Working hard or hardly working?

How much is too much?  I consider engagement on various social platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, industry blogs and online tech communities to be a professional obligation. I happen to love it. Engagement ensures that I am aware of the latest news, insights and market trends. It allows me to make connections without physical boundaries. I learn something when I engage. Sometimes that is what not to do or what not to say, but something is gained nonetheless. This engagement informs what I do with message creation in my role at work and it makes me a more valuable employee. I’m lucky because my employer values me right back for this reason.

Today, all companies struggle with creating guidelines and best practices for their workforce when it comes to using social media. There are extremes and abuses with just about everything. That is true of the office copy machine since the day it was first plugged into the wall. Uh, what not to do here. Things have gotten a little more complex since then.

How much is too much? I think it comes down to a question of VALUE. Is the time spent engaging really adding professional value? This is the best practice I follow.

Cartoon courtesy of the New Yorker, week of August 6, 2012

Are you creative in the workplace?

Creative is the #1 buzzword on LinkedIn. The reality as I see it, is that creativity in the workplace is rare. I wish more companies valued creativity and more individual professionals pursued their own creative selves. Most do not. But of course this makes sense, faster and cheaper is more immediately profitable than risky and untested.

I am often asked by parents of kids considering a college major in the arts if I think this is a good idea. My answer is always the same. Yes, if…one is driven by an ‘internal passion compass’ that allows one to carry on through years of little financial gain or professional recognition. Understand business fundamentals. Perfect a marketable, real-life skill set like data entry to pay the rent. Be persistent and view each day as an opportunity. Today, the lines between corporate and creative are blurring.

Retro eye glasses, tats, and the latest tech gadgets are affectations, I ignore them all. Highly creative people usually share certain traits to varying degrees and work in every type of enterprise or industry, at all levels.

These questions are based on the standards I set for myself as a creative in the tech industry.

Are you creative in the workplace?

1. Do you accept failure?  Do you really accept it, and then learn from it?

2. Do you value your own ideas enough to risk your job by asserting them?

3. Are you insatiably curious and willing to go off on tangents on your own time for no clear gain?

4. Do you listen well?

5. Can you present an idea concisely, very quickly? Can you back it up with solid reasoning?

6. Do you freely acknowledge a better idea when you hear it?

7. Do you trust yourself to believe that the answer/idea will come to you?

8. Do you respect (not simply accept) that a company/organization exists for gain?

9. Do small victories satisfy, or do you crave the grand gesture?

10. Do you accept that creativity in the workplace is measured and analyzed?

Street signs

Forget trying to interpret the overall arching message of the Occupy movement, I just skip right to “Hey, smart sign there, Buddy.” I am a sucker for a concise, compelling message.  And creative use of materials is noted. These images are courtesy of Buzzfeed. As an aside, I think that might be Johnny Depp under the ‘IS’ in the last shot.

Summer eats

My Italian grandparents taught me to eat seasonally. Our mid-day meal table on any given Sunday was filled with platters of what was fresh that week. My Grandfather routinely cut wild greens from vacant lots and shared crates of backyard-grown produce with his immigrant friends. That constituted the farmer’s market of my youth. My mom preferred the modern, air-conditioned convenience of the gigantic 1970’s supermarket. I would never dare to cut down greens from some random field but I admire the hutzpah it took to do it. What I can do is strive to frequent my local farmer’s market and grow produce in my garden.

Summer produce stars: apricots, avocados, basil, berries, cantaloupe, cherries, chilies, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, figs, green beans,  limes, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, peas, sweet peppers, plums, shallots, squash, tomatoes, watermelon and zucchini. To find or confirm your local farmer’s market locations, look here. Happy summer!

Georgia O’Keefe, Plums, 1920 – My Grandfather, Grandmother and Uncle, 1958 – Marimekko, Strawberries – Our vegetable garden

My mom’s cucumber salad recipe (in her own hand) appears below. I love that she did not bother to fill in ‘from.’ And our family NEVER respects the yield on any recipe, just triple everything is our motto. My mom called cucumbers, cukes.

