Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Going to Food Lion

By Michael Hastings | Journal Food Editor

If you like a little Cheerwine with your doughnut, now you can get the same taste without the soda.

Krispy Kreme, based in Winston-Salem, and Cheerwine, based in Salisbury, is rolling out the new, limited-edition Cheerwine Kreme Filled Doughnut Thursday.

The doughnut has a crème filling flavored with Cheerwine concentrate. It comes with a chocolate glaze and red and white sprinkles that mirror the colors of Cheerwine's logo.

The doughnut will not be sold in Krispy Kreme stores. Instead, it will be sold only in major supermarkets -Lowes Foods, Bi-Lo, and select Food Lion and Harris Teeter stores. You can't even get it at Wal-Mart.

The doughnut will only be sold in July and only in North Carolina and South Carolina.

"This is a celebration of the Carolinas," said Tom Barbitta, the vice president of marketing for Cheerwine. "These two brands have become what they are because of the people in the Carolinas. They taste like home."

The doughnuts look like they are made for the Fourth of July, with red and white sprinkles. A smudge of pink, crème filling can be seen on the outside.

The filling does taste like Cheerwine. The rest of the doughnut is another story. The chocolate in the glaze mingles with Cheerwine's signature cherry flavor in the filling to create a whole new experience.

If you like chocolate and Cheerwine, you're probably going to like this doughnut.

Of course, it helps if you have a serious sweet tooth. One of these doughnuts has 26 grams of sugar.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sound Advice from Chris Ashworth

From his blog. It's a fairly long post, but very worth the read.
My Competitive Advantage: I Hire Artists
June 24, 2010 – 7:34 pm

As recently discussed in this space, I am building a small software company. I’m not going to retread the history of that company, but you can read up on it if you want.

I’m only really here to share one tip. Kinda like a stock tip, I guess. It’s a tip I am increasingly convinced should be seriously considered by a variety of business owners in America.

The tip is this:

Hire artists.

No, wait, hold on. It’s not that simple. Actually, it sort of IS that simple, but not in the way you’re thinking. You need to understand what I’m proposing here, and to understand what I’m proposing, you need to understand the following story.
The Story

In March 2010, I was in trouble. A year previously, I had released the second version of my product, QLab 2. As a product, it succeeded. It brought new customers. Many new customers. Too many new customers.

In 2008, I sent about 600 QLab support emails.

In 2009, I conservatively estimate that I sent 6000. (But that’s really low-balling it.)

There were days I’d wake up in the morning, start answering emails at 6 am, write responses until 6 pm, take a break for dinner, answer a few more that night, and go to bed with more email in the inbox than when I’d started.

Serious problem. Seriously AWESOME problem, but, you know, still a problem. I needed help.

Now, I already had some help. Meet Sean:

Hi Sean! Sean’s an awesome dude. He was a friend from college. He is an OS X developer too. The summer before, Sean and I had joined our two companies together. Aside from helping with the code, he had already become an invaluable help in answering all those emails in the months leading up to March 2010.

But it wasn’t enough. I needed another person. The time had finally come to, you know, hire someone. Not just join forces with a friend, but flat-out, does-this-mean-I’m-an-adult-now? hire someone.

Meet Luckydave

Hi Luckydave! Luckydave, in case you hadn’t noticed, goes by the name “luckydave”. In March 2010, Luckydave had already been a QLab user for years. He is a working video designer in New York. A really good one. But more than just a user, Luckydave had been a champion. And by “champion” I mean he sold our product harder than we did. Luckydave wrote posts to the QLab mailing lists that rivaled ours in their detail and helpfulness. Luckydave acted like it was his personal mission to convert the world’s theaters to QLab. Luckydave was known to announce that he’d “drunk the QLab koolaid”. Luckydave knew details about how video codecs work “in the field” in ways that we simply did not know. Because we were not in the field.

Luckydave was, in short, awesome. And I, it will not surprise you one bit to know, wanted him on our team.
What I Did

I offered Luckydave a job.


Well, yeah, big deal. But here’s the twist:

I offered Luckydave a job based on the needs of his life as an artist.

