Category Archives: Informational

That’s Enough, Elizabeth Warren.

Here’s my second try at a political blog post. I generally try to stay away from politics because, let’s face it, for the most part I have no idea what I’m talking about. But I really feel the need to comment on what’s going on right now with Elizabeth Warren, because you can’t really ignore this.

For those of you not paying attention, Elizabeth Warren is running against Scott Brown in the Massachusetts race for senate. Warren is liberal whereas Brown is identified as a Republican but has a lot of Independent view points. There has been a LOT of controversy flying around Warren, and the subject of these controversies is what really irritates me.

She is probably one of the whitest white people you will ever see. Blonde hair, blue eyes, the whole nine yards. Yet, somehow, she used a supposed connection with Native American tribes to identify herself as a minority when she was in Harvard. A Harvard official in 1996 even described her as Harvard’s “first woman of color. (New York Times)” She claimed she wanted to meet others like her. Well, a genealogist tried to trace her back to Native American tribes, and said she maybe 1/32 Cherokee, or something like that. Then that same genealogist took back what he said. So what exactly is “others like her”? White people who grew up in the suburbs? She could have always, I don’t know, joined a club? Student group?

Another thing that  makes me angry is something that hits close to home. She claims that no one got rich on their own, even if they started their own business. Here’s what she said:  “I think the basic notion is right. Nobody got rich on their own. Nobody. People worked hard, they buil[t] a business, God bless, but they moved their goods on roads the rest of us helped build, they hired employees the rest of us helped educate, they plugged into a power grid the rest of us helped build (reason.com)”. I’m sorry, but my mom owned her own business. For the first three or four years, she worked alone. Well, with my dad. In our house. Oh, wait. She used the city’s electricity, so clearly she didn’t do it all on her own. Are you kidding me?! That is probably the most discouraging thing that I’ve ever heard for anyone that wants to be an entrepreneur. Because you’re using public resources, you can’t take all the credit for your success.

Massachusetts has never sent a woman to the U.S. senate, mostly because the guys who were/are there have been in office forever. In fact, Massachusetts has only one woman in a federal office. We haven’t had a female governor since Jane Swift left office in 2003. She had a really great fiasco of sending a helicopter – funded by state money – to pick up her nanny. And this is why. Women who are outspoken but uninformed, jump to conclusions, and just project a bad image for the rest of us. We’re not going to be able to take any steps forward if we keep taking two steps back.

I’m stepping off my soap box now. Gotta put it away so no one else trips on it.

How To Get Fired. Fast.

First off, I want to say that my thoughts go out to the victims and their families in Aurora, Colorado. I don’t want to get too into it, but I did want to lead off with that.

Now, on to the subject of this post. This has been a topic that has made many a social media professional want to crawl under their desk the past couple of days (as well as beat me to writing blog posts on it). A company called Celeb Boutique (@celebboutique) made a huge mistake. One that they most likely will have associated with them forever.

On Friday afternoon, their social media person hopped on Twitter and saw that the hashtag #Aurora was trending. Hmm, they said. That must be about us! So they went ahead and posted this little gem:

Well, all hell broke loose. People went nuts, all over Twitter and their Facebook account. Who knows how many followers they lost. (One blog I read said it was about 5k in an hour, but I don’t know how accurate that is.) Plus, they made no response for over an hour and a half. When they finally realized that they effed up, they tweeted this haphazard apology:

Seriously? Let’s look at the problems with this.

First, their PR is not US based. Well, CNN is international news. The BBC was reporting this. Many other international news stations exist. No shortage of sources for this information. A little reading outside of the fashion blogs in their feed would have done them good.

Second, their social media team was “unaware” (capitalized for emphasis) of the situation and thought it was another trending topic. Well, here’s a thought. CLICK ON THE HASHTAG TO SEE WHAT IT’S ABOUT (also capitalized for emphasis). Takes two seconds. This is social media 101, kids. If that was me, I would have been fired AND disowned by my manager. It’s common sense, really.

