Friday, May 29, 2009

A Few Random Tech Tips For Friday

Just a few little tech bits for you on a Friday:

Files Over Miles - This site allows you to share files with another person directly by just using your browser.

This great article about note taking programs and sites
ran in the New York times earlier this week. It mentions one of my favorite sites that I have talked about before called Evernote.

This morning I also read about this very cool looking computer bag from a company called Cocoon Innovations. The whole set up and style of the bag helps you to stay organized. I'm all for an OCD style computer bag if it means I can easily find all my stuff.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Austin Restaurant Ideas

If you or your boss is traveling to Austin anytime soon, you might want to check out this Austin restaurant list from Tasting Table (a daily e-mail about restaurants). Austin is a popular vacation destination these days, but also quite a few filmmakers live and make films there (Robert Rodriguez, etc.) and many tech and Hollywood types now attend the various parts of the SXSW festival because it includes movies and tech oriented events. Tasting Table also has daily e-mails for New York and Los Angeles, so you might want to check it out.

DIY Artisinal Cookbook - A Gift For The Martha Stewart Type In Your Life

If your boss needs you to find a gift for that special client that is really into cooking or you need to buy it for a friend, it's hard to find something interesting that just isn't the same old cookbook or serving dish. Yesterday I heard about the book Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It: And Other Cooking Projects by Karen Solomon and I think it's a more fun and surprising thing to give to someone who really loves making food. The book has many recipes for making artisan food and drinks at home. It includes recipes for things like homemade popsicles, jams, cheeses and much more.

The book by itself wold be a great gift, but if you have a bit more to spend, you could add these cute but inexpensive canning type jars from Target and/or this pretty dish from Michael Aram to serve some of the items in.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tech Tip Tues - Oops, I guess Tech Tip Wednesday :)

You can't get the Siri App for the iPhone yet, but you can submit your info and get contacted when the beta version launches this summer before it goes public. It sounds like a really cool and helpful app and I can't wait to try it out. Here's the description of the app from the company that makes it:

Siri is a Virtual Personal Assistant - a new way to interact with the Internet on your mobile phone. Like a real assistant, Siri helps you get things done. You interact with Siri by just saying, in your own words, what you want to do. You can ask Siri to find a romantic place for dinner, and get reservations for Saturday night. You can discover things to do over the weekend, get tickets to the movies, or call a cab when you’re out on the town. You don't have search through a bunch of web pages, following links and hunting down facts. Siri does all the work giving you the information you need at your fingertips.

TechCrunch also did an early review of it, if you want to read more. Late in the day, I also found video demo of Siri online from the Wall Street Journal D7 Tech Conference. After watching the video, I want to try it even more

I try to spend some time each week reading magazines, tech blogs, newspapers online (New York Times being my favorite) to find helpful websites, iPhone apps, trends that can help me to thrive and be more efficient. Try taking just 5 minutes each day to do it and you will be shocked at all the cool and useful stuff you will find.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I'm Recycling My Own Post - Is that Eco Friendly?

This is the first and only time that I will recycle a post, but since I did the post long ago and I think it's something that's useful for everyone (especially those people new to the blog), I'm doing it this one time. The old post about organization was featured on a website other than my own called Brazen Careerist (which is a great resource for career knowledge, ideas, trends and more). Here are both posts:

My Post About Organization On Brazen Careerist

The Original Post On This Blog Called Organization How Do I Love Thee, Let Me Count The Ways

If you didn't see the post long ago, please check it out. It's so important to be organized and it can really help you to thrive creatively if you can get yourself more on track, even just a little bit.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Gifts For Your Favorite Geek

Some people feel that Geek is a bad word and would be insulted if you referred to them as such. I'm not one of those people. I'm definitely geeky to some degree and I embrace it. Here are a few gift items that any geek in your life would probably enjoy receiving:

I would love to get this solar backpack by Voltaic or any of the solar bags from Noonsolar. All you need is the sun and you can charge various electronics with no outlet. Voltaic also just came out with a solar computer bag that can actually charge a laptop.

