Saturday, April 30, 2011

Boo discovers catnip (and enjoys himself just a bit too much for a family-oriented blog like this one…)

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Project, program, and product management – what is the difference?

I’m my own guest blogger!  This is a post I wrote for the blog on my new professional website, here:

CS Educational Media Consulting_SMALL_27April11


At various times in my career, I’ve held the titles of Project Manager, Program Manager and Product Manager.  Although these titles sound quite similar, the roles represented by them are actually quite different — in spite of the fact that even those within the industry sometimes use them interchangeably, which I attribute to a combination of innocent ignorance and actual industry-wide confusion.

So, what’s the difference between a Project Manager, a Program Manager and a Product Manager, especially in the development of educational media?

In my experience, a Project Manager has chronological A-to-Z responsibilities, shepherding a specific product from initial concept through final delivery.  The Project Manager usually has cross-departmental responsibilities, interfacing with, say, marketing, graphic design, engineering, and QA to effectively and efficiently see the project to completion, maintaining a consistent voice, look & feel, and user experience.  It is usually the Project Manager’s responsibility to devise a budget and a timelines for the project (although sometimes they inherit those from other departments), and then to stay within those guidelines throughout the life of the project.   The Project Manager assures consistency and cohesiveness across all departments, which ideally results in a strong, cohesive product.

A Program Manager is responsible for a ongoing (as opposed to finite) projects which combine to address one or more business goals.  These programs tend to be on-going, evolving and changing (hopefully strengthening!) over time and they tend to be less chronological in nature.  As opposed to “getting a product out,” a Program Manager focuses on creating and maintaining ongoing programs that become part of the company business and culture.

A Product Manager tends to be the most confusing of the three titles (in this arena, anyway) it has come to mean just about anything having to do with the creating and or marketing of a product!  I have held the title of Product Manager for  positions both solidly in product development and solidly in marketing!  But I think that a person with the title of Product Manager should ideally be focused on the marketing message of a product and on outreach to potential customers (as opposed to on the creation and development of the product).  One way to think of it is that the Product Manager works with the Project Manager (and others) once the product is ready to be marketed.

I’m curious to know what you’ve encountered in your career regarding the use of the titles Project Manager, Program Manager, and Product Manager. Leave me a comment (on my professional website) and let me know!

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

In honor of the Royal Wedding…

I bought these:


“Domestics”!  My favorite reason to shop!


(I really had no choice because the car needed a battery.  And Marshall’s is next to Sears.  And these were on clearance for $2 – yes, TWO DOLLARS a plate/bowl.)


So it isn’t my fault that they ended up in my kitchen cabinets?  Is it?

Unfortunately, there were only five plates and two bowls.  I bought them all, of course (spending a grand total of $14), but now I’ll be looking for this pattern for the foreseeable future and I will become obsessed.  I already wrote to the company, attaching photos and asking how I can get more. 

I’m pathetic.

Where will they fit in our small kitchen with barely any cabinet space? I figure I’ll squeeze them in somewhere among the other blue dishes, like the Dansk Bistro (a wedding present) or the new white square dishes from World Market…


…or maybe above our everyday dishes.  Blue, of course.


I admit it (that’s the first step, right?): I have a problem around domestics – especially German bedding and dishes.

Is there a 12-step program for this?

Oh, and to the happy couple (thank goodness, this time the couple really does seems to be happy): Congratulations!  Yes, I will, in fact, be up watching the ceremony at 5 AM because I’m a romantic. 

Hmmmmm… I wonder what dishes and bedding the royal couple will use?

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Warning: Graphic content ahead

Sadly, it must be Spring. 

I know – I love Spring too, and I have been hugely looking forward to it.

Except this part:


Boo was the ultimate culprit here, but he was not the initial no-good-doer.  That was Bailey who, until this year, only caught butterflies and moths.  But not this year, dammit.

Boo was sleeping innocently next to me in my office when Baily showed up with the poor Bunny.  I could tell by her distorted meow in the hallway that something was up.  I got up to check what was going on, Boo followed me, and at that point all hell broke loose as both Boo and I ran after Bailey.  (And Shasta ran after me.)

She dropped the poor bunny long enough for Boo to immediately take it and run. 

I just wanted to corner Boo long enough to rescue the poor bunny who seemed terrified but perhaps uninjured (as in, there was no blood that I could see).  I came close a few times, throwing a towel over Boo, who had the bunny firmly in his mouth.  But he ducked and ran each time, finally making his way outside through the cat door, with Bailey and Shasta and me right on his heels.

I remember at this point something a woman at PAWS wildlife rescue told me a few years ago when we brought Steve to them: bunnies can die of sheer fear and in a situation like this, they either die quickly or slowly, but they rarely recover from this level of trauma, even if they’re not physically injured.

