Sunday, April 29, 2007

Wait Please Don't Steal My E-ZPass

My wife and I drove back from Atlantic City today and we were privileged to watch the normal E-ZPass arm flailing at the toll booths.

I've heard the excuses before for not mounting your E-ZPass in the proper window location.

"Somebody might steal my E-ZPass."

Let's think about this one, how many thieves would steal the pass and proceed to open an illegal cab operation and drive people repeatedly across the George Washington Bridge?

How long would they get away with this? (Yes, I know you're responsible for any charges until you report it stolen or lost as well as a replacement fee.)

OK, so let's assume that theft is a valid concern. The nice E-ZPass people provide a Velcro like solution which would allow you to remove your E-ZPass whenever you want.

I'm concerned about the lanes that allow people to drive through at speeds varying from 5 mph to 15 mph and the non-mounters stopping their cars and waving their pass around.

How many accidents occur? How much time does this waste for others?

How to cut food on a plate while standing

This Saturday night I found myself in a bind where I had some meat on my plate that needed to be cut. There were no tables around, but I was hungry.

(This would be helpful for those summer picnics or dinner parties where there aren't enough tables to go around.)

What to do?

Assuming you cut with your right hand you can do the following:

Step 1: Hold the plate with your right hand.

Step 2: Take the fork in your left and maneuver the item to be cut near the center of the plate. (Note this assumes you're using a small plate, bigger plates require off center placement)

Step 3: Now take the fork and place it on top of the item to be cut. The tines of the fork should be pointing down and pressing into the item to be cut.

Step 4: Take your left hand and grab the plate such that your thumb rests on top of shaft of the fork. If you've done this correctly you are now apply pressure to the item so it won't move.

Step 5: Proceed to cut the item with your right hand.

Step 6: Take your right hand holding the knife and grab the plate. Pick up the fork with your left and eat.

Wine Spectator's Grand Tour at the Borgata - Atlantic City

I enjoy wine, but I'm not a wine expert by any metric. My wife on the other hand has spent time in France and knows much more about wine. For her birthday I decided to take her to the Wine Spectator's Grand Tour at the Borgata. We both have visited the Borgata before, but this was for this specific event.

Two hundred and eighteen different wines to sample. Too many wines. They also had a nice buffet laid out with cheeses, meats, and pasta. The wines were amazing, there were champagnes, whites, reds, and ports. We both enjoyed some of the New Zealand varieties as well as the ports.

The event lasted from 7 pm to 10 pm although we left at 9 for dinner at Specchio.

There are a few things I would suggest they change for the next event.

First, they had no places for people to eat, maybe some bar height tables would have helped. Instead people were camped out sitting on the floor in corners eating their food. This looked odd for such a nice event.

This leads into my second suggestion of only providing food that doesn't require a plate. You had people holding a wine glass, a plate, and somehow had to put the food in their mouth. I grabbed some meat that required cutting, Diana had to hold my wine glass, while I improvised a new technique for holding a plate and cutting meat simultaneously. I have another post that shows how this is done in case you find yourself in a similar bind.

Even with a few drawbacks, it was a great event and we'd attend again if it is held in our neck of the woods.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Plaxo Mobile Plus Is Indispensible

Until recently I used my Blackberry as my personal and business phone, with a policy change at work I've had to change that. I received a company Blackberry with cell and I traded my personal Blackberry in for a Motorola Razr V3M.

I also purchased VZW's mobile office kit so I could sync up my phone's address book with Outlook. That was a disaster, I could not get it to work. I called tech support which only helped to waste an hour of my time and increase my frustration level. Anyway, it's on the way back to VZW for a full refund.

Next step was to figure out how I could automate the populating and maintenance of my phone's address book. I found Plaxo Mobile Plus, $4.99 a month plus airtime, but it works great. I'd already been using Plaxo Online for years, all I needed to do was mark the contacts that I wanted on my phone.

Sure almost $60 a year seems steep, but it's slick and easy.

Interesting Smith School Research

Interesting research coming out of Robert H. Smith School of Business - The article looks at the effects of competitive clutter on feature ads on for example a super market circular.

Grand Central Terminal Going Green?

After reading the NY Post's op-ed about Mayor Bloomberg's green initiative, I thought I should point out something I noticed on my morning commute into GCT. As my Metro-North train navigates the tracks in the yard before the platform I always would notice single incandescent light bulbs all over the place lighting the area. Around the holidays I noticed they seemed to be all compact fluorescents.

Someone changed them out.

If there is someone out there who can quantify the number of bulbs changed or what happened, much appreciated.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Thank You For Buying a Pair of Shorts

With the warm weather and my lack of packing a pair of shorts for the weekend in Baltimore I stopped by Jos. A. Bank. Sure enough they emailed me a thank you. Just like last time, except different sales person writing thanks.


Apr 22, 2007 8:00 PM

Thank you from Jos. A. Bank
On behalf of everyone at Jos. A. Bank, we thank you for your recent purchase.

