Matt Damon for President

Watching the most recent Republican debate last night I walked away more confused than ever.  I’m just not in love with any of the candidates or the incumbent.  Sorry, but it’s true.

Why can’t we have a young, hard-working, honest, ambitious, well-educated candidate with great stage presence and phenomenal speaking skills?

Imagine if Matt Damon ran for President.

I realize he’s a movie star,  but Hollywood and Washington commingle every once in a while.  I know what you’re thinking.  He’s an ACTOR!  When he saves he world or sounds really smart in a role it’s because he is ACTING!  Well, every time we see the President in public or on television, he’s also acting.  He is acting like he has everything under control.  He is acting like the economy and world are heading towards a better future.  He is acting that he really enjoys every single public appearance he has to make.

Why Matt Damon would be a good president:

  1. He’s well-educated.  He went to Harvard and his alter ego Will Hunting was a well-read, math genius.  See this YouTube clip from August when he rallied in defense of teachers, including his own mother.
  2. He can lead people.  In Invictus he led the South African rugby team and helped a world leader (Nelson Mandela)  bring people together.

3.  He has great political potential.  See the Adjustment Bureau.

4.  He will do whatever it takes to get the job done, even if that includes gaining weight (like in the Informant!) or losing a ton of weight (like in Courage Under Fire).

5.  He could use his alter ego, Jason Bourne, to tackle international enemies.

6.  He fights for what he believes in.   In 2008 Matt started to help develop clean water solutions for Africa since so  many illnesses are caused by contaminated water.

7.  He admits when he’s wrong.  He worked hard campaigning for Obama in 2008 and recently slammed the man in Elle magazine.

“You know, a one-term president with some balls who actually got stuff done would have been, in the long run of the country, much better.”

See the entire article here

8.  He’s very likable.  People voted him Sexiest Man Alive, which was kinda weird, but it means he would definitely win the popular vote.

I’m not the only one who thinks so.  For better or worse, he has an endorsement from Michael Moore and there’s a Facebook page dedicated to the cause.

Sadly, I hear that his partner Ben Affleck is the one with real political ambitions.

How to Literally Exercise Self-Control

I have always thought that the world was divided into people with good self-control and the rest of us.  There are those who workout every day at 5:00am and the rest of us.  There are those who stay focused and ignore the office chitchat, and there’s the rest of us.  There are those who don’t watch the Real Housewives of Fill in the Blank City, and there’s the rest of us.

Self-control for me has always been like a flaky friend.  I am always hopeful it will show up, but I never count on it.  Even when it does come through, I can never be sure when I will see it again…

So I am always looking for ways to get that elusive self-control.  I am not a huge fan of self-help books, but I do like science and I can always appreciate research.  I recently read a great book called “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength”.  It is written by psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and NY Times science writer John Tierney.  They believe the key to self-control is willpower and that willpower is actually a muscle.  Like any other muscle, willpower needs glucose and willpower can strengthen with exercise.


I was initially very excited to hear about this glucose thing.  Could this be another excuse to eat and not feel bad about the extra calories, like when I was breastfeeding?  Yes and no.  Not surprisingly, the authors suggest maintaining a healthy diet as key to strengthening willpower.  Apparently, that old wisdom of eating a good breakfast before school has some science behind it.  The authors believe that we lose self-control when our glucose is low, and that’s when we make poor decisions.

The book gives real life examples of people (including some famous people) and their experiences with willpower (or lack of).   I found these stories fascinating, particularly the one about a former street performance artist.  There’s also an interesting section on Eric Clapton and his struggles with addiction.

Once again, a lot of what I read in this book seemed like common sense.  For example, some of this stuff sounds like “practice makes perfect”.  That’s nothing new, but what is interesting is that practicing in one area of your life may be making you better in more than one area because you’ve strengthened your willpower muscle.  The authors caution against trying to tackle more than one area for improvement at a time because when you’re trying to build the willpower muscle, you don’t want to strain it until it is stronger.  This is the same philosophy behind telling drug addicts to wait to quit smoking until they’ve kicked their drug habit.  I am using this guidance as an excuse to continue pursuing hobbies.  If being disciplined about doing Sudoku makes me a better Sudoku player, then maybe it will make me a better worker in general…

The authors also give examples of ways to exercise the willpower muscle that seem very easy and can be applicable to most people.

One of my resolutions last year was to read more non-fiction books, and I am glad that I read this one.  It’s a quick read.  I read it almost as fast as the first Hunger Games book.