This t-shirt from Think Geek is pretty funny and if you wanted to spend a bit more you could a gift certificate with it.

I adore this La Cie USB flash drive that's shaped like a key. Tons of USB drives are small now, but they're so easy to lose. This is a great solution, as it can go right on your key chain.

If you really want to take it to the max with the geek gift, but still not break the bank you can get this (but as everyone always mentions -- inaccurate) Space Invaders shirt and put it together with these cool Space Invader style ice cube trays.

Friday, May 22, 2009

MMMMM You Smell Nice

Today I want to share two perfumes I really like that the whole world doesn't already wear. Perfume can be a great gift idea, but to pick one for someone you really need to know them well. I tend to like things that are light and a bit sweet. Check out two of my favorites that are light enough that they work well on many different people:

ElizabethW - I have loved this company from San Francisco for a long time. My favorite perfume they make is Sweet Tea. They also have a bunch of other scents and great products in a reasonable price range.

Sara Horowitz Perfumes - My favorite scent from this company is called Perfect Veil. It's light and not overpowering at all. This is the same company that does the fragrance journey I have mentioned before (you have a consultation and create your own perfume with the owner or her mentor). The Journey isn't inexpensive, but if budget isn't an issue, it's a unique and special treat that provides not only a gift, but an experience.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Don't Focus On What Others Think Of You

One thing I really wish had realized when I was a bit younger is how to let go of caring so much about what others think of me. It can truly get in the way of everything you are trying to accomplish. I should have been writing years ago and trying to get a manager, but my fear stopped me. Especially when you are in a field that's creative, you often have to put yourself out there and you will never have everyone love what you do. You have to focus on your passion and harness that without being constricted by others opinions. It's hard, but it is crucial to stand out and not just seem like everyone else. If you look at this list from EW last year of the top 30 actors under 30, you will notice that a large amount of them have made at least some offbeat choices and it paid off. Another great example of this is Russell Brand from Forgetting Sarah Marshall. His audition for Forgetting Sarah Marshall, wasn't really what they had in mind for the character, but it was so fun and interesting, the rewrote the part for him. He is successful because he has stayed true to himself and embraced what it is that makes him special. He did a great interview recently about his new book and the idea of him being himself and getting out of his own way is discussed at length. If you want to check it out, click here.

The only thing you can care about is what you feel about what you do. The rest is out of your control, so don't let others change you. Sometimes being who you really are is the thing that will make you stand out the most.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Don't Be Boring

I think I might have just screwed myself with the title of this post. Now if it isn't super exciting, people are going to think well how come she can be boring? In an effort not to be dull, I'm going to keep it short. This video of famed guru/marketer Seth Godin (who has written a bunch of best selling books on the subject) at the Ted Conference talking back in 2007 about how to stand out and make people pay attention is perhaps even more true today. The video is all about being unique and different and why it's imperative that you stand out. Being good or even great just isn't enough anymore. I highly recommend watching if you have the time.

The video is full of good advice and if you can take it to heart, it will help you leverage what's special about you, so that you can stand out. I did this blog about how to be a great personal assistant instead another pop culture blog (which I had done before) because I knew there weren't many exactly like it and I thought I could bring something a bit different to it because of my years of experience and the creative way I tend to approach my job.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Hodgepoge Of Great Gift Ideas From The Weekend

Normally I do these kind of postings individually, but I thought it might be fun to post a little Monday morning potpourri of great gift finds I happened to discover this weekend. I'm feeling wily and unpredictable like that today. So, here's a few unique ideas I found that I think will be great to suggest to your boss or to use in your own life:

For the tech guru in your life, the incredibly realistic iPhone and Blackberry soaps from a site called Two Eggplants are a fun and surprising gift. The site also sells a bunch of other soaps that look like real things.