At Jos. A. Bank, we pride ourselves on the outstanding quality of our products and our tremendous customer service. We hope your experience at Jos. A. Bank was a pleasant one and that we met all your expectations.

We look forward to serving all your clothing needs in the future. Again, we thank you for your patronage!


Michael XXXX
Light Street

Recruiting at George Washington University

This past Thursday I had the privilege of attending the George Washing University career fair with two people from my team. The normal protocol is for recruiting to attend job fairs, but from my experience it’s better for the team to attend. There are pros and cons with regard to pulling people out of their day jobs to attend career fairs, but in my opinion the pros outweigh the cons.

Finding talent, let alone great talent to hire is tough. Unemployment is low and there are plenty of companies looking to hire. In the DC area there are many consulting firms looking to hire graduates. I believe we were the only media company recruiting at the event and some students were excited to speak to us, to AOL.

Some told us they were specifically there because of AOL.

Watching my team in action, answering questions and showing the passion they had about their positions at AOL, was priceless. When someone looks at a job opening online we probably have one shot at capturing their attention. Having the actual people who hold the jobs we are recruiting for allows for the students to actually ask questions and get actual answers.

While none of us were GW graduates, I know I have some on my team and next time I hope they can attend. Graduates at these events bring a legitimacy that can’t be matched. You were in their shoes at some point in the past.

I’m looking forward see if my team hires some of the people we spoke with.

Ten Year Johns Hopkins Reunion

This weekend was my tenth year reunion for my undergraduate degree at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. It was a great weekend with it culminating with our class event at the Bloomberg Center on campus. I volunteered on the reunion committee who worked to organize the event as well as get people to donate and attend.

We had an amazing turnout; it was well over 100 people which was much larger than the class of 1996. Our gift goal was also reached which as another win for us.

I personally was happy to see most of the people I was friends with in my dorm freshman year as well as a whole slew of fraternity brothers I hadn’t seen in years. Just reconnecting and seeing everyone was great along with some great food and beverages.

This was also a personal experiment from my perspective where we were using the web to help organize and move things forward. We used Google Spreadsheets to share the class call list among the committee members. While the actual usage of GS wasn’t 100%, it was still useful for those that did. There are some powerful tools available for free that can help increase the efficiency of these types of events. I also setup a Flickr group to share the photos from the event which I’ll be uploading tonight and contacting others to contribute their photos.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Clams Casino on Amtrak Acela

My wife is traveling with me today down to Dulles and with some fancy first class upgrade coupons we're both enjoying first class.

What does first class on Amtrak Acela include? Free beverages and a hot meal at your seat.

My wife ordered the bouillabaisse which had lobster and shrimp in it.

It looks good, but I hope it isn't a repeat of the clams casino episode in the Seinfeld diner.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Support the Highline Park Project

I subscribe to Fred Wilson's A VC blog, which btw is a great blog, his Highline post caught my eye. Railroads have always fascinated me, the scale of the business, the efficiency. Anyway, watch the video, read Fred's post, and contribute if it's important to you (I did).

What's On Your BlackBerry?

I love my BlackBerry 7250, my personal communication device from Verizon Wireless is invaluable. I'm in the process of switching over to a company provided Blackberry from Cingular.

Right now I can't install any third party applications, but hopefully I can figure this out soon.

What's On My BlackBerry?

My Applications:

Google Talk - If you have a Gmail account, you're already aware of Google Talk. The nice feature is that it does not use SMS to send and receive messages. It uses the data connection and with an unlimited data plan you're covered. It even works with Twitter.

Google Maps - This installs on your BlackBerry and gives you access to normal maps, satellite, as well as traffic. You can search for business and get directions. It's super helpful and just like Google Talk, it's free and piggybacks on your data plan.

Google Gmail - This is an installed application which gives you quite a bit of functionality to read and action upon your Gmail.

My Bookmarks:

Google Reader - In the last couple months I've embraced RSS and have used feeds to help my productivity and keep me in the loop on various things. Google's Reader is easy to navigate and I can catch up on my feeds while commuting on the train or riding in a taxi. I need to check out the AOL Feedreader, from what I've seen it has more customization features.

Amtrak - Essential if you travel the Northeast corridor.

Southwest - Essential to ensure you get your A boarding pass. Check-in through your Blackberry.

FlyFAA Plain Text - Great way to find out if there are weather delays on your flights.

HopStop - Essential for navigating the subways in NYC and other major cities.

MapQuest - If I need directions displayed all at once, MQ is great. MapQuest is my standard computer mapping choice, but for quick looks at a map I'm using Google Maps on my BlackBerry.

AOL Mail - When I need to check my non-work AOL account, I would equate the interface to be comparable with Google's Gmail web interface.

I'm curious to know what other people find essential on their BlackBerrys.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

AOL Using FeedBurner

Really glad to see AOL using Feedburner for all of our feeds. I use the free