Clusterfun in Boston

I like to brag that I’ve driven all over the world. And it’s kind of true. I’ve driven a stick shift in London which entails doing just about everything you’ve ever learned backward, while navigating some seriously narrow and high speed traffic scenarios. I’ve driven in Prague where the road signs are written in some sort of foreign language that uses squiggles and math symbols instead of letters. I’ve even driven in Thailand, which is in South America I think. So it always strikes me as odd that the place I find most confounding, most confusing, and most difficult to drive in is in my own backyard. I am of course speaking of Boston, Massachusetts. The roads were famously laid out on the original cart paths that meandered through the city before the automobile, but wouldn’t that more or less apply to every city in the world except Vegas and Orlando? Apparently, Boston’s oxen and cows were very drunk. And the city planners, being Irish themselves, just went with that. I estimate that I have driven in Boston about 60 times in my life, and I’ve gotten lost every single one of them. Even on milk runs straight down the freeway and under the bay to Logan Airport will inevitably involve a construction detour to say, Pennsylvania and back, on side streets.
The civic engineers in Boston have strict rules. All intersections in Boston are required to have at least 5 and preferably 9 roads converging at them and no road may retain its former name past said intersection. The guys responsible for signing Storrow Drive clearly had a sense of humor. They combined a high speed limit with exit sign vagueness (bordering on the criminal) that was guaranteed to deposit hundreds of people shooting for Cambridge into the Back Bay, and visa-versa, every hour.
Perhaps the most maddening thing about driving is Boston is that there are absolutely NO comebacks. If you drive past your destination, even a few hundred feet, as in “oh crap, there’s the Starbucks I was supposed to meet them at but couldn’t see because I was trying to survive a roundabout that is really a polynomial mating with a wildebeest “ you’re toast. You cannot turn around at the next light and just come back. If you take a right, you will be on a one-way that leads into the bowels of the Big Dig, or possibly Hades. Turning left won’t work because the road has suddenly become a divided highway with no exits until Medford. Even if you could return via the same road, there would be no way to turn left across the sunken viaduct and against the angry Masshole cutting you off with his Beamer.
“Sorry, kids, that was the turn for Aunt Mabel’s hospital, but by the time I get you back there, I’m pretty sure she will have passed.”

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Blogging about Blogging

Well this New Yorker cartoon stung a little bit. Particularly since I had been planning to write a post about my should be famous cheese sandwiches, thus falling into another of the previously escaped pie wedges of blogging boredom. In my defense, you would not believe these cheese sandwiches. But now it is going to be harder knowing, as I do, that I’m failing to maintain an ironic detachment and absurdly original level of creativity as I had been secretly hoping. Or maybe, cheese sandwiches are so comfort food retro that they are now totally uncool, again, and therefore I’m back on the indie outsider cool tack by writing about them? Hmmm, might be overthinking this too.

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True Nature

Humans are generally comically simple once the truth of their emotional decision making is revealed. What’s not simple is discovering them in the first place since we work surprisingly hard at generating a huge amount of rationalized complexity over top our very impulsive decisions.

I think smart marketers can tap into the real stuff using traditional methods like focus groups. But you really have to listen and think. My experience in the back room is that most people find it a very convenient time to chat or do expense reports. So this might be a better way for lots of reasons.


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In My Country

In my country, gas and electric lawn mowers will be shunned. That will make lawns smaller. Which will make house lots smaller and a little closer together. Which will make them closer to the city. Which will make metro freeways shorter and narrower. And people will know each other better. And, well, you get the idea.

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Gettin Real at Whole Foods

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My Geek Guilty Pleasure

May your display never fade

Oh 12C, how I adore thee. Was there ever a more smart looking and elegant calculator designed? The landscape profile, the gold trim, the blue function keys that promised mysterious powers. Stacking, running, NPV and Delta %. It was the IBM mainframe in a handsome vinyl case. It made finance and budgets sexy.

12C Turns 30

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Earth Spin

The planet really needs a new press agent, ad firm, and some really good spin doctors. For years I’ve been trying to figure out how we went from the 1970s (yea!, Earth Day) to the 90s (Global Warming sucks) to now where Congress recently switched back from bio degradable cups and plates to styrofoam. More significantly, a majority of Americans now believe that the threat of climate change is exaggerated or untrue, and most of them seem to be in Congress. God help us. Or I guess, that’s actually the plan now.

Maybe the problem lies in the fact environmentalists make lousy marketers. Lovely people environmentalists, but gosh they can be boring at times. And their intuition about framing an issue or picking a rallying cry seems to leave something to be desired. Exhibit A, this article 1% FTP Adin the WSJ recently.

Contrast this to the Right Wing marketing machine. I don’t know if Republicans are inherently anti-environment. I mean heck, the first real political conservationist was Teddy Roosevelt. And while I’m no linguist, one would think that to be a Conservative would imply the root: To Conserve. Maybe better to keep the earth as is, in case we need it later? Alas, the environment was rather innocently landed on as a convenient boogeyman for the right. By getting people to be against something, you can make them for something else, namely your re-election and the huge bags of money you will be handed by those that are stealing from the people’s shared treasure and turning it into private treasure. Evil, but smart. It’s very clever when you can get the populace to vote their own economic disinterest and still get them to thank you for it. And the marketing has been damn good. Environmentalists (sounds like terrorists) were once hailed as non-partisan do-gooders along the lines of a Susan G. Komen supporter. Today, they are left-wing, liberal nut job tree-hugger, granola eating cartoon characters that hate America.

There is some hope from the marketing world. It seems puny in comparison to the minds and money marshalled against it, but 1% For The Planet, for one,  is putting a new face on things. 1% FTP encourages businesses to give 1% of their revenue to the environment. They also have a sense of humor!

It’s time to take the (gardening) gloves off and do a little respectful, polite and factually based battle with those that wish the planet, and therefore all of us, ill. Or better yet, we could just hire Frank Luntz.

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