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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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?

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Graduate Degree Programs for Writers: Online and Low Residency

Monday, February 7th, 2011 at 4:45 PM | Category: Links, Meryl's Notes Blog, Writing 1 comment
Online Degrees

Photo from sxc.hu user yirsh

My first course outside of the classroom happened through old-fashioned mail. The first was a high school history correspondence course and the second in a college-level marketing course that I took after college to learn more about marketing. These worked well for me with no lectures to follow and missed out conversations.

Over the years, I took several online graduate level courses and completed a certificate program in Internet Technologies from New York University (NYU). I loved taking all the courses through a web-based course environment and from NYU. I love where I live, but I valued the opportunity to take classes at a respectable university out of state without moving or traveling. Besides, I felt connected to New York because my dad hailed from Brooklyn and I still had family there.

I started an MBA program at Dallas’ SMU, which added a small campus within a few miles from my house. This campus held all the required courses while you had to go to the main campus for other classes. I attended for one semester and burned out. It took too much time away from family on the weekends and I worked full-time in a corporate job.

It worked out because I’d rather get an master of fine arts (MFA), master in liberal studies (MLS) or something focusing on communications, literature or journalism. Over the years, I’ve watched for distance learning programs in these areas so I have the information available when I’m ready to go back to school.

Note some are low residency programs. These give you the opportunity to go to the campus several times a year for a week or two. Also, colleges appearing in this list do not imply any kind of quality. The list lets you know what’s available to help you find the school that best fits your needs.

List updated when more colleges pop up. If you’ve attended a program or know of one, please in comments.

Low-Residency Programs

Goddard College MFA in Creative Writing. “The low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program is a 48-credit, rigorous, student-centered program for writers who choose to live their lives and hone their writing skills at the same time. Each semester in the low-residency MFA in Creative Writing Program begins with an eight-day residency at the Goddard College campus.”

Naropa University MFA in Creative Writing: “The online Creative Writing degree requires 49 total credit hours, a combination of online workshops, online literature seminars, online elective studies, contemplative practice, summer residence at the Summer Writing Program and at-home manuscript.”

Pacific University MFA in Writing: Located in Oregon, the program helps experienced writers grow in building a portfolio of fiction, nonfiction or poetry and celebrates writing as an art that has the potential to make a difference in the world. The program consists of two annual residency sessions.

Southern New Hampshire University MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction: Low-residency program lets you write at home and meet peers and faculty online. The residencies occur in the summer and winter.

Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing: Two sessions per year residency program with the opportunity of attending a residency in Slovenia instead of Vermont. Available tracks include poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and a concentration in translation. Dual-genre study options available including study in Writing for Children & Young Adults.

Online Programs

Drexel University MS in Communications. Focuses on technical communication with studies in writing, editing, message design, software documentation and ethics. Graduates can go on to pursue careers as technical writers, computer documentation specialists, or training specialists. Students develop a professional exit portfolio based on course work and professional assignments.

Ellis College MA Communication Arts. Ellis College offers two MAs. One in advertising and public relationships. The other in journalism.  “The Master of Arts program in Communication Arts is an interdisciplinary program that incorporates sound theoretical principles of research, reporting, writing, and cultural studies to achieve effective professional results.”

Full Sail University MFA: “In the Creative Writing Master of Fine Arts Online Degree Program, storytelling is not merely taught as it relates to the typical output mediums of print and publishing.” Offers several areas of focus.

The New School MA in Media Studies. “As a student in the program, you explore traditional disciplines, develop a strong commitment to research and critical analysis, and create and develop media, perhaps transcending traditional formats. It is through the unity of practical and theoretical work that scholars can contribute to the notion of media literacy and our understanding of the modern world. The New School’s 39-credit master’s degree program integrates the studyof media theory and management with production practices.”

Texas Tech Master of Arts in Technical Communications. “This master’s degree combines study of the history, theory, research, and genres of technical communication with practice in applying this knowledge. The thesis option requires students to complete 24 hours of graduate courses in technical communication and electives or a minor, 6 hours of research methods, and a thesis. The nonthesis option requires students to complete 36 hours of graduate courses in technical communication, electives, and a minor. Students who elect the nonthesis option must pass a comprehensive portfolio examination in the semester of graduation.

“The master’s degree in technical communication is also available online. Application and admission processes and degree requirements are similar to those for the nonthesis option for the degree. All distance students must complete 36 hours of graduate coursework in technical communication, language- and communication-related electives, or a minor. One of the courses requires a substantial independent research project that could result in an article for publication. Prospective students are advised to consult www.english.ttu.edu/tcr for details of degree requirements and the course schedule.”

