Hatching Free Range Ideas

Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page

Cynthia’s Spoon

In Celebration, Story on January 27, 2012 at 6:06 pm

I wasn’t going to post this until a package arrived at Kenny and Beth’s. I mailed the package yesterday. Today, I noticed that I LEFT A 4 OUT OF THE MAILING ADDRESS after I had glibly, assuredly refused delivery confirmation and insurance, trusting the Post Office to get it to the address as they always seem to do in the U.S. I failed to recognize the culpability of the sender. Sigh.

Here’s the story of Cynthia’s spoon. Beth, if you have to read it from here and not from the package, at least know that it was for you all along.

Once upon a time, a little girl named Cynthia was born.

Cynthia arrived on a hot August day in Texas, a day so hot that no birds sang and no water ran. In fact, no one did anything.

Two spirits watched as Cynthia was born, a bird spirit named Cheepy and a Water spirit named Burble. Without birds to watch and water to manage, neither one had much to do to keep them amused.

However, in among the rocks of the dry stream where Burble kept her treasures, was a small silver spoon, a tiny bit Cheep and a little bit Burbled.

Cheepy charmed the spoon so that every time it would touch the lips of a little girl, the birds would sing in Texas and the girl with the spoon would know what was happening.

Well, at least she would know who had a new nest and where the owl was, the kind of things that matter to birds.

Burble charmed the spoon so that every time it was held by a little girl’s hand, clear cool water would fill the Texas creeks and wash over the treasures hidden among the rocks.

Cheepy and Burble talked all August about this magical spoon, wondering if it worked. They needed a little girl to try it out on.

August passed, thankfully and in September (because no one does anything in Texas in August), Cheepy and Burble left the spoon on Cynthia’s front doorstep for Cynthia’s mother to find it.

Cynthia grew up to be an amazing woman, with news that no one else ever had. She was a favorite guest at cocktail and dinner parties. And, the full creeks brought her many treasures. Cynthia held swimming parties everywhere she went. But of all her treasures, her little silver spoon was her very favorite.

I found this spoon of Cynthia’s among the rocks of a dry creek bed and a little bird told me the story. Last night as I held the spoon it rained and rained and the rain filled our creek to over flowing.

I wonder what might happen if Olive tested it. Or Cora. Or maybe even you? Sorry, Kenny. It only works in a little girl’s hand and you don’t qualify.


Bottling Small Batch Bourbon

In Uncategorized on January 24, 2012 at 2:54 pm

On Sunday, Eric and I went to Ranger Creek Brewstillery to help them label this month’s barrel of small batch bourbon, called Ranger .36.  Each month they bottle a barrel which is approximately 70 cases of small bottles and invite 12 people to come help lable it. The lables have the batch number,  bottle number, aging season and time hand written on them.

I didn’t number labels. They are very careful not to duplicate a bottle number. I could picture the person who would check the liquor store labels, looking carefully for the right bottle number. Not. But they do go into the cases consecutively, so the stocker would know.

I picked the easiest label to align, the seal label that goes over the cork and extends do the sides of the neck.

Bourbon is any liquor that is at least 51% corn and aged in new charred oak barrels. After the barrels are used once for bourbon, they go on to have other useful lives, aging scotch (or a version of Scotch that doesn’t come from Scotland and so cannot be called Scotch).

Ranger Creek Bourbon is a really well-crafted bourbon, sweet with honey overtones (or that’s what it was like to me). It reminded me of Wild Turkey a bit. It’s worth trying a bottle. And if you want to put your hands on the process, you can sign up at Ranger Creek’s Website. But they don’t pre-announce. you have to be watching the website at the right time to find your chance.

The founders are smart, careful, hardworking, hospitable and unflappable. They kept their day jobs as they build up their market. They have two employees, a brewer and somebody else, while they come in on the weekends and take care of the stuff that can wait. Like this bottling party. They started in 2010 and expect to have their big bourbon out of the aging casks in 2 years. Ranger Creek is a class operation with a few twists, like the grain smoker on the back lot made from a storage container. MMMM. Smells like barbecue.

