Monday, March 19, 2018

You had me at high falutin’

Think long form copy doesn’t sell? Although I haven’t actually purchased this watch (yet! I admit that I’m tempted to see what $29 buys me—because I don’t need a fancy watch with lots of extra zeros in the price tag darn it!), but this ad does stop me every time I see it. I know we’re supposed to have  a short attention span in this era of Instagram and insta-everything but for some crazy reason this ad appeals to me. 

A quick online search confirms that other writers/marketers have pondered the value of these ads too. And additional searching seems to indicate that I’d probably get my $29 worth—which doesn’t in any way imply this would be a GOOD watch, though it might be worth it just for the experience. Stop me before I pull out my Visa card!

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Saturday, March 3, 2018

What would Frank do?

Have you ever read the book Cheaper by the Dozen? I discovered this treasure sometime in elementary school—I’m guessing it was an assigned book, but I honestly don’t remember.

I fell in love with the Gilbreth clan and their loving but, I would imagine, incredibly hard to live with father, Frank. For those of you who have never read the book, Frank Gilbreth—along with his wife Lillian—was a pioneer of time and motion study.

Organizations hired the Gilbreths to study everything from factory floors to kitchens and determine better, more efficient ways of developing workflows and floorplans. Throughout the book, the twelve Gilbreth children were frequently enlisted to test out whatever their dear ol’ dad was researching, and there are some interesting stories about applying efficiency to a wide variety of things, including baths and tonsillectomies.


I’ve been thinking about Frank of late in the context of modern life and the reality that we’ve made things so efficient we’re in danger of turning into lifeless blobs—ala the humans in a movie I actually didn’t like at all, WALL-E

Alexa will certainly be no help here. Though I can imagine plenty of things I’d love “her” to handle for me—like complicated flight arrangements, can she do that yet???— perhaps I’m better off turning off my own lights or walking to another floor to see if I’m out of butter.

Thank goodness technology is also helping nag me to better health. Exhibit #1: my Fitbit.

That hourly buzz on my wrist reminds me to get up already and move around. And I find myself looking for ways to be less efficient  just to push myself to achieve—or, glory be! surpass—my daily 10,000-step goal. I might not be making the ghost of Gilbreth happy, but my heart says “thank you!”

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The pressure was on when I got this assignment: Capture the highlights of what makes Wisconsin great in 48 pages at a 4th grade reading level.

But I rose to the challenge and the results just arrived courtesy of my friendly UPS driver. If you need any fun facts about Wisconsin, I’m your (wo)man for at least a few days until my brain is filled with other random facts about who knows what.

Thanks for the opportunity Scholastic!

Want to see what else I’ve written for kids? Check them out here or at my favorite place for books—your local library!

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No, it’s not a dunk tank—which I intend to NEVER subject myself to unless it would deter a national incident of some kind—it’s Madison Reading Project’s READ(Y) To Wear Fashion show on Feb. 10 at the Concourse Hotel.

Participants create and model a garment made out of paper—sort of the local version of Project Runway famous “unconventional materials challenges. 

I’m playing a very small role in designing a garment—local graphic designer extraordinaire Corin Frost is doing the heavy lifting there (thank you Corin!). But I will be subjecting myself to the potential of long-term embarrassment because I’ve offered to be the model. (A big “thank you” to my sister for attempting to help me learn how to “model walk,” although she was completely unsuccessful at helping me avoid bursting into laughter).

Want to experience this for yourself? Get a ticket today! You’ll be helping a great local charity (who doesn’t love to help get books into kids’ hands???) and sharing a memorable (but, hopefully, not too memorable) experience with me! 


Practicing my twirl.

Skirt prototype (my design contribution).

Thank you technology—courtesy of my lovely husband—for enabling production consistency.

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As someone who makes their living because people still believe there’s value in using words to communicate (thank you clients!), I should probably be bemoaning the increasing tendency to use graphics instead of words.

But I couldn’t help but think this article (from a 2002 issue of Martha Stewart’s magazine—an “artifact” courtesy of the library’s magazine recycling box) could have benefited from a few well-placed photos.

Please Martha, just a couple pictures!

I don’t love to iron in the first place and the idea of keeping this article handy while I attempt to get the wrinkles out of a dress shirt? Just not gonna happen!