Texas Tech Doctor of Philosophy in Technical Communication & Rhetoric: “Designed for students with an interest in rhetoric, writing, technical communication, and composition. The degree in TCR requires 45 hours of graduate work in rhetoric and technical communication beyond the bachelor’s degree. An additional 15 hours may be used for a minor in a related field. Credits earned on a master’s degree count toward these totals. This degree prepares students for positions in a wide range of college and university writing programs. This degree program requires courses in qualitative and quantitative research methods. The program emphasizes five broad areas of scholarship in its scholarship, coursework, and initiatives: a) Rhetoric, Composition, and Technology, b) Technical Communication, c) Rhetorics of Science and Healthcare, d) Technology, Culture, and Rhetoric, and e) Visual Rhetoric, New Media, and User-Centered Design.”

Utah State University Master of Science in English, Technical Writing Specialization. “There are more than sixty professional directions in professional and technical communication, and our program instructs broadly enough to allow you to choose from most of the most interesting professional directions. In our program, in addition to learning to write professionally, you may design webpages, create technical animations and videos, program special effects for computer applications, study websites for usability, publish book length manuscripts, and create games in two- and three-dimensions.”

University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) Creative Writing and the Americas: Offers a bilingual online Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program. The goal of this unique bilingual program is to prepare writers for the publishing marketplace and for teaching and editing careers, both in the United States and Latin America.

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30+ Naming and Branding Resources

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010 at 11:35 AM | Category: Business, Language, Links, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog 4 comments

In her Name Tales newsletter, Marcia Yudkin shares a disheartening Las Vegas Sun article about what happens to a company that chooses a name that resembles another company’s name. The story shows that anything can happen with a company’s name that even if the company does nothing wrong. The safest thing to do is not fall in love with one name or brand, but to have a few options and then research to see if anything comes close.Names Twooooooooooo.0

These resources help you with your naming and branding effort with a couple of what not to dos.


  1. 5 Obvious Rules for Naming Your Product (That We Wish We’d Followed)
  2. 8 Mistakes to Avoid When Naming Your Business
  3. 10 Tips for Naming Your Company, Product or Service
  4. 11 Ways to Play the Name Game
  5. 50 Worst Company Names (Requires registration)
  6. The Basics of Branding
  7. The Best (and Worst) Business Names
  8. Branding Dilemma: When to Use Your Own Name
  9. Business Name and Tagline Generator
  10. How they named companies – fact or fiction?
  11. How to Create a Great Business Name
  12. How to Create Company Names
  13. How to Name Your Business
  14. Hunt is on for world’s worst rebranding
  15. Microsoft’s Zune Raises Ruckus in Hebrew — the reason you should verify your brand name in another language before selling it in other countries. Chevy Nova (no go) wouldn’t go over well in Spanish-speaking countries.
  16. Put Your Business Name to the Test
  17. Tech’s Product Name Guru: Meet the man who coined BlackBerry, Azure and More
  18. Think Search Before You Name Your Next Product
  19. Wikipedia company name etymologies


  1. Brainstorming domain names.
  2. Brand Name Generator
  3. Building the Perfect Beast: The Igor Naming Guide to Creating Product and Company Name
  4. CatchWord Naming Blog
  5. Community Mottos and Nicknames. City names can provide inspiration.
  6. The Funny Name Server
  7. Latin dictionary
  8. Name Tales
  9. POP! Stand out in Any Crowd book.
  10. Free Tools and Sites for Writers: Check the resources section for references.
  11. Snark Hunting: The Naming and Branding Blog
  12. US Patent and Trademark Office
  13. Web 2.0 Name Generator
  14. Writer’s Digest Flip Dictionary book
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Howdy from Boston

Thursday, August 26th, 2010 at 2:22 PM | Category: Business, Language, Links, Meryl's Notes Blog, Social Media, Tech No comments

Boston in Red

Travel. Love it. Hate it. I dream of going to London, Paris, Greece, Italy and other places. But then I think about all the work it takes to do overseas travel and the desire goes away… for a little while. Maybe it will be easier to do overseas travel when my life calms down — after the kids are grown. So I’m in no hurry.

Going nine years without going someplace new is a bit much. (The last few trips have been to … Austin… Austin… San Antonio slash Austin… Not a big deal when you live in Texas and they were all for events, conferences and even a volleyball tournament.) It’s not that I put off travel for when a better time comes. Life worked out that way.

I do the best I can to enjoy the moment and appreciate my life every day of every year. Working in a home office makes that possible. Some days — rainy or freezing days for one — I don’t care to walk my dog. Other days I appreciate that I can do this activity and it forces me to take a break from the computer that I might not take except to exercise.

Early this year, I got an invitation to a family event in Savannah, Georgia. Well, hey, I haven’t been to Savannah (I’ve been to Atlanta) and I love these cousins. We tried to go, but the unreasonable airfare didn’t work for us. It turned out to be a good thing because I received a surprise award that same weekend.

Another invitation arrived for a family event in Nashua, NH. The cousins are not just family, but dear friends. At one point, we lived within 30 minutes of each other and got together a few times. I’ve been to Nashua, so the location didn’t excite me. After researching, I find out the best airfare meant flying into Boston and making a road trip to Nashua instead of flying straight to NH.

