Archive for the ‘Fun Stuff’ Category

David Bowie was correct

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

Blue Skies, smiling at meTime to make a ch-ch-ch-change.

Soon, I’ll announce a rather big change in my employment situation. For now, just know that it’s an enormous opportunity, it keeps me here in NE Ohio, and it will enable me to do the client stuff I want, teach others, and work with some terrific people. Every day I get more and more excited, even as I reflect on my eighth anniversary with Communication AMMO.

CommAMMO is the second longest job tenure in my career, and what an incredible ride it has been. Great clients, great partners — it’s been amazing, and I wouldn’t make this change unless the opportunity was as wonderful as it is.

More to come!



I miss blogging

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

OK, I’m kind of lying. I don’t miss the blogging I did four years ago. You know, the blogging I did because I didn’t have a job or clients and needed to do something productive.

I talk to people “in transition” frequently. I try to say “yes” as much as possible, because I remember what it’s like. Communication AMMO still has just one employee, and it only now seems like it’s going to allow me to earn a living for a while. But it’s a darn site better than the waiting many of our colleagues have gone through for the past few years.

Blogging is a little bit of an ego trip, so obviously, I’m not doing it right. The frequency of posting is way down, and so to is the number of people reading my fevered musings. I’m not feeling very fascinating these days. I’m putting most of my energy into work for clients, work for classes taught and work for volunteer opportunities.

I DO feel like I still have something to say. So, don’t be too surprised if I’m a little more visible than in recent months in this space.

In the meantime, if you are in position to hire people, don’t turn your back on folks who’ve been out of the game for a while. If you can use an extra hand, reach out to a colleague working on launching their own gig. Be generous as you can be, even if only with your time, your support, and your coffee.


Beware the plague

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

I’m generally blessed with good health.  Being diligent about exercise, avoiding smoking, drinking red wine instead of other stuff, staying away from fried foods and trying to keep some sort of balance in my life has largely worked. The flus and colds usually pass me by. Until last week.

One unhappy consequence of good health is that I’m an overachiever when I do get sick. Such is the case at the moment. I’m in day seven of the plague, or maybe it’s Venusian Mucosia, or some other knock-Sean-on-his-butt variety no one’s ever heard of.

I’m talking forgetting about calls, five days in the house, sleeping, coughing, complaining. I’m a mess. I have no concentration, and had to break grading the final projects into three days, then go back over the previous two to make sure I made sense.  Conversations I don’t remember from Monday. Even the cats stay away.

My lesson from this is the absolute requirement for rest — I’ve usually doc’d up and powered on, grabbing the Day Quill and treating the sickness as more of a minor inconvenience. But this time, there was no choice – after an hour or two of being upright, I needed to lie down.  I’m better today, and as the sun is shining, I’d love to get out of the forest preserve for a little while, but my sensible side reasserts — stay in, stay down, and don’t be afraid to nap in a couple of hours.

Come to think of it, that’s a pretty good prescription anytime anyone gets sick!



Scorched earth, distortion and spin: political communication in 2012

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

It’s not even September yet. The conventions aren’t through, and already the Obama/Biden and Romney/Ryan partisans are locked and loaded with focus-grouped messages designed to burn each other alive. Feh.

I know that politics brings out the worst in people, and it’s been that way for a really long time.  Historian Paul Boller avers that after George Washington, we invented political parties, and the nastiness continues unabated as a result.  I remember 1968 – the bloody quest for the Democratic nomination where the fix was in for Hubert Humphrey. The rise from political ashes of Richard Nixon, Clean Gene McCarthy. In ’72, George McGovern is waxed by Richard Nixon, making the Plumbers and Watergate one of the stupider crimes of the century.  Ford pardons Nixon and Carter puts on a sweater as we wait in line for gas. Up until that point, they all referred to each other as, “my esteemed opponent” — perhaps because they made the rash assumption that whatever their differences in belief or approach, we all had honorable goals in mind.

That doesn’t seem to be the case now — Willie Horton, Slick Willie, right-wing nut job, pinko liberal. Now we have and the Tea Party demanding pledges of allegiance to their views — when you’re farther right than Attila the Hun, everyone looks like a left-wing dipstick. When you’re left of Jane Fonda, everyone looks like a right-wing extremist. We misinterpret political terms — socialist, communist, fascist, conservative, Nazi — and apply them inappropriately. Democrats don’t want the end of private property, Republicans don’t want hoards of poor people to starve and die. Neither party has suggested be have a dictator.

