I Brought You These

by | Jan 17, 2022 | 0 comments


When I was younger and just starting out in my dating career, I used to bring flowers on first dates not realizing the potential awkwardness that lay ahead. Typical responses:

“Oh… thanks…” … The eye pop and the awkward, “Uh, thanks. Where should I put them?” … and my personal favorite, immediate sneezing. ” ‘Are there Bells of Ireland in that arrangement?’ ‘Yeah, I know you’re Irish and thought that you might… you know… think that was cute?’ ‘I’m wildly allergic.'”

At the soon to be ripe old age of 37 I’ve learned a few thing things, I now bring a camera.

Flowers and Photos with a Capital H

I hate flowers – I paint them because they’re cheaper than models and don’t move.

Georgia O’Keeffe

In the hearty face-maskless days pre-Covid I found myself in face to face meetings about 10 times a week. Most of these meetups business oriented, with occasional dabblings, (yeah that’s right, dabblings) in dating often had me with a camera on my person. Like a gun in the Wild West, or your cup of coffee as you race out the door, a camera is always on me.

Honestly I can’t tell you how many meetings or events I’ve gone to, brought my camera, not taken a photograph of the person I came to see, made my traditional Irish Exit, and then have then seen a flower on the street and snapped that instead. Photographs are personal and often I find people uncomfortable, let alone complete strangers. Balance that with my students at Parsons walking up to complete strangers taking portraits, you’ll find me cursing the wind that I don’t have that gene.

A portrait on the street or studio is personal. There’s a level of vulnerability for both subject and creator, and I can’t hide behind the camera as much as I want to at times. So I obsess to create something that is good and pure. And once you’re in the flow, it’s giddy up time.

A photograph for me is Happiness with a capital H. I love making photographs, looking at them, and most importantly, sharing them. It’s like we as artists, or maybe just me, get to revert to our childhood and yell, “Hey you guys I made a thing and isn’t it amazing??” Now pair that feeling with anyone I’m lucky enough to capture over coffee, like finding a flower on the street, and now we too get to share in that happiness of a beautiful photograph. We’re awe struck at the final moment, not like awkward flower handoff on a first date, but as in … that’s the best coffee portrait photograph of my life.

So when we meet for lunch or coffee, I’ll bring you flowers. A bouquet of beauty in the sound of a shutter actuating and an advancing frame. The flower is you, hewn by life, and nurtured with time. And don’t worry about my dates, now I just bring a photo of flowers instead.

Kevin Baldwin

LA FaceS with Daria Meyer

Artis vs Artist. A view from the inside of an art space, Renaissance Artist Daria Meyer talks with movie industry visionaries, actors, musicians as she takes advantage of being a part of that very world. Curious about processes and different creative approaches, Daria meanders through the labyrinth of the creative mind and soul with probing thoughts, searching for the secrets from those now creating the canon.

American Histor-tea with Tony Kaye

I met Tony Kaye on set. It was 2018, my hardest year to date and Los Angeles was perpetually on fire. We were shooting a Vodka commercial, ironically, in an industrial freezer. After the shoot we met in Downtown LA for a tea and quick chat.

A few moments with the director of “American History X”, with a few question from a curious artist. His approach to the art reminds me of David Bowie, who never missed any opportunity to express himself through any medium and refused to define himself as a certain kind of an artist, he was just David Bowie. And this is Tony Kaye: the inventor of expressionism in cinema, living legend and great friend. 

Daria:  What brought you to LA?

Tony:  When I was 4 years old My father took me to see “10 commandments” in London, in the beginning to “10 commandments” Cecil B DeMille comes out, the Director of that film, and he tell what the movie is about, about the birth of freedom… when we were leaving the cinema with my dad, there were 2 things I was thinking about: it would be really cool to work with those special effects… and the other thing was that I wanted to be that guy who came out  in the beginning and told everybody what the movie was about. I wanted to be that guy. Since I was a child, I was seeing the images of Los Angeles, in magazines.. I knew immediately that I wanna be there, it was just a question of time. I had no idea what I’m gonna do here when I got here, that was whole another kind of a saga. I just got to get here. 

