March 29, 2011

Tribes and Violence

Two years ago I spent a day with an Afghani woman. During our time together, I asked about her perspective on the Taliban. Her tone was derisive as she said that they're all Pashtun. Her tribe is Uzbek. The whole conflict was a tribal war. The Pashtun have always been more conservative and less educated (in her opinion...) The Pashtun tribe extends from eastern Afghanistan into Pakistan (there's a reason the border is 'porous'. Tribe trumps a line drawn by some Brits).

I've thought alot about that ever since. Why does the news here rarely mention the tribal element? Instead we hear about Pakistan not having control of it's borders.

A couple weeks ago, I heard something in passing about the fact that Quaddafi is part of the Qudhadhfa tribe. Close to a third of the country (maybe less?) is from that tribe. So the reason there are so many 'Quaddafi loyalists' is tribal. He's taken good care of his tribe, so why would they turn on him. The defectors to the rebels are people who were in his government but who aren't part of the same tribe.

I don't have a huge conclusion, but I'm intrigued and saddened by the tribal lens on world events. It somehow makes the conflicts seem more difficult to fully resolve. The solution seems to be what happened in Sudan recently, let countries reshape around tribal lines rather than continue to carry the burden of colonial borders (that were DESIGNED to thwart tribes).

March 21, 2011


I called a couple mortgage lenders today to start the pre-approval process. We're heading to Dallas in April for a four-day house hunt and will need to make an offer while we're there.

Each lender asked me a bunch of follow-up questions in order to give me an estimate. With each, it felt more like a chat than a business transaction and after asking where I live now and how long I've been here, "California, almost five years," they followed up with, "Oh, so where is your home?"

Pause. Confusion on my part. I've been here five years, it's here. Then the lightbulb, "Oh! Do you mean where did I grow up? I grew up in Cincinnati and my husband grew up in Staten Island, NY."

"Cincinnati! That's great. You'll be closer to home now."

Hmm... first of all, at this stage of life, home is wherever Jrex and I are together. Home can be a tent or a motel room, but I haven't had a 'home' in the sense they mean since my mother died. With my Dad now in Seattle, Cincinnati is where I grew up, but definitely not home.

The other thing that constantly amuses me is how each Dallas person latches onto Cincinnati in excitement. The places I've lived on the coasts are greeted with a blank nod or shrug, but when I mention growing up in Cincinnati, I have an instant 'in'. They tell me who they know there, trips they've taken to visit or ask me about sports (I know nothing about the current state of the Reds, the Bengals or UC basketball). On both the east and west coast, it's been the opposite. Cincinnati is treated as part of the great empty mystery in the middle of the country where nothing really exists except maybe Chicago.

I get nervous for Jrex. He's only lived on the coasts so even without being Asian, he'll be a foreigner. We'll be together though, so at least we'll know where home is.

March 17, 2011

I can sleep well tonight!

Comments from the client after we gave them our pitch this morning:

"I feel like we asked you to go big and to show us what different would look like and you did it. Change is always uncomfortable, but you definitely gave us what we asked for. Now we just have to figure out what to do about it. You've started some really important conversations. Thank you." (main branding guru)

"I don't know if this solution addresses all of our needs, but I deeply appreciate the thinking that you've done. It's obvious that you were very deliberate in your approach. Thank you." (VP in charge of it all)

"I love the circular video screen. Everyone else there has a huge rectangle. I like that you're opting out of the arms race with the other booths." (Video Guy)

"I love the open, round demo pods. I love the thinking there." (person in charge of press relations)

"How am I going to convince someone who thought they were getting an entire room to be happy with two monitors?" (Operational Person in charge of booth needs)

"We love the idea of one game taking over the entire booth in wav3s. That sounds fantastic." (multiple people). (that idea was mine...)

Overall, we went in with an agency approach (big strategic thinking) and they responded well. Phew!!

Many people on my team (not MM) have thanked me and commented that this wouldn't have happened without me. My General Manager sent me a personal note: "Your calm influence, great perspective and positive attitude helped everyone through this — and I am sure there were times you wanted to bang a few heads together! I've had great feedback on the meeting today and am thrilled it went so well."