This makes me sad as an American, but also makes me mad as a communicator. Whither simple fairness?  Obama’s a communist who wants to turn us into Greece. Romney’s rich, so he has to be a criminal. Paul Ryan (who is a pretty serious and smart guy on economics and government, regardless of his predictable social policy perspectives) wants to push granny over a cliff and put on Ebeneezer Scrooge’s waistcoat as he watches Tiny Tim starve.

This is a serious election. It’s a battle over two world views — one that says government should play the dominant role in life in pursuit of fairness, and the other that says that government should tolerate some unfairness in favor of liberty and markets and more power to the individual. Regardless of where you or I stand on that question, it’s a discussion worth having.

If only we can stop shouting each other down long enough to listen and decide.


Connect with me this fall

Monday, July 16th, 2012

There will be three great opportunities this fall to sharpen your professional saw, and to schmooze with me!  Sept. 10-11, I’m at “Connect 12” the PRSA Employee Communication Section conference at NYU in The City. Oct. 14-16, I’m the bronze sponsor for the IABC Heritage Region Conference in Pittsburgh at the Westin. Nov. 12-13, I’m back to New York for the 2012 IABC and PRIME Research Global Strategic Communication and Measurement Conference (where I’ll be speaking as well as schmoozing!)

Each of these conferences will be terrific. The PRSA section conference will be my first; I went to International in Washington, D.C., a couple of years ago, and managed a section dinner which was great fun. I’m looking forward to lower Manhattan and a chance to meet new folks and connect with friends.  The Heritage conference is outstanding – I spoke last year in Detroit, introduced a keynoter two years ago in Philly, and have served on both the sponsorship and speaker committees in the past. It’s always great to connect with IABC peeps!

Two years ago, I spoke at the IABC Communication and Measurement Conference in Seattle, and I’m delighted my friend and Institute for PR Measurement Commission colleague Mark Weiner (CEO of PRIME Research) invited me to participate this year.  Expect a great program at The Yale Club.

Hope to catch you at one – or all of these!


Does ‘spam’ work?

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

I know I’m a bit addled lately with multiple priorities and projects, but I just wondered why I got 18 junk comments on me blog, here…? Do BS things like that actually work? Are there people who buy based on unsolicited emails, junk Tweets, nonsense comments on a blog?

For that matter, can anyone explain why the same batch of de-bunked email rumors keep staying alive?  For heaven’s sake, no one is releasing cell phone numbers to telemarketers, there’s no email that can wipe your hard drive (unless there’s a bad attachment and you…open it.) Let’s not even discuss the, ahem, male enhancement claims…

Of course, there are people who think Keith Olbermann, or Sean Hannity, or Rachel Maddow or Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or whomever are the paragons of objective journalism, but that’s a topic for another day.

Maybe they’re the ones clicking through to buy the male enhancement do not call database wipe your hard drive virus email text.


My name’s Sean and I’m a Media Junkie.

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

I wrote a piece for my Theory of Mass Comm class that I thought might be interesting for you, dear reader. Especially because my Lost October gobsmacked my blogging and Tweeting, I feel guilty about this — is MINE, and I’ve (gratefully) passed the torch this 35 days.  And, I feel guilty about feeling relieved. Did I mention guilt? Please read, comment, and whine.

From the time I was 10, I’ve been a media junkie. The summer of 1968…watching the gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Democratic National Convention from Chicago. Dan Rather punched by goons, Chicago PD pummeling “Yippies” and Gene McCarthy’s delegates locked out of the convention by Mayor Daley’s machine. The last of the smoky back room method of choosing a nominee.

Last week, I read my usual newspapers (in print), the blogs I frequent, Twitter, watched the NBC Nightly News for the first time in years; I also caught CNBC, The Weather Channel and watched most of two baseball games.

I read the Cleveland Plain Dealer for local and state news (especially political news, given the season), and for the quick overview of the rest of the world. The Wall Street Journal gets me caught up on international news, national politics, and news about companies and the economy in detail. A hotel visit left me with the USA Today. That paper’s a bit like white bread – it fills the belly but doesn’t amount to much nutrition.

The Nightly news happened to be on prior to a baseball game, and in moments I determined I didn’t care what Brian Williams thought was important that day — I chatted with other denizens of the restaurant about unrelated things and generally ignored what I saw as the valueless drivel the airbrushed talking heads were discussing.

