My first client meeting

Today I had my first meeting as a marketing consultant. I met with the marketing director at the Museum of Life and Science. Since this was my first meeting as a consultant, and my first meeting as a consultant, it was a great learning experience.

The meeting went very well. If you call yourself a professional and you interact in an intelligent manner, people take you seriously. This is an important thing to understand as you present yourself as an expert.

I learned that in targeting small businesses/non-profits, especially science museums, they have no musuem. The museum in Durham is a decent size museum and has a small marketing budget and no web budget.

In offering several suggestions for places I could help with, the marketing director responded that their was no money available.

I offered to explore an on-line membership form where members can renew on the web site. My point was that if I can generate additional revenue, then there is some money to pay me. I suggested that I could develop and pay for the infrastructure and charge them a cut of each membership. I would probably need to charge a monthly fee until I have a better sense of the number of memberships.

She certainly was amendable to this idea because there is no risk. Now I’ll have to see what I can do. I told my friend Debbie (my goal-setting buddy) that I would have something to the museum by the end of March.

British 64th Regiment of Foot

Continental and British armies occupied Hillsborough, NC during the Revolutionary War. Commanding figures like Horatio Gates, Nathanael Greene, and Lord General Cornwallis headquartered in the town’s inns and taverns. Cornwallis’ ill-spent week in Hillsborough February 1781 eventually culminated in his surrender at Yorktown eight months later. Year 2006 marks the 225th anniversary of the events that led to the end of the war.

Today we took a step back in time and visited a British encampment of the 64th Regiment of Foot.

Trouble with Reading Lights

As you read this post, you will realize that the title is a tremendous understatement, but I wanted to put all of this in context.

Peter, like both of his parents, reads before going to sleep every night. Story time was always part of his bedtime routine, and once he learned to read himself, he took care of story time on his own.

His bed has always had a reading light, but we have always had a little bit of trouble figuring out where to clip it, how to aim it and just how to make it work in general. Here’s the light he had been using:

In the past 6 months Peter got new bunk beds (a hand me down from his Aunt Kathy) and we had the whole where do we clip the light thing all over again. We seemed to get things figured out, but Peter being Peter, sometimes he sleeps on the top bunk and sometimes he sleeps on the bottom bunk. He went for a long time on the top, and the compromise with the light was accepted. It was sort of hanging down and pointing up. He would read by indirect light, and he could turn it off without getting out of bed.

When he switched to the bottom bunk, we didn’t think we had issues at all. The light clipped onto the headboard and could be easily aimed at his book. The only problem is that there is not a lot of space between the lower bunk and upper bunk. For an adult, it seems very claustrophobic, but for a kid, it is alright.

Earlier this week, Peter came into our room in the middle of the night and said he bumped his eye on his light. Sometimes he falls asleep without turning his light off. We checked him over and there were no obvious burns or bruises. In the morning he said it still hurt and it was very sensitive to light. It turned out, after spending some time with the school nurse and a visit to the doctor, Peter had a soft tissue injury to the area above his eye. It healed as it should have in about 24 hours.

Since this light now seemed too big in the crowded space, especially as Peter gets bigger, I went to Staples and bought him this light:

This new light has a smaller lamp head and a plastic cover. I thought that this would be easier for Peter to manage. As it turns out, just because the goose neck is longer and sturdier, doesn’t mean that it is easier to get the light in a good position to shine on Peter’s book. And, since this new light has a halogen bulb, it gets hotter than a traditional incandescent bulb.

Peter has been using this light for a couple of days. I had clipped it up high on the bed, actually to the bottom of the upper bunk, to keep it out of his way, but he moved it down to his headboard. Even though it was smaller and plastic, I wanted to keep it away from his face.

Tonight, at about 2 in the morning, Peter wakes up Meg and tells her his light is smoking. Groggy from sleep, and without her contacts, she goes into his room to find his lamp resting on his pillow, smoldering. She separates the light from the pillow and pulls the pillow off the bed. She asks Peter to call me for help. Here is the pillow:

I come upstairs. I was asleep on the coach due to my continuing dysfunctional sleep habits. I walk into Peter’s room to billowing smoke from his pillow (I never thought I would ever use billow and pillow in the same sentence. They really don’t seem to go together). We stand there for a minute watching the smoke rise and fill the room. Finally we open the windows and I get some water to pour on the pillow.

