Monday, December 28, 2009

Music Monday: Ten Albums from 2009

Here we are: the last Music Monday of 2009. It's been a nice year, at least sonically. 2009 also brought a slue of digital music start-ups, and I'm excited to see which survive and which can survive profitably.

As we look forward to 2010, here are ten albums I will keep listening to. If Santa brought you an iTunes or Amazon gift card for Christmas, might I recommend buying one or two or all of them?

If you don't share my taste in music, check out the Metacritic: Best Albums of 2009 list, which aggregates all published reviews into one mega meta list.

Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Favorite tracks: "Listzomania," "Rome"

Fanfarlo, Reservoir
Favorite tracks: "Finish Line," "Harold T. Wilkins"
(Also check out the very creative Fanfarlo advent calendar while it's still posted)

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Up from Below
Favorite tracks: "Home," "Janglin"

The xx, xx
Favorite tracks: "Islands," "VCR"

The Dirty Projectors, Bitte Ocra
Favorite tracks: "Stillness is the Move," "Two Doves"

Camera Obscura, My Maudlin Career
Favorite tracks: "The Sweetest Thing," "French Navy"

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, self-titled
Favorite tracks: "Young Adult Friction," "A Teenager in Love"

Dark Was the Night, Various Artists
Favorite tracks: "Knotty Pine" (Dirty Projectors feat David Byrne), "Brackett, WI" (Bon Iver)
(Benefits charity! Buy it, don't stream it!)

Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion
Favorite tracks: "My Girls," "Daily Routine"

Lady Gaga, The Fame
Favorite tracks: "Just Dance," "Paparazzi"

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Caren Explains the Boy Next Door

Mom: "I just got an email from our neighbor. Her son wants to meet you."
Me: "Oh yeah?"
Mom: "He's six."
Me: "Six?! Why does he want to meet me?"
Mom: "He wants to go to Harvard. He's obsessed with it."
Me: "How does a six year old even know about Harvard?"
Sister: "Um, this is MoCo. You forget what you're dealing with."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Caren Explains the Advent Conspiracy

Need to buy some Christmas presents, but don't have any ideas? There's a good reason: Most of us have all we need.

But not everyone.

Instead of buying a gift that he or she will probably forget about after December 25th, why not give your time or money to a cause?

Join the conspiracy:

Still need some ideas? Here are a two causes I am donating to this Christmas season:

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Caren Explains Murdoch, Magazines and a Smart Move in Digital Publishing

"Coopetition" will be the name of the game in 2010, at least for five powerhouse publishers who yesterday announced the creation of a joint venture that could give the publishers more control over their future. and other news sources report that Conde Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp, and Time Inc. are the founders of this yet unnamed venture, which will be led by interim director John Squires of Time Inc. Squires has also served in leadership capacities for both Audit Board of Circulation (ABC) and Magazine Publishers of America (two influential and standards-setting organizations within the print industry).

It seems that the joint venture will serve to establish standards for digital magazines and newspapers, in the way of pricing, marketing and technical standards. For an industry that competes on editorial differentiation, an alliance like this is a deviation from the norm.

That's a good thing. Such action is long overdue.

What went wrong.

The industry was slow to realize the importance of digital content and how best to monetize it. Consider this 2004 report from MPA which details digital edition subscriptions for ABC-certified magazines. Only 20 publications were listed, with PC World, Seventeen and (the now discontinued) Cosmo Girl leading the way. Notably absent in 2004 were any Conde Nast, Meredith and Time Inc. titles. By the end of 2007, 110 titles were available digitally, generating 1 million total subscriptions. Improvement, yes, but compare that against a 2005 report that there were 2,000 U.S. magazine titles with significant circulation.

The industry also failed to establish common pricing and content distribution practices early on. Instead publishers treated these things not as standards, but strategies. They tried to compete with one another by either restricting access to a fewer number of readers and making money on content, or opening content to all readers and making money on advertising.

Sometimes newspaper publishers changed strategies in the middle of the game, further tripping them up. provides a good example of this. It began publishing content to the web in the mid-1990s, requiring registration to access certain articles. Then it pursued an "open-but-closed" type of policy, introducing a subscription service for certain editorial columns, before reopening the entire site in 2007. In the meantime, bloggers and online readers found ways around walls, accessing RSS feeds for content, or seeking out third-party sites for cut-and-paste content.

As a consequence, we are left with confusion about the value of content.... at least I am.

How the alliance can help.