The waiter brings us a tea and Tony pulls out something that looks like worn out pocket bible with a few credit cards in between the pages. 

T: It’s the best wallet you’ve ever seen, right? It’a magic wallet. 

It was. 

D: What’s the biggest contrast between England you observed when you came here? 

T: The system in America is very structured, very business oriented. In England it’s much wilder and much more competitive place. When in America it’s very dressed up, package wrapped, and that was very difficult for me to understand that.  

D: What was the biggest fear coming here if it was a fear at all? 

T: I had no fear. I just couldn’t wait to get here. 

D: Film or Digital?

T: Well, both. Why choose?

D: Is there anything you wish have never happened to you in LA? 

T: Many things. I made many mistakes. But in the end you just have to go with it. 

D: What’s your favorite place for breakfast?

T: “Soho House” in West Hollywood.

D: What do you usually order there? 

T:  The atmosphere. 

D: What advice would you give to artists who come to LA and they have many talents and… what to do? 

T: I think that’s good!!! I think you should trying push really every ounce of everything you can do, you don’t really know what’s gonna catch fire, what’s gonna happen, not happen for a while, you should push every skill you have! Particularly if you an actor, cause you’re gonna understand so many different things. 


Resolve to Actually Accomplish Something

Anthony Nehra Fitness

This is the year I’m finally gonna do it! Workout more, eat healthy, drink less, and go to bed on time. Oh, and be nicer to people. And floss.

Every year we “resolve” to live better, look better, and be kind to our bodies. It was really easy (and fun!) to plan Dry January while downing my third Negroni on December 30th.

But then comes the first Monday of the year. The alarm goes off. It’s too dark, cold, and early for any of this BS. I guess I’ll just have coffee for breakfast and figure out my new-year-new-me diet at lunch. A few days later, I really need to get to the gym. And maybe “dry” January can be weekdays only.

I think you know how this story ends. If by mid-month you find yourself in similar circumstances, you probably had great intentions but didn’t have a plan.

Wish lists are nice, but a wish is a destination. And without a plan to change your behavior, you might as well be driving blindfolded. So if you want to make lasting changes for 2022, start with your daily habits.

How would this look if it were easy?

Pick one or two most important goals. The main problem with New Year’s resolutions is taking on too many things. You’re not going to overhaul your entire life at once. Ever. It’s not possible.

What’s most important to you that wasn’t working in 2021? Single out that goal and give it all your focus.

Start to identify your habits…good and bad. Keep a closer eye on yourself and write down the things you mindlessly do on a daily basis.

Not all of them are bad. I mindlessly brush my teeth first thing every morning. The point here is to be aware of the dozens of other habits you don’t think about. Then you can weed out the actions that are contrary to your main goal.

Make good behaviors easier (and bad behaviors harder). Want to hit the gym more often? Keep a packed gym bag by the door with your shoes ready to go. This will eliminate some of the friction between you and actually getting to the gym.

Want to stop eating snacks or drinking wine after work? Remove these things from your house entirely. The key to willpower is never having to use it. When you eliminate temptation, it’s easier to stay the course.

Don’t be afraid to hire a coach. Whether you’re trying to overhaul your closet or your entire body, it helps to have outside expertise.

Most of our daily habits are so ingrained that we don’t see their impact. The small cookie you mindlessly eat with your afternoon coffee seems like nothing until your pants don’t fit.

It feels like we “should” be able to do it all on our own, but if something didn’t work the last few times you tried, it might be time to enlist outside help.

So far, 2022 is looking like a crapshoot. Will it be hot girl summer or hot sweaty facemask? Who the hell knows. But one thing is certain: you can control your actions day to day. And when you add them all up, you’ll start to accomplish your most important resolutions.

Synergize your Brand

Styled and Written by Tavia Sharp

A few months back, the co-founders of Synergy Squared, reached out to Karjaka and I for a Sharp Upgrade. They had just done a company rebrand complete with a new website, logo and messaging and they were now ready to create a cohesive personal brand image that matched their newly up-leveled company image. As the faces of the company, both Timm and Kevin are speaking on stages and being seen online and off as the go-to experts in their field and now they have an up-leveled image to support what they have created with their business. Let’s dive in!

