Re-launched, but still slightly under construction. :-)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Free Chick-fil-A Biscuits on New Year's Day

Chick-fil-A Inc. is poised to go to battle over breakfast by offering free chicken biscuits with any purchase Jan. 1.

Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A said the promotion is in response to competitors that have entered the chicken biscuit segment.

"We pride ourselves on making our biscuits from scratch every day, not the 'homemade tasting' biscuits being advertised elsewhere,” said Woody Faulk, Chick-fil-A vice president of brand development and director of Chick-fil-A's menu strategy, in a release.

Faulk was making an obvious reference to McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD) and others, which have recently launched variations on Southern-style biscuits.

The offers to try a complimentary biscuit, will be distributed through participating restaurants on Jan. 1 and may be redeemed through March 28.

Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy launched the chicken biscuit in 1986 along with a full-line breakfast menu, as the chain branched out of malls into standalone restaurants. Breakfast accounts for 17 percent of the chain’s sales, and Chick-fil-A revamped its breakfast menu in 2004 to include high-end coffees and four new entrees.

"Breakfast has become our fastest growing day part in terms of sales-percentage increase," Faulk said.

Chick-fil-A has more than 1,420 restaurants in 38 states, including 29 in the Orlando area. The company had record sales of more than $2.6 billion in 2007, which was a 16 percent jump from the previous year. The company has notched 40 straight years of sales gains.

Local Pet Store Accused of Selling Sick Dogs

A.C.: "That's horrible about the dogs with Parvo."
K.J.: "I know. Merry Christmas, right?"
Me: "Here's your dog carcass. Happy Holidays!"

Marketing Firm's Clients May Require Re-Branding

We're reviewing the clients of a marketing firm in town.

K.J.: "Shameless Dave and the Miracle Whips?"
Me: "Must be a band..."
K.J.: "Hm."
Me: "Or an escort service!"
K.J.: "Huh?"

Monday, December 29, 2008

Augusta Newspaper Struggles in Slow Economy

AUGUSTA, GA. - My husband opened the front door yesterday and pulled The Augusta Chronicle out of the front bushes. He was jonesing for his crossword puzzle, which - I swear - is the only reason we subscribe. Thirteen dollars a month for crossword puzzles. Don't get me started.

Anyway, he yanked it from its plastic sleeve and held it aloft with a look of astonishment: "Look at this!"

I turned from my continuing failure to beat Amber Carlson's high score in Facebook Word Twist and looked: "Yeah, honey, the paper comes every day."

"No! Look at the size of it!"

In his hand was a size of paper one would expect to see from a Wednesday edition, not the circulation-heavy Sunday paper.

"What on earth?" I exclaimed. Where were the circulars? Where were the long-form stories about pressing issues or year-end wrap-ups? Heck, where were the advertisements?

"That's the smallest Sunday edition I've ever seen," he said, looking down at the sad stack of sections in his lap.

"Yeah... doesn't look good," I said. I wonder about the fate of the Chronicle's employees, many of whom have been laid off in the last six months. Good, talented, hard-working people. With millions of dollars in loans hanging over the company's head during an economic downturn, what is the next step for the oldest continually printed newspaper in the South?

The Statesboro Herald paper just canceled their Monday edition, and even told workers not to come in on Monday to save the company money. Is this the next step for the Chronicle?

The Tampa Tribune is combining forces with the broadcast folks at Tampa's Newschannel 8 and the digital workers at tbo.com to share newsgathering skills and products. Morris Communications already has its own internal content-sharing mechanism, and - let's be honest - the majority of the copy available in any daily paper: wire stories. But will The Augusta Chronicle turn to other area newsgathering organizations to share information and copy?

The Detroit papers - The Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News - have reduced home delivery to just 3 days a week. The Augusta Chronicle has already cancelled home deliveries in the outermost areas of their circulation pattern. Is this the next step they'll take?

The venerable Christian Science Monitor will - in the new year - be the first nationally ciruclated paper to replace its daily print edition with website access. They will also offer subscribers weekly print and daily e-mail editions. Granted, The Augusta Chronicle isn't distributed nationally. But might they localize this strategy?

