Orange is indeed the New Black

I like the rest of the nation am in love with this show. You get human nature or women nature I should say in its rawest and most glorious form for a blissful 13 hours worth of episodes nonstop. Thank you Netflix. You see these women without the normal backdrop of society, without the clothes and jewelry they’d wear in this society, and without their friends and family,. You see that they’ve created their own system within a system in order to survive and make sense of their freedom-stripped lives. Their everyday struggles in prison are at times hilarious and other times heart-wrenching. The best parts are when you get to see who they were before they were wearing orange uniforms. Some stories are more riveting than others but people’s lives are for the most part are not that bombastic. I was also reminded of an important lesson: don’t break the law.

Completely unrelated to the title of this post: interviews. I have never been on the other side, that is the interviewer’s side. I have only ever been the interviewee in life and it has never been easy to sit there in front of someone you’ve never met before and try to convey to him everything that you are in 60 minutes. I have never not been nervous, no matter how nice and easygoing the interviewer may be. Because every single word you’re saying is being scrutinized, every muscle movement in the face, every pause, every mannerism from the moment you step in to the moment you step out.   I’m very easy to get along with, intelligent, and very good at whatever I put my mind to. I try my best and that’s all I can do. Everything else is just left to fate.


Picking up the Piano Again

I’m glad I had a mother who insisted that I, at least, stay committed to one hobby.  As a child I tried everything from ice skating to the bowling league, Taekwondo to swimming, surfing to pottery.  But I never stuck with any of these through my adolescence, except the piano and the clarinet.  I stopped playing both instruments once I left for university and now it’s been 5 years since I’ve played.  I will never forget the grueling competitions, master classes, hours spent practicing, and the gratification I received after it all.  Now that I have a piano again to play I’ve decided to master this song that I never got a chance to. Those 10 years were worth it. Thanks mom.

Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptum, a  very technically difficult yet intensely beautiful piece.

I’m a big fan of contemporary classical music.  Years of playing Bach and Mozart kind of make you numb to pieces from the Baroque and Classical era of piano. I’ve always wanted to master this song by Ravel. Just utterly beautiful and even more difficult that Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu.

BookPeople Best of 2012: FICTION


In no particular order…..

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

“The first thing to know about Adam Johnson’s marvelous book is that nothing is as it seems. The protagonist, after an arduous childhood, does not really have a name. Like many things in North Korea, appearance is more important than substance; thus, his name is that of one taken from a martyr’s grave, the name of some war hero who died resisting the influences of the West in the Korean War. That his mother was a beautiful singer whisked off to Pyongyang only enhances this dream-like quality of his existence…(Johnson’s) book is an open letter to metaphorically examine the North Korean state of mind. Engaging and well paced, The Orphan Master’s Son will charm and terrify you at the same time.” – Raul, First Floor Inventory Manager (Read his full review.)


This is How You Lose Her by…

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Switching from Unhealthy to Healthy

Lately, I’ve really become concerned over aging. It’s not something that ever crossed my mind when I was 16, 18 or even 21.  But now that I’m 23 it feels like I’m jumping hurdles towards 30.  I find myself suddenly scrutinizing the wrinkles and skin elasticity of women when I’m watching TV and I’m wondering how long before I start to noticeably age.  If these are the peak years for a woman, then I must already be starting the long descent downwards.  Many women would consider this a crime, but I don’t use any special face wash or lotion..just soap, towel dry, then sleep. And while I used to be an active gym rat, the past few years I barely exercise. I have been trying a little to eat more healthily, but now I’ve decided to go all out and try to make most of my diet about vegetables and vitamins.  If I’m not putting in the nutrients that my body needs and just stuffing it with processed foods, pizza, sweets, and meat, how will my body look like 10 or even 5 years from today?  How will these habits manifest themselves on my skin and face, where aging is most noticeable? It’s time I start taking care of my body, making more careful choices of what I decide to put in it, and exercising even if its just 15 minutes a day. These small differences each day I believe should add up as the years accumulate. Today I’d like to try out a few vegetable- based dishes and see how they come out.  I’m an amateur cook but if I can learn by trying out recipe one by one I’m hoping I can make vegetables taste not only edible but savory.

Vegetable Dish 1

Picture of Butternut Squash Soup Recipe

Vegetable Dish 2

Picture of Hot Artichoke-Spinach Dip Recipe

Revenge Anyone?

If you haven’t heard of this show, shame on you, because it’s one of the best new-ish shows out there. The second season just started, and for those of you who became hooked through Season 1, the new season’s first few episodes do not disappoint.  While I’m a fan of many many sitcoms, it’s hard for me to find a drama and not get annoyed by it within the first episode.  But when I do find that show that satisfies my fix for well-acted, well-written, and well-orchestrated drama, I am extremely loyal.  Case in point, Lost.  The reason I watch this show is obviously because of Emily Thorne, the main character of the show.  She’s like the epitome of the perfect woman, and everything I wish I could be.  She has unfaltering determination and purpose in every single one of her calculated actions, has millions in her bank accounts, speaks fluent Japanese, knows martial arts like Neo, and has the social grace of a gazelle, allthewhile maintaining impeccable posture.  And the other reason is obviously because it’s about time there be a show that’s all about a mission of revenge Count of Monte Cristo style.  If you think about all those times you wish you could have had your little moments of revenge, on those HR people who never responded to your job applications, that professor in college who screwed you over, on Bank of America, watching this show is like a process of catharsis.  When I watch this show, I don’t feel like a bystander. I AM Emily Thorne for an hour and I WILL have my revenge.

