The Hot Iron

A journal on business, technology and occasional diversions by Mike Maddaloni

Business

Sunday, June 29, 2014

What I Learned This Week For June 27 2014

photo of a warning message on a waterski

With the Pandora Smooth Jazz channel playing, and though I am confused at some of the music they are classifying as “smooth jazz” I am nonetheless liking it as I collect my learnings for the week…

  • I learned 2 things along with the above photo. Presumably if you are putting on a water ski, it is probably too late at that point to read the warning fine print. Also, this modern ski was not sufficient for my lovely wife, as she strapped on wooden skis she used when she was a kid to be pulled behind a boat for the first time in at least a decade, and with great success – go you!
  • Sometimes, spontaneous fun has to be scheduled.
  • Facilitating the listening to the earlier-mentioned Pandora channel are my iHip Patriots lanyard headphones. I have had these for a while and am surprised I have never talked about them as I love them! Most of the cord is wrapped in lanyard material sporting the Pats logo, which means they don’t tangle just by looking at them. And for under ten dollars, they are a great deal. Where mine have the logo of the greatest NFL football team ever, they are offered in other team logos, including the local team the Chicago Bears.
  • Where I didn’t need headphones was last Monday when I saw Bob Mould perform at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. I have mentioned him and his original band Husker Du many times before, and this was the third time I saw him over the years. In short, he rocked, both in his new music, songs he has recorded as a solo artist over the years, and even a few songs from Husker Du days, including Hardly Getting Over It, Flip Your Wig and Makes No Sense at All.
  • Building on my original blog post on Managing Your Email Inbox To Zero from 5 years ago, a great way to get your inbox down is to sort by recipient – it’s a great way to clear out notifications, newsletters, junk mail and other spam. It is also a good way to action on a group of emails pretty quickly.
  • The Boston Market restaurant in the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago closed abruptly on the June 15 and I found out about it when I went to take the family there for dinner, and we found out from the attendant at the free parking lot next to it that they shut down. As someone who had been to the original Boston Chicken before renamed and franchised, which itself closed years ago, it’s sad this decent meal option for the family becoming more scarce.
  • I am not a therapist nor do I play one on TV, but if I was a PhD and I wanted to prescribe certain medications I now could in Illinois, after taking over 2 years of additional education, based on a new psychologist prescription bill that has become law. Even in this hypothetical situation, to have a PhD then take more education, especially in this uncertain time in healthcare worldwide, I would rather refer them to a true MD who would buy me a beer for every referral. Again, in this hypothetical situation I would.
  • While the City of Chicago has been thrust into turmoil over the addition of the name TRUMP to the eponymous skyscraper and winning the future George Lucas museum, what has been hardly talked about is the installation of sensors to monitor, among other things, sounds and mobile device activity. They are due to be installed along Michigan Avenue and the Loop starting later this year. Of course they won’t look as ominous as they sound as they will be concealed with a decorative shield. As expected, they are being proclaimed not in the name of Big Brother and Big Data, but for our safety. Looks like I will be placing my phone in Chicago Mode (similar to airplane mode) as I walk around the city.
  • When you say you don’t know, chances are you probably do.
  • Version 7 of ownCloud is now in beta. The suite of tools which you can use – just as I do – to replace Google Docs, Calendar, Address Book and similar “cloud” services from others has been an invaluable tool for me, and I haven’t even yet installed version 6 yet, which is out and has been given high marks.
  • Where the next book from my good friend John J. Wall may not be coming out anytime soon, I have finally taken the first baby steps towards writing my own first book. Note the term baby steps, so don’t expect my book signing bus tour to commence anytime soon.
  • I ran across Musicless Music Videos almost by accident, where popular music videos are stripped of the music and you hear what could have been the sound when the video was shot. Below I have embedded the video for Dancing in the Streets by Mick Jagger and David Bowie with this treatment – follow the link if you can’t see the video below, and follow this link to the original video, including music.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 06/29/14 at 03:03 PM
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Monday, June 23, 2014

What I Learned This Week For June 20 2014

photo of the back of a Lands’ End catalog

As the original Disney classic Cinderella plays in the background, allowing me a few minutes to post my learnings and thoughts from the week…

