Chuck Stone

I was very sad to hear the news today that my master’s thesis advisor and all-time most beloved teacher, Chuck Stone, passed away at the age of 89.  For 14 years, starting in 1991, Stone taught at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication, following a distinguished career in journalism and his time as a champion of Civil Rights dating back to the 1960s (and most certainly before then and after.)


I’ve thought about Stone often over the years since leaving Chapel Hill.  I can see his bright big smile and smell the tart aroma of his cologne that were his signatures along with that bow tie he’d wear.  He was an individual in every sense of the word.  Fairly tall and impressive, but with a slowing gait in his early 70s when he taught me, Stone was my inspiration. Everything about him was a success hard won and deserved.  What I knew about him then, and what you’ll read about him in his many obituaries, is that he was a Tuskegee Airman during World War II.  A Tuskegee Airman! That alone was enough to ogle and awe at what an accomplished person I had the honor from which to learn.  Go on to discover that he was a very accomplished journalist and Civil Rights activist with a multitude of accolades.

I’ll never forget the class when he told us the story about being with Martin Luther King, Jr. the night before the “I Have A Dream” speech.  He asked “Marty” – yes, Stone referred to the great humanitarian, activist and leader of the African-American Civil Rights Movement as “Marty” – “What’s in your speech for tomorrow?” I am paraphrasing, but the story goes that Stone was the White House correspondent for the Washington Afro-American (not sure exactly if this who he was reporting for on this particular story, however) and wanted to get his story done the night before the actual speech – I assume to save precious time? I’ll never know.  Nonetheless, whatever “Marty” told Stone ended up changing a bit when the speech was delivered causing Stone to quickly go back and edit/retract – whatever he needed to do to provide the correct color commentary to one of the most indelible American speeches in our storied history.  That type of experience was classic Stone.

When I needed to choose an advisor for my master’s thesis, my obvious choice was Stone for a variety of reasons beyond just being my favorite professor during my tenure at UNC.  My thesis was on the media coverage of breast cancer vs. prostate cancer.  At the time of my thesis (2000), news coverage of prostate cancer was low-to-non existent, despite the fact that statistically more men were being diagnosed with the cancer in comparison to the number of women being diagnosed with breast cancer (although more women die of breast cancer – an important distinction.) This struck me as odd and unacceptable for all the men I cared about in my life.  Chuck Stone had previously battled with prostate cancer, so he took a special interest in my approach to research and documentation for the thesis.  I even got a personal interview with him that is somewhere on a tape in an old save box (which I will be digging through later.)  In the interview, he expressly shared the moment his doctor asked him what was more important to him – his manhood (although I believe he used more explicit terms for an added chuckle) or his life?  Stone, obviously, chose the latter.  We are all so blessed and thankful that he did.

So, I sit here with a lump in my throat and wet eyes.  I am so very fortunate to have had the experience to know Chuck Stone, to learn from Chuck Stone and to tell people in my life about what a great human being he was.  His impact on history, journalism and those that crossed his path will be etched in “stone” for many decades to come.

The Eat List – North Central Austin

A friend of Mike and mine just moved to our neighborhood, so I promised to provide a list of recommended places to eat, play and shop.  Because the restaurant choices are plenty, I am going to start with the eating list first, and add in the other recommendations on another day.  Keep in mind, these are places I like to eat.  There are a lot more options than on this list, but if they aren’t on here, I either forgot to mention them or I am not a fan. Comment if you have other recommendations or think mine are bunk.


Pacha – I’ve been going to Pacha since before I met Mike, and it was great to discover that he loves this place, too.  The vibe, the people, the food and especially the coffee and teas are comforting.  It’s the type of place that brightens your day and leaves you with a smile.  Try the Pacha Latte iced on a hot day.






Anderson’s - All things coffee and some things tea in this neighborhood shop.  It’s not so much a place to go drink a coffee, as it is a place to buy your coffee for your home (or a friend, or your office, or wherever.)  They have tons of fresh in-house roasted coffees from all over the world.  Not to mention the store has the most intoxicating smell of coffee luring you inside.