There is a reason that weeklies have out-paced the dailies in terms of growth. The Association of Alternative News Weeklies says that the strategy of an alt-weekly is "local, local, local, sexy, local," which means we keep to our market, don't worry about filling pages with wire stories that can be faster and more easily read online, toss in a bit of controvery, humor, and sexiness when it fits the story, and - oh, yeah, we do it with local employees and resources. We don't, for example, outsource our design department to Asia, or our call center to Latin America. By streamlining our mission and targeting our market with laser-like precision, we keep our overhead low and speak directly to the people who want to hear from us, rather than muddying up the lines of communication with a bunch of stuff nobody asked for. A column on wine? Really? 'Cause I think you've tried that a couple of times before and it never works out.

But daily papers serve a different purpose than weekly papers, and their survival is essential to a healthy democrasy. And more is available to papers than the unchanging print-and-distribute methods available to newspapers - and I'm talking beyond what their woefully underdeveloped web sites can deliver.

For example, consider the digital paper developed by Fujitsu.

It is the world's first film substrate-based bendable color electronic paper with an image memory function. I don't know what substrate-based means, but the rest of the words make perfect sense: the new electronic paper features vivid color images that are unaffected even when the screen is bent, and features an image memory function that enables continuous display of the same image without the need for electricity. The thin and flexible electronic paper uses very low power to change screen images, thereby making it ideal for displaying information or advertisements in public areas as a type of new electronic media that can be handled as easily as paper.

Imagine a business model where such a "digital paper" is cheap enough that a newspaper could give one to new subscribers and wean them off the paper product. Or, if you didn't want to subscribe, you buy a screen and get the daily paper when you buy it, one at a time. Now imagine how much overhead that would save newspapers when their printing costs are all but obliterated. Imagine the drop in paper prices as demand around the world falls for the first time in generations. Imagine the decline in harvest forestry, as one of the industries that utilizes pulp paper almost completely ceases to purchase it.

Take these screen shots from the movie "Minority Report," in which a commuter reads USA Today on a train.

Scene one: A regular front page of the national paper.

Scene two: a digital update hits the page.

The breakthrough that made this paper possible is actually three years old. That means that the production kinks have most likely been worked out, and Fujitsu is waiting for the rest of the world to catch up, in order to make this enterprise possible and profitable. Why not daily newspapers?

Or consider Amazon's bulkier but still portable Kindle device, currently sold-out on their site. Three years ago, they set out to design and build an entirely new class of device—a convenient, portable reading device with the ability to wirelessly download books, blogs, magazines, and newspapers. The result is Amazon Kindle, a plain, black and white wireless portable reading device.


Again, that's a new business model that people - and the planet, for all you greenies out there - could really get excited about again.

And it will soon be no longer a luxury, but a necessity for the dailies. Let's look at how people ages 45 and under interact with the media. When the actor Paul Newman died, many people found out via Twitter, e-mails or IMs. They then might have gone and checked out the lengthy entry about Newman (did you know Newman was 19th on Richard Nixon's enemies list?) on Wikipedia, which had likely already been updated. Then they'd visit YouTube and watch some of his old movie scenes (did you know he screen tested with James Dean for "East of Eden?"), or search the blogosphere for recollections from writers who had met or who felt a connection to the old-guard actor.

At no point do people feel the need to engage with a daily newspaper!

That is why alt-weeklies are thriving, and dailies are dying - almost literally! The daily readership is older, less affluent, and less technologically savvy. They are, as they say, "aging out" of newspaper readership. But humor, long-form journalism and a strong local focus never die. Hooray for the alt-weekly niche!

Still, everyone in the industry - daily or weekly, alt-weekly or magazine - has a lot of forward-thinking to do. And we can't be ruled by the bean-counters in suits, who expect the industry to right itself after the recession ends. Consumer media use has changed permanently. I expect we'll be seeing smaller and smaller editions of The Augusta Chronicle as its readership ages and shrinks. I expect we'll be seeing more direct competition between dailies as they contract, and weeklies as they expand.

