The Hot Iron

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

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Friday, January 23, 2015

My Guest Post On The CorporateStays.com Blog

CorporateStays.com logo

I was recently invited to write a guest post on the blog for CorporateStays.com, a service which matches luxury accommodations for travelers in select cities in the world like Montreal, Miami and Panama City. Digging into my experience with travel, I decided to write about tips for traveling in the winter months. My post, Travel Tips for Travelling to a Wintery Destination, is now live.

Where my typical writing is about business and technology, I file this under the “occasional diversion” I refer to in the description of The Hot Iron. The more I write, the more these come to mind, and the more these may be available to read by you and others.

Thanks to my good friend CT Moore and the staff at CorporateStays.com for the opportunity to write this.


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


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 01/23/15 at 06:51 AM
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Friday, January 02, 2015

Mixing It Up In 2015 And The Hot Iron Turns 8

photo of 1983 Boston Red Sox program

Happy 2015! As today, the second day of January, officially marks the first business day of the year, and by now most have recovered from the merriment of New Year’s Eve, I would like to wish you all a great new year.

Where rolling to a new calendar also comes with resolutions, mine is simply to mix it up in 2015. I started the new year off much differently than I did in past years: sans kids, just me and my lovely wife at a Spanish restaurant, where just about every year that I can remember has involved Chinese food (a Boston tradition) and the past several years have been with our kids, even if they were sleeping in the next room. This was a fun change, and a great way to ring in 2015.

So in mixing it up in 2015, I am not looking to make major strategy changes, but smaller, incremental changes that I see as adding up to something bigger and better. Maybe I take a different route to go someplace, or a different approach to reaching out to someone, or simply wear a different color socks on occasion – I am hoping to stop and think when I get into doing something routine or that comes too natural to me, and think how to change it in some way.

The Hot Iron at 8

December 30 marks the official anniversary of the launch of this little blog which is now 8 years old. It’s almost wild to think I have been at this, at varying degrees, this long. Writing is something I have enjoyed more and more over time, and it has been both a creative outlet as well as a way to vent some of my frustrations over business and technology – the overarching theme of this repository. Whether this is your first time reading or you are a long time subscriber – thank you!

I have written an anniversary post of mixed sorts over the years, and if you’re so inclined you can read them for the following anniversaries of The Hot Iron: first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh.


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


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 01/02/15 at 07:52 AM
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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Celebrating Christmas 2014 In A Traditional and Non-Traditional Way

photo of my nativity scene

To all of my family, friends and readers who celebrate the holiday, Merry Christmas! To everyone else, have a great Thursday!

As the origin of Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, I share the above picture of my nativity scene. This was a gift from my Mom many years ago, as she gave myself and my sister identical nativities. I am proud to share it with my little ones.

So that is the traditional celebration of Christmas. Now for the non-traditional way.

I ran across this video the other day and I was speechless. It is a Star Wars Christmas special that aired on TV back in 1978. You can read the full story about it here if you’d like, or you can just view the show embedded below or by following this link to Vimeo.

Though I was a young lad back in 1978, I don’t remember this show that aired only once. After watching it – ok, even reading the premise of it – that is probably a good thing. If you are a die-hard Star Wars fan or just a casual one, you will find this amusing to say the least.

If you like it, then consider it my gift to you. If you don’t, then we can just forget about 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 12/25/14 at 12:00 AM
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Monday, November 17, 2014

What I Learned From Writing What I Learned This Past Year

photo of the last page of The Giving Tree

Earlier this year I decided to write weekly posts here at The Hot Iron about what I learned over the past 7 days. Over 8 months I wrote 32 posts sharing numerous things that I learned. I wrote the last one on August 29, 2014, which will be my last in this series.

Fun for me while it lasted

The catalyst for this topic thread was simple - I had too many things I learned and/or wanted to write about but not enough time to write the posts. As much as I would like to simply “bang out” my thoughts on the keyboard, for me the writing process is more elaborate than that, from the thought on the topic to writing, to editing, to an accompanying photo… it takes me time. That being said, writing is something I enjoy and is a great creative outlet for me.

Writing posts that were more of a collection of nuggets of information was a good idea at first and something that interested me. I was also hoping to write single-topic pieces as well. Over time though the thrill waned and then it got to where I was not writing one every week, then the most recent gap of a couple of months. As for those single-topic pieces, they were few and far between.

Back to where it began

I've decided to retire this thread and return to writing as I gave before - posts on single topics on business and technology and other occasional diversions. For those of you who are my loyal readers I thank you and I hope that you'll enjoy this change as well. As always, I will never fully promise any number of posts, but am hoping to at least write one a week.