Stinson’s - This is a new place, so I haven’t tried the coffee and they didn’t serve mint herbal tea, so I can only go on atmosphere and the staff.  Staff gets two thumbs up so far because they said they like to serve what their customers want and plan to start serving mint tea soon – on my recommendation.  The atmosphere is also simple and modern and they have a full bar, so it may be a good place for a drink now and again.  They also just showed Cool Hand Luke as part of a movie series they are running, so I think I like them.

Dolce Vita (Hyde Park) – This is a great place, morning, noon or night (and especially at night).  Great espresso drinks, good food and delicious cake.  Try the carrot cake.






Monkey Nest - Too crowded most times for my taste, but they have lots of food options and I suppose decent coffee.  It’s many young undergrad or graduate school students studying – from the looks of it.

Thunderbird (web site down at the time of this post) – also a lot of people studying, so a younger crowd for the most part.  Serves several typs of food from salads to sandwiches and also serves wine and beer.






Flightpath – I used to love studying here when I was taking night courses at UT.  Lots of graduate school age and professionals alike who want a quiet coffee shop to retire to.  Some nice food options as well, but mostly pre-made food.

Breakfast (including great places for breakfast tacos)

Kerbey Lane – a little too crowded for my tastes and the wait can be very long on the weekend, but Kerbey Lane cafe on…wait for it…Kerbey Lane is a good standby for a good brunch.

Pacha – mentioned above.

Consuelo’s – More formally known as Cocina de Consuelo is good for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Love their breakfast plates which are hefty and full of fresh ingredients.

Taco Deli – also good for all meals.  A local Austin favorite. It gets quite busy in here, but the line moves fast.  Do know that if you like your breakfast taco with egg and potato, the potato comes in mashed style. Definitely different, but it’s the way they do things there.  Be sure to try their famous dona sauce (it’s the green one.)

Taco Shack - There are two in the neighborhood.  The one on North Lamar has a drive through for those days you don’t want to get out of your PJs and the one on Medical Parkway has a couple of picnic tables to eat at in a quieter setting in Rosedale.

Galaxy Cafe – Another one of these breakfast, lunch and dinner spots – that I consider more of a breakfast spot than anything else. Tons of items to choose from on their menu and the portions are generous.

Julio’s – mentioned below.


Foodheads – great neighborhood lunch spot.  Although, they serve breakfast and dinner, too (only Thursday through Saturday for dinner, and it’s byob.) Love that it’s in an old house. Plenty of outdoor seating in nice weather.  Recommend getting there early for lunch because the place fills ups.  I love the veggie sandich with zucchini and eggplant.  Mike loves the Gypsy with port tenderloin and fried egg.






Little Deli - Tiny and authentic Deli in the Brentwood shopping center (which is pretty neat in its own right.  They have a great old grocery store and pharmacy across the street from LD.) Also a good spot for dinner and it is also byob.  Nice outdoor seating at picnic tables. Makes for a fun dinner on a nice evening when it’s not too buggy or hot.

Epicerie - this french/cajun cafe is good for lunch and dinner (they also serve breakfast/brunch on weekends.)  Both sandwiches and entrees are delicious.  For dinner, you can choose from a hand selected variety of wines artfully displayed in the built in counters.  They also serve local beer on tap or in 40 oz. bottles. Insider secret tip: they sell the best smelling hand wash.






Julio’s – located in Hyde Park, this is another good lunch or dinner spot. It is also my favorite brunch spot on the weekends. Right next to Dolce Vita and across from Asti (which I’ll mention under dinner.)  Julio’s will always be one of my favorites for simple, good Mexican food.  They also serve really good margaritas and don’t seem to have a limit on Mexican martinis like some other restaurants in town.  Consider yourself warned. [cash only.]

Texas French Bread - great lunch place near campus that in the last few years has also been serving dinner (byob).

Avenue B Grocery – this is a must do in Austin.  Located in Hyde Park, this old-timey store is not a real grocery store anymore, but is a fun place to unwind on a nice day.  Check for their weird hours.







Now for the really fun recommendations.  Almost all would be good places for a date night. In no particular order:

Central Market cafe – Like many places on this list, CM can be a great breakfast, lunch or dinner spot.  But, what I like about it for dinner – especially in the warmer months – is the opportunity to eat outside on a picnic blanket, wine bottle in tow, listening to live music.   Check the schedule for frequent and free concerts.