The blogs gave me a few interesting perspectives on marketing and communications — from people I don’t know but whom I’ve found cogent of thought in the past (I found them on recommendation from people I know and trust).

Twitter is audience participation — forwarding and responding to what others said, making me feel connected to a wider team, something, as a sole proprietor, I miss. It’s almost conversation (the delay makes it a bit different, but with enough similarity to make it seem valuable to me.)

Why do I continue consuming these media? I remain a news junkie.

A couple of weeks ago, I was too busy to do my usual routine. There I was in two of the best newspaper markets in the U.S. (Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.), and I didn’t once read either newspaper. Sigh.

I don’t feel right not knowing. I don’t feel good being ignorant. I’ve got to have that fix.


One More Wine Story – (Cue Angels Singing)

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Our Canadian revels soon would be ended, wine-wise. Or, at least, our tastings.  We’d so enjoyed Caroline Cellars, and, the previous weekend, Prince Edward County, that we were eager to keep sampling. But the palates were growing fatigued and the afternoon threatening to wane before our early dinner reservation.  But, we sought out Stratus Vineyards.

The sun was too bright to catch an exterior view, but you get the idea.

Stratus' interior is tres moderne, cool, quiet and excellent.

Stratus is all glass and steel and modern, with a stunning view of the vineyards, especially under blue skies (though it was growing hot, now, at least for Ontario).  The wines could have been served in a motor home for all we cared.  These were wines of amazing complexity, depth and character. The sommelier, sporting an accent from one of Australia, New Zealand or South Africa, warmed to us once we began discussing the wine. This is something that stops a lot of people from getting into wine — you really need a vocabulary to participate fully in the experience. This was worth it.

2006 Stratus White is made from six finished wines (Chardonnay, Sauv Blanc, Semillion, Gewürz, Riesling and Viognier), not different grapes. The wine’s smooth structure and complexity is nearly overwhelming. A joyful, tremendously delicious wine — I prefer red wine, and I loved this. Agave sweetness amid tropical fruits, citrus acidity, spice…what didn’t this wine offer?  A triumph, epic, beautiful.  Did I mention we liked it?

What could possibly complete with that?  Well, as it turns out, one CAN make huge, tannic, deep and lush reds in Niagara.

2007 Cabernet Franc — Cab Franc is a staple in Niagara; it’s usually the biggest, reddest red that you can get. I’d had a Cab Franc some years ago when on business in St. Catherine’s, Ontario, and found it much like a good Merlot, if a little sweeter. This one is amazing. 2007, we learned, was a very hot year. Temperature-wise, that is, though the heat brought out the best in the vintage and made the ’07s stars around the province. Plum, lavender, oak, and coffee greet you today; if you have the patience, they say, this will be incredible in two years.

2006 Stratus Red – We’re blending again: Syrah, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Cabernet and Gamay. Greenish, slightly unfinished, bracing and aggressive, sour fruits, sharp, spicy. Wow. Wow. Patience, grasshopper. Let this one sleep (but it’s so good!) I know, but put it down.

2006 Petit Verdot is a wine I know nothing about. I’ve heard of it, but never had it until this day. It’s so young and new, it also needs time to come into its own. But even now, it’s rich, lush, plummy, jammy and hu-u-u-uge. The tannins are so strong they could bench press a case on their own. This is a wine that demands respect and will get it…in about five years.

We had to stop.  We needed to become presentable for dinner and allow our tongues to savor the Stratus effect. Honestly, we couldn’t imagine going to another winery, though my goal for the day was four. We got to two and found some fearless, stunning wine. Yeow. We’ll be back.

We just drove, silently, through the Greenbelt District, grapes growing everywhere, sun bright, breeze off the lake, willing the tastes of Stratus to linger just a few more precious seconds.

Sigh. What a trip.


More Wine from Ontario, and How

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

After a sensational week in Toronto, interrupted by a daylong visit to Prince Edward County for wine tasting, the Esteemed Spouse and I wended our way south and east from the T-Dot to the Niagara Peninsula. The mission: have our first tasting experience of one of Canada’s great viticulture areas, and meet up with some friends from Cleveland for dinner and a night of theater at the Shaw Festival.

I don’t mind saying that the Seven Days of Toronto were, ahem, not light on food and drink, and the drink was mostly wine. By the time we arrived at our pedestrian hotel hard by the highway (a price/convenience decision, but it was a nice, quiet hotel with a good breakfast), both of us weren’t all that interested in wine tasting. We were far more interested in walking around the charming, if kitchy, downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake. NOTL, as all the guidebooks abbreviate it, has quite a few buildings in its historic district that date from just after the War of 1812.