Still learning

As I still get disappointed when a day goes by when I don't learn something, I am still logging those thoughts and will be sharing them on my Twitter account – you can follow me there at @thehotiron. Of course there may be more diversions than in the blog itself, as well as more conversations and other thoughts but I still share all the business and tech news with my unbiased opinion as much as possible.

I hope you won’t miss my “learned” posts – or will you? Please let me know either way 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 11/17/14 at 12:15 AM
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Saturday, August 30, 2014

What I Learned This Week For August 29 2014

photo of Friendly’s Black Raspberry ice cream

At an early hour with a full cup of coffee…

  • While browsing the aisles at the local Jewel supermarket, something caught my eye, and something I was not expecting to find in the Midwest – Friendly’s ice cream. Friendly’s is a predominately East-coast chain of restaurants which is headquartered near where I grew up. As I looked through the flavors, one caught my eye – black raspberry. Now note this is black raspberry ice cream and not sherbet – out East black raspberry ice cream is very common, but I have yet to see it in Chicagoland or Wisconsin. So of course I got some and had a small trip down memory lane. Now if they only had maple walnut, then I would have cried.
  • Speaking of crying, I did shed a few tears of joy and Dad pride as my oldest daughter rode her bike with 2 wheels and without training wheels for the first time this week. As we are now closer to a park that is kid-friendly, she has simply been able to ride her bike more, and was determined to do it.
  • Now that the Ventra system is the only way to pay for transit rides in Chicago, I am noticing more and more usability issues with it. One thing that bugs me is the auto-replenishment of your account, where you can enter credit card numbers online, and choose 1 to do the replenish. With the old Chicago Card system, it would send an email alert when it replenished your account, or if it was unable to. The new Ventra site does not do that, so the time you find out if your account is at zero is when trying to board a train or bus, or more likely a bus as there won’t be a replenishment kiosk there. I should probably keep a running list of the things I find for a separate blog post on it.
  • An esteemed colleague shared with me information about the Kuando Busylight, a device which you attach to your computer monitor and changes colors when you are on the phone or when you set your status to “busy” so people won’t disturb you in the office place. Where the idea is clever, in my opinion I see this more of a Band-Aid approach to the failings of the modern office setup… something else I could probably write a whole blog post on.
  • I received a “video bill” from Comcast this week. It used my first name, and told me my balance for the services I have and the due date. I thought this was extremely clever not to mention informative, even for a techie person like myself. The only problem with it? I cannot share or embed the video! The video is done using a service from a company called SundaySky. Not having this feature is something that could really make this service successful. Now I wonder if I will get a video bill every month?
  • If a vendor had a hard time getting to you and parking once, they will most likely do it again, so don’t even bother giving them a second chance.
  • This week I was browsing a few stores looking for a “temporary table” – something I could use for a short period of time before I bought (and first found) a permanent, nice table to use. As I looked around a thought came into my head from the wayback machine – you don’t find cardboard furniture anymore in stores. Back in the 70’s and 80’s I remember you could get cardboard tables or shelving or other furniture made from cardboard. So of course I looked online and I found vendors there. Granted today we have particle board furniture from IKEA, but there’s something about lighter, collapsible furniture that meets the need.
  • I am still offering my loft condo in the Chicago Loop for rent. The price has been reduced – act now!
  • Another esteemed colleague shared with me this timelapse video of 1,000 years of European borders changes. It is fascinating to watch, and the music is so appropriate to it. I have embedded it below or follow the previous link to watch it 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 08/30/14 at 06:07 AM
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Saturday, August 23, 2014

What I Learned This Week For August 22 2014

photo of lights on the ceiling of The Maxwell in Chicago

Armed with a to-do list, and an item named “write blog post” has helped me get this relatively on-time out the door!