In May 2009 The Wall Street Journal's new owner, Rupert Murdoch, announced his intention to move all News Corp. digital properties to subscription models, and went so far as to declare "The current days of the internet will soon be over." It sounded audacious, but he has stuck to his guns, restating this opinion today in an editorial for WSJ. "Some newspapers and news organizations will not adapt to the digital realities of our day," he wrote, "and they will fail. We should not blame technology for these failures. The future of journalism belongs to the bold."

So is the newfound alliance bold? It is if you consider that these publishers are willing to swallow their pride and work together; not so much if the other option is failure.

That's a real possibility. Consider that in 2008, 525 magazines ceased publication. The remaining titles scrambled to get lean and to put their online platforms in order. These online platforms included websites and/or digital subscriptions, like this fancy one from my former employer, Paste.

Coming together and establishing best practices, as well as a common storefront for digital content, will ultimately benefit both publishers and consumers. We could have an iTunes or Hulu for magazines and newspapers, with common formats, quality standards and pricing schemes. Perhaps we will even have one place to manage all of our newspaper and magazines subscriptions so that, when you change addresses, you don't have to send notice to each publication.

Still to be resolved is what role advertisers will play in digital subscriptions. Over the summer the media director of a major advertising agency told me that digital subscriptions are worth nothing, and shouldn't be counted towards circulation. Though his is only one opinion, it is an opinion that publishers will surely hear again and again. All the more reason paid digital subscriptions -- where revenue comes from consumers, not advertisers -- will be important in the future.

But will all this muscle power attract cries of collusion? Perhaps not, if the joint venture is truly independent. After all, ABC has long set standards for the industry (and is funded by dues paid by advertisers, agencies and publishers). Besides, if not the publishers themselves, players like Amazon (with its Kindle) and Apple (with the iPhone and rumored tablet) will be left to set the rules.

We're not talking about survival of the fittest anymore. Unless the industry answers the question of "How valuable is content?" it will remain fragmented and weakened.

We've come to a time when publishers can either live together or die alone. They are choosing wisely.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Caren Explains Where the 10 Red Balloons Were

As you may have read last week, I teamed up with some students and professors from HBS on Saturday to try to win the DARPA Network Challenge for the (RED) campaign. We reached over 2 million people in three days, but were beat by our rivals across the river (congratulations, MIT).

"So where were the balloons?" you ask.

Here is a map of the locations.

(Side note to my Atlanta friends: Not ONE of you noticed the red balloon in Centennial Park???)

Following the challenge, my classmate, Rafael Corrales, asked me to write some reflections. His own post is pretty extensive, especially about our strategy and analytical findings, so I'll use this opportunity to share some lessons I took away on social networking and online behaviors.

1) It's easy to hide behind broadband barriers.

As I followed the Twitter trend for #redballoons on Saturday I saw numerous reports and pictures being posted. However, it was difficult to discern which were real and which were fake (and a number were, in fact, fake).

One example is this picture which did not have a location description attached to it. I recognized it to be from Union Square in San Francisco (because I've shopped at that Macy's before) but could not confirm it. Instead I called on our professor Misiek Piskorski, who was in SF, to see if it was real (which it was -- good catch, @nancyborden). In another instance, I learned that a balloon report in Chicago was a fake, after a friend checked out the scene for me.

When all you can see about a user is their screenname and any personal information he/she/it has volunteered, you have to be skeptical of what you read online. On the Internet, anonymity circumvents accountability.

2) Beware of search sabotage, which might even be self-inflicted.

I noticed within the first few hours of our Google AdWords campaign that we'd run through our entire campaign budget. Drilling down into the data, I saw that the keywords "DARPA" and "DARPA balloons" generated the most clicks. Since you'd have to know that the red balloons were associated with DARPA to search those keywords, my guess is that the clicks came from competitors who either 1) clicked our ads to find out what our team was doing, or 2) wanted to run up our advertising bill. We'll never know.

In hindsight, we might have omitted some keywords to make sure the SEM campaign reached the intended audience, not our competitors.

3) "The currency of real networking is not greed, but generosity."

On this point, I recall what an HBS alum told me about networking: it often seems fruitless, but then you'll get that one connection who introduces you to another and another, and suddenly things start happening.

That was true here. A number of "cold connections" came through for our team and helped our network extend far and fast. One example is the HBS alumni network, especially the DC and Northern California chapters, who sent our message to over 7,000 alums. Brad also helped us get an article with

You never know who is going to go the extra mile for you.

4) Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear.

