Updates! For Real This Time!

You guys! I have no idea why my blog decided to re-publish a random post from 2016. I mean, I’m still eating weird Oreos and I still have these same sentiments about brands in general, but as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I haven’t been writing over here for quite some time.

There are many reasons for that, and I won’t bore you with all of them now. I’m not even trying to vagueblog (because that is annoying). I guess the bottom line was that Funny Strange, the blog, which I have had for over ten years, wasn’t “sparking joy” for me anymore, as they say in Marie Kondo land, and I can think of no greater sin for a writer than trying to force the funny.   So, over the past couple of years, I have been writing a little here and there, working on publishing projects through an imprint we're calling "Funny Strange Press," posting weird photos on Instagram, and generally trying to figure out life.

Here’s what I’ve made so far that might interest you!

Stephan and I created and published a book called “837 Perfectly Good Names for Your Band,” which is one of the funniest things we have ever done (if I do say so myself). We made this by re-coding a “random band name generator” program, generating thousands of results, then going through them one by one to either make them funnier or eliminate them. It’s exciting that the finished product is now for sale (in time for Christmas), because it actually does make a great gift. It is one of those books that you can pick up, flip to any page, and get a good laugh, and who doesn’t need a good laugh these days? I keep a copy on my desk for when the news gets to be too much.

Screen Shot 2019-10-29 at 1.40.01 PM














Screen Shot 2019-10-29 at 1.40.01 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.amazon.com/Perfectly-Good-Names-Your-Band/dp/1693521172/



The other publishing thing I’ve been working on is this series, which I’m calling “Funny Fill In.” This series has five books in it so far (all are pictured and linked below). The concept of these books is to provide you with a collection of funny quotes based on a theme (like “Senior Moments” or “Baby Brain”), then to give you space to write your own in there as you hear them. I have given a few of these out as gifts already and they seem to be well received, so that’s exciting.

Introducing the _Funny Fill-In Series_


https://www.amazon.com/Thought-Invented-Pants-Collection-Conversation/dp/1699458987/

https://www.amazon.com/Left-Without-Baby-Parent-Brain-Conversation/dp/1698875150/

https://www.amazon.com/There-Was-Nowhere-Charge-Tesla/dp/1695718690

https://www.amazon.com/Your-Dogs-Poop-Ruining-Life/dp/1699467005

https://www.amazon.com/Phone-Was-Fridge-Collection-Conversation/dp/1079011862



I’m also working on a compilation book of essays, some of which have appeared on this blog (and some new ones), so stay tuned for that.

As always, if you want to get ahold of me, I’m over on Instagram, Twitter, or you can email me through my many websites. I’m still here!

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Some Funny for Your Monday

Just thought I would pop in over here to say hi and give you a good laugh for your (probably ominous) Monday.

The other day we had a power outage (because it snowed here), and although we have a generator and the power was back on when we got up, the internet had crapped out so I had to call the company.   Can we agree that over 50% of our adult lives is spent solving problems and getting things back where we put them/ the way we wanted them?  I think we can.

Anyhow, while I was waiting on hold for 30 minutes, I wrote this little ha-ha piece, and then Stephan Cox, voiceover guy extraordinaire recorded it.  It makes me laugh all over again every time I listen to it.

So, I guess let's all try to hang in there through 2016, cross our fingers and hope that no more legendary people die, and brace ourselves for what 2017 might hold.  I am working on some funny stuff for next year to hopefully distract us.  

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Umm…..how is this store still a thing? Am I looking at a wormhole to 1986? #oldthings #signs

Unnamed

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Updates! Finally!

Well well well—I’m back, and I thought I would post a little update for you about some writing and stuff I have been doing in other places.   I think I am also going to re-enable the “Instagram feed posts over here” function, just so you can be amused by my daily “Random Photos” I have been doing lately.  I finally pulled six years’ worth of photos off of my phone, and am posting one every morning for your amusement.  Here is a link:  My Instagram feed

Here are some places you can check out my writing:

  1. I’m With You,” on the Huffington Post, about post-election feelings and how we need to support our loved ones who are scared.

  2. This is the Secret to Book Marketing” on Rachel Thompson’s excellent website, where I pretty much give you (if you are an author) a lecture about getting in there and doing the work.