  • I visited “The Maxwell” this week. It is a retail complex in Chicago’s South Loop, whose name comes from the now-gone nearby Maxwell Street retail area. It combines street-level stores, upper level stores accessible through a lobby and parking. The lobby is nothing to look at, but its ceiling is, and is pictured here.
  • Did you know I am renting my Chicago Loop loft condo?
  • I had keys made this week at that big-box orange-logoed hardware chain. They had this machine that scanned the keys then cut them. Impressive, only that one of my keys did not work in one door. Then I went to the local Ace hardware store who had one of the “old-fashioned” key cutters where you manually trace the key to make a duplicate, and the key worked perfectly.
  • I had an extremely positive experience with Comcast customer service this past week, and an incredibly painful experience with their technical support a few days later.
  • The more I learn about mobile app development, the more I realize people don’t really know what their app is doing, such as what and when it is accessing something either on your device or over the Internet.
  • I have heard about IRS form 990, which a non-profit must file with its taxes. However, I have not ever really looked at one at depth or compared them against other organizations. I did so this week, for the group Barrel of Monkeys whose Board I have joined, as well as for the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Just create an account at GuideStar and look away!
  • Strep – it’s not just for your throat, and you can get strep in your nose and other body parts I won’t mention.
  • You can stain concrete. It is similar to staining wood, in that you are enhancing the appearance of the texture.
  • My 10+ year old grocery cart finally came to an untimely collapse when one of the wheels snapped off and I wasn’t able to repair it. I am honestly surprised it lasted that long.
  • Amazon has a new feature called Amazon Smile where a non-profit organization you choose can earn a percentage of your purchases when you use the specific URL smile.amazon.com. It is unclear if the charity can earn money when you use the Amazon mobile app. I chose the Omayra Amaya Flamenco Dance Company Inc. to receive whatever pennies they can earn from my purchases. Omayra was a long-time client of my Web consulting business and she is an amazing dancer and performer. Check out her Web site and look for videos of her online to see, and choose her dance company to earn whatever you can send their way.
  • This blog was down for about 8 hours this past week – did you notice?
  • After my ordeal with Comcast I hooked up a new wireless router, a Cisco/Linksys EA3500. When I went to run the setup, I noticed something called “Smart Wi-Fi” which immediately caused me to shudder – this wasn’t the typical, very techie setup and router administration I was used to. First off, it wanted me to create an account to remotely administer my router. Really? Then, the setup failed, which never – ever – previously happened to me. After a little searching, I found similar people lamenting to this, and a solution to revert to the traditional, previous router administration Web interface. Not surprising, everything worked as expected.
  • Did I mention I am renting my loft condo in the Chicago Loop? Actually, I did blog about renting my condo.
  • This week someone closed an email with “be good to yourself!!!” This took me aback. First, this is nothing I have ever gotten in writing from someone. As I thought more about it, I was trying to think of the last time anyone ever said it to me. Then it dawned on me, it did happen, and way back in the day, by people I have never met in person. Yes, I am referring to the song Be Good To Yourself by Journey. Watch it on this link to YouTube or see it embedded below, and either way take a trip back in time… and be good to yourself!!!


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


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 08/23/14 at 11:26 AM
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Friday, August 15, 2014

What I Learned This Week For August 8 and 15 2014

photo of a flyer for an Urgent Divorce Auction

As the last 2 weeks have been a whirlwind for me, it’s only fitting I post them together, on a Friday no less and on time for the second week. Yes, on time!

  • This flyer that came in my mailbox piqued my interest. Not only is it a divorce auction – which means there is such a dispute among assets that they have to be sold this way – but it is an urgent one as well. Why urgent?
  • This past week I was formally elected to the board of directors of Barrel of Monkeys, a Chicago non-profit organization that teaches inner-city kids creative writing skills, then takes what they write and creates sketch comedy which is not only performed for the kids themselves but in a weekly show called, That’s Weird Grandma. It is an amazing organization and I am thrilled to be involved. How I got involved with them was through a LinkedIn search for local people who were interested in being on a board, which was only heightened by my good friend Linsey being one of the performing company members. You will be hearing more about BOM in future installments I promise you!
  • My word for 2 weeks ago was lodgment. I was asked if this word was appropriate in describing when a mobile app was available in the app store. I admit I guessed the etymology of it, but still looked it up. I recommended simply saying it was available. Apparently lodgment is the preferred term in Australia.
  • My word for this week was steganography. It is the concealment of a message within something else, or hiding something in plain sight. There are a lot of ways to do it, and it is a fascinating concept, and one which many of us – including myself – may have done at some point without even realizing it.
  • Now that I am no longer building eCommerce sites with the technology, Miva Merchant is holding their next MivaCon conference in Chicago in September. As I would once again choose Miva Merchant if I were to build an eCommerce site, and it’s like fifty dollars to attend, I may still go. It would be an opportunity to meet some of the people I have talked with over the years, and I am sure I could score some cool schwag in the process.
  • As I got a new work PC I had to once again lookup how to send a Word document as an email message body within Word.
  • I found out a friend is a Dad by a random comment he mentioned on his podcast. Granted we aren’t all that close, but it was nice to hear. Got a picture of the little bundle of joy, and am overdue in replying to him. Why didn’t I hear? As much as my friend is on social media, he didn’t want to do that to his kid without their permission… something I do as well.
  • The movie The Wizard of Oz premiered 75 years ago. It seems like only yesterday that the Munchkins were causing me nightmares as a child after watching it on a black and white TV no less.
  • Tried the new Sofritas vegetarian option at Chipotle this week in a burrito, and I will definitely get it the next time.
  • This week’s video is far from one I have learned in the past few weeks. It is a Sesame Street video about brushing your teeth featuring Elmo and several celebrities. Somehow we found this, and the song is long enough for them to fully brush their teeth as recommended by dentists. Sometimes it takes the start of the video to get the kids into the bathroom and loading up their brushes. Though not new to me, perhaps it is something you can learn for this week as well.