I wasn't surprised when HBS classmates asked me (in person) about Project (RED) Balloon. What did surprise me was hearing from old college friends across the country, some of whom I have lost touch with over the years. These were people who saw my posts on Facebook and jumped at the chance to help. Such interactions were a reminder that, even though I only regularly interact with a few dozen people via social networks, some 700+ Facebook friends are casually observing my comings and goings.

Social networks can turn passive relationships into active ones again with the click of a mouse.

Thanks to Brad, Kyle, Rafael and Professors Lakhani and Piskorski for an interesting experiment.

Music Monday: The Lighthouse and the Whaler (Cleveland, OH)

Oh boy, oh boy! I've been waiting awhile for this one to be released....

The Lighthouse and the Whaler is out today on iTunes. It's a gem from the young Cleveland, OH, trio of the same name.

This debut LP has five things I like in an album:
  • Xylophone
  • Hand-clapping
  • Lingering harmonies
  • Oil painting as album art
  • Nice people behind the music
Sometimes I get jaded and think, "Yeah, yeah... another promising young band... but will they be around next year?" But this band excites that cynicism right out of me.

The band wrote its first song in a field, which doesn't surprise me after hearing the album: its earthy and organic, with some imperfections here and there, which just makes the whole thing more natural and unencumbered.

TLATW recently took the stage after Sufjan Stevens in Ohio (after party!) and are about to embark on a new tour in the spring (hopefully with a SXSW performance on the itinerary?). In the meantime, catch them online.

For Fans Of: Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, the Yim Yames piece of Monsters of Folk, stuff you find on

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Caren Explains Red Balloons, the (RED) campaign and How You Can Win $1,000

Seen a red balloon floating around your town? If you haven't, you might this weekend.

On Saturday December 5, 2009, ten giant red balloons will be placed in random locations across America, as part of the DARPA Network Challenge.

Why should you care?

Because there's $40,000 at stake for the winner!

Join me and my team in this challenge and we'll donate the cash prize to the (RED) campaign and its philanthropic partner The Global Fund. As if that wasn't reason enough for you to want to help, each person who first submits to us a correct location will have the option of keeping $1,000 for themselves. It's a win-win situation, however you look at it.

1. Send this information to AS MANY people in your network as you can. Use email, facebook, twitter, txt, anything! The point is to see how far and fast our networks extend!
2. Refer anyone who asks to our website:
3. Look out for red balloons on Saturday! If you see one, submit its location to us via our website!
4. If you have a blog, Twitter account, LinkedIn account, Facebook account, etc, please link to our website. This will help in the search rankings, which is critical to our success.

Thanks, and let's win this thing for charity!

About Our Team:

This team is being coordinated by MBA candidates Bradley Lautenbach (OC), Caren Kelleher (OJ), Kyle Doherty (OI), and Rafael Corrales (OC), and Professors Karim Lakhani and Misiek Piskorski of Harvard Business School. The purpose of this project is to see how far and fast networks extend. Neither the students nor professors will collect any prize money if the project is successful.

More Information:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Caren Explains the Dangers on the Dancefloor

A public service campaign, brought to you by the recording artists of the Billboard Hot 100.

What to do if you see danger at a dance club.

Option 1: Evacuate the dancefloor. If you fail to do so you will either become infected by the sound, or watch the DJ burn the place right down to the ground.

Option 2: Somebody call 9-1-1. If a shorty fire-burning on the dancefloor, call for emergency assistance. Be prepared to explain what a "shorty" is when you speak to a dispatcher, as it is unlikely that he or she will have an Urban Dictionary handy.

Option 3: Just dance (it's gonna be okay). According to Lady GaGa, "we're all getting hosed tonight" as it is, so why not keep dancing until the fire department arrives?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Music Monday: Robbie Williams (UK)

Robbie Williams comes out with a new CD tomorrow, but few Americans will care. Why should they? He's a cheeky, self-deprecating bad-boy-from-a-boy-band Brit -- not like a Jonas Brother or Justin Timberlake. But there's something intriguing about Williams, and that's probably why I like him so much. He doesn't sound like he's been run through auto-tune, nor does he look like he's been airbrushed eight-times over. He is handsome, but rough around the edges... not exactly what sells copies of Tiger Beat.

Despite this, he has the potential to be a class act in America. One of my favorite Robbie albums is Swing When You're Winning, which features renditions of old standards from the Rat Pack, Gershwin, Bobby Darin and the like. It also includes a lovely duet with Nicole Kidman.

