Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Au Savon de Marseille les Grands Ballets Canadiens & The Nutcracker Market. What Do They Have In Common? Ahh Read Below To Find Out

It's November and we all know what that means, next month Christmas. Already in the works are a variety of partys and events to celebrate the season. One event that is coming up in the Montreal area is the Nutcracker Market. The event is held each year near the end of November and goes into the first week of December. It is run by les Grands Ballets Canadiens. The event raises funds for the troop's youth program.

One of the companies that will be participating in the event is Au Savon de Marseille. The company sells soaps from the Marseille region of France here in Quebec. I contacted Stephane Thibaud to find out more about the company and what drew him to the Nutcracker Market. Stephane thanks for being a part of Candid Conversations.

Stephane Thibaud: Thank you Cliff for highlighting our participation in the Nutcracker Market. It is the second edition and this Christmas market really deserves to be known by the public. As you mentioned, it is also a philanthropic event. 

Cliff T.: I have to admit I have not heard of Au Savon de Marseille. From what I can see your an online retailer. How long have you been selling soap for?

Stephane Thibaud: You can wish us happy birthday. We have been selling soaps for exactly two years this month. In fact our website was launched as a fast and a low cost way to test the potential of this great soap in Canada. Now we are ready to move on. Opening a street store is one of our options but, we also want to develop and improve our wholesale capacity. Already Le Marché Vert in Saint-Sauveur and La Maison Oléa in Bromont are offering our Marseille soaps. 

Cliff T.: Now from what I read on your site Marseille soaps have been around for a long time, since the 16th century, what makes this soap unique? 

Stephane Thibaud: The first soap was made in Marseille in 1360 but, in the 16th century is the very beginning of the industrial era of the Marseille soap. The success of this soap can be summed up in four simple facts: efficient while being safe, versatile, and long-lasting. Efficient and safe because it does what it is supposed to do: cleaning up without pretending to get your skin younger or things like that. It is a well known soap among people who have skin irritation or people who have to clean up their hands often. Considered as a hypoallergenic soap, mothers use it to wash their baby clothes. Versatile: we can use the very same Marseille soap for our personal hygiene and use it as a household cleanser, laundry soap and even as a natural insecticide (it kills aphids). Its properties are very well known in Europe but I must admit this is something not so easy to explain here in North America. We have been told for decades to buy one product for the kitchen, one to clean up our clothes, a different soap for our toes and and another one for our hands. But, Marseille soaps do all those tasks, even better and safer than industrial detergents or cosmetics! I could talk for ever about this soap but the last important things I want to bring up to your reader is its quality and the way it is made. A genuine Marseille soap must contain at least 72% of vegetable fat oil and be made according to the old “Marseille process”. It is this manufacturing process and the percentages of oil that make this soap such a high quality and long lasting product. One of my friends told me I was crazy to start a business that sells long lasting products. I said I must be crazy but as a consumer, I am also fed up with this modern marketing concept which is to make a product obsolete after a very short time or so. Anyway, as part of our effort to explain what a Marseille soap is, our website displays videos that were taken right into the soap factories. They are all in french but, at least everyone can get a very good idea on how this soap is made, a process that takes more than 20 days. www.savon-de-marseille.ca/videos.html is where one can see the videos. 

Cliff T.: This is your second year at the Nutcracker Market. How did you get involved with les Grands Ballets Canadiens? 

Stephane Thibaud: We were contacted last year by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and they asked us if we would like to participate in the first edition. They were searching for merchants who are offering products of great quality and hard to find here in Quebec.

Cliff T.: As noted in the introduction the event helps raise funds for the troop. What exactly does the money get used for?

Stephane Thibaud: 10% of the merchant’s sales and all other revenues go to the Nutcracker Fund for Children. This fund is aimed at helping disadvantaged children who want to take part in educational workshops and also attend a ballet. This will also help with production of the Nutcracker ballet which is mostly attended by children.

Cliff T.: Stephane, was this one of those events you heard about and said I have to do this? What was the motivation to become part of the Nutcracker Market? 

Stephane Thibaud: 2010 was the first year of the Nutcraker Market so of course, we could not have heard about it. When the team of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens called us in September that year and asked if we would participate…well…to be honest, we did hesitate and took a few weeks to think about it. First, my business was not even one year old and we were absolutely not prepared to do such an event. You must know that I am running this by myself with the help of my conjoint. We have unfortunately no employees to help us and not a bit of an expertise on how to manage such events. Beside, we did not know what to expect since this Christmas market has never taken place before! 

Then we remembered that starting a business is about taking some risks. We also put in the balance the fact that this could be our opportunity to learn how to prepare for an event like that. It is also important for an online based business to get in touch with its customers outside the net, in a more physical way, especially when you sell soap.

The other motivations came from the fact that this is not only a market but also a philanthropic activity. We really like this concept which is in perfect accordance with our philosophy, not only as a business but as persons. Last but not least, I must confess: the invitation to participate in this new project was really flattering. You know, merchants were selected and invited according to the concept which is to offer hard to find good quality products. Nine months after starting a business, we were feeling rewarded already! 

Cliff T.: Au Savon Marseille at a charity market must make for some interesting conversations, what has been the reaction to your entry last year and your entry this year in the Nutcraker Market?

Stephane Thibaud: reactions were all positive. Les Grands Ballets Canadiens were really happy to see us last year and we must have been of a good help in their cause since they invited us again. This year we did not think twice before accepting the invitation. The experience is great for the Nutcracker Market visitors too, we get to meet customers face to face and explain to them what a Marseille soap is, its history, its uses. People see that we do not hide behind our website and even that we are not a big corporate entity, we can do something via our business to help others in the community. 

Cliff T.: And, are you going to be taking orders or selling the soaps you feature on your site during the event?

Stephane Thibaud: Of course. Having an online business is like having a store you can never close. Fortunately and just as last year, I have my retired parents coming right from France to help us.

Cliff T.: Sounds like you will be having some fun and helping a worthy cause thanks for sharing the story with us here on Candid Conversations.

Stephane Thibaud: It is my pleasure. I do invite your readers to come visit The Nutcraker Market at le Palais des Congrès de Montréal, November 24 – December 4, 2011. There will be about 69 other passionate merchants who will be there to offer wonderful gift ideas and contribute to the Nutcracker Fund for Children. 

Stephane Thibaud from Au Savon de Marseille a company that sells the world famous Marseilles soaps online is participating this year, for the second time, in the Nutcracker Market. The event raises money for les Grands Ballets Canadiens. You can find out more about the company and the event by going to the website, Stephane wrote from his offices from the Montreal area. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Smallest Show On Earth

Fleas, they bug our pets and they bug us. However they can also entertain us. I found an interesting web page through another podcaster's site, the site is www.noonco.com/flea. The creator of the site is Mr. Walter Noon. I contacted him to find out more about the site and flea circuses.

Cliff T. Mr. Noon thank you for taking time out to speak to me about your site flea-circus.com.

