BLOG ARCHIVE FOR: December, 2006


Following Icicles

The nice thing about this week between the holidays is that you can catch up on a lot of things…back e-mail, touching base with people, and going through things that haven’t been attended to for some time.

Which is why I’m belated telling you about an Icicle sighting (or sounding).  And perhaps why I didn’t see this coming.

When I was at Indiana University in the early ’80s, John Mellencamp (Johnny Cougar back then) came out with his first LP and had the hit single “Hurts So Good.”  He was a southern Indiana boy and spent time in the Hoosier epicenter of cool, Bloomington.

My college roommate worked at the B. Dalton bookseller in College Mall, which was right next to RecordTown.  More often than not, Mellencamp was outside the record store, chain smoking, talking about his record deal and  signing autographs.  We could have hung out with him, but we didn’t think he was cool enough.  That was during my misguided and unfortunate “Hall and Oates” phase.  Years later, when “Scarecrow” came out and he was John Mellencamp and singing about middle America, we realized we’d missed our chance to have a cool, famous friend.  And there we were in the cheap seats at the New World Music Theatre in Chicago when better judgment could have landed us backstage passes.

Greg on the Communications Team is a member of several bands, notably The Icicles and Truck Stop Cobras.  An Icicles tune from their second CD, A Hundred Patterns, is now featured in a Motorola phone ad.  The Grand Rapids Business Journal detailed the deal labout the song “Sugar Sweet” ast month.  I haven’t been able to make it to any of their live shows, but I do have their CD and would love to see them live  for the indie-pop tunes and the matching outfits.

I like “Sugar Sweet” but I never would have guessed it would become the soundtrack for a cell phone ad.  Which is why I’m probably destined to be a trend follower rather than spotter.  And why I may catch up this week and next, but probably won’t ever get ahead of things like this!


Sights and sounds from the Communications Potluck

Gary in an elf costume that included the message "only worn once."

OK, I'm kidding about the sounds part.  But I have over the past 24 hours figured out how to do links without lines of code and how to import photos from Flickr (thanks to Dino for the link tip and Jeff for giving me instructions on importing images.)  Above you'll see Gary, who stole this fetching elf costume from Jess.  The red card on the box read "only worn once."  It was worn at least three times during the potluck and I don't dare ask what happened after the costume went home with Bob.

Who, by the way, chose a self-portrait as his white elephant contribution.  Poor Sonja opened this (lured, perhaps by the chocolate kisses dotting the package) but couldn't get anyone to steal it from her.   

Sonja and "Bob"



This is how you embed a link, this is how you embed a link

They say adults need to experience or hear something five times before they get it or learn it.

Which is why I'm having a hard time embedding links.  Apparently I only heard this one or two times and I need to hear it a few more times before it sticks.

So forgive the long and convoluted links below…once I figure this out (or my capable pals in IT tell me again how to do it) I'll fix them.

I thought I'd gotten it right and tried to create a snippet for the [Museum] below, but it didn't work.

Bear with me…I'll get it eventually!



Farewell President Ford

Perhaps Grand Rapids' most famous son, U.S. President Gerald Ford, died at his home in California last evening.  This morning's local newscasts are pretty much reporting non-stop about President Ford's passing and his brief  but memorable turn in the White House.

I had a couple of brushes with President Ford.  The first was during the early 1990s, when I was handling  PR for the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.  President Ford was in town for a Gerald R. Ford Museum event and local NBC affiliate WOOD TV 8 (then WOTV) was doing a live interview.  Part of my job back then was to handle arrangements for live shots from the Grand Plaza and in this case, to sit with President Ford until it was time for his live shot.  For some reason, there was no reporter there, just a cameraman, President Ford, and me.

I was struck by how normal he was, for someone who had held the highest office in our country.  He'd just had knee surgery and we talked about skiing and he even gave me a few tips on staying on my feet and staying out of trouble on the slopes. 

I have a very nice letter from President Ford thanking me for my work on a commemorative video created for the 10th anniversary of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.  And I had the privilege of working on the 15th anniversary events that brought together the living past presidents and representatives of the families of Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon as well as political glitterati like Madeline Albright and Henry Kissinger.  

This morning's coverage was about how President Ford helped restore integrity to politics after Watergate.  Cokie Roberts, in particular, spoke about how Ford and others of his era could put politics aside and be friends and friendly with rivals.  And how there could be decency and honesty in politics back then.

No doubt the media spotlight will be on Grand Rapids over the next week as President Ford is laid to rest at the museum that bears his name in Grand Rapids.



If you missed Jim Payne….

You can see a netcast of today's Today show broadcast after 11 a.m. EST……click on the very, very long link below.,3808fb9a-ffdd-4b36-81c3-e1130adbc532,b7c11890-ccf5-4ee8-9864-886d45c77902,9958981b-c4a1-49ee-a925-ba46d1f96228,55a87adb-0a06-4a2e-80c0-bdf931667566,343325e9-154a-4fe0-ba3c-4369625f30d9,fc265e59-198c-45cb-ae50-0fb626b7dbe5,426041de-6c42-4321-9790-f934da7635f0 


Jim Payne on Today

Jim Payne appeared on the Today show around 8:35 a.m. this morning.  He nearly doubled the time of last year’s appearance — clocking over 20 seconds of air time — and even got a hug from Today co-host Ann Curry.