One of the ironies is that the strategy guy wasn't really able to pitch the booth section. As anticipated the clients couldn't help themselves and jumped in with many, many questions. All the issues that I'd raised and considered were the very things they wanted answers about. MM's dismissive responses during the process weren't going to work in that situation, so I presented my pragmatic, logistical solutions as if the team had worked them out. In the end, I have to give him my begrudging respect (he WAS right about needing to take them further than their comfort zone), and hopefully he won't be as dismissive in the future.

The client is regrouping tomorrow and will give us feedback on Monday.

I, on the other hand, am taking a comp day. I was going to do a run to Joshua Tree this weekend with my two climbing partners, but all three of us have been overwhelmed by life and so instead we're taking a day off together (vs a whole weekend). We were going to do a day trip to a local climb, but it's supposed to rain all day (and you can't climb the local sandstone in the rain; you damage the rock). Instead, tomorrow will include brunch at Graceful's house, wedding dress shopping for Petite Slovakian and then climbing at the gym.

I feel like a huge anxiety bomb rolled off my back this morning without exploding...

March 16, 2011

Tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day

The pitch is tomorrow. I actually feel ok about it. Our team in Austral1a really pulled this one out in the end. Phew.

The account lead met with our main client today to give her a sneak peak. The client is nervous, but willing to let us present our case. We'll see. It's all on MM to pitch this puppy and persuade them.

I had a great idea this morning. We're going to give each person a stack of index cards and a pen. We'll ask them to hold their questions (and write them down) since it's a big, all-inclusive concept. Then, when we're all done, we'll collect the questions and create a FAQ to put up on the microsite. That way our client can direct her people to the FAQ so she doesn't have to answer the same thing over and over and over again.

I'll let you know what happens!

March 13, 2011

Because there IS life outside of this project

I brought in an amazing writer to work on this project and he has TOTALLY delivered. Reshaped everything, made it coherent, and better yet, everyone agrees with the radical surgeries he did to our content! I slept like a baby last night.

Anyway, I'm shoving a bunch of stuff in the direction of my Australian team in the next hour, and then Jrex and I are heading out to Supper Club. What used to be a once a month deal has been shredded by the arrival of children. Now when we meet, it's at 4 in the afternoon and it's a much more thrown together sort of thing. Fine with me. Tonight, in honor of Jrex getting a job, we're doing a BBQ theme. Pulled Chicken BBQ, red cabbage coleslaw (with jicama as the surprise ingredient), Champagne, Beer and Pie for dessert (Don't know what kind yet since we have to buy it on the way there. We're hoping for a sweet potato pie, but doubting that Whole Foods will carry one.)

It'll be fun to hang out with people that have nothing to do with work.

I'm so sorry for how dry and unimaginative my blog has become. I'm not even taking pictures anymore. I love seeing pics and miss posting them here. I hope I can get better about that. Anyway, thanks for hanging in through all the blahness of my current phase of life.

March 11, 2011

I hear that train a comin'

We really need to hire another full-time designer. For next week, we just got requests for another RFP, a PPT for a current client and pulling together PPT for an event that my company is hosting. Sigh. I'm totally burned out and haven't even made it to the stand-up yet.

Oh, and MM, who has taken over this entire project and been crowned The Decider, will be out of town dealing with something else from Saturday through Wednesday evening. When's the pitch to the client? (the train with the bright lights that I can see clearly heading down the tracks where I'm tied up?) Thursday morning. 9 AM. When I asked him when he thought we could do a rehearsal, he looked at me in confusion, "Rehearsal? We all know what I'm going to say. What's your vision for a rehearsal?"

I paused, "Well, we know your strategy part, but we don't know what you're going to say about the designs and it would be good to walk through that. Also it would be good to know when we're doing hand offs and to whom. Would be good to agree on an order and do a walkthrough to make sure we can cover everything in an hour."

He seemed to think that he could call in from the airport to do the rehearsal. Which won't work.

The train seems bigger than I thought it might be.