Walt Noon: Thanks Cliff, I never miss a chance to spread this infestation. :) Thank you very much for thinking of

Cliff T.: OK I took a look at the site and on it you have as the header where the secrets of the flea are revealed, what secrets do fleas have?

Walt Noon: Fleas tend to be very honest creatures, so I can see why that title could be a little confusing. The main thing I was getting at with that title was the fact that many people do not believe that the fleas in a flea circus are real. I can honestly say that I’ve had someone offer to feed a flea, been bitten by one, and they still turned to me and said “I don’t know how you did it, but I know it can’t be real.” That’s a 100% true story. This is one of the most wonderful things about the flea circus. It really is a magical act where an audience’s perceptions can really be put to the test! All while being thoroughly entertained by the spectacle of live performing fleas jumping through hoops, carrying objects, and balancing on wires right in front of their eyes. Many flea circuses are a mixture of real flea stunts, and humbugs. It all depends on the performer (and often the fleas) as to how much of each you get! 

Cliff T.: How many flea circuses are there that you know of?

Walt Noon: I’ve built 78 circuses for performers around the world over about the last 10 years. I think the act is still pretty rare, but I would guess there are several hundred regular performers of some version of the flea circus. The only continuously operating (fixed location) circuses I know of in recent years have been the Flohzirkus in Germany. I believe the owner is Marco Assman. The last fixed location circus I know of here in the States was the famous Professor Heckler circus at Hubert’s Museum New York from 1933 to 1957. I was lucky enough to meet and Interview Bobby Reynolds who worked the flea act there! The beautiful Maria Cardosa also performed a circus in San Fransisco’s Exploritorium (at times wearing a bikini I’m told) around 1997. As interesting as that image may be, there is a historical precedent: Fleas have often performed with beautiful women!
The flea act was a popular theme in French burlesque in the 1800’s when performers would remove their cloths while pretending to search for a flea which had gotten loose! 

Cliff T.: How long have you been working with fleas for?

Walt Noon: I built my first circus at the request of the brilliant Rob D’Arc in 1997. He still performs it to this day as “Professor Humbug.”

Cliff T.: So would you say that you are a collector flea circuses or info on fleas as a whole?

Walt Noon: I started out to simply build one circus for a friend (Rob), but after many many months of research, I fell in love with the fleas. (They are very cute when you take the time to know one.) I became an early “hub” for flea information around the world. Flea societies (yes, there is such a thing), museums and schools have all sent me information, and others request information on a regular basis which I love to provide. (When I’m not sure of an answer, I have my own fleas to observe and consult.) I can build circuses for museums and insectariums and I’ve been lucky enough to create custom circuses for performers from such great groups as Cirque du Soleil, Ringling Brothers and many others. I work with a talented artist (John Norris) to create the genuine circus imagery. I have OCCASIONALLY performed the act myself on Television and movies, including one National Geographic special, and a flea race on MTV. (National geographic had such wonderful cameras, they could literally focus on the eye of a flea! I got to see my performers in a whole new light!) 

Cliff T.: Mr. Noon, why fleas, what attracted you to them?

Walt Noon: This is a surprisingly hard question! I had no idea the almost mystical appeal fleas had; until I got to know them. No one forgets seeing a circus, even if they saw it as a child. How could you ever get the image of seeing a flea juggling a ball out of your mind once you’d seen it? As a performer myself (I make “normal” my living doing a magic act), I think I just got caught up in this unexpected enthusiasm and appeal. Of course, I feel lucky to get to work with the stars of the show too!  

Cliff T.: I also notice that your a magician and inventor, do you incorporate these into the world of the flea circus?

Walt Noon: Absolutely. The engineering behind creating a collar for a flea to wear, and creating the tools to attach it around his neck (without harming him) is one of the most challenging tasks I’ve ever had as an inventor. I nearly gave up the first week. But, the first time I snapped a collar in place on a flea, and hitched him to a cart, I was overwhelmed by the feeling I could do anything! (I highly recommend it as a transcendental experience!) I have some tools that I literally had to make under a microscope, Keep in mind a whole flea is not much bigger than a printed period in size 12 font on this page! From the “magic” angle, I had to be sure there are enough “gimmicks” in a circus to assure every performance happens regardless of the flea’s mood that day. I should quickly mention that all gimmicks are “cruelty free” in my circuses. I personally can literally make the claim that I would NEVER hurt a flea!  

Cliff T.: What would you say are the most fascinating things about fleas and flea circuses?

Walt Noon: Of the circus itself, I would have to say the strange appeal! Here’s an act that has created a sensation all the way from the 1700’s. How do you explain that trained fleas literally have become a permanent part of our culture? Or perhaps even more amazing, an act so strong that a child in the audience will put down his video game for half an hour to watch with his eyes wide!!! Of the fleas themselves, there really is an endless list. This is a creature that will surprise you at every turn. Physically, he can jump 30,000 times in a row, and jump more than 300 times his own height! This is an animal that can mentally be trained to do a few simple tasks; who has a brain too small to be seen with the human eye! But over all, I think what makes both so amazing is quite simply… a mystery!

Cliff T.: Is there a certain amount of knowledge that is needed to create and maintain a flea circus?

Walt Noon: A largely “humbug” circus requires only the skills normal for a performer. (Though I don’t think I’ve ever met a flea performer who wasn’t extraordinary! Only the most imaginative performer with a taste for the off beat is likely to be a ringmaster.) Circus that make more use of real fleas require many many tricks. I’ve often said that for a creature so hard to get rid of when he’s unwanted, he is stunningly delicate and difficult to keep alive and healthy as a pet! Fleas in the wild usually live less than 30 days, which is more than enough to to reproduce. A flea who is collard and kept in a circus with regular feedings can live more than 6 months. Changes in humidity, temperature, or even feeding schedule can cause the loss of your whole troupe overnight! It is honestly an art! 

Cliff T.: Mr. Noon, what kinds of things will people find on your website with respect to fleas? 

Walt Noon: I tried to give a very honest history of the fleas (including the humbugs), the secrets of training a flea and even some video of my fleas in performance! For those interested in performing a humbug or real act, I have plans for sale (which keeps me in flea food) and even “past performers” in collars for sale. The web page is a great contact point if someone has flea information to pass on to me, or if they’d like to begin to learn the ropes of being a circus master! 

Cliff T.: Perfect, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me and for doing a Candid Conversations interview. I hope you and the fleas have fun entertaining the masses.

Walt Noon: Thanks Cliff. Isn’t it funny that such a small creature can be such a large subject! We’ve barely bitten into the surface here! I hope your interest in fleas will continue. It’s been an honor to contribute to Candid Conversations! 

Walt Noon the man behind flea-circus.com. You can find the site by clicking the link listed below and selecting Flea Circus. Mr. Noon wrote to Candid Conversations from somewhere in cyberspace. 

Here is the link to his site. http://www.noonco.com

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Forgiving When You Can't A Book An Idea A Mindset. Dr Jim Dincalci From The Forgiveness Foundation Explains The Concept And The Benefits Of Forgiving.

