Does anyone recognize this vegetable?

>> Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In the spirit of participating in the new locavore movement, VP, Director of Channel Planning Melissa Gordon , has a mystery she’d like to share.

Here she is, to explain!

I decided to sign up for deliveries from a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group in the tri-state area. Upon beginning my search, I happily stumbled upon an organization that delivers the bounty of veggies directly to the welcoming arms of my doorman. This was far more appealing than having to run to pick up the veggies between 3:30-6:6:30 every Thursday, which seemed to be the norm with most other local CSA offerings . Plus, the deliveries will be coming once a month and the most exciting thing is that I have no idea what's going to be in the box, and I love that.

My first delivery came Wednesday, and I felt like a kid on Christmas (or what I imagined that would feel like) when the box was brought up to my apartment. I was thrilled as I pulled out bag after bag of vegetables that I knew well, until I came upon the mystery vegetable I have pictured in the photo.

Below is an itemized list of the crate:

1 insanely large head of cabbage that weighs 4 pounds (Seriously, I weighed it)
2 dozen eggs
1 quart of organic whole milk (which was ceremoniously donated to the doormen)
1 jar of pickled beets
14 turnips
11 shallots and onions
18 carrots
9 red bliss potatoes
8 beets
2 garlic bulbs still covered in dirt

And 5 – five! - of the mystery vegetable.

I look at this as my 'veggie adventure' and have made a promise to myself that I will use all of what is delivered in new recipes, so please let me know if anything on the list jumps out at you that you may have a great recipe for. As of now, given the inventory I'm thinking there will be a lot of soup made this weekend.


Insights from the Clouds

No, it’s not an ancient Phoenician technique for divining the wisdom of the gods. It’s one of VP Planner Jacob Braude’s favorite trends: the use of data visualization techniques to help us transform information into actionable insights that help drive business for our clients.

Take it away, Jacob!

A couple of months ago a blog post from the NY Times caught my eye. It was a short post about the clever use of data visualization by a TV studio to help ensure consistency despite their use of many authors on one of their most popular shows: CSI.

The technique they use is word clouds. If you haven’t heard of word clouds before, they are a way of visualizing the most commonly-used words in any piece of text. They are especially useful for pulling out the most important points in really long texts, like speeches, legislation or Web sites. The NY Times has been using the approach themselves to dissect speeches – especially useful during campaign years. If you want to see a great free gallery or word clouds – or even make your own – click here.

Here’s how a word cloud works: the program combs through whatever text you choose and counts the number of times each word appears. You then get a “cloud” of words from the text. In the cloud, the larger the word is, the more frequently it was used. This allows anyone to quickly grasp the dominant themes of any text – no matter the length – in just a few seconds.

The folks over at CSI use it to quickly analyze the script for an episode and see at a glance what the dominant themes are. They can then ensure that authors working on other episodes are able to pull those through effectively, creating a nice, smooth narrative experience for the audience.

In the marketing world, word clouds are useful in any number of situations. I’ve personally used them to analyze what patients write on social sites like about taking different medications. It quickly assembles an easy-to-read picture of the dominant words patients use to describe what it’s like to take a certain drug.

They can also be used to assess a competitor’s Web site, provide a quick way to pull out key themes in TV scripts, or analyze responder data from clinical trials.

Ultimately data visualization techniques like word clouds are another tool to ensure that we continue to pull insights out of information. Information is everywhere, but insights are what lead to ideas that drive brands forward.

Hope this finds you well!


In the News: Helping Kids Conquer Obesity

>> Thursday, March 18, 2010

Health and wellness news this week has been focused closely on the issue of obesity and specifically how it impacts our youth. A recent study revealed that while there are no easy answers for this serious national problem, parents play a vital role in their children’s weight. Obesity is a critical issue to health and wellness, one that is at the center of our approach to advising clients about the importance we place today in living more healthy lives.

Here are some current articles that caught our eye this week:

Michelle Obama comes right out and puts parents on the front line in a thoughtful article this week on the cover of Newsweek launching a nationwide program “Let’s Move.” (The picture is from a recent article in The Washington Post, showing Mrs. Obama asking the Grocery Manufacturers Association on to reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar in foods.)