Yet Williams' lack of success in America is not shocking. Take That, the British pop group from whence he came, only had one hit in the US -- "Back For Good" -- though the group sold 25 million records worldwide between 1991-1996. As a solo artist, Williams declared The Ego Has Landed and released the Billboard hit "Millennium" (1999), but he did not enjoy the stateside career many hoped for him. In fact, I remember reading in college that his label set aside an $8m advertising budget to help him succeed in the States. (I wonder where that money went?).

In 2003 published an interesting piece called "Why doesn't America love Robbie Williams?" and it offers a much better analysis than I could ever provide. But my take on Why America doesn't love Robbie Williams? It's precisely because we love. And with lyrics like "All we've ever wanted is to look good naked / Hope that someone can take it," it is lust that Robbie Williams commands.

For Fans of Madonna, Mark Ronson, boy bands that turn into man bands.

Here's his new single, plus a Fred Falke remix (via Hype Machine)

Monday, November 02, 2009

Music Monday: Julian Casablancas (of The Strokes)

In 2001, The Strokes released their first full length album, which asked "Is This It?". I wondered the same thing. It was my first semester of college, away from everyone I knew and loved. We were also living in the aftermath of 9/11. Things were new and strange, and so were the sounds of The Strokes. [Mark Krotov wrote a poignant piece for Paste about the band at this point in time which I'll direct you to].

The band released two other albums over the next five years, followed by a solo effort by guitarist Albert Hammond Jr.

Tomorrow, we'll hear from The Strokes once again, when frontman Julian Casablancas releases his first solo album, Phrazes for the Young (a title inspired by Oscar Wilde). The album sounds different than I expected... as if Martians curiously stumbled into a honky-tonk bar in the Lower East Side and inspired some new mixes for the jukebox.

Buy it on iTunes or Amazon tomorrow.

If you can't wait until then you can hear clips on Casablancas' website. In the meantime, sample the single via imeem:

11th Dimension - Julian Casablancas

Caren Explains the Healthcare Bill

Many Americans (including this one) have been wondering what $1 trillion in healthcare reform will get us... well, for starters, how about 1,990 pages of new legislation?

1,990 pages!? .

How many people have actually read this thing all the way through?

I picture Congressional aides gathering at lunch to form a reading group. One will take charge and assign an outline, like law students might with their required readings. Maybe they plan to put together a nice little book report at the end, hoping for a gold star?

In an ideal world, our representatives (as well as our fellow citizens) would sit down and read the bill themselves. This leads me to my second question: How long would it take to read the bill in its entirety, absent a reading group?

To figure that out, I wanted to compare its length against other notable works. To be fair, I'm listing the comparisons in book pages and/or PDF pages:

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: 607 book pages (US hardcover); 397 PDF pages
  • War and Peace: 1,475 book pages (2006 paperback issue); 692 PDF pages
  • King James Bible: 1,824 book pages (Oxford University Press); 702 PDF pages
  • The Godfather screenplay: 124 PDF pages
  • H.R. 3162 (USA Patriot Act): 342 PDF pages
And finally, The Constitution of the United States: 19 PDF pages

Infer what you will, dear citizens.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Music Monday: Fanfarlo (London by way of Sweden)

Last week the Hype Machine churned out this sweet little gem of a band for me. Fanfarlo formed in 2006 but I'd not heard of them until CMJ 2009 was approaching. I'm not sure how this one escaped my attention because, as is well documented, I love Swedish musicians, even if they later move to London, like Fanfarlo's Simon Balthazar.

The band plays around with lots of instruments - mandolins, drums, xylophones, horns. Balthazar's voice is an instrument in and of itself -- very unique and, at times, haunting. This summer they offered their album for $1 online (kind of like "pulling a Radiohead," if I can say that and get universal understanding) and I hope they sold a bunch of copies.

"Finish Line" (posted by BrooklynVegan) makes me to be a shoegazer.

Here are some other good tracks using a MySpace pop-out player

For fans of Matt Pond PA, Belle & Sebastian, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, trumpets, lazy days

Caren Explains Halloween Options

Halloween is probably my least favorite holiday of the year, next to Flag Day (which apparently nobody likes... it doesn't even have a Hallmark card).

But as a kid? Boy-oh-boy, did I like Halloween! Can you blame me? Look at the awesome Halloween costume my mom made me:

Among my favorite costumes of all time:
- Age 9: Carmen Sandiego
- Age 11: Phantom of the Opera
- Age 3: Care Bear

This year, I wish I could dress up and go trick-or-treating. There are so many good costume options that have been inspired by ridiculous, fame-seeking reality-stars. Wouldn't you like to see these as costumes, though?