I'm sorry and I forgive you are two of the phrases people can have trouble uttering, even more difficult may be meaning what is said. Forgiveness is more than just saying “I forgive you!” it is an action that requires some important elements. I contacted Dr. Jim Dincalci of the Forgiveness Foundation. He has written a book and also writes a blog on the subject of forgiveness.

Dr. Dincalci has spent over 40 years using emotional, spiritual and physical methods to help people feel better. As a Child & Family Therapist, university instructor and founder of the Forgiveness Foundation, he has been developing methods to help people forgive and has taught these from coast to coast in the USA in universities, schools, hospitals, conferences, public seminars and churches. He frequently speaks on forgiveness. His book, How to Forgive When You Can't: The Breakthrough Guide to Free Your Heart & Mind, which has received 3 national awards, is also being published in German, French, Korean & Spanish.

The book How to Forgive When You Can't is a guide for the reader who is at a point where the idea of forgiving is not a desire possibility or even a thought much less an action to be considered. Dr. Dincalci, thanks for being a part of Candid Conversations.

Dr. Dincalci: Thank you Cliff. I appreciate being on this conversation. I had my own forgiveness miracle, 18 years ago and since have been helping people forgive. I call it a miracle because I had had post traumatic stress disorder since the late 70s and finally reached the point of not even wanting to live anymore. Through a forgiveness process that came to me, I was relieved of all my upsets within hours. Joy and Love reappeared in my life as a daily experience for years.

Cliff T.: Your book has an interesting title, How to Forgive When You Can't, can you define what that means?

Dr. Dincalci: First of all, let’s look at how we are familiar with forgiving. When you forgive a debt, it is let go of. They no longer owe you the money, for example. What you expected is let go of. It’s the same with an upset with someone. What you expect is let go of. The desire for the apology – let go of; them dying and going to hell – let go of; being able to torture them or for them to go through what you have gone through – let go of. Now that doesn’t mean you let them hurt you again or put yourself in harm’s way. Absolutely not. Forgive and set limits, take care of yourself.

The most important thing to remember about forgiving is that it is for you NOT them. You are the one holding the upset and having the stress reactions. They might not care at all. Forgiving is for you and your health and happiness.

So forgiving when you can’t means you have so much upset and agree with the social taboos and have so many defense mechanisms in place that it seems impossible to forgive even if you want to.

Cliff T.: Would you say that not forgiving is akin to being in a state of hatred for the offender?

Dr. Dincalci: I wouldn’t say it’s always a state of hatred, it could just be continual irritation. But it eats you up inside each time you think of them. Some people won’t even think of the offender after awhile, but it’s still under the surface eating away at their happiness, goals or health. I’ve found that even one held upset can have harmful effects.

Cliff T.: What else can happen to people on both sides the offender and the offended?

Dr. Dincalci: There is a lot of research on forgiveness. Here’s the positive side:

In careful scientific studies, forgiveness training has been shown to: 
· reduce depression, 
· increase hopefulness, 
· decrease anger & anxiety,
· heal relationships
· increase emotional self-confidence,
· improve compassion, 
· increase personal growth, and 
· improve quality of life

Studies reveal:
· People who are more forgiving report fewer health and mental problems.
· Forgiveness leads to fewer physical symptoms of stress. 
· Failure to forgive may be more important than hostility as a risk factor for heart disease.
· People who blame other people for their troubles have higher incidence of illness such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
That’s just for starters.

For the offender, you just don’t know. They might not be upset at all by your upset. Maybe they even condemn you, or even expect an apology from you. You can really only deal with your reaction, not theirs. That’s why forgiveness is for you, unless they have asked for forgiveness. But then that’s easy forgiving when they apologize or ask for forgiveness.

Cliff T.: Dr. Dincalci, I have heard that there are points in time where we come into a situation where someone has done something so bad that forgiving them may seem like letting the off the hook for the deed done. Can forgiveness coexist with the idea that one can forgive the person but, not the deed?

Dr. Dincalci: That’s a good point. In forgiving we never condone the deed. But, if we can open our heart to the person, in some way, then forgiving is possible. That doesn’t mean we need to reconcile with the person though. Reconciliation is not forgiving. In reconciliation, you are building trust again in a relationship. That takes work on BOTH sides. Forgiveness is a good and essential step. But it’s only a key step. Trust is the product of reconciliation. Trust might never be able to be rebuilt.

I need to say that if the offender is abusive I would not recommend the person going back to the relationship unless she (or he) see significant on-going change on the part of the abuser. Abuse is difficult to deal with. I worked in Domestic Violence for 3 years. A little 6 weeks course is not usually enough for a violent offender.

Cliff T.: What is the goal of the book?

Dr. Dincalci: I see it as a toolbox to help people
1) to forgive others and themselves.
2) to forgive everything. All upsets, including trauma.
3) to help others to forgive.

I spent 10 years working on the book so that all aspects of forgiving were covered.

Cliff T.: Just by the title of he book I assume that what your saying is that forgiveness takes time and effort, there is lots of work involved.

Dr. Dincalci: That’s true, But it can be done quicker that you think if a person is willing to be honest with themselves and what is going on around them. That’s not easy. It does take looking deeply.

Cliff T.: I would think that there are some key things a person must do to reach a level where they can forgive, Dr. Dincalci what kinds of steps do people need to make even before they can forgive someone?

Dr. Dincalci: That’s a good question because most people think you just forgive. But, there are several things that must be addressed before a person is even willing to forgive. One is social agreements and taboos against forgiving. I call them the myths of forgiving. We address a few of them like forgiveness as condoning what happened, which of course it doesn’t. It’s not reconciliation, and it’s not about turning the other cheek to be hurt again. But one of the big one is that forgiveness is weak. Anyone who has forgiven a terrible thing knows that that idea is crazy. It takes someone strong to forgive because the person has to face the upset full on and then let it go. I go into the 12 myths that prevent forgiving quite a lot in the book.

Another thing a person needs to deal with is the Brain mechanisms that prevent forgiving. This is why we can’t forgive and forget. It’s not built into the system. Remembering is. And the third is dealing with the emotional defense mechanisms. Both of these systems of defenses are there to protect us but end up preventing the help we need. And actually cause more stress in the long run.

Cliff T.: Can you describe what the Forgiveness Foundation does and what the objectives are for it?

Dr. Dincalci: Our Vision is to have harmony among people around the world.
Our Mission is to advance the field of forgiveness through events that inspire and impassion individuals, families, and communities to forgive
We see this happening by
  • Building kind and peaceful families, communities, and organizations by helping people let go of their blame, resentments, grudges, and vengeance.
  • Inspiring & educating people on the power of forgiveness,
  • Training them to help others forgive.

Cliff T.: How do you measure success when it comes to forgiving?

Dr. Dincalci: The question to ask if you aren’t sure you’ve forgiven is:
Does the person move through your mind easily, or do they crash and burn? When you think of them do you have any reaction?