Now I feel like I have the tools to get that self-control I have always been after.  Apparently, I just need to literally exercise it!

Mothballs and Healthcare

I hope the title of this post did not throw you.  I am not writing about the effects of mothballs on your health.  The last time I checked mothballs were not hazardous to your health (although you may want to check with your doctor to be absolutely sure).  I am also not writing a political thing about US healthcare because I just don’t want to go there…

Instead I am writing about language today – the good, the bad, and the often confusing aspects of language.

Right now, I am working pretty closely with an Italian guy, and sometimes we have a tough time understanding each other.  Lately he has been helping me learn about business in his country by translating some Italian documents, including news articles.

The other day, he translated an Italian newspaper article about health care and finance.   I read his translation looking for factual information and a summary of the current state of affairs over there.  So I was quite surprised to see that the word “mothballs” had made its way into the English translation.

First, I laughed because any time balls are mentioned I can’t help myself.  I know it’s childish.   

Secondly, I wondered what mothballs had to do with healthcare.  Then I laughed again.

I know some Italian – just the essential phrases, really.  For instance, I know “vorrei un bichierre di vino rosso” is “I would like a glass of red wine”.  I did not know that the Italian word for mothballs is “naftalina”.  I was having a tough time understanding how “mothballs” or “naftalina” could really be in a business article.

So we put our Italian and American heads together.  It took us over 20 minutes to conclude that the author of the article was using a metaphor to describe the current situation in Italian health care (creditors were eating away at the company like mothballs in a closet…). Aah….

This situation got me thinking about some of other confusing language moments I have experienced while working in a global business.  Below are some highlights from my time working with many people from many different countries.

American sarcasm gone wrong:

While debating the merits of a model we were working on at the time, one American colleague would often say to a Serbian colleague, “you’re a real piece of work!”.  The Serb thought it was a complement.  He thought “a real piece of work” meant a work like a musical opus or wonderful piece of artwork.  He didn’t realize he was actually being insulted!

Foreign phrases I have learned:

“I don’t know you from a bar of soap!”  My Malaysian colleague yelled this into the phone one day.  I had not heard it before and thought it was very funny because why would a person be compared to a bar of soap?  Apparently this phrase is quite common in Australia and is akin to the American “I don’t know him from Adam”.

Susan not being so sensible:

My first time in London, I was explaining to my colleagues how New Yorkers spot tourists, which is by spotting their fanny packs.  While my colleagues laughed and blushed, they explained to me that while fanny means a person’s rear in America, it means the front of a person in London.  Oops, did I just say vagina in a professional environment?!

Almost offensive phrases:

An American colleague said to a Brazilian colleague “You’ve got to be shitting me?”  For some reason, I was consulted to try to explain what this meant to the Brazilian.  I struggled with this one.  I don’t know about you, but the literal translation of this sentence gave me a rather unpleasant visual, and I really did not want to have to be so vulgar.  I did want to be thorough and accurate, though.

So I did the only sensible thing, and made sure that I actually understood the potentially offensive word and phrase myself.  It was about 10 years ago this happened, so I actually opened a physical dictionary, but you can check out the online version:

According to the dictionary:

verb (shits, shitting; past and past participle shitted or shit or shat /ʃat/)

  • [no object] expel faeces from the body.
  • [with object] (shit oneself) soil one’s clothes as a result of expelling faeces accidentally.
  • [with object] (shit oneself) be very frightened.
  • [with object] tease or try to deceive (someone).

Phew!  That last definition saved me from vulgarity!  That day we learned that the true meaning of the phrase “you’ve got to be shitting me?” is “you’ve got to be teasing me?”

So while I ended up averting being vulgar in front of my 2 colleagues 10 years ago, I realize I was just extremely vulgar by sharing this story with the entire web!  I’m not extremely worried about it because I know there is merely a small fraction of the web actually reading this!

I assure you that depsite my mention of balls, shit and vagina, I’m really a pretty classy lady!  However, I do feel compelled to Purell my hands and my keyboard after typing such filth!

Do you have any humorous language mishaps?  If so, please share!  I’m sure we could all  use a laugh!

Characters are People Too

Have you a read a book that changed your life?  For me, that book was The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene.

I got this book from Santa in 1987 – the year that I really wanted a computer.   The home computer was not popular just yet, so I knew I was dreaming when I put it on my list.  However, my mother, I mean Santa, knew that this book would be better for me than any piece of technology.  Despite its old-fashioned image on the front, I decided to read it.  It was love at first read.

