Monday, 2 November 2009

I like living in the 21st century

Several times recently I've noticed extremely blokey blokes, happily and unselfconsciously wheeling their kids around in strollers. Mother nowhere in sight.

I'd call that progress.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Mike's Tooth FAQ

Here are the questions I'm most commonly asked about my left front tooth (or rather, the gap where it used to be). Actually some of them I haven't been asked but they're logical questions, so I'm answering them anyway.

Q: What happened?
A: I'm not completely sure. Apparently at some point that I don't remember, my tooth got a knock, and this started off a process of "resorption" - that is, it started to self-destruct. So it had to come out. Out of my head. All the... bits of it.

Q: Did you really have it out without anaesthetic?
A: No. I had it out without sedation - drugs to help me relax. I can relax perfectly well without drugs. I had local anaesthetic, though.

Q: Did it/does it hurt?
A: Actually there's been hardly any pain through the whole process (and there was hardly any blood in the extraction either). The periodontist did a great job. It's been a bit uncomfortable, and the temporary false tooth is very uncomfortable so I don't wear it unless I feel I need to look professional. But not much pain, per se.

Q: Can we see a photo?
A: No. See remarks above about looking professional. I have considered taking a photo of myself and photoshopping in a banjo, but...

Q: What happens now?
A: The periodontist has implanted a socket which is going to hold a crown in due course. The bone has to grow in around it first, so that it's securely held. This is about a 3-month process, so I should get the crown in November (then no more temporary false tooth - yay!).

Q: Was it expensive?
A: Ohhh, yes.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Quality advertising and marketing

It's been a while since I ranted about advertising and marketing (or anything else, but those are among my favourite rant topics).

I just saw this piece of quality work today:

[Name of publication] enjoys an influential and affluent readership and seeks to maintain that profile by those brands it represents.

If you would like to know more about our rates and availability, please feel free to make an enquiry our team we will do thier best to assist your in achieving your campaign goals.

Sign me up.

And on marketing, I've noticed a few annoyances lately.

First was Healtheries' decision to stop decaffeinating their green tea. Their website still assured consumers that all Healtheries green tea was caffeine free, but this was no longer the case if you checked the label in the shop. When I emailed them about it, I got an informative reply, very quickly, from a real human being (not a marketing droid) who explained:

The reasons we have moved away from decaffeination are:

1) Being a health food company we were keen to produce a product as
close to un-processed as possible, the decaffeination process adds
additional processing and uses chemicals to strip out the caffeine

2) The cost to decaffeinate the tea is quite substantial, by removing
this cost we have been able to pass this on to our consumers making us
more competitively priced

3) A side effect of removing caffeine is that this can also remove some
of the antioxidants in the tea, we wanted to maximize the antioxidants
naturally found in green tea.

If you would like to remove the caffeine, research has shown us that if
you brew a tea bag for approx 2 mins and throw out the first cup of tea
the second cup you brew with the same tea bag will have over 80% of the
caffeine removed (as caffeine is the first thing released out of the tea

All of which is well and fine, but nobody else in the NZ market decaffeinates their green tea either, so the consumer is left without choice (and Healtheries have removed what was, to many people including me, an important point of difference). The brewing for two minutes thing didn't work for me, I noticed a bitter taste and was getting edgy on it. I've now switched over to (non-Healtheries) rooibos tea instead, which is supposed to have, if anything, even more antioxidants, which is regarded as a good thing.

I now discover, searching Healtheries' site, that their chai teas are decaf - when did that happen? I could swear I'd checked the packets and they weren't.

Not bad marketing, as such, but their business decision is odd (and inconvenient) to me from an overall market perspective, and their consumer communication could use some work. Good marks for their response to me, but as far as I can tell they didn't follow my suggestion to put the explanation on their website (it's not in their FAQ). I had to check the new packets to find out they weren't decaffeinated any more, and I completely missed the fact that the chai, which is my favourite, is decaf (perhaps it wasn't to start with and now is?).

On the other hand, some companies still practice the good old "marketing through outright lies" approach. I had a minor example in the supermarket recently. A woman was there with one of those little demo tables they use for new foods, demonstrating a new breed of apple next to the fruit section. I'm always up for some new fruit (fruit is my treat, instead of sweets or chocolate), so even though she had only one rather browning segment of apple on offer I gave it a try. "It's really sweet and juicy," she told me. Well, it wasn't particularly, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt because it had obviously been sitting for a while, and bought a couple.