Third, and this is personal opinion, they’re just idiots. Anyone who has a social media team who doesn’t use due diligence before they post something is not a social media team. They’re a bunch of people who use a twitter account to try and sell their stuff. And now those people have seriously damaged the brand.

Good luck to them, getting their following back. I hope they’re working on disaster recovery. They’re going to need it.

Follow me on Twitter. I read hashtags before I use them: @marymallard

You’re Killin’ Me, Smalls!

And by smalls, I mean the MBTA.

Ah, the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority for you out of towners). My local readers will know what I’m talking about. An often infuriating yet essential necessity to living in Boston and the surrounding neighborhoods. Recently, the MBTA rolled out a fare hike which has almost all of the people who utilize the different branches of public transportation up in arms. And I’m one of them. My arms are up.

The main issue most people have with the fare hike is that it is HUGE. For instance, a one way ticket on the commuter rail (my daily mode of transportation) was 5.25 prior to July 1. Now, it’s 9.50. WHAT?! That’s a really intense increase.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand businesses need to make money. And the MBTA is a business. A very poorly run business. But they could have handled this a lot better. They could have increased fares incrementally every year, instead of making one gigantic hike. Then people wouldn’t be so pissed off.

Another thing that really makes me angry is that they think that their customers are idiots. Let me refer to the photo below (please excuse the instagram filter – I’m obsessed):

On the top is a 12-ride commuter rail ticket, which is what I used to get before July 1. It cost me $63.00, which is a lot to me, but fairly cheap in comparison to driving and paying for parking every day. One the bottom is my new ticket, that I got yesterday. What’s wrong with this picture? Oh, right. The new ticket only has 10 rides. And it’s $5.50 more. What’s the big deal, you ask? The big deal is they think I’m stupid.

I tweeted the MBTA GM (@mbtaGM) to ask why they took the two rides off the ticket. I got this scripted response: “It is part of a package of changes that are meant to reduce the risk of fraud.” Oh, okay. Because if I was a fraudster who wanted to dodge fares, or make money off of selling fake tickets, taking off two rides is REALLY going to throw a wrench in my plan. Curses!

Here is what I think the real reason is that they’re just too wimpy to admit (did I mention they think we’re stupid?). If you calculate what a 12 ride ticket would be under the new rate hike, which of course I did, the total would come to $81. Fine, I expected a huge increase. Let me be pissed off for a while, which I was when I first heard about the increase, then I’ll just bite the bullet and buy it and forget about it. But noooo. To make it look better on them, they made the price of the ticket only go up $5.50 by giving only 10 rides, therefore making the increase less noticeable. Or so they think.

To add insult to injury, service has been awful lately. If you search the hashtag #mbta on Twitter you’ll find a slew of complaints about the Orange and Green lines in particular being messed up. My train was even delayed today. Which, after being at work for 9.5 hours, really gets on your nerves.

Well, that’s enough of my ranting for now. I’d encourage you to Tweet the MBTA incessantly, but that would be childish and not get anything done. But, I wouldn’t mind if you DID do it.

Or you can just follow me on Twitter: @marymallard

Gut Check.

That is a new phrase I’ve learned from my boss (I’d really rather call her my mentor, but for the sake of understanding boss will have to suffice) uses when she’s talking about checking herself if she’s questioning something we’re doing at work. I’ve realized its been about six months since I started this blog, and at the beginning I had a list of goals I wanted to reach this year. I decided it’s time to check in and look at my progress.

1. Find a new job

COMPLETED. I finally found my dream job. Well, a version of it. Can you ever really attain your dream job? I have no idea. Interesting question though. Another post for another time. Anyway, I work in social media at an online start-up. Short version: I play on Twitter and Facebook all day and wear jeans to work. It’s really so much more than that, but I’ll go on and on and get really intense and no one wants that. So just cross this one off the list.

2. Go back to school

About that. I keep saying I’ll go, and I keep not going. I procrastinate. I also rationalize. Like me saying that now I have the job I wanted so I don’t need to go back to school. But in all honesty, one of the things that is really holding me back is the insane amount of debt I’ll be coming out with. I know, I know. If I really wanted to go I could make it happen. Well I do, but I can’t. This stays on the list.

