Puma Index app?

New York Lottery uses animals in PJs to sell tickets

The new commercial from the New York Lottery's Sweet Millions drawing is so adorable that I defy even the crankiest person not to smile. Yes, at first you'll click on the player below to watch the video and think it's some cutesy animal video, but it really is from the NY Lottery Commission. And the sweet part is that multiple people can each win $1 million bucks (the details are here if you want to know how it works).

Now, tell me this ad won't stick in people's mind. Heck yes, it will! I'm sure it'll be fodder at N.Y. water coolers for quite some time.

The death of cursive writing

Today, I read an interesting article about an eighth grader who couldn't sign her name in cursive. The piece went on to discuss how many schools are skipping "old school" skills like penmanship, in favor of new technology. I completely support the idea of kids learning valuable skills that they need in today's tech-savvy world, but to overlook basic literacy skills concerns me.

Are we really so consumed with technology that we can't communicate with one another unless there's a keyboard in front of us? Are handwritten birthday cards and love letters all destined to be typed and emailed? Will students no longer pass notes or sign each other's yearbooks because they can't write? Or will they do so in a cryptic print style that looks like a six-year-old taking his first stab at spelling the alphabet?

Imagine if all our historical documents were created in Word and saved in a PDF. The Gettysburg Address, the Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, or the Declaration of Independence all written on computers? No emotion conveyed through an extra loopy "y" or "g" and no personality. Without cursive, John Hancock would just be one of the many men who signed the Declaration of Independenceand not a household name that's become a synonym for signature.

A world without handwriting. Is that really where we're headed? If so, I think that's sad.

Let the tweets fly in LA

For those who are interested in maximizing their Twitter experience, there is a two-day Twitter seminar in Los Angeles on September 22-23. Dubbed 140: The Twitter Conference, the gathering will bring together nearly 50 speakers and panelists. From social media experts like Biz Stone (Twitter co-founder), Guy Kawasaki (Alltop co-founder), and Noah Everett (Twitpic founder) to an odd hodge-podge of celebrities, the conference has a track for ordinary folks and one for developers.

At this point, the early bird discounts have expired and the registration fee is pretty steep at $429. However, if you want to mix and mingle with some of the industry's movers and shakers, this is an excellent opportunity. You can also view the attendee roster so you can see who you might want to network with while you're there.

If you go, have fun and soak it all in. There is also an open bar the first night which might help you feel better about the high registration price (although I doubt anyone can drink enough to break even on the $429 fee!).

Nominate your military hero

Chevy has started a new promotion to honor our country's military heroes (the nomination form says servicemen, but I'm sure that's just bad copyediting). People are encouraged to nominate a friend or family member who is in the armed forces and exemplifies the military spirit. Entries can only be 200 words in length, or you may submit a video.

Nominations will be accepted until September 28, with the five finalists named on October 5. At that point, the public will be invited to vote for their favorite. The ultimate winner (and his/her family) will be sent to the Country Music Awards to enjoy the show and meet some superstar singers. He/she will also receive a 2010 Chevy Equinox. And, a randomly selected winner will get a free trip to next year's NASCAR race.

Do you know someone who has inspired others, overcome insurmountable obstacles, or demonstrated amazing character? Nominate them and share their story.

Our military has made such sacrifices on behalf of our country that a night out on the town and a car seem like paltry acknowledgment. However, I applaud Chevy for doing something to acknowledge these fine people. Wouldn't it be great if every American company did?

Microsoft employee lacks common sense yet CEO gets mocked

This weekend a story was circulating around the net about Steve Ballmer lambasting an employee for taking his picture with an iPhone. Ballmer is, of course, the CEO of Microsoft, Apple's biggest competitor. And, the photo was snapped at a private meeting for Microsoft employees.

The comments flying back and forth on this topic range from people arguing which company is better, Microsoft or Apple, to people berating Ballmer's antics. However, I find it odd that very few people seem to question the lack of common sense this employee displayed.

Employee X brings a competitor's product into a staff meeting meant to pump up employees and uses that product to take a picture of the CEO? Are you kidding me? Who in their right mind would do that? Especially considering we're talking about Apple and Microsoft here.
That would be the equivalent of a General Motors employee picking up the CEO in a BMW.

Really, am I missing something on this one?

A nice twist on the bus bench ad

As I was taking my dogs on a walk this morning, I happened to pass a new bus bench ad. I don't know about your neighborhood, but in mine the realtors seem to have the monopoly on these benches. They all follow the same formula, too, with a huge mug shot prominently plastered across the ad. These folks must not have a fear of extreme close-ups.

In any case, I looked at the bench to see what local real estate agent got the space this time, and apparently Courtney Cox Arquette is now in the biz. Well, sort of. Courtney must play a realtor in her new show, Cougar Town. And, in a very clever ad campaign by ABC, they're doing the bus bench ads just like real realtors do.

If you check out the url, it goes to ABC. Nothing thrilling there. However, if you dial the number, it does provide a more authentic voice message from Jules Cobb (Courtney's character). The ad looks pretty legit. If you didn't recognize Courtney, you probably wouldn't even realize the ad was a spoof. At least not at first glance.

I like these kinds of ads. They're not in-your-face, but they do a great job of gettingand keepingyour attention. And now that I know I live in the greater Cougar Town area (I had no idea!), maybe my neck of the woods will become a bit more trendy.
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