Cliff T.: What got you interested in teaching this subject?

Dr. Dincalci: At the beginning of this interview I mentioned that I had a forgiveness miracle. Because of that I wanted to help other have the same. It took years of workshops and teaching to have a process that really worked.

Cliff T.: Well Dr Dincalci you sound like a man on a mission to change attitudes with respect to forgiving is this what your passion is, to see a world where forgiveness becomes something that is easier to do?

Dr. Dincalci: Yes, absolutely, not only easier but without the social taboos around to prevent it, people would be much more forgiving. At present forgiveness seems more like a curse word than a the blessings it really it.

Cliff T.: Where can people get How to Forgive When You Can't?

Dr. Dincalci: TBA

Cliff T.: Well I have to say in a time where so much focus on avenging the deaths of others and making people pay for their errant ways has become such an obsession it seems like you are wanting to inject another solution into the minds of people. I wish you much success as you try to bring the idea of forgiveness back into the conversations we are having these days.

Dr. Dincalci: Thank you very much for this interview. You have provided a nice opening for people to take the first step in being more happy by letting go of their upsets. I believe that is how we have more peace, by each person letting go of their resentments and grudges. Thank you very much.

Cliff T.: Dr. Jim Dincalci and the Forgiveness Foundation he heads up are the creators of the Forgiveness blog and the book How to Forgive When You can't. To visit the site and learn more about this unique organization and it's goals visit them at http://www.forgivenessfoundation.org.  I Reached Dr. Dincalci at his office located in Chapel Hill NC.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Surf N Sea Catchy Name Cool Store Nice People

One of my favorite keywords to use in a search is odd and or weird news. I found an odd story on the Huffington Post about a duck that was fitted with booties. Yep booties. Seems the lady who requested the specialized item wanted her pet duck, named Duckie to feel comfy on the beach. Thus the order was placed. Yvonne Cruz and her team at Surf N Sea created a lovely pair of purple booties for the duck. Now this may sound odd but, there is a story here about the importance of getting a wetsuit that fits well. I guess you could say that the idea of a fitted wetsuit is not so quackers after all. I contacted Miss Cruz to ask some important questions about wetsuits, miss Cruz welcome to Candid Conversations.

Yvonne Cruz: Thanks for the interview Cliff.

Cliff T.: It must have seemed strange to you if not funny that a client would want a fitting for a duck, were you surprised at the request?

Yvonne Cruz: Over the years Surf ‘n Sea has had a lot of unusual requests; many dogs, one torpedo, covers for Cat Scan machines a camera *bellows, a tuxedo jacket for a groom who got married on a surfboard among others. We love challenges!

Cliff T.: A torpedo, cat scanner and camera bellows, you do love challenges.

Cliff T: Have you had any new requests to outfit animals with beach gear, or better yet with a wetsuit?

Yvonne Cruz: There has been nothing new since the duck but we did make eight dog wetsuits for the Natural Balance Float in the 2011 Rose Parade. The dogs wore the wetsuits while jumping off a dock into a pond on the float.

Cliff T.: Ok, outside of the funny in this story there is a serious side here. How important is it for people to get a wetsuit that fits well? And why is that important?

Yvonne Cruz: Fit in a wetsuit is critical. A wetsuit works because your body heat warms up the thin layer of water inside of the suit. If there is room for a lot of water, not only can’t your body heat it up, you will keep exchanging new cold water with your movements. The suit must fit snug to keep excess water out but not so snug that movement is restricted.

Cliff T.: Now you gave the duck purple booties, this may sound like an odd question is color important when getting a wetsuit and why?

Yvonne Cruz: The owner of the duck said Duckies’ favorite color is purple. Who am I to argue? Color is so subjective. Most surfers like black for wetsuits as dark colors absorb heat better. Some shy away from black as it is the color of seals – a favorite food of sharks. Many divers like camouflage so they disappear in kelp beds and fish do not see them, other divers, in open water, like the blues. We have dozens of colors to choose from.

Cliff T.: So what goes into making a great wetsuit and what should a person look for when they shop for one?

Yvonne Cruz: A quality suit will have the seams guaranteed for the life of the suit – ours are. The seams must be of a construction that does not leak – ours are. It will be made of the finest materials available and should fit very well. Again, ours are. It’s nice if you like the style and colors too!

Cliff T.: How long does it take you and the team at Surf N Sea to make the suit and do the fitting?

Yvonne Cruz: The fitting usually takes less than 20 minutes. Surf ‘n Sea suits are cut on a bevel and glued together using two coats of a special adhesive. A full length wetsuit can be made in a day including drying time – but just barely. However, usually there is a waiting line

Cliff T.: Is there a special way one needs to store and take care of a wetsuit?

Yvonne Cruz: First and very important is to rinse your suit inside and outside upon leaving the ocean, lake or pool. Hang it on a wide shoulder hanger until the exposed side is dry. Then turn so the other side dries. Do not, if possible, dry in the sun and do not store the suit in your garage if you park a car in it. Car emissions deteriorate the neoprene material.

Cliff T.: I am assuming that it is also better to have a custom suit but, if people want can they get one off the rack?

Yvonne Cruz: Many people do fine in rack suits. There are also some alterations we can do if the rack suit isn’t perfect.

Cliff T.: Miss Cruz, does Surf N Sea do wetsuits only or do you also have other products that you sell?

Yvonne Cruz: Surf ‘n Sea does focus on wetsuits but we have a few water sports related products. Wetsuit repairs and alterations are a big part of our business.

Cliff T.: It sounds like you guys had fun with the duck, do you try to have a bit a fun while educating a client on what makes or does not make a good suit?

Yvonne Cruz: Absolutely! We enjoy people!

Cliff T.: Well I have to say I enjoyed reading the story and learning a bit more about what you and your team do, thanks for being a part of Candid Conversations.

Yvonne Cruz: Cliff, you are a thoughtful and thorough interviewer. I thank you!

Yvonne Cruz helps clients with custom wetsuits, recently she and her team fitted a duck with booties. Surf N Sea has been been in the business of custom wetsuits since 1954 and is located in San Diego CA. I reached her at the store.

* click here to find out more about what a bellows is.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Why Does Time Fly Mr. Wittmann?

We have all experienced the feeling of time seeming to fly by or slow down in certain situations. Science is playing a role in defining why we feel time flying. In a recent article for Scientific America the concept of time flying by was discussed. So I decided to take a quick second and am glad I did as we have one of the researchers Marc Wittmann for a Candid Connection about the topic of time flying by. Mr. Wittmann thanks for taking to time to write for Candid connections.

Marc Wittmann: It is always a pleasure for me to be able (to be allowed) talk about my research, about what matters to me.

Cliff T.: The concept of feeling that time has flown by is not new to most humans. So why a study on this, what prompted you and your team to look into this phenomenon?

Marc Wittmann: As a Psychologist and Neuroscientist studying the perception of time I am interested in the underlying causes for our experiences. We all have the experiences, but the question is what factors can be discerned in explaining them.