They’ll feed you pizza and whatever of their beers you care to drink. And you get to take home a bottle from that batch. You can also find their bourbon at Specks, Gabriels and other liquor stores in San Antonio and Austin.

Oh, I forgot to mention that their beers are also well-crafted. It’s a good time for all. Plus, you’l meet some interesting people.

Piano Lesson

In How we learn and think, I NEED THAT! on January 17, 2012 at 6:58 pm

I bought a used grand piano on Craig’s list. Phew! What a lot of lessons. The one that I thought I was learning is that dedication to learning an instrument requires a substantial investment, in time and in the instrument itself. But that’s not what I learned. . . yet. I expect the obvious lesson to play out over the course of many years but the less obvious ones are front and center.

1. Trust in Allah but tie up your camel — I bought the piano from a man named Carlos. At least I think that’s his name. His address is 205 Northfield Dr. in Universal City. Carlos seemed to be a lovely man, very generous, very helpful and very straightforward. I took him at his word. Carlos lied  to me. . . about the fact that he had the piano pedals attached in the past and that reattaching them would be routine. The pedals as well as other parts on this piano don’t belong on this piano. And in fact, they don’t work on this piano.

Carlos lied to the piano movers when he omitted telling them that they would have to haul this grand piano up a full flight of stairs. I assume that he lied to me about pretty much everything else, except the fact that he was a failed mortgage banker. He isn’t returning my calls. Who’s surprised?

2. Frankenstein deserved love too. I could hate this piano because it isn’t what I wanted and it’s cobbled together out of loose parts that were lying around in some piano technician’s workshop. That technician took those spare parts and made a monster. I got the monster, a changeling.

My piano technician said, “Dump this piano and get a good one but do it truthfully. Don’t do what Carlos did you you.” Right. I wouldn’t but I also wouldn’t buy a piano with a story like this one. Would you?

He said, “The baby you have adopted is ugly and will never amount to anything in this world.” I am choosing to love this piano, because it’s the one that I have.  (Thereby subverting desire — see below). I may never amount to anything in this world of piano playing either. So there. At least we’ll have each other.

3. There really are very few bargains left in the world. We all know so much about the value of things. It’s like the stock market. Most adjustments in value are made in micro-seconds. You get what you pay for, unless you go to Busse’s Flea Market. Then you get something else entirely. I’m not sure what.

4. Just because someone else has something so lovely that you desire it, doesn’t mean that you can or should have one too. Oooooh, this is BIG! I have a friend who is a beautiful, professional musician with a great singing voice who plays many instruments successfully. Yes, all those things, dammit! On top of all that, she has a piano so sweet that it will make you cry. It is a VERY expensive piano and one that I can’t keep my hands off of when I am in her house. The way the action works invites you to touch it. It’s a Claude Debussy piano. I went in search of that piano experience and settled on big sound. But then, all grand pianos have bigger sounds than spinets. And they direct the sound into the room through that open top. The piano I got is more of a Jerry Lee Lewis piano.

5. Precious things require special care. This piano isn’t a precious thing. See above. That means that anyone can play it. Kids can play it; people who don’t know what they’re doing can play it (we will stop short of setting drinks on it). And once the legs are stablized, I can sit on it, or lay across it, in a red dress. Not with the lovely piano above, but then my friend is tiny so maybe it’s not the same for her. My piano is not a worry; it’s a toy.

So that’s my set of piano lessons. You’d think if I can learn these, I can learn to play even this piano better than I play today. I expect that’s true. But I need a working LOUD pedal. Surprised?