3. Register to vote

I have the paperwork on my kitchen table! I just need to fill it out. And mail it. And also knowing who the eff to vote for. Honestly, at this point I’m voting Romney because he’s attractive. So maybe registering should be put on hold.

4. Stop worrying about “The Clock”

Pretty much achieved. I’m in a totally different place now than I was six months ago, and I could care less about being married right now. I’m in a good spot with my relationship, I have an awesome job, and I’m still kind of broke. No reason to be worrying about getting married, or having kids. Everyone who knows me knows my opinion of kids, anyway.

5. Have a hobby just to have it

This one is kind of difficult. My work week is filled with, well, work. And I’m trying to be more active and not sit around all day, so my weekends are filled with other fun stuff. I was focusing on photography, which I still am, I’m just enjoying my suddenly found weekends, and I’m not feeling as stressed that I NEED a creative outlet. I definitely still want one, and I will work on it, just probably at a more leisurely pace than I originally planned.

6. Stay positive

I’ve been doing a LOT better at this. It’s much easier for me now to have a bad day and say “Oh well, poop happens,” than it was six months ago. That also has a lot to do with the progress I’ve made in other parts of my life. It’s just something I’ll have to continue to be aware of.

Well…two and a half out of six isn’t bad, right? It’s a hell of a lot better than I expected when I first told myself to write this. BIG PLUS: I’m still writing! And people are READING! And you LIKE it! Those are all things I did not expect when I started this blog. So that’s pretty awesome. I hope you stick around for another six months and see where I am then. Maybe I’ll be rich and famous and hanging out with Pete Cashmore….probably not. But we’ll see.

Big thanks for reading! Happy six months!

Follow me on Twitter: @marymallard

Let Me Google That – How Our Vocabulary Has Changed in the Digital Age

Back in the day, before computers, we used books. Remember, those things with words printed on paper? Dictionaries, thesauri, and – wait for it – encyclopedias. Now our lives have been made faster and easier (open to opinions) with the digital age. We can look up baseball stats, find old friends, and order a pizza, all in a matter of seconds, and usually from a handheld device like a smartphone. Thomas Edison has nothing on T-Mobile.

With the introduction of these digital devices into our lives, our vocabulary has slowly changed. I’m talking about brands and services that have now become verbs. It’s really kind of fascinating when you think about it. When things were introduced before, say, the phonebook, we never used to say “Oh, let me Yellow Pages that.” But we have managed to incorporate brands into our everyday language, as normal to use now as “LOL” or “BRB”. Here’s a list of the most common ones.

Google is probably the most common brand that has become a verb. Have a question about your computer? Google it. Need the address of your doctor’s office? Google it. Want to know something about anything at all? You get the idea. Google is the most popular database for fact-finding that’s out there.

Wikipedia is an extremely large collection of user-generated content. It works like an encyclopedia, except people can edit the posts, which can lead to erroneous (and sometimes just outrageous) information. Advice: don’t use it for your history report. But if you want to find some useless information about a celebrity, you can Wiki it and you’ll find pretty reliable information.

Yelp is probably one of the most used apps I have, aside from google. When you want to find out what’s close to you, you Yelp. Food, entertainment, activities, pretty much anything you can think of. It includes information about the place, and user reviews. You can also write reviews to help others in their Yelp quests. One of the more functional brand-verbs out there.

With it’s recent IPO (epic fail), Facebook has been in the news a lot lately. But for those of us that have been using it since it became available in 2004, the action of Facebooking is a normal activity. We use it when gossiping: “Guess who Facebooked me the other day!” Or when talking about sharing what we’re doing: “Oh, I totally need to Facebook this.” Everything in our daily lives goes on Facebook, which has generated the verb out of the name. I actually wrote a post about this a few months ago, completely unrelated to this, but check it out anyway.

