Monthly Archives: June 2012

My Buddy Homer

For my first challenge, I have decided to make a conscious effort to do something nice every day for 30 days.  I figured this was a good challenge to begin with, as it’s one that will make me feel good and shouldn’t be too hard (I try to be a good person as it is).

Day 1:  For my good deed today, I donated old towels and bed sheets to the Tri-County Humane Society in Boca Raton, Florida.  They were too old and ratty to even be donated to Goodwill, but to the animal shelter, they were like gold.  The woman at the desk got all excited and told me that they would be used for the new litter of puppies that just came in.  It made me feel so glad that I can help.

I did not get to meet the puppies who will be enjoying my old towels, but I did make a new friend there.  As I was walking back out to my car, I saw a big, gated pen.  Curious, I walked up to it and read the sign explaining that it was home to Homer, an overweight pig.  Homer was rolling around in a baby pool of mud when I walked up and although he saw me, he wasn’t very interested.  I called out his name, which caused him to look back up, step out of his pool and hobble over to me.  He hung out against the fence near me while I talked to him for a few minutes.  If I had lots of property I would be really tempted to adopt Homer.  He’s a sweet, intelligent little guy and I hope he finds a nice, loving home soon.

For more information about the Tri-County Humane Society, click here: http://tricountyhumane.org/

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Empathy Goes Viral

Hugs all around: The benefactor opened his arms wide to hug Mrs Klein

When I saw that viral video about two weeks ago of Karen Klein, the bus attendant from New York, being bullied by those little boys, my heart broke for her.  The image of her crying while they taunted her for over 10 minutes stuck in my head for days after.  I couldn’t let it go.  If someone did that to my grandmother, or anyone I love for that matter, it would be hard for me not to hate them.

With all the attention that our society has focused on bullying recently, I figured it was going to blow up into a huge deal.  I was right- the video has over 2 million views and almost just as many dislikes.  What I wish I thought of was what Max Sidorov did.  I love his idea of creating an online donation site to send Karen on a much-deserved vacation.  His original goal was to raise $5,000, but due to an overwhelming outpour of sympathetic support he raised much more than that.  After a few million Facebook posts, YouTube comments and tweets, $651,000 has been raised in support of Klein and the abuse that she endured.  IndieGoGo says never had one of its causes raised so much money in such a short time.

Why did people feel so moved to donate to Karen Klein?  I believe it’s because right after watching a video that tugged at their hearts and made them feel angry, sad and embarrassed all at once, they had the option to take action and do something nice for her immediately.

How does this happen?  The people who donated watched Karen, a mother and grandmother, get bullied.  They wanted to know more about her.  They find out her salary is only about $15,000 a year.  They decide she deserves a vacation.   They donate money.  Apparently enough people felt this way, because now Karen will never have to work another day of her life.  Good for her!

The power of the Internet and social media absolutely amazes me.  Through it news travels at lightning speed and people talk about it immediately.  If you put information out there that people will actually care about, there are so many possibilities.  You can raise awareness and money or have millions of people on your side in a matter of hours. Average people become overnight celebrities without even trying.  All it takes is saying, doing, or being involved in something that will capture people’s attention and emotions.  With this, I encourage everyone to use the power of the Internet and social media to do positive things and make lives better.

As a side note, Mr Siderov himself has several thousand dollars coming his way. Another indiegogo.com user created a page for donations to him, which have so far tallied to more than $6,700.  Ah, the power of social media.

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30-Day Challenge?

People all over the world set themselves challenges every day.  Inspired by Matt Cutts, who often gives himself challenges and discusses them on his blog (http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/type/30-days/), I have decided to make my own list of 30-day challenges that I would like to accomplish at some point.  All of them are aimed at making me a stronger, healthier and a overall better person in some way or another.    Here are some of my ideas I have come up with so far:

  • Do some act of kindness for someone every day (without donating money)
  • Blog every day
  • Exercise every day
  • No celebrity gossip
  • Read every day
  • Paint every day.
  • Go completely gluten-free
  • Practice Rosetta Stone (Spanish) every day
  • Hug someone every day (my boyfriend doesn’t count)

I consider those to be some of the easier ones.  Here are some I think I would have a harder time with:

  • No sweets
  • Cook every day
  • Go vegetarian (or vegan if I really wanted a challenge)

What are your thoughts?  Please leave any other suggestions in the comments!

