AP, Writers and Social Media

Friday, December 9th, 2011 at 6:32 PM | Category: Links, Meryl's Notes Blog, Social Media, Writing No comments
Old typewriter

Image from sxc.hu user wolliballa

The AP is Changing the Way Their Reporters Use Twitter reports that the Associated Press (AP) is forbidding writers from sharing opinions in Twitter, including opinions of others through retweets. I understand AP wants to ensure its reputation for unbiased reporting remains intact.

My initial reaction was tripping over my jaw that had somehow landed on the floor. But the more I thought about it, the more I understood the concern. Let’s say you read an unbiased AP article about hydraulic fracturing. If the AP writer who wrote the story has a Twitter account and tweeted that the problems surrounding hydraulic fracturing are overblown, how would that affect the article? Future articles?

What if the writer makes no mention of writing for AP in his Twitter bio? When I tweet a link to a story, I often look up the writer for a Twitter ID to credit the person with writing the story. If I do that with the hydraulic fracturing writer and see opinionated tweets on the subject — could that reflect on AP and the writer?

As I think about this, I’m at a loss on the right way to handle this. With so much low quality, biased reporting today — maybe it’s necessary for AP to do it for the sake of integrity.

What do you think of AP’s actions? Are they exempt or should it apply to other publications? What about companies? Can employees be allowed to share opinions about competitors and their industry?

And now for your weekly links.

Brain food …

For fun …

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Thank Clients

Friday, December 2nd, 2011 at 12:50 PM | Category: Links, Meryl's Notes Blog 1 comment

Image from sxc.hu user Ambrozjo

After arriving at my mom’s house on Thanksgiving, my seventeen-year-old daughter hands me an envelope. Perplexed, I opened it to find a  incredible and moving handwritten note of thanks from her. Let’s just say it was enough to bring tears. She wrote one for my mom, my siblings, close friends and — the most amazing of all — her two little brothers.

She said she is about to graduate and leave home. She felt she needed to do it.

I write notes to my clients every year … by hand. Yes, it cramps, but it’s worth it. (I even keep a journal, but I guess that’s not enough to keep the handwriting muscles warm.) You can get more ideas from 33 Ways to Reward Your Customers. These have a lot of retailer-related suggestions. However, every business can pick up something from this list.

It isn’t necessary to wait until the holidays to thank your clients. I do that, but I try to send the notes and gifts earlier. (Sent last week.) I’ve sent them pecan pralines (Texas food), books and Boy Scout Popcorn (delicious treat that also helps the organization).

You could also buy stamped postcards and write a thank you anytime you find the opportunity. They’re small and light, so you can carry them with you ready to write on.

How do you thank people?

Weekly Links

Brain food …

Fun …

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Personality and Style

Friday, November 18th, 2011 at 12:37 PM | Category: Links, Meryl's Notes Blog 5 comments

Meryl Multiple IntelligencesI took child psychology in my sophomore year of college. The one thing I’ll never forget about that class is taking Myers-Briggs Type Indicator for the first time along with other personality and learning style tests. The result? ISTJ (Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judging). And I’ve tested ISTJ every time since then.

Even my daughter is into the personality test and came close with her guess that I was an ISFJ. She probably thought we were opposites since she’s an ENTP (Extroversion, iNtuition, Thinking, Perceiving). Introversion and extroversion don’t mean you’re shy or outgoing. Instead, they represent where you draw more energy from. Check out the 16 type descriptions. If you don’t know yours, this might give you a clue.

“The Secret to Helping Your Child Excel in School and in Life” at Lifehack introduces another test where you can learn more about yourself and multiple intelligences. This shows what areas we tend to easily understand and what areas are harder. The website explains, “For some of us it is relatively easy to understand how a flower grows but it is immensely difficult for us to understand and use a musical instrument. For others music might be easy but playing football is difficult.”

I test strong on intrapersonal and logical. Zilch on musical (no surprise). The only surprise is the linguistic score. These results reveal your stronger and weaker learning styles. For a good explanation of the intelligences, visit Family Education.