If you're in the mood to send someone a food gift, these handmade peanut butter cups that have chunky peanut butter and high quality chocolate in them from Little Laura's Sweets are a great alternative to cookies, brownies or cupcakes. It's always more exciting for the recipient when you send something special and new that they haven't received before.

A gift idea that I happened upon randomly this weekend via Twitter is this great baby delivery bag from Little Stork. It comes in a variety of sizes and has all you need to take to the hospital, so that you can be prepared and not have to do the work of picking out everything to bring with you. I don't have kids, but this would be a great gift to give to a pregnant friend at a shower. I also like that there are a few to choose from in different price ranges.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Find Inspiration In Your Boss

It doesn't always happen, but sometimes you end up working for a boss that's very similar to you and they inspire you to develop certain skills even further. Many years ago I worked for a couple that I'm lucky enough to still call my friends, Henry & Stacey Winkler. I have stayed close especially with Stacey and it's because we were always like-minded. We loved sharing ideas and tips about sending people thoughtful and surprising gifts. She's an amazing woman who was a publicist at one time, is a great writer and has done an amazing amount of charitable work in her lifetime. She helped me to realize how utilizing the ability to really listen and be resourceful can make people feel special when you share info with them, buy them a gift, etc. I mention often on this blog that it isn't the money you spend on a gift, but the time you put into finding something unique or that's related to something the recipient likes that will make a great impact. It's always the little details or the time you found the impossible thing that will make someone smile. I think it was something I already knew when I met her, but during the time I worked for her and in these past few years as her friend, I have realized how much it stayed with me and inspired me.

I also recently saw Henry in an episode of the tv show Numbers on CBS, here's the full episode if you want to check it out. In this episode, Henry is more of a tough and serious guy and he's fantastic. It made me think about another lesson that's important to learn no matter what creative field you work in -- that you have to keep stretching and trying new things. It's imperative to keeping yourself vital and your skills sharp. Henry apparently already knows this!

If you let the right boss inspire you, it will be forever invaluable.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Unique Kid Gift Idea

If your boss asks you to come up with a great gift for a kid or you just have a niece or nephew that you want to impress, I have a solution. I recent read about the Smartebear. It's your standard cute teddy bear, but with a really fun twist. The bear plays music, games and tells interactive stories, but also you can go to an online store and download thousands more songs and stories. You can also personalize him and have it call your child by name. It can also speak in a variety of languages. For only $60 it seems a pretty good deal.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Authenticity Is Key

One thing that I have always felt deep down, but believe even more strongly now is that in whatever you do authenticity is key. People can usually sense if you are full of it, don't care and/or are just doing something to get rich. I write because I like to and clearly would love to have a career doing that at some point, but it's less about that and more about doing something I feel I have an authentic/true calling to do. Now that social media is ubiquitous, it's even more important to be your true self on twitter, etc. Most people can tell if an assistant is tweeting for someone or if the person is doing it because their publicist said so, as opposed to when they are doing it for fun and to connect directly to their fans.

Here's a few examples of people who are thriving (especially on the web) because they are authentic and communicating with their fans in a genuine way.

1) Felicia Day - She is perhaps the best possible example of what I'm talking about. She's a talented actress and has always worked (Buffy, Dollhouse, etc.), but Hollywood should appreciate her and utilize her way more. A couple of years back she decided to write/create a show on the web that dealt with topics that were true to her heart - being a geek, a gamer, etc. The show is called The Guild and it's a sensation. She controlled her own destiny, stayed true to who she was and is really succeeding because of it. She's also on Twitter and her musings are pretty entertaining. Don't take my word for it, she has over a half million followers! Also check out her blog, if you are so inclined.