Cliff T.: What was the result and were you surprised by the findings?

Marc Wittmann: We knew from earlier experimental work of Virginie van Wassenhove with whom we collaborated in this study that a visual stimulus (a disc) that is expanding (or looming in size) and thus subjectively moving towards the observer is subjectively overestimated in its duration of appearance as compared to a static disc or a disc that is receding (and this virtually moving away from the observer). We then took this experimental paradigm into a neuroimaging setting using *FMRI. We wanted to find out which brain regions are activated during this temporal illusion. The main result is that cortical midline structures (brain areas of the two hemispheres that face each other) were activated during the looming condition. These structures are typically involved in self-related processes when we think about or feel ourselves. Our conclusion was that these self-related processes are elicited because the disc is virtually moving towards the observer (the self) and, moreover, can be interpreted as a threat.

Cliff T.: In the article the subjective experience of time is mentioned, what is that?

Marc Wittmann: We can measure objective time with a clock. However, without the use of a chronometer we still have a sense of time, a sense of duration and the passage of time. Under certain conditions a given time span (objective time, say, ten minutes) can appear very short or enormously long. That is subjective time. Or take our study: a disc appearing for half a second is perceived as longer than a static disc that appears for half a second.

Cliff T.: Why is this important, what kinds of things can this data be used for?

Marc Wittmann: First of all, it is important to understand how the brain creates our sense of time. Surprisingly enough, in the research community there is no consensus on how and where in the brain time is processed. So that is a strong drive for us to probe different experimental paradigms in order to answer such basic questions. Moreover, one could think of applications of our experimental paradigm in various patient populations in Psychiatry who have disorders related to the experienced self (depression, schizophrenia, anorexia).

Cliff T.: Did you study a specific age group or was this a random study with different people from a variety of age groups?

Marc Wittmann: Typically researchers study young students. This has two reasons. One is pragmatic as it is easy to recruit the students on campus. Secondly, however, it is for scientific reasons to have a group of healthy, young, bright students. The heterogeneity is diminished, that is, we don’t have to control for age effects (cognitive performance can decline with increasing age) and other influences that may have an effect on performance. However, and that is a legitimate critic, for many psychological tests it is important to be cautious not to generalize the findings from young middle class white Anglo-Saxon US Americans (the students you typically find on campus of elite Universities) and US Americans with Asian background (another increasingly dominant student group on campus) to all human beings.

Cliff T.: Was there a difference between men and women?

Marc Wittmann: No.

Cliff T.: It certainly is interesting to delve into the mind and to see how feelings vs surrounding can affect perception. Are you planning on doing more research into time perception and the brain?

Marc Wittmann: My working hypothesis is that the perception of time is based on bodily and emotional processes. When we feel time passing we are sensing the physiological condition of our body (levels of arousal) and our feeling states. I will pursue my research in probing this idea.

Cliff T.: Well I have to say this is a unique way to examen how we perceive and feel time if I can put it that way. I wish all the best in your endeavors on this front I thank you for giving us a peek into the study.

Marc Wittmann: I was happy to share my thoughts and ideas.

Marc Wittmann is one of a team of researchers who studied who time and human subjective experience can produce the effect of what we call time flying by. Mr. Wittmann is associated with the Department of Empirical and Analytical Psychophysics, Institute for Frontier Areas in Psychology and Mental Health, Freiburg, Germany, the Department of Psychiatry, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA and Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, San Diego, CA, USA. I reached him at his office in Freiburg, Germany.

*FMRI stands for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Shhh Be Very Quiet And Listen er Read Closely, A Candid Conversation About Customer Service With Pat Mcgraw

A lot of people complain that customer service has become a lost art. In a fast paced social media world people are constantly chatting about everything including customer service expectations and experiences. Companies are trying to keep up with their customers by trying just about anything they can to reach out with the message that they care. Funny thing is some clients don't want the fuzzy warm conversation, they just want to get it done.

Pat McGraw is a highly skilled marketing executive who by the way has his own company, McGraw Marketing. One of the things Pat wrote on a site called Social Media Today was that some clients DON'T want to talk to businesses. Ok Mr. McGraw welcome to Candid Conversations and what exactly did you mean when you posted the article back in December?

Pat McGraw: Cliff, thanks for the opportunity to speak with you.

Originally, I was responding to some extremely interesting research that had been reported in an article entitled "Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers" that had appeared in the Harvard Business Review.

That research made the case for letting the customer self-serve and not making the assumption that customers valued live service over self-service.

Successful sales and marketing companies know that the key to retaining customers and building referrals is consistently delivering a unique, valuable experience – and that the customer defines what is unique and valuable.

So, what I wanted to communicate through my article was the importance of thinking like the customer, the importance of never assuming you know what the customer values and how dangerous assumptions can be for your business.

Cliff T.: What is the best way for a company to gauge when to and when not to talk to a customer, is their some sort of mechanism they can use to measure the talk level of the customer?

Pat McGraw: Well, I believe that you should always talk with your customers. Sometimes the conversation is a little longer, more detailed and more focused on a specific topic – but you have to be there and ready to talk because you need to be ready whenever he customer wants to share. That's why am a huge believer in market research that's part of the culture of the business versus the more traditional 'project based' approach.

But that's a whole other topic.....

To your question, I would suggest that your business has key metrics that should be monitored and when they differ from the norm, you should consider reaching out to your customers and finding out why they are behaving in a specific manner.

For example, conversion rate for first time buyers is a key metric that might indicate there is a need to speak with prospective and new buyers. Is there a disconnect between promotional efforts and the buying experience that is causing prospective buyers to buy at a lower or higher rate?

Other key metrics would include order frequency, order size and referrals. If your customers are buying less frequently or are spending less per order – you should consider reaching out to them in order to find out why.

And if your referral rates are dropping off, it's time to find out why.

Cliff T.: I have to admit I am, in most cases, not interested in engaging a CSR. I already know what I want to do. That in mind with so much in the way of social media that is reaching out wanting people to engage in conversations. Where does a company begin to separate the need to talk to the client, at what point should a business say ok we get it you just want this do it and let the client go without the mega sales pitch?

Pat McGraw: Successful sales and marketing companies know that they need to show interest and concern, as well as to be accessible and available. From there, the conversations will happen when the customer wants them to happen.

And successful sales and marketing companies know that research is part of the culture so when a customer comes into the business, the staff knows to ask key questions and capture the responses for analysis. That can be simple questions about what brought you into the business today or what are they looking for and why.

When your staff consistently shows an interest in the customer, and they are consistently available and easily accessible, the customer is more open to the formal research projects. That's because you've developed a relationship and set expectations so the customer isn't surprised or taken by surprise by your 'sudden interest'.

Cliff T.: Working the front line myself for 15 years as a customer care agent one of the things I noted in some of my work was that there seems to be this drive to sell sell sell. I remember a number of times clients asking at the beginning of the call not to have a sales pitch tossed at them, on to hear me toss because the company required me to do so as part of the job. I am sure this does annoy customers. Is there a creative way to make a sales pitch without it sounding like a sales pitch?

