Gift Idea – Ship Your Gifts at The UPS Store in the Loop in Chicago

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, November 27, 2007 at 07:04 AM with 1 comments

The UPS Store windowFor many people, shopping is only part of the gift giving experience. Just as people came off a big weekend of traveling all over for Thanksgiving, their gifts for others will be doing the same.

If you want to ensure gifts will get to their destination in one piece, then visit my friends at The UPS Store on Clark Street in the Loop in Chicago. The friendly staff can pack your items and ship them based on your needs and your budget. Based on your needs, they can recommend the best shipping method for your items. They carry a full line of boxes and packing materials as well as greeting cards for all occasions and unique Chicago souvenirs. Try getting that kind of service at the post office!

In the holiday spirit, they are offering readers of The Hot Iron a special deal. You can get 5% off Ground shipping and 10% off any other service or product through December 31, 2007 – just tell them The Hot Iron sent you! Full details are available at the store, and this offer is only good at the Loop location at 230 S. Clark Street in Chicago. If you are not close to Chicago, check out The UPS Store in your neighborhood.

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Do you pay for

By Mike Maddaloni on with 0 comments was a social network before the term existed. The Web-based service to connect fellow graduates and alumni of schools, colleges and businesses began in 1995, and today they are owned by the group that owns NetZero among other companies. It has comparative features to other services like LinkedIn and Facebook, but has a much different business model.

I am considering deleting my profile from and thus I have written this post – do you pay for Classmates com? In order for you to interact with anyone on the site, you have to pay. It is free to setup and edit your profile, but if someone sends you a message, you can’t see it unless you are a paying customer.

Here’s an example. I get regular emails from them, and here’s a segment of the latest one:

image of email

Someone signed my guestbook – cool. So who did? When I click the link to get to the Web site, here’s a segment of the Web page I get:

image of

In order for me to see who has signed my guestbook, I have to pay. Of course I have no idea who signed it, if they are someone I know or if it is spam or a legitimate message. has lowered their annual cost to $9.95 from $39. But between LinkedIn, et. al. and a Web site I helped create for my high school class, is this really worth it? Isn’t my profile in worth more to them? For if I and others leave, wouldn’t the site becomes less valuable?

With the proliferation of social networking sites, how many can you really be active on? I am not on Facebook or others daily, and on LinkedIn I usually check the home page for updates every few days. Is worth the cost to you?

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Time to Write The Note Cards

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, November 26, 2007 at 04:10 AM with 1 comments

handwritten note cards from Dunkirk SystemsWelcome back from the Thanksgiving weekend, and hopefully it was a long weekend with some time to recharge your batteries!

On Sunday I worked off a little of the extra stuffing I ate at the gym, and worked to tidy up my email and desk, not to mention catch up on my blog feeds. One of the posts I read was from networking guru Jason Jacobsohn, reiterating his belief in writing personal note cards, especially around the holidays. This is a belief I share with him 1,000%, as when I had my letterhead and envelopes printed for Dunkirk Systems I also had note cards made.

Then I remembered – I hadn’t sent note cards to everyone I met at Tech Cocktail! So I took out a little time in the afternoon and wrote out about a dozen cards, as the accompanying photo shows. I ran out of stamps and will have to pick up some at The UPS Store. It felt good completing this task, and it felt even better reaching out to those I met at the networking event.

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LSU scarf from SportsScarfHappy Cyber Monday! This is the day when people are supposed to jam the Internet and buy items online, as compared to Black Friday where people jam the malls and shop traditional brick-and-mortar stores. In this spirit, I thought I’d share today a gift idea from one of the eCommerce clients of my consulting business, Dunkirk Systems.

SportsScarf is the leader in specialized, full-color scarves promoting your team, school or business. If you are familiar with European soccer and have seen the fans wearing scarves with their team logo or country name, then you know about these scarves. You are seeing them more and more in the US every day, and the best ones come from SportsScarf.

A great gift idea is a scarf for yourself or someone else for their favorite NCAA team or nationality. If you own a business, you can custom order scarves with your logo and branding. Check out their Web site for complete custom order options and information.

