National Teachers Day

3 05 2011

Having been married for over 30 years to a teacher, and being surrounded by educators all the time, I have to admit a great deal of prejudice in their value. I probably rank somewhere in the top 10 worst students in the history of the world. I am a decent learner, but for some reason I have to learn things the hard way. This is something I do not think any of my teachers found very amusing. I owe so much to these people who stuck with me when I would have voted in favor of euthanesia if I had been in their position and had any opportunity to make that choice. Which is just one of the reasons we need to honor National Teachers Day.

National Teacher Day is today, May 3, 2011. Here is a very brief history of how this day became a reality:
The origins of National Teacher Day are murky. Around 1944 Arkansas teacher Mattye Whyte Woodridge began corresponding with political and education leaders about the need for a national day to honor teachers. Woodridge wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt, who in 1953 persuaded the 81st Congress to proclaim a National Teacher Day.

NEA, along with its Kansas and Indiana state affiliates and the Dodge City (Kan.) Local, lobbied Congress to create a national day to celebrate teachers. Congress declared March 7, 1980 as National Teacher Day for that year only.

NEA and its affiliates continued to observe National Teacher Day in March until 1985, when the NEA Representative Assembly voted to change the event to Tuesday of the first full week of May.

Teachers don’t normally ask for much – pay attention, follow instructions, do your homework, etc. – the usual stuff. They don’t earn nearly what they are worth. Great teachers make great schools; great schools make great students; great students make great communities – and great communities are where we live. There is nothing more valuable than the process where this all begins.

So take a minute today to say “thank you” – maybe even give them a hug – our future is in their hands. Happy Teacher Day!

Sponsorship Conundrums – The Second Dilemma

11 03 2011

OK, OK, OK – enough about the “bad” economy. It is no secret that many companies are using the economy as a reason for whatever convenient unpopular decision they might have to confront. This is affecting corporate sponsorships on an enormous level. The same old excuses apply – “our budget is already spent”; “we are not able to support any causes this year”; “perhaps next year” (we hear this from the same companies every year – they could just as easily record it as part of their company answering machine message).

The truth is that many of these organizations are in a position to greatly serve the community, but have the chance to excuse themselves from participating because it is so much easier to blame economic conditions and just say no.

I am certainly not implying that giving sponsorship funding to needy organizations is remotely more important than providing jobs to the thousands in need of work. My entire point is that both issues are very important, and many of our greatest contributers supporting the Greater Kansas City area are doing neither.

It is time for Kansas City’s corporate leaders to mandate changes in their businesses to allow more support for community activities. What ever happened to Spiritfest? Whatever happened to Oktoberfest? People came from everywhere to attend those events. Rhythm & Ribs, as well as KCRiverfest are hanging on by a thread. None of these festivals are funded by the City of Kansas City – they have all relied (and still rely) on support from corporate generosity. These events help define our city, as well as generate real revenues for our economic base.

This is a major shout-out to our great corporate community – we need you – all of Kansas City needs you!

Sponsorship Conundrums – The First Dilemma

5 03 2011

At a time when marketing departments obsess over delivering their messages digitally and anachronistically attempting to calculate the return on every dollar spent, many businesses are pursuing a more low-tech strategy — hosting really memorable events. North American businesses are expected to spend nearly 18 billion sponsoring events in 2011-charity galas, athletic contests, festivals, and other community activities. IEG Sponsorship Report, a trade publication, anticipates 2011 to show a 5.9% increase in sponsorships over 2010. 2009 was one of the worst years for corporate giving in many year’s, yet 2010 proved to slightly exceed expectations. Why the change of attitude? Experiential Marketing and Cause Branding. Not new ideas but the concepts are based on the belief that the best way to deepen the emotional brand between a company and its customers is by offering a unique experience. Splashing your logo and brand on every available surface is not effective – it is all about how clients interact with your brand. There is a great deal of data on the internet to support this information – one really good site for more info is at Antler Agency.

But sponsoring events is not for the faint of heart. Success can depend on an array of variables, such as weather, catering, and the number of attendees. There are endless options from which to choose, and prices range widely based on your reasons for sponsoring (community involvement, new product placement, employee appreciation, etc.) Industry data are scant when it comes to local and regional sponsorship deals, which means that measuring an event’s impact can be virtually impossible.