Pat McGraw: The best sales pitch is no sales pitch. Early in my career, I attended a seminar hosted by Tom Hopkins and there was one nugget of gold that I walked out of the seminar with that day – and it was to shut up, listen and ask relevant questions.

Most people will, if given the chance, sell themselves. Unfortunately, too many companies and too many sales and marketing professionals seem to think that they have to talk at rather than talk with the customer. So they are too busy talking and not listening – and that means they miss obvious buying clues.

A great leading question can start a chain reaction that leads to the customer remembering that they have a need and should make a purchase. I was recently working with B2B retailer and we had the employees ask customers how their businesses were performing – and if business was going well, we asked about their supply needs because we knew that their success meant higher consumption rates of supplies.

And if the business was sluggish, we reminded them of our payment options, return policies and special offers...so they knew we offered them ways to save money and reduce expenses. That led to higher loyalty.

Cliff T.: Mr. McGraw, you mentioned that companies should make the experience easy and fun for the customer to do what needs to be done, how do companies do that?

Pat McGraw: Keep it human. Keep it real. Be concerned and compassionate. Be accessible. Be honest. And remember that your goal is a lifelong relationship with the customer – so sometimes you need to do what's best for the long-term rather than the short-term.

My favorite example is a retailer that would invite customers to a special evening event – and the customer could invite a friend to attend as well. The event highlighted the new season's fashions and provided food and drink in addition to door prizes. They turned shopping into a party – an exclusive party.

Cliff T.: In your article you mentioned that business leaders overestimate the customers need to talk with the company. How are they doing that and how do they tone it down?

Pat McGraw: Actually the research found that business leaders thought customers wanted and valued live service more than self-service. So they were focusing more on customer service staff rather than ways to help the customer get more accomplished on their own.

For example, I was working with a multi-channel retailer a number of years ago. They took great pride in their ability to process and ship orders within 24 hours and they had a great internal system for tracking the progress of the order so that the staff could make sure the orders stayed on track.

We asked how we could make that same information available to the customer so they could also follow along – and that simple solution made a huge, positive impact on the relationship between this business and their customers.

Cliff T.: Mr McGraw, do you think that it is a good idea for companies to ask customers how they want to be approached?

Pat McGraw: Conversation is always a wonderful, valuable thing. Too many companies lose sight of this – they get focused on 'getting the job done' and they forget to keep it real and keep the human element in the experience.

Yes, I think it's a fantastic idea to stop, take the time, show the interest and ask the customer how they are doing and how you can make their life better.

Cliff T.: How important is simplicity when it comes to talking or not talking to a customer?

Pat McGraw: Keeping it simple is the best. Last week, I got a call from the CEO of a business. He wanted to know how my business was doing and how he might be able to help me grow my business.

A simple 5 minute call. Or it could have been a huge production number in terms of a research firm calling to ask me 20-25 questions that may or may not have been important to me.

Sometimes a quick call from someone that can make a decision right then and there – that's all it takes.

Cliff T.: As a marketing executive how do you approach a client who is being over zealous in their desire to talk to customer, what would you tell them is the first thing they need to do to dial it down?

Pat McGraw: This happens all the time – mainly because the company hasn't spoken with the customer in some time and now, suddenly, there is a desire to do it all at once.

My role is to keep them focused on the primary objective so that the effort is successful.

Typically, what starts off as a very large research project turns into a series of smaller, more focused efforts over time. The end result is much more positive because the customer sees this as an on-going discussion rather than a one-time inconvenience.

Cliff T.: From what I can see on your website, you deliver a suite of services to help clients develop their space in the market. With so many voices out there calling for attention has become harder to get a message through to the customer or is it more of a case of info overload?

Pat McGraw: The key to success is relevancy. Are you saying the right thing to the right people at the right time in order to motivate the right response?

Successful sales and marketing companies know that a qualified buyer is not always ready to buy – sometimes they are gathering information in order to make a future purchase. So the message and offer needs to be relevant, valuable for that buyer at that point in time.

Now, the noise in the marketplace is a lot of ineffective sales and marketing companies screaming “Buy now and Save $$$” - and for 80% of the market, that's the wrong message because they're not ready to buy now. So that message gets ignored and fails to help the company attract and engage qualified buyers so the company is better positioned to help that buyer when they are ready to buy.

Successful sales and marketing firms are segmenting the audience and delivering relevant messages to those segments. For example, for those qualified buyers in the “Interest” stage of the buying process, they receive information that answers questions and helps the buyer identify potential solutions.

Then there are more action oriented messages for buyers that are ready to buy.

Saying something isn't enough – it's about relevancy.

Cliff T.: From the gist of it, what I am sensing is that your suggesting that companies tweet and Facebook less and let the customer pick the mode they want to communicate or not communicate in, would that be an accurate assumption?

Pat McGraw: Again, it depends on where the individual is in the buying process. For those that are early in the process and just starting to search for a solution provider, Twitter and Facebook are great channels for attracting their attention and providing them with the information they need to identify solutions and solution providers.

But as the buyer moves further into the buying process – when they want and need specific information for their own unique requirements – there are more effective and direct channels for communicating with the buyer. And that's a sales person asking and answering specific questions in a timely, accurate manner.

Cliff T.: Well it sounds like marketing today has become a real challenge. I thank you for taking time to speak with me.

Pat McGraw: Cliff, thank you for providing me with this opportunity to take a deeper dive on this topic. I look forward to the questions and comments your readers will add to this post!

Pat McGraw of McGraw Marketing is a an Executive Marketing specialist. His company helps clients in a variety of ways including brand management, market researching and customer relationship management. You can learn more about what he does by visiting his website at http://www.mcgrawmarketing.com.

Mr. McGraw wrote to Candid Conversations from his offices in Baltimore MD

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Robert Barrows In a Candid Conversation About Video Enhanced Gravemarkers

Funerals, not a fun thing to have to attend and going to a grave is even harder as that is a reminder that a loved one is no longer alive. Many people want to be able to remember their loved ones as they were before their death. And those who have died want to be remembered as well. Robert Barrows has a unique way for people to remember their loved one and for the living to keep the memory of what their loved one was like before they died. How is he doing this? In a very novel way; Mr. Barrows has created the Video Enhanced Gravemarker. Mr. Barrows thanks for doing a Candid Conversation. In a nutshell what is a Video Enhanced Gravemarker?

Robert Barrows.: The Video Enhanced Gravemarker (U.S. Patent # 7,089,495) is a video tombstone that will be able to deliver lengthy video content, with smooth transmission, in high quality, just like your home video equipment.

It has been designed to accommodate a wide variety of complex electronic and computer equipment and it will be far superior to other video tombstones that can only deliver brief, slide show content or simple text messages.

Now you will be able to go to a cemetery, get or rent a remote control device from the cemetery office, and listen to whatever a person might have wanted to record for their video tombstone.