Hopefully, media companies will move ahead with technological advances more current than simply choosing a web press based on price. I hope so. Because despite the decline of the American public's trust in journalism (thanks, Geraldo), it's still a needed to serve as a check and balance for our system of government. And I think we can all agree that as far as what body we can trust, the media ranks a lot higher than Congress.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Urge Overkill

Saturday, December 27, 2008 By

Has anyone else looked around their home after Christmas and wondered: Where the hell are we going to put all of this stuff?

Why do we have so much STUFF?! It's not like we're on the verge of a hoarding intervention, but seriously: I bought a fireplace screen at a yard sale - AND WE HAVE NO FIREPLACE!

By the way: anyone want to buy a couch and chair? We seem to have multiplied seating furniture.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Grinchmas

Me: "So what about your grandparents?"
Scott: "Lunch tomorrow. They already got the ham, so I told them we'd bring the sides."

Me: "Cool. Whatcha want?"
Scott: "Just grab a box of Stovetop Stuffing and a couple of cans of green beans."
Me: "Oh, wow, honey. The effort you're putting into this is so impressive."
Scott: "Hey, I was going to chop onions and celery for the stuffing."
Me: "Ooooooo. Onions and celery. I stand corrected."
Scott: "And chicken broth."
Me: "Mmm."

Scott: "You know, I'm very busy here. You forget that I have some important breaking news to report."
Me: "I'm sorry. I forgot how very important you are, big radio-man. What's the breaking news?"
Scott: "I am... (dramatic pause) tracking Santa."
Me: "Tracking Santa."
Scott: "Yes."
Me: "Really."
Scott: "With NORAD."
Me: "Like in 'War Games?'"
Scott: "What?"
Me: "Nothing."

Scott: "Guess where he is right now."
Me: "Uh... China?"
Scott: "No. Ssabbaassssuhhh (slurring words), Afghanistan."
Me: "You don't know where that is, do you?"
Scott: "It's in Afghanistan."
Me: "Touche. Well, I'll let you get back to your GPS system."
Scott: "Thank you. Remember to listen to WGAC News/Talk 580 for more updates."

On a Magic Kingdom Ride

Thursday, December 18
9 a.m. - WHY am I taking client phone calls while I am @ Disney?! I look like a self-important a-hole. Wait… Am I?

10 a.m. - News flash: Florida + scarf = stupid. Don't be a fashion victim.

10:30 a.m. - We've been @ Walt Disney World only a few rides long & Em already wants to be carried. Crap.

10:45 a.m. - Em being a butthead. Please send alcohol.

11:30 a.m. – Ah. Saved by hot dogs and Uncle Michael. And now I’m out $20.

1 p.m. – God, I don’t remember the last time she and I had this much fun together! She’s having the time of her life, and I’m laughing so hard at her that my stomach is hurting!

2:30 p.m. – Emmie rides her first roller coaster, the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Then we go back for another spin on Pirates of the Caribbean and the tea cups. We attempt the Haunted Mansion. “Yeth! I want to see da scary house!” Emmie insists. Oookkay…

3 p.m. – It’s a hit! “I wan ride it again, mama!” Emmie shrieks. “Dat was a slow scary! I lite it!”

4 p.m. – It’s time to start heading to the bus transfer to Hollywood studios. Emmie doesn’t want to leave.

5 p.m. – We’ve been waiting for the bus for a half-hour, and we’re still having a great time just sitting on the bench making faces at each other.

5:15 p.m. – Emmie’s as excited by the bus ride as anything else. For some reason, she begins chanting “Treinta! Treinta! Treinta!” Some of the surrounding tourists are from Latin American countries. They look at me quizzically. I shrug my shoulders. I don’t know why she’s chanting “30! 30! 30!” in Spanish. One of them stops to speak to her, asking if she’s having a good day… or something. She smiles and nods, “Glatheeas!” They are enchanted, and can’t tell that she has NO idea what they’re talking about. She’s just being polite.

6 p.m. – We arrive at Hollywood Studios and immediately hop on the Star Wars ride. Emmie is shrieking with excitement. Then we check out the Muppet 3D show. It’s hilarious! Except the little 3-D guy reminds me of “Izzie” from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and now I’m pissed off at ACOG all over again.