All of these assessments help us understand ourselves better and how you can better work with others once you figure out what they are. “The Secret to Helping Your Child Excel in School and in Life” gives an example of a teacher discussing the topic of  “the law of supply and demand” and how the teacher can best reach a child from each of the different intelligences.

Fascinating stuff. Here’s another to check out: True Colors.

Have you ever taken a personality or style assessment? What was it? What did you learn?

And now for your weekly links …

Brain food …

For fun …
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Outdated Software

Friday, November 11th, 2011 at 10:50 AM | Category: Links, Meryl's Notes Blog, Tech 3 comments

When I bought a Flip camera in 2008, I also grabbed video editing software. Before buying the software, I researched for a good editor that wasn’t fancy or power-packed. Just enough to get the job done without spending much time with the user manual. With new software, I can usually dig right in. However, past experience with editing software involved more reading time than editing time. After talking to a few folks and reading reviews, I went with Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum Version 8.

I installed Vegas and never used it. Eventually, I uninstalled it because it took up unneeded resources and space. I decided to do a little winter cleaning by identifying the largest files on the computer. Three HD videos made the list, so that prompted me reinstall the editing software.

It can’t open the .m2ts files. This 2008 software has “HD” on the box, but it couldn’t open these files. I went to the website to see if the company had a patch or upgrade so it could open these files. It turned out they no longer support that version of the software. How hard would it be to create a plug-in to import these HD files? A search of user forums yielded nothing. I guess not too many people are using version 8 or they have cameras that don’t produce .m2st files.

Having learned my lesson that I don’t make time for editing videos, I looked around for freeware and cheap converter to convert these HD files into one Vegas 8 could handle. Unfortunately, no freeware app can handle these big files. Actually, there was one and it failed. Besides, I wasn’t comfortable using it because there had been concerns about the app having malware. (While working on this, I came across 10 Free Apps for Working with Video, but none could solve this problem.)

The trial version of Sony Vegas 11 converted the three big videos into one. Windows Media Player (Scroll way down to MPEG-4 section for why) couldn’t play it. Two other players could. Whew. I’m out of the video editing business. Back to using the old digital camera for videos.

I understand software companies have to draw the line in how long they support older versions of software. Is it fair to stop supporting a three-year-old app? Maybe Sony would’ve had a fan in me if they had a solution other than upgrade to 11.

What’s your take on software and support?

And now for your weekly links …

Brain food …

For fun …

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Odd Jobs

Friday, November 4th, 2011 at 1:18 PM | Category: Links, Meryl's Notes Blog No comments

Before They Were Famous: The Oddest Odd Jobs of 10 Literary Greats reveals the jobs held by Kurt Vonnegut, John Steinbeck, Stephen King and others. They’re not that odd. Vonnegut managed a Saab dealership.  King was a janitor. Harper Lee handled reservations for Easter Air Lines. Still, it’s interesting to see what they did before becoming famous writers.

I’m no literary great, but I’d say the oddest job I held was working as a cashier and stocker at Toys R Us. Or maybe wrapping gifts in my mom’s little kiosk that she had for one holiday season. I also worked at Tandy’s offices (Radio Shack folks) as a file clerk. That’s about four jobs (not counting babysitting) by the time I graduated from high school. My high school senior daughter has had one job for three years: working at a brunch/lunch restaurant. She started as a hostess and she’s now the senior waitress.

Slot CarsThe coolest pre-high school graduation job I had was data entry for an antique toy car catalog. Entering names and addresses sounds boring, but it paid well for a teen and I loved looking at those old cars. Barbie wasn’t my thing — AFX slot cars were. I loved taking apart the broken ones and trying to fix them.

Despite my preference of cars to dolls, I’m not responsible for my older son’s love of cars. (I can’t begin to give you an estimate on how many Hot Wheels we have between him and his younger brother.) One of my favorite clients just happens to be in the car business. I write content about the many cars his company sells.