To get the most out of a sponsorship, decide at the outset what your goal is. If it’s brand awareness you’re after, select an event that draws a large crowd, offers great product placement, and make sure your product is readily available if possible. If you want to drum up sales leads, focus on an event heavy on attendance and make sure you have an area where people will gather and share their information with your representatives – samples, raffle opportunities, or giveaways can be very helpful in this scenario.

Choose your sponsorship opportunities wisely – people pay closer attention than you can imagine who is supporting their events

Whatever you want, there is an event out there that is perfect for you.

Cigar Thoughts 4

4 03 2011

How the Master Blender Determines Flavor

Based on popular demand, as well as a few threats, this will likely be my final Cigar based blog. I may drop in a few comments at a later date on extraordinary sticks that I have stumbled upon, but this information has been Basic Training for afficionados, and boring as hell for people who could care less about anything cigar related. Without further ado, here are my final meanderings on the subject.

The flavor and strength of tobacco grown in different soil will gain its characteristics from the genetic signature of the soil. A master blender will use their knowledge of the different tobaccos at their disposal and will set out to create a cigar masterpiece by blending several different tobaccos. The master blender will usually start out with an idea of the type of cigar they want to blend. Perhaps they want a full-bodied cigar with more spice and less sweetness. Or maybe they want a medium-bodied blend that has a lot of sweetness and shows more complexity. Whatever the case, they will choose from their stores of tobacco to achieve their goal.

As the master blender works with the different tobaccos, he or she may end up using 3-5 different tobacco types (and sometimes more) in the filler blend. The strength, body and flavor characteristics of these different tobaccos will determine the extent to which the wrapper tobacco will contribute to the flavor of the cigar. The filler blend must be matched with the wrapper and binder leaves and the talented master blender can control the contribution of the wrapper and filler to the overall flavor of the finished cigar.

If a cigar maker wants more strength in a cigar, their recipe will favor fuller-bodied, stronger, and more flavorful tobacco varietals and will favor higher priming leaves. To create a lighter bodied blend, the master blender will favor lighter tobacco types and will use a higher percentage of lower priming leaves.
A filler blend with more body, strength and/or flavor will compete with the wrapper in terms of its contribution to the overall flavor of the cigar. On the other hand, a mild filler blend will compete less with the wrapper tobacco. A wrapper that is stronger and fuller in body and flavor will assert its flavor characteristics over a light to medium bodied filler blend.

I am going to enjoy a “God of Fire” cigar now – I am tired of trying to convert neophytes. Experiment at your own leisure and time – it is much more fun than trying to write something remotely interesting every week. From here on, if you have an interest in anything “cigar” oriented, please just call Tom at Fidel’s. He has forgotten more in the last two hours than I will know in a lifetime of cigar smoking.

Our Global Economy

28 02 2011

The American economy has been in flux for some time now, and is still rapidly changing. Corporations and people are both feeling the constraints of the
current economic landscape. America is currently experiencing its second recession in less than thirty years; its’ third in the last 100 years; and has never experienced cuts in worldwide budget expectations like this before.

The American dollar is not backed by the same security it once was, thus making issues related to pricing and investments very sensitive. Efficiency is now considered one of our most valuable commodities. Efficiency has made the electronic transfer of money a very common practice.
The rapid rise in electronic payment funds has been the norm in America for the past few years. Not only does this lead to less face to face and personal interaction between people, but it engenders a sense of false security and a lack of hands on knowledge about money transfer.

This situation has created an international “wait and see” approach to spending in some areas. Our American economy is on the same shaky ground as the rest of the developed world, leading monetary advisors and investors to be more apprehensive of the global future.

Dominique Strauss-Khan at the recent IMF international summit press conference noted the role of IMF in responding to the global mometary problems, pushing early on for economic stimulus, helping coordinate policies, providing financial resources, supporting the G-20 with analysis, and on IMS reform. This represented a major shift for the institution, “going from IMF 1.0 to IMF 2.0.” Now, he said, the challenge was to go further—to “IMF 3.0,” including a greater focus on financial sector issues – more generally enhancing the effectiveness of the 187-member county institution. “In an increasingly globalized world,” he said, “there is an increasing need for a multilateral institution like the IMF.”

Time will of course tell how this will all shake out, but one thing is relatively certain: the worlds’ economy will not look the same in five years as it looks today. What IMF 4.0 will look like is anyone’s guess.

World leaders must work harder (and I do believe that they are) to assure our global economy remains strong and growing. Many underpriviledged countries are in worse shape than ever, and we have never been in a weaker position to help their situations than now.

Think globally and act locally has never made more sense than it does today.

