Line dieting

I’ve been watching with amusement the recent recent fuss about line diets hitting the blog world, for I’ve been doing this for a number of years, and I had no idea it was actually called something.
Back in 2005 I started tracking my daily weight in an Excel spreadsheet. The system was simple: weigh myself, go into work, jot it down. I did it at work because I kept a second tab in the spreadsheet and tracked my caloric and fat intake each day. I set consumption goals, and after lunch I’d know how much room I had left for dinner and dessert.
I’ve never blogged about it because, frankly, I found it to be a rather poor diet tool. It was a terrific learning exercise–I’m far more cognizant now about just how fattening food is.
But the spreadsheet, while a fun game, was not much of a motivator. Yes, I wanted to make a pretty declining trendline, and to punch the lower limits of the chart. But I didn’t find that any more satisfying than simply stepping on the scale in the morning and seeing how I did. Data points, to me, were decidedly unsexy.
I kept returning to the spreadsheet on and off into 2008, mostly for the daily food lists, which were better at keeping me honest (and just a label-reading version of Weight Watchers’ point system). Then I gave up, got really fat, and have lost weight in the past year simply by convincing myself to snack less. Spreadsheets are great, but they don’t provide willpower. And on a successful diet, a spreadsheet is redundant–the evidence is in the mirror.

Headphones at the halfway point

My fifth headphone review went live on Boing Boing Gadgets Friday, marking the midpoint in the series I’m doing this summer. I’m penning 10 pieces covering 11 models from seven different manufacturers.

And what have I learned? More than I expected, some of it obvious, others less so:

  • Greatness is variable. Undoubtedly, almost all of the headphones I’m testing are great, in one way or another; the cheapest pair is a hundred fifty bucks, after all. But what defines greatness? To Etymotic, it’s pure reproduction of original sound; to Klipsch, it’s top-to-bottom balance; to Audio-Technica, it’s pumping abnormally strong bass through miniature devices; to JVC (coming next week), it’s replicating its audio style across product lines. More than once I’ve found myself thinking, really, who am I to judge?
  • MP3s truly are a crappy audio medium. Don’t get me wrong, I’m used to the sound, and I don’t deny progress. But the high quality of electronics in my possession exposes an MP3’s flaws and has me casting a skeptical eye on my iTunes library. Someday I’m going to switch to a 200GB iPod and a lossless audio format.
  • I’m a picky son of a gun. Etymotic has pure sound the likes of which I’ve never experienced. My wife swoons at the mere memory of listening to music through them. But I disliked the lack of low-end punch, which I noted, and which made my contact at Etymotic downright wistful. Maybe I should lighten up a bit.
  • But hey, I know what I like, which is a balanced output that brings warmth and resonance to music at low volume levels. While I remain impressed by it, I don’t need Etymotic’s hyper-clear output. Give me the Klipsch, thanks, with a side of Audio-Technica‘s mind-blowingly good noise isolation. Heck, I’d take the Audio-Technicas, too. I like bass. (I’m bringing them both on a business trip I’m about to take.)

This project has been a ton of fun, and I haven’t even written about the fancy models yet. My continued thanks go out to Rob Beschizza and Joel Johnson for giving me the platform.

The [noun]

OK, Mr. or Mrs. Consumer, riddle me this.
Hut and shack
Which of the above buildings sells pizzas, and which sells radios?
I ask because of some aggressive and misguided rebranding efforts going on by major retail chains. In an effort to both be trendy and transcend an existing identity, they’re seizing the playful halves of their names and marketing around them.
Which sounds great, until you take them out of context.
Pizza Hut thinks its consumers already use “the Hut” as shorthand, so they’ve embraced it as a marketing initiative. That’s fine enough, but it doesn’t scale. The Hut doesn’t mean anything if it’s not related to mealtime and pizza, and it won’t catch the eye of someone looking for food.
Meanwhile, Radio Shack has decided to do the same thing. They, too, say their shortened “the Shack” is used by devoted fans, and that the name is more trustworthy than the official brand. Except, erm, it really isn’t.
When does a nickname imply trust? When it comes from a customer, it says, “I go here all the time,” which can be construed as, “I trust their products.” When it comes from the corporate mouth, the message is, “You should be my friend,” not, “You can trust me.” It feels entirely different.
But my biggest complaint is with the brand identity these nicknames create. Not only are the messages missing their mark, but they’ve gone so far as to become more or less identical. What do they mean? Tell your coworker, “I’m going to the shack and the hut at lunch,” and see what happens.
I’m all for nicknames; my coworkers have several for me (and probably a few that I don’t know about). But the best ones are descriptive and add warmth and depth to the thing they describe. Shacks and huts, for all their marketing efforts, don’t really do that.
This is a cross-post from aiaio.