So I was in a quandary: do I do my best to rescue the bunny (I did; I couldn’t help it!) or do I let “nature take its course”? 

After chasing Boo (and Bailey chasing me) for what seemed like quite a long time, he eventually ran into the forest and at that point I stopped and, sickened and dejected (and pissed), walked back to the house. 

I haven’t seem Boo or Bailey since.  I only hope that the bunny didn’t suffer… and that both have a horrible belly ache that lasts for days.

Mommy rabbits, squirrels, birds, moles, and other local creatures (I intentionally do not include rats here) – keep your babies close and protected.  My hunter felines seem to be frightened of you big guys, but will go after your babies.  I am so very sorry.


(Yes, I’ve considered making them indoor cats.  After five years of being indoor/outdoor pets on property like ours, this is a virtual impossibility.)

Sorry this is such a depressing post.  I still feel sick.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

And now for something much more PC: We’re EFF! (An environmentally friendly family)

Tom is an Environmental Engineer, Peter just got his BS in Environmental Science (shameless plug: he’s looking for work; anyone have any leads?), and Kat is an Environmental Studies major at UW.  So it’s about time we did this – and thanks to Kat, we finally have!

We’ve recycled for years, but we’ve never composted – until now.  This is the compostable waste generated JUST from my own breakfast this morning:


Pretty amazing, eh?!

Every few days that little under-the-sink compost bin will be dumped into this scary looking thing:


We’ll keep things steamy and organic and alive by turning the contents  -- which includes yard waste, along with food remnants -- every few days.  It should be fun!

Kat has been quite the project girl this weekend!


That wood represents the beginnings of her vegetable garden, to be located here…

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and in which she’ll be planting all this:


But first, after an absolutely gorgeous Saturday during which, I swear, every Seattle-ite was playing outside, we have to contend with this:


Huge, exasperated, disappointed, frustrated SIGH!  It’s been the coldest, wettest April on record in Seattle and we are all SO ready for Spring!

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter, for me

I like Easter for the colors and bunnies and new life.  I like colorful Easter baskets filled with phony green grass, squishy yellow Peeps, and plastic eggs filled with candy.  I like happy toddlers searching for pastel Easter eggs left by the big bunny who laid them.  (What?!

Easter kitsch

Not normally one for kitsch of any kind, I tolerate Easter kitsch because… well, that’s Easter

When the kids were little, we colored eggs, they woke up to Easter baskets filled with goodies, and they hunted for Easter eggs, followed by a delicious Easter brunch.  It was all fun and joyous.  But in spite of the fact that Tom grew up Catholic, we never connected these festivities with any religious story.  Instead, Easter was just a fun, colorful, delicious holiday.

I understand that many people feel differently about this, but this is my blog, so I’ll tell you what I think (what a novel idea!). 

As a kid, the idea of someone having been nailed by his hands and feet to a wooden cross, bleeding, suffering, and ridiculed… and when he finally died, his body being sealed in a stone crypt -- and then this guy somehow coming back to life and "escaping" absolutely TERRIFIED me. 


Even as a kid I knew that after what he’d gone through, he wouldn’t stand there, three days later, in starched white robes, all handsome and washed, no blood to be found, ready to greet the day.

Not so much now, because I know the whole story is a parable, but as a kid the story of Jesus coming back from the dead brought about the same imagery as that of another holiday.


And it scared the living daylights out of me.

Then, seven years ago on Easter morning my mom died.  That didn’t exactly help the whole Easter and death thing.

I’ll stick with Easter bunny kitsch and new life, thankyouverymuch. 

Maybe that’s why I’ve been doing so much of this lately:


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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

“Absolutely A-durable!”

Abby’s poor mom not only has morning (or rather, all day) sickness because she’s – yay! – pregnant, she now has the stomach flu too!  Poor Kim! 

So this afternoon, when Elisabeth (and Danny’s PUPPY, Grace) came over, we spent time time entertaining Abby. 

Or rather, she and Grace spent some time entertaining us.

Peter watched how fearless Abby is and dubbed her “durable,” and then Elisabeth decided that she’s “a-durable.”


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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Gut-wrenched in Seattle

These were both on Post Secret this week.  I find both really sad – especially the first one.  UW is becoming the UC Berkeley of the Pacific Northwest, with thousands of straight-A, highly involved, very capable applicants being rejected this year.


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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Work, play, friends, social media: it’s all connected

Yesterday included work, play, friends, and social media – and as I crossed the Puget Sound on a ferry headed to Poulsbo for a design brainstorming meeting for the new game I’m working on as an independent contractor, I realized how completely connected work, play, friends, and social media have been in my life during the past few years.


