Uncorking a Story (general)

All I had to do was love them.

That observation pretty much sums up Diane O’Connell’s perspective on how she was able to bond with so many kids who passed through the halls of Stamford/Trinity Catholic High School.

In this interview you will hear about how walking into the main office as a parent, wearing nothing but a bathing suit and cover up (and apparently some pearls), led to Diane landing her dream job as the school’s main office secretary.  You will learn that she’s got some serious pull when it comes to finding parking during a key UCONN basketball game and why Thanksgiving is the first of many “happiest days of the year” for her.

Lastly, you will hear some words of reassurance directed towards the class of 2020 from the heart and soul of Catholic High.

This episode of Uncorking a Story is brought to you by Mike Carlon’s novel Motel California, which can be purchased at Amazon.com or wherever books are sold online. Enjoy the show.

Direct download: Diane_Oconnell_Interview.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00pm EDT

Imagine going through basic training for the US Army as you approach the age of 40. It's a pretty hard thing to do at 18, but at 40 - come on it takes a special kind of person to raise his or her hand and say, "Bring it on," but that is just what Captain James P. Carlon of the US Army Reserve did just a few years ago.

If that last name sounds familiar, it should - because it's my last name as well. Jim is my twin brother.  You might be wondering, why interview your twin? Don’t you know everything about him? Well, I’ll tell you why I wanted to talk to Jim and why you should listen – he’s got a great story.

Ever since he was in law school, Jim wanted to join the Jag Corps and become a lawyer for the Army but because he was born with asthma, he could never pass the medical exam. But did he give up on his dream? No, he kept at it and finally got in right before the cutoff age of 40.  

There’s another reason I wanted to talk to Jim, though. We were pretty inseparable growing up. I mean, we are twins – kind of built in best friends. In fact, I crafted a character in the Farrah graham book series after Jim (for those of you who have read either Uncorking a Murder or The Last Homily – Jimmy Doubts is my brother Jim Carlon).

Over the past decade or so we haven’t seen much of each other and I thought it would be a good idea to connect on a Wednesday afternoon on my back porch, roll tape, and see where the conversation takes us. So here it is, my talk with Captain James P. Carlon of the US Army Reserve.

This interview is brought to you by my new novel The Last Homily. A Catholic priest is murdered on the altar at a church in Chatham, MA and it is up to Farrah Graham, the host of the uncorking a murder podcast, to find out who did it and why, before the killer strikes again. You can find it at Amazon.com or wherever books are sold online. 

Direct download: The_Jim_Carlon_Interview_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:37am EDT

I’ll admit it, I love a good story where the good guys win and Steve August is a good guy. I know this interview may be a bit “Inside Research” for you, but if you are looking to be inspired by the story of a guy who identified a need, built a technology to meet that need, and then sold his company to someone who saw the value in it then listen up!

Steve is the founder of Revelation, a research technology company he sold to FocusVision – but he wasn’t always in the research business. In fact, before founding Revelation, he was never in the research business at all. He was a singer/songwriter making a living in clay animation, video documentaries, and even web mastering in the early days of the Internet as a commercial medium. Hell, before Revelation, Steve was in museum exhibit development and if that sounds interesting to you, wait to you hear it in Steve’s words!

This episode of Uncorking a Story is brought to you by my book Uncorking a Murder. A detective short on time seeks to right a wrong in this "Serial meets Gone Girl" thriller. Buy it at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, or wherever you buy books online. Available in both print and e-reader editions.

Enjoy the interview.

Direct download: The_Steve_August_Interview.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:36am EDT

Shortly before her daughter was to begin kindergarten, Allison heard the words that no parent wants to hear – your daughter has cancer.  As treatments progressed, and hair was lost, her daughter Meredith was eager to find some item of clothing that would help her blend in with her peers; scarves called too much attention to her and hats didn’t do the trick. Enter the hoodie. Meredith found that wearing hoodies helped her feel more like a regular kid and they quickly became her favorite thing to wear.

Inspired by what Toms Shoes was doing with footwear, Allison decided to create a “One for One” movement with hoodies. Today, for everyone who purchases a hoodie through BraveHoods, the company will donate one to a child going through cancer treatments or to the family members of that child because, as Allison points out, cancer is a family affair.