6:30 p.m. – We meet up with Jessica, Jackson, and Jacob. Jackson learned to swim today in the hotel pool! We ride the two rides with them, and move on.

7 p.m. – Load the kids onto the Tower of Terror.

7:30 p.m.That was a mistake. Jackson disembarks a complete basket case. Emmie shakily lectures me: “You not tate me on da scary dat go up and down! Das not berry nice, mama! I not ride it agin! I not lite it! No, ma’am! Das not fun! Das not good!” The lecture resumes every time the ride is mentioned.

8 p.m. – Leave the park, exhausted, and trail back to the condo, where Emmie immediately puts on her jammies and crawls into bed by herself, asleep before the lights are turned out. Must remember that to implement at home...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Road Trippin’: Orlando Blooms

Subtitle: Or, how I survived a minivan with three kids and 1,000 rotations of the “Shrek” soundtrack

AUGUSTA, GA - It wasn’t the dumbest thing I’ve ever done – that would be a list too long to publish – but it could have been. We took three children – ages 11, 4, and 3 – to Orlando for a week. Our goal: do as much as possible without killing ourselves or other people.
So aided by the good people at the many local theme parks, and a really nice lady at the Orlando Convention & Visitors Bureau who assured me that a nice percentage of the city’s visitors get out alive, we piled into a borrowed minivan and set forth into the land of reptiles – and enormous alligators.

Wednesday, Dec. 17

7:30 a.m. – We leave the house only 30 minutes later than I was hoping. The kids are excited to be together, and are occupied with activity bags.

9 a.m. -
Jackson: My pants smell like this.
Jacob: Let me smell!

10:30 a.m. – The “Shrek” soundtrack is on its 5th round. Apparently, no one thought to bring any other CDs. No, wait, we have the WWE wrestling soundtrack. Because that’s SUCH an improvement.

Noon – Not even half-way there & we've stopped 4 times, twice 4 behavior issues. Jackson’s defense: “A four-year-old is not meant to be sitting in a car this long!” It’s hard to argue with that. We stop at the Welcome Center just across the state line, and make the mistake of tossing Cheetos to a couple of lurking birds… and are engulfed by a 200-bird-strong flock of hungry, feral, feathered friends. “Stop throwing chips!” Jackson shrieks, utterly freaked out by the sheer numbers. We beat a hasty retreat into the van as the birds eye us greedily.

2 p.m. – The “Shrek” soundtrack in its fifth straight hour. I hate Smashmouth. Do they have any other songs?

3 p.m. – Playing the alphabet game & Jacob is already cheating. Eventually, I win with “Xcitement” on a billboard and “Zoological” on a road sign.

3:30 p.m. – About 30 min outside of Orlando, & we've only had 2 murder 1 child... So far.

4 p.m. – Condo is better than we hoped. Swam for a couple hours. It may be Fla., but it's still Dec. I didn't last 2 long.

6 p.m. – Now waiting for pizza. After carefully freezing casseroles, we went off & left them. Good work, Mom! And also, the inside of Pizza Hut hasn't changed since I was 9. And I still suck @ Galaga.

Free Chocolate to the First Person Who Can Tell Me Why I'm Thinking of the Pointer Sisters

A.W.: "I'm glad I changed clothes. I wouldn't want to be wearing the same colors as [name redacted]."
Me: "Why? I love the Worthington Collection!"

And Also, He Looks Like Alf

AUGUSTA, GA. - B.O., who likes to find new and ever more inventive ways to annoy us with his iPod, turned on Christmas music a few minutes ago for our in-office party.

K.J.: "Ugh... I hate Josh Grobin."
H.O.: "How can you even say that?"
K.J.: "I can say it over and over and over and over again."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sympathy for Coma Boy?

Me: "Yeah, K.J. asked me, 'Did it make you love him more?' And I said, 'No, but it made me stop worrying about the little stuff, like the fact that he leaves his boxers in the floor every damn day."
S.S.: "I would totally play that up. I'd be like, 'You pick it up. I'm dying!'"
Me: "I wish he would! That would be so funny!"
S.S.: "Lick it up! I'm DYING!"