Audio can be delivered through speakers attached to the video tombstone. Audio can also be transmitted to wireless headsets, which you could also get or rent from the cemetery office.

Video tombstones will make cemeteries fascinating places to visit. Video tombstones will also change the way that history is told.

Cliff T.: Where did you get the idea for the Video Enhanced Gravemarker?

Robert Barrows: I came up with the idea from a few different directions.
1) In addition to doing advertising, I am also a sculptor. I work primarily in stone. When you are carving a rectangular block of stone, you can’t help but think that you are carving your own tombstone.

Since I also do a lot of TV commercials and spend a lot of time in TV studios, I realized that I could also hollow out part of a stone and put a TV in it

2) There is also a term called “tombstone advertising.” That term generally refers to the ads that big investment houses run when they make an announcement about a financial transaction in a newspaper.

The ads generally just have a lot of text in them about the terms of the transaction. When I first heard the term “tombstone advertising,” I thought "What’s that, a television ad on a tombstone?" That started me thinking about video tombstones.

3) There is another interesting connection…Wyatt Earp! I was watching a movie about Wyatt Earp and at the end of the credits, it said that the movie was based on the book “My Friend, Wyatt Earp” by Doc Holliday. When I went to the library to look for the book, I looked in the card catalog and there were about two hundred books about Wyatt Earp, none of which were by Doc Holliday, and none of which were by Wyatt Earp, but at the end of the card catalogue, there was a listing for the Video: Tombstone. Eureka! Video tombstone! And then I started thinking about designing a real video tombstone.

Cliff T.: What are the reactions you have gotten from people regarding the Video Enhanced Gravemarker?

Robert Barrows: Some people think it’s cool. Some people think it’s creepy. It’s both. But it will also be fascinating.

Imagine the things you might hear from all kinds of video tombstones in the same cemetery.

Who knows what kinds of things people might say from their video tombstones, and who knows who was doing what with whom? You might hear all kinds of stories, many of them intertwined.

They say that dead men tell no tales? Well, not anymore! Wait until you hear what they may be saying about you from one of those video tombstones? And will it be truth or lies?

That’s the premise of a book I wrote about stories told through video tombstones. The book is called “Cemetery of Lies.” It is a collection of intimate, secret confessions, as told from beyond the grave, through video tombstones.

The video tombstone will also create a whole new genre of storytelling, with all kinds of stories being told through video tombstones. It’s an ideal storytelling device for everything from horror stories to love stories and historical pieces.

Video tombstones will also create some fascinating free speech issues, because how can you control what someone might say from their video tombstone?

What if they confess to a crime or make an incrimination?

What if they say something that causes emotional stress?

What if they say something that’s true or untrue about you?

How can you pull the plug and whom can you sue?

Worse yet, how can you collect?

I fully expect that as soon as a cemetery tries to censor or ban the speech from a video tombstone, that the case might go all the way to the Supreme Court.

Also, people may say all kinds of things from their video tombstones. They might just say sweet things to loved ones. They might also say all the things that they never had the opportunity to say, nor never had the guts to say while they were alive.

And who knows what people are really thinking? Even the mildest amongst us may have the wildest thoughts we could never have even imagined, but one day we may be able to hear those thoughts from their video tombstone.

Video tombstones will change the way we look at life and death. When you start recording your own obituary while you are still alive, it forces you to look at things in many different ways.

Video tombstones will also cause some interesting changes in estate law. When you make out your will, you will have to declare whether you want or do not want a video tombstone, and if you yourself don't make the video for your video tombstone, you would have to decide who among your survivors may make a video for use in your tombstone and what they can or cannot say in that video. You could also designate a date at which the tombstone will go "live." You might want it to go "live" as soon as it is erected, or x amount of years after you die, or x amount of years after your spouse dies, depending on the kinds of things you might record for
your video tombstone.

Cliff T.: As I mentioned Mr. Barrows, this is novel, I bet a lot of funeral directors and those who manage graveyards must raise eyebrows when they hear that the soon to be dearly departed want your product. How you pitch this to them?

Robert Barrows: When I speak to people in the funerary industry about video tombstones, I generally present the marketing potentials and revenue potentials regarding the video tombstones.

There are several major benefits of adding video tombstones to the memorial items they offer:

1) They will be able to get higher price points for these kinds of tombstones.

2) Cemeteries will be able to charge higher fees for plots that are designed for video tombstones. These sites will be wired for electricity. They may also have lighting around them to accommodate night viewing. They may also charge higher fees for security measures to protect the video tombstones.

3) There will also be income from perpetual care funds to replace the video equipment over time.

4) Funeral homes may also decide to get into the business of producing memorial videos. People may decide to spend a lot of money to produce high quality videos, and they may decide to record them over the course of many, many years.

5) The video tombstones will also be priced so that they will be profitable to the monument builder, the funeral home and the cemetery. Once the funeral industry takes a look at the potential increases in revenue, then they will be able to decide whether they want to offer video tombstones to their customers. Also, as customers start asking about them, and as time goes by, they will probably start becoming very well accepted.
6) Cemeteries may also set aside special sections of their cemetery to better accommodate video tombstones, and make it easier for visitors to view many video tombstones during the same visit to the cemetery.

When I do my projections on the potential market for video tombstones, I base them on the number of deaths. When I went to Google and searched for “How many people die in the United States everyday?” there was a figure (I think it was according to the National Association of Funeral Directors) of about 5300 deaths per day, just in the United States.

If just one tenth of one percent of the people who died wanted to have a video tombstone, that could result in sales of about five video tombstones per day.

At a profit of several thousand dollars from the video tombstone, plus revenues from sales of the perpetual care funds, companies in the funeral industry could make a lot of money from the video tombstone business, even if only one tenth of one percent of the people wanted them. Imagine if those percentages were even higher! Video tombstones could generate a tremendous amount of new revenue for companies in the funerary business.

Cliff T.: Now I know that people reading this are going to say eeew creepy, weird, morbid. What do you do to mitigate that, how do you make sure this does not come off as macabre?

Robert Barrows: It is weird. It is macabre, but it will also be fascinating. Imagine being able to go into a cemetery and listening to what some of your favorite celebrities might have to say from their video tombstone? And it’s not just celebrities. you never know what your relatives might have to say, or your friends and neighbors. The stories will be fascinating! Imagine if we could hear what people had to say about their lives in their own words! Imagine if we could go back through time and listen to video tombstones of everyone from people in the Bible and all throughout history. We could hear it in their own words, in their own inflection, from their own hearts and minds. We could listen to the real words of all kinds of heroes and villains! Imagine all the things we could learn!

And imagine the gossip it might create? Who knows what kind of juicy stories might be told from the tombstone next door?

Video tombstones will create all kinds of controversy and all kinds of curiosity. I am counting on that curiosity factor to help create a market for video tombstones and projects such as my book that are based on stories told through video tombstones.