Boston. I’ve never been there. When I lived in Washington, DC, I managed to visit Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York. Never made it to Massachusetts.


Since I have to fly to Boston, why not go a couple of days earlier and take a mini-vacation in Boston? That’s exactly what I’m doing. I did my research and managed to get a place in the North End near a lot of the action including the Freedom Trail. So I hope to squeeze it all in two days. It may be short, but it’ll be powerful to discover a spot in the U.S. that I’ve never visited and one with a rich history.

By the time this post goes live that I’ve had a grand time in Boston and I’ll be on my way to Nashua, NH. I hope I have lots to great stuff to report in the next link post. In the meantime, I hope you had a great week and you enjoy the little moments. Despite the hectic week before my trip, I took a breath and did my marching band routine to celebrate back to school week!

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5th Grade Graduation and HAGS

Friday, June 4th, 2010 at 9:57 AM | Category: Blogging, Books, Links, Meryl's Notes Blog, Social Media, Writing 6 comments
5th Grade Graduation 2010

5th grade graduate and wonderful teacher

I Be One Decade Old

Goodness gracious! This blog’s 10th birthday passed and I never noticed until today. My first blog post went up on June 1, 2000. This place is a decade old. What does that translate into Internet years? Anyway, thank you to every single pair of eyes for reading in the last seven years or so. (I don’t think anyone read my blah blahs in the first few years.)

I’m glad HAGS short for “Have a great summer” didn’t come along when my friends and I signed each other’s yearbook. Nowadays, I see my kid’s yearbooks riddled with “HAGS” and little else. OK, elementary school kids — I understand. (Yearbooks only came out for high schoolers during my school days. Now elementary and junior high are in the game.) But high school kids can add a little more thought to what they write.

5th Grade Graduations

School ended today. Second child graduated from elementary school last Tuesday — the photos turned out lousy. Thank goodness, a photographer took a picture of every kid with the teacher. That one turned out great. My husband thinks my digital camera doesn’t do a good job. Ohh… I don’t even want to start comparing cameras again. Anyone get a rec? I love small ones that can also do videos.

I had a graduation ceremony in 5th grade, which I can only recall walking in the auditorium and nothing more. I asked my mom what she remembers. She said she can only recall worrying about my busing to 6th grade. (She has great instincts because 6th grade was my worst year in my school career.)

Mom remembers my sister’s 5th grade graduation because they marched in to “Hey, Jude” and it went on forever. 🙂 Wish I had kept a journal back then as a reminder of what I did, but being a typical kid — I’m sure the thought of doing it would’ve been a good laugh. At least, I captured my two kids’ 5th grade graduations in the journal that I’ve kept since 1989.

Fleeting Youth

The entire 5th grade year helps parents prepare for their child’s transition to middle school. The kids act confident, rule the school and show their readiness to move on to middle school (or junior high as some of you may call it). I could never imagine my youngest going to middle school. I’m not ready. But come 5th grade, I’ll get there. However, since he’d be my last in elementary school, I imagine it’ll be harder. We’ve been at this elementary school since 1999.

Over a decade has passed since I graduated college. For a long time, my time in school outlasted my adult years. Now the tide turns as adulthood surpasses the school career. Somehow, I wish we could package the insight that childhood makes up only a small part of your life that you need to enjoy it and not be in a hurry to grow up like my daughter is.

“Youth is wasted on the young.” — George Bernard Shaw

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Inspired by Teachers

Friday, May 14th, 2010 at 1:15 PM | Category: Business, Links, Meryl's Notes Blog, Social Media, Writing 5 comments
Youngest with Teacher

My little guy with his teacher

I admired the incredible and teachers who inspired everyone in attendance last night’s Teacher of the Year event. Attendees donned red to signal they’ve been inspired by a teacher in their lives.

Each year, all the schools select one experienced teacher of the year and one beginning teacher of the year. Selected experienced teachers went beyond the expected teaching requirements. Beginning teachers show they have maturity, leadership and instructional ability to become an outstanding teacher in the future.

I don’t know how today’s teachers do it when I see the kinds of things my kids learn at a younger age. Plus, they communicate on a regular basis thanks to emails and phones in the classroom (not in my day).

One Teacher Who Inspired Me

My 10th grade English teacher was an inspiring teacher. I knew her before she was my teacher as her daughter and I played soccer together. I was relieved to finally leave the English teacher I had in my freshman year and somehow again in 10th grade. Awful teacher. Opposite of inspiring.

Shakespeare became interesting thanks to her. That year we did Julius Caesar and I had to memorize the “Friends, Romans and countrymen” speech. I dreaded memorizing poems, but the speech gave me a greater appreciation for the play. That year, we also read The Masque of the Red Death and The Telltale Heart and discussed the meanings behind the stories. I loved the discussions. Maybe that sparked my love for English and literature? Who knows. But I haven’t had many classes that led to interesting discussions like Mrs. Graves’ did.

Tell us about a teacher who inspired you.

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