If You Happen to Be Going To Israel

I toured Israel as part of a birthright group in July 2010.  I was there for 13 days, and we tried to cram in as much as possible, waking up each day at 6:30 a.m. and not stopping until after the sun had set.  Here are the notes I took based on my experience in the Holy Land:

NORTHERN ISRAEL

Considered the “country” area, it’s got a lot of mountains, hills and cool hiking trails. I hiked Mount Mehron and somewhere in the Golan Heights that led to an amazing waterfall. The water was freezing even though it was July and about 85 degrees out.  It was very close to the Syria and Jordan borders.  A few places and things to check out:
Syrian bunkers– old army bunkers that were once occupied by the Syrian army.  From there you can get great pictures of the Syrian border. There are still huge areas gated off because of possible land mines, which was a little scary.
Caesarea- a ritzy beach town with beautiful houses and ancient Roman ruins right on the beach.
Tzfat/Zefat– a very old, historic religious town built on the side of a mountain. Make sure your shoulders and elbows are covered when you go here because they are so crazy religious that there are certain places you won’t be able to go inside without doing so. Since it was hot I wore a tank top and just covered myself with a scarf when necessary. It’s very pretty and “old Israel” style. There are lots of good places to eat and shop for art and cheap souvenirs.
Haifa- a big, modern city. Kind of dirty.  It’s called the “New Jersey of Israel” for a reason.  We went to Panorama Street which gives amazing views.  From there you can see the city, port, bays, and the Bahai Gardens, which is acres of the prettiest landscape overlooking the city.
CENTRAL/SOUTHERN ISRAEL
Tel Aviv- what I saw to be the most modern city in Israel. Not sure of the real name, but “Cheech Beach” is a hot spot to lay out and go swim in the Mediterranean. Also check out the market. It’s hot, smelly and REALLY packed, but it’s an experience. Watch the vendors and locals argue and haggle and try to haggle for anything you may want to buy.  It’s a good place to buy fresh baked goods (especially challah bread), local produce and souvenirs.

Jaffa/Yaffa- located just outside of Tel Aviv, another old historic city by the beach. It’s where I did my best shopping. It’s a REALLY good place to buy unique souvenirs, art and antiques. The vendors don’t just offer the same crap as everywhere else in the country, which was nice.  And you can haggle everything.  Here’s a picture of my favorite store:

Things to see in Jerusalem-
Another crazy marketplace– not as crowded or dirty as the one in Tel Aviv.
Old city/Western Wall- Write prayers/wishes/ideas on a sheet of paper and place in the cracks of the walls.  If you are a woman, make sure your knees and elbows or covered.  If not, a shawl will be provided.
Ben Yahuda- a touristy street of shops where you can haggle and buy all sorts of crap.  A good time to go is Saturday evening after Shabbat has ended.  Everyone is out and about.
Mount Herzel- the soldier cemetery.  It’s really sad but well-maintained and beautiful.
Yad Vashem- The Holocaust museum- It will take at least half a day to get through it, and that’s if you rush.  It is really graphic and sad.  Bring tissues!

The street art- not just some awesome graffiti, but there are the sides of some old buildings painted with scenes from the city.  They portray real members of the community.


Dead Sea- Spend the $5 and buy the mud!  Girls, I wouldn’t shave the morning of going in the Dead Sea because it will sting.

Masada- an ancient Roman fortress community that overlooks the Dead Sea. There’s three ways to get to the top: hike the Snake Path (hard) or Roman Ramp (easy) or take the cable car.  We hiked up the Roman Ramp in the pitch black darkness before sunrise and watched it rise from the top.  Absolutely beautiful.  We took the Snake Path down which was extremely hard on the ankles and knees.  My suggestion would be to take the Snake Path up if you’re looking for a challenge, and the Roman Ramp down.

Negev Desert- While driving through we’d pass a small town here and there, but there wasn’t much to see except orange sand.  There’s not much to do here besides hike in extreme heat (the temperature got to about 105 degrees in July), but this is where I rode the camels. They were at a Bedouin camping ground. In the desert there is also something called a maktesh (pronounced mock-tesh). It’s a giant hole in the earth, similar to the Grand Canyon.  It’s considered a wonder because there’s only three in the world, all in Israel.

OTHER THINGS TO KNOW

Shabbat- from sundown on Friday to Saturday evening, the entire country observes Shabbat.  There is NOTHING to do during this time.  Every business will be closed, so stock up on anything you may need beforehand and use the day to relax.

Food- Israel is big on ice cream bars.  Lots of fancy frozen things on sticks.