- Falcon's balloon
- Octomom
- Kate Gosselin [Note: the wig actually exists]
- Corey the Sunglasses Guy

Other good ideas?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Caren Explains Britney, Peter, Paul and Mary 3

I am embarrassed to admit that I've liked the past few Britney singles. The most recent -- "3"-- is pretty darn catchy... but I always scratch my headwhen I hear the lyrics:

1, 2, 3
Peter, Paul & Mary
Gettin' down with 3P

Peter, Paul & Mary? Really? Nothing about "Puff the Magic Dragon" makes me think about "gettin' down" with Britney.

This leads me to two questions:
1) Could the record label not afford to get some better songwriting?, or...
2) Is the American consumer so easily bought that quality no longer matters?

If it's the first, I would like to let the record label know that I'm available for hire. Okay, I admit, my songwriting credits are non-existent, but I know how to rhyme as well as your current roster of songwriters. Here are some other ideas for that "Peter, Paul and Mary" line:

- Larry, Moe and Curly
- The snake got Adam and Eve
- Nash, Stills and Crosby
- Faith, hope and charity
- The Brothers Bee Gee
- Huey, Dewey, Louie
- The good, the bad, the ugly

3 - Britney Spears

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Caren Explains the Link between E-Ink and ZINK

Since the school year started I've had the opportunity to learn from a number of CEOs and executives, all hailing from different industries and countries. Yesterday it was Jeff Hicks, CEO of one of my favorite agencies, Crispin Porter + Bogusky; today it was Wendy Caswell, CEO of ZINK Imaging, a company that is pursuing a vision of "digital printing, now magically simple."

Polariod PoGo Instant Digital Camera, utilizing ZINK paper + tech

This is the second digital ink case study I've read this month, the first being one about E-Ink Corporation, the electronic paper manufacturer that makes the Kindle come alive.

Though we don't get to hear from case protagonists or guest speakers every day, I do find their occassional insights to be a good dose of reality when thrown into the b-school setting. [That's what I think is missing in your argument against live speakers @rafaelcorrales]. It's a reminder that you don't know what you don't know -- for better or worse.

Former E-Ink CEO Jim Iuliano spoke during one of my classes in September, and some of his comments and insights were echoed today by Caswell (and are applicable to many innovative, tech-driven ventures). First, that learning happens in the market, not the labs. The second is an extension of that thought. As Iuliano explained, "Perfection is not worth waiting for."

This go-to-market strategy certainly carries significant risk and requires that business partners are willing to go along for the ride. For these reasons, it's not surprising that the MBA classroom can be very critical of such a strategy, arguing that a company should thoroughly plot its market strategy, or perfect the technology, before launching -- and maybe that's true. But to hear both of these experienced leaders advocate a 'get-in-there-and-learn-as-you-go' strategy (or "stick with it and chunk it up," as Caswell said) warrants more consideration, especially in markets that have yet to be developed.

Is it better to shoot for the moon, or footrace to the top?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hipster Haiku #14

A few years back I started writing some hipster haikus. I stopped at #13, though, because they were becoming increasingly popular and I didn't want to be a part of any trend that was, like, mainstream. [note blog sarcasm]

However I recently found out @katekiefer was putting together a photo shoot for "The Evolution of the Hipster" and felt inspired again by this picture.

Hipster Haiku #14
Refurbished Schwinn bike.
No helmet; brimmed hat instead.
Old fashion mustache.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Caren Explains Ringo, Entrepreneurs and the Unluckiest Man in the World

Unless you're a Beatlemaniac, like me, you probably don't know much about Pete Best, the original drummer for The Beatles, who is often referred to as the "unluckiest man in the world."

Pete joined The Beatles (then called The Quarrymen) in 1960, nearly four years before the band appeared on The Ed Sullivan show. But in 1962, Pete was replaced by drummer Richard Starkey, aka Ringo Starr.

From my entrepreneurship classes I've come to realize that there are a lot of Pete Bests in the world: namely, entrepreneurs who are ousted from their companies right before pay day, or those who find their equity so diluted that they walk away with very little* to show for their innovation and endeavors [of course, "very little" could mean a fraction of multimillion or billion-dollar deals].

To draw out this thought a little more, let's consider why Pete Best may have been asked to leave The Beatles: poor fit? poor performance? didn't look or act the part? politics of the record industry? [According to The Beatles Anthology, it was the later -- at the suggestion of Parlophone Records]

Now let's think about an unlucky founder/CEO and why, after funding is secured, he is asked to leave the company: poor fit? poor performance? didn't look or act the part? politics? ... could be any or all of the above.