  3. Email Marketing and SEO for Small Business,” talking about how I got a weird email from a big corporation and it reminded me that small business people need to email their customers more.

Aren't we all just feeling a little like this giant bear from Costco right now?  I swear, every time I see one of these bears, I wonder how many days it has before it either a) is returned to Costco because it is crapping up someone's house, or b) is moved out to garage purgatory because it is crapping up someone's house.   I guarantee this impractically enormous teddy bear is no one's favorite thing for  a long period of time.  

 

This Costco teddy bear is like "I'm done." #funnypic #funnystuff

A photo posted by Lori Culwell (@lori_culwell) on

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I Got a Totally Random, Unsolicited Email About Cabinets. Hilarity Ensued.

Yesterday I got an unsolicited email from a company called “CabinetonDemand.com.”   I would now like to just enumerate all of the ways this is amusing to me, and to say for the record that I do not feel badly about calling them out, because I have never visited their website or signed up for their email list. I feel that by insinuating themselves into my inbox, they are asking for some light mocking.

Here are my issues with CabinetOnDemand.com and their email:

  1. I have no intention of buying cabinets online, ever, because that sounds like a terrible idea to me.   Having just remodeled my house last year, I now know how much cabinets cost and OH MY GOD DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH CABINETS COST?!   Seriously, one of the shocks of my adult life, how very wrong I was about how much I thought new cabinets were going to cost.   Yes, I realize I am saying “cabinets” repeatedly, which is making the word itself sound kind of absurd. Bottom line: cabinets cost a ton of money. Do not go into the cabinet-buying process all nonchalantly.

  2. I did not sign up for this mailing list, which in and of itself is sort of a problem, because as a rule I do not respond to or buy anything from companies that email me without my permission. Granted, maybe they got my email from a partner organization that shared my information, but I am having a hard time understanding buying leads for something as major as a whole set of cabinets, because as I mentioned, BRACE YOURSELF. CABINETS ARE SUPER EXPENSIVE.   That is not an impulse purchase that you are going to want to make from one cold-call type email.

  3. Why “CabinetonDemand.com” and not “Cabinets (with an s) onDemand.com.”   I feel like if you can’t get the domain with the “s” in it, maybe you should pick another name for your business.

  4. Back to the size and scope of a purchase like this. To me, cabinets are a major decision, not an impulse buy that you can just check off your list, so this push marketing type email where they are offering a screaming deal on “Santa Monica Cabinets” seems weird to me.   This is funny in the exact same way as a sign I pass when I go to my wine store—“Discount Steinways Today!” with an arrow that points into a storefront in a strip mall. Dude. You are not getting out the door with a Steinway piano today. Buying a piano is an arduous, multi-phasic process involving sticker shock, tears, trucks, schedules being moved around, phonecalls, probably some yelling, a payment plan, a scratched floor, maintenance that you didn’t bargain for, and many, many other things. It's not a fro-yo, and the signage makes me laugh because it really sounds like you can drive out of there right then with a Steinway, like, strapped to the top of your Subaru. Settle down, people. Some things take time.

  5. Speaking of things taking time, who exactly is installing my Cabinet on Demand? Do I have to bring my own contractor to this party?   Let me let you in on a secret, having fully remodeled my house last year—CONTRACTORS NEED TO BE INVOLVED IN THE MEASUREMENT PROCESS PRIOR TO THE ORDERING OF THE CABINETS, or all that money you just saved is going right out the window in extra hours and adjustments when your discount cabinets do not fit properly because you took the measurements yourself, bought cabinets from an email you got, then found a contractor on Porch.com and said “make it work!”  

  6. Why does there need to be a “monthly newsletter” about cabinets?   Who would need to hear about cabinets every single month? Cabinets (like pianos) are one of those things you put your attention on once in a blue moon, cry when you are paying the bill, then try to forget the pain and enjoy your new kitchen. Cabinets are not something for which I would imagine there would be enough content to fill up a monthly newsletter.

