Monday, February 17, 2014


Richard Fairweatherbottom Ritzcarlton sat in the Excessive Gentlemen’s Club for the Excessive Use of Excess (the extra ‘excessives’ were not meant to be redundant, only excessive) and pondered his excessiveness. He stroked his beard – which was far softer than necessary, thanks to a team of 11 barbers who he paid handsomely – and lit his one-of-a-kind, 24-inch Cuban cigar with the flame from a burning Persian rug. 
As he puffed on the cigar, he caressed the baby seal-head handles on the arms of his satin and mahogany overstuffed chair which, of course, was just enormous. The chair was so cushy and comfortable he could have sat naked on it, but instead he wrapped himself in fur coats and became exceedingly sweaty. To counter this, he cranked up the air conditioning and drank copious amounts of water.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Not-so-deep thoughts on marketing

I’m finally watching the first season of Mad Men, and it’s got me thinking a lot about marketing. OK, it’s a combination of the show and the fact that my job involves marketing. Granted, I’m working for a small nonprofit organization that’s saving the world one kid at a time, and not some soulless advertising firm on Madison Avenue. Still, I’ve noticed some basic principles are at play in both worlds, and I wanted to point them out here.

In my limited experience in the marketing industry, I’ve noticed that good marketing, in its simplest terms, boils down to this: make the buyer (or donor, investor, whoever) feel like their life will be better if they spend their money on whatever it is you’re selling. If you do that, you’ll attract people. Everything else you do as a marketer can be built on that foundation.

I’m sure this philosophy will come as no shock to anyone who has taken a Marketing 101 class or worked as a salesperson anywhere. But for me, and maybe for others in the do-gooder industry, it’s not the first concept that comes to mind when we’re looking for donors. Many of us believe that people will give simply because they see a need and want to be nice, or because Jesus told them to. Sure, there are some folks out there who have genuinely altruistic motives for giving. But in a world where millions of nonprofits are competing for a limited supply of money, we have to appeal to a broader audience.

When I started working in the nonprofit communications/marketing business two years ago, I didn’t know any of this. But in the time since then, I’ve seen this basic principle taught and proved correct over and over again. I’ll talk more about that next time.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Few Things I Learned in Hawaii

I’m wrapping up a 12-day stay in Hawaii, on the island of Kauai. I’m privileged enough to say this because my girlfriend’s parents were generous enough to take me, her, her brother, his wife, and their son on this amazing mid-winter getaway. (And my parents were kind enough to get me a plane ticket as a Christmas gift.) While it’s been a relaxing trip and a chance to escape the tedium of the work week back home, I haven’t shut my brain off entirely. Here below are a few things I’ve learned--and some I’ve relearned or been reminded of--during this trip.

1. The tropics are awesome, especially when it’s freezing back home.
2. But sometimes the weather in Hawaii sucks too.
3. Shave ice > sno cones
4. Puka Dog < Puka Dog hype
5. Ziplining is a helluva lotta fun.
6. This place is hard to leave.
Sunset vista from our deck. (Elisa Michelson photo)

7. If you work at a surf shop, you can almost pull off a bright blonde mustache. Almost.
8. Pop cans here have a weird shape.
9. Tahitian dancing > Hawaiian dancing. (Sorry)
10. No matter how much you cheer, how many times you pee or hold it in, how you arrange the furniture, what sort of pre-game rituals you do, and where you turn the label of your beer bottle, you as a fan on the couch cannot affect the outcome of your NFL team’s playoff games.
11. There’s always next season.
Getting ready to unearth the pig at a luau.

12. The chicken crossed the road because Hurricane Iniki destroyed her coop and set her and thousands of her relatives running wild all over this island.
13. All the parking spaces on Kauai are unusually narrow.
14. Hawaii has a “Forbidden Island” next to Kauai, called Niihau.
15. I need to figure out how to get to “The Forbidden Island”
16. I need to come back and visit some of the other Hawaiian islands too.
17. Hawaii generally kicks booty.
Look! A peacock!

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Twice in the past week I’ve dreamt I was inside a burning building. This probably has something to do with the events of last Saturday afternoon.