Asti – Another gem in Hyde Park, Asti has been around forever.  It’s the sweetest little Italian restaurant, and there is something about the lighting that could remind you of a nice dinner outing in any of the bigger cities like New York, Boston, Chicago…you get the point.  Mike and I went on our first date here. :)

Fino - Asti’s sister restaurant.  Fantastic to eat outside on a nice night.  The lounge sofas are also great for a happy hour gathering.  Delicious tapas style plates and unique wine and cocktail options make this a great date place.






Vino Vino - Ahhh, the best.  This is Mike and my go-to romantic dinner spot.  Everything about this place is right up our alley.  Knowledgeable and friendly staff, delicious food, great wine and cocktails, cool music and great atmosphere.  We usually end up here for hours and have occasionally closed it down enjoying a night cap with one of the waiters.






Apothecary – Another great wine bar, and another one of our favorites.  Apothecary is smaller (read: cozy) with some large sharing tables, some private dining tables and a bar.  The food changes seasonally (as do many restaurants in Austin) and each week there is some new fun special the chef likes to try out on diners. Love the staff here. Can get lost in a good conversation and lose track of time.

Gusto - Nice Italian option just down the road from Apothecary.  Enjoy sitting up at the bar here and ordering dinner.  Very friendly staff and good food.

Maru – The neighborhood spot for sushi, unless you want to wait, and wait and wait at Uchiko just down the road.  Family run business, no frills, but really decent sushi.

Lucy’s Fried Chicken – A newbie to the neighborhood.  Just a fun spot with indoor/outdoor dining for some comfort food and interesting cocktails. And, if cold beer is what you are craving, they have plenty of that too.  Make it a night by checking out Ginny’s Little Longhorn just a few steps away.

Drink.Well - On North Loop is a fun, happening spot. It does draw crowds for its signature cocktails.  Try the Kobe burger with kimchi.  I think it’s one of the juiciest in Austin.

Foreign & Domestic - For that really special outing, try F’n'D.  Some super interesting food combinations and wine in a former junky vintage shop.  It’s amazing to see the transformation this place took from moth-ball smelling store to welcoming, modern and romantic restaurant.  If they are still offering them, try the popovers that they bake in empty soup cans.  A block from Drink.Well.






Pharah’s – So glad this place is around.  Way back in the day, my favorite restaurant in Austin was Ararat (which is still around, but in a different iteration on the east side.) Pharah’s lives up to the old Ararat quality of Mediterranean food in the old Ararat location on North Loop.  Although the interior has changed a little, the exterior has changed a lot – now offering much more seating outside and a larger stage for the belly dancing show and hookah smoking. You don’t want to miss.

Titaya’s – The. Best. Thai in Austin.  It just returned after a long hiatus getting remodeled.  Have not been back to it since it’s opening a couple weeks ago, but a much anticipated take-out dinner will be in the works soon.

Salvation Pizza – Right near Foodheads, in another adorable craftsman home, this pizza spot is a great date night or a night-out-with-friends pizza joint.  Wonderful atmosphere.






Some other notable establishments:

Crown and Anchor – Near campus, this long-standing bar serves up a deliciously greasy burger and frosty beers.  Great place to hang out outdoors, watch a sporting event on TV or play pool, darts inside.  Dog friendly. Nickname, the Cranchor.

Draught House - Nickname, the DH. The best pub in Austin hands down.  Full stop.

Mother’s – Great for vegetarian/vegan lovers.  Just a fun all meal kind-of-restaurant in Hyde Park.

Antonelli’s Cheese Shop – Sample some fresh cheeses from all over the U.S. and Europe.  Enjoy some beer pairings, too on selected dates.  You’ll feel like a happy tourist here.

Breed & Co. – Go for the chocolate. Get your hardware somewhere cheaper.  When you visit, take an immediate right to see the cases filled with amazing chocolate.  Choose from such selections as lavender infused or basil infused dark chocolate to scrumptious truffles.