The young Beatles franchise, like any entrepreneurship, was a business. The record producers wanted to get the most out of their investment, and therefore wanted the "right" team in place. I highlight the word "right" because it's possible that the band would have earned such acclaim even with Pete Best behind the drum kit... but I'd sure rather be Ringo than the guy who didn't see it coming.

With the release of Rock Band: The Beatles and The Beatles Stereo Box Set this week, Pete must either be curled up in the fetal position, or laughing it off. I suppose that depends on how he measures success. According to Wikipedia, Pete and his wife have been married for 40+ years, whereas three of four Beatles divorced their first spouses. Maybe that success is more important to him than money ("money can't buy me love").

Friday, September 11, 2009

Caren Explains Vampires, Kittens and Windows 7

My ears always perk up when I hear that something new is coming out of Crispin Porter & Bogusky, the agency responsible for Subservient Chicken, the creepy King, the Truth campaign, and Mini Cooper's mega fun buzz.

In March 2008 Microsoft awarded a $300 million account to CP+B, in what at first seemed an unlikely pairing. One might expect CP+B to be better aligned with Apple (which relies on TBWA/Chiat/Day for its "I'm a Mac" campaigns). But that's what makes the match so interesting. [From a 2008 feature in Fast Company: "Can Alex Bogusky Help Microsoft Beat Apple?"-- Alex Bogusky built the country's slickest ad shop using Apple products. His next challenge: Persuade people like him to buy Microsoft's stuff....]

AdAge reported today on the new Microsoft Windows 7 commercial, which features kittens, "Kylie," and The Final Countdown theme song. It will debut on CW network. You can preview it here.

Will this help Microsoft overcome the running joke ("I'm a PC") that Apple has perpetuated in its ads? And is this commercial appropriately targeted to the right audience and media channel? Clearly the commercial placement -- during the premiere episode of "Vampire Diaries" -- has generated some press (good job, PR folks), or else I wouldn't know about it or write about it. But it doesn't seem like an obvious match, putting a cutesy commercial in front of tweens and vampire lovers... do they want to share the same software as Kylie? Maybe kittens and cute kids are universally loved?

Good luck, CP+B. What's next, TBWA?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Caren Explains H1N1 and Emory's Isolation Dorm

When I was a college freshman, living in Alabama Hall at Emory University, there was a vacant room one floor above me on the boys' floor. They called it "Mr. Body's Room." At first it was used for overnight guests and shenanigans. But when a mononucleosis was going around the dorm, infected students were essentially quarantined there.

Seems that Emory needs more than Mr. Body's Room these days.

The CBS News report posted below details that Emory is allowing students with H1N1 to voluntarily check themselves into a quarantine dorm so as not to spread the disease. [You can see these students via a creepy webcam interview at the end of video].

The most interesting part? The isolation dorm -- old Turman Hall South -- has been condemned in recent years due to severe mold problems. Guess that's one way to toughen up a wimpy immune system....

Watch CBS Videos Online

(Thanks to my old water polo teammate, Meghan, for sharing this link originally)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cars to power hotel electricity

The Four Seasons Hotel doesn't cut corners when it comes to customer service, so it seems fitting that it should be on the forefront of innovative services, too. Today the operator of luxury hotels and resorts announced plans to capture electricity from cars (via

WASHINGTON - The Four Seasons Hotel plans to generate electricity from kinetic energy captured from cars driving on its driveway.

"The device we're testing is like a mini speed bump. It's maybe 2 inches off the ground," says Meetesh Patel, chief executive officer of Burtonsville-based New Energy Technologies.

"We're creating a completely new technology that is capturing electricity from cars that are already moving on the road," Patel says...

Shared via AddThis

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cloud computing: will it breed pack(et) rats?

I have a confession to make: my Gmail inbox just hit 1,000 unread messages. Yup... 1-0-0-0.

Though many friends and colleagues -- namely @godlovesjacob and @jrdwlls -- have tried to encourage me toward Inbox Zero, 1,000 unread emails are too daunting to deal with; consequently, I keep letting the problem get worse.

My lack of email discipline was a problem when I worked at Paste and was restricted to a mailbox disk quota limit, especially because I had a lot of file attachments stored. But it did teach me some email discipline. With Gmail, though, I have a long ways to go before I hit that 7357mb limit...

Why not just delete these unread messages? you ask.

Good question -- maybe I'll need to reference them some day in the future, or intend to read them later?