  • Clearly whomever schedules Lands’ End catalogs is the only person in the world who doesn’t know that the Sears store in downtown Chicago closed over a month ago now.
  • After a search for a mobile phone that would be good for my Aunt who is, let’s just say, a few years older than me, I came across the Doro PhoneEasy 618. When I looked to see where they sell them, of course the closest location listed was the above-mentioned closed Sears store. But as others are still open nearby, I will investigate it to see if it will work for my Aunt, and also won’t lock me to a particular network carrier.
  • Speaking of mobile devices, Web retail behemoth Amazon announced its forthcoming Amazon Fire Phone. It runs the Android operating system, has a 13 megapixel camera, has something called Dynamic Perspective for 3D effects, and you can buy it with or without a phone contract, or as it is known as unlocked. Oh, and it makes it easy for you to buy other things from Amazon. I like the phone. The only thing I am curious about is why the Amazon logo is only on the back of the device and not on the front.
  • The Web browser Firefox, the direct descendent of the original NCSA Mosaic Web browser, has something called “safe mode” and apparently you can get stuck in it, as I was this week. The only thing is I don’t know if I am completely out of it, and cannot disable annoying but surely ignorable browser plug-ins. Ah, to remember the day when the Web browser just did what it needed to.
  • Last weekend was the annual Chicago Blues Fest, held in Grant Park by Lake Michigan. For several years after we first moved to Chicago, the festivals in the park were truly “open” where you could come and go as you wanted, and providing you didn’t break the law, you could set up a tent, flags and have a great time. Shortly after Chicago started bidding for the 2016 Summer Olympics, events like the Blues Fest were “locked down” with large fences and entrypoints put around what were still events with no cost to attend. As my lovely wife and I were walking towards the lakefront we passed the Blues Fest and decided to check it out for a little while. That is, until I saw people with “security” shirts patting people down who were entering the area. Really? Why? Because the number of murders from the previous 2 years doubled… to zero? I was appalled, and simply walked away.
  • A few hours prior to the Blues Fest dismay I started my day on a high point, participating in the annual Liver Life Walk in Chicago to benefit the American Liver Foundation. We exceeded our team goal and raised over $2,000 to this worthy cause, who also spends almost 90% of monies raised on programs, research and advocacy for liver diseases and the people affected by them. As many of the first contributors to the team found the link here on The Hot Iron, a special thank you in advance of a formal thank you to arrive in your post mailbox soon.
  • There is nothing like a new battery for your notebook PC.
  • In a previous lessons learned I had mentioned my daughter’s school pictures were taken in front of a green screen and using chroma key technology I could choose the background. This past week we put up her picture, along with my other daughter’s picture, which was taken the old-fashioned way with a backdrop. Where her picture is beautiful, it just doesn’t have the “warmth” of her sister’s. When school resumes I will be requesting they give the option to have a standard backdrop.
  • My good friend Pete finally… FINALLY had his business’ Web site redesigned. Check out the new Web site for Foresight Childproofing. If you are in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota area and have kids, call Pete to have him make your home safe for the little ones. With the redesign he also took my advice and had my good friend Emily Brackett and her studio Visible Logic not only build a great site that looks great on a standard computer or mobile device, but she also made some nice changes to the Foresight logo. Wherever you are, Emily and her team can do wonders for you and your business with its presence, from print to Web.
  • I lost count of the number of emails I received with approved job offers from Apple and Facebook. Where I laud the creativity and timeliness of spammers, they may just want to throw a few slices of spam rather than a few cases if they want to better deceive people.
  • I finally ordered something from Freshii, a chain of fresh food restaurants. I say finally here as I tried to order from them twice before with no luck. The first time I went into one store and, realizing there was a process to ordering, followed everyone else and grabbed a clipboard and paper to place an order. As I didn’t have my reading glasses with me I couldn’t read the microtext on the sheet. The second time Freshii was the offering of the day from Fooda in my office and the service was wicked slow, with a huge queue of people. This time I went to a new store around the corner from me. Where I didn’t see any clipboards, I did see video screens with small text, but this time I had my reading glasses. Several customers who came in at the same time clearly did not know where to go as we were standing in line at the part of the counter where you didn’t order. Clearly the employees couldn’t read the confused faces as they didn’t offer any real help, only to take our order. I chose a salad, and other around me got other things. The salad was good – not the greatest salad I ever ate, but it was good. As I was finishing my salad a woman who was in line with me before was leaving and said to me, “well, we figured it out!” I will probably go back, but the next time I will explore the options more.
  • My how time flies. 2014 marks the 28th anniversary of the Marketing over Coffee Awards. Where I don’t have strong memories of this from my high school days, what I do remember well is the movie Ghostbusters, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary. With the anniversary has been a lot of talk about the title theme song of the movie by Ray Parker, Jr. and how it came into being, and the article linked here goes into its detail. The video itself was unique in many ways, not to mention the set not bursting into flames from all of the hairspray worn by the people in it. I embedded the video below but if you don’t see it you can follow this link to YouTube to view the video for who you gonna call.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 06/23/14 at 10:08 PM
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Monday, June 16, 2014

What I Learned This Week For June 13 2014

photo of the complete 1,004 Portrait sculpture at Millennium Park, Chicago

After waiting all total about 30 minutes for Windows 7 to patch itself, and a few other lame excuses for this being posted late…