People’s Pharmacy – On North Lamar across from the Central Market shopping area, People’s is a home-grown pharmacy with a food counter serving fresh smoothies, salads, sandwiches and breakfast tacos.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this list – which is still not exhaustive – of all that north central Austin has to offer a hungry person.  Feel free to comment on what you enjoy in the neighborhood, too.



Beyond 5’2″

Welcome back to my series Beyond 5’2″, where I share some of the interesting things I’m learning about or discovering in Austin, on the web and beyond my small stature.

This installment’s tid-bits:

No local Austin tid-bits this time, but I will share this photo of our beautiful and ever growing town city that I took on a run a couple weeks ago.


  • I’m always finding little things around the house to fix, so I was super excited to find Lowe’s ingenious Fix in Six home improvement tubmlr using short-form Vine videos with great home hacks.
  • Even though I am not a die hard Indie fan, I have been enjoying This Great White North music show on KVRX that airs Fridays starting at 4:30 pm. Love the host’s plea for hipsters to listen because “they can talk about obscure Canadian bands that nobody else knows just yet.” Oh, hipsters…
  • An app that shames you into not using the snooze button…I need that. And other funny apps revealed at last year’s Comedy Hack Day.
  • Not necessarily new, but I have to share my virtual bow-down to the creative mind behind Comedy Hack Day and other hilarious digital communications, Baratunde Thurston. Thurston, formerly of The Onion, is the creator of Cultivated Wit – one of the more approachable forward thinking digital project consortiums out there today.
  • I’ve been listening to Radical Face – kind of haunting, sparkly and gray all at the same time.  Wow, maybe I do like Indie more than I thought.
  • Speaking of liking something a little more than I thought, I am totally into my subscription to YogaGlo.  Now, I can do yoga of any time variation and any style from anywhere.  And, the instructors are really good, too.  Sometimes 15 minutes in the morning is all I need, and YogaGlo let’s me do that.  No longer do I need to compare my pigeon pose to the other, more expert yogis in the room.










Trends Season 2014 is Here

I really liked #3,5,6 and 8

The nuggets:

“If you want a good marker for what it takes to be there (head of the distribution), see Red Bull.  100+ full-time, dedicated content people.  A wealthy Austrian billionaire with a long time horizon.  Lack of quarterly earnings pressure.  If that doesn’t sound like you, you’ll want to re-think your content efforts.

“Vanishingly few marketing technologists see gamification in digital marketing as creating any kind of business value compared to alternate investments.”

“Pre-viz is short for “pre-visualization”.  Think of this as creating immersive prototypes of what the new world will look like once a change happens (or a new product or service hits).  Those visualizations help sell ideas, rally support around change (employees, customers and partners), and help provide vision for where to go.”

“Some brands will call a tech timeout.”

I like this idea of the tech timeout.  This doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to new technology, channels and approaches, but it does mean slowing the pace, or realistically tackling what you can without strapping your teams or resources.  Take this year to stop, breath and get back to creative concepting and understanding your products/services better.  Play with the product, test it, challenge it and internalize its behavior and value.  No need to go all Walden on your marketing, but don’t overthink your strategies either.  Take on a “do onto others as you would have done onto you” mentality and you will find that this type of honest reflection will inform your marketing – not the practice of chasing shiny new objects.

Facebook Breaks Up With Sponsored Ads While Nation Obsessed Wtih Richard Sherman Tirade

You may not have heard the big news coming out of Facebook last week. Wait?! Does anyone ever hear the big news coming out of Facebook ever?

What you will notice starting this April is a welcome lack of those sponsored stories that had you guessing about your friend’s or family’s true brand loyalties to begin with.

For example, did you ever see a post from a friend that appeared over and over again stating that they “liked’ Walmart?  And, you’re going, “huh? Sally likes Walmart? But she’s a vegan and wears hemp clothing.”

So, no more of that slight invasion and manipulation of user data right in your news feed.  Instead, Facebook will still use those types of sponsored stories in the right navigation, where all the other, lesser quality advertising goes to die.

From Forbes: “Facebook has made clear that the same elements used to create sponsored stories will still be used, but these social context-driven ads will appear in the sidebar, rather than directly in the newsfeed.” In other words, the somewhat questionable advertising targeting will continue, but no one will notice.