Lake Ontario from NOTL

Lake Ontario is beautiful, and you can just make out Toronto's towers on the horizon.

Add a lakeside park with a view of Toronto in the distance, and 30 minutes passes agreeably (if one stays out of the shops.)

It was warm, the sun shone (as it had with awesome frequency throughout our trip, save a day here and there), a light breeze stirred the trees, and we were hungry. The gad-about the historic district took on a more urgent air, as we searched for a reasonably priced food source that would offer more than a pub, but less than a 4-diamond dining experience (which we would enjoy the next night.)

We settled in at Epicurean Bistro, mainly on the basis of a gorgeous patio off the street and under tree shade (and a reasonable menu). My roasted pickerel and Esteemed Spouse’s poached Ontario chicken breast were lovely, light and delicious.  The accompanying wine from local Cattail Creek, a Sauvignon Blanc, suited both meals, was more than reasonably priced, and offered a nice respite from a day of travel. Entirely satisfactory.

Built in 1832

Therold, Ontario's Beaverdam Methodist Church is the oldest still standing in Ontario, 1832.

The next day, we slept in and meandered around by car, searching for the elusive tourist areas of Therold, Ontario, based on a brochure.  We found a cool old church and kirkyard filled with history next to a couple of lovely little lakes. We like driving around and seeing new places.

In the afternoon, despite feeling still a bit “wined-out” , we went to Caroline Cellars Winery for a taste. We tasted eight wines:

2006 Momentum White is a blend of Vidal, Pinot Gris and Sauv Blanc that starts sweet (not our usual preference) but dries out brilliantly. Apples and citrus tugged my palate into a pleasing balance, and the finish was tart and delicious. A terrific wine at a preposterously excellent price. Would we could have bought a couple of cases!

The 2008 Gewürztraminer featured the customary spicy nose, and tasted of orange blossom and rosewater. A somewhat different Gewürz from those we drank many years ago at the very onset of our wine interest, I wished for a bit of cheese to see how it would change in the mouth.

Caroline Cellars prides itself on making drier whites — the entire Niagara region, as with other cold climate wineries (especially around the Great Lakes) is renowned for ice wines, the dessert course standby. the 2008 Enchantment blends Riesling and Gewürztraminer but it’s not sweet – I was surprised, and pleasantly so. A faint rye toast aroma greeted me, with a bit of spice; following on lychee fruit, jasmine and a solid acidity. Thai food anyone?

The Rosé was pretty in the glass, with a pronounced orange/sherry color , but quite sweet on the palate.

Reds from cooler climes are pretty tough to get right, but Caroline’s 2006 Chambourcin, a one-off production they say won’t be repeated, is almost lush, dry, velvety, with a long finish of black and green pepper. Only the lack of big tannins belies the source!

The 2006 Merlot (really about as big a red as one can reasonably expect in Niagara) starts with ripe cherry and quickly sweetens at the finish. Its body is more like a classic Burgundy. The 2004 Merlot, however, offered a supple mouthfeel, earth on the nose, strong tannic character and dark fruit. We bought two 1.5l bottles immediately.  Bargain!

2008 Marechal Foch finished out our tasting. Sour cherry, green pepper and high acidity suggest letting this bold fellow rest a-cellar a while.

The tasting experience is modern with rustic edges — a long tasting bar ensures quick service, and the sommelier is knowledgeable. Salud!

Dialing up an 8-spot at Caroline’s with a big dinner at Hillenbrand Winery coming up in the early evening (prior to curtain time) tempted us to cease our tasting labors, but we couldn’t say no to just one more stop: Stratus Vineyards.


Ontario Wines Knock Us Out (Part One)

Monday, June 14th, 2010

With apologies to the regular PR reader, I must take a moment and talk about a terrific side benefit of our trip north of the border for visiting and the IABC Conference. Wine.

The Esteemed Spouse and I are wine fans. We’re not wealthy enough to be Oenophiles, nor indiscriminate enough to be winos.

We caught the bug in France a few years ago when traveling with family — a break-neck 24 hours in Beaune ruined our palates, sentencing us to forever eschew the bargain aisles. My wallet is still screaming.

