Meagan W.

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  • I'm no +Anthony Bourdain, but I set out to see how much Memphis I could fit into 18 hours, and a small budget.

  • A new, old school RPG from Square Enix? What's not to love? Except the hours of sleep you'll probably miss, trying to complete just...one...more...quest. Because, "without...you...this world...is...lost." Or something like that. But that's every Final Fantasy game, on the addictive gameplay and engaging storyline, fronts.

    I probably shouldn't admit this in public, but Brave Exvius is my first foray into the world of free-to-play mobile RPGs. Or any RPG for Android. I hope it doesn't turn out to be a pay-to-win thing, but even if it does, the FF series is so cool, I'll probably be okay with it.

  • This isn't exactly surprising information; the "fat-burn zone" is not high intensity, whixh means it doesn't burn tons of calories. If you're not that into heart rate training, and have been relying on gym cardio machines to let you know what "zone" you're in, this article gives a decent overview of what to aim for in a workout routine, instead.

  • Long overdue new post up at hoppyhalfpint.com. Good times and tasty beers in +Saugatuck Michigan, courtesy of Saugatuck Brewing Company. #craftbeer   #TravelMichigan   

  • And this is why no one will complain when +Google​​ takes over the world. They just keep making it better.

    And maybe being a kid just got cooler?

  • "Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It's freedom from fear. It's a billboard, on the side of the road that screams with reassurance that whatever you're doing, is okay. You are okay." -- Don Draper, Man Men ep.1

    Mysogyny, corruption, and great quotes, oh my.
    Yes, I'm very late to the Mad Men party. It was influencing the latest styles when I was just getting into #copywriting, much of it for #fashion brands. And I do find the clothes exquisite. But I was busy, and trendy shows are many.

    If I'd had any idea what a trove of quotable passages, not to mention marketing and advertising insights the show had to offer, I'd have dived in sooner.

    For a #copywriter, the job is to communicate why and how a company or product will make customers happy. How it will improve their life, and somehow give them more freedom. This can sound manipulative, but in the best case, it's about the same as anyone telling their friend about an awesome new thing they like. Maybe a craft beer they just "have" to try, a brand of motorcycle gear that's super cool and functional, or a refrigerator with cameras and an LCD screen.

    At its best, that's what marketing is; sharing something with a lot of friends, that you genuinely believe will add some amount of happiness to their lives.

    And while you're thinking about that, check out these totally Mad Men-esque shoes. Aren’t they awesomely retro?

  • Simple? Yes. The best advice usually is. Easy to implement? Probably not.

  • When I started writing SEO content, the emphasis was on short, snappy posts containing a fair amount of keywords. For my own blog, I tend toward longer, article-style posts that explore a topic in some depth. It takes more time, but I think that approach offers more value to readers. Happily for me, I just ran across a +Forbes.com​ piece containing a defense of the long blog post or web article:

    "We have known for some time that Google shows a preference for longer, more comprehensive content. According to the report, the average word count for top-ranking content is in the range of 1,140-1,285 words. This is up from 902 words in 2014. When creating content, focus on providing comprehensive coverage of your topic, rather than writing shorter content that only brushes the surface of your topic." -- +Jayson DeMers

    Does this signal an end to long-form writers' guilt (c'mon, don't tell me I'm the only one who deals with that)? We'll see, but I definitely hope so.

  • This post doesn't have a great deal to do with business; not really. Nor, as Ash Ambirge puts it, "to make a statement about guns or religion or human sexuality."

    Just, something about really seeing other people. That's hard to do, you know? We're all pretty busy running around, doing our thing. And it's all too easy for the other humans around us to become, to our busy, unseeing eyes, just examples of their stereotypes. Jersey people. Church people. Some-kind-of-sexual people. Creative people. Straight-laced people. Political people.

    And sometimes the stereotypes are jaw-droppingly, hold-your-sides-laughing-because-you-can't-believe-people-actually-dress-talk-or-act-like-that, accurate. And sometimes they're not. But it doesn't really matter, because the operative word in all of it is "people."

    We're all just people, trying to get by and do our thing in an often-insane world.

    It doesn't matter what kind of people fall victim to a crazy act of hatred. In the end, it's all humans. Like me. Like you. And when any of us take the time to truly see each other for who we are, and maybe who we want to be, too, that's precious and beautiful.

    I'm not going to pretend that it will remove all badness and evil from the world. But maybe, if we can see each other a little more, and judge or ignore each other a little less, it will help. It's worth a try, right?

  • As a creative writer, I hear a lot about authorial voice. This terribleminds.com post by +Cassandra Khaw offers a fantastic discussion of how important and precious an individual writer's voice is, and why it's never (not ever) okay to hamper a new novelist's development with ill-considered advice.

    But I'm not here to talk about novel writing today, or the preponderance of bad writing advice floating around the Internet. I want to talk about another, very useful application for the creative writer's art: copywriting.

    Pretty much everyone needs copy written, and they need it done correctly and well. Since I'm an on-the-market copywriter, I often field questions about my knowledge of AP and Chicago, attention to detail, and technical skills and software proficiency. Perhaps I'll also be asked how well I work with others, and about my social media know-how. Business questions. Nothing that will really help them get to know me as a creative.