  • The installation of the 1,004 Portraits at Chicago’s Millennium Park, which I mentioned in last week’s post, is complete. This is what it looks like at around 7:30 am Central time with the sun’s reflection off of buildings on Michigan Avenue.
  • Speaking of the last blog post here on The Hot Iron – it was my 750th post. After the last several years of not blogging much, it is good to hit a milestone like that.
  • Morrissey, who came to fame in the 80’s as the lead singer of The Smiths and since has had a prolific solo career, canceled the remaining dates on his US tour as he caught some form of virus in Miami, including tonite’s show. The fact that I had great seats for that show makes me sad, but I hope he gets better and books yet a third show in the city, which hopefully be the charm to see him here.
  • I did get my fix of 80’s music last Friday night as I “heard” Foreigner and Styx. They were performing at the FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island, an outdoor ampitheatre that sits where the former Meigs Field airport was. If you look at this aerial map of the venue, you may see water around it. That water is Lake Michigan and Burnham Harbor, where boats are docked or do dock by it for concerts there, where they can hear them extremely clearly, and for free. I know as I was on a boat in the harbor singing along with Foreigner, who’s 45 rpm single “Urgent” was the first record I ever bought in the late 70’s. It was wicked awesome, and thanks to Kristy and Edi for having us aboard.
  • People are more inclined to give to a specific cause or item rather than just to a general fund. For example, ask people to contribute any amount to a charity, and you will not get the response like asking someone to donate to purchase a specific piece of equipment for a charity that has a fixed cost. It also works better if you repeatedly go back to those same people and ask for another specific item.
  • Just recently Hailo, my choice for taxi hailing app, added black car service. So rather than riding in a standard taxi cab, you can choose a black car – a leather-lined sedan or SUV or even a limo – for just a little more than the cost of a standard taxi. This new option is so easy to choose, and it could become addictive.
  • This past week I learned the terms information foraging and information scent. Though I had just learned these terms, I was very familiar with the concepts and have used them in Web design and content development for years. For those of you that are not technical, follow the link above and read the article and let me know if it makes sense to you, and if you have experienced this yourself.
  • I don’t need someone pimping out their new biography to make it “Ideas Week” – for me, every week is ideas week.
  • Upon catching up on podcasts this week, I got to listen to the 100th episode of The Voicemail. It is a weekly, around 30-minute podcast on mobile technology hosted by 2 very smart and witty guys, James Whatley and Stefan Constantinescu. If you are interested at all in the mobile device industry you must listen, and thank me later.
  • My good friend and colleague Tom Ordonez is launching Miami Startup School. Being billed as a “3-month bootcamp that teaches you the right way to create a business. Sales, marketing, legal, tech. Everything you need to do it the right “lean startup” way and stop wasting time and money” I am sure it will be a success for those who attend and for Tom. He is a serial entrepreneur and takes a no-nonsense approach to building thriving businesses.
  • I was amused by the story of how ad agency Cramer-Krasselt parted ways with Panera Bread. Where I personally don’t have an opinion either way about their advertising, they certainly need a creative touch in the presentation of their in-store menus. Most of the time when I am in there, only to buy a loaf of their fresh bread, I am behind people who can’t make heads or tails of their menu. With numerous colors and fonts, it is not a quick read by any stretch.
  • Though it originally aired over a year ago on national TV in the US, I was just made aware of this dialogue in the CBS-TV show “Mike and Molly” which interestingly takes place in Chicago. The exchange is between 2 older men, an Italian-American, and the other who is apparently a farmer or lives in a rural area. Their exchange is full of stereotypes, making references to life on the farm and being Italian. Where comments about an Italian man’s mother’s moustache is one thing, calling him a WOP is another. The term is a racial slur against Italians, and is clearly not an apples-for-apples comparison to the insults the Italian said to the farmer, yet it somehow cleared for broadcast? You can view the excerpt from the Mike and Molly episode on YouTube at this link and I have embedded it below. Where I usually end my weekly lessons learned on a high note with a video, this one is surely a low point. Seeing this only reinforces why I don’t have cable TV or an antenna.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 06/16/14 at 07:18 PM
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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What I Learned This Week For June 6 2014

photo of the base of 1,004 Portraits sculpture at Millennium Park, Chicago

Processing the virtual sticky notes in my BugMe app on my iPhone that I accumulated with what I learned, here they are…