2) Kevin Pollak - I'm sure most of you know that Kevin is a successful comedian and actor, but he also recently started a new venture that's pretty cool. He is hosting his own web interview show and it's really great. It's similar in style to Charlie Rose, but the interviews are even longer. So far his focus seems to be mostly on actors and tech folks. Some guests he's had so far - Jon Hamm, Matthew Perry (who both have insanely good hair, not that it's relevant), Felicia Day (see above) and Alex Albrecht (co-host of the popular web show Diggnation, Project Lore, etc.). He has a website, but the chat show and his twitter feed are the two best things to follow for what he's up to currently.

The final three are people I have featured before, but they warrant a second mention because they are the epitome of what I'm talking about.

3) Wil Wheaton, who I wrote about in this post is a shining example of someone who is open and honest with his fans and completely authentic. His entire blog and writing career or at least most of it is about being true to who he is - geeky and celebrating it. He doesn't hide from who he is, he embraces it and people really respond to that. If you're on Twitter, check him out.

4) Gary Vaynerchuk, wine guru and social media king, who I wrote about here also makes no apologizes about accepting exactly who he is and making that his trademark. He's a super enthusiastic guy and that's part of why people adore him so. He has a brand new book that will be out soon. He's also on Twitter here.

5) Dana Brunetti, now a producer and the head of Kevin Spacey's company (once his personal assistant), who I wrote about in this post also has lots of people following him on Twitter and interested in what he's doing because he is talking about his job, sharing video from the Triggerstreet offices and really letting people see what his job and life is like on a day to day basis (good and bad). People respond to him and are interested in what Triggerstreet has to offer because he isn't a phony. Most people in his position would rather hold on to their power and what's special about their career and not share it with others, so that they could feel important and like they were in a secret Hollywood world. Dana doesn't seem to be that guy. If you want to see his Twitter feed, click here.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Blogged, Not Stirred

I read recently read about this cool book on mixing drinks (written by well known restaurateur Danny Meyer). If you took that book and added a few more pieces, it would be a great gift for anyone who likes entertaining and making cocktails. If I was going to put this together as a gift, this is what I would add with the book:

This really unique martini glass from Crate & Barrel gives a fun unexpected twist to what could be a boring gift. I love it.

If you wanted to add in some alcohol to get the person started, this artinsanal vodka from Crop Vodka puts a new spin on a product that people have seen a million times.

I also really like this Shaker Set. It's a bit more modern, but still classic enough to work for someone more traditional.

This gift could be great for Father's Day (if your day likes to mix drinks), for a housewarming party or an anniversary party.

Quick Tip for Monday

I keep hearing people saying how they love Luxe City travel guides, so if you or your boss is traveling for work or play, check them out.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


I have to admit, I'm getting a bit tired of the stick bacon in anything sweet and people will buy it trend, so I'm surprised I'm writing this post. I've seen lots of stuff like that lately and most if well... just looks gross, but the two items below look pretty good and might be just the ticket for Father's Day if you have a bacon loving dad.

Devil In An Apron Bacon Caramels
- From what I've read, these are delicious, but definitely have a strong bacon flavor. They also do caramels with whiskey in them.

Socola Chocolatier Beer & Bacon Truffle Set
- I have a friend that tried the beer and burnt caramel flavors and said they were amazing. I would imagine the bacon one is good as well.

Again this hits home the thing I'm always saying about doing something a little different to add to the fun of the gift. In this instance, the combo of the item being good tasting and a bit unusual will be sure to make the recipient smile.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Are Personal Assistants Born And Not Made?

I often tell people that I don't know that you can teach someone to be a great personal assistant. You can instruct someone in the basic mechanics of what you need to do, but I do think some parts of being good at this kind of job are more innate. I recently discovered that the super talented writer Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Coraline, etc.) has a great personal assistant that's on Twitter named Lorraine. I then found out about a two famous blog posts she had done that are hysterically funny, but also really pull back the curtain on what the job can be like for someone who is really famous and insanely busy. Check out the two posts:

A Day In The Life Of A Personal Assistant

The Top Ten Things Never To Send Your Favorite Writer

She also has her own blog that's interesting and fun to read. If you're into his books, her boss is also on twitter.