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


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 08/15/14 at 10:44 PM
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Thursday, August 07, 2014

What I Learned This Week For August 1 2014

photo of Neiman Marcus window in Chicago promoting pre-fall

Writing a catchy opening to the presentation of what really resonated with me over the last week isn’t always as rewarding as the things I learn, so this time I won’t dwell on it.

  • It’s one thing to accuse Hallmark or other greeting card makers of creating holidays to sell more cards, but I never thought retailers would go to the depths of segmenting seasons. Granted the cooler temperatures here in the Windy City may cause some to think about what to wear in a couple of months, but I am not one of them.
  • Feedback is a dish best served hot and fresh, right out of the over, and not several months later, as it sits on the counter, covered with something but allowed to rot and not satisfy anybody.
  • A while back ago I registered the domain name SayMyNameRight.com, with the idea of having a Web site where people could post videos of themselves saying their name. If I recall correctly, it was after having lunch with my good friend Tom Ordonez that the idea came to mind. If you click the link it’s clear I didn’t do anything with the domain name other than point it right back to this very blog. Yet for some reason over the past several weeks it has been getting a noticeable amount of traffic. Maybe now is the time to act?
  • I was reminded not everybody knows what a “hashtag” is.
  • Where the bidding wars over the potential mergers of “dollar” stores is going on, one thing piqued my attention, that the “activist investor” Carl Ichan was involved. Personally, I don’t get the guy. Granted, I am no student of finance or investment wiz, but is someone who buys a ton of stock in a company and tries to get them to merge really an activist, as in the same term that can be prefaced with the phrase “civil rights?”
  • Keeper Security, the Chicago-based app for secure password storage, just announced file storage. It is being pitched as a way to store images of a driver’s license or passport in case it is lost or stolen, or any other important personal files. As a current user I can get 5 free file uploads and then pay an annual fee from $10 a year and up, depending on the space used. I need to think about this, and where to best spend money on “cloud” services, or on my own server.
  • In my quest to try new restaurants I finally went to Protein Bar, a Chicago-based chain of healthy quick-serve food. And I have to say, upon my first visit I have become a fan. I was impressed with the store, the menu selections and most importantly the taste. The price is comparable to even Subway and other restaurants in the city. They also have locations in the Washington DC area and in Colorado.
  • For as many times as I have referred family, friends and complete strangers to get from point A to B with my friend Rashid, Chicago’s premier cabbie and expert on customer service, who goes by the trademarked name of ChicaGoCabbie™, for reasons that I don’t quite know for sure, I have never ridden in his cab. Granted, because of his work with cab-hailing service Hailo I am a loyal customer. Perhaps it is timing, I am not quite sure. But he has delivered both pizza and cupcakes to me in his chariot!
  • This past week Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester was traded to the Oakland A’s. For several weeks leading up to it, my sports mobile app was buzzing non-stop with alerts on rumors and speculation around the trade. It got so bad I almost turned off the alerts altogether. Unfortunately that is the business of sports today. When I was a kid, I had no idea what any of the players on the Red Sox made, nor did I care.
  • One of my favorite blogs is Brand New which features logo, design and branding, especially changes to brands. They recently featured a YouTube video interview of the creator of the Hartford Whalers logo. For those not familiar, the New England Whalers hockey team moved from Boston to the capital city of Connecticut in the 1970’s, then moved to North Carolina in the late 1990’s and became the Carolina Hurricanes. They played not too far from where I grew up, so I was familiar with the team and got to go to many games. Though the team is long gone, the defunct team’s logo is almost a cultural icon and is being worn by trendy celebrities. The interview on Hartford’s Channel 3 is embedded below or follow the link above to watch it. Note the mention about who really owns the logo, which is something that I wouldn’t be surprised would end up in court someday.