  • So what is that pictured above? It is a large toilet? Or a statue of Jay Leno’s chin? No, it is the start of one of the 4 new sculptures as part of the 1,004 Portraits installation at Chicago’s Millennium Park. The artist who created the Crown Fountain is behind this, as this sculpture and 3 others in a more inconspicuous location are extensions of the original 1,000 portraits that are illuminated on the glass block towers that is the hottest attraction on summer’s hottest days. This giant head will be looking at me for the next year and a half.
  • Speaking of the Crown Fountain, they finally aligned the video with the spitting water, so the water looks like it is coming out of the people’s mouths, rather than their lip or moustache as it has been for the last couple of years.
  • Like many of you, I have been wondering what Goldie Hawn has been up to the last few years. It turns out she has a foundation, appropriately called The Hawn Foundation, which aims to create programs to help kids learn and grow emotionally stable, all without pharmaceuticals. I haven’t looked into this fully, but I have been following them on Twitter as their goal sounds noble.
  • screen shot of the BugMe appThank you Chicago Blackhawks for another hard-fought exciting season of hockey. Watching you lose in overtime in the final leading to the Stanley Cup was heartbreaking, but you made it interesting leading up to it.
  • The Caribou Coffee shop at 20 Michigan Avenue in Chicago is closing on June 15. Right next door to it is a Starbucks, and next to that a Panera Bread and around the corner from it is another Starbucks. Going the other way is a Caffe Baci where you can get coffee, a Walgreen’s where you can get anything to drink, then next to it a 24 hour Dunkin Donuts, and next to it Toni Patisserie where you can get coffee too. Oh, and around the corner is the Pittsfield Café, which serves a great inexpensive breakfast and, you guessed it, coffee.
  • Though I will still be drinking coffee, my warm weather drink has become the margarita – on the rocks with no salt.
  • I received an email that the Box Tops Marketplace, where you could earn virtual Box Tops for Education for your favorite school by simply clicking on a store link, is closing as of July 31. With the simplicity of earning points which are essentially affiliate referrals, I am surprised it has been around this long.
  • Good luck Jen on your new adventure! We will miss you, and I am sure you will miss us when you’re cashing in all of those frequent flyer miles and sitting in first class.
  • When I took my daughter on a play date with her friend to a Chicago White Sox game, her first large sporting event, I was a little sad when I found out the tickets were virtual, a QR code to be scanned from the TicketMaster app. But low and behold, upon scanning them the ticket agent printed an “MLB Fan Pass” which is essence a ticket stub. So now she has something for her scrap book.
  • This past week baseball journeyman Don Zimmer died too young at 83 after serving three score and 6 years in the game he loved. I will always remember him as manager of the Boston Red Sox when I was growing up, and with all of the other teams he played or coached for, many people will have their own memories of him. One thing I learned about him was he was the catalyst for baseball introducing batting helmets.
  • Is it just me or am I the only person trying to do enterprise mobile app adoption, marketing and promotion?
  • Something happened this week when trying to rearrange my work schedule and I said out loud, “great googly moogly” and thought of the infamous Snickers commercial. I have embedded it below or click the above link to watch it on YouTube, and tell me in the comments ot this post if we should try to bring back that phrase!


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 06/10/14 at 09:55 PM
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Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Government Breakdown On A Small Level In Chicago

News about the latest government scandal, no matter when, seems to consume the mainstream media… at least until the buzz or outrage dies down or another story takes its place. As it is hard to get any attention for anything smaller or doesn’t make the cut for a 23-minute newscast, people like myself take on telling these stories, in hopes they are heard, spread and people can hopefully can avoid it happening to them.

This story is about something that happened to me, and is still in process. It may not sound like such a big deal, but it highlights how a breakdown across government agencies can happen at any level, from the parks department in Chicago to the US Veterans Administration.

A not-so-special events parking ticket

photo of parking sign on South State Street in Chicago

A few weeks back I parked my car along South State Street in the South Loop neighborhood of Chicago. There are several types of on-street parking spaces there – metered, resident, open with the exception of during an event at nearby Soldier Field, or some combination of these. Where I parked was a combination of the last 2. It was a Saturday afternoon, and in my mind there was no event going on at Soldier Field, the home of the NFL Chicago Bears, so I parked and went on my way. Little did I know there was a beer festival going on at the stadium, and upon return to my car I saw a parking attendant put a ticket on my car, a US$60 fine for a “special events restriction.”

Needless to say, I was a little upset about this, but clearly I was in the wrong. To reinforce this, had I simply followed the instructions on the street signs I could have avoided the fine and parked elsewhere. As shown in the photo above, the sign clearly tells parkers to check Soldier Field’s Web site or call 311, Chicago’s non-emergency information hotline, to see if there is an event going on a few blocks away. I would surely do this the next time, as I had 60 reasons to do so.

Next time a communication breakdown

Fast forward to this past Saturday and I am getting ready to drive down to the South Loop, and would be looking for on-street parking. Remembering my last experience, I decided to check if any “special events restrictions” were in play. Where the concept was easy enough and I had the places to check, I was unsuccessful in this cross-functional communication breakdown.

First I called 311, and the conversation went something like this:

311: (after about a minute on hold) Can I help you?
Mike: Is there any events going on at Soldier Field today?
311: Yes, there is a walk going on.
Mike: What time does it end?
311: It started at 9 and I don’t have when it is supposed to end.
Mike: Really?
311: Yes.