Her posts made me really reflect on what job can be like and what skills are required to handle it that might be useful to know about (even if you don't possess them innately). Here's a few tips I came up with:

1) Be flexible and prepared to change course in a flash.

If you can't perfect this art, you'll be crushed within moments of trying to do the job of a personal assistant. I've worked for a bunch of celebs and multiple high profile execs in the silicon valley and this is true across the board for all of them.

2) Be creative with all that you do (gift giving ideas, solutions, etc.).

When you have to give a gift to another celeb who has everything or to a soon to be Governor (which I once had to help my boss do) or get a reservation at a restaurant (that's impossible to get into without calling weeks ahead even if you are famous) for that night because your boss wants to go (which I once had to do), you have to be able to think on your feet and come up with solutions that will WOW your boss, the recipient of the gift and the hostess who you are trying to win over. If you can't think outside of the box and easily take no for an answer, this job isn't for you.

3) Be on top of what's going on at all times.

You ALWAYS need to be thinking ahead and putting out fires before they start when you're a personal assistant. You need to see the problems coming or do all the prep work and double checking you can, so that things don't get screwed up. It can never hurt to double check a car service booking or make sure that your boss indeed did get up to call a reporter at 6 AM, etc. The mantra for this type of job is always better safe than sorry.

4) Be detailed and thorough with everything.

When your boss goes on a trip and has multiple interviews, a performance and then a fancy charity benefit, you can't just hand him/her some basic half-assed attempt at an itinerary and expect that all will turn out great. You need to make sure that you include confirmation numbers, phone numbers and a few extra little pointers (directions, etc.), so that things will hopefully go smoothly. Also, never be secure that just the paper and/or notes on a calendar with ensure that your boss does what he/she is supposed to do on a particular day - remind them even if it might annoy them, as they will always appreciate it in the end. Also, be detailed in your own notes. You never KNOW when you will need to refer to them and you always end up needing a piece of information that seemed trivial at the time. I went on at length in this other post about how I stay organized.

I hope that's helpful if being a personal assistant is something you want to do. The job is definitely not for the faint of heart. It can be really fun and interesting at times and you do get to meet and be a part of things you might never have been exposed to when you do this for a living, but it's HARD work. Anyone who tells you different, is lying.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Podcast & Magazine I Can't Live Without

As an aspiring screenwriter, I'm constantly seeking out information about what I want to do for a living and trying to find people who do it well and see what I can learn from them. One resource I love is Creative Screenwriting Magazine. It's full of tips, interesting interviews and stories of how people succeeded. If you don't want to subscribe to the magazine, they also do a fantastic podcast that features some of the most talented and successful writers and filmmakers in the business. The podcasts are always interesting and super insightful. I could not get myself to the gym without them.

Check it out if it interests you, but if you aren't a writer try to find a resource you love that inspires you to do your best.

Share Your Knowledge

I know it seems like if you know how to do certain things well that you should keep that info to yourself, but truthfully that attitude doesn't really help anyone. If you keep the info to yourself - yes maybe in the short term it helps you, but by sharing and interacting with others you are more likely to have success and feel supported. In order to survive in the entertainment business especially you need to have a network or a community who is on your side. That's why being on tracking boards is great and networking with everyone you meet is so important. I spend lots of time writing this blog, so that it's helpful for all of you and answering lots of questions on various boards and I'm not being paid for it. I do it because I like sharing my knowledge and it's helping me to develop new connections that might lead to a new personal assistant gig or a writing gig. Here's a few people who share their expertise and insight for free that you should check out:

John August
is a terrific screenwriter (Big Fish, The Nines - which he also directed, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, etc.), but he also has a great website where he shares info, answers questions, does contests and even does fantastic tutorials on things like Better Scene Openings and Writing Better Action. He's a person that could have chosen to just sit back and revel in his success, but instead spends some of his valuable time sharing and helping others who want to do what he does. He actively decided to do the opposite of what most would do and for that he should be applauded. He's also on Twitter if you want to follow him.