For a long time, I regretted accepting the 20-minutes away Toys R Us job on the spot when I had another interview lined up with the public library two blocks from my house. Obviously, I love books plus I knew the staff at the library. I was 16. I didn’t know better. Besides, working at Toys R Us taught me a bit about business and retail. Learning the Dewey Decimal System would only help me find books faster. :)

What odd jobs have you had?

And now for your weekly linkage …

Brain food …

And for fun because we’re allowed …


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Big Bad Wolf, Daisy Duck, Donald Duck, Halloween and Clutter

Friday, October 28th, 2011 at 3:42 PM | Category: Life Tips, Links, Meryl's Notes Blog No comments

Big Bad Wolf Halloween PaulMy quest for a nice costume without the cheap material and plastic proved challenging as gal who loves Halloween. This isn’t a one-time costume, but one to use whenever I needed it. I visited the Disney website and found the Big Bad Wolf costume on sale. PERFECT for my 6’4″ husband. Not the best photo, but you get the idea.

Then I found Daisy on sale. (Unfortunately, no picture of me as Daisy Duck.) It clicked. My dad was popular with the kids because he could talk like Donald Duck. It didn’t take long before my mom and siblings showered him with Donald Duck toys, art and knickknacks that his home office looked like a Donald Duck shrine with a few Betty Boops thrown in. (Mom’s thing that we all started bopping her with Boop gifts.)

One thing about collections — it made it easier to shop for people who had everything they needed. My thing was Broadway and dreidels (spinning tops). Broadway didn’t happen by accident, but dreidels did. I had a couple of them and somehow Paul (aka Big Bad Wolf) decided to add a new one — sometimes two — to my collection every year.

Donald Duck ClockThen Dad died in 2007. This left — among other things, of course — Mom stuck with a massive Donald Duck collection. She kept the more meaningful ones like the Donald Duck latch hook I did. She also gave one Donald Duck item to each of us kids that we had given him. I have the 65th anniversary clock.

Between Dad’s death and tightening belts, I decided to stop collecting dreidels because we didn’t need so much stuff. (I had stopped collecting Broadway stuff ages ago.) Stuff piles up creating more upkeep work. Besides, they just sit on a shelf only to be admired whenever company comes over.

Except for gadgets, I cut buying needless things and spent more time on every buying decision. I still make mistakes and experience buyer’s remorse (Viewsonic gTablet).

I cleared a lot of clutter giving up books I didn’t need and items I hadn’t touched in over a year. Yes, I thought “But what if I need it later? I don’t want to spend money on another one.” Well, later has yet to come and it feels great to be rid of the item.

Do you have stuff you’d like to clear out? What makes it hard to get rid of them?

And now for this week’s links.

Brain food …

  • Best Tweeps for Writers. Great list that I already followed over half and added the rest without question. Yes, I’m on the list — but it’s hard to question it when it has a lot of folks I enjoying conversing with in social media. Not a popularity contest. I never win those.
  • 16 Useful Twitter Plugins for WordPress. Enhance your website / blog with these plugins. I don’t recommend automating posts unless you can make it look like a good tweet instead of a cut-off one. Those are the worst.
  • 280 Must Read Books for Entrepreneurs. Of course, you shouldn’t read them all. It’s more important to glean what you read than how many you read. Great list.

For fun because we’re allowed …

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Links: Summer Arrives 2011 Edition

Friday, June 24th, 2011 at 5:03 PM | Category: Books, Business, Links, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog, Writing 1 comment

When I think summer and song … first thing that comes to mind is “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess. I don’t have many favorite slow moving songs, but that one sounds beautiful and has lovely words. Witness…

And the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’
And the cotton is high

Your daddy’s rich
And your mamma’s good lookin’
So hush little baby
Don’t you cry

Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

Photo from flickr user itsjustkate

It flows and captivates. Why don’t I like more slow songs? I think part of it is because they’re harder to hear and follow. For example, I love “Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George, but I can only hear the latter half of the song. I saw the song in its entirety on TV with captions and liked it. Some of the lyrics:

Sunday, by the blue purple yellow red water
on the green purple yellow red grass
Let us pass through our perfect park
pausing on a Sunday

By the cool blue triangular water
on the soft green elliptical grass
as we pass through arrangements of shadow
toward the verticals of trees
Forever . . .