Ah, YouTube. Probably one of the most entertaining sites out there. Search for any video, and you are able to find it. Generally within minutes of it even happening. For example, celebrity snafus like Madonna tripping in the SuperBowl halftime show. Or, entertainment like The Bed Intruder song. Or, user generated content like my best friend Sam’s channel. Whatever you’re looking for, you can YouTube it and you’ll most likely find it.

With new technology emerging all the time, I’m sure we’ll have more brand to verb words in the future. I’m interested to see how our language evolves in the future.

The Art of Social Media

Social media. It’s quite the hot topic these days. It’s also something I’m very passionate about. Gen Y’ers are thriving on it. Gen X’ers are hopping on the wagon, too, a la your mom on Facebook. It’s also causing some huge debates. Where has the art of conversation gone? Why can’t people just, god forbid, pick up the phone and call someone? What’s with all this texting and Tweeting and FaceBooking? Well, friends, I’m here to – once again – help you understand it all.

I’m not saying I’m a social media expert by any means. I’m just throwing my opinion out there, as usual, and you can do with it what you will.

I feel as though people misunderstand the point of social media. It’s not meant to replace face-to-face communication; although some people may use it that way. I think it’s meant to augment it. There is so much technology available today that allows us to instantly share pieces of our everyday life, for better or for worse. We can snap a picture of our dog on our phone and immediately share it on Facebook and Twitter, and almost as soon after get comments and shares on our content. It’s a very faced paced way of communicating, and many people don’t (or won’t) grasp the scope of how beneficial it can be.

For example, I got my current part-time job because of this blog and my presence on Twitter. I also didn’t have any skeletons in my Google searches, which is a big help. But my boss was able to see my personality through my social profiles before she even met me. The other side of this, though, is that you create a personal brand, whether you like it or not. Putting content out on a social channel may not seem like a big deal, but you have to remember that anyone can find you. This includes potential employers. If you’re in high school, this obviously isn’t’ as important as if you’re a recent grad or even in your mid-20s, but it’s definitely something to consider. How do you want to present yourself to the world? Sure, posting that picture of yourself drunkenly passed out in a trash can at 3am seemed funny at the time, but unless you’re careful (and have your privacy settings in check), that could go everywhere you don’t want it to be.

Connecting with people is another pro for social media. Think about how easily you can find people you went to kindergarten with using a simple search tool on Facebook. You can share personal milestones with friends and family. Let Aunt Susie know you ran the Boston Marathon yesterday and finished…she doesn’t have to know the time. And she just as easily give you kudos back. Of course, nothing beats face to face visits, or even phone calls, but when you’re super busy, like me, its an extremely helpful tool to have around.

Overall, I feel social media is going to become a bigger part of our lives than anyone knows right now. We are such a mobile society that we can’t help but use it – we just need to make sure we keep it in check and don’t let it completely take over our lives.

Networking is Hard.

And I discovered I’m awful at it.

Oh, right. I’ve been gone for a while. Sorry about that. I got a job in social media (yay!); but it’s part time so I’m also still working as a waitress (not so yay). Needless to say, I’ve been kind of busy. But I’m back.

So anyway, I went to a social media networking event today called Bridging The Gap (#btg12 on Twitter) which was an awesome experience. I learned a lot, and I met some cool people. But not as many as I’d like. But I think today was a good learning experience, and of course, I want you to learn along with me. So, networking advice I took out of today follows.

1. Have business cards
This is probably the most important thing you can bring with you. I got mine yesterday. For $30. They’re not the best quality, but for instant printing at Staples, I’ll take it. Okay, it was 4 hours. But that’s still better than waiting a week for super shiny ones. And they did the trick.

But I’m not in a business, you might say. Get them anyway. You can get networking cards specifically. They have all your information, and its a fast way to give your info to someone else. Pretty key in making connections.

2. Have your elevator pitch ready.

If you haven’t worked in sales or marketing, an elevator pitch is your 30 story you tell to someone about who you are and what you do. Basically what you would tell someone if you only had an elevator ride to talk to them. Personally, I try to avoid all contact with people in elevators, but that’s neither here nor there. If you want to make your rounds and talk to as many people as possible, you want to make sure you know what you wanna say and that it’s short and sweet.