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Weird Doesn't Fall Far from the Tree

Emerson: "When you put sumping in your butt crack, das mean you gon' be sick... What? Why you laffing? I not say nuffing!"

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ah, the Life of a Sales Person

K.J.: "So I had a weird experience the other day..."

Me: "Did you get into a car with Bryan, too?"

K.J.: "No! So this guy comes in and asks some questions I told him that he had to talk to Tom Grant. So he comes back a couple days later and says, 'I really liked your nose. Can we get together and talk about advertising?'"
H.O.: "What?"

K.J.: "Right. 'Your nose is cute, I wanna buy an ad.' So I was like 'Well, what kind of business are you in? What are you thinking about advertising?' He said, 'I own and finance company, and I don't know.'"
H.O.: "Whooaa..."

B.O.: "So probably not a good prospect."
K.J.: "Whatever. I'm having lunch with him on Friday. If I don't come back..."

H.O.: "What was his name?"
K.J.: "Mike."
H.O.: "What's his last name?"
K.J.: (shrugs)
H.O.: "You didn't get his last name? Mike what?"
Me: "The Ripper."

Emmie at the Metro Spirit Xmas Party

AUGUSTA, GA. - The Boll Weevil is a great place to eat, and our food was awesome. Emmie ordered a piece of red velvet cake that was nearly a foot tall. Seriously, it will snack her for at least a week. Next time you're there, go for the pork chops. Yum! Although A.C. didn't like them, but I'm pretty sure she left her taste buds at home.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Things I Never Thought I'd Say at/about a Navity Scene

AUGUSTA, GA. - "No, Emerson, we don't high-five the Virgin Mary."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"That's not Mary Had a Little Lamb, sweetie. That's Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus."
"Das a lamb?" "Yes."
"Das a Mary?" "Um... yes..."
"Mary hab a liddel lamb!" (excited squeal)
"Um... okay... well... alright, I can't argue with that."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"No, Emerson, we don't high-five Joseph of Nazareth."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Das a tree!!"
"Yep."
"Das a tree, mama!"
"Sure is, doodle."
"Why dey sleep under da tree?"
"Um, see, there was no room at the inn, and so they slept in the stable."
"Da stable?"
"Yes."
"Da stable is a tree?"
"Well, no, the stable is a barn. That's why the sheep is there."
"Barns not hab a tree! "
"Well, no, not technically. But maybe some have... palm trees... um..."
"Das not a barn. Das a tree! Wuss a stable?"
"A stable is where they keep the animals. It's like a barn."
"ooooOOOOhhhh. Is like a barn. Das a Mary hab a liddel lamb!"
(sigh...)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"No, Doodle, we do not high-five the baby Jesus, okay? Just... let's go."
"I don' wanna go!"
"Honey, come on. Daddy's cooking dinner."
"I not hungee."
"For Christ's sake, honey, will you please stop slapping the son of God?"
"I like him! I gib him fibe!"
(groan...)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Later, at home...
I complained to Scott. "I just knew people were going to start chucking Bible tracts at my head. I could not get her to stop high-fiving the baby Jesus!"
"Well," he said. "He's Buddy Christ, now. I'm sure he didn't mind."

Sunday, December 07, 2008

My Father's Way of Honoring Our Service Men and Women

AUGUSTA, GA. - One Sunday morning, the pastor noticed little Spencer standing in the foyer of the church staring up at a large plaque. It was covered with names and small American flags mounted on either side of it.

The six-year old had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the pastor walked up, stood beside the little boy. He said quietly, "Good morning, Spence."

"Good morning, Pastor," Spencer replied, still focused on the plaque. "Pastor, what is this?"

The pastor said, "Well, son, it's a memorial to all the young men and women who died in the service."

Soberly, they stood together, staring at the large plaque. Finally, little Spencer's voice, barely audible and trembling with fear, asked: "Which service, the 8:30 or the 10:30?"

FYI: Never play cards with my dad.

Friday, December 05, 2008

What up NOW, Santa?