Of course, there are plenty of other options for advertising on Facebook and if your brand has the budget, you may strike a nice balance of spend and return that will win you some new fans, or better yet, consumers.  Ultimately, however, brands should remember that quality will always beat out quasi-underhanded targeting practices. There are still a lot of us savvy consumers out there who want the real deal of good product plus good, honest content – even if savvy is a stretch for a nation glued to this YouTube video.


What Have I Been Working On?

Here is a sneak peak at some of the work I have been doing in the last year to get you up-to-speed on what I do for brands.

Since late Fall 2012, I have been working with an amazing team of consultants on a health awareness campaign called Rethink Varicose Veins, sponsored by the medical device company, Covidien.  It’s been so much fun starting out with this team from nearly the beginning of the campaign to help it grow some social media legs (varicose vein humor.)  Because social media was a relatively new concept for the company, I provided them with a very thorough package of social media best practices and guidelines that walked them through every step of the social channel development process – from creating:

  • A social media playbook (the who, what, where, when and whats)
  • A decision tree process-map that outlines “do this, not that” guidelines on posting content
  • Project management of our channel design and deployment
  • Plenty of real-life examples of other health awareness campaigns getting out there and doing their social media brand awareness thing

…to my current role as “community manager” for the campaign’s Facebook and Twitter channels I helped get off the ground.  This current role allows me to develop, post and measure content and engagement to inform the campaign of opportunities for growth.

The channels have only been live since last Spring, but here is a look at our Facebook and Twitter pages [note: Summer Sanders had been the Rethink Varicose Veins official spokesperson until Fall 2013.]




Meanwhile, back at The University of Texas, I have been leading the charge on web site updates and project managing a team of designers and IT managers on our approach to web UI and functionality.  Our latest project is the transformation to UT’s Professional Development Center web site:




2014 will see a lot of new transitions and changes to marketing for our department at UT and for my consulting business.  More on that in the coming weeks.


What’s Really Scary on Halloween?!

It’s Halloween, and I have nothing to wear….meh.  I’m neither up nor down about the holiday.  There have been years when I’ve dressed up when I was a child, or now as an adult, and it was a blast.  There have also been many years when seeing people in costume kind of creeps me out.  Not because they are scary. More so because it makes everything seem so off-balance and unpredictable.  I suppose that is the fun and the spook of it all.

So, on this day, I thought it would be fun to reflect on the truly scary things happening out there:

  • There is a web development team in Canada who I am guessing are bald right now from all the hair pulling they must have done when the site they built – – was a total disaster.  I just built one home page for a professional development web site and tested it for two weeks with stakeholders (who are not IT savvy and gave me great user feedback); CGI, reportedly spent two weeks testing a major web site launch and it sounds like no-real stakeholders were involved, or were made to understand the magnitude of how much they should be.  Boo!
  • Vanilla Ice and Loverboy performed on Today this morning.  Nightmares for weeks.
  • This costume is sadly scary…because it’s true.
  • I don’t even have words.
  • Another scary – in your face – reason to never smoke, or quit now.
  • Ghost Matter  or the “Dark Universe” is super freaky and Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson explains how it drives 96% of everything on Earth…but we know nothing about it.  Acccckkkkk!

And then. Honey Boo Boo.


Happy Halloween, everyone!

How Texas Has Changed Me

Mike and I spent this past Sunday driving out to Dripping Springs to see a dear friend I haven’t seen in way too long.  I only call very special people “dear friend” because it means so much more than just “friend”- obviously.  For me, it means a person I admire, who is warm and fun to be around and a person I plan to know for the rest of my life.  This friend, through her example, has taught me a lot of different things since I moved to Texas about living life, running, climbing, camping, enjoying the outdoors and enjoying a good cocktail.