Cigar Thoughts 3

25 02 2011

How Leaf Placement Affects Flavor

Leaf placement is another factor that will determine how much a wrapper (or filler blend) will impact the overall flavor in a cigar. Tobacco plants are harvested in stages called primings. Each priming removes 2 leaves starting at the bottom of the plant and each priming is separated by approximately 1 week. There are typically 5-8 priming’s on a tobacco plant (depending on the tobacco variety). Therefore it will take approximately 5-8 weeks for the priming process to reach completion.

The uppermost leaves of the tobacco plant, the corona and ligero, are primed last. Because they have remained on the plant longer, the leaves have faced harsher weather conditions of direct sunlight, wind, and other elements, and have been nourished longer by the stalk. As a result, they are thicker and contain more oleoresins and possess a stronger flavor. The viso, or mid-level leaves of the plant, contain tobacco of medium-full strength and flavor. Viso tobacco strikes a balance between flavor and burn characteristics and is very useful in providing both a good-tasting and good-burning cigar. The lower primings of the plant, the seco and volado contain tobacco that is lighter in flavor and strength. This tobacco possesses great burning characteristics and provides the bulk of the combustion qualities in your cigar.

If more of the filler blend in a cigar is comprised of leaves from the top of the plant, then that will reduce the effect of the wrapper on overall flavor. But if the cigar blend uses more tobacco from the lower part of the plant (i.e., seco and volado), this will allow the wrapper to assert itself more. Conversely, if the wrapper comes from the higher primings of the plant, it will have a greater impact on the overall flavor, compared to a wrapper from the lower part of the plant.

For more information about cigars and their manufacture, check out the website at Fidel’s in Westport – Tom Foster is the owner, and a great guy!

Cigar Thoughts 2

18 02 2011

How Tobacco Varietal Affects Flavor

When a master blender constructs a cigar blend, they work with different tobacco varietals from different countries. They manipulate these tobaccos in much the same way as a winemaker uses different grape varietals to produce a fine wine. The properties of these tobaccos have been determined by the seed, soil, and climate, as well as by the curing, fermentation and aging processes.

Tobacco flavor starts with the genetic characteristics of the tobacco varietal. Different tobacco types have different properties with respect to body, flavor and strength. Common tobacco varietals include: Habano, Connecticut Shade, Cameroon, Corojo, Piloto Cubano, Broadleaf, and many more. Nowadays, tobacco growers are experimenting and forming many hybrid tobaccos by crossing common varietals and crossing them again with other hybrids. As a result, there are an unlimited number of tobacco types that can be produced and used in a cigar blend. Unfortunately, there is no way to give a generic profile of the flavor, body, strength and aroma characteristics of each tobacco varietal or hybrid because it is the combination of the seed, soil and climate conditions that will produce the distinctive characteristics of the tobacco. Thus, planting the same seed in different countries will yield different results. Furthermore, planting the same seeds in different regions within the same country and/or different farms within the same region can also produce a tobacco with different flavor characteristics. Add to this, the different methods for curing and fermentation and the differing lengths to which the tobaccos can be aged and you come up with myriad possibilities for flavor characteristics within a tobacco type.

Master blenders will acquaint themselves with the characteristics of each type of tobacco from each harvest year. During the curing and fermentation stages, they can learn about the tobacco characteristics by the look, feel and aroma of the tobacco. The master blender will touch the leaves to feel for thickness and the amount of stickiness (i.e., a measure of the density of oleoresins). They will smell the leaves and even burn through a leaf to perceive the aromas. Often they will construct “puros,” or small cigars of just one tobacco type that they will smoke and keep notes on the characteristics. This allows them to focus on that particular tobacco type without the flavors being “tainted” by the effects of the other leaves in a typical cigar blend.
Fidel’s in Kansas City (Tom Foster) is a great resourse for further questions about cigars.

Cigar Thoughts

11 02 2011

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah – it’s a stinky habit – but it is addictive on more than just a nicotine level. It is a relaxing way to download and play with new iPad apps. A quiet day watching news and sports – listening to opinions on everything from education reform to the importance of the Kardashian’s in modern culture (none).

The “cigar” blogs are shared articles from Cigar Aficionado that begin to relate why this unhealthy, expensive, and obnoxious habit is so appealing. If this topic does not appeal to you, I don’t blame you – but I am not reaching out to justify myself. One of the beauties of smoking a cigar is there is no real need to justify your behavior.