Politicians see raising the tax on a soda as a way to reduce obesity. AdAge questions if this is really going to have an impact. Take their poll and register your point of view

CNN’s “” site offers insight on three steps families can make to reduce obesity in their children.

Hope this finds you well!


First Sign of Spring

>> Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring is coming soon. To some, it brings wonderful images of budding branches and longer days. To me, it brings images of horror: not being able to wear a winter coat to hide my extra hibernation weight. It’s taken me a lifetime but I’ve finally decided there IS a link between diet, exercise, health and a size…(your favorite number here).

So I’m going to a nutritionist. And I’m going to chart my progress here every week until I reach my wellness goal, or I fall off the wagon and into a plate of Lamb Sliders at Locanda Verde. I’m not liberated enough to post numbers but I will chart feelings, changes in energy levels, and how many times anyone who works with me says, “What side of the bed did you get out of today…”.

So far I’ve gone through week one on nothing more than steamed green veggies, supplements and protein shakes. I haven’t mortally wounded anyone as yet but it’s only Monday. But I can’t say I’m full of vitality yet, either.

Meanwhile, please take a look at an article I read a while ago that made me think…and act. Seems I can’t blame genetics solely on my ancestors anymore:

Wish me luck this week.

-Helayne Spivak


Health & Wellness In the News: Get Me Outta Here!

>> Thursday, March 4, 2010

Travel is one of those things that many of us have cut back or put off entirely during the recession. As one gentlemen wrote in our Wellness Survey, “My wife and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary recently. We had a lovely dinner in a local restaurant rather than a lovely dinner in a restaurant in Bali. Net savings: about $20k.”

But for most of us, travel is a key part of our overall wellness – even if it’s just getting out of town for the weekend. Getting away helps put things in perspective, opens up new ways of thinking and being … or depending on the situation, makes you appreciate home all the more (yes Dorothy, I’m talking to you).

Here are some of the stories we’ve seen about travel and wellness recently – enjoy!

o From the Healthy Travel Blog – a look at how travel can help stave off – or at least help --
winter depression (for those of you who have had too much snow, this will surely resonate).

o The New York Times travel blog reports that travel
yoga is now mainstream, because who wants to miss their yoga class just because they’re at the beach?

o One more feel-good vacation idea that has recently gotten headlines is the volunteer vacation
– combining a get-away with an opportunity to do good. This makes you feel good where it counts the most – on the inside. We like it!

Hope this finds you well!



Breakthroughs Still Happen

>> Wednesday, March 3, 2010

In this era of apps and ipads, there’s still plenty of room for technology that makes a meaningful difference in our lives – in some surprising ways. VP Planner Jacob Braude shares a story that you'll be thinking about when it gets warmer, and you're enjoying the great outdoors again!

Take it away, Jacob.

I read a piece in the NY Times a couple of weeks ago about a former chief technology officer for Microsoft named Nathan Myhrvold who recently unveiled a new piece of technology; he and his group somehow figured out how to design a machine that shoots down mosquitoes with lasers. So already we’re in “Minority Report” level coolness, but it gets better.

The entire machine was built with components that they bought on eBay. Technology that guides laser printers was coupled with image-detecting devices from digital cameras and image processing software. The prototype machine could shoot down anywhere from 50-100 mosquitoes per second and if it made it to production they speculate that it could cost as little as $50.

The coolest part for me was that it is so precise it only targets female mosquitoes. They’re the ones who bite, and it’s more efficient to leave the males alone. If you want to see a video of the laser at work, check it out here (it almost makes you feel sorry for the little blood suckers).

We talk a lot about Wellness here on this blog, but usually what we mean is how our choices affect our Wellness, and how we can help guide those choices towards better behaviors.

Given the role of mosquitoes in the spread of life-threatening disease (not to mention sanity-threatening itchiness), this seemed like a rare opportunity, like the discovery of a treatment for a previously incurable disease, to highlight a triumph of human ingenuity to help improve Wellness for all of us.