May 27, 2009

Lost in Translation - Japanese, Real Japanese

I am not sure if there is the same expression in English (I guess so) but in Spanish when something is very confusing or difficult to understand we say "It's like Japanese to me".

A friend of mine just sent me this picture that she took near a temple in Japan:

click to enlarge
Now, this English translation really looks like Japanese to me!"...see the thing with the chief does not have after finishing drink"? uh?

If you can understand the original sign in Japanese, please let us know what the translation was trying to say...

Thanks Odri for the picture!


May 21, 2009

You Think Your Job Is a Nightmare?

I worked for a job board in the US for almost 5 years. Before that, I worked for almost two years as a consultant for another job board in Latin America. So I have seen my share of ads for job boards, almost from everywhere in the world. This one, however, is by far the best one I have ever seen.

It doesn't surprise me that it comes from Brazil. Creative and related to the product, it surely catches your attention and makes you laugh...

I guess this ad proves that the nightmare job of one person can be the dream job of another one and vice versa.

I have to say I am with the guy, that job sounds like a nightmare, but maybe I feel that way just because I am a girl!


May 19, 2009

Visible Tweets, the Slow Motion Movie

Yesterday I came across "Visible Tweets" and I fell in love instantly. Apparently it was conceived as "a Twitter visualiser for rock concerts" but it is in fact a great way also to display those short messages on big screens anywhere.

If you are looking for a quick answer this is not for you, but if you actually enjoy the idea of seeing "tweets" like some kind of slow motion movie you have to try it! The fact that there is a subtle and nice design surrounding the tweets, gives them a special aura that they do not have in the web or in an api. With some music in the background it is in fact the perfect movie to display if you are giving a conference about online networking.

Here a short video of how it works:

To make things more interesting at the top of the screen you can select the special effects used to transition from tweet to tweet. Check it out for yourself:


May 14, 2009

Obama, The Food Critic

Lately a lot has been said about Obama and his relationship with food. Some right wing commentators -that apparently feel it's their duty to criticize everything that the guy does or says- have been bashing the President for ordering his burger with Dijon mustard instead of ketchup: "What kind of man orders a cheeseburger without ketchup but Dijon mustard?" (sic, Laura Ingraham, and she was not joking!)

I find those comments fascinating mostly for what they say about the ones issuing them. Laura, my dear, you should start dating more. There are men out there that are actually not afraid of trying new things, that know what they want and have no problem ordering their food the way they like it. Comments like yours, my dear Laura, are the ones that make some people feel that Americans are all brutes..., like there is just one correct way of eating cheeseburgers and that is the "American-with-ketchup way"!

Anyway. I think that most of the time they end up doing those stupid comments just because they are angry and full of envy. The guy clearly knows more than them in a lot of topics, food included. As this lost episode of "Check, Please!" shows, Obama has his personal opinions on food too and he can actually articulate these opinions. Here is his review of the Dixie Kitchen and Bait Shop resturant, located in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago:

The interesting thing about this episode is that it wasn't aired at the time...
It was taped back in 2001 when series creator and executive producer David Manilow called upon State Senator Obama (a friend of Manilow's) to appear on the show. Why it wasn't aired? According to the producers, the episode was shelved because Obama was "too good -- too thoughtful, too articulate, not enough of an amateur. He ended up dominating the conversation. It was unbalanced " Manilow said, "to put it charitably."

Of course once he got to be the POTUS, the episode was aired (three times, in January of this year).

I am sure that Laura and her pack of rabid dogs will have something to say about this too: The now President dares to name "gourmet food" and takes the opportunity to advertise in favor of small businesses. What a shame!

You be a good girl Laura, keep eating at McDonalds, favoring big corporations and eating "real" American food. Just ketchup allowed, of course.


May 13, 2009

Merck: A Case of Deadly Marketing

Can bad marketing decisions be deathly? I am not talking metaphorically as in "can they ruin your brand?" (we already know they can), I am talking about "can they actually result in deaths?" After reading what is going on with Merck in Australia, I say yes, it can.