Apparently Israelites are not that into international cuisine because it was hard to find.  I thought their food was pretty good, but there was not a lot of variety.  By the fifth or sixth day I was craving anything other than hummus, falafel and schwarma.  I was told that when we arrived in Tev Aviv (a more modern city) there would be sushi, cheeseburgers and pizza.  Go figure that when we arrived it was a Friday evening and everything was closed.  Here’s the “24-hour” restaurant closed for Shabbat:

Also remember that Jews do not mix meat and dairy together.  No meat lovers pizza, no cheeseburgers and no sandwiches with cheese.  In fact, many restaurants that serve meat will not even serve dairy in the same establishment, and vice versa.  One deli that did sell ice cream only sold it out of a little cooler outside, and I was not allowed to bring my ice cream bar to a table inside.

Stray cats- the country, Jerusalem especially, has quite a problem.  I saw a lot more dead kittens in the streets than I would’ve liked to.

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Japanese Media One Year Ago

At this time last year I was in Japan, just three months after the big earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima meltdown.  I just found these notes that I wrote about the country’s situation, media and state of mind during my visit:

Things in Nagoya seem pretty normal, much more normal than I would’ve expected from a country that just went through what they did.  The only reminders I have seen of the disaster are the occasional store that sells a product to donate the proceeds and the ways that the country is trying to conserve electricity. After the Fukushima disaster, the local power plant was shut down in fear of aftershocks or another big earthquake. The country is now trying to use less electricity.  Many hand driers in public restrooms are turned off, some streets are only using every other street lamp and the temperature in many public buildings is now set to about 77 degrees.  It’s humid as hell outside and it’s not much better indoors, especially underground.   Businessmen are currently allowed to skip wearing their jackets and ties for a cooler “business casual” look.

As for the Japanese media (television, radio, print), I am not exactly sure what information is given because it is all in Japanese.  But from seeing pictures they do seem to have taken quite an interest in the whole Anthony Wiener drama.  They must think so highly of us classy Americans.

To get my news information, I have mostly been checking BBC.com and nytimes.com.  From there I learned about how the radiation levels may be much higher than the Japanese government originally reported.  I read that Shizuoka, which is only about an hour north of where I am in Nagoya, has stopped exporting its green tea because higher levels of radiation were found in it.  This is also how I found out about the thousands of people who protested in Tokyo last week.

What I find interesting is that when my friend (an English teacher) brought up these issues as a discussion in her adult class on the day of the protest, nobody even knew about it.  They were shocked to be told what was taking place just three hours away.  My friend said it stunned them to hear that their people were protesting.  Protesting is something that is almost unheard of in Japan, as people here are extremely obedient and peaceful.  I can believe this due to the fact that I have witnessed that these people don’t even jaywalk or lock up their bicycles on the streets, even in a big city like Tokyo.  They cross streets when they are told to by a crossing guard and the country has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.   The class didn’t even understand what the word “protest” meant at first.  My friend had to pull up pictures on her laptop to give them a visual and explain.

What shocked me is that while a huge protest had just taken place, none of the ten people in the class knew about it.  In America, that would be breaking news.  This leads me to believe that there is a lot that the Japanese government is hiding, or at least downplaying, to avoid panic. For a country that is facing such major issues, the people are eerily calm.  You would never guess that a tragedy to that magnitude just took places three months ago here.

Other countries, particularly China and European ones, are talking a lot about how the Japanese government is not doing enough testing for radiation levels.  It almost seems like Japan is trying to avoid the problem because they know that the results are not pretty. I have read that the media has been told to avoid using the word “meltdown.”  The Japanese people seem the most in the dark and I wish they would read more news from sources in countries other than Japan.   I don’t exactly know what kind of censorship regulations Japan uses, but I do know this isn’t China.  Find a way to get the information translated, people!

Since that day of the protests, my friend’s class has been asking her for new information about what America is reporting.  I sense a growing distrust of their country’s media, and these people need to demand more radiation tests and answers.  Their health depends on it. I think the protest in Tokyo was a step in the right direction, and hopefully Japan gets it together soon.

Here are a few other articles which relate to mine that I found interesting:

http://trumanfactor.com/2011/japanese-media-and-the-aftermath-of-fukushima/

http://www.spiral16.com/blog/2011/08/smart-social-media-monitoring-or-government-censorship/

http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/did-the-japanese-government-censor-twitter-during-nuclear-plant-meltdown_b12115

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Living With Grandma : “Do Her Parents Live Nearby?”