In this interview, you will hear much more than how Allison started BraveHoods; you will hear about the kindness given by strangers during moments of intense anxiety and fear and how these moments inspired Allison to reach out and remind other mothers, and fathers, to breathe. You will hear stereotypes about New Yorkers dispelled and, importantly, learn how you can help support BraveHoods and bring delight to some brave kids going through cancer treatments as well as to their families.

Learn more at www.bravehoods.org

This episode is brought to you by the new novel Winning Streak – a story about a young man struggling to come to get his life back on track after the sudden death of his father.

Pick up winning streak at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, or wherever you buy books online. Available in e-book or paperback, if you still buy those things.

Direct download: AlisonYacht.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:43pm EDT

Episode 14 - Jeryl Abramson

In the course of my job, I have had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people who have shared their stories with me (and my clients) over the past 20 years. Of course it is fair to say that some of these stories stand out more than others.

About seven years ago, I found myself in Arizona interviewing professional athletes including Brian Roberts who played for the Baltimore Orioles and Dhani Jones who was a linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals. In addition to professional athletes, I was also interviewing high school athletes; who would have thought that my conversation with a high school athlete’s mother would be the one I remembered most from that project almost a decade ago?

I was hired to interview a student named Zack when I engaged his mother, Jeryl, in some small talk. She told me she was from upstate NY and had recently moved to Phoenix but still owned some property in NY State.  I told her that my aunt and uncle owned a farm in Little Falls, NY and she told me that her property was in Bethel.  My ears perked up; she appeared to be the age of someone who may have attended Woodstock in 1969 (due to issues obtaining permits, festival organizers wound up holding the festival billed as “3 Days of Peace and Music” at a farm in Bethel, NY approximately 60 miles away from the town of Woodstock).  After a moment of silence, and a sly smile, she blew my mind by admitting, “My husband and I own Max Yasgur’s homestead.”

If you don't know who Max Yasgur is, Google his name. Now.

Fast forward seven years and I find myself back in Phoenix; this time interviewing people about banking. On a whim, I search for Jeryl on Facebook and send her an invite which, to my surprise, is accepted. I asked if she could spend thirty minutes or so speaking to me and she welcomed the opportunity.

We discussed what it was like to be a teenager in the later part of the 1960s and how she would travel from her home in Brooklyn to nearby Manhattan in order to see a “who’s who” of bands at the Fillmore East. Jeryl also talks about how she and her mother, who were vacationing in upstate NY in the summer of 1969, brought food and water to people stranded on the thruway during the Woodstock festival as well as how she, and her late husband Roy, came to own the Yasgur Homestead.

However, the story doesn’t end in the 60’s. Jeryl shares the struggles she and Roy faced with the town of Bethel as the two, in true hippie spirit, tried to “welcome hippies home” every summer to commemorate those three days in 1969. Rolling Stone named Woodstock as “One of the 50 moments that changed the history of Rock and Roll” so it is only natural that people would want to make a pilgrimage to such a site; however, the town put up nothing but roadblocks to anniversaries and reunions. After 17 years of battling the town, the required permit allowing gatherings was issued but it was a bittersweet victory for Jeryl; her beloved husband Roy died weeks earlier.  

This conversation is filled with great stories of the sixties as well as the drama of a legal battle that stretched from the 90s and into the 2000s. You will also hear Jeryl’s take on the music industry today and why she feels so strongly that artist’s should retain the rights to their music. Above all, though, you will hear a story from someone who experienced a period of time in American culture that transcends generations; a time that may have divided old and young but also united people of different ethnicities, backgrounds, and persuasions.  I hope you enjoy Jeryl’s story as much as I enjoyed uncorking it! Feel free to send any feedback you have to mike@uncorkingastory.com and happy listening. 

This episode is sponsored by the novel Return to Casa Grande. Visit www.returntocasagrande.com to learn more.

Direct download: Jeryl_Abramson_Podcast_-_2_27_16_7.10_PM.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 7:33pm EDT

Should qualitative researchers be thinking about adding mobile to their qualitative toolbox? Richard Owen, founder and CEO of Crowdlab says, without hesitation, yes!