Of course, who even needs photos when you can just jump right to video? I plan to only wear no-iron-required sweaters for the next six months, but once it warms up again, I’ll be all set with this:

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

In the spirit of the season…

This caught my eye during a cold Sunday night walk down State Street with my dear husband. 

I love the little random acts of outreach that occasionally cross our paths if we keep our eyes open for them.


What could you use a little more of?

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Democracy in action…Part 2

Earlier this year I shared my experience with the City of Madison and the process of adding a sidewalk to my front yard.

Well, it’s here. Although I’m not too excited about losing a lot of flowers and a good chunk of driveway parking—and am already whining about the shoveling that will soon commence, though, thank you Mother Nature for the recent amazingly nice weather—the sidewalks have proven to be a hit with the neighborhood.






There seem to be a lot more people walking themselves and their dogs and children down my street of late—though I’m not entirely sure if the traffic count has gone up or if I just notice it more because pedestrians are closer to my house, instead of on the other side of parked cars.

Overall, I think it’s been good change and—hey!—I even met new neighbors. Plus it gave me a chance to see how government works in my town, which proved to be a mostly positive experience, and to be part of something that was about more than me (even if there was, yes, some grumbling along the way).













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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The real cost of that avocado toast

Yes, I’ve succumbed (many times) to the joys of avocado toast. But now, after hearing a piece on the BBC about the many challenges Mexican avocado growers face—including kidnapping, extortion and having to create their own police department to protect themselves—I’m  looking at these tasty green globes in a whole new way.

Criminals certainly have a track record of turning anything into currency—think of the Mafia’s takeover of garbage collection in Naples and, who knew!, olive oil.

But I was still a bit surprised and certainly disheartened to learn that hardworking farmers were putting their livelihood, and potentially lives, on the line to keep those avocados heading north. And, oh look, there’s more bad news: avocados are also causing deforestation and water shortages.

I currently have 3.5 avocados in my fridge but after that??? Maybe I need to switch to kale. 




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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Utopia? Bring it on.

I confess: I mostly gobbled up (oops, that pun was not intended!) the Hunger Game series right along with my kids and attempted to get into the Legend series (heavy skimming on that one). But whenever I’ve read one of those books I’ve frequently found myself wondering why we’re so obsessed with dystopian fiction.

This recent article in Time Magazine wonders the same thing. Their short answer: there’s no tension in Utopia and earlier books that imagined ideal worlds typically had little exposure to the reality of technology’s impact.

Fair enough. But I would still love to read something where everything works out more or less, instead of technology = horror. There are a few options in the Time article, but I confess that I probably won’t be picking up the 1516 classic that started it all any time soon.

My own vision of Utopia can be found in the 1940s books by Elizabeth Enright about the always intrepid Melendy kids. 

Who doesn’t want to be a Melendy???

I read those when I was a child and then again to my own kids. And although their lives were far from perfect—they are set in WWII-era New York City and upstate New York and do (though rather lightly) acknowledge things like the war and child abuse—they captured a relatively carefree childhood where strangers were just friends you hadn’t yet met and a babbling brook was a great place to spend a sunny summer afternoon. 

With the hurricanes, fires and mass shootings of recent months, a little Utopia is right up my alley. I know what I’ll be (re)reading next.

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

I guess this is one way to make reparations

As someone who gets to stick a couple drops of Restasis (a dry eye medication) into her eyes twice a day, I was very interested to hear an NPR story about that Allergan (the drug giant responsible for bringing me daily, but expensive, eye relief) has passed their patent along to a Native American tribe.

Allergan is giving the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe $14 million, some royalties and the Restasis patent. Then the Mohawks are leasing the patent back to Restasis so Allergan can avoid losing patent protection. It’s a pretty slick—and apparently legal—way to get around those pesky patent expiration laws based on the fact that the tribe is a sovereign entity

On the one hand, this means an ongoing revenue stream for tribe members, many of whom live in poverty (though I have no idea how the money will be shared with them). On the other,   it blocks generics from the marketplace. Clearly the biggest overall winner is Allergan (who will be protecting an annual revenue stream worth $1.5 billion). 

Just another example of big pharma sticking it to the consumer? Or a great way for Native American tribes to have a new income stream? I’ll let you be the judge.

Read the whole story here.


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Knowledge junkie. Raconteur.

Vicky Franchino

I love to learn about new things. And I love to tell a good story. Let’s get together and tell yours!

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