In the context of a civil suit filed by Graeme Peterson, who suffered a heart attack in 2003 while on Vioxx, against Merck and its Australian subsidiary, it was first published that "The Federal Court has heard that Merck & Co 'prepared and gathered' doctors and academics to write the company's own research on Vioxx, which was then published in prestigious medical journals as independent studies. The drug company also allegedly produced an entire journal -- called The Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine -- and passed it off as an independent peer review publication."

I find just the idea of something like this happening, appalling. Even when by default I do not trust big companies, I couldn't wrap my mind around something like this: the consequences of such action can be devastating as doctors need to trust peer reviewed medical journals as an unbiased source for information. They simply can't test by themselves each new drug in the market. So I decided to keep an eye open for more news on the matter.

Up to that point it was allegedly but on April 30th, The Scientist published that "Merck paid an undisclosed sum to Elsevier to produce several volumes of a publication that had the look of a peer-reviewed medical journal, but contained only reprinted or summarized articles--most of which presented data favorable to Merck products--that appeared to act solely as marketing tools with no disclosure of company sponsorship. "

The Scientist report that they were able to get two issues of the journal: Volume 2, Issues 1 and 2, both dated 2003.

After that, in May 7th the same publication followed up on this matter, this time focusing in the scientific publishing giant Elsevier. The company admitted that they put out a total of six publications between 2000 and 2005 that were sponsored by unnamed pharmaceutical companies and looked like peer reviewed medical journals, without diclosing that they were in fact sponsored publications.

"It has recently come to my attention that from 2000 to 2005, our Australia office published a series of sponsored article compilation publications, on behalf of pharmaceutical clients, that were made to look like journals and lacked the proper disclosures," said Michael Hansen, CEO of Elsevier's Health Sciences Division, in a statement issued by the company. "This was an unacceptable practice, and we regret that it took place."

To make things worse, on May 8th an arthritis specialist, Dr James Bertouch, told the Federal Court of his surprise after picking up a copy of a "medical journal" created by drug company Merck and seeing his name listed as a member of its editorial board. He was never invited to be a member of any such board and first became aware of his supposed involvement when he saw his name listed prominently on the journal's first page.

WAToday, reports that Dr. Bertouch was listed as a member of the journal's "honorary editorial board", along with 13 other doctors, in a 2003 issue. His name was removed from a 2004 issue that lists eight doctors as members of the board.

That later issue did carrie a small disclaimer reading: "The content of this publication is primarily made up of company-sponsored articles … The members of the honorary editorial board have not reviewed the content of the articles, and as such the contents do not reflect their views" but there was no reference to which company sponsored the articles.

Another witness, Professor George Jelinek, a medical journal editor with an interest in publication processes, previously gave evidence that the journal was designed to resemble a peer-reviewed publication.

I believe that even if this happened in Australia it should be reported all over the world. Merck is a worldwide company and Vioxx was sold everywhere (so far, here in the US, a class action lawsuit against the company was already denied in California and NJ).

Here in the US we may not have found (yet) fake journals but legitimate medical journals have been asked to retract drug studies involving Vioxx, Celebrex, Lyrica, and other drugs that were conducted by Dr. Scott S. Reuben of Baystate Medical Center after a full-scale investigation by the hospital, uncovered 21 published papers over 13 years in which Reuben made up some or all of the data. It seems clear that big pharma companies are willing to do what it takes to sell more, no matter what.

Nevertheless I don't think this is about Vioxx anymore nor about a "bad decision" when it comes to marketing. The decision to publish fake journals is an unethical one I am not sure if it is not also an illegal one. From my point of view it merits a lawsuit by itself, against the the publishing company and the pharmaceutical companies sponsoring these publications.

Peter Lurie -a deputy director of the public health research group at the consumer advocacy nonprofit Public Citizen- said "I've seen no shortage of creativity emanating from the marketing departments of drug companies, but even for someone as jaded as me, this is a new wrinkle."

I find it ironic that in some places in Australia the Merck logo appears as it is shown at the beginning of this posting, with a tagline that reads "Finding better ways". No one can deny they found a different way to market their product. I guess the "better" part depends on who is talking, if the pharmaceutical company making the profits or the doctors and patients cheated into believe that the information they received was unbiased.