Six years ago, I started this blog on a whim.  I had no idea what I’d write about; I just wrote.

Five years ago, a woman named Lynn left a comment on my blog. It seems that we had much in common, most notably our passion for and experience in developing educational media for kids.  Whereas I was on the content and project management side, she and her husband were graphic artists, having designed some stunningly beautiful visuals for textbooks.

Eventually, Tom and I did meet Lynn and John (who live in Poulsbo… getting the connection?), and we had a wonderful time together, visiting their beautiful town and then, a few months later, touring wineries in our town. Then Lynn and John introduced us to their son, Dax, who is an amazing and talented musician who has worked on music for Disney and Nickelodeon, as well as a bunch of kids’ computer games, and even toured with InSynch!  Lynn, John, Dax, and I talked about how great it’d be to eventually work together on a kids’ media project, and we had confidence that someday that time would come.

So that’s connection #1.

Four years ago I joined LinkedIn and have been fairly active in that arena ever since, establishing, renewing, and  nurturing professional connections, joining groups of like-minded professionals, and exploring various people and companies.

The company I am currently freelancing for found me on LinkedIn.

So that’s connection #2.

I was hired for at least one previous job (and possibly more) based primarily on my knowledge of and passion for social media and blogging, and that involvement and inspiration has been more instrumental to my career than a paper resume ever was!  For everyone who doubts the power of social media in career development, you only have to look at my experience to see its influence.

And now, just because I feel like it (and because you know you want a “Seattle break” from your own work, right?), I’ll take you on a trip across the Puget Sound on a beautiful, crisp Seattle day.


Yay!  A ferry ride!  Yes, Seattle-ites still get excited about them!  (Well, unless they’re part of your daily commute.)


What?  You’re wondering how giraffes and elephants (look carefully!) and palm trees got to Seattle?!  So am I.


This photo was taken as I got onto the ferry in Edmonds.  That was after the nice ferry woman (not fairy woman – though she seemed like Tinkerbell to me because she performed magic when I most needed it) jumped my car because I’d left my lights on in line.  I missed that ferry, dummy me.


See those big windshield wipers?  They use those. A lot.


The Olympic mountains!  Aren’t they gorgeous?


It’s a short 30-minute ride from Edmonds to Kingston.


This photo is dedicated to Allie, my former co-worker at The Gottman Institute, who wrote this on my Facebook wall this morning: “I dreamt last night that I watched a news report about your new project and there were a bunch of colorful woodland creatures involved.”  Seriously – she did!  I took this photo of woodland creatures yesterday right after I got off the ferry in Kingston because they cracked me up.

I know – weird, right?!  Allie and I are connected!

(And gas prices are ridiculous.)


This photo was taken after I parked in front of Lynn and John’s house.  Yes, that’s how close they live to beautiful Liberty Bay!


And this is just a little stream that winds through their neighborhood…


…and even through their backyard!


We worked all day, brainstorming this new project we’re designing.  But pictures of people brainstorming aren’t that fascinating, so I have no photos for you of that.  I do, however, have photos of our walk into town to grab lunch.


This intersection cracks me up.  I really need to send this photo to “Uncle Harry”!  Tom’s cousin is married to Harrison Ford’s brother, Terrence.  That does make him Uncle Harry, doesn’t it?  Even if we never met him?  (Which we haven’t.)


Ah, the quaint and adorable Scandinavian town of Poulsbo, Washington…


…so charming!


And not full of tourists… today.


And here are our superheroes, Lynn and John!  Doesn’t it look like John is just about to head into that phone booth?


Graffiti, Poulsbo style.


The hours flew by and by the time I headed back home, we’d devised the beginnings of an awesome educational kids game!  No I can’t give you details.  Yet.


This photo is Photoshopped, but only to show you what the evening sun on the Cascade Mountains really looked like.  Had I turned around 180 degrees, I’d have seen the Olympic Mountains.  Yes, this region is that beautiful!


Does this shot remind you of any particular movie?

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

A beautiful day on the University of Washington campus

One of the great things about being in business for myself is that when Kat called me from UW on Friday morning, asking if I wanted to take pictures of the blooming cherry trees on campus before taking her home (to get over this nasty bug that she likely caught from me), I could enthusiastically say YES and not feel that I had to answer to anyone. 

So Shasta and I got in the car and headed across the bridge.  With apologies to the 19,000 students who applied to UW this year and were rejected (of 24,000 total applicants) and with encouragement to the other 5,000 who are deciding where to go to college next year (Bryce Oishi, this means YOU!), I bring you this:


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