Monday, July 13, 2009

on textbooks

I've been reading this really great blog, and wanting to post something from it for you all to read. seth godin is a marketer who writes books (and a daily blog), and is really insightful about the new ways of marketing, and life. here's something i think anyone who ever had to buy a college textbook can relate to:

textbook rant:

I've spent the last few months looking at marketing textbooks. I'm assuming that they are fairly representative of textbooks in general, and since this is a topic I'm interested in, it seemed like a good area to focus on.

As far as I can tell, assigning a textbook to your college class is academic malpractice.

They are expensive. $50 is the low end, $200 is more typical. A textbook author in Toronto made enough money from his calculus textbook to afford a $20 million house. This is absurd on its face. There's no serious insight or leap in pedagogy involved in writing a standard textbook. That's what makes it standard. It's hard, but it shouldn't make you a millionaire.

They don't make change. Textbooks have very little narrative. They don't take you from a place of ignorance to a place of insight. Instead, even the best marketing textbooks surround you with a fairly non-connected series of vocabulary words, oversimplified problems and random examples.

They're out of date and don't match the course. The 2009-2010 edition of the MKTG textbook, which is the hippest I could find, has no entries in the index for Google, Twitter, or even Permission Marketing.

They don't sell the topic.
Textbooks today are a lot more colorful and breezy than they used to be, but they are far from engaging or inspirational. No one puts down a textbook and says, "yes, this is what I want to do!"

They are incredibly impractical. Not just in terms of the lessons taught, but in terms of being a reference book for years down the road.

In a world of wikipedia, where every definition is a click away, it's foolish to give me definitions to memorize. Where is the context? When I want to teach someone marketing (and I do, all the time) I never present the information in the way a textbook does. I've never seen a single blog post that says, "wait until I explain what I learned from a textbook!"

The solution seems simple to me. Professors should be spending their time devising pages or chapterettes or even entire chapters on topics that matter to them, then publishing them for free online. (it's part of their job, remember?) When you have a class to teach, assemble 100 of the best pieces, put them in a pdf or on a kindle or a website (or even in a looseleaf notebook) and there, you're done. You just saved your intro marketing class about $15,000. Every semester. Any professor of intro marketing who is assigning a basic old-school textbook is guilty of theft or laziness.

This industry deserves to die. It has extracted too much time and too much money and wasted too much potential. We can do better. A lot better.

[Update: got more mail about this post than any other post ever. People pointed to Flatworld and to Quirk, and so far, more than 94% of the letters aggressively agree with me. Most of the people are either students, parents of students, former students or other disgruntled customers that are tired of being ripped off by a senseless, broken system. I also heard from a handful of people who said that I was jealous, that the union won't permit the system to change, that textbooks are really good, that professors are underpaid, that professors are too busy or (possibly and) that I'm delusional. I'll note that not one of these letters came from a textbook user.]

why you'd want to live here

the nice part about living 5 minutes from the beach is that it's there if we ever want to go. the reality is that we never go. so ryan, max, my cousin travis, and i went to the beach tonight after dinner. we decided to take our fun camera out for a spin, and here are a few of what we ended up with:

max and i

me, filtered with ink

watching the tide roll in

cool feet

travis, max, ryan- ink again

the cardiff crew

ryan and i

you can see the rest of the photos here

Thursday, July 9, 2009

french afternoon

i received an etsy convo today from a blog called ''inventing weddings.'' they chose to use the amethyst sophia earrings in an inspiration board called "french afternoon". how lovely!

new jewelry in the shop

we just finished posting so many new lucy necklaces and sophia earrings. with so many colors, they're perfect for bridesmaids and fashionistas alike! this week, i'm offering free insured shipping (and of course gift boxes) to anywhere in the US!

peridot sophias

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

death cab for cutie at the hollywood bowl

on sunday, ryan, max, my mom, and i piled into max's jetta and headed to the hollywood bowl for a concert featuring death cab for cutie with the la philharmonic. i am a sucker for indie rock with added strings, so as soon as i heard this concert was in the works, i bought (asked ryan to buy) 4 tickets. it was my mom's belated birthday gift (who has a birthday on december 24th and expects not to be slighted every time?).

we had kind of nosebleed seats, but we rented 75 cent seat cushions and had a picnic of turkey sandwiches, potato chips (of course they're organic- this isn't a tailgate party), lemonade, chocolate chip cookies, and tiny bottles of wine. someone forgets the wine glasses, and now it looks like a tailgate party.

opening for dcfc were the new pornographers (no, their music sounds nothing like you would expect from their name...actually, what would you expect from that name?) and tegan and sara. i'd heard of t&s, but never been conscious of what their music sounded like. turns out, i'd heard a few songs on tv (grey's, the hills, one tree hill, etc.). the other music they played was really good, and probably will be even better once i've heard it a few times and can hum along. they were also hilarious with their between song banter, describing their mother's first visit to la (it's not as pretty as she thought it would be. i mean, it's pretty here. she's not staying in the pretty part. i won't say where that is, in case some of you are from there), and their jokingly outing her as a closeted lesbian for "getting fresh" with a Marilyn Monroe look-a-like working Hollywood Boulevard.