Who is Richard Owen? Well, Richard has been in the market research business for over twenty years and has worked at prestigious firms such as Millward Brown, Copernicus, and Hall &  Partners.  Frustrated by the pace of change (or lack thereof) in the market research industry, Richard founded Crowdlab as a company designed to field high quality research empowered by bleeding edge technology to amplify the wonders of traditional research thinking and doing.  If you want to know exactly what that means then you will have to listen to this podcast!

Now I know what you may be thinking – how can this help me as a qualitative research consultant or a buyer of qualitative research? Here are a few thought starters; what if instead of walking behind a shopper on a shop-a-long you empower participants to keep a shopping diary using their mobile phone to answer questions, take pictures, or record video while on a real shopping trip and use that footage as stimuli for a one on one or group interview? What if you could get people who are in the shopping process for a new car to use their mobile phone to answer questions and capture video before, during, and after going to a car dealer?  Mobile technology can help you do that and you can learn more about these and other practical qualitative applications by listening into our conversation with Crowdlab’s Richard Owen.

Direct download: Uncorking_a_Story_-_Richard_Owen.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:38pm EDT

Jim Bryson is the founder and CEO of 2020 Research; a Nashville based qualitative research firm with facilities in Nashville, Charlotte, and Miami. In addition to traditional facilities, 2020 is a leading provider of online qualitative solutions including both asynchronous and real-time interviewing solutions.


In this interview, Jim talks about the irony of hating his research classes while in college while seconds later discussing how he helped to develop a very successful research business. We discuss the bet he took on online qualitative research early on, his time as a state senator in TN, and his motivations for starting a school in Haiti.


We end our conversation with a discussion on where the business is going and what qualitative research consultants must keep in mind to be successful in the future.  Listen up as there is more to Jim Bryson than meets the eye, or in this case, the ear.

Direct download: Episode_10_-_Jim_Bryson.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 3:41pm EDT

When I was 21 years old I thought I knew it all and that my parents knew absolutely nothing. By the time I turned 22 and was working in my first job with real bills to pay, I was amazed at how much my parents learned in just 12 short months.  Since becoming an adult and starting a family, my appreciation for the sacrifices they made for me has only grown. One such sacrifice was giving me a Catholic education; while I did not appreciate it at the time, I have come to understand that the foundation such an education provides has made me every bit of who I am today.

I was fortunate to have been taught by many wonderful teachers during my lifetime but there is one high school teacher of mine who stands out for many reasons and his name is Ernie Bourcier; otherwise known as Mr. B.  At 70 years young, Mr. B. remains a full time teacher at Trinity Catholic High School where he has taught for the past 46 years.  This amazes me to no end because I have been unable to sit still in a job for more than 5 years at a clip and he has been in the same place for over four and a half decades.

I wanted to interview Ernie to understand what it is about Catholic High that encourages teachers to stay so long as he is not the only one with decades of experience at the school. In short, he views teaching as a true vocation; he really wants to see students become the best they can be and the community around the school has become his family. "You are married to this school, Ernie," a former librarian would remind him.

To really understand Ernie, you have to understand his upbringing in New Bedford, MA. His family was a religious one and religion had a very profound impact on his life.  Listen to this interview and you will hear about how boxing gloves were used in place of detentions, the profound impact that Ernie's sister had on his own life, and Ernie's own experiences with religious life.  Former students will recognize the story about the chickens!  Listen more and you will come to understand what it was like being a rookie teacher in 1968 and why, 46 years later, Mr. B. remains faithfully devoted to his bride; Trinity Catholic High School.

I encourage you to listen to this interview up until the very end to learn more about the local hero we have in Ernie Bourcier.

Like Columbo, there's just one more thing. I ask that you take the time in the near future to think about a teacher who has had an impact on your life.  Find some way to share your appreciation with them.  We all know that our teachers are not compensated based on what they are truly worth so take a minute to let them know how much they are valued.  In the case of Catholic High, you can always send a donation to:

Trinity Catholic High School

C/O Advancement

926 Newfield Avenue

Stamford, CT 06905

Direct download: Episode_9_-_Ernie_Bourcier.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 8:57pm EDT