It wasn’t the plot line of the book that had a direct impact on me, but it was the character of Nancy Drew.  She was attractive, smart and polished.  She was everything I wished I could be.  Nancy Drew made me a book lover, and I read every book in the series.

Once I became an adult, I had to leave behind childish things like the Nancy Drew books.  Now it is increasingly hard to justify reading fictional characters doing fictional things when there are millions of real people living real lives.  On my iPad, I feel compelled to read each newspaper app and consolidated news app before letting myself dig into pretend worlds on my Kindle app.

So last week, I was reading one of those news apps and discovered the following article:

The Business Case for Reading Novels by Anne Kreamer

Apparently there is a scientific reason to read novels again since reading about people in the fictional world can help us relate to people in the real world.  This is great news for us book lovers.  I can now justify reading any 99¢ option on my Kindle even if it isn’t a historical biography or business book.

I hope everyone has a similar story about a life-changing book or character.  If you haven’t, I highly recommend the Nancy Drew books.  After all these years, I still think Nancy Drew makes a much more sensible role model than any pop star, movie star or Kardashian.

Beating China with Brownies

If the race to be the world’s super power includes a bake-off, we’ll be all set…

In case you have not seen this before, let me show you what  America’s young innovators are creating:

It’s called the Baker’s Edge Brownie Pan.  Like me, you may have seen this in a store.  It’s apparently life-changing enough to have made it to Oprah’s Favorite Things show.  I saw it and never thought of it again until I read the following artilce:

Fans Play Favorite With Food

I’m all for innovation, but something is seriously flawed with our society if our engineering minds would rather create brownie pans that no one really needs.  Aren’t there real problems that need real solutions.  Plus, does America really need any more encouragement to consume more brownies?!

I am not blaming the inventor, Matt Griffin.  He’s certainly smarter than me.  He figured out how to sell a $35 dollar product to a whole bunch of people who didn’t need it.   I hope he continues inventing stuff.  Maybe he will develop the edge-less cake pan.  I really hate the crunchy cake pieces.

I just think it would be nice to imagine a country that values true innovation and science just as much as this stuff.  Perhaps we need an Oprah-like person to be the champion for the real innovators.  Then maybe we’d have more cutting-edge ideas than brownies without edge…

How did I ever live without Evernote!

You know how gamers get all excited about the latest “World of Warcraft” or Apple addicts will wait in line for days for the latest iPhone?   I’m not that fanatical about most things, but I do get very excited when I hear of a new organizing tool.  You heard me – “organizing”.

It’s not super sexy or cool, and I won’t go showing off my new organizing tool to my friends like the latest Apple product, but it gives me a delightful feeling when I am one step closer to being the organized person I always dream about.  (My dreams are often more colorful than that, but I’ll save that for another post!)

I have been in search of the perfect organizer since middle school.  I have tried most of them all – “Babysitters Club” organizer in middle school, “At-a-Glance” in high school, “Franklin Covey” in college and on my first job, and all the electronic versions in my 20s, including the Palm Pilot.

Most of these organizers are limited.  Each has a calendar section and often a note section.  The note section is usually little more than a pad of paper with lines.  There is no easy way to organize the notes once taken.  I started using spreadsheets to keep my notes, too.  While I am also an Excel jockey, who loves her spreadsheets, even these can be limiting since they are hard to access away from a PC or laptop.

In today’s world, we’re working and thinking in several places – at home, in the car, at work, on the train or plane and in line at stores.  Wouldn’t it be great to have an organizing tool that not only organizes our notes, but also has them handy for us no matter where we are?

That something is Evernote!

If you haven’t tried it, you must.  It’s an application with a web component that syncs to all your devices where you have Evernote loaded.  I have it on my PC at work, at home, on the laptop, on my iPad and my smartphone.  It also has a web clipper, which makes it super easy to store online content.

You can create “Notebooks” to help organize the notes and tag the notes for easy searching.  There can also be parent Notebooks that other Notebooks are filed under.  You can also share “Notebooks” if you’re working on a project with other people.

You can take a picture of something and store it as a note, and Evernote will read the text.  This has been great for recipes, receipts and business cards.  Do your kids bring home a ton of paperwork?  Scan the paperwork into Evernote and store it in a Notebook for each kid.

You don’t even have to login to Evernote to save something there – you can email it to your Evernote account.  Each Evernote account comes with a unique email address for you and you can store this address in your contacts, give it an appropriate nickname (like “Evernote”) and then quickly email what you want and have it stored into the appropriate notebook.