He was on Rockefeller Plaza with Ann, Meredith Vieira, Al Roker and the guy who fills in for Matt Lauer talking about Quixtar’s donation to NBC’s toy drive.  The crowd at Quixtar’s Spaulding cafeteria was a bit noisy so we couldn’t hear well, but one thing was for sure…Jim looked very cold!


11 Seconds of Fame

Tomorrow Quixtar's managing director Jim Payne will appear on NBC's Today Show to represent Quixtar's gift to NBC's Toy Drive.

Quixtar is one of 38 direct selling companies that provided products and cash worth nearly $8 million to this annual toy drive.  Over the past three years, this effort has resulted in $22 million in giving by direct selling companies like Quixtar.  Read more about this effort at

This year our gift is of NAO never accept ordinary cosmetics.  Teen girls are often overlooked in toy drives like the one NBC coordinates.  People often think of boys and girls in the 3-10 age group rather than the preteens and teens that are part of families that receive support through programs like this.  So our NAO donation is designed to benefit this group and help make the season brighter for these girls.   

Last year Jim also made a very brief appearance on Today highlighting Quixtar's 2005 donation.  Extremely brief.  I clocked it at 11 seconds.  Jim basically walked on, spoke a few words about the gift being from Quixtar and IBOs and that was that. Al Roker waved the microphone in Jim's direction and then moved on to the next segment.  I'm hoping Jim will  beat his record tomorrow and make it his "15 seconds of fame."   So look for him on Friday, December 22 between 8:30 and 9 a.m. EST as it stands right now.  He'll be on Rockefeller Plaza with either Matt, Al, Meredith,  Ann or Natalie.

There were lots of jokes about Jim's appearance last year….if you blinked you missed him.  Took a sip of latte and he was gone. 

But giving and participating in a program like this isn't about getting a few seconds of air time — that's a bonus.  It's part of a history of giving and support of children's programs by Quixtar, its sister company Amway, and its parent company Alticor.  Several years ago we made the corporate decision to focus more of our giving of time, product, and money to children's causes around the world. For Quixtar, that's involvement with National Easter Seals and the U.S. Dream Academy as well as providing support for aid or recovery from events that affect children, like Katrina relief.  We recently gave a donation to help support a Boys and Girls Club in New Orleans to aid victims of Katrina. And of course our IBOs do everything from tutor kids in after-school program to help bring kids to the U.S. for facial reconstruction surgery.   

So watch for Jim on Today…tomorrow!



Mirth and Girth

Yesterday was holiday potluck day at Quixtar.  All the departments have potluck lunches so team members can gather before the holidays and spend time together. And eat.  And be merry.    Every food group was well represented and there were tons to eat and enjoy. I'm partial to any pork product in barbecue sauce, so was pleased to find four different kinds of meatballs and little cocktail weiners as well.

There are several highlights of the Communications potluck.  First, Therese's parents make homemade kielbasa and she brings it to the potluck every year.  If you don't get there fast you won't get any at all.  Second, you get a wide range of culinary options — from vegan to store-bought, reflecting the personalities and perspectives of our team.  Leyla's butternut squash bisque was divine, and there was some left for lunch today. Same with Lori's cheese tartlets, which unfortunately some people thought were cheesecake rather than a more savory swiss — I was tipped off by the kalamata olives. Finally, and perhaps best of all, there's the white elephant scramble.

Everybody who wants to play brings a "white elephant" gift to give.  We do this scramble style, drawing numbers and then allowing each person the opportunity to pull a gift from the pile or "steal" a gift someone has already opened.  If you're the first person, you don't have much of a choice — you just get to open a gift and if you have that gift stolen you can then choose another from the pile.  Everyone else can either steal a gift or choose from the pile.  We don't allow double stealing (if your gift is stolen you can steal from another.)  All in all, with more than 60 people on our team, it took well over an hour to get through everyone and everything.

The "most stolen" items were a frog in pink hotpants that danced and sang to Britney Spears' "Hit me baby one more time," a red convertible with two hunters and a deer aboard that played "Low Rider," and a little shoe that's a cell phone holder.  I was surprised that my contribution was stolen several times….some CDs taken from my late father-in-law's limited and somewhat bizarre collection, including "For Lovers Only…The 40 Greatest Love Songs Ever Performed by Jackie Gleason."  Clearly, it struck a chord with someone on our team….as it did with whoever came up with the idea to have Gleason croon three CDs worth of sappy standards and with my father-in-law, who bought it. 

I actually went home with something kind of cute, a little snowman lamp that I lifted from Robin Luymes, who got a ceramic cow and some other stuff someone had salvaged from our "swap table" during our recent office renovation. 

