Thursday, May 29, 2014

Art Thursday -- May 29th

In an effort to use as many craft supplies as possible before we move, I've gotten out these foam shape stickers for the kids to play with.  This one features a bunny, mushrooms, a girl with a feathered hat, and the sun.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

What-What?! Week of May 25th

My car is in the shop.  I was sick.  Children exploded at work.  Other things happened.  This week, if it could go wrong, it probably did (in the most stressful way possible).

This week's post is quite short.  I apologize.

TV:  'And the Sky's the Limit': The Writers of the 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' Series Finale Look Back, 20 Years Later via Yahoo! TV

This is a great interview article with Ronald Moore and Brannon Braga, the two Star Trek writers that worked on the show's final episode, as well as the film, Star Trek: Generations.  It is a bit long, but includes a lot of great memories for those of us who are just that geeky.

Art:  Stained Glass Watercolor

This was inspired by a project from the website, Mrs. Brown's Art Class, which I've been referring to often for ideas and activities to use at work.

I did this project both at work and home, and it went over well with both the 4th graders and my little ones.  We used crayons to create a wax resist for the lines, then painted with the watercolors.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Coffee Filter Butterflies

I recently did this craft with my kids at work, and it came out so beautifully that I thought I'd create a tutorial explaining the exact steps.  See the how-to below, as well as some ideas for variations.  If you want to keep the butterflies lifelike, a great place to find photographs is Butterflies and Moths of North America website.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

What-What?! Week of May 18th

This week was HOT HOT HOT.  Three 100 degree days in a row.  At work, the kids were all restless and grumpy, partly from being kept inside, and partly because, when they went outside, it was too hot to do much of anything.

I posted Tuesday about Whole Foods Market and its recent troubles.  After reading up some more on the grocery industry, I started working on a paper about the top companies in the industry, somewhat similar to my current eBook.  I should have that ready to publish in another two weeks, maybe.

Reddit:  What is a Hobby You've Always Wanted to Explore?

Lately, I've spent some time browsing on Reddit, and have been pretty impressed with the community.  I'm more used to the comments on Cracked and news sites, which tends to have the scum of the internet spewing all over, but because of Reddit's upvote/downvote system, most of the rude replies get hidden, leaving only the positive and helpful ones.

One of the best threads I've seen since starting was one asking about hobbies that people want to try, but haven't because they don't know how, can't afford it, or just aren't sure where to start.  I started looking through the thread, and there is so much great advice, it's impressive.  From scuba diving, robotics, fencing, sailing, and even crazy stuff like wingsuit flying (!!!).  It makes me want to have all of the hobbies.  All of them.

Kickstarter: Mythica: A Quest for Heroes

This film stars Kevin Sorbo.  Kevin Sorbo.  Yes, the guy who played Hercules on the TV show of the same name, and Captain Hunt of Andromeda, the sci-fi show.  I grew up watching these shows, and Sorbo has a special place in my heart.  This film definitely fits into the realm of things I'd like to see him doing.  Looking at the cast of characters, it seems to check all the necessary boxes for a fantasy film: Good and evil mages, a half-elf dude who is also a thief, a fighter guy (I'm calling him Madmartigan, okay?), and a priestess.

This is the first film of the trilogy, and currently has a Kickstarter, which ends Monday (tomorrow!) at 4pm PST.  $15 will get you the digital download of the film.

I'm ridiculously excited, if you can't tell.

(images via, Kickstarter)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Art Thursday -- May 15th

More mechs!  This one was colored by Corwin.  That's also why the lettering is all wonky; for some reason, he only draws s with a curl at each end. :P

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Whole Foods Feels the Effects of Increasing Competition

Recently, Whole Foods has been taking a beating, with about six months of disappointing earnings. With the most recent earnings release, the company's shares have taken a nosedive. What is nice, is that Whole Foods isn't caught with their head in the clouds; the company has actually adjusted earnings forecasts down, in order to better reflect the market conditions. Where five or ten years ago, the company was one of the top brands in its industry, its space has slowly been eroded by a growing contingent of competitors.
The funniest thing about this article is that it connects very nicely to another article that was recently published, about Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Market building images as health food centers. This author tries to argue that the customers of Trader Joe's and Whole Foods is one and the same -- which, as my eBook, Trader Joe's versus Whole Foods Market, discusses, is not true. They may have similar income, education, and age, but the psychographics of these target markets are very different.