So much for that channel, and I decided to check the Soldier Field Web site at soldierfield.net, and I got the following:

screenshot of soldierfield.net

This was odd, as I know I had the right URL for the site, so I tried searching for the site and linking to it that way, and I got the same result. I had been to the Soldier Field Web site before, and I had no idea what was wrong or where it was. Where is the Web site? Is it temporarily down for maintenance or is there a bigger problem.

I then took to Twitter, first clicking on the link on their profile to the Web site and got the same error. Then I sent a tweet to @soldierfield and then checked the time and had some place to go, so I left and found on-street meter parking not far from my destination and paid a few dollars and all was good.

Well, all was good except for the Soldier Field Web site. Now almost a week later, it is still down. In the course of that afternoon I got a reply to my tweet from @soldierfield on my mobile phone – I saw it on the lock screen of my iPhone as an alert from the Twitter app. It only showed the beginning of it, and it said something to the affect that “they were sorry for the inconvenience” – I don’t recall exactly what it said, and a few minutes later when I went back to check it, the tweet was gone. I certainly was not hallucinating or doing anything to cause me to dream about it. After checking the Twitter app, it was certainly gone, and they must have deleted it after they sent it to me.

Though it is not American football season, there are other events going on at Soldier Field, one being soccer with Mexico vs. Bosnia this past Tuesday night. Here it is Thursday and still no Web site or even an explanation where it is, and a tweet is a common way to get the word out.

Where 311 did not have all of the information, and Soldier Field’s Web site had none of it, I was not willing to risk it that the parking authority or the outsourced ticket attendants that roam the streets of the city were not there, as I was almost certain they would be. The workaround was paying to park for US$6 for 3 hours, and that was fine for me. Less hassle, namely from barking up the tree of various city agencies or the local alderman, as I didn’t have the time or interest to fight that battle, and my time, effort and frustration would certainly be worth more than 6 dollars.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 06/04/14 at 11:44 PM
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Thursday, May 22, 2014

GiveBackBox Makes Giving Excess Easy

GiveBackBox home page

We are a society of stuff. We get new stuff and get rid of the old stuff. With home delivery, overnight shipping, Amazon Prime and other ways getting stuff is very easy. Getting rid of stuff is a different story, for either we put it out on the street, throw it away or put it in a bag and lug it to Goodwill or Salvation Army. With all these ways methods it takes a level of effort to do so, and isn’t always convenient. With GiveBackBox now there is a way of getting rid of things that is just as easy as getting them.

GiveBackBox, which launched last year, is a service where you can create a UPS shipping label to put on any box of things you want to get rid of. You simply go to their Web site at givebackbox.com, enter your email address and the UPS shipping label is presented to you as an image which you can print out and put onto a box. The label itself is a return shipment label so you don't have to weigh the box or enter its dimensions. Just fill a box, put the label on it and drop it off at UPS Store, Staples or give to any UPS driver. The label has the address of Goodwill in Indiana. There is no cost to generate a label for anyone.

I first heard about GiveBackBox on Twitter late last year. I thought the idea was brilliant and I had to try it out for myself. Originally you had to register and create an account to use this site but now they removed that and you can just enter your email address to get a label.

The service was started by Monica Weila who runs Style Up Girl, an eCommerce site that sells women’s shoes. On the GiveBackBox Web site it tells a story about how she saw a man on Michigan Avenue in Chicago who wanted a pair of shoes. As she didn’t have mens shoes, she got some and went back, but he was gone. This was the catalyst for what has become this service.

I have been using GiftBackBox for several months now and have sent over 10 boxes of stuff. Some boxes were bigger or smaller than others, but every time I was reusing a box that came from something I ordered online. Living in the city, I end up storing a bunch of stuff to give away and I really don’t have the space to do so. With GiveBackBox you can just send the things as you go. Granted larger items like baby gates and desks are nothing that you are going to box up, and those are things that I actually will bring to Goodwill or Salvation Army. But for the most part clothes or small items are perfect for the service. You can also get a receipt for your donation by going to the Goodwill Web site and filling out a donation form you can print it or save it as a PDF for your taxes.

I like a lot of things about GiveBackBox and I have recommended it to many people and I suggest you give it a try at givebackbox.com. Let me know what you think of the service and feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 05/22/14 at 08:33 PM
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Friday, May 16, 2014

What I Learned This Week For May 16 2014

photo of gravity tank with Swedish flag painted on it in Andersonville, Chicago

Not everything we learn in the course of a week is a life lesson or something which jumps out at you completely. But even though I never hear a lot of feedback or get a lot of comments on these posts, for me, it is a good way to end the week and look back.