it was my second time seeing dcfc, and ryan, max, and lorelai's first. (if you're reading this, and you're like, "lorelai? her name's andrea," or if you're my mom and confused about your true identity, watch the entire dvd boxed set of gilmore girls. it'll explain everything. actually, if you're my mom, you already know i call you that, but i bet you'll bring it up after you read this, anyway.) we wondered if the people at the top of the hill above the hollywood bowl could hear the concerts from their house, and concluded, probably. the lights dimmed when dcfc came out, and they played for about 30 minutes, only breaking between songs to say, "thank you for coming," and, "give it up for tegan and sara." what we were wondering is why were there 50 chairs set up behind them, and where was the orchestra. we thought maybe they cancelled without telling us.

i noted that ben gibbard, the lead singer for dcfc, had lost some weight. i just went to google "ben gibbard..." and one of the first suggestions is "ben gibbard lost weight"--apparently the blogosphere noticed, too. somewhere between marching bands of manhattan and i will possess your heart, i remembered he's engaged to zooey deschanel. and then i remembered she's my favorite.

if i'd been with different people, i'd have dragged them around the venue to find this actress/songwriter/fiancee. sigh. those times ended long ago, and really, this isn't the roxy. have any of you ever hiked up the hill to the hollywood bowl? i'd rather not scale it all night, weaving in and out of incredibly long bathroom/beer lines. so, i saved a sprained ankle and stayed in my seat. besides, we had no camera and didn't stop at rite-aid to buy a disposable- you'd have thought we learned our lesson with alex greenwald and the too-dark-to-see-who's-in-the-picture iphone disaster of 2008. i swear, if i ever meet zac efron and i'm cameraless...

after the sound of settling, ben announced they'd be back in a few with "50 of their closest friends." they returned with i will follow you into the dark, complete with ben on acoustic guitar, backed by an orchestra. with a chorus of,

"if heaven and hell decide that they both are satisfied, illuminate the 'nos' on their vacancy signs/ if there's no one beside you when your soul embarks, then i will follow you into the dark,"

that song is a tear jerker even without the violins in the background. i definitely got watery-eyed, but i passed it off as yawning. i have been known to sob uncontrollably at concerts, though (chris martin, i'm talking to you).

also on the list of orchestra accompanied songs were grapevine fires, which was one we waited for all night, soul meets body, my ringtone for the last 4 years and maybe forever, and title and registration, with the most logical lyrics of all:

"the glove compartment isn't accurately named, and everybody knows it/ so i'm proposing a swift, orderly change, cause behind those doors, there's nothing to keep my fingers warm, and all i find are souvenirs from better times.."

why is she typing out song lyrics? this is supposed to be "design by the sea". simple- i'm trying to culture you.

the last song they played was transatlanticism. it would ordinarily not be the most thrilling finale song, at nearly 8 minutes long, it's one i usually skip through after 3 minutes or so. this time, there were theatrics involved. coinciding with the music, a 5 minute fireworks show from behind the stage. you really have to watch the whole thing to get the effect, as the fireworks change when the music does. it was pretty breathtaking, (executed with "disney precision," ryan and i agreed) and reminded me of watching fireworks as a kid. it was hollywood magic.

to wrap up this short story turned editorial, some of the songs were amazing (summer skin, cath, grapevine fires), likely in part because i have a strong connection with those songs, and i really felt them. some of the songs were not as great. they lacked some energy, and i'd have liked some more interaction with the crowd. they have such an extensive catalog, they were bound to leave out some favorites (we looked like giants, for what reason). despite any shortcomings, the show was amazing. one of my favorite concert experiences ever, wrapped up in pyrotechnics.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

i hate ups

i sent a package to san francisco in december. usps told me i'd missed the cutoff time (3:30 pm) to get it there the next day, so i went to the ups store. i paid $54 to ship it guaranteed overnight with $1,000 of insurance. the package had about $3,000 of jewelry inside. i tracked it online as it arrived in san diego that night. and then didn't leave until the following night. the package arrived at 10:00 the next morning. about 19 hours late, and barely in time for the show which was the whole reason for this overnighting business. i'd also express mailed (with usps) a package to boston with $2,500 of insurance for about $19. that package arrived a day before the one in san francisco.

i meant to call ups to get some sort of refund on the shipping, but it was december, and i was busy, and the receipt just got lost in the shuffle. while cleaning off my desk yesterday, i rediscovered it, and called the ups store today. i told her the story, and she said, "it's been 8 months! there's nothing we can do." i said i'm not sure why it matters that it's been 8 months- it was still a guaranteed service, and it was still late.

i asked for ups' phone number, and the woman who answered said, very annoyed, "that was 8 months ago! you would have had to call within 15 days. it says it on our website. i can't do anything about it now." well, ups, while your life is shipping, mine is not. i said that policy was written in very tiny print on my receipt from the ups store, buried within a ton of other rules and regulations, and it was not clearly stated. and that that rule seemed to be designed so people would not ever get refunds because of that very small window of opportunity to complain. she said she didn't understand what i was talking about.

well ups, if shipping is your life, perhaps making sure packages arrive on time is a good idea.

otherwise, you should work on your customer service.

ps: the package in the picture was obviously not the one i was referring to (note the $4.60 postage), but a lovely friend, Aik, over at 'friends and family' did a product review and interview with me, and that picture is one she took. read all about it over there!