  7. If you are going to want me to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on your cabinets, I am going to want you to demonstrate your mastery of attention to detail by actually filling in the excerpt text in your email template, rather than leaving the default text there.   The misspellings are not helping to build my confidence either.   You can’t proof your monthly newsletter, but you are going to get every detail of my cabinet order right?   Probably not. Here are some of the egregious errors I noticed with my cursory 30 second glance of this email:
    Cabinet-top


Cabinet-bottom

Again, I am not even trying to get mean here, but I did not sign up for this newsletter. I have never interacted with this company, I don’t know anyone there, and I don’t need any cabinets, so the complete randomness of this email just showing up in my inbox is kind of funny to me in general.   The topic is oddly specific, the email is oddly sloppy given the gravity of a purchase like this, and the offer itself is unclear, even when I go to the website. What, exactly, does the $1920 in the newsletter cover?   The fine print is so small, I honestly cannot tell.   When, exactly, will my cabinets be delivered? Again, unclear. Who, exactly, is going to install these mysterious economical cabinets?   I am just not getting that from this email. Why, exactly, am I on this mailing list?   I simply do not know, although I would imagine that after this, I am going to be removed.

Stay tuned for this company to contact me and argue with me!

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Technology Gone Wild!

First, Happy 4th of July (early)!   I am frantically trying to get to "inbox zero" status before the holiday begins, and failing somewhat because it seems like half of all people are already out of the office.   This email just came to me, though, and I thought I would tell you about it.  Because here is, in my opinion, a totally hilarious example of technology that is not quite as sophisticated as it should be.

I don’t know if you’re a member of Rite Aid’s ambitious “Plenti Points” program—it is a co-branded system that they rolled out last year that is overcomplicated to the point of absurdism, and I predict that it is not going to last.   Here is one example of how they are trying so hard, but somehow failing.

Let me now say that it is NOT THAT HARD to write a simple script that eliminates a zero value parameter and would eliminate the possibility of an email like this going out.   The administrators of this autoresponder would simply need to code in a parameter indicating that people with ZERO points would not receive this email, since (as you will see), including me in this distribution produced a totally absurd result.

I give you….technology gone wild!:

IMG_0127 2





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Where I Try Blueberry Pie Oreos and Talk About Brand Strategy

First, let’s get some housekeeping out of the way. Yes, I know, I have not been writing over here for awhile. I apologize for the extended absence—frankly, I was sort of burned out on writing all the time, and if you write at all, you know that when you are burned out, you just switch subjects, because THE ABSOLUTE WORST THING YOU CAN DO is “take a break” from writing. When you take a break from writing, you then have to train yourself to get back in the habit, which is just as terrible as it sounds.   Even knowing this, I took a break and got out of the habit. Now I have to get back in, and wow.   Not fun. Should have just switched topics. Painful.

To get back on the proverbial horse, I thought I would start by talking about something that you know is one of my favorite topics, and that would be: companies trying to extend their brands by releasing strange and hilarious products. I thought today I would also couple this with a brief look at this particular company’s stock, since it might be interesting to draw a correlation between brand extension and the company’s actual success.

In a funny way, though, because I know you come here for the ha-ha.

I have mentioned the Mondelez corporation before—they make Oreos, as you probably know, but I think the company’s name makes them sound like they have offices inside Mount Rushmore, and like they must have a corporate jet that takes off by flying out of George Washington’s mouth. Am I alone in this?

Mondelez has been extending their brand equity further and further by releasing Oreo flavors that can, at this point, only be described as “surprising.” I am, of course, referring to flavors like red velvet, cinnamon bun, strawberry shortcake, s’mores, fruit punch, and the latest, fantastically random blueberry pie.   I’m as sure as I can be that these novelty flavors are meant to pique interest in the brand, and that this is a curiosity play on Mondelez’ part, meaning enough people are curious about the flavor to buy one or two packages. These weird flavors are also usually only available for a short period of time, so that might add to the urgency and represent a bump in sales if a flavor ends up being really delicious (like cupcake Oreos, which are so good, I drove around town buying them up like I was the subject of Hoarders: Cookie Edition).   This strategy is unique and funny, but also a little aggravating, because if a flavor sells through really well, wouldn’t it make logical sense to just add it to your permanent collection? I’m just saying.