Beautiful way to describe the famous painting by Georges Seurat.

As for other things that come to mind with “summer,” it’s all the usual stuff: swimming, 4th of July, vacations (rare), the smell of suntan lotion, camp.

Over to you: What do you think of when it comes to summer? Can be songs, activities, whatever.

Brain food…

And for fun because we’re allowed…

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Links: Finals Everywhere 2011 Edition

Friday, May 27th, 2011 at 4:54 PM | Category: Books, Language, Links, Meryl's Notes Blog, Writing 1 comment

My older two kids have a quirky schedule in the next week as they start taking final exams in 6th and 11th grades. The 2nd grader gets to have fun with an end of the year party and no finals. But 3rd grade is going to be serious business as it’ll be his first year of taking state tests. It won’t be long before he won’t get to do the fun stuff and not have finals.

Then summer begins. I’m not a fan of summer break because of the inconsistent schedule and work disruptions as camp and activities start later and end earlier than school. Of course, I’ll spend time with the kids — I just can’t spend it the entire summer and I like my quiet time and consistent schedule.

Brain food…

For fun because we’re allowed…

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Links: Green Is … 2011 Edition

Friday, May 20th, 2011 at 12:36 PM | Category: Life Tips, Links, Meryl's Notes Blog, Social Media, Tech, Writing No comments

Whoops. I didn’t publish links last week! Guess what… the sky didn’t fall. Sometimes we can’t blog. It happens. So there are more links than usual because some of them are the ones I saved from last week.

Best quote in ages: “Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” This comes from Michael Hyatt’s blog post, Avoiding One Great Temptation Every New Dream Faces. It’s easy — especially for writers — to dig a big hole for themselves. A friend publishes a book and announces another on the way. {Green} Another colleague writes for bigshot blog. {Green} Writer has 20,000 Twitter followers. {Green} [Fill in something another writer has accomplished that made you jealous.] {Green}

It happens to me. It’s hard not to compare yourself to someone else who does the same job you do. Writers are kind of like snowflakes. It’s hard to find two with the exact same careers. Sure, Patricia Cornwell and James Patterson have published tons of books in a similar genre. But how they got there is different. They do other things, too.

People may be jealous of you, but they’re not going to admit it.

Green is for recycling, the color of my eyes and the rockin’ Dallas Mavericks’ old uniform. What else is green?

Brain food…

For fun because we’re allowed…

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Links: Field Day Is Good 2011 Edition

Friday, May 6th, 2011 at 4:30 PM | Category: Business, Life Tips, Links, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog No comments

I always look forward to seeing what the new design will be on the elementary school Field Day shirt every year. Some great, some average and some blah. At first, I thought this year’s “Field Day is good” was bland. I knew it was a play off “Life is good,” but it didn’t captivate me. However, since then, it grew on me. My eight-year-old didn’t get it. Then the next morning, the newspaper had the “life is good” line in the article about Trader Joe’s and I showed it to him. (Yes, Dallas and places around Texas are finally getting Trader Joe’s!!)Field Day 2011

I still have two of my favorite Field Day shirts. A couple of years ago, I caught a shirt one of the P.E. coaches wore and loved it. Then, I looked at the year on it thinking it was before my kids’ time at the school and couldn’t believe it. I could’ve had that shirt. How did I miss it?

The neat thing about the Field Day shirts is they sell for $5. PTA always sells them for as little as possible making only pennies (rounding to nearest dollar) because they want to make it as affordable as possible — not a profit. Huzzah, PTA!

Brain food…

And for fun because we’re allowed…

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