Further, the value proposition couldn't be more different; Whole Foods attracts people with "free of" (gluten, wheat, etc.), organic, eco-friendly products, while Trader Joe's attracts people using unique, curated, upscale foods at inexpensive prices. These value propositions are a substantial part of the reason why Whole Foods is suffering, while Trader Joe's is not. It's a lot easier to copy what Whole Foods does, because it depends on a marketing mix that can be assembled off the shelf. Trader Joe's has worked hard for years to build its reputation, to offer unique products and flavors, especially at such low prices.

Where Whole Foods used to have a select handful of competitors, it now is fighting for space in an increasingly crowded field, one that is already feeling the pinch from conventional grocers and discount retailers that have begun to offer similar products and services.
How many options are too many?
One thing that new competitors have over Whole Foods is a smaller footprint; one of the things that sets both Trader Joe's and these other competitors apart is that, for every square foot smaller these stores are, the amount of sales per square foot rises. Whole Foods gets mired in its own vast array of products, which is good if a customer is looking for something very specific, but is tiresome and unnecessary for customers with simpler needs.

These factors will continue to create challenges for the entire industry, and for Whole Foods specifically. While I appreciate that Whole Foods is having a bit of a reality check, investors might not be so forgiving.

Want more information about Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe's, or the specialty grocery industry?  Check out my eBook on Amazon:  Trader Joe's versus Whole Foods Market: An Organic Grocery Store Marketing Analysis.

(imgs via,,

Saturday, May 10, 2014

What-What?! Week of May 11th

Happy Mother's Day!  To all you fellow mommies out there. :)

This past week, I did post a new article, and I also realized that I failed to mention the one I'd written the week prior.  This week, I wrote about tracking customer feedback, and the previous week, I wrote about the three defining aspects of a successful farmers' market.

Otherwise, this week was quite long.  None of my fourth graders had any homework all week, so that was an extra five hours of activities I had to unexpectedly plan for.  This next part takes the cake, though: Tuesday, two of my students decided to walk to the store, rather than come to the YMCA.  We wound up with the police searching for them.  I don’t think I’ve ever been more worried or anxious about anything work-related than that day.  What made it more worrisome was that these two children never walk home, or anywhere, by themselves.  Luckily, they were found after three hours, and are now safe with their families.  It was scary waiting around to see if they were found, because we didn’t know if they’d been taken by someone, walked off by themselves, or what.  I was happy when that day ended.

Mad Men:  Jumped the Shark?

Recently, I finished watching season six of Mad Men on Netflix.  After binge-watching all the seasons, I found myself wondering why Mad Men is still so popular; the show is populated with depressed, unhappy characters who make the same mistakes time and again.  Don can’t seem to stop sleeping with random women, nor can he seem to control his alcohol use.  Peggy is constantly stuck between a rock and a hard place with her work and personal life.  Betty can't seem to get anything right.
The last season especially feels like the show has jumped the shark.  CGC and SCDP merging felt like a desperate attempt to revitalize a show that has done all it can with its current cast of unchanging characters.  Though I enjoy the juxtaposition between Ted and Don, their sparring and disconnects didn’t do much to help the show.  Now that Ted is on his way to California, I’m going to assume that their relationship isn’t likely to continue in this way.  It might be better that way, since “two tigers cannot share the same mountain” – having both characters in that position felt like they were vying for who was the main character in an ensemble show.
For season six, I’m hoping that the producers and writers do more to grow the characters, as it seems like they’ve been stuck in a rut.
(img via

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Art Thursday - May 8th

The "Zap Mech"
The bottom line reads "the great battlemech".  My kids like robots, okay? :P

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tracking Customer Feedback -- Good and Bad

Last month, the Gourmet Retailer had a great article on paying attention to customer compliments as much, if not more so, than complaints.