And let’s not overlook those deep quotes that begin and end each show.  They speak the truth man.

“Absolution is a washing away of sin. A promise of rebirth. And the chance to escape the transgressions of those who came before us. The best among us will learn from the mistakes of the past. While the rest seem doomed to repeat them. And then there are those who operate on the fringes of society. Unburdened by the confines of morality and conscience. A ruthless bread of monsters whose deadliest weapon is their ability to hide in plain sight. If the people I’ve come to bring justice to cannot be bound by the quest for absolution, then neither will I.” -Emily Thorne,Revenge

“The greatest weapon anyone can use against us is our own mind. By preying on the doubts and uncertainties that already lurk there. Are we true to to ourselves? Or do we live for the expectations of others? And if we are open and honest, can we ever truly be loved? Can we find the courage to release our deepest secrets, or in the end are we all unknowable… even to ourselves” -Emily Thorne, Revenge

“Doubt is a disease. It infects the mind creating a mistrust of people’s motives and of one’s own perceptions. Doubt has the ability to call into question everything you’ve ever believed about someone and reinforce the darkest suspicions of our inner circles.” – Emily Thorne, Revenge

It’s the Best Time of the Year

Trick ‘r Treat, best costume and movie ever!HALLOWEEN.

Here’s a little history lesson ( )  on this wonderful holiday, but I’m warning you that it’s pretty long. In reading this I was pleased to find out that Halloween is the United States’ second largest commercial holiday, with people spending approximately $6.9 billion a year. Who woulda thunk? I’m assuming it was bumped to 2nd place because of Christmas. And now my mind is wandering off to the joyous festivities of Christmas……..And now I’m back. The funny thing is, I actually live right next to, literally 10 medium-length footsteps, a CEMETERY. So it practically feels like Halloween all the time. For Halloween people usually decorate their homes, inside and out, depending on their level of laziness and overall enthusiasm for the holiday. But I wonder how the Swiss people would react if I decorated my place like so. Take into account that I don’t actually live in a house, but an apartment with 10 other tenants living in the building. So I’d be decorating the outside of their home too.

Exhibit A :Hanging Pumpkin Scarecrow

Exhibit B:Awesome Haunted House

Exhibit C:funny

Wouldn’t they just LOVE that? I’m sure all the kids would get excited too. Assuming I don’t get kicked out of my building, I’m excited to have a Halloween party of sorts at my place and I’ve already thought of a list of creative ideas for it. First I decorate the inside of my flat like this:

Then it’s all about the drinks

1.  “Ghosts in a Graveyard”

2 oz black vodka
2 oz coffee-flavored liqueur
1 scoop vanilla ice cream
Pinch of nutmeg

2.  “Black Widow”

2 oz Blavod Vodka
3 oz Cranberry Juice

Snacks: Swirly Halloween Cookies

Candy Corn Sugar Cookies ( I LOVE candy corn. That is some unique tasting chemically processed sugar goodness.)

Halloween Cupcakes

And the piece de resistance…an awesome Halloween cake

Obviously there would have to be a costume contest.  I’m thinking I could be the Corpse Bride from Tim Burton’s movie and look AMAZING like these girls:.

This is really my favorite holiday because how could you NOT love a day when you can look insane and act crazy and no one can say anything. Halloween doesn’t have to end with your childhood trick-or-treating days. Adults will have their fun too.

and BAM! you’re 23.

Birthdays…Do they really have any significant meaning after your sweet 16 and legal drinking age 21? Does it really sound good to say you’re nearly a quarter of a century old? I remember when I was a teenager, and all I wanted was for time to go faster so I could be an adult so that people would take me seriously and I would be busy and important. Well now I’m almost 23. Do I feel it? No. Do I look it? Yes, but no wrinkles YET. What’s exciting about getting older is that the world is too.  Society is changing as demographics shift; technology is advancing rapidly; new leaders are rising; Generation Y has reached the professional working level; Obama is up for re-election. It’s good to know that as I’m getting older, so is everybody else too.

Life lessons learned thus far I can pass to my grandkids:

1.  Nothing in life is free. And when it is, grab as much as is socially acceptable. Hell, just grab as much as your pockets can fit.

2.  Don’t go searching for love; you’ll just get your heart broken.

3. Someone will always better than you or worse than you at something, just be happy with yourself.

4. Carry gum with you at all times. Fresh breath is a must for success in life.

5. Know how to work the system, or the system will screw you over! If I had a penny for everytime the system’s screwed me over.