From time to time I will post stories that I have written about my grandmother, Betty Collura. I lived with her for about 14 months in 2006-2007, and it was during this time that she started showing the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. It was an interesting time with many significant ups and downs, but I have a unique story to tell for almost every single day.

February, 2007

One night after being sent home sick from work, chugging some liquid Tylenol straight out of the bottle and going to bed with an extremely sore throat, I awakened in the pitch black from a pain so sharp I couldn’t even pretend it was part of my dream.  Groggy and disoriented, I attempted to inhale a deep breath and swallow.  The breath barely went in and the swallow felt like tiny new razorblades scratching against my throat.  I put my hands up to my neck to discover it was so swollen that it protruded outward, resembling a huge double chin.  I tried swallowing again and was left dizzy from the agonizing pain.  I began to panic.

My mind pondered what appeared to be my only three options: I could continue silently lying on my back and risk dying a slow, lonely death; I could dial 911 and seek medical assistance; or call my mother and have her come take care of me.  The third option seemed the most logical and comforting, but when I went to dial her number I felt a bit guilty.  A 5:30 a.m. wake-up call was surely going to startle her, and there wasn’t going to be much she could do for me anyway.  She could bring me more of the Tylenol that wasn’t working and keep me company while I whined until the doctor’s office opened at 8 a.m., but that was about it.  I knew she’d be waking up in another hour or so and coming over to eat breakfast with my Grandma like she did almost every day, so I figured I might as well just let her start her day peacefully.  “As soon as she gets here, I’ll have her drive me to the doctor,” I told myself.

I wanted to walk to the kitchen and chug some Tylenol even though it had already proved to be useless, but getting up sounded like a painful mission.   Just moving my inflated neck slightly to the right or left was torturous.  I lay very still on my back, counting the minutes until sunrise and when my mother would arrive.  My throat throbbed so hard I thought the veins behind my ears were going to rupture.  With each throb came a pumping sound- my blood trying to push through the narrow veins past all that swelling, I guessed.  Over the pumping sound I thought I heard light footsteps outside my closed bedroom door.  The sound of the washing machine slowly being pried open confirmed it.

“Grandmaaaaa,” I croaked as loud as I could.  I hoped for the miracle that she was wearing her hearing aids and that they were properly turned on for once.

My prayers were answered; a few seconds later my door opened and she poked her head inside.

“Anybody in here?” she called into the darkness.

“Grandma!  It’s Casey!  Come over here to the bed!”

As she opened the door all the way the blinding light from the hallway poured in.  She made her way over to my bed and sat on the edge.

“I was just doing some laundry.  It’s early, right?  What are you doing up at this hour?” she asked.

I can’t sleep because my throat hurts so much, Grandma.  Feel how swollen it is.” I instructed.

I took her hand and guided it to the big double-chin growing out of my neck. She nodded as she ran her hands over it.

“I remember when I was young, my mother would make us her special hot tea whenever we had a sore throat,” she reminisced.  “She’d use lemon, apple cider vinegar, cayenne and lots of honey.  It always made me and my brothers feel better.  Much better than any of those medicines they use today.”

I explained to her how the Tylenol had not worked at all for me and how I was just waiting for my mom to arrive so I could see the doctor.  My grandma sat and kept me company, rubbing my head and chattering on and on about her mother’s tea and other childhood adventures of growing up as a first-generation American in a Swedish immigrant family.

She told me how her family would listen to stories on the radio before they owned a television and it would help her parents with their English.  She explained how my great-grandmother, who was dead long before I was born, was hooked on her radio soap operas and would spend most afternoons listening to them.  “Ma Perkins- that was her favorite,” my grandma told me.  “My mother would laugh and cry all day listening to that show.”

My grandma’s thoughts were a bit scattered and she didn’t stay on any subject for very long, but at times her memory was sharp.  For an Alzheimer’s patient who sometimes did not remember how to spell her own name (or what it was for that matter), I was amazed at how well she still recalled vivid memories from over seven decades ago.  That’s the thing with my grandma: one moment she’s so perceptive and will say something so profound, and the next moment she’ll swear my deceased grandfather just clogged the toilet (it’s never her that clogs it).

When we heard the sound of my mom’s Mini Cooper pull up in the driveway about an hour later, she stood up to go unlock the front door.  As my mom stepped inside I heard them talking to each other in the hallway.  My grandma was filling her in on what was happening.

“The girl in there is very sick.  I’ve been with her all night,” I heard her say.