Not only do they look great, but also they come in handy with the cold winter months ahead.

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Gift Idea – Give the Blues from Nite Train Band With The High Voltage Horns

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, November 25, 2007 at 04:00 AM with 0 comments

cover of Best Man by Nite Train Band With The High Voltage HornsMany of you are either giving or receiving digital music players of various brands for the holidays. But you need music to put on them, and this is where today’s gift idea comes into play.

Nite Train Band With The High Voltage Horns is an awesome blues band based in the Albany, NY area. My good friends Ken and Marla Briggs are members of band and their latest album is titled Best Man. It is 10 rocking blues songs and a must-have for all blues and general music fans.

Listen and see for yourself on their MySpace pages and their Web site. If you like it, you can buy it from CD Baby, DigStation and iTunes. And if you’re in the Albany area, check them out and tell Briggsy that Mikey in Chicago sent you!

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Gift Idea – A One Laptop Per Child Computer

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, November 24, 2007 at 04:00 AM with 0 comments

One Laptop Per Child ComputerYou have only through the end of the year to buy a truly unique gift – the One Laptop Per Child computer. Originally billed as the $100 notebook computer to give to children in developing countries, the cost is a little higher, and this offer allows you to buy one for yourself while at the same time buying one for a child.

For $399 plus shipping, I will get a green XO notebook computer that runs Linux with unique and useful software – more information on the machine is on their Web site. As you get one for yourself or someone else, you can deduct from your taxes $200.

I ordered one myself, and am awaiting its arrival. As someone who got into computers at a young age and made a career out of it, I appreciate the need for children to be exposed to technology early on. It is a unique item that I will be able to use for my consulting business, Dunkirk Systems, as I can test and present Web sites on it.

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Gift Idea – A custom decorated coffee mug from

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, November 23, 2007 at 04:10 AM with 0 comments

Dunkirk Systems mug by MyMugs.comLet’s kick-off my gift suggestions with a great product at a great price. creates custom designed coffee mugs for individuals and businesses. It is run by my good friend and fellow entrepreneur Steven Benjamin. All you do is submit a logo, photo or design, and MyMugs does the rest.

For Black Friday, MyMugs is offering a special price - $.99 per mug! No special coupons or codes required. Ordering information and pricing is at This offer is only good today, Friday, November 23.

And not only am I a friend, see for yourself – I am a customer too.

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Gift Ideas from The Hot Iron

By Mike Maddaloni on with 0 comments

Happy Black Friday! Today is considered the official start of the holiday shopping season in the US, though from the look of everything from streets to stores you would have thought it started the day after Halloween, or even earlier.

In the spirit of the holidays and in promoting small businesses as I like to do here at The Hot Iron, allow me to suggest gift ideas. These suggestions will be of products and services from fellow entrepreneurs and businesses. As the reach of The Hot Iron goes beyond Chicago, I will be writing about gifts you can get here in the Windy City and beyond. Some are purely online, and others are retail establishments.

Happy Shopping!

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The Hot Iron Goes Back to School at Ashworth University

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, November 20, 2007 at 04:00 AM with 1 comments

Ashworth University logoI am proud to announce you can read selected posts from The Hot Iron on Blogspot, the official blogs of Ashworth University.

Ashworth University, based in Norcross, Georgia, offers distance learning courses and distance education programs for home study career education. In developing their blogs, Ashworth sought out experts in various disciplines to contribute their content to their blogs to accompany the faculty of the school. They contacted me and asked me if I would like to join this virtual expert lecture, and I was more than glad to accept this offer.

The Blogspot is a great example of a win-win situation. For Ashworth and its students, they have the opportunity, in one location, to read a wide variety of information and opinion from real-world experts. For myself, it is a new venue of readers – not to mention potential customers of Dunkirk Systems! It is similar to guest blogging, and my posts show up on Google Alerts and Serph, so their blog is getting good reach.

Some of my posts are on their Business and Technology categories. Even if you are an avid reader of The Hot Iron, check out their feeds and gain some insight from my fellow contributors.

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