Some of My Notebooks:

Blog – ideas and drafts of Posts

Business Ideas – a place to put seedlings of ideas and a place to start finally planning my new business

Decorating Ideas – save snapshots from stores or online and stores floor plans

Financial Stuff – use this to store tips I read online to remind myself to review portfolio, etc

House Management– this is where the Honey Do list is stored (shared with my husband), I also maintain a contact list of all handymen, contractors, plumbers, etc.

Event Planning – I planned my sister’s 30th Birthday party in this Notebook including planning decorations, menus and with links to ideas

Holidays and Vacations – research places to go, organize times and accommodations.  Each holiday or vacation has a designated notebook, so I can store to-dos and gift lists.

Recipes – recipes and grocery list template that I print each week and store inside our pantry.  I also store weekly or monthly dinner plans here.

Right Now – this Notebook is for my daily to do list

Self-Improvement – a place to store inspiring articles, words of wisdom and reminders of what my goals are

Work Stuff – since my company doesn’t offer remote access to its system or cloud computing, I will store articles to read and files to use at home here

Evernote also has a voice-activated ability to create notes.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I have read a lot of good things on it.  Imagine using this as a way to start your novel, record articles or blogs or even make a list of things to do in a shared notebook.

I’m not the only one raving about this sensible tool!

Take a look at who else cares:

My sorority sister’s website is what first turned me onto Evernote:  Organize for Success

10 Tips on How to Use Evernote

CNET editors give Evernote 5 stars

Wall Street Journal review

Also, you may be wondering how Evernote compares to Pinterest (see my post from the other day:  Pinterest Rocks).

Think of Pinterest as your Creative Director and Evernote as the Chief Operating Officer.  Pinterest is all about visual ideas and inspiration, although stored and edited in an organized way.  Evernote is about realizing those visions and coming up with a plan of action.  Also, Pinterest is a social network and Evernote is only shared with whom you choose.  Both tools are great in their own ways, and since both are free – you should take advantage!

Pinterest Rocks

One of the most useful and fun websites I have found this year is Pinterest.

It’s beautiful, full of information and like the combination of all your favorite magazines and websites rolled into one.

So, if you don’t know already, Pinterest is an online bulletin board that let’s you create Pins and Boards.  Your Boards are categories that you customize (like Food, Style, Books, etc).   Your Pins are the items that you “pin” onto your board.  So a good recipe might get pinned onto your “Food” board or you might “pin” your favorite book onto “Books to Read”.

Part of the fun is perusing the Pins and Boards of other Pinterest members.  Each Pinterest member is like a curator of their personal interests and you can follow any  pinner you want.

I have found it most useful for organizing the things in my life that I relate to by pictures, such as recipes, decorating, party planning and gift giving.  See a snapshot of my boards below:

Great uses of Pinterest:

1.  Wedding planning – instead of cutting magazine clippings, make a Pinterest board with pictures of flowers, tables, dresses, hair styles, etc.  This saves the bridge from having to lug around a ginormous binder to her stylist, wedding planner, caterer and others.  It also is an easy way to share with friends, bridesmaids and mothers.

2.  Event planning – I found inspiration for my son’s 1st birthday on Pinterest and created a Board just for the planning of his “Very Hungry Caterpillar” themed party.  It was a huge time saver and resulted in a really cute party (see caterpillar cake we made below)!


3.  Decorating – Pinterest is visibily very appealing to look at and is best for any part of your life that is visual, such as decorating.  Create a Board for each room in your house.  Helping a friend decorate her home?  Then create a board for her and have her follow you.  The website is particularly useful for budget-friendly or DIY tips.

4.  Gift giving – Store links and photos of cool gifts you find online and save them on a Board either for each person or each occassion.  When that date pops up, click, purchase and become a great gift giver!

5.  Creative inspiration – I wanted my mother to do a painting of a dogwood (the state flower of my home state, NC).  I found several photos and inspirational paintings to put on a Board and shared the Board with her.  I’m still waiting on that painting…

The list could go on and on.

For now, there’s a slight air of exclusivity to the site – you must be invited to join.  You probably already know at least one member, so it’s not a big deal to get an invitation.  If you need an invite, contact me.

*WARNING*  This is a highly-addictive site, so if you’re attempting to use the site for to be better organized and get more stuff done, enter with CAUTION!

From personal experience: a lot of the DIY pins seem super cool and easy.  I have a nice collection of DIY pins on my “Crafts” board.  I started one of those projects (using used toilet paper rolls) in August and have yet to complete it.  So while the website may give great inspiration, you still have to rely on yourself to follow through….