Lilit Marcus was once an assistant (now she's mostly a writer - Newsweek, New York Post, Brazen Careerist, etc.) that has a terrific blog called Save The Assistants. She shares all kinds of information about being an assistant, horror stories from her and others that will help you to laugh and release some of your stress, tips on what to do if you get laid off and more. She's another person who could just focus all her energy on her own job situation/writing career and keep all the info to herself, but instead she spends her time helping others be informed and enabling them to laugh at some of their crazy work situations, so that they don't have a breakdown. By the way if you want to follow her, she's also on Twitter.

Ted - I wrote about the Ted Conference here, so if you want more detailed info check that out. In simple terms, Ted is a very expensive conference that happens every year where some of the greatest minds in all fields get together and talk about the problems of the world, technology and just have a great time connecting with each other and sharing information. Chris Anderson (who isn't the original creator of Ted, but now owns it) decided a few years back to feature many of the talks that people give there online. I seriously could not contain my excitement when I found this out. In the older post, I talk about some of my favorites, so check it out or just go to the site to see what appeals to you. Sharing the talks from this ultra exclusive conference is the ultimate act of altruism. It doesn't really benefit Chris to have them free to view online. The conference certainly doesn't need publicity, as it is people fight tooth and nail to pay $4000 or so (I think) to go. I think he just decided it was better for the greater good and decided to share. I'm extremely grateful that's the kind of guy he is and I watch the talks all the time. No matter what field you're in, it's important to be informed and this is an easy way to do it.

So the next time that you don't want to share something you know or that you've just learned, think again about why. All of these people are successful and decided not to cling insecurely to their knowledge, but to share it with everyone.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Getting Organized With Style

One fun thing about getting organized these days is that you can do it with products that are fun and stylish. If you hate doing it, the job still might not be fun exactly, but it might be just the thing to make it seem a bit more exciting. Here's a few of my favorite places to find organizing products:

See Jane Work
- This online store has all kinds of great items that are stylish and make it fun to get things cleaned up and looking better. I like these letterboxes for filing, but they also have a ton of other fantastic stuff. They now also have a blog about organizing to go along with the site.

Sorting With Style - I recently discovered this site and I also like many of the items they offer as well. They have quite the selection of colorful and chic manila folders that are day I say it -- elegant and sophisticated for something to file in. This site also has a blog and the owner, Sayeh Pezeshki is on Twitter.

The Container Store also comes in handy from time to time. The stuff there is more practical (although a bit of it has some style and cute prints/materials), but I love this their cascading letter file tote that you can hang. It's truly amazing.

The best thing to do is visit all three sites, as they each have unique items that will help your office be neater and look better.

If you want a little refresh on all my thoughts on organization, look at this post I did in January.

Friday, May 1, 2009

8 Secrets To Success In 3 Minutes

This super short video by Richard St. John from a Ted Conference in 2006 (if you don't know what Ted is, go this post that I did about it to get clued in) is genius. He spent years interviewing some of the great minds of the world and came up with 8 words that are the secrets to success. It's only three minutes long, so you have the time to watch it. I'm positive. Take the time to do it. It's worth it. If you really enjoy it, he also wrote a book about it.

Quick Tip Friday - Gifts For Foodies

I just read about this new site called Vervacious that has great gifts for the foodies you know and love. They have all kinds of teas, oils, sauces, salts, rubs and even truffles (bring the big bucks for those) that would make anyone you know who is really into food pretty excited. Also the packaging is really elegant and modern. This place seems to still be a bit under the radar, but I don't think for long. I love buying stuff from a site like this because getting someone something they haven't seen before really adds an extra bit of zing to a gift.