3. Don’t be afraid to start conversations

This is where I struggled today. People have name tags with their names and where they work. Even if you go up to them and say “Oh, you work at such and such? What do you do there?” People loooove to talk about themselves, so if you open with a question, you’ll get the interaction you’re looking for. Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself, either. That’s what you’re there for.

Finally, exchange cards and follow up with the person. Email them, follow them on Twitter, connect with them on linkedin. You never know where you’re next job opportunity might come from.

If anyone has any other networking tips, share them with me in the comments or on Twitter: @marymallard

Guess What? Libraries still exist.

I took a break from posting for a bit, but here I am. Back with a vengeance. I’ve had this idea in my head for a while, just no time to throw it out there. So here it is: The Wikipedia Blackout.

For those of you that don’t know, on January 18th over 7,000 websites went dark in protest of SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act). A quick summary of both:

Copyright infringement is rampant on the Web, and SOPA was introduced to give copyright holders more protective power over their work. However, critics contended that SOPA and PIPA would stifle online freedom of expression and put undue strain on websites to police their content – especially social media and other sharing sites.

via What is Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)? – Definition from Techopedia.com.

But what really got me is this: one of the biggest deals made out of the blackout was that Wikipedia was participating. The reason? Students felt like they couldn’t do their homework, projects, and other stuff.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE wikipedia to look up useless information, solve debates over stupid facts, and figure out who the hell Ted is from How I Met Your Mother. But it KILLS me that students today think that Wikipedia is a legit tool to do schoolwork with. And that not having it seriously hinders their ability to complete their assignments. Well,I’m going to let you in on a huge secret (imagine me whispering here): there are things called libraries. With books. And research databases. And the information is actually reliable. Written by educated people, unlike the Wikipedia articles that can be edited by pretty much anyone.

I mean, this bothers me almost as much as 4 year olds with iPads. Its unnecessary. I remember the days when I was in school and we could only use ONE internet source for research on a project. I know turning the pages of a book is a lot of effort, and getting to the library can be a pain in the butt, but come on. Let’s be real here. If Wikipedia didn’t exist, I’m sure the world would not end. And that’s that.

Tweet me! @marymallard

Electoral College: Does my vote count or what?

When I tell people I’m not registered to vote, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I usually get the same reaction. Disbelief, disdain, other “dis” words, and sometimes a lecture on why I need to vote. As I’ve said before, I have zero interest in politics. Which makes me an uneducated voter. And therefore dangerous. Another thing I’ve always been skeptical of is the electoral college.

The general way I’ve always understood the electoral college is that each state gets a certain amount of votes, which overrides the popular vote and basically makes my vote not count. I’ve done a lot of research the past couple days, and have fleshed out what I think it actually means. Now, I’m just explaining what I think it is, please feel free to comment and correct me. And forgive me if it’s boring. I really just want to know if I’m understanding this correctly. Phone a friend, or in this case, the blogosphere.

Basically, you have your nominated candidates. We’ll say for this sake that there’s just Republican and Democrat. They’re listed on the ballot like you would normally see. However, when you’re casting a vote for the president and vice president, you’re ACTUALLY voting for their elector. What’s an elector? Glad you asked:

  • The elector is nominated by his or her state party committee (perhaps to reward many years of service to the party).
  • The elector “campaigns” for a spot and the decision is made during a vote held at the state’s party convention.

Here’s a map of the number of electoral college votes each state gets:

electoral college map 2004 and 2008

So, you’re essentially voting for a person to in turn vote for the person you want to be president. Sometimes the ballot tells you this is happening, sometimes it doesn’t. When it does, it looks something like this:

https://i0.wp.com/blog.silive.com/firstglance/2008/11/1103-Sample-ballot.jpg

If you notice on the left side of the ballot, it says “Electors for the President and Vice President of the United States”.