  • The water gravity tank that was atop the Swedish American Museum in the Andersonville section of Chicago still exists. It now sits in a parking lot, as pictured above. Reports are it may cost upwards of US$200,000 to repair and replace, and a fundraising effort is underway. Perhaps there may be a cheaper way to restore the structure, and one which does not collect water, as when it was removed it was full of ice.
  • Prior to taking the picture of the gravity tank, I attended a performance of Barrel of Monkeys. They are a group of teachers and performers who work with public school students and teach them about creative writing, then stories are selected and a sketch is created by the actors. I know I did not do this description justice, so visit their Web site and look for when their next performance is, and thank me later.
  • Donald Sterling, the owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, was born in Chicago, and lived here until he was 2 years old.
  • I got a new work PC this week, and it has a touch screen and is running Windows 8.1. I really didn’t need a new computer, but the lease was up on my “old” Windows 7 PC, which I really liked. I have only used the basics of touch on it, as my big hands don’t work well with the small text in menus, etc. Looking forward to trying out new apps designed for Windows 8.1, and in the meantime I will use it just like I did my Windows 7 PC.
  • The NFL’s New England Patriots have created a jersey guarantee offers someone who purchased a jersey for a player, and then if that player is no longer under contract with the team, a 25% discount on a new jersey. This is of course built upon the team’s previously successful exchange program for the jersey of Aaron Hernandez, which I feel is even more genius on the part of the Patriots, especially with the cost of jerseys today.
  • Tickets went on sale and the line-up of bands was announced for Riot Fest, a 3-day outdoor concert in Chicago, as well as Denver and Toronto, which encompasses many stages with bands and acts performing simultaneously, not to mention a carnival and midway of rides. Of all the bands performing, include The Cure, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Social Distortion (a few of my favorite bands from the 80’s), is Jane’s Addiction. What’s interesting about them is their lead singer, Perry Farrell, is the creator and still involved in another similar and larger concert in Chicago, Lollapalooza. I’ll be at the Chicago shows at Humboldt Park on September 12-14, will you?
  • This past week I got an off email from photo-sharing service Shutterfly that was a little odd. I rarely use the service, and the message seemed to be in response to the fact that I was pregnant, which despite wild rumors is the furthest from the truth. I then got another email from them, with an apology from their Chief Marketing Officer John Boris saying they were “truly sorry” for the email. When I got the email, I tweeted about it and got a few snarky comments from friends, and that was it. But as the topic of pregnancy can be extremely sensitive, I am sure it pissed someone off.
  • Workers began installing the letters “TRUMP” on the Trump Hotel and Towers in Chicago. The 20-foot high letters will be facing the Chicago River side of the tower, which means when I walk out my front door every morning I will see them. So far they have the letter “T” installed and had it lit up at night. Where it may appear a little tacky, I am in favor of any building having branding on it, as that brand is the reason why the building is there – or in other words, they built it.
  • There have been a lot of attacks on human resource departments in technology publications, which has resulted in very defensive responses from the HR community. I think one thing that some people who are not in favor of HR departments, namely employees, fail to remember is that at the end of the day, the HR department serves the company, not the employee.
  • May 15 is Fluevog Day, where large discounts and events occur at John Fluevog shoe stores around the world. I learned that it is also the birthday of the eponymous owner. I only own 2 pairs of shoes and they are both Fluevogs – the Will and Bodden styles. At 5:15 pm local time in each store, a “class photo” is taken of staff and customers, and it will be sent to each person pictured, personally autographed by John himself. Where these activities may seem unusual, they are in-line with the social outreach and great attitude of the brand over the decades, even long before social media was on the scene.
  • In an interview in Time magazine, actor Colin Firth discussed speaking Italian and used Italian swears. As someone who is Italian-American, and sadly does not speak Italian, I of course know some of those swears he spoke of, and more that he didn’t. Firth’s wife is Italian and she taught him, which I think is awesome. You can see the video embedded below or click the article link above to watch it.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 05/16/14 at 12:05 AM
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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

What I Learned This Week For May 9 2014

photo of a what I learned written on a withdrawal slip

With ATMs that accept cash and check deposits without an envelope and mobile apps which take a picture of a check to deposit, the end of the deposit slip, along with its sibling the withdrawal slip, is coming soon. Fortunately the back of these are blank and a withdrawal slip made for a nice way to track what I learned throughout the week.

