Quick. When you looked at this can (and headline), which word flashed through your brain? If you’d asked my 10-year-old self, “pop” would have been my unhesitating answer. But somewhere during my college years I switched over to the much-more-sophisiticated (!) “soda.”

I was reminded of this when a friend sent me the New York times dialect quiz the other day. I answered the 25 questions and apparently “kitty corner” was the one that landed me in my 20+ year “hometown” of Madison, Wis. I was curious to see that even though I entered “pop” and “bubbler” thinking it would put me closer to my childhood hometown (Appleton, Wis), the quiz wasn’t overly influenced by this (maybe “pop” and “bubbler” are more Wisconsin-wide than I realized). And, here’s a fun fact: “bubbler” isn’t just a Wisconsinism—check out this article to learn about the other places that have also embraced one of the world’s best words.

Close but no cigar on finding my home town.


I’m guessing this quiz might borrow heavily from the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), which is headquartered just down the road at the UW-Madison and “challenges the popular notion that our language has been ‘homogenized’ by the media and our mobile population…”

It’s just one more example of the things we do and don’t share in this big, beautiful country of ours. I find it rather charming.



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By which, of course, I mean my other blog—caffeineclarity.com—rather than the clarity-inducing benefits of said substance (though do feel free to discover both!).

I have been having such a great time meeting people courtesy of the blog and a couple weeks ago I got to chat with Wisconsin author, Michael Perry

You might know Michael as the author of Population: 485 or Truck: A Love Story. And if you live in Madison you may have crossed paths with his Sunday Wisconsin State Journal column, Roughneck Grace.

It was very kind of Michael to take a break from his busy schedule to have coffee with me after a recent concert in Algoma. Not surprisingly, he was everything you’d think he’d be —down-to-earth, wry, thoughtful and smart. What fun!

Want to read more? Check it out at caffeineclarity.com 

A big “thank you” to the fellow Michael Perry fans who asked to have their picture taken at Algoma’s Caffe Tlzao and are the reason this photo exists. (And sorry I can’t get a link to the shop to work—something appears to be wrong with their site). And another “thank you” to Michael’s incredibly responsive and competent manager, Alissa Freeburg, for helping me set this coffee up and linking us in one big, virtuous, social media circle at sneezingcow.com

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My husband’s aunt recently introduced me to a writer who has quickly gained a special place in my heart: Brian Doyle. Doyle—who, sadly, died recently of brain cancer at the way-too-young age of 60—made a career out of appreciating and honoring the everyday through essays and prayers that are at once simple and profound. I’ve been reading his  Book of Uncommon Prayer and find myself touched and grateful for his words every time I do.

Which brings me, in a perhaps strange and meandering way, to the band, Red Baraat. A band that delivers funk by way of Bollywood, Red Baraat was playing for free last Saturday night at the Memorial Union. The temps were warm, the light breeze off the lake kept the mosquitoes at bay, the outside line for ice cream was nearly painless with good friends to keep you company while you waited and the band delivered an exuberant set that was a perfect complement to a lovely night. Somewhere out there Brian Doyle was smiling.

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However you decide to celebrate your 4th—fireworks and over-consumption of dairy products and fatty meats will, I confess, likely be part of my day!—I have an idea I’d like to share. 

Although this past year has given us plenty of opportunities to ponder the seeming ferocity of our differences, I’d like to challenge each of us—myself included–to find common ground and do a better job of listening to and not demonizing those we don’t feel share our backgrounds and beliefs.

Did you know that in the 1970s, American Field Service (AFS, the group that created cultural exchange opportunities for students as a way to break down barriers after World War II) used to have a US-based program? Kids from NYC got to discover what it was like to live in a small town in Iowa and vice versa. How cool is that? The program was discontinued in the 1980s but it seems like an idea  worth exploring again today. (Yes, it’s from the WSJ once again—America, Meet America from July 1— and this time I’m not finding other good articles that tie to this. It IS worth tracking down and reading. Try the library?)