At this point we realize the trauma is over and everyone is safe. The only loss is one pillow and one more light. For the next 30-45 minutes we hug Peter and talk about how he did the right thing and wasn’t he glad we keep talking about Fire Safety and Home Safety in Cub Scouts.

Both Meg and Peter continue to be a little nervous for what could have happened. Both of them didn’t think they would be able to go back to sleep, but they did. This weekend we will go out and get a fire extinguisher for upstairs, and we’ll look at fire escape ladders.

Here is Peter after what will forever be known in the Cohen family as the Pillow incident. In this picture it is hard to tell the bedhead from Peter’s singed hair.


This South Africa movie sounds very cool and is nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar. It opens in limited release on Friday, but not here. I need to try to keep an eye out for it when it opens here. The music feauturing Kwaito music is described as South Africa’s answer to American Hip Hop.

Description from Set amidst the sprawling Johannesburg township of Soweto — where survival is the primary objective – “Tsotsi” traces six days in the life of a ruthless young gang leader who ends up caring for a baby accidentally kidnapped during a car-jacking.

Movie Site

Story on NPR

Soundtrack with Streaming Audio of all tracks

Customer Serviced to Death

From News and Observer’s Check it Out column:

Have you noticed we’re being customer serviced to death? Not when we want or need it, mind you. But retailers are more willing than ever to help you when you don’t need it, as witnessed by this exchange, with only a modicum of dramatization, that occurred at a local coffeehouse, the name of which doesn’t matter because they’re all the same.

Us: Hi. We’d like a coffee and a bagel.

Them: Would you like an el diminutivo, a medio or a talla grande?

Us: Is the middle one a regular?

Them: We have an el diminutivo, a medio and a talla grande.

Us: We’ll have the middle one.

Them: Regular or decaf?

Us: It’s 8 in the dadgum morning.

Them: (Blank stare).

Us: Regular.

Them: Light or dark roast? We also have a popular el cuppo cintemante khakichinos blend.

Us: What’s that?

Them: It’s a melange of our house blend and a darker bean that speaks to an urban lifestyle.

Us: Dark.

Them: OK. And you wanted a muffin?

Us: No, an everything bagel. Toasted, butter.

Them: Do you want the butter on the side or do you want us to butter it?

Us: You butter it.

Them: Do you want it buttered before or after it’s toasted?

Us: (Long pause because, after all, it is 8 a.m. and we’re still waiting for them to hand over our first cup of coffee — dark roast, if memory serves — of the day.) Surprise me.

Them: Will that be for here or to go?

Us: (Glancing at our watch) You know, it’s almost noon. What do you folks have for lunch?

Remember Pop-up Books?

Today I had a meeting with my friend Pam, who is an artist and book publisher. She has created pop-up books about the Kentucky Derby, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and a garden in Chapel Hill. These make great gifts for children and adults, and all books ordered directly from Pam are signed.

According to her website:

The first movable books appeared in the 15th and 16th centuries and were actually used for astronomical, scientific and medical purposes. It was not until the middle of the 19th century that movable books became widely available and were subsequently targeted to appeal to children.

For more information, go to

Grace becomes an art collector

Grace's Robot
Today we went to Local Folk Art Show that was comes to town every year. Some of the biggest names in folk and outsider art display their work. People like Sam “The Dot Man” McMillian, Miz Thang, Clyde Jones and Big Chief were there. I chatted with the artists I bought work from when I attended the show two years ago.

Anyway, there was guy named Mark May, who produces folk art robots out of blocks of wood and recylcled metal objects like keys, nails, bolts and bottlecaps. We looked at his display and Grace was really entranced by these. She spent some time looking at them, and we managed to move on.

When we were across the room, Grace told me that she was not looking at anything else until I got her a robot. I told her we could go back and look at the robots again, but that doesn’t mean we were going to get one.

She started looking at various robots, and I discovered they were more expensive than I had thought. I tried to push her towards the $25 models, but Grace being Grace, she liked a particular robot and was not to be swayed to any other cheaper options. The girl has good taste and knows what she likes. And if she is interested in art, how can I say no. Since I had already thought $25 was okay, what’s the big deal if I went to $35. The above photo is the one she chose.

We got home and Meg asked me, “I don’t mean to be judgemental, but why did you spend $35 on this?” The unstated part of the question was a block of wood with sharp metal objects for a 5-year old. The story above is the answer. And I didn’t buy anything for myself.