Tavia: Hello, Timm and Kevin! I’m so excited to chat with you today and learn more about your CRM company, Synergy Squared. Tell us a bit about how you got started …

Timm: Kevin had his own coaching and consulting business and I had my own CRM business and right before the pandemic, we decided to merge into one in order to incorporate both of our skill sets. We decided to name it Synergy Squared because we truly believe in partnering with our clients. They are the expert at what they do and when you combine that with our expertise, we can create something that’s synergistically better than what they could ever do on their own. 

Tavia: And how long have you both been doing this?

Kevin: I have a background in coaching, consulting and strategic planning for over 30 years working with actors, parents and now business owners. 

Timm: I’ve been in CRM and Marketing automation for over 30 years right not long after the first CRM tool was invented. I’ve been running my own CRM company since 2013 and together we’ve had our business, Synergy Squared, for a little over one year now.

Tavia: Can you tell me a bit more about your process working with your clients?

Timm: We have 2 divisions in our company. One is for small businesses and solopreneurs where we put people together in cohorts of 15-25 and walk them through the process of implementing the platforms we work with. We started this during the pandemic to help support small businesses and to create something more affordable and accessible because we believe every business owner should have the systems in place in order to support their stand, their movement and their profits. It allows them to learn how to implement the systems and also provide a community supporting one another. Our second division is a concierge turn key approach for midsize companies where the process is a much more custom approach. We provide a solution based on their needs as well as hands on training on how to use the various solutions we provide while offering support and accountability built into each project. Everything is completely customized from start to finish. 

Tavia: What’s the #1 problem you help companies solve when it comes to CRM?

Kevin: The #1 thing we solve for businesses is automation. Most people contact us when they are in the expansion phase. They want more time, more money, and to expand while having systems in place to help free up their schedule so there’s more space for other things. We help centralize and focus their business so they have processes in place so things aren’t falling through the cracks. 

Tavia: What’s the most common mistake business owners make doing this on their own?

Timm: The most common pitfall is business owners who want to expand and think they can do it on their own. They don’t know what it is they don’t know. So they need the experts (us) to come in and help them get beyond that. 

Tavia: What’s a day in the life of Timm & Kevin like?

Timm: My typical day looks like getting up by 7am to walk the dogs then I’m at my desk by 8:30am. I’m a morning person so by 5 or 6pm, I’m already finishing up for the day.

Kevin: I’m up around 5:30am so I can take time for myself before helping our daughter get ready for school and then I spend time reading, journaling and meditating before I start my workday around 10am.

We time block our work days so we have set days of the week where we are performing specific tasks but we make sure to check in throughout the day. We work in separate home offices but during the week, we do occasionally have lunch together and check in there as well. 

Tavia: I would love for you to share a favorite client story or two!

Timm: One of our clients is a commercial real estate company where the brokers are more like independent business owners. The owner came to us because all of his reps and teams were doing their own thing with zero standardization. It created a lot of extra work, effort and focus. We came in and created a customized cloud based CRM with more mobility and tailored it for their business needs so now they can all log into the same system from anywhere. It was a game changer for them and it allows the owner to see everything from a high level with ease. Huge success!

Kevin: A solopreneur client of ours was using another CRM system which was confusing and complicated to use as well as very expensive. She is a fitness and wellness instructor who managed to pivot her entire business online using the system we created for her. Before she was limited to working with clients in one local area and now she works with clients all over the country. She embraced this and simultaneously, reinvented the way she does her business. She not only survived but thrived during the pandemic. She pushed it to the next level!

Tavia: Okay, so you help the C-suite to small business owners improve their sales and CRM systems so why do you think improving your image is just as important?

Timm: The reality of the world today is you are judged on what you look like, that’s just human nature. I wanted to feel that I looked as good as I know I am at what I do. I had not taken time to focus on my image before but with the pandemic, we are on a screen being recorded and people go back and watch it again and again. I think it’s important to look both professional and confident and feel that way too. 

Kevin: What is similar between what it is you do and what we do is we make it easier for them to enjoy what it is they really want to do. So when we get dressed, we don’t have to think about what we are wearing. Also, a big part of our marketing is speaking, being seen and being visible so we wanted our image to match what we were creating with the business. How we are being seen now is supporting the message we are sharing.