Unique Selling Proposition

In marketing, Unique Selling Proposition on January 7, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Each learner was asked as a part of the online course on graphic facilitation, to create a Unique Selling Proposition statement. This is a very condensed elevator speech which describes to your target customer why you are the best answer to their needs. So far, I’ve spent about 8 hours on it and I’ve only gotten through Part 2. This looks like about 20-40 hours of work to me at this point but it’s important work.

I thought I’d share my process with you. In a world where there seems to be more and more competition, it feels really important to me to be able to quickly and clearly describe my value add.

So here’s what I’m working through.

1. First, I created a customer empathy map, which caused two customer segments to emerge.

The map showed me that my two customer segments are radically different. So what is it they share?

2. Next I have to figure out my customer’s core problem –that which scares the pants off of them or keeps them up at night.

3. Now I have to decide how my customer defines value. In other words, what do they consider when they make a buying decision. Here’s a partial list of value propositions. Thanks to Business Model Generation for this thinking. If you haven’t at least thumbed through a copy of this BRILLIANT business book, you’re missing a whole lot.

Value Proposition

Questions to ask of your business

Price Are you the low cost providers?
Newness Do you have something never before available, like cell phones or ethical investment vehicles
Tailor made Do you offer something that is specific to the customer’s needs? Do they help create it?
Performance Does your product or service do more than the others?
Quality Will your offer stand the test of time?
Convenience/Usability Are you and everything about you easy to use?
Image/Status Do you have cache in the marketplace?  Do you work with or have access to industry leaders?
Service Do you bend over backward to provide the best service? That includes service after the “paid” relationship is over
Expertise Are you the go-to person for your industry? How deep is your bench strength?
Reliability Customers often value honesty and integrity above many other factors. They will pay more or travel a greater distance to deal with a trustworthy business owner who offers reliable products and services.
Appearance Customers are attracted to businesses or products that are clean, organized, and tastefully arranged.
Turnkey Do you take care of the entire problem?
Reduce cost Do you help customers significantly reduce costs?
Reduce risk Do you offer a guarantee that reduces the customer’s risk upon purchase?
Accessibility Do you make something available to a class of customer that wasn’t previously within their grasp? Think time share.

4. Now I need to figure out what my own strengths are. That’s the first column. My strengths are features of my work and my expertise. If you’re going to do this, push yourself to come up with a longer list than you might ordinarily. For example, give yourself 10 minutes and don’t stop writing until the time is up. List everything, like even that you have strong quads. Just keep writing. I notice as I look at this list that I didn’t put down that I’m funny or fun. I’ll add that later, maybe along with visual literacy. OK, I’m not brilliantly visually literate but I get it, pretty far beyond most normal business people.



Creative ideas around any barrier
Learn quickly; experienced at learning quickly
Passion for learning
Write well (25+ years)
Results driven (let’s make sure it works) – Do I guarantee outcomes?
Lead experts through decision making to document process
Sketch process for shared understanding
Translate that into learning design
Design based on business outcomes, not learning outcomes
Create fun, passion and engagement
Engage all knowledge in the room
Encourage challenge; test ideas
Listen and document; use document to test
Write stores/cases for learning
Comfortable with uncertainty

5. So far, these exercises have been separate, me from my customer. Where I start to put them together is in Benefit column. So why does my customer care about each strength? This is as far as I have gotten on the process. I have to do this part and the parts remaining, but it would be helpful for me to work on the benefits with someone who wasn’t so close to my own insides. I’ll find a friend.

Brilliant Beverly Ingle brought up yesterday that after you do this, it’s important to test your customer assumptions by talking with a few customers. It might be dangerous to go forward to completion, printing up your business cards and completing your branding plan without validation. Thanks, Bev! Great Point!

6. Here’s a big one for me. What am I willing to put on the line because I believe in my abilities? What am I willing to guarantee?

I’ve got three outcomes that apply to my work. The curriculum I develop helps people think more broadly, behave in a way that is consistent with business drivers and/or goals and make better decisions.