In fact, this is one of the least sweet and least juicy breeds of apple I have ever encountered. I wish I could remember its name so I could warn you off it. It has yellow skin, anyhow, and its marketers lie about it.

And then there's the iCON fan. We have one of these. In fact, we've had three, because the first two burned out. They were the size recommended for a bathroom, which is where we have it, but they were clearly underpowered, so last time I got the larger one.

They're supposed to be quiet. They're not. They're very noisy, in my opinion. They're also advertised as "surprisingly low cost". What with the cost of the fan, the cost of the initial installation (in a house which is a little tricky, admittedly), and the cost of having the first two removed and replaced when they failed, I have spent well in excess of $1000. Still, at last we have a fan that removes the damp from the bathroom, which I suppose is something.

Friday, 15 May 2009

The Y People begins

I've started a new novel, The Y People, over on my City of Masks blog. It's a YA piece about four young people with mysterious powers.

My plan is:
  1. Write it on the blog. Get comments if I can, but I'm not holding my breath.
  2. Use Lulu's new affiliate in NZ to get proof copies printed for a few of the Usual Suspects to read. This will give me a chance to practice with Adobe InDesign for layout, as well.
  3. Revise it in line with the feedback and release it as an ebook (on Smashwords) and POD.
Because I won't need to do an actual print run, the time it will take to break even will be significantly reduced. City of Masks is still in the red, because I did a print run of 50 to give to people, send to the National Library and sell in NZ, and NZ sales have been, to say the least, slow.

In fact, all sales of City of Masks have been slow, despite the fact that everyone who reads it likes it, because I can't be bothered to relentlessly promote it. That's not nearly as much fun as writing is, and the additional happiness from selling a few more copies isn't worth the extra effort to me at the moment. I'm pouring most of my promotional efforts into my hypnotherapy practice, and that isn't exactly going stratospheric yet either.

Marketing is a lot of work, at least by the non-Baboon's Backside method.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009


I've finally given in (I'm the classic late adopter) and joined Facebook. Hopefully that link takes you to my profile. Feel free to friend me if you're a regular reader of this blog.

Not that it's really possible to be a regular reader of such an irregular blog, but you know what I mean.

Friday, 3 April 2009

The Baboon's Backside approach to marketing

You know what bothers me? The kind of marketing that is like a baboon's backside. You know, the kind that says, "Woo! I'm so extreme, you can't take your eyes off me, can you? Huh? Huh? You want some of this? You do, don't you?"

And what bothers me most about it is that it's generally more successful than the kind I prefer, which is, "Here is something that you might like to be aware of, as it is good and useful for people in a particular set of circumstances, viz, these circumstances here. If those are your circumstances, consider this product as something that might meet your needs."

I love living in the 21st century, but unfortunately my sense of a good ad is straight out of the Victorian era.

That's all. Just a complaint, no solution offered.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day One) The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'll be honest - I picked this book because I needed something thick enough to last me through an overseas trip with a lot of time spent on planes and in airports. But it turned out to be really, really good. I rarely give five stars to anything, but The Name of the Wind deserves them.

Not only is it a well-written, well-plotted and fascinating adventure, but it has a richness of allusion and a sense of so much happening offstage, so many threads to be woven together, that it not only keeps you reading but leaves you eager for the rest of the series. The main character is complex and multifaceted and an interesting rogue with principles who is constantly in strife. I was reminded of the Locke Lamora books, except that Kvothe is less of a rogue than Locke and at least some of his troubles are not self-inflicted.

The editor needs to work harder - there are a few misused homonyms ("make due" instead of "make do", "discrete" for "discreet" and the like). But the writing, the dialogue, the worldbuilding and the characterisation are all very good indeed.

View all my reviews.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

City of Masks on Authonomy

I've just added my novel City of Masks on Authonomy, which is a website Harper-Collins Publishers have set up to get the reading public to help them choose books for publication.

If you want to help me out, especially if you've already read City of Masks and enjoyed it, please hop over to Authonomy, sign up, and add City of Masks to your bookshelf (by clicking the "Back the Book" link).

More detail on the City of Masks blog.