I also expect that “Cemetery of Lies” will also be the premise for countless television and movie projects that will be based on stories told through video tombstones.

The video tombstone will help promote the book and the book will help promote the video tombstone. And there will always be fascinating news coverage when we can tune in to what people might say from their video tombstone. People might be able to say that their video tombstone will “go live’ on a particular date after their death, and there will be a lot of suspense as we tune in to see and hear what they might say.

Macabre? You bet it’s macabre, and macabre sells! Just look at all the horror movies that do giant box office.

Yessiree, there’s no business like show business, even from beyond the grave!

Cliff T.: Ok, so what is the typical thing that people ask you to do for their Video Enhanced Gravemarker?

Robert Barrows: People who have inquired are very straightforward in their requests.
One person was the son of a famous singer and he wanted to have a video tombstone to play his father’s recordings.

Another woman had a son who was a musician who died at the age of fifteen. She also wanted to put his videos and songs on a video tombstone.

Most of the questions have been questions about cost. Costs will vary since tombstones can be custom designed to any shape and size, and the video equipment

can also vary with the latest equipment available.

Cliff T.: How long are the messages, are there multiple ones a client can make and what format is the message recorded on?

Robert Barrows: Messages can be as much information as you can fit on a disk or other video playback device. Video can also be delivered by “cable” so the messages can be as lengthy as you want them.

The best way to record them would be to record them on what they call “broadcast quality” equipment. You can also record them on your home video equipment. As we go through time, and as video playback equipment evolves, the video content can be continually upgraded to newer media and newer equipment as technology advances.

When people go to a video tombstone, they would be able to use a remote control device to click on a menu of different stories, with replay, fast forward, etc.

The person making the videos can also leave instructions in their will as to what videos might play during what years, etc. They might say “don’t play a certain video until x number of years after their death”…or after the statute of limitations runs out on whatever things they might have done or said.

People will be able to set up their videos any way they want to, just like recording it for your own home video.

Cliff T.: Just as there are different styles of headstones there must also be different styles of your product, or is it a one size fits all?

Robert Barrows: The Video Enhanced Gravemarker can be custom designed. One of the keys to my patent is that the Video Enhanced Gravemarker features a hollowed out chamber with slanted walls and a curved floor so it can accommodate complex audio and video equipment.

Electronic equipment requires good ventilation. The electronic equipment will also produce heat. In a tombstone, the heat will also produce condensation.

The video tombstone I designed, The Video Enhanced Gravemarker, has an inner chamber that has been designed to mitigate the effects of condensation and provide good ventilation.

It would use weatherproofed video equipment, mounted on a platform above a curved floor.

The back of the tombstone would also have a locked door that can opened to give easy access to the chamber.

People can see the details of the patent by going to the United States Patent Office website. The patent number for the Video Enhanced Gravemarker is 7,089,495.

Cliff T.: for the Video Enhanced Gravemarker is there a cost scale or is there one set price and do you have packages that a client can get?

Robert Barrows: The prices will vary depending on the size and shape of the tombstone. If you go to a monument company today, you might see stone monuments that could accommodate a good sized TV screen that might cost about $5,000-$7,000 just for the stone itself.

Weatherproofed TVs, depending on the size of the screen and the range of temperature tolerances, might run anywhere from $4,000-$7,000 depending on the brand and features. Weatherproofed video players will add additional money to the


When you add the price of labor into the equation, and you plan it for a profit, the cost of a Video Enhanced Gravemarker might begin at about $25,000 and go up to much higher costs, depending on the requests of the customer and the video equipment available at that time.

In addition, there would be the cost of a perpetual care plan to provide for the upkeep and replacement of the electronic equipment.

I am currently looking for companies that would be interested in acquiring the rights to manufacture and market the Video Enhanced Gravemarker.

I am also looking for companies that would be interested in becoming suppliers of some of the materials and electronic equipment that can be housed in this video tombstone.

Those companies will be able to set the prices at the price points that make it reasonable for them to produce and sell the equipment.

I am also looking for a publisher for “Cemetery of Lies.” It is quite possible that a television or film company might realize that they can make a tremendous amount of money off of projects based on stories told through video tombstones, and since I have a patent on the invention, it is quite possible that a publishing company or an entertainment business company that might be interested in the book, “Cemetery of Lies,” might also be interested in acquiring the rights to the patent to help them promote the various projects that they might be planning around video tombstones.

In addition, companies in the funeral industry might also realize that while they might make reasonable profits from the video tombstone, they might also be able to make a fortune off of movies and TV projects based on stories told through video tombstones. It is quite possible that if funeral homes start producing videos for use in video tombstones, it may add a whole new meaning to the words "funeral director."

Cliff T.: Well it seems like you have a very unique way for people to remember their loved ones. However Mr. Barrows I have to ask has there ever been an occasion where you have had to tell a client that what they want to do is not feasible, if so what and why?

Robert Barrows: I have not yet manufactured one of these video tombstones. Once somebody orders one, I will be happy to start the process. It will work with off the shelf equipment, but it will cost a lot of money to manufacture, especially since it is “new.”

I am in the advertising business. Manufacturing tombstones is heavy industry and I hope to be able to find a company that is interested in acquiring the rights to manufacture the Video Enhanced Gravemarker.

With all the new advances in TV technology, I expect that people might also want to think about 3-D. Again, the Video Enhanced Gravemarker is designed to accommodate a wide variety of complex video equipment. The same design may also have many industrial uses for housing outdoor video equipment.

When I tell people that the price may start at about $25,000, that has been a limiting factor. Since prices for the video tombstone and prices for a wired cemetery plot, and prices for the actual video production and the perpetual care funds will also be a part of the equation, the initial commitment to a video tombstone will be very expensive. However, it is quite possible that as the demand for video tombstones increases, companies may start to mass manufacture video tombstones and bring the prices down to levels where they would be more attractive to a wider market.

Cliff T.: Do you go nationwide or is the marker just sold in California?

Robert Barrows: I hope to go worldwide with the Video Enhanced Gravemarker. Again, I am in the advertising and public relations business. Manufacturing tombstones is heavy industry.

Companies that would be interested in acquiring the rights to manufacture and market the Video Enhanced Gravemarker and publishers, producers and agents who would like to take a look at the manuscript for "Cemetery of Lies," can contact me at R.M. Barrows, Inc. Advertising & Public Relations in Burlingame, California at 650-344-1951. They can also email me at barrows@barrows.com

Cliff T.: Mr. Barrows, it has been a pleasure to have you join us in Candid Conversation. Thank you again for telling the readers of the blog more about the Video Enhanced Gravemarker.

Robert Barrows is the inventor of the Video Enhanced Gravemarker and is also the man behind the book Cemetery of Lies. Besides these two items, Mr. Barrows does advertising and PR work and has his own agency R. M. Barrows Inc. Located in California. You can visit his website http://www.barrows.com, for more info on the agency, book and also the grave marker.

Mr. Barrows wrote to us from his offices in Burlingame, California.

Cliff T.