At this point, I'm just DONE. I'm tired and beat down. I plan on enjoying my evening and going to sleep early.

I'm also really, really tired of a job that claims this much from me. I end up going into hibernation mode during these intense projects since all the personalities at work drain any need for human contact. I avoid the phone, avoid my friends, barely talk with Jrex. It's no life and I'm really over it. I kind of wish they hadn't said they wanted to keep me remotely. I think I'd be happy to walk away this summer and take time to regroup.

March 9, 2011


I think I see a light at the end of the tunnel. My 3D des1gner stayed up all night to get through the latest round of changes from my crazy people. What he brought in today looked great. My people looked at it and started with quibbling little comments about the height of a screen or what direction the elements were facing on a shelf. I pulled them back by asking, "So, judging by the things you're picking out, am I right to think that you're basically happy with the overall design?"

"Oh, yes. It's great."

Finally! This has been the two longest weeks of my life. Our strateg1st went to the client on Monday and walked them through our approach and they said he was right on, so at least they won't be in total shock when they see the solution (I hope). I never have work dreams and last night I dreamt that I was with two of the clients and we were trying to print a banner for the p1tch. We were totally stressed about content and delivery. Which IS my next hurdle. I have to pull together content for a writer who thinks he has 6 days to work and I have to tell him we need content by EOD Friday. The standup is Thursday and we have a m1crosite, a PDF 'book' and a p1tch deck to layout before then.

Somehow people think that you hand content to a des1gner and push print and it pops right out. They have NO idea how many hours it takes to lay things out, much the less find images, create graphics and then make sure there aren't stupid typos. Grrrr... At least I'm not doing the final layout so that's a relief. I'm 'managing' so I don't have to be in the trenches.

March 4, 2011

Fostering Change

I've always believed that if you want a person (or a big company) to make a change, you have to help them see the pathway to that change and feel safe making steps in that direction. For this current big project our strateg1st sees it differently. Let's call him Micromanaging Miscommunicator. (MM) thinks that if the client said 'Go Big', we need to leave them no safety net, no stepping stones, just a huge new vision. This client is in a super trendy industry where every booth at the big show has a huge screen, lots of noise, lots of action and our solution is to create an 'anti-booth': no big scre3n, no more pr1vate meet1ng rooms, no waiting l1nes to get into a small room for an exclusive viewing of the upcoming fun & gam3s. At heart, our client is surprisingly conservative so my gut tells me they won't make a big jump without something to help them get there. However, the client asked that this all be driven by strat3gy and (MM) has taken it as his prerogative to be The Decider.

(We've taken this up the chain to our General Manag3r and she's said that (MM) gets to decide. All power to the dude.)

He's stepped into the role of the creat1ve d1rector even though he uses words VERY differently than a designer would. For example, he kept telling all of us that he wanted a 'dirty, messy, hairball'. For us, that evokes rough materials (burlap?), make it look like an outdoor park, evoke the opposite of everything else at this show. Well, after over a week of us sketching our little hearts out and being told we're not getting it, someone showed him images of some exper1ences they were proposing for the bo0th. He saw a b0oth that had glowing green curving shapes, none the same as any of the others: sleek, shiny, organic in form but very modern in execution and he said, "See! Now that's dirty". I had to interject, "Could you help me understand what's dirty about that?" "The fact that there are no 90 degree corners. I love that."

Ah. No wonder we couldn't hit it. One of our thr3e-D guys went away and came back with a very sleek, shiny design and (MM) loved it. The des1gner gleefully calls it his 'd1rty' design every chance he can. I tease him, "You mean your sleek, modern, organic des1gn?" "Oh no, it's d1rty!
Stop using words that make sense." It's a sexy rendering, but I have a feeling the client is going to FREAK out when they see it.

I've registered my protests, but since we've been told it's (MM)'s decision, on his head be it.

I hope I'm wrong and he's right. I love these clients and I'm SO uncomfortable that we're only giving them our one big idea and not giving them anything interim to get them toward the b1g picture. If this works it'll be a lesson for me about what going b1g looks (and feels) like. It's not very comfortable at all.