And the renovation is officially over. Our team is starting the New Year in new offices and workspaces.  We now have team project rooms for collaborative work and the recent renovation meant that everyone could just spread out and have more breathing room.  While there's the typical punch list type stuff like desks not being the right height or something needing to be tweaked, overall everyone's pretty happy. Other than the incident last week where people put lunches in the fridge in the morning and came back and the fridge was gone, things have been pretty smooth.  That's thanks to Theresa, our fearless renovation leader, who has handled everything with extreme organization and extraordinary patience.  Our next step is to define appropriate content for the "public spaces" in our area — including stuff we'd rather people keep in their cubes rather than share outside them.  We're also going to be working on some public art — not sure exactly what that means yet — but an overall look and theme for what's on the walls around here.  I've got a great expanse of wall outside my office painted in a shade of olive green that's so dark it's almost gray, a stunning backdrop for some black-and-white drawings or photography. Or so I think.  The dozen or so art directors working here likely have other thoughts they won't hesitate to share!

The last two weeks of the year are a food fest here.  We have vendors who drop off goodies, and especially after Christmas, staff bring a wide range of leftovers that they want consumed but not necessarily by themselves.  We're talking leftover ham, turkey, cookies, cakes….you name it, we've seen it and eaten it.   It's no wonder we all expand a bit over the holidays….adding a little girth to our mirth!


My new digs


Here’s the new home for my blog.  There are a couple of things you’ll notice.

First, the photo.  Putting a face with the name, and hopefully erasing from anyone’s memory the holiday 2002 shot posted on Eric Janssen’s site.  Go ahead, go look at it…you know you want to!

Second, the history.  All of the postings from my old blogs are here (or should be), along with the comments (again, should be.)  Any omissions are accidental.

Third, the future.  Not to rehash ancient history, but as many of you know, I started blogging using a pseudonym and talking about all kinds of stuff.  Then, I was outed and started talking more about what we do in Communications, as well as providing some context and explanation to corporate announcements, decisions and happenings.  So that’s where I’m going to focus.  I’m going to give you the backstory behind some decisions and announcements and share information or insights you may not see elsewhere.  If I’m not adding to the conversation, I’m adding to the noise.

Fourth, my neighborhood.  You’ll see that my blog is located in what we’re calling the Opportunity Zone.  It’s a place to learn and talk about our business.  More to come on that, but look for others to move in over the next few months.

Fifth, I have a better mechanism now to post, so hopefully I won’t have many false starts where I post a partial message thinking I’ve just saved one to finish later.  However, I will always go back and fix grammatical errors in a previous post if I find I’ve made a horrible mistake!  But content will not be altered.

Finally, I’m still going to quote song lyrics.  Almost any conversation or meeting I have brings one to mind.  Right now it’s Death Cab for Cutie’s “Marching Bands of Manhattan.”

I’m still going to share personal observations and what strikes me as funny or strange – or in those wonderful instances, a little of  both!  And you’ll get some personal opinion and perspective – I don’t check my personality and perspectives when I pass my cardkey and get inside the doors here.   I’ll rave.  I may rant.  And I’ll listen.

Stay tuned!


By any other name

The renaming of the TD Waterhouse Centre in Orlando, Florida,

as Amway Arena has raised quite a few questions — and some interesting

speculation — about the reasons behind this move.

It's really boils down to a simple equation

– bigger is better. 

Alticor has two business opportunity brands — Quixtar in North America and Amway in dozens of countries and

territories around the world.    Amway started here in the U.S. nearly 50

years ago and while interest in Quixtar exceeded interest in Amway here a

few years back, the Amway name is synonymous with our kind of multilevel

marketing business.  Amway is the brand most associated with our

company on a global basis as in most of the countries and territories

in which we do business, we do business as Amway.  Amway is

responsible for the lion's share of Alticor sales. And, we have Quixtar

IBOs who have Amway businesses in other markets and Amway IBOs who have Quixtar

businesses here.   

It's no secret that the DeVos family owns the Orlando

Magic that plays at what now will be called Amway Arena.  Anyone

who follows the NBA knows that the fan base outside the U.S. is big,

with games being aired in more than 200 foreign markets.  Thousands of

Amway IBOs from other markets visit Orlando each

year and some Amway affiliates host incentive trips and other corporate events

in Orlando.

We're a global company with brands that blur the lines

at borders and businesses that cross brands.  Quixtar made sense from

a North American standpoint but not a global perspective, so Amway was chosen

as the brand to be featured at the Orlando

arena.  If we're going to shout a name around the world through NBA

broadcasts, it's going to be Amway.  In other words, we get more bang

for our buck by using the Amway name. 

Of course there are Quixtar IBOs who wish the Quixtar name

were on the arena or perhaps Nutrilite as our leading health and wellness

brand.  But a positive for Amway quickly becomes a positive for Quixtar by


However, I hadn't even thought of the possibilities for me

personally until the Alticor Media Blog joked

that the renaming wouldn't mean there wouldn't be a Beth Dornan bobblehead

fan appreciation any time soon at the Amway Arena.  So the possibility for

a future, albeit small, event still seems to exist!