Another weird thing to me about this strategy is that it is really not reflected on the Oreo website.   You would think that since “making weird flavors” is something they’re doing now, they would know that people are going to wonder about the flavors and probably go to the website to find out more about what inspired them, how long they will be around, which ones are being developed, etc.   Did I find any of that on Oreo.com? No I did not.   That is crazy to me. Dude! Mondelez! People want to know about your weird cookies!   Add a section on your website instead of just pointing people to an esoteric “Flavor Vault” video which tells us nothing. If you need a brand and content strategy person to help you make that happen, hit me up. I not only appreciate your strange flavor combinations, but I have actual experience in this exact area. Irene Rosenfeld (CEO), don’t you even want to issue a press release when these new flavors come out? Come ON!!!

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 1.35.27 PMWithout further ado, let me give you my taste-test analysis of the blueberry pie flavor. I’m not a big fan of pie, but I am a fan of weirdness, so of course I bought a package of these cookies and am trying to get everyone who comes into my house to try them. By the way, yes, I did try the s’mores flavor, which tasted vaguely of s’mores and does have a graham cracker flavored cookie. I wanted to like that one more than I did, because I super love s’mores in general. Overall I liked the concept of that flavor more than the execution, as I felt like once it was in cookie form, the s’mores flavor was a little faded, meaning it was just a vague hint of chocolate and marshmallow, eliciting only a slight “Meh” and a shrug from not only myself, but almost everyone at my mother-in-law’s birthday party last month, where I had those out in case anyone wanted to taste them.

Let me add another caveat on the blueberry pie: I am not a huge fan of fruit-flavored desserts of any kind., because warm fruit is disgusting to me (yes, even apple pie. I am clearly mental). With that said, this cookie was NOT BAD, although I would say it tastes more like the cookie form of a blueberry muffin made from a package than an blueberry pie. Stephan also tried it and deemed the flavor to be “uncannily like a blueberry Pop Tart.” He seemed to like it more than I did.

The packaging on this flavor is hilarious to me as well, with its ambitious busy-ness.   This might be the Oreo cookie flavor that is trying the hardest to be something that it is not.   It’s a blueberry-flavored cookie, ok? Let’s relax with showing a WHOLE PIE on the package, next to a cookie that looks nothing like the pie itself.  We are not playing a food-related game of "one of these things is not like the other."

So—blueberry flavor, graham cracker-ish crust. I’m giving this one a thumbs up, but since I’m more of a chocolate person myself, I’m probably going to give the rest of these away and try to get some more passionate reactions.  

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 12.59.07 PMThe final question, of course, is: is this strategy actually working?   I’m going to tentatively conclude that it is, since a) they keep doing it, and b) Mondelez’ stock price has steadily been on the incline since they started doing this regularly. Yes, they do own a number of other brands (like Cadbury, Chips Ahoy!, Honey Maid, Wheat Thins, and many others—like Tang. Did you know that Tang is still a thing?), so strong sales of each of these operating companies could be informing the upward trend.

All in all, I am consistently amused by this strategy and hope it lasts forever and gets progressively weirder. Honestly, I hope they keep pushing it until they just turn the corner and start releasing batshit crazy flavors like “Super Spicy Jalapeno and Bacon” Oreos.

And with that, I'M BACK!

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What I’m Up to This Year, and Some Ways to Save Money

Soooo…..you might be wondering what I am up to this year, because I have not been posting on here all that much (with the exception of the occasional podcast or funny photo). Or maybe you’re not wondering, and I am flattering myself. I figured since I have this blog and people read it and all, I would share some of the stuff I have been working on so that you could also perhaps benefit.

This year (starting in January), I thought it might be interesting to examine all the areas of my life to see if I could find ways to save money, save time, and generally streamline everything in life with the purpose of deriving more pleasure and satisfaction from my everyday activities.  I am not joking!   Here’s what I’ve found so far, in terms of money. I guess it should be said that I am already a saver-type person, but I really think anyone can do this kind of stuff, and as it turns out, it’s not that hard (if you’re looking) to find places to save money in almost every aspect of your life.