  • I finally “tuned” into Double J, the new all-digital radio station launched in Australia and the sibling of Triple J, Down Under’s nationwide terrestrial and digital alternative music radio station. I have only listened once but liked its eclectic mix and hope to tune in more.
  • When my family traveled out to Eau Claire, Wisconsin last week for my wife’s Aunt’s funeral, we learned about JAMF Software, a company who makes enterprise management software for Apple computers and devices. For those who don’t know what enterprise management software is, it basically makes it easy to keep track of a bunch of computers. The company, which started in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is moving “back” to the hometown of the founder in Eau Claire, and making quite a splash in its new headquarters and even buying an old hotel and making it into a boutique hotel. A friend who lives there is a teacher and had the founder as a student, and she is proud of his accomplishment. As for what JAMF stands for, see it here, but note there are some asterisks and other symbols making the works safe for work!
  • Where one Eau Claire hotel is making a comeback, another declined and is now gone, and we were wondering why it wasn’t coming up as having occupancy for when we were there.
  • Where some hotels in Wisconsin come and others go, yet another lingers on. Along I-94 in Johnson Creek, Wisconsin, across the highway from an outlet mall is an odd looking place called the Gobbler. It is the restaurant of what was a futuristic hotel built back over 50 years ago. Where the hotel portion is now gone, the abandoned restaurant remains. The link above has some decent pictures and all you need to do is search on the Gobbler for more stories about this unique landmark.
  • The Spanish word for panties is “calzones” and I will never think of the Italian food the same way again.
  • It appears the OtterBox Armor line of mobile device cases has been discontinued by the manufacturer. I got a hint to it over the holidays when I saw the cases for around US$25, about a quarter of their original sale price. The idea behind the Armor line was you could drop the phone on a hard surface or in the water and no damage. Granted the case doubled the thickness and weight of the mobile device. But when my 3-year old launches my iPhone across the room, I am rest-assured I can still pick it up and play Angry Birds.
  • I bought some Dasani Sparking water in cans this week. The Dasani brand is owned by Coca-Cola, and this appears to be the first “national” seltzer brand, as many are regional such as La Croix and Polar, the latter which is my longtime favorite from central Massachusetts. One thing I noticed on the can of Dasani Sparkling with lemon flavor is that it contains natural flavoring with zero calories like other brands, but it also contains 25 mg of sodium, where other brands are sodium free. Not sure what Coke put in the formula that needs to contain salt, but others seem to be able to flavor it without it.
  • The hammer finally fell on CardMunch as its owner LinkedIn finally announced it was shutting down the business card scanning app and service. CardMunch has had issues for a long time yet LinkedIn has been surprisingly mum and slow to respond to the outcry for what was a decent service. They are partnering with Evernote to offer a similar service, but I have already moved on with CamCard.
  • When you notice a change in the email name from “Tech Support” to “Customer Service” be expecting a dumb-downed level of support, as I have sorely noticed from one vendor of mine.
  • Whenever I checkout from a Walgreen’s store I see flashed on the pay station a screen where I can press a button to get my receipt emailed to me. As my cat-like reflexes have waned in recent years, I have not been able to catch the split-second display of the option. However the other day luck came my way and I was able to press it in time, and did get my receipt emailed to me. I am not sure why it works that way, but I am not going to raise it with the drugstore behemoth – every time I raise an issue with them on social media, namely Twitter, they tell me they created a ticket for me, but then never respond and whenever I follow-up with them, they never respond.
  • As I have been remiss in writing about my favorite self-cloud service ownCloud, I thought I would share this great video they recently released and I finally watched this week. It’s from their commercial side, but ownCloud is an open-source, free application. It is just over a minute and explains well part of the power of this self-hosted service. View it embedded below or view the ownCloud video on Vimeo.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 05/13/14 at 08:21 AM
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Friday, April 25, 2014

What I Learned This Week For April 25 2014

The back of one of my tax receipts, which I had long digitized and set to my accountant, served as the log of my learnings for this week. Where I didn’t learn anything from the receipt, I wondered why we still have paper receipts for taxes, or why we don’t have a flat tax and just fill out a postcard like Steve Forbes suggested. But I digress.

  • photo of the Chicago Athletic Association buildingWith new or refurbished windows covered in plastic in place, plus the lack of noise pollution from building materials being dumped down a metal chute subsided, it is my presumption the rehab of the former Chicago Athletic Association into a boutique hotel has now begun. The yet-named hotel, to be owned by a member of the Pritzker family, who know a thing or 2 about hotels, will be a welcome addition to the Loop neighborhood of Chicago. So is the ceasing of almost 9 months of the dumping of building materials down the metal chute! I look forward to the opening of the hotel and neighborhood room discounts.
  • The colder than normal spring here in the Midwest, including a snowstorm the Thursday before Easter, timed just right for me to experience first-hand the process of converting maple tree sap into maple syrup. From trees tapped to boiling down of over 200 gallons of the clear liquid to make only about 5 gallons of syrup, for this guy who grew up in New England and has roots in Vermont it was the first time I really saw it first-hand. Click on the links above to see Vine videos of the sugaring process. Special thanks to Brent of Heikkinen Farms for the grand tour!
  • Bourbon is the new bacon.
  • The very people who could benefit from crowd-sourced fundraising, and have some of the most compelling stories which would warrant the contributions, are probably the least likely to be aware of it or know how to go about the process.
  • Motorola Mobility debuted its new headquarters in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart this past week. But as its staff has shrunk under the ownership of Google, and with it being sold to China’s tech giant Lenovo, how many people will really end up working there? Only time will tell.
  • Simple video editing, such as what I did with last week’s Trump game video, was a chore on the PC. I did not want to learn a full video editing suite as I did not need all of that capability. After trying literally 6 different tools, I found something decent with Any Video Converter. What I learned here is simple: I need a Mac!
  • In thinking about team cohesiveness and collaboration I recalled a great sports analogy - 25 players, 25 cabs, which was a term applied to Boston Red Sox teams of old, ones which never won a World Series. When you bond and spend time together above and beyond just the task at hand, you gain a greater understanding of each other, and this makes your bond as a team stronger. Not to mention winning 3 World Series trophies in the last decade.
  • I continue to be reminded of a phrase once told me by a wise man, that it’s easier to get someone to quit than it is to fire them.
  • This past week cereal giant General Mills changed its privacy policy on its Web site to attempt to bind customers who interact with them online to arbitration in the event they attempt to sue them. No sooner did this come out did the Internet flurry with comments on how impractical (aka dumb) this truly was, and they later backed down from it and reverted to their previous privacy policy. I could go on about this but reading this analysis on General Mills’ move by Shel Holtz says pretty much what I would have said myself.
  • Now that I have a way of doing simple video editing, namely splicing and cropping, here’s another gem from my past that I discovered from one of my old VHS tapes. Here I am interviewed by a local TV station in April, 1989 for a softball marathon at my alma mater. In watching this I observed a few things, namely that I had a lot of hair back then, and you don’t see reporting like this anymore today. You can watch my TV interview on YouTube or it is embedded below.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 04/25/14 at 10:10 PM
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What I Learned This Week For April 18 2014