It occurred to me, upon driving away from her house, that we have known each other for almost 11 years.  That’s huge for me!  Some of you are thinking – well woopty freakin’ doo!  I’ve known friends way longer than that.  I think that is awesome for you.  But here’s why 11 years is special for me – I’ve moved around a lot.  And not simple, move down the road kind-of moving.  I’m talking, cross country, geographical reconnoitering.  A breakdown for you:

  • Born, and then single digit years spent in New Orleans
  • Moved to New York to start the double digits years
  • Moved to Indiana for college
  • Moved to North Carolina for grad school
  • Moved to New York to be closer to family in my early 20s
  • 9-11 happened
  • Parents moved to South Carolina – defeating the purpose of moving to be closer to them
  • Moved to Texas in my mid-20s
  • Been here ever since

In fact, Texas will be the longest place I’ve ever lived consecutively.  Because of this, I’ve created bonds with people I’ve watched grow into parents, get divorced, face health issues, become executive level professionals and all that wonderful and crazy life stuff.  I also have the joy of remembering doing tequila shots and eating Whataburger at a 3 am drive thru with same said people.

And, with all of this reflecting on friendships and how long I’ve been in Texas, it occurred to me on my drive to work this morning that there are some very specific things about Austin and Texas that have completely defined my reality to the point where I can get a bit choked up thinking about that one day when we’ll leave it.  So, here are the things that I find normal now because I live in Texas, that I love because I live in Texas and that I sure will miss when I leave one day.

  • Pick-up trucks – As much as I am an environmentally conscious consumer, and there are many times I hate these gas guzzlers on wheels, I love that seeing them on the road means I’m somewhere other than the Northeast or pretty much anywhere else I’ve lived.  Even better that guys and some gals really do occasionally wear their cowboy hats while driving them.


  • Breakfast tacos are possibly the most perfect breakfast ever created.  If you haven’t had one before and make a stink face just thinking about it, then I wonder – did you have one of those disgusting McDonald’s wannabe breakfast tacos that are not remotely like the real deal you get down here?  Do yourself a favor and buy a plane ticket to Austin, march straight to any taqueria or authentic Mexican restaurant and order one.  It’s worth every dollar you just spent.
  • The violet crown.  This is how people referred to Austin back in the day.  Do you know why?  Wake up just at dawn and before sunrise, or take a peak outside after sunset – there you will see – the violet crown/or Belt of Venus.  It’s a beautiful purple hue on the horizon matched against the earthy green of oaks, and as you look up to the sky you can see the purple transition into a grey and then a blue.  It’s one of the first things I noticed about Austin because you can typically see across vast areas where the sky is so open and colorful.


There are so many other things to love about Texas and Austin, and I’ll make sure to jot them down when I officially hit my 11th year here this January.  I am truly grateful to have spent so much time in this huge state, making long lasting friendships and enjoying all the things that have changed me along the way.


Amazing Communications Thought For the Day – and Always

I used to work with this guy.  He’s very smart, funny and easy-going.  Very respectful of others and always seemed to have a smile on his face.  I can’t remember a day where he didn’t say a big HELLO when he walked into work, or made some very witty statement.  So, why am I not surprised that he would put this brilliant idea from brain to blog. 

It’s called a love plan!  It’s genius!  It’s exactly what I’ve been thinking my whole communications career, but never had the frame of mind to formulate a real strategy around (damn you, Spike! with fist raised in the air.)  So many PR agencies put a focus on the “crisis plan”.  We even had a “situation room” at one of the firms where I worked, where young and grey-haired communications professionals alike would sit with laptops open for hours feverishly collecting or responding to data; TVs on all different news stations; donuts and pizza boxes strewn about.  It was one-quarter exhilarating and 10 tons of torture.  We all knew that if you spent your whole career bouncing from situation room and crisis plan to another, you were certain to die at middle age unexpectedly from the stress – hurdling face first into a box of Chinese take out.

blog post_love

But, then this nugget from Spike comes along – create a “love plan”. The idea is for brands to develop a strategy on how they respond to praise – a nice tweet, a cool Facebook post with a product shot or a five star Yelp review.  With a strategy on dealing with praise, brands can recognize their loyal customers (or turn new ones into them) by saying thank you or endorsing something they care about.  It’s the kind of reciprocation we all feel warm and fuzzy about already when we do this for one another.  Brands just need to start behaving in the same manner.

So, on this Friday, I’m all about spreading the love, sharing my friend’s post and entering into the weekend on a high note.  Whether we are brand managers or not, may we all put a “love plan” in place.