“Really?  What’s wrong with Casey?” my mom asked.

I think she said her throat, but I’m not really sure.  She’s very sick and I’m worried.  Do her parents live nearby?”

There was silence for a moment and then I heard my mother’s voice again.

“Mom, I am Casey’s mother.  She is your granddaughter,” she started to explain for probably the eightieth time.

I pictured the blank look on my grandma’s face as she listened and as miserable as I was, I managed to let out a small, painful laugh through my sore, swollen throat.  She might not remember exactly who I was or why I was in her house, but at least she still cared about me.

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NBA rolls out 1st Annual Social Media Awards

The NBA is so far ahead of other sports leagues when it comes to leading the charge with social media.

LeBron and Nike Score Big Last Night With ‘Ring Maker’ Commercial

Last night was not only a big victory for Lebron James and the Miami Heat, but for Nike as well.  The company already had a commercial put together and ready to go.  All they were waiting for was the moment when James finally won his first championship.  The swoosh released the commercial last night after the Heat beat the Thunder in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

The commercial is titled “The Ring Maker,” and it portrays a jeweler slowly crafting a championship ring for James.  The crafting begins when the jeweler sees LeBron playing as a high schooler, and it follows him throughout the major accomplishments of his career thus far.  The ring is finally completed on the night that James wins the title that he has waited so long for.  The commercial emphasizes the path that James has taken to becoming a champion, and that Nike was there with him along the way.

LeBron James is one of Nike’s most popular athletes in the world.  He already has his own shoe line and clothing line through them, two Olympic medals and multiple other awards and honors.  All he needed was a championship.  Now that he’s finally won his ring, his marketing appeal will most likely skyrocket.  It is safe to say that he and Nike are both absolutely ecstatic about this victory.

Check out what others are saying about LeBron’s big night:

http://365creativeads.wordpress.com/

http://expatvoices.net/2012/06/22/nba-finals-2012-lebron-james-leads-miami-heat-past-thunder-for-n-b-a-title/

http://washington.cbslocal.com/2012/06/22/a-kings-coronation-silences-the-critics/

http://laternamed.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/the-lebron-james-fan-experience/

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My Favorite NBA Campaigns

In my opinion, the NBA has always had the best ad campaigns, at least in comparison to other American sports. The campaigns almost always use a dramatic buildup and have a cinematic quality to them which I just love.

“BIG” is the word of the NBA’s latest commercial campaign. Since the playoffs began it has replaced the famous “Where Amazing Happens” campaign. The funky, minimalist commercials have featured the different teams playing and discontinued them once the team was eliminated.

The Finals commercials include two 30-second commercials featuring the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat and a 60-second commercial that features both teams as well as great players throughout the history of the sport.


With the instrumental from User’s single “Climax” in the background, the commercial reads:
“It’s not a game or a sport or a series. It’s a shot at immortality, but it’s not just one team against another. It’s two teams against all who have come before.

The legends, the giants but history won’t give – you must take, because the past is present and it’s setting the tone.

Breaking you down, making you think and if that’s a burden your team can’t carry. You can’t win, because for champions the chance to live forever is way too BIG.”

I will admit that “Big” is not my favorite NBA campaign. Trying to follow lots of words flashing quickly across the screen is a bit exhausting, and while some of the commercials were good, overall the campaign just didn’t excite me as much some of the others in the past. Here, in my opinion, are some of the best NBA campaigns and commercials:

“Where Amazing Happens”

The famous five-year campaign presented the NBA the way its most enthusiastic fans see it- as a place where the greatest athletes in the world do things that none of us can even approach. It was created in 2007 as a branding effort to improve the image of the NBA after numerous fights and drama involving players and a referee gambling scandal.

“There Can Only Be One”


The NBA promoted the 2008 Playoffs and Finals with this highly integrated ad campaign that involved interactive, print and film components. The campaign was such a cultural hit that it resulted in knockoff spots on “Saturday Night Live” and on the cover of Time magazine with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

“Love The Game”


My all-time favorite commercial came at a time when there was no basketball, and nobody was sure when it would be back. Jordan Brand’s “Love the Game” shows Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony jumping around leagues playing the game they love, despite a lockout. I can recall watching this commercial for the first time during the World Series, and screaming with happiness from seeing basketball for the first time in six months. Major League Baseball’s got nothing on the NBA!

LET’S GO HEAT!  Only one more win until the parade on Biscayne!

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Casey Kurlander, Search marketing Specialist, BMI Elite