Generally, the electors vote for whoever gets the popular vote in the election. But when they don’t, they can lose their spot as an elector.

It’s supposed to keep the election from being swayed by certain sections of the country, as is explained in this example of the election of 1888:

1888: Benjamin Harrison lost the popular vote by 95,713 votes to Grover Cleveland, but won the electoral vote by 65. In this instance, some say the Electoral College worked the way it is designed to work by preventing a candidate from winning an election based on support from one region of the country. The South overwhelmingly supported Cleveland, and he won by more than 425,000 votes in six southern states. However, in the rest of the country he lost by more than 300,000 votes.

So, I guess my vote does count. In a way. Maybe? I’m still pretty confused. Hit me up on twitter and help me out: @marymallard

Thanks, blogosphere!

(I used Wikipedia and http://history.howstuffworks.com/american-history/electoral-college.htm primarily for research, as well as Googling a LOT of political websites!)

Off the beaten path

So, people keep telling me to write about what I enjoy. Well, I really enjoy food. So I decided today I would post about some of my favorite restaurants, that are sort of hidden gems. You may have heard of some of them, but if you haven’t, or haven’t gone, I would definitely say give them a try.

Gaslight

Gaslight560.com

560 Harrison Ave, Boston

617.422.0224

Price Range: $$

Gaslight is located in the South End, a few streets behind Tremont. It’s a little hard to find, so punch it in your GPS. Hint for parking: they have free valet in the lot that’s used for the restaurant behind it. It’s French themed, and a little pricey, but the food is delicious. I would recommend the duck, and if you’re getting french fries (which I definitely think is a must) ask for the truffle fries. They’re not listed on the menu, but they’re tossed in truffle oil. (Explanation of truffle oil for non-foodies is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truffle_oil). Deeelish. For dessert, definitely the creme brulee. They also have a really great wine selection, and pretty extensive martini list. It’s also a good idea to make a reservation, they use Yelp and OpenTable for that if you’re adverse to calling places.

 

 

 

 

 

Green Land Café

Thegreenlandcafe.com

87 Washington Street, Salem

978.744.7766

Price Range: $$

The Green Land Cafe is right near the train station in Salem, so it’s really accessible. They’re thing is they use sustainable ingredients and get everything from local farms around the area. The menu changes seasonally, depending on what they’re getting in. They also have cold and hot tapas, so if you go for a hot date and don’t want to get an entire meal, you can be cute and share some things. The boyfriend and I got fried artichokes, which was an entire artichoke heart fried and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Again, I got the duck special (see a pattern?) and he got a frenched pork chop, both of which were very good. They also offer organic and sustainable brands of wine, and organic beers, and nightly drink specials.

 

The Gulu-Gulu Café

247 Essex Street, Salem

978.740.8882

Gulu-gulu.com

Price Range:  $ – $$

Another Salem gem. This little place is located right down the street from The Green Land Cafe. It has an extremely relaxed atmosphere, with mismatched tables and chairs, couches, and board games. You can be served on the couches too, which is a lot of fun. They have a HUGE craft beer list, and a full bar. The menu is funky, with crepes and flavored cappuccinos next to sandwiches and salads. It’s on the cheaper side, too. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and have open mic nights and either live music or a DJ every weekend. They don’t give you grief if you want to go there and hang out on your laptop to do some work, either.

 

 

 

 

Sibling Rivalry

525 Tremont Street, Boston

617.338.5338

Siblingrivalryboston.com

Price Range: $$$

This intriguing place is right in the heart of the South End in Boston. Their claim to fame is the two chefs, Chef David and Chef Bob, who are brothers, which the name implies. The menu is double-sided, with the brothers taking the same set of ingredients and crafting their own interpretations of meals made out of them. The boyfriend took me here on my birthday, and it was amazing. I had the crispy pressed duck (shocking), and it was delish. The creme brulee, clearly another favorite of mine, was outstanding as well. This is definitely a splurge type of dinner, so I would save it for special occasions.

Well, there you have it. My four favorite restaurants of all time. Give them a try, and let me know what you think.

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