Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ginger - The Versatile Root

Someone once asked me, if I were a spice, what would I be? Without hesitation I said, "Ginger." After all, originally native to South Asia, it is one of the most adaptable of all spices and can be used to flavor a variety of cuisines. Kinda like me - originally from South Asia, but adaptable to any environment.

To say I love ginger is an understatement. Reminds me of Bubba recounting to Forrest Gump all the ways you can eat shrimp. For instance, I like to add some ground ginger into my English Breakfast Tea (milk, sweetener included). Whenever I have a queasy feeling in my stomach, I always find relief by placing a slice of ginger under my tongue or chewing on a piece of candied ginger. Unless, I have some ginger beer at hand. Nothing helps congestion like some good old green tea with ginger and honey.

Over the past two decades, I have become an accomplished cook - in a variety of international cuisines. Interestingly, most recipes call for ginger! Who hasn't savored the pickled ginger that accompanies the most delectable Japanese dishes? And the obvious thin strips in many menu items in Vietnamese or Chinese restaurants? Don't get me started on Caribbean cuisine, oh my! Even, the revered French chefs use ginger in several recipes.

Sometimes, I channel my departed mother to cook up some aromatic Sri Lankan food of which ginger forms an important flavor base. Speaking of dear departed, my sister Jan used to make some of the wickedest ginger beer and ginger wine that she would dole out in rations when we visited her while she was alive. I was always one of the favored ones to get seconds.

According to Wikipedia, Ginger has a sialagogue action (stimulating the production of saliva). All this talk of ginger has made my mouth water. I am off to buy some ginger snaps.

P.S. Long live the Gingerbread Man and his gumdrop buttons who knows the Muffin Man who lives on Drewery Lane!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Calculating the "Love Quotient"

It is no secret that because humans are powered by emotion, most decisions are made on emotion and later rationalized with logic. As neurologist Donald Calne explains, “The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.” Given that context, it is natural that everything we do involves relationships and how we feel towards that relationship. This explains our attraction to certain people who have a “personal magnetism” or “charisma” derived from the Greek “kharisma", meaning “divine gift.” The French call it "je ne sais quoi," or "I know not what." This characteristic is hard to define, but easily recognizable in people we like and admire.

Charismatic Leaders know how to connect with people. They take the time to scan and read their environment, and are adept at picking up the moods and concerns of individuals as well as larger audiences. They will then hone their words and actions to suit each situation. Charismatic Leaders pay a great deal of attention to the person they are talking to at any one time, making that person feel like he/she is the most important person in the world.

While many believe that charisma is an inherent trait, some people believe it can be cultivated. Here are ThinkSimpleNow's 8 Keys to Instant Charisma:
1. Mirroring the actions and expressions of the person you are talking to
2. Remembering Names
3. Being genuinely Interested in the person
4. Allowing Others to Talk
5. Having an Intention to get to know the other person
6. Offering Help
7. Smiling
8. Having Authenticity

In “IQ vs EQ” by Candy Tymson, she explains that recruitment specialists admit that the emotional competence (EQ) of the candidate is proving to be as important today as their intellectual competence (IQ). Out-of-control emotions can make smart people ineffective. Those candidates that have emotional competence are able to control and direct their emotions and feelings, without being so controlled that they stifle all feeling and spontaneity - and therefore any spontaneous behavior from those around them.

It is therefore natural that marketers are realizing that building loyalty for their brands involves developing a personal relationship with their audience. Joel Desgrippes of BrandImage explains it best. “Branding is not only about ubiquity, visibility, and functions; it is about bonding emotionally with people in their daily life. Only when a product or a service kindles an emotional dialogue with the consumer, can this product or service qualify to be a brand.”

There are four levels of customer engagement to strengthen the bond between a consumer and a brand:
1. Confidence in the brand’s promise
2. Belief in its integrity
3. Pride in being a customer
4. Passion for the brand
This is why social media is becoming front and center of an integrated marketing strategy.

The 10 Commandments to Understanding Social Media – Kyle Lacy (expanding on Marc Gobe’s book “Emotional Branding”)
  1. Think of consumers as people
  2. Create products as experiences
  3. Convert honesty to trust
  4. Change quality to preference
  5. Shift notoriety to aspiration
  6. Switch identity to personality
  7. Revert function to feel
  8. Propel ubiquity to presence
  9. Make communication a dialog
  10. Transform service into a relationship
While much has been talked about the Intelligence Quotient and the Emotional Quotient, having both in the right balance adds up to the Love Quotient (IQ + EQ = LQ). Just as individuals who have a high LQ have a loyal following, brands that do will have a loyal fan base that will help them grow exponentially. As history has shown us. it takes passionate grass roots movements to bring about revolutionary changes. It takes genuine interest to start a love fest.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Books Are The Stairs to Heaven

Reading is my strongest weakness. There is not a library or bookstore that I can resist walking by. My next weakness is a love for architecture that has been kept alive through my marriage to a home builder with a passion for architectural detail.

New York has fascinated me because of its old historic buildings that remind me a lot about the Dutch architecture in Sri Lanka, my birth country. As I was getting assimilated in the Brooklyn neighborhoods, I found that there are many great public libraries in Brooklyn and the rest of New York City.

I am a firm believer that just as books tell a story, the buildings that house them have an even greater story to tell - from the birth of an idea in someone's head to the funding and collaboration to build it and those who work tirelessly to add to its monumental collection of media.

I love to explore the architecture of some of the libraries – based on its historical perspective or whether it is flavored with modern references. I like to focus on some of the unique features of each library and get some input from those who work there.

Most importantly, I believe that reading expands one's horizons and therefore is something that should be encouraged. This is a compelling reason for anyone to get a library card and start reading or even check out audio tapes if they are more auditory learners.

New York Governor Samuel Tilden is credited as being one of the earliest benefactors of the New York Public Library system with a bequest of $2.4 million. Thanks to Andrew Carnegie's philanthropy at the turn of the 20th century, New York's Public Library system gained flight.

Today, the libraries throughout New York City are as varied as the neighborhoods they occupy. The original library at Fifth Avenue with its imposing Beaux-Arts design was the largest marble structure in the United States when it opened in 1911. It still represents the affluent neighborhood it guards.

In sharp contrast, the Brooklyn Public Library's central branch, which opened in 1941 was designed as a book with flaps, a representation of Architects Alfred Morton Githens's and Francis Kelly's outstanding Art Deco style. Opening onto Prospect Park, this neighborhood was more socio-economically diverse than its luxurious Manhattan predecessor.

The Bushwick Public Library, a Carnegie building designed by Raymond F. Almirall opened to the public on December 16, 1908 in a neighborhood of predominantly Russian Jews and a growing Italian population. The building was stately in its Spartan details. Today with media in Spanish and Chinese the Bushwick library also represents the cultural expansion of its neighborhood.

Regardless of its neighborhood locales, these libraries create permanent homes for books and programs within walking distance of every resident in every neighborhood.