I’m trying to take my own small steps in this direction with my coffee dates with Madisonians whose paths I might not typically cross (pop out to my website, caffeineclarity to learn more). Just shoot me an email at vicky@vickyfranchino.com if you’d like to join the fun!

(And, in case you’re wondering, the blue and red buckets are, of course, meant to represent the holiday and “liberal” and “conservative” but don’t read anything into bucket size, placement, etc.—they’re just what I had in my basement and I’m simply not that good at visual metaphor!).


Happy 4th!

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I was recently out in Seattle for my daughter’s college graduation and had a chance to pop into MoPOP , Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture.

I have to confess that I didn’t love the museum. My guess is that the significant other of Paul Allen—the Microsoft co-founder who opened the museum in 2000—gave him an ultimatum: Get your collection of fantasy movie props and music paraphernalia out of the attic or watch them hit the curb. And Paul thought “tax deduction” and opened this museum (I’m sure many, many people love this place, but me, not so much).

Anyway. One of my favorite parts of the visit was something I could have done for free: watching OK Go’s video about how they made their zero-gravity video. I’m not sure where these crazy guys come up with their ideas—who else dreams up videos shot using drones,  Rube-Goldberg-esque contraptions or choreographing a song to treadmills???   But they’re always astonishing and always make me smile.

Check out the video for yourself (and save yourself the plane ticket to Seattle and MoPOP entry fee)—though you will miss the fun of watching it on MoPOP’s giant screen!


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I was recently chatting with a friend about the job search process (can you tell there’s a recent college grad in my life?). Given the cost of replacing an employee—according to Monster it can be up to 150% of their salary—it does seem a bit crazy that many companies make big hiring decisions based off a couple 30-minute interviews and that the whole thing starts with trying to format your life’s accomplishments into a one-page summary.

So, I was curious to see that one of the world’s biggest companies, Unilever, is now relying on algorithms and online games to recruit and sort potential hires. (I know, I know, you can’t read it unless you have a WSJ subscription, but try Googling the title and you’ll be able to find a variety of sources that deliver the gist: “In Unilever’s Radical Hiring Experiment, Resumes are Out, Algorithms Are In”).

It sounds like a fascinating experiment and one that seems to be paying off for Unilever: 80% of the people who make it through the tech maze and got an in-person interview (the only part of the process that involved intersecting with a real person) got a job offer, though the company wouldn’t say how much money it saved them and the process is too new to measure results.

One of the parts of this story that most appealed to me? That these tools allowed Unilever to solicit new employees from 2,600 colleges instead of the small number of schools they historically visited in person. That sounds like a great way to meritocracize (yes, I know that’s not really a word) the hiring process and increase the quality of new-hires to boot.


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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

“Mommy bloggers”—I love you!

Remember Erma Bombeck? She wrote a number of books (15 according to my good friend, Google) and was a newspaper columnist for more than 30 years. She occasionally tackled some big issues (if memory serves), but mostly focused on what life for a mom is really like—alternately frantic and overwhelming and the best job ever.

For whatever reason, I remember finding her quite hilarious. As a kid I likely should have been commiserating with her children, rather than the moms who made up her dedicated fanbase, but for some reason I was able to see the humor even at a young age.

I thought of Erma—who I’m sure would have been a mommy blogger if she were starting out today—when I recently stumbled on two of her literary progeny: Deva Dalporto (of My Life Suckers) and Leslie Blanchard (A Ginger Snapped). Deva has young children; Leslie is a grandma. Both are alternately hilarious and heartbreaking—and entirely dead on. And both answer their fan mail (how great is that? Thanks ladies!).


Check ’em out for yourself and enjoy! And, bonus—Deva even has videos to share!

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I am not a big hip-hop fan. Although I have the soundtrack to Hamilton on heavy rotation in my car (what’s cooler than high school kids now knowing the backstory of our forefathers?), I would be hard pressed to tell you another hip-hop song or artist that I really like.