What is a Business Strategy? (in the words of David Aakar)

The first dimension concerns the product-market investment strategy, the scope of the business and the dynamics and resource priorities within that scope. Which products should be offered, and which segments should be targeted? Which should get aggressive investment to enter or grow, which should get minimal investment, and which should be milked, exited or avoided? Where should growth come from? Options include bringing existing products to new markets (market expansion), bringing new products to existing markets (product expansion), or entering new product markets (diversification).

The second dimension concerns the customer value proposition, which needs to be relevant and meaningful to the customer, reflected in the positioning of the product or service, sustainable over time and differentiated from competitors. In can involve elements such as providing good value (Wal-Mart), excellence on an attribute such as getting clothes clean (Tide), quality (Lexus), product line breadth (Amazon), innovative offerings (3M), personality that connects (Harley-Davidson), organizational values (, or a shared interest (Pampers and baby care).

The third dimension concerns strategic assets or competencies that provide a sustainable competitive advantage. A strategic competency is what a business unit does exceptionally well—such as a customer relationship program, manufacturing or promotion—that has strategic importance to that business. It is usually based on knowledge or a process. A strategic asset is a resource, such as a brand name or installed customer base that is strong relative to competitors. Strategy formulation must consider the cost and feasibility of generating or maintaining assets or competencies.

The fourth dimension concerns a supportive set of functional strategies or programs and the executional elements needed to deliver on the value proposition. Creative excellence in conceptualizing and implementing these strategies will be critical to success. They could be around offering development, new product introduction, customer relationships, brand building, communication, social technology, distribution, coordinating global markets, quality, logistics and more.

The concept of a business strategy is central to most businesses, but, strangely, there is no accepted definition. As a result, the process and its output can be all over the map.


What are the 10 Steps in Building One?

1. Make sure that each brand has a well-defined role or set of roles to play in each product-market context that it is expected to contribute.Each brand needs to be actively managed in order to be successful within that role. In particular, brand building resources should be allocated on the basis of these roles and not based on the sales and profits they are currently generating. For example, future master brands, emerging brand platforms, endorser brands, and lynchpin brands (brands like GM’s “On-Star” that provide differentiation to other brands), for example, should receive adequate funding so that they can fulfill their role.

2. Identify the strategic brands that will play a driver role in supporting major businesses or product platforms in the future. A brand is said to have “a driver role” when it drives the purchase decision and defines the use experience. A brand with a driver role will represent the offering and summarize its value proposition and lead the charge against competitors into the product market. A strategic brand is the present or future star player, a brand that the future success of the business will hinge on.

3. Understand the roles of sub-brands and endorsed brands when deciding how to brand a new offering. A sub-brand will allow some distance from a master brand, an endorsed brand more, and a new brand the most. How much distance is needed? Three questions are involved in branding new offerings and deciding whether a new brand is needed. Will existing brands enhance the new offering? Will the new offering enhance an existing brand? Is there a compelling reason to generate a new brand?

4. Brand portfolio strategy is intimately connected to the business strategy, which specifies the product-market growth directions and the associated value propositions. So you need to articulate the business strategy. A brand needs to be in place to support those growth directions. In particular, brands are needed to provide visibility and credibility to new offerings in priority product-markets.

5. Find or create branded differentiators. Actively managed branded features, ingredients, technologies, services or programs create a meaningful impactful point of differentiation for a branded offering over an extended time period. The Heavenly Bed, for example, is a branded differentiator for Westin Hotels.

6. Almost all brands could use more energy. Some brands, especially established brands, may be noticeably bland and tired. A solution is to create or exploit branded energizers, a branded product, promotion, sponsorship, symbol, program, or other entity that by association significantly enhances and energizes a target brand. The branded energizer can be controlled by the firm (e.g., the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer) or by another firm (Home Depot’s connection to Habitat for Humanity).

7. Leverage strong brands through brand extensions. Extension opportunities that will fit and add value to a brand through its associations and customer base should be sought out. The extension should also enhance the brand by providing visibility, associations, energy, access to growth arenas, and communication efficiencies. Rather than conducting ad hoc brand extensions, it’s strategically better to develop brand platforms with a vision for the ultimate future of the brand.

8. Vertical extensions are risky, but sometimes necessary when creating a new brand is simply not feasible. However, when moving into a value market sometimes a sub-brand or endorsed brand strategy will reduce the risks of extending a brand. The same is true when it is necessary to enter a super-premium market. In any case, implementation needs to address delicate issues.

9. A corporate brand can be a powerful master brand or endorserbecause it is uniquely suited to capture the organization’s heritage, assets and skills, people, values, citizenship, and performance. While competitive products may be similar, organizations rarely are. A Corporate brand is thus a potential source of differentiation as long as it stands for something meaningful and positive.

10. Reduce the size of the portfolio when possible. Resist adding brands that are not needed. Eliminate brands that have no role and relegate a brand to descriptor status if it is not getting traction or failing to play a driver role.

A brand portfolio strategy is about a family of brands, their roles and their relationship with each other. It should deliver synergy, leverage, clarity, relevance, differentiation, and energy. To achieve this goal, an ongoing effort to review and refine is usually needed.