First, I told him we wanted him on the team. Then, I told him we would create the job based on what would work for both of us. We talked it out, and we constructed a position specifically for him, with these properties:

* He can sign up to “work support” in units as small as a single day, or as large as a full month.
* He only needs to tell me one day in advance if he’s working the next day.
* He can work the hours that fit his schedule for that day.
* When he is not working for Figure 53, he can do whatever the hell he wants. Including go make art. For a week. Or a month. Or whatever the gig requires.

We created this framework together, and then I asked LD what it would take to make this structure worth his time. He replied, “When I have been the least worried about money, I have been making X dollars a month.”

I could afford X dollars a month. I said yes.

I wrote down the above terms, put them at the end of the legal-speak from the lawyers, we signed it, and it was done.

This all happened at the end of March 2010.
What Happened Next

When someone writes to, our help desk software tracks how long it takes us to respond. Now, one thing you need to appreciate is that we have customers all over the world. We get questions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is no such thing as “standard business hours” for us. Art doesn’t take a vacation. If someone writes me a question at 10 PM, and I wake up at 7 AM to answer it, that person has waited over 500 minutes to get that answer. When your customers are in Australia and you’re in Maryland, that’s a real wait.

Keep that in mind, and then take a look at this graph of our time-to-first-response for the past 9 months:


There are at least two things here worth noting.

Number one: Since joining us at the end of March, Luckydave has helped us pull down our overall response times significantly.

Number two: Those little green bars for the last few months? Those show that our median time-to-first-response since adding Luckydave to the team has been around 20 minutes.

20 minutes. 7 days a week. 24 hours a day.

So far the story has been pretty good. I found a wonderful teammate. We made a job for him. It measurably helped the company. Life is good.

But I’m hiding one stunning fact from you, and it is this:

Barely a few weeks into Luckydave’s new job with Figure 53, he got a call.

A call from a temp agency. The temp agency he used in the past, to fill his free time between gigs.

Because, you know, that’s what working artists usually have to do. It’s hard to make a complete living in the arts.

And yet people do it. People like Luckydave, who are passionate about what they make, they do it. They temp if they must, but they do it. Because that is the drive of these people. They care. They care very, very much.

And so they temp. And so Luckydave temped. And Luckydave temped for a financial agency in New York. And he learned to operate financial…software of some kind. I’ve never fully understood what. But something tricky to use. Something important to fancy financy-type people.

And Luckydave, it turns out, is really fucking good at this financial software.

Not just a little good. Best-in-the-world good. He is fast. He is efficient. He is really. Fucking. Good.

Which? Is not actually so surprising! Luckydave is the kind of guy that uses QLab like a musical instrument. I couldn’t keep up with him if I tried. He makes things in QLab I didn’t even know were possible. AND I WROTE IT.

So the temp agency calls to say, weeks after Luckydave accepted my offer, that by golly, the financial company would like to hire him to drive THEIR software. Full-time.

With a starting salary of 80,000 dollars a year.




Now it is not my business to share what Figure 53 is paying Luckdyave, but I will tell you this: it is not 80,000 dollars a year. Not, I am afraid to say, even close. I wish it were. But we are not fancy financy-type people, and we don’t have that kind of cash at the moment.

So by all rights, that graph up there? That graph up there should have started going back up in May.

But I note to you that it did not.

I note to you that Luckydave thought over that offer for a few minutes, and then?

He said no.

I want you to let that soak in for a second. I’ll wait.
{he waits}

Pretty crazy, huh.

Well, pretty crazy if you just focus on the money. But for many (all?) of the best people in the world, money stops mattering once you have enough to not worry about it.

Is 80,000 dollars enough for Luckydave to give up his life as an artist? Turns out, no. Turns out, robbing him of his life’s passion costs more than that. Turns out, I can’t afford to pay him nearly so much, but I can support him as a creative human being who doesn’t fit in a 9-to-5 structure. Turns out, what I get for that support is one of the most dedicated, cheerful, creative, committed, hard-working teammates I could possibly ask for. Turns out, his battery is charged by being him more than it is by counting dollars.

So here’s the thing, here is my tip, and here is what I want the business owners of America to think about very hard:

Artists, as a species, are amazing people. And America, as a general rule, does not fully get this. Show me a good artist and I will show you a highly educated, highly creative, highly passionate, highly driven human being. If they’re a performing artist, I will show you someone who breathes teamwork. I will show you someone who eats healthy critiques for breakfast and grows an inch that day because of it. I will show you a communicator, and a thinker.