When I think of my inbox I think of my old neighbors, who used to park their cars in the street because their garage was full of boxes. These people were pack rats who liked to hold on to "stuff" -- be it memorabilia, magazines or, I don't know, notebooks from 5th grade science class that may come in handy some day.

I was considering these things this morning when I saw this ad pop up on Tech Crunch:

It struck me that the very selling point of Google Apps and other cloud-based services might be a bad thing in that it encourages people to store all they need, or moreover, want to save.

Will this create a breed of "pack(et) rats" who never learn how to clean up their email, but rather put it in storage?

Now granted, there is consequence to such seemingly unlimited storage. The cost may be a utility-like payment stream, or a flat rental fee, or having to subject yourself to Google Ads. But I wonder how many companies or individuals will have enough discipline in the early stages of their SaaS usage to sort and purge information appropriately (clearly I don't).

"Your Inbox is Full" error: good thing or bad thing?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Obama, Ortiz and the Octopus' Garden: a night with Paul McCartney

I was twelve years old when the Beatles Anthology was released. By that time John Lennon was dead and Ringo was the Conductor on Thomas the Tank Engine. The Anthology series played on school nights, so my parents taped it from television for me, an effort required a series of VHS tapes because it was such a long documentary, spanning multiple days of coverage.

To say The Beatles changed my life is trite, but true. My obsession with the Fab Four -- their lives, their music, their artwork -- can be seen throughout artifacts of my life at that time. I made paintings that were inspired by Beatles songs, wrote fake fan mail letters as if I lived in the 1960s, and collected as much memorabilia as I could. This at a time in life when most other girls were beginning to read Cosmo and hold hands with boys in the locker banks; instead I was reading old copies of Rolling Stone and dreaming I was Mrs. Paul McCartney (circa 1968). It was my obsession with The Beatles that allowed me to survive middle school with few social wounds. I was the girl who was weirdly into classic rock, which made me disenfranchised rather than a target for teasing. I even found three friends who shared my interest in the lads from Liverpool.

I was so into the Beatles that they inspired my first true business idea: a themed restaurant called The Octopus' Garden. I imagined it to be much like a Hard Rock Cafe, but completely dedicated to The Beatles. Everything from the building design (a yellow submarine) to menu (Glass Onion rings with Mean Mr. Mustard dipping sauce) was inspired by the band. I drew mock-ups for the layout and logo, thought about which cities to launch in first, and considered the issue of licensing: after all, the Beatles would probably want a cut of this, if their name was all over it. This proved the stickiest point. At age thirteen, The Beatles (or rather their lawyers) stood between me and my dream. This would be the first of two times in my young life that I would be warned about The Beatles' intention to sue me... how many other people can say the same?

In 2005 I got to see Sir Paul in concert. He was remarried to Heather by then (a second dream of mine now shattered) and the performance made him seem, well, silly. It was an arena show with crazy LCD screen projections and pyrotechnics. It dwarfed the music, and certainly the man, who at age 64 still had charisma and stage presence but was showing his age. I walked away from the 2005 show wondering what Lennon would have turned out to be, had he lived: would he have been like Mick Jagger, touring old songs he vowed never to play again but making a fortune, or would he have been a Bono, involved in more social causes than musical ones? [But let's save that for another blog post]

When Sir Paul announced his tour this summer, I was reluctant to buy tickets again; but this show was at Fenway Park, where baseball players like David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis normally take center stage. Instead, Macca would be in center field, playing to a crowd of 85,000. I invited my parents, since they have always encouraged my interests, especially those having to do with music.

My father could not make the trip because a certain presidential figure decided to drop by his place of work for an event... a few hours late... with fanfare.... I'm not bitter.... But my mother and I had a fantastic time. She recalled her experience at The Beatles' first American concert at Shea Stadium, when The Beatles played a ~30 minute set without theatrics. Surrounding us on this night, though, were middle aged nostalgic fans and families, not screaming teenagers.

I must say that the performance renewed my faith in Macca. The staging, set list and energy were much improved, as was Sir Paul himself. He proved he's still got it, performing almost flawlessly with the kind of charisma that made it clear how he got to be so famous.

As the crowd sang along to "Hey Jude," it felt nice to be a part of something so big, all of us shouting out those " NA-NA-NA-NAHHHH!"s together. I could see that I was not the only one who was so affected by Sir Paul or The Beatles, or music in general.

"This is Heaven," said my friend Adam, who stood next to me at the concert, grinning the whole time. And if that's true, we should all be so lucky as to see it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Caren Explains The Low Anthem

Folk Festival 50 performers, The Low Anthem, drop an album today called "Oh My God, Charlie Darwin"... which I always want to write as "Oh-my-GAWD, Charlie Darwin!!" for no apparent reason. Maybe because I spent too much time in the South.