photo of Lake Butte des Mortes in Oshkosh, WI

So I took the photo above early last Friday morning, as it was the view I woke up to. Then as I went to fire up my Dell I realized I had left my list of what I had learned for the week at home. Oops.

  • I have been experimenting with Bit Torrent Sync for a few days this week and so far I am liking it. It is a peer-to-peer synchronization tool, which in layman’s terms means you can sync files directly between 2 computers, whether they be PC, Mac or mobile. As it is direct, both devices need to be powered on and active. It is touted as a replacement for Dropbox without your files being copied and stored on Dropbox’s servers. It may take a little extra work, but it may be worth the extra privacy.
  • There is a big difference between paid time off, or PTO, and vacation.
  • From the above learned item it can be inferred I was off of work last week, and a lot of the time was spent on purging and simplifying – well, at least a start to it. I learned that if something was packed in the same box it was in when I moved to Chicago almost a decade earlier that I most likely did not need it, and it should be sent to Goodwill, or in the case of some items, to the American Liver Foundation. They were the recipient of, among other things, the 15+ year-old filing cabinet that I don’t think I have even opened in the last few years. Its contents, or at least what I am saving, fit in 3 paper boxes, and most of that will be eventually scanned to PDFs.
  • So far 2 people have used my personal DRYV discount link to earn $20 in free dry cleaning and laundry which meant I have earned $40 in free services. If you’re in Chicago, give it a try – click the link or use code 6H1A to earn free services, and thanks in advance.
  • Speaking of requests, 3 people have thus far responded to my blog post on sending me Box Tops for Education for my daughter’s school. Now her school is having a contest, for which class collects the most Box Tops, and I want hers to win… and so does she. Please follow the link above and thanks in advance.
  • I took my first bike ride of the season along the north side of Lake Michigan. It was awesome. Then the next day the temperature dropped in half and a day later it was snowing.
  • When looking for new lights (or simply, lights) for said bike, I got Blackburn Flea 2.0 Front Headlight and Rear Light Combo with USB Charger. Lights I can charge with my computer or external battery pack is a good thing. And yes, that is an affiliate link, so buy some for yourself and I will earn a few pennies.
  • The Pandora streaming music service has had an alarm clock feature, where you can awaken to music of your choice. Imagine setting it to wake up to Morrissey.
  • The quote of the week goes to billionaire entrepreneur and NBA Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who in response of paying a US$25,000 fine after his public address announcer criticized an NBA referee on Twitter, said, “Like I said, it’s a hurricane in a urinal, we flush and move on.”
  • Part of my simplifying is getting rid of crap or getting it into a more manageable format, like scanning paperwork to PDFs and converting old VHS video tapes to DVDs. I tried the latter with a few tapes and unlocked some real gems, many going back over 20 years. One example is a news story where I am in a couple of camera shots when Donald Trump visited the Milton Bradley headquarters after the launch of the Trump board game. I was technically covering the event for my college radio station WNEK-FM, and you can see me weaseling the microphone into one camera shot. The reality is that I was a huge Trump fan in the late 80’s and through a connection I got into meet him. I also met the videographer who shot this footage and had lunch with him after Trump flew off, so maybe that’s why I got so much coverage? I have embedded the news story below or you can watch me and the Donald on YouTube.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 04/22/14 at 09:34 PM
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The Hot Iron strives to present unique content and perspective on business, technology and other topics by Mike Maddaloni, a Web and business strategist based in Chicago.

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