At about 4:30pm that day, I was sitting on my couch reading a book. I heard a small commotion coming from my neighbors above and to the right of me, and I figured they were just being rowdy or arguing, as they are wont to do. A woman yelled, “Get out!” and there was the sound of a door opening and fast footsteps in the corridor above me.  I thought this was just the argument’s climax, but then the woman began yelling, “My house is on fire! My house is on fire!” I stopped my reading and stood up.

I heard an alarm go off in their apartment, and the woman kept yelling. Then a shrill sound pierced the air in my apartment—the building’s fire alarm had been pulled.  In the past, I’ve wondered which items I would gather and take with me if I were in a fire.  In my imagination, I’d take a quick inventory and go around picking up the most important things, things I just couldn’t do without.  There would be enough time to give my apartment a once-over.  In that moment last weekend, I learned different.  I grabbed my keys, my cell phone, my money clip, and stuffed them into my pockets.  I glanced around the room and thought, “Everything here is replaceable.” I opened the door and looked outside.  The woman and her two little boys had climbed into her car, in front of my apartment, and were backing out.

I walked out toward them and looked up to the second floor.  The bedroom window in their apartment was open, and flames were licking up over the sill.  The whole room appeared to be orange. The woman’s husband had uncoiled the fire hose, and was sticking the nozzle through the open window, spraying.  My next-door neighbor ran to assist him with a small kitchen fire extinguisher.  The fire went out quickly.  The husband and a neighbor reached down inside the window and pulled out a smoldering mattress.  They tossed it and a box spring into the parking lot, where the woman’s car had been parked, and soaked them with the hose.  The woman and her two little boys were still just sitting there in the idling car, backed out into the middle of the lot. 

I went back into my apartment, but the sound of the alarm was too painful.  I waited in the parking lot with several other people, until firefighters came, sirens blaring, to check on things and turn the alarm off.  I heard later that the little boys in the car had started the fire.  The parents had pushed the bed up against the baseboard heater and told the kids not to turn the heat on.  But apparently the boys had ignored this command in the same way their parents had ignored good judgement.  I came home from work on Monday to find a note taped on my door and every other door in the building. It recommended keeping furniture away from baseboard heaters.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Looking Forward to Hawaii and Healthy Knees

Taro farm outside of Princeville, Kauai. (Elisa Michelson)

Five weeks is a long time to go without writing a new blog post. It's not long enough, though, to heal a knee. I haven't done any running since the last time I wrote, but this week and last, I did some dead lifts at the gym. The first session was fine, but this week the knee wound up sore for a couple of days. It didn't feel bad for long though, which makes me want to try some light squats next week, just to see if a little bit of easy lifting will help to build strength and aid recovery.

In travel news, well ... there isn't much. And there won't be much until January, when I go with my girlfriend and her family to Kauai for two weeks. That should be an interesting trip, to say the least. I get along well with her family, but the thought of spending two straight weeks on an island with a small group of people intimidates me. As an introvert, I need time by myself to collect my thoughts. And as a task-oriented, independent person, I have trouble avoiding the need to check things off of my mental and written lists. In fact, this blog post is something I'm checking off of a list right now. I'm always open to personal growth through new experiences, but at the same time, there are certain personality traits I have that will never change, and I'm at an age where I know who I am and I'm comfortable with that person.

Most of the traveling I've done in my adult life has been by myself. Some has been with my family, which doesn't always work out well, because of the vast differences between my brother, sister, and me. And some has been with friends, which is usually OK, as long as the others in the group don't spend too much time hemming and hawing over what to do, avoiding activities I suggest, or doing activities I have no interest in (e.g. attending The Phantom of the Opera in Vegas, 2006).

My hope, of course, is that everyone on this upcoming trip will get along swimmingly, and we'll have nothing but fond tales to tell upon our return. And really, I'm sure this trip will be a lot of fun. So that's what my outlook will be in the 74 days between now and takeoff. And if the trip is a disaster, at least I'll have more to write about than "well, my knee still hurts and nothing new or interesting is happening that's worth blogging about. Boo hoo hoo."

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Sad but Wise Decision

The 2012 Bellingham Bay Marathon will not be the first marathon I run, as I originally planned. Thanks to two persistent injuries (one on the inner part of my left knee and one on the outer part of my girlfriend’s left knee), my girlfriend and I have opted to sit this marathon out.  It wasn’t an easy decision, but we both felt it was the wisest option.