What I like about this article is that it makes a point of identifying happy customers and keeping them happy.  While it's important to fix customer complaints in a satisfactory manner, customers who are currently satisfied are more likely to be promoters of your brand.  Knowing these customers and what they like about you helps identify ways to improve or change your offerings to better fit their needs.  In the book The Ultimate Question, the authors state that the single most important question to ask customers is "would you recommend us to a friend?".  Knowing how many satisfied customers you have is even more important than knowing how many unsatisfied customers you have; these customers will bring their friends, who then are more likely to turn into customers themselves.

For the most part, I agree with the article, but there are a few caveats:

Positive feedback doesn't outweigh negative feedback.  Unhappy customers can't just be ignored, unless the company is purposefully redlining them, as in those who don't pay bills or who are too unpleasant to work with.  Even then, redlining customers must be done carefully, as social media can create a wildfire of bad publicity.

One thing that kept coming up in the Kitchen Nightmares series, run by Gordon Ramsay, is that business owners use customer compliments to lull them into complacency.  If sales are dropping, if people aren't coming into the shop, then all the compliments in the world don't change the fact that the business is suffering and needs to change, especially if those compliments aren't recent.

I enjoyed reading the article, and especially like the stories of how this company grew more connected to its customers through the use of positive feedback.

Bayless, M. (2014). Build on What's Working.  The Gourmet Retailer, Feb / Mar 2014 issue.

Reichheld, F. and Markey, R. (2011).  The Ultimate Question 2.0.  Harvard Business Review Press: Boston, MA.

Image via

Saturday, May 3, 2014

What-What?! Week of May 4th

In just a few days, my baby will be two years old!  When did that happen?  I'm not ready for him to be so big.  He's a funny little guy, and a lot more far along developmentally than his older siblings at this age.  He talks so much, and so clearly.  His current interests include Thomas the Train (his favorite character is Percy), Chuck the Truck, and action figure "guys".  And Legos.  And dinosaurs.  Dragons, of course.  Barbies.  My Little Ponies.  Toothbrushes.  Pouring water on things (just not himself -- too close to taking a bath!).

But for all of his interests, I'm still his mama, and I get many snuggles. <3

Writing:  Amazon Royalties Payment!

Good news!  I have actually been paid for something that I wrote.  Mind you, it took 14 months to net that $107.99, but it still pleases me so.

News:  Industry Seeks Comment on Retirement of Coupon Barcodes via Progressive Grocer

In a step to further the move from standard UPC barcode coupons to databar coupons, the Joint Industry Coupon Committee is seeking comments from affected industries on the retirement of certain types of barcodes.  By June of 2015, all UPC-5 and GS1-99 barcodes will be retired, which is to say, most barcodes that still exist on coupons will disappear.

The move to databars for coupons has been in the works for about two years now, and it has advantages and disadvantages, both for the industry, and for customers.  It will lead to less coupon fraud, as well as accidental misredemption, but at the same time, which is great for manufacturers.  However, because the databar includes more information about what products are allowed and disallowed for the coupon, it will make it easier for coupons to be programmed improperly, not covering products that should be covered, leading to the dreaded "coupon not accepted" beep.  Granted, a certain amount of this happens already, but when a customer can look at the coding of the UPC and anticipate the beep, they can then be prepared to argue with the cashier if necessary (I've been there, done that).  For those that don't coupon often, you may be wondering how often coupons are misprogrammed?  While some manufacturers almost never have programming problems, some, like Nivea and Proctor & Gamble, have regular issues with it.  It's frustrating for customers and cashiers, and I expect for this to only increase with the databar codes.

(image via

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Art Thursday -- May 1st

Yep, it's Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff.  Elsa has a magic staff...?