Toronto Skyline (by Sean)

From Lake Ontario aboard a ferry

The same family member who took us to Burgundy accompanied us to Toronto,

where we took a break from that fabulous city to drive two hours east, to Prince Edward County (PEC), the newest Vintner’s Quality Alliance (VQA) area in Canada (or at least Ontario).  We also struck out on our own to Niagara-on-the-Lake (and its more mature wine area) to finish the trip.

Prince Edward County sticks out into Lake Ontario from its northern shore, stabilizing and moderating (to some degree) the climate, though the harshness of Ontario winter is still evident from the height of road signs. This is snow country, and winter temps are, well, colder than the usual big wine-producing areas of the world. Canada’s Okanagan Valley, in the country’s west, is producing big beefy reds alongside whites of growing international renown. The weather there runs the gamut from the chill of narrow mountain valleys to the broiling heat of summer desert.  A tiny bit of land sticking into a Great Lake is a bit different.

Sandbanks Restaurant, Wellington

Off the deck at a local lunch place

PEC began (as have so many emerging wine regions) with whites suitable to cooler climates — sweeter, lighter and less complex than reds. The four PEC wineries we visited offered not only these 10-year standbys, but some marvelous full-bodied, dry whites, but also reds worth discussing (and drinking!)

Here’s a rundown:

By Chadsey’s Cairns is charming. A vintage barn welcomes music and performance, whilst a rustic outbuilding serves as tasting room. Chadsey’s was our first stop, and we did have to pace ourselves. Their Riesling (often not my favorite for being too sweet) was complex, fruity and quite delightful, not over-sweet at all. It featured a nose of tropical fruit and florals accented with orange blossom, and finishing with a citrus snap that resolved into green apple and a hint of almond.  The Chardonnay opened with buttery oak (but not like chewing on a stick) and fresh, bright fruit, and soft hints of nuts. Quite lovely and even delicious out of the bottle later that weekend. The two reds were less impressive (though certainly drinkable), a bit astringent and uncomplicated; it was a hot day (well, for Ontario) and a bit more chill on the reds might have helped.

Sandbanks features a modern look and feel — we’d tried their Vidal at a local restaurant to start our day — with a great variety of wines available. We tried a Vidal/Riesling blend (Dunes), Rose, and two reds.  The Foch Reserve was a huge, chewy, big wine redolent of leather and dark fruits. In all of PEC, the Foch was the monster red – lush, exceptional mouthfeel, quite reminiscent of Cabernets we’d tried in the Yakima Valley of Washington State. The Foch was the first big shock of the day – the Baco Noir was the second. The Baco backed off the giant party in a glass that was the Foch (which needs some time to mellow out, truly), and settled into a Merlot-like trance, cassis, green pepper, earthy plum, and just enough tannic nibble to pine for a whacking great steak to pair it with. Yeehaw!

Norman Hardie has insulated a Quonset Hut for a tasting room, but one certainly takes the curly-haired, gracious winemaker seriously as soon as the wine hits the glass. Hardie’s made a Chardy (the Sans Barrique) of wonderful complexity, all fruit, no oak (just how I like it) with structure and levels of flavor I’ve seldom had in any white wine. Second tastes revealed florals and soft passionfruit, a hint of mango and a brilliant finish of apple and nuts. Sigh.  But the day’s third shock was yet to come.

I’m not a great lover of Pinot Noir. I find it thin, bitter and dull (cue family-related joke). I’ve tasted Oregon (great) and California (meh), and frequently am disappointed in restaurants, where the price-joy ratio is disturbingly unbalanced. Norman Hardie’s Pinot Noir just knocked me out. Peppery, even chocolaty, but with the familiar lighter body. Snappy tannins that hold promise for the future, supple berries and “delish” aroma that pays the bill today. Wonderful. We even ordered it at Bistro East and Main,

East and Main, Wellington, ON

Great meal, great wine, great day!

a Wellington restaurant that Norman recommended (Thank you, Chef Lili Sullivan!). He even came in for a beer (and signed one of our bottles).

He signed it!

We liked it so much, we paid restaurant price!

By the time we got to Huff Estates, which features an inn on property and an art gallery, my palate was blown, but I summoned up enough chi to taste their delicious Chardonnay — and I was glad I did.  Unfortunately, I’ve lost my tasting notes from there — but really, we didn’t have a bad glass of wine in four stops, and we liked the Huff Chard enough to buy some. The facility is lovely, the people charming and the wine sublime. A metaphor for the whole experience!

If you’re near Toronto (or Ottawa), go to PEC.

Next post: Niagara Peninsula, and the no-kidding, world-class, omigosh…