Sure, we could have run in pain and then limped along as far as our legs could carry us.  But we both agreed that our chances of finishing this race were extremely slim.  So, rather than tearing up our tendons or ligaments or whatever, we’re choosing to rest until we’re completely healed.  We’d prefer not to ruin our legs for the future.  This way, we’ll both have a better chance of crossing the finish line at the next marathon we train for.

When will that next marathon be?  Right now, we don’t know. What we do know is that after our initial injuries, taking two or three weeks off and then easing back into short distances and a run/walk routine didn’t allow either of us to heal.  So it might take a couple of months worth of rest (read: no training at all) for us to properly heal and be ready to begin training again.  We’ll both know more after our visits to the doctor in the coming weeks.  We also know that when we do begin training again, we’ll have to take it slow. No more forcing ourselves to run faster than we’re able.  And no more four-month marathon training. We’ll have to ramp up the distances slowly, over the course of about six months, I suspect. That will be a better way of going from 0 to 26.2. (Maybe a gait analysis would serve me well, too.)

I want to make sure we have this in writing, so I cannot renege. Elisa and I will run a marathon. We’re not giving up on that. We’re just postponing it so that we can actually finish the race. Make no mistake: it will happen.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wine Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse

Humans aren’t the only beings that love to throw parties centered around alcohol.  And we’re not the only ones who sometimes reap physical harm from such Epicureanism.

Earlier tonight, as I quietly sipped down a glass of merlot, I was unwittingly setting the scene for a raucous fruit fly soiree.  You see, after I finished my drink, I left a drop in the bottom of my goblet and set it aside on the counter.  Twenty minutes later, I walked past the counter again and was astonished by the scene there.  Inside the glass, near the drop of wine at the bottom, was a small crowd of three fruit flies mingling and drinking.  On the rim, another fly had found a partner during the evening’s events, and the two were humping away, oblivious to their cohorts below.  I could be wrong, but I thought I heard R&B music and caught a faint whiff of marijuana.

Who were these little hell-raisers?  I hadn’t invited them, and yet here they were, getting drunk and fornicating on my countertop.  I snatched the glass and rinsed it out in the sink, intending to send each of the hoodlums down to a watery grave.  But only two of them went down the drain, while the others flew off in loopy, erratic patterns.  I wasn’t going to let them get away, though.  These flies had insulted me with their shenanigans, and they weren’t going to get away with it. (And frankly, they’d been floating around the kitchen all evening as I made dinner and ate it, and I was pretty annoyed. This whole wine party thing was just the last straw, and I was also bloodthirsty after having them all in the same place and coming so close to extinguishing them.)

I stalked around the kitchen, trying to keep my eyes unfocused, ready to pick out any movement in the air between me and the cabinets.  Clap! I got one!  I jiggled the fruit baskets on the counter, sending another right toward me. Clap! Another one dead!  I hunted some more and found a sixth fly sitting on a wall.  This one hadn’t been involved in the revelry, but I wanted him dead anyway.  I tried to stub him out on the wall where he was resting, but he flew away too quickly.  I saw the last of the partiers, and clap! Nothing but air between my hands. I’d lost him, so I took a break from the hunt.

I got distracted by other chores, and a few minutes later came back to the kitchen. There, on the top of my cork, which I’d turned upside-down to plug my wine bottle, was the fifth fly—the one that got away earlier.  I tried to crush him on the cork, but he evaded me.  Clap! Clap! Two misses in a row. I had to admit, he was good.  I lost him again, and then jiggled the fruit baskets.  He flew toward me and I clapped again but missed again.  He zigged and zagged, and my eyes lost him and then locked onto him, and just as he was almost out of reach, clap!  Victory!

Now, as I sip on my second glass and write of these heroic feats, I see the sixth and final fly floating in my periphery. Did he just land on my glass?  He buzzes past again and I clap once, twice. Two misses in a row.  Is there only one of them left, or are there more?  I can’t tell.  I might have to give up. I’m getting tired of this game, and there is more wine to drink.

P.S. The title of this post comes from a song by Minus the Bear. You can hear it here. (Warning: Vocals don't start until about 1:30.)