    Now, I get it. Those other things; voice, brainstorming abilities, whether and how I come up with writing ideas on the spot: those are more ephemeral. They're much more difficult to ask about and gauge.

    Voice, though. More than properly placed commas and a large vocabulary, voice is what distinguishes writers from each other. That's the illusive quality that everyone who hires a copywriter should be looking for, right?

    Voice, +Cassandra Khaw writes, "...is a precious thing that can take years to cultivate, years to develop. It’s something that never really quits growing either. It is unique to you, and only you, and it is the thing that makes a piece of writing sing."

    let's focus on that last phrase for a second; "it is the thing that makes a piece of writing sing." Isn't that what clients and employers should want from a copywriter, as much as readers look for it in their favorite authors? Copy that nearly jumps off the page, grabs a reader/viewer by the throat, and says, "look here! This thing is awesome, and cool, and the people who made it are real and had you in mind when they designed it. This is the thing for you!" And does so without making the reader feel that they have, in fact, been assaulted.

    Voice, people. Creative writing, whether fiction or brand storytelling, is all about it.

  • Among other 'Millennial' stereotypes, a near obsession with social media seems to be commonly assumed. While I know plenty of people, aged 34 and under, who are not super excited about Facebook, for instance, it is pretty common for the young-ish generations to be more savvy about new media that their older counterparts.

    It will shock no one to hear, once again, that social media is an increasingly important aspect of growing and maintaining a business in the digital age. If you've been looking at the job market for creatives at all, you've probably noticed the large demand for social media-related positions; Digital Marketing Specialist, Social Media Manager, Community Engagement Manager, etc.

    Maybe you have great communication skills, can write like an English wizard (not a Harry Potter-esque British wizard, but someone with a near-magical facility for written communication), and love engaging with people. But perhaps you're not sure if you have what it takes to land a social media job, or don't know how to show your social media chops.

    After all, as Joseph Rauch points out in this Skilledup.com article, it's easier to build a copywriting or similar portfolio than to showcase social media work.

    This article has some great ideas and tips on how to kill it (I can't believe I'm using that phrase) in an interview for a social media position. Go get 'em, tiger! 

  • A headhunter (business, not the other kind) asked me today what I meant by "storytelling," which I'd listed as a skill on my resume. I've seen the word pop up so many times in job announcements lately, that I didn't give a second thought to describing it. But the question got me to wondering: seriously, what does "storytelling" mean in a business context? Surely I'm not offering to sit potential employers down for juice and story time?

    No, but also a little bit yes. This AdWeek post by Greg Haddon explains the concept of storytelling as it applies to content marketing. Naturally, he uses something of a narrative format.

    I could leave it at that, but figured I might as well take a crack at describing the concept, too.

    As plenty of studies and books tell us, people are wired for story. We've been sitting around campfires, telling stories to each other for much longer than we've been able to write them down. Narratives are much more interesting to us than collections of facts and figures. Ask your kid to study history dates, and they'll probably be bored before you've finished making the request. Get them interested in the stories behind those dates, and they'll be much more likely to do their homework.

    In marketing, or any kind of business, storytelling is kind of them same. If, in some way, you can communicate a narrative about your product, service, what makes your business special, then your customers are much more likely to find the product interesting. This is, of course, what advertising is. To use a somewhat polarizing example, Budweiser runs ad campaigns based on the narrative of the plain, simple, hardworking American worker. And, it definitely appears to work.

    Outright marketing and advertising are not the only places were storytelling comes in; in any context where you want to catch folks' attention and get them interested in something, narratives are a great way to go. The next time someone tells you they don't like football, relate something cool about one of the players on your favorite team, or about the team itself. I'll bet they listen to that with more attention than to a list of your favorite player's stats.

    To me, It distills to this: storytelling is one of the most human activities, and when used in just about any context, it will interest other people, and make you seem more human, too. An education in creative writing, and a brain that's always thinking about stories, are handy for this.

    Hear that, future robots? Tell us stories, and we'll probably like you better. 

  • "Whether a plane to Singapore, a subway in Manhattan, or the streets of Cincinnati, I search for meaningful conversation wherever I may travel. Without it, I believe we lose the ability to not only understand others, but more importantly, ourselves." -- Dhani Jones

    Normally, I would post this at hoppyhalfpint.com and link it here, but I'm having some technical issues with the WordPress app right now. So I'm putting it here, instead.

    Quick stop in Cincinnati:
    On the road again, and it's time for a travel post. Be warned: this one has nothing to do with beer. I do still have two write-ups to do on Michigan breweries, and I will. But today, it's all about Cincinnati.

    This is my first visit here, and I must confess, I'm surprised by what I've found. My limited experience of Ohio has not been very, shall we say, diverse. So when I asked my hostess for dinner suggestions, I mentioned salad, since summer has settled on the Midwest like a heavy and slightly damp blanket.