Tavia: Tell us about your free monthly open house for small business owners…

We run a monthly virtual call for small businesses and solopreneurs which gives them a chance to ask questions about automation and integration and we spotlight a particular application as well. A big part of the success of what we do is community so this gives business owners a chance to be relaxed, network and chat with us and it’s all completely free. It’s the first Thursday of every month. You can find out more info here: https://www.synergysquaredinc.com/openhouse

New Year/Same Scams: Beware Greeks Bearing USB Sticks

Howard Globus – IT On Demand

IT On Demand

Now that the holidays are over, we don’t have to worry about any more Amazon scams, right?

Oh how I wish that were true.

Now we’re back to regular-old types of scams, no longer going based on the holidays.

One of the more concerning scams making the rounds right now was first seen about 18 months ago.  It’s resurfaced several times during the Covid pandemic and most recently, the FBI put out a bulletin alerting people about the latest iteration of the scam.  (link to bulletin at the end of the article)

Here is the scenario. A package arrives via USPS or delivery service and inside the box is a $500 Amazon gift card, a USB stick and a note that says something to the effect of, “We’re grateful for you being a loyal customer. We want to send you this $500 gift card, this USB stick contains a list of goods that you can choose from.”

Because this is a column about another scam, it should come as no surprise to you that the USB stick contains something other than a list of fabulous prizes.  The USB stick is a Trojan horse. It is known as a “BadUSB” or “Bad Beetle USB” and if it is plugged into a computer, a series of programs will run that injects a set of keystrokes to download and execute several types of malware.

The malware may contain a keystroke logger where the websites you visit and the IDs and password you use to login will be logged and sent back to the Bad Actor. This is commonly used in Financial Services or banking and credit card attacks. There may also be data extraction and data encryption malware to hold your information ransom and move it off of your computer or your network to be sold on the dark web, usually both will happen at the same time.

These USB sticks are for sale on hacker sites and commonly have “LILYGO” printed or embossed on the stick itself.  However, that is not the only type of USB stick used, so avoid plugging in a USB stick from an unknown party.

As a general rule, we limit the ability of USB sticks to be able to run any software (or even be used) in our managed customer’s environments because it is such an easy and common way of delivering malware and compromising computer systems and entire networks.

Additionally, if you receive a gift of a USB stick from a friend or vendor and there is a note that states you need to use this specific gift card only on the items that are listed on this USB stick, be very suspicious.  Companies that provide gifts to their customers where the customer can choose what they would like to receive tend to do this via an online store. A customer would most likely be sent to a website to choose a gift. If you are given an Amazon gift card, you are usually able to purchase anything you’d like from Amazon, that is the point of a gift card.

The coupling of a gift card that can only be used to get things that are listed on a USB stick should be highly suspect.

Finally, if you get a gift, it’s always nice to say thank you. Contact the company that sent it to you and confirm that this is a real gift, from them, that has been sent.

If you do receive this type of package in the mail or via other delivery service, retain all the contents and packaging with any mailing or markings with delivery information or tracking information and return address information. If you have your IT security professional analyze the USB stick, retain any forensic findings or report or additional information that is derived from that investigation.  And if the device is plugged into a computer, it is best to retain the machine, intact and powered down to that a full memory capture of whatever was on that computer can be made. You will need a full forensic image of the victim computer before any remediation is done, especially if an cyber insurance claim is filed and a report is made with the federal authorities.

There are tools that IT security professionals use to analyze what type of information is being sent off network or has been encrypted and log files of actions taken. 

In the link below is the FBI alert which has some recommended remediation steps and information that is requested if they are contacted. Please keep in mind, it is a complex process to remediate these types of attacks.

I recommend if you or someone in your household or office has inserted one of these USB sticks into their machines and remediation is necessary, engage with an IT security professional.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, perhaps the worst part of all, the $500 Amazon gift card is just a printed piece of plastic with no dollar value associated with it.

Again, please do not plug the USB stick into the computer. And if you do contact us right away and we’ll try and assist.

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