August, with its clouds of scented blooms,
August, with its great stacks of giant clouds,
August, with corn plants standing like rows of soldiers,
August, with watermelons, full and heavy, dozing in the sun,

August, remember swimming in the lake?
August, remember baby Alice daintily eating berries from the vine?
August, remember Richie playing with the goat?
August, remember Donald practicing on his new saxophone?

August, and its lightening laced sky,
August, and newlyweds Pat and Chet decorating their first home,
August, and Billy the Brave, Billy the Fearless, on his two wheel bike,
August, and shimmering memories hanging like drops of dew,

August, the bountiful, August the full,
August, Mama hot, but smiling, over a platter of succulent roast chicken,
August, Daddy mixing her a frosty mint julep,
August, blessed harvest of memories,

Mary Naylor

Connect the dots in your own way

Yayoi Kusama‘s work since the late 50s has been about dots. The Japanese born artist first experienced seeing the motif of circles, dots, and whirls during childhood hallucinations. She has been obsessed ever since. She regards her work as life saving and has said that without it, she would not have made it into old age. She has had a six decade career and lives today in a mental institution in Tokyo that is located minutes from her art studio. After living in Tokyo and France, Kusama left Japan at the age of 27 for New York City in which she became interested in joining the art scene. She quickly established her reputation as a leader in the avant-garde movement and actually counted her media coverage against that of fellow artist, Andy Warhol (and she had more). She organized outlandish happenings (as she called them) in public places like Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge. These happenings often involved nudity/body painting and were designed to protest the Vietnam War. She was very productive, but did not profit financially from her work until much later in her career.

Each creative act starts with a single gesture that, when multiplied and sent out into the world, reveals the potency of endless variation.Quote courtesy Victoria Miro


The imagery in this novel is haunting. When you close your eyes and think back on this book, the images will revisit you. The author describes what the characters see and hear and feel and taste and touch. But there is plenty of room for one’s own imagination to create images that flip from the spectacularly beautiful to the truly horrible. Laura Hillenbrand (Seabiscuit) has written the story of Louie Zamperini, who was not only an Olympic runner, but a U.S. Army Air Force officer who was shot down over the Pacific, who was then chased by sharks while floating for more than 47 days on a raft, and then imprisoned in a Japanese POW camp. It is an unbelievable story made believable in the author’s hands.

”It’ll be an easier subject than Seabiscuit, because I can talk.” Louie told the author as she embarked on the seven-year journey of writing this book.  He has an excellent memory and Louie is a pack rat; his scrapbook covering the years 1917-1938 is an album that weighs 63 pounds. The author interviewed Mr. Zamperini more than 75 times and did a great research job. I am happy to say that Louie is alive and zippy today at the age of 93.

When I next see a sunrise or sunset, I may be reminded of Louie Zamperini who lived this amazing story and Laura Hillenbrand who made it real for me. Thanks to my friend, Chick, for recommending and lending me this book.

Not a single stone

During the events in Egypt, a protective human chain was formed around the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt’s second largest city. “Not a single stone was thrown at the glass façade,” said Ismail Serageldin, who directs the library. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina contains four museums, a planetarium, a children’s science center, a library for the blind and eight research institutes. It is the modern successor to the ancient library of Alexandria. It houses 1.3 million volumes. People frequent the collections in part to gain access to materials that are unheard of in Arab countries. These include materials critical of Islam, gay and lesbian literature and art history volumes containing nudes. Divergent Ideas and dissenting opinion have taken root here. The library is now closed until  Egypt is stabilized. The library’s human chain and others like it protecting the country’s greatest treasures impressed me as I watched the chaos unfold. It illustrates the goodness of the human spirit. As Ismail Serageldin puts it “It’s moral power.” To see a video about this click here.