    Ah, yes. About my hosts. Whenever practical, I like to find lodgings via Airbnb. For the uninitiated, it's a site that lets you rent beds, rooms, or entire dwellings from people all over the world. You can also use it to host other travelers. Yes, it's safe. And it's awesome. Instead of an impersonal hotel, you stay in someone's home, making it much easier to experience a city like a local. I'm pretty sure that's part of the site's copy, actually. So anyway, I booked a spacious room in a 100-year-old house in Cincinnati, near UC. The hosts are a lovely couple by the names of Alison and Jules. The price is quite reasonable, and I can't complain in the slightest about the accommodations. True, the stairs to the second story are quite steep, and the floor of my room tilts downward slightly, toward the outside wall. I'm not even being tongue-in-cheek when I say that's part of the charm. Oh, and the towel they loaned me is soft enough to tempt the most seasoned towel thief. Fortunately, I am not one.

    I find that the best way to explore one's immediate neighborhood is to go on a walkabout. Besides, after driving all day, the car and I were ready for a short break from each other. I started out, carefully following Alison's directions to find salad. But I got sidetracked by all the eateries advertising various types of Asian cuisine. I landed at Tea 'n' Bowl, a bubble tea and Chinese stir fry and hot pot joint. Good choice, me. Apparently, this place has won a bunch of "Best such-and-such" awards.

    The waitress, a young lady named Lyn, was quite friendly and helpful. When she found out that I tend to write about beer, she suggested I check out Taft's Ale House, which is housed in St. Paul's Evangelical Church, in the Over-the-Rhine area. Sadly, I don't have time this trip to check out any breweries. Let that sink in for a sec; no pints, brewery tours, or pub grub. At all. I know, I'm slippin'. I also wanted to visit Rhinegeist Brewery, but my internal debate on whether to walk there was decided by a rainshower, and impending dusk.

    Back to Tea 'n' Bowl. If you've never experienced the wonder of bubble tea, you need to. It's an iced tea, often flavored, with large tapioca "bubbles" in the bottom. It's usually served with an extra large straw, so you can slurp up the tapioca spheres. This time, I went for the "royal" Earl Grey milk tea. I'm a sucker for the canned milk teas often found in Asian grocery stores. This was like that, but fresher. And with the added charm of tapioca bubbles. And then there was the Hong Kong wonton soup. I tend to agree with chef, author, and CNN travel/food journalist, Anthony Bourdain, on the necessary ingredients for happiness.
    "All of the things I need for happiness: Low plastic stool, check. Tiny little plastic table, check. Something delicious in a bowl, check."

    Granted, the low plastic stool and tiny table were missing; I guess they haven't caught on in Cincinnati. But the wonton soup definitely qualified as "something delicious in a bowl." The murderously hot pockets of shrimp and pork goodness arrived at my table, floating in a sea of golden broth, accompanied by what I think was bok choy, and buoyed by a mass of noodles too large for two of me to finish. Sorry about that, Lyn.

    Confession time: I cannot eat a bowl of any kind of Asian noodle without splashing some of the broth on my shirt. Most embarrassing. So I asked the waitress if there was a clever trick to eating the noodles. She told me to spin the chopsticks to pick them up, "like people use a fork to eat pasta." Lightbulb moment. It totally works. Noodles = mostly conquered.

    About halfway through my meal, I was presented with a small dish of house-made kimchi. "It's kind of spicy," Lyn warned. And it was. Also, delicious. I don't think I'd ever tried kimchi made with cucumbers and black fungus before. If you're going to eat unfamiliar fungus: A) don't ask. B) have it fermented. It was a little chewy, and quite tasty. I hear black fungus is "very popular in China."

    My stomach full, I headed back to my lodging, just in time to get rained on a bit. Good thing I wore a hat, or my hair would have got wet. Doing no damage to it whatsoever. On the way, I snapped a couple pics of the St. Monica-St. George Parish Newman Center. It is, apparently, the home of the Catholic Campus Ministry for UC. I liked the architecture, but my efforts to do it justice were thwarted by constant traffic getting in the way of my shot. Ah, well.

    One last note about the neighborhood: it looks pretty sketchy, but is mostly full of university students, and business owners who seem to cater to them. Still, the occasional doorway filled with people smoking random substances was enough to persuade me to head inside before dark. And there you have it; Cincinnati has a vibrant food and brewery scene, probably lots of cool history and historic buildings, and bowls filled with deliciousness.

    References:
    http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/d/dhanijones542886.html?src=t_cincinnati
    http://www.eater.com/2014/10/20/6995061/parts-unknown-vietnam-just-the-one-liners

    

  • I've been making, learning about, and writing on #craftbeer for quite a while now, and I love it. But my love affair with #coffee goes back much farther, to sleepy mornings and sun (and sweat) drenched afternoons in the #DominicanRepublic. So I've added a new category to my blog, and started this collection for my coffee reviews, reverences, and caffeine-induced musings.

    Let us begin with this review of Narrativality Coffee Roasters and The Coffee Room, in Mt. Pleasant, MI. 

  • Don't automatically think of beer for 4:20? No need to be narrow-minded. Lagunitas offers the perfect thing: Waldos' Special Ale. And this year, it's in bottles!

    http://hoppyhalfpint.burntgraphite.net/wp/need-a-420-beer-lagunitas-waldos-special-has-you-covered/