The Phoenix up here in New England likes it.
So does Paste magazine down in Atlanta.

By the way, have you contributed to Save Paste yet? You get over 150 mp3s with your donation, no matter the amount. Plus, you help my friends keep their jobs and then the Paste kids can go to camp. Everybody wins.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Caren Explains Summer Concert Season

(from Tiesto concert at Ultra Music Fest this past spring)

Summer-summer-sumMERtimmmmeeee! Which, of course, means that good bands are making their way across America in search of new fans. Here are the best shows coming to Boston in the near future:

June 10: Jenny Lewis w/Deer Tick at House of Blues

June 17: Phoenix at Paradise Rock Club

June 18: Passion Pit, w/Harlem Shakes, Cale Parks at Paradise Rock Club

June 25: Camera Obscura at Somerville Theatre

July 11: Wilco w/Connor Oberst at LeLacheur Park

July 26: Pete Yorn at House of Blues

August 1-2: Folk Festival 50 in Newport, RI, with Gillian Welch, Iron & Wine, The Decemberists, Josh Ritter, Langhorne Slim, Fleet Foxes, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, etc, etc, etc... excellent.

Boston Summer Concerts

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Caren Explains Phoenix (the Band)

Three Cool Things about Phoenix:

1) The band is from France but sings in English (thanks, Phoenix!)
2) Lead singer Thomas Mars has a daughter with one of my favorite directors, Sophia Coppola
3) Guitarist Laurent Brancowitz used to be in a band with the duo now known as Daft Punk

Since 2006 It's Never Been Like That has had a permanent home in the third slot of my six-disc CD player. Three singles off that album -- "Consolation Prizes," "Rally" and "Lost and Found" -- are found on my iPod's Most Played Songs playlist.

You can imagine the agony I've gone through while patiently waiting for a new Phoenix album. My suffering ends on May 25th, when Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix will hit shelves (though some tracks have already leaked to the web).

Today the band announced one East Coast gig -- June 19th at Terminal 5 in NYC -- but no US tour. I've never seen them live, and will find a way to be in NYC for that show. I must.

Here are the band's SNL performances from last weekend. As Stereogum pointed out, Coldplay, U2, Paul McCartney and Phoenix are the few artists that have been asked to play three songs on SNL.

"Liztomania" from upcoming album

"1901" from upcoming album

"Too Young" from Lost in Translation soundtrack

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Caren Explains the Hampster Dance

Today I had a catchy little tune pop into my head, one I hadn't heard in years. It was accompanied by visions of dancing -- dancing that goes like this...

What other websites from the Web's earlier days will we later remember with nostalgia?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tech Crunch Explains Apple iPhone 3.0

Apple Opens Up More Ways To Get Paid On The iPhone, Adds Key New Features. Apps Hit 800 Million Downloads.

Posted using ShareThis

800 million!? Amazing. I am most fascinated by the new market the Application store has created for entrepreneurship. Take my friend, Brian Gorby, for example.

I wish I'd been the first person to think up a Rock-Paper-Scissors iPhone application... I'd be rolling in it... speaking of which, I was disturbed to recently learn that some people call it "Paper-Rock-Scissors"... why? It doesn't flow off the tongue nearly as well as R-P-S... oh well, to each their own...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Zuckerberg Explains Who Owns User Data On Facebook

Big Brother or big business?

If Facebook is going to take my info forever, at least it could let me declare myself "In a Relationship" with my iPod...

Zuckerberg On Who Owns User Data On Facebook: It's Complicated

Posted using ShareThis

Caren Explains EBIT

Before leaving Atlanta, I tried to explain the concept of "EBIT" or "Earnings Before Interest & Taxes" to some of my non-business-school-friends (mainly Ashley and Rachael). It is defined as:

An indicator of a company's profitability, calculated as revenue minus expenses, excluding tax and interest. EBIT is also referred to as "operating earnings", "operating profit" and "operating income"

I use EBIT a lot in my new life as a student and I've tried to embrace EBIT as if it were, say, my favorite band. Look how much cooler EBIT is when it's not used just as financial jargon:

EBIT and Roeper -- famous movie reviewers?
The EBIT Brothers -- an excellent Appalachian band?
"EBIT Flow" -- a popular Pearl Jam song?
EBITza, Spain -- a party destination?


"EBIT, EBIT" says Kermit the Frog.

(It's not easy being green...)