May 10, 2009

In Memoriam - A Sad Reminder

Today I got the sad news that a friend of mine passed away this weekend after enduring months in a hospital with inoperable brain tumors. His name was Maxi, he was less than 40 years old and basically a very good person. I haven't seen him in years but we always knew a bit about each other's life through a common friend and he had a place in my heart.

When I was a kid, Amparito -a woman from Spain that used to work for my grandmother for more than 40 years-, used to tell me bedtime stories each time I spent the night at my grandparents house. One that stuck with me forever is one that many "sensitive" people may find disturbing to tell a kid.

Here is how her story goes: In Spanish, "Death" is "Muerte". From time to time she would pick up my hand, palm up, and slighlty move my fingers forward. Then she would show me the big "M" in the middle of the palm and say: "That M that you see there is in any hand in the world. In some cases is more noticeable, in some cases is almost invisible, but it is always there and there is a reason to it. It's a reminder for us that the only sure thing in life is death".

This story never creep me out nor gave me nightmares. On the contrary, I was fascinated by it and looking back I think it was pretty liberating. It made me realized at a young age that no matter what, there is an end to our experience in this world and that it was up to me to make that experience a good, valid one.

So death was never an issue for me. In theory it was the most equalizing thing in the world: poor or rich, famous or anonymous, good or evil, death will arrive to all of us. I cried for my grandparents when they passed away but I was okey with it because they both live long and fulfilled lives.

This time was different though. I cried a lot, overpowered by a feeling of impotence. Because death is the end of the journey for all of us but when someone dies at a young age inevitably we feel it is unfair.

The M in my hand reminds me daily that death will arrive at some point, for sure.

Maxi's death was a different type of reminder: a very sad reminder that death may arrive sooner than later. If there is one quality that life and death do share is that neither one is necessarily fair.

I didn't really need this reminder but I am sharing my sadness with you because I do hope we could all remember that we have one take at this life and that it may be shorter than we want it to be. So it is up to us to take on new challenges, conquer our fears and explore our options. Is up to us to help when we can and to ask for help when we need it.

Maxi, R.I.P. You touched my life as well as the lives of a lot of people around you. I am just terrible sad that your time end up being so terribly short.


May 7, 2009

A Beer Promotion "A la Kevin Bacon"

Who doesn't remember the "6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon"? The whole theory behind that game (the six degrees of separation) was also what sparked the idea of online social networks like LinkedIn, FaceBook or ASW.

A brand in Australia picked up the same idea and gave it a twist: they are trying the theory in the real world.

"Six Beers of Separation"
, sponsored by Tooheys Extra Dry is about helping four Australians follow their dreams to get connected with someone they really admire. How it works? Aspirants were asked to film themselves explaining who is their hero and why they think their life would change if they could have a beer with them.

Four winners were chosen and they have received a six pack of Tooheys Extra Dry, $12K in spending money, a camera crew and 18 days to travel the world, to try to prove that they are just six degrees of separation between them and their idol. Here are the four selected contestants beginning their journey...

They are already on their way to get to their idol and people can follow their journey through webisodes available at

I simple love the idea. It's different, makes a good use of online media and goes perfectly well with the product. "Let's have a beer together" has been the starting point of thousands of friendships, love affairs and even business relations. It makes all the sense in the world to use a beer to try the six degrees of separation theory!


May 1, 2009

It's Friday, Write a Song...

Suuuuch a nice video from Emily Hianes -Metric frontwoman- sharing a bit of her new song "Help, I'm alive" and her thoughts about her work in Buenos Aires, a city she chose to retreat to write most of her new CD.

Follow Emily Haines as she travels to Buenos Aires in search of inspiration and of her true self...

Metric's new album is entitled "Fantasies" and was released on April 14th, 2009. If you choose to buy it online from their website, some options include the work of "Hollywood in Cambodia", a collective of graffiti artists from Argentina who had one designated wall in a Palermo cafe where artists created a magnificent mural by adding to, instead of painting over, each others' original images.

Ok, I admit I am totally partial to Buenos Aires, the city where I was born and where I lived most of my life, but I guess this video proves that is not an inspiring city just to me!