If we had based our early cigar purchases solely on the reviews in Cigar Aficionado, we may never have started smoking cigars. All their highly rated cigars seem to be nicotine powerhouses with the potential to level any newbie cigar smoker. To understand why this is so, we must remember that the reviewers at Cigar Aficionado smoke cigars all day and night and have built up a tremendous tolerance to nicotine. Additionally, strong tobacco tends to have a more intense flavor and today’s cigar makers are pushing the envelope on both these fronts. There now seems to be a competition among cigar makers to create the strongest, most flavorful cigars possible. This has resulted in cigars of extraordinary flavor but of unprecedented strength (nicotine levels). Seasoned cigar smokers can appreciate this level of cigar making and the resultant positive reviews reflect this appreciation. But smoking super strong cigars on a regular basis can sometimes feel like work.

The key is to experiment – much like learning to appreciate great wine. Did you try a heavily oaked Chardonnay or a Cabernet with hearty tannin overtones when you started trying to develop your wine palate? If so, you might have decided to stay with Boone’s Farm for life. Some wines are just a little overwhelming for a novice. The same holds true for cigars.

I am not recommending that anyone start drinking and smoking, just commenting that if you do choose to try these things, approach with caution. I have moved beyond any alcoholic drinks for personal reasons – but I love espresso in my dark roast coffee and full bodied cigars every day.

Life is a rich experience, and yeah, yeah, yeah – it can be pretty stinky.

For more information about cigars, contact Tom Foster at Fidel’s in Kansas City. Friendly and extremely knowledgeable!

Insidious Perils of Networking

4 02 2011

A new study published last month estimates that 89 percent of networking encounters occur forcibly and without the consent of one of the parties involved, a disturbing finding that suggests far more people are victims of unwanted career-related discussions than was previously thought. The study examined data from thousands of abusive incidents in which individuals were compelled against their will to assist another’s professional ambitions. The report incorporated interviews with hundreds of others who were violated by acts of nonconsensual networking, many of whom described similarly traumatic and dehumanizing experiences.

The details vary, but in each case the victims described how ordinary chitchat rapidly escalated to terrifyingly detailed conversations about skill sets and career paths. What makes this especially disturbing is that these attacks often take place in an isolated space. The assailant might force the victim into a remote corner of a dinner party, or follow him/her into the parking lot after a brief coffee shop encounter. These assaults have also been known to occur in full view of witnesses, who, more often than not, do nothing to stop it.

“It all happened so fast,” said an unidentified woman, her voice breaking. “We were just making small talk, when out of nowhere he pounced, asking me if my company was in the market for a new insurance provider. Before I even realized what was happening, I had a business card in my hand. I can still smell the booze on his breath.”

It is not uncommon for people who have been brutally networked to blame themselves for what was done to them. They might, for example, believe that their business-casual attire provoked the networker or that standing alone in the corner of a cocktail party was somehow “asking for it.” Networking victims often feel dirty and humiliated. But it’s not their fault. It’s the fault of the animals who did this to them.

The study holds out hope that this research will not only encourage more victims to come forward, but will also reassure others that the act of networking, when consensual, does not have to be a traumatic or shameful act.

A Bit Fishy

23 01 2011

This just in from the EU Reporter:

Wed, 12 Jan 2011

Each year fisheries ministers from across Europe agree how much our fishermen can catch. The system means that they are forced to throw healthy fish back into the sea dead if it is above and beyond their quota allowance.”

Once again, Europe has scooped the rest of the world by learning how to make dead things healthy. We have long wondered why the French can smoke all day long and yet have better longevity than we. Italy is constantly touting the health benefits of drinking wine day in and day out – they too live longer than Americans. God only knows why the British outlive us.

As the most powerful nation in the world, the United States of America should lead the world in releasing dead fish to the wild. If these fish are perfectly healthy, they should be allowed to be dead – just like anything else.

We put the first man on the moon. We have purple mountains majesty. We use two slices of fried chicken as a bread substitute for a bacon and cheese sandwich. We lead most of the world in every category but one: our fish are not considered healthy if they are deceased.

This cannot be tolerated. We now lag behind China in production. We are far behind the Japanese in electronics. And now Europe has us by the short fins in the healthy dead fish arena. Let our fisheries unite to combat this menace. Our fish must somehow be certified by the government as both perfectly healthy and completely dead before we throw them back. Not only will this allow us to stand proudly amidst our international brethren, but will afford us an opportunity to create yet another government agency. Any American will tell you that you can never have too many government agencies, or too many other healthy dead things.