I started with Mint.com. I have been using this awesomely amazing app for about five years, and I couldn’t live without it at this point. If you’re not using it, go right over and download it now—it’s free and will probably save you some money right off the bat, just by pointing out places you are paying fees, etc. www.mint.com, get it on your phone or your iPad or your computer or wherever you do things. Yes, it does take some setting up, so make sure you have some time set aside if you’re just getting into it for the first time.

Because I look at Mint every day anyway, I decided to use the feed of expenses as a prompt to ask myself “How could I do that better?” every time one went by. Here’s what I’ve got so far, and feel free to keep checking back for more resources as I find them. The first thing I did was look at all of the household expenses that could be switched to a credit card, thereby earning points or cashback. This is where I will throw in a caveat: only do this if you are the type of person who pays off their credit card in full every single month, otherwise this strategy is going to end up costing you money. I doubled down on this one by switching from a miles-based credit card to a card that earns cash back, which is a better use of earned miles/ cash back for my household in particular. This is something I would definitely recommend, especially if you have a credit card that you’re using a lot but that is giving you benefits you are not necessarily using. Put that money to work already! So, that is something that is ongoing as I try to determine what can be switched to credit card (like the cable bill—who knew?) and what cannot (like the mortgage, which is kind of a bummer). Since I don’t know you personally, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for me to recommend a specific type of credit card, but I would say generally, if you pay your credit card every month, look for one with some kind of benefit that will actually benefit you. If you don’t travel that much, you are pretty much wasting the benefit of accruing a bunch of free miles you probably won’t use, and so on.

After I had gotten a better credit card and switched most of the household stuff over to it, Raise.com  was my next big find of the year. I read a book awhile ago about buying discounted gift cards, so I started with researching that because it seemed like that was going to give me the best return on time invested. Raise is one of a few discount gift card marketplaces, and I like it because it has an app, it sends me alerts, and the customer service is really strong. They have great deals on gift cards from places like Lowe’s, Target, Big Lots, etc., and those are places I go anyway, so that is now where I get the majority of my gift cards. To streamline/ efficientize further, I use a credit card that gives me points or cashback to buy the gift cards, which ends up saving even more money. I would say this is one of those money hacks you can absolutely use to save a ton of money (especially if you’re doing something major like remodeling your house—go right now and buy a bunch of discounted Lowe’s or Home Depot gift cards, because you will definitely use them). The only possible drawback is that you have to keep track of a lot of gift cards and make sure you use them. This is not a problem for me, so I am definitely putting this one in the “win” column and would highly recommend you go over there and sign up.

In case you’re wondering who would sell gift cards at a discount, apparently that is a thing that people do. In case you’re wondering whether the gift cards are going to be valid (I had this concern myself), yes, they are, and Raise has a guarantee if one of them ends up being a dud or not getting to you. So, that’s always nice. In case you’re trying to follow the exact steps this would take, that would be: “Go to Raise.com. Buy discounted gift cards (therefore saving money) using a credit card that gives you points or cashback (therefore saving money). Use the gift cards to buy your regular household/ life/ stuff.” I’m going to estimate this one thing alone will save us 10% of our total spend on an ongoing basis. I will get to “what to do with the extra money” in future posts about this.

This post is getting kind of long, and I’m guessing that people who only come to this site to find photos of weird Oreos (which I now buy at Big Lots with discounted gift cards I got at Raise) are sort of disappointed right now, so I’m going to leave it here and say that I hope you are all doing well, and that I am going to try to start updating more, now that I have told you what I’m thinking about and doing this year. I also have life-hacker/ time-hacker experiments going with lists, time-management, and weight loss, so I will probably do posts about all of those at some point as well.

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 12.37.44 PMAnd finally, if you were only here for weird photos, here is one for you. What, exactly, is happening here, do we think? Does this person not know that this is not how license plates work?

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What I’m Up to This Year, and Some Ways to Save Money

Soooo…..you might be wondering what I am up to this year, because I have not been posting on here all that much (with the exception of the occasional podcast or funny photo). Or maybe you’re not wondering, and I am flattering myself. I figured since I have this blog and people read it and all, I would share some of the stuff I have been working on so that you could also perhaps benefit.