A guarantee feels important to me, to put my money where my mouth is, to truly differentiate me from my competition. Do I feel comfortable saying that as a customer you get these things or your money back? I’d like to be able to. What controls do I need to put in place to make this a shared measure? And, yes, there will always be assholes in the world who will push the envelope to screw you, but I would prefer not to base my business on that belief. I can say that because what I have at stake are the hours that I put into the work, not a city block with a high rise on it.

7. Finally, now that all this thinking is done, I come to creating my USP. I brainstorm/braindump/stream of consciousness write my USP paragraph.

8. Then I condense, condense, delete, rewrite, condense until it’s more of a marketing Haiku than a speech.

9. Finally, I test it out on some favorite customers. I ask them their opinion. And I revise, revise, revise.

When I get through the process for myself, I’ll update this post with my own USP. I might be so proud of it that I update ALL my posts with my USP. Who knows?

So what’s yours?

Casting About

In How we learn and think, Wandering on January 4, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Welcome to my new readers, young and brilliant! And a Happy 2012 to all of you but why don’t we have flying cars?

I’ve noticed a personal behavior that I thought I’d share. My noticing is a product of memory and aging, which currently is amusing. I hope it remains so. My application is much broader.

Yesterday, my husband lost his work cell phone. He searched in a mad Monday morning scramble, insisting that I must have moved it from the spinet, now in the entryway.

Does this look too crowded to you?

Backstory — part of the process of clearing out my parents’ house to prepare it for the next owners is gathering treasures and incorporating them into my already treasure-laden house. The melding causes some casting about (little letters), as we remove and restack that which we will keep.

“Where do the mixing bowls live now?”

“Where do we now put the little plates?”

“What happened to that BIG glass pitcher; Where is it now?”

Anyway, back to the story. It was not the way to start a Monday, especially after a long weekend, which involved moving a small grand piano up a flight of stairs as well as moving all the other furniture about to make room for the new piano. Did you wonder why the spinet was in the entryway or did you imagine piano music from the moment you enter the house?

We looked in all the normal places, the tops of flat surfaces, the bags of Goodwill items, pockets of coats, under pillows. He found it in the junk/tool drawer in the kitchen, next to the tape measure that we had used liberally over the weekend. Funny. Oh. I didn’t take it off the top of the spinet and put it there, but I’m tempted to the next time. Except I would have to leave myself an obvious note somewhere to remind me of my joke. And he wouldn’t think it’s funny.

Which leads me back to the subject . . .

I am developing two practices to make things easier to find. I feel as if I develop them now, they will serve me throughout the rest of my life. The first is to always put stuff in the same place, like parking your car in the same section of the parking lot at the grocery store — developing memory as habit. You can imagine how our housebasket turnover has messed with that practice.

The other is casting about — scanning the room, turning my gaze to look upon flat surfaces for stuff that I might have set down when something else distracted me that I still  need to remember something about. It’s amazing what else I find when I do that. Oh Yeah! That. I wanted to do something about that yesterday! Oh yeah, and that. I’ll take care of that right now. Great. Now, what was I doing. Cast about. Oh yeah!

I think there’s a broader practice of Casting About (big C, big A) that’s fuel to creative practice as well. Casting about = unfocused wandering/wondering  to see/absorb what is there as potential fuel, roaming without purpose; with wonder. I tell myself that’s why my house is full of visual stimulation.

I can Cast About, while casting about. But it also means that there’s loads of visual distraction. Hmm.

Visual essays

In ART!, Big Fun!, design, drawings, Images, social media, Visual Thinking on January 3, 2012 at 5:28 pm

I’m not going to spoil the effect by posting a image here.

Click the link to see some lovely visual essays. This is a site to get lost in. I loved her Dinner with a Stranger story.

Do you think this is done with Prezi?

I also had to add this one which I found about about through  Anuschka’s new blog. Fantasy foodscapes. Wow.