Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bag Lady

Today, I read this article on Coach, who would like to remake themselves by offering a variety of products (specifically bags) ranging from low to high end. I've never really understood marketing strategy, and usually buy things that are sturdy, or have cartoon kitty cats on them. 
A chocolate bar with a cat on it!
Neatness was always more important than personal ‘flair,’ and probably to the dismay of many, find handbag shopping to be especially grating (on par with finding the right brand of toothpaste). Handbags, if you didn't know, are actually the vehicles for getting water and candy into movie theaters. They offer an acceptable location for credit cards, keys, and chapstick when your pockets are considered nonfunctional decorative

I’m a self-sufficient woman with needs. I get hungry, tired, food in my teeth, and bored while traversing the grocery store-club-work-airports. It’s not enough to skip through places like I did as a kid, especially when money exchange is necessary. A bag to carry everything reminds me of either being a grownup or being mortal, regardless of price. Why does a bag matter? I own half a dozen bags (or pocketbooks if you're from southern Virginia), and 100 plastic bags from various grocery stores, which also serve useful purposes. 

"Mine," said Zoe.
Let's talk about brand name. Sometimes a brand represents quality or another esoteric quality, like ethics. Evidently, the Gap was one of two apparel companies who received the Most Ethical Companies award in 2013. I’m all for pro choice consumerism, but if there was a Venn diagram of ethics, quality, and function, there’d be only a few options left. Let’s be honest, a bag is a bag. In spite of the economy's best efforts to drag us all down, there are some great options to store all your portable shit under $50 which don’t need to be divided by work/play/corresponding outfit categories.

I’m not in the appropriate social circle to declare that a specific brand matters beyond those criteria, and I’m not opposed to choosing a bag (or brand) based on what a person likes. I hope Coach turns luxe the way Amazon is gold standard for online shopping: good quality, what people want, and bigger picture considerations. My hopes are rarely good for a bottom line, and I suspect Coach with advertise its company as a high-end business, where its goods are only affordable to the rich. I don’t blame them. Sales don’t lie on who wants to buy a specific bag type.

As a side note, Mary Poppins’ bag was probably the coolest thing to happen to bags. I don’t need a hat stand or a potted plant, but who hasn't wished for an extra pair of shoes or a tape measure? I've carried both in my bag for work, and used them.

Monday, June 24, 2013

I was reading James Altucher’s book, Choose Yourself,  and he wrote that someone asked if he could teach a class. He immediately went into his ‘list mode,’ and tried to think of ten classes that he could teach. And he struggled. I was wondering if I could actually teach ten different topics. I’m not even sure if I know ten topics in depth enough to pass on any useful knowledge. I came up with six things that could potentially have a syllabus, or I could talk about it for an hour:

Research writing. I probably haven’t written as many papers as some people, but I still consider myself qualified enough to help someone make a good paper. What is good? Something that could get an idea across in a concise, clear way… aka somewhere in the A-B grade range.

Designing a garden. I recently designed plant arrangements for our double 3’ x 15’ front beds. It was a bit challenging because of the deer, and the shade, and figuring out what blooms most of the year.  It was a fun challenge, and I think if a class isn't in order, then I could make an app design on how to consider these factors.

Front yard beds at the Stewart Estate
Creating a piece of art for your living room. This class would mostly be about what things to consider if you are going to present your own art to people. It’s like a painting class, but also includes the context of a house, specifically, an area where there’s a lot of traffic.

Something I painted circa 2005
How to present yourself when you are afraid of public speaking. Maybe I’ll rename this to Public Speaking 101. I’m a whiz at providing helpful feedback (mostly because I am full of opinions), and also because I really want people to get better at something. When I was a technical trainer, I never thought to take any Toastmasters’ courses. I just practiced a whole lot (in the car, in the shower, etc.) so I could train myself out of the ‘um’s’ and fast talking.

Building your own computer. I built several, and my class would be a bit more useful than a Youtube video because I can explain it in terms a non-computery person would understand. There is a serious divide between people who like gadgets and electronic tools of all kinds, and those who don’t. I think a potential bridge involves analogies and humor.

My very first built desktop! I chose pink lights for the outside and blue LEDs for the inside.
Perfecting the chocolate chip cookie. This is my last idea, and I realized I started grasping at straws at this point because I already gave a presentation on this. In the summer of 2003, I baked no less than 1000 chocolate chip cookies because 1. They were cheap, and 2. They helped me get friends. It was fun to bake! Most importantly, I learned how to troubleshoot baking problems, such as flat cookies, and ‘cookie smoosh’ as well as what you can do with reject cookies (besides eat them straight). Here is my favorite recipe.

And this was my list. The next step might be to come up with topics that I would want to teach. What could I learn about and give back to someone else?