I will show you someone you want to hire.

And all you have to do, is not destroy the whole reason you want to hire them.

All you have to do, in short, is create jobs built for artists. The result? Instant competitive advantage.
I think this is a big deal.

I’m sorry it took me so long to get to the point here, but I didn’t know how to do it any more compactly and get the depth of this point across.

I think this is a really big deal. I think the failure to employ artists is an inefficiency in the system. I think it doesn’t need to be this way. I think there’s no reason we can’t collectively set up the same kind of win-win situations that Figure 53 found with Luckydave. I think we should do it.

I’m going to continue working to build my little company. With luck, and work, and grace from the unknown, we’re going to keep making things, and grow enough to make things we couldn’t make before. It won’t be about getting big, but it will be about getting big enough, and every person will count. I don’t have a ton of money to make this happen. But I have enough money, and I have the good sense to give people things more valuable than money.

My tip to you is that you, too, have things more valuable than money. All you have to do is be smart enough and willing enough to give them.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

An Evening At The Movies

Since I gave in and saw A-Team last week, Chris returned the favor and we went to see Knight and Day at the Regal. Of the two movies, I liked A-Team much better.

I gotta be honest, what made me want to see the movie was Tom Cruise. What can I say? I'm a fan. And the trailers made the movie sound promising.

It's not. The overall concept is shaky and the continuity supervisor should have been fired. I usually don't notice goofs unless I'm watching on DVD and can rewind to review, but the plot was so loose you couldn't help but see the errors.

Save the $9.25 and wait until it comes out at Redbox.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Headshots, Princesses and David Joy!

I just got my weekly email from First In Flight Entertainment. As I know they are promoting their summer camps, I usually just delete the email. This time Erin was smart. She included the one name that would guarantee my complete perusal of her email.

(dreamy sigh)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Broadway Birthday

Mallorie's 18th birthday was yesterday and she celebrated it on Broadway. Ken gave her two tickets to a matinee of The Addams Family. Here's Mallorie's texts:

i hope that says Billy Elliot. i cant see through the damn sun. we're standing in line for Addams Family...the line is a block and a half long. O_o

Once she got closer to the theatre she sent me this pic:

After the show she had just enough time to call me and give me a quick rundown. (She liked Bebe Neuwirth but her voice slightly irritated her, Nathan Lane didn't do the show and his understudy wasn't as good, and Terrence Mann was awesome. Overall she enjoyed the show.) Karla joined Mallorie and Geoff and the 3 of them saw:

Thought For Today

Have you ever wondered if the one dollar bills in your purse or wallet were ever in a stripper's butt crack?

(Bet you're wondering NOW!)

Monday, June 14, 2010

An Evening At The Movies

This was definitely a dude movie, as was the TV series. Really, I only watched the A-Team in the early 80's because my dad watched it. But this time, Chris got to pick the movie and this was his choice.

I've loved Dirk Benedict since his early days as Lt. Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica. I also loved is Face in the A-Team. Bradley Cooper was a poor imitation. (Or is it that I've grown up and am slightly offended at the brazen womanizing?)

I loved Liam Neeson as Hannibal. Actually, I love most anything Liam Neeson is in. He's just so capable!

And I won't even mention the sucky acting by Jessica Biel. (Oop, I guess I just did!)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Happy Birthday, Hannah!

Best Email Evah!

To: Cheryl Ann
Sent: Thu, Jun 10, 2010 9:18 am
Subject: Mallorie PASSED AP Environmental Science!

She did it! Happy Graduation!

Claire Kull
AP Environmental Science
Science Department Chair
Mallorie's high school graduation hinged on this one final exam. She WILL walk across the stage Saturday evening and receive her hard earned diploma.

Monday, June 07, 2010

More Pretty Flowers

The ad that’s too hot for the Philly Inquirer

Click here to see the controversial video.

Click here to read why the Philadelphia Inquirer refuses to run the ad.

And then let me know if you're interested in a road trip to Philadelphia!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Slinky On A Stick?

It's actually a way to pick nuts up from the ground without having to bend over. You roll it and the nuts pop through the coils.