But last fall I interviewed two local hip-hop impresarios for my blog caffeineclarityPacal “DJ Pain 1” Bayley and Mark “ShaH” Evans—and was struck by how in tune they both were to the power of hip-hop, especially among young people of color. Both men work in hip-hop professionally and they’ve also dedicated quite a bit of their time to creating opportunities to bring it into the schools and the community through Urban Community Arts Network (UCan).

Mark “ShaH” Evans

Pacal “DJ Pain 1” Bailey

When I opened this week’s Wednesday CapTimes I was interested to see an article about the hip-hop—or, more accurately, non-hip-hop—scene in Madison and how recent research by Randy Stoecker, a UW-Madison sociology professor, indicates that this musical form doesn’t earn its reputation for attracting thugs and thuggish behavior (you might be interested to know that country music is more likely to generate police calls that result in police charges—who knew?).

I’ll leave it to you to read the article (or Prof. Stoecker’s complete research),  but challenge all of us to rethink our attitudes about this musical form. At a time when the issue of race continues—rightfully—to demand our attention, finding ways to provide kids with more access to the positive impact of music and art seems like something we can all get behind.

Want to experience UCan in action? Check out their upcoming free concerts.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A tale of two service delivery models

I confess: I hate to shop. I mean, really, really hate to shop. If I can order something online, I am very happy (I’m sure I get a little hit of dopamine whenever I type smile.amazon.com—if you don’t already know, adding the “smile” gets a donation sent to the American Red Cross).

So, you can imagine my delight when I learned that you can buy a mattress (of all things!) without having to go to a store. I don’t know about you, but I find mattress buying overwhelming. So many choices, so many dollars, so many salespeople and, really, what can you possibly learn by lying down on a mattress in the middle of the store for 60 seconds?

The mattress in question was from Helixsleep.com. It had been written up in a favorable Wall Street Journal article last year, had good reviews online and, best of all, I could order a mattress without leaving my desk and even customize its features.

It took roughly a week for my customized mattress to arrive—I’m sure the UPS man appreciated my online shopping that day (sorry!)—and voila! I have a mattress. I’m pleased as punch at the whole experience and if Helix could just address the old mattress in a landfill issue (another sorry!) it would be perfect.

Here is said mattress in a box.

Now, onto the “two” of my headline. Last year I had a foot injury that has meant wearing a very lovely pair of New Balance orthotic-type shoes for my daily walks. I have had many pairs of NB in my life, but this pair takes the cake for style: I was quite dismayed to see that it was the same style being worn by my quite lovely 70+-year-old neighbor and a tottering elderly lady who was standing in front of me in line the other day. Sigh.

As my foot health has improved, I decided to do something rash and get a somewhat stylish pair of shoes. I attempted to do so online using Zappos, Amazon and a variety of other sources. But, to my dismay, the shopping by tapping model has failed me and I’ve had to return to a real store.

Fortunately, the real store in question has been Movin’ Shoes on Park St. and the helpful services of Tim Gold. Tim has been nothing but patient and helpful and definitely knows his shoes. We have gone through what seems like the entire Movin’ Shoes inventory together—plus ordering more from suppliers. It looks, sadly, like the NB orthotic is here to stay for a bit (see below and you’ll know I’m not exaggerating on its style quotient). But I give Tim top marks for trying!

Thank you Tim for renewing my faith in the brick-and-mortar shopping model! Now please convince some supplier to make attractive shoes for people like me!






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Thursday, April 27, 2017

So excited about this new fashion trend!

Have you heard about Nordstrom’s new $425 jeans? The ones that “embody rugged, Americana workwear….with a crackled, caked-on muddy coating that shows you’re not afraid to get down and dirty.”

This is wonderful news and leaves me with a greatly expanded wardrobe!  Poof! The jeans I had formerly relegated to my painting/cleaning/mucking out the garden pile can now magically be transformed into going to the movies/meeting a new client/attending a festive soiree options. Thank you Nordstrom!

I have stolen this image from forbes.com, which in turn got it from Nordstrom.com. I hope that’s considered kosher (and am happy to pull it down if it’s not).




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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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