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


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 08/07/14 at 10:20 PM
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Sunday, July 13, 2014

What I Learned This Week For July 11 2014

photo of a hole in clouds letting in the sun in Chicago

As the sun rises over a city that a few hours ago had a tornado and flash flood warning…

  • They (whoever they are) say that the shortest distance between 2 points is a straight line. I found an exception – when the line goes through some not-so-nice neighborhoods in Chicago. Though I did debate actually writing this altogether, let alone as the first one on my list, it is a reality many have shared with me over the years.
  • The above statement being said, the above photo was taken at a stop light on the journey which prompted that statement, proving there is hope everywhere. The photo was taken in color but made it greyscale by accident, and decided to stick with it.
  • I was a witness to a colleague, visiting from India, having his very first tater tot. We sometimes forget things around us are new to many people.
  • I read this sad story about a young boy in Toronto who was starved to death by his grandparents. To add insult to injury, DC Comics, the mega-publishing giant of comics and related merchandising, would not allow a statue being created to honor the boy to sport the Superman “S” logo. The boy was a huge Superman fan, but DC Comics “didn’t want the character connected in any way to child abuse.” Sure, in life it was ok for the boy to have money spent on him, but in his death he can’t be memorialized because of how he died?
  • Troubleshooting a technical problem sometimes means you need to work with the right person who knows why something may or may not be working, though finding that person may not always be obvious.
  • In the course of a conversation with a very wise person, they mentioned the term “find the cracks.” I perked up when I heard this, as I feel this is an even better way of describing looking for niche markets. Only if I heard this term years ago, but that will be covered in that book I am slowly piecing together.
  • Solid state hard drives are the only way to go <- they are small, wicked fast and don’t come with all of the moving parts of a standard hard drive. Though they come with a price tag much higher than said standard hard drives.
  • I was thrilled to learn my favorite beer brewery Harpoon became an employee-owned company this week. With the retirement of one of the founders and the sale of 48% of the company stock to an employee stock ownership plan, the future of Harpoon has been set. With many smaller craft breweries, like Chicago’s Goose Island, being sold to mega-brewers in order to grow and compete, this is a great sign that Harpoon will remain independent and brewing the awesome beers they do.
  • This week a public video was released on YouTube for something called Business Chemistry, a method for identifying patterns in personalities in the business world. Granted that description is in no way the best way to describe it, that is why I was happy to see the video to be released. It came from my employer, and I myself have taken the personality test, and have been identified as a “pioneer” with alignment to an “integrator” – traits I identify and embrace. So from my own point-of-view, I think this process is spot-on. Check out the video embedded below or view it on the YouTube link above, and contact them if you want to bring this unique program into your business.


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


Did you enjoy this? Subscribe to The Hot Iron by RSS/XML feed or Read by Email.

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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 07/13/14 at 07:16 AM
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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

What I Learned This Week For July 4 2014

photo of Independence Day color guard in Munster Indiana

With the sound of sirens wailing in the background on this late evening in downtown Chicago, as I go thru my notes and tweets of the holiday week of previous, I don’t have as much noted, but here goes…

  • Once again I reinforced my love of small town US Independence Day celebrations, as my family and I spent the holiday in Munster, Indiana. From fireworks the night before to a bicycle parade for kids the next morning, it was great to be around great friends and great conversation, much of it around our country today.
  • Speaking of fireworks, where we saw the official city-sponsored fireworks, we saw probably 10 times as many displays put on by individuals, as fireworks sales in Indiana are legal. Some of what we saw came close to rivaling anything I have seen launched in big cities as well. That Krazy Kaplan is not so crazy after all.
  • I now have a better understanding why the term “PTO”, for paid time-off, is used instead of the traditional term “vacation.”
  • Where you can learn how to do just about anything online these days, formally or informally, learning from others provides the needed context and paints the complete picture of something.
  • After gaining bits and pieces of his latest idea, I was pleased to see my friend and fellow Chicagoan Len Kendall launch a Kickstarter for Cartegram, an adventure game that involves tagging – literally and online – sites as you travel and logging them in a paper notebook as well as online. I am looking forward to the formal launch of this simple yet elegant idea, and as of the writing of this post there is still time to get in on the fun!
  • In a previous post I had mentioned about Chicago’s app for paying for on-street parking, ParkChicago. I finally got the opportunity to use it one day and it came in extremely handy, as I was parking during a torrential downpour and never had to get out of my car to go to the meter box and buy a ticket. The app user experience is very nice as well. Where parking on the mean streets of Chicago is certainly not cheap, it is a little more convenient.
  • In my ever quest to simplify my life, I have found merely finishing something goes along way to achieving this simplicity.
  • Over the winter I was asked to give a video testimonial on my daughters’ daycare center. Last week I learned part of what I said was selected for the video, which you can watch embedded below or watch on YouTube directly. After watching it over and over and over several times, I wished I was smiling more, but overall I think I did a very good job. I’d love to hear what you think about it, and feel free to send them in the comments section of 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 07/09/14 at 10:51 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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