This year (starting in January), I thought it might be interesting to examine all the areas of my life to see if I could find ways to save money, save time, and generally streamline everything in life with the purpose of deriving more pleasure and satisfaction from my everyday activities.  I am not joking!   Here’s what I’ve found so far, in terms of money. I guess it should be said that I am already a saver-type person, but I really think anyone can do this kind of stuff, and as it turns out, it’s not that hard (if you’re looking) to find places to save money in almost every aspect of your life.

I started with Mint.com. I have been using this awesomely amazing app for about five years, and I couldn’t live without it at this point. If you’re not using it, go right over and download it now—it’s free and will probably save you some money right off the bat, just by pointing out places you are paying fees, etc. www.mint.com, get it on your phone or your iPad or your computer or wherever you do things. Yes, it does take some setting up, so make sure you have some time set aside if you’re just getting into it for the first time.

Because I look at Mint every day anyway, I decided to use the feed of expenses as a prompt to ask myself “How could I do that better?” every time one went by. Here’s what I’ve got so far, and feel free to keep checking back for more resources as I find them. The first thing I did was look at all of the household expenses that could be switched to a credit card, thereby earning points or cashback. This is where I will throw in a caveat: only do this if you are the type of person who pays off their credit card in full every single month, otherwise this strategy is going to end up costing you money. I doubled down on this one by switching from a miles-based credit card to a card that earns cash back, which is a better use of earned miles/ cash back for my household in particular. This is something I would definitely recommend, especially if you have a credit card that you’re using a lot but that is giving you benefits you are not necessarily using. Put that money to work already! So, that is something that is ongoing as I try to determine what can be switched to credit card (like the cable bill—who knew?) and what cannot (like the mortgage, which is kind of a bummer). Since I don’t know you personally, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for me to recommend a specific type of credit card, but I would say generally, if you pay your credit card every month, look for one with some kind of benefit that will actually benefit you. If you don’t travel that much, you are pretty much wasting the benefit of accruing a bunch of free miles you probably won’t use, and so on.

After I had gotten a better credit card and switched most of the household stuff over to it, Raise.com  was my next big find of the year. I read a book awhile ago about buying discounted gift cards, so I started with researching that because it seemed like that was going to give me the best return on time invested. Raise is one of a few discount gift card marketplaces, and I like it because it has an app, it sends me alerts, and the customer service is really strong. They have great deals on gift cards from places like Lowe’s, Target, Big Lots, etc., and those are places I go anyway, so that is now where I get the majority of my gift cards. To streamline/ efficientize further, I use a credit card that gives me points or cashback to buy the gift cards, which ends up saving even more money. I would say this is one of those money hacks you can absolutely use to save a ton of money (especially if you’re doing something major like remodeling your house—go right now and buy a bunch of discounted Lowe’s or Home Depot gift cards, because you will definitely use them). The only possible drawback is that you have to keep track of a lot of gift cards and make sure you use them. This is not a problem for me, so I am definitely putting this one in the “win” column and would highly recommend you go over there and sign up.

In case you’re wondering who would sell gift cards at a discount, apparently that is a thing that people do. In case you’re wondering whether the gift cards are going to be valid (I had this concern myself), yes, they are, and Raise has a guarantee if one of them ends up being a dud or not getting to you. So, that’s always nice. In case you’re trying to follow the exact steps this would take, that would be: “Go to Raise.com. Buy discounted gift cards (therefore saving money) using a credit card that gives you points or cashback (therefore saving money). Use the gift cards to buy your regular household/ life/ stuff.” I’m going to estimate this one thing alone will save us 10% of our total spend on an ongoing basis. I will get to “what to do with the extra money” in future posts about this.

This post is getting kind of long, and I’m guessing that people who only come to this site to find photos of weird Oreos (which I now buy at Big Lots with discounted gift cards I got at Raise) are sort of disappointed right now, so I’m going to leave it here and say that I hope you are all doing well, and that I am going to try to start updating more, now that I have told you what I’m thinking about and doing this year. I also have life-hacker/ time-hacker experiments going with lists, time-management, and weight loss, so I will probably do posts about all of those at some point as well.

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 12.37.44 PMAnd finally, if you were only here for weird photos, here is one for you. What, exactly, is happening here, do we think? Does this person not know that this is not how license plates work?

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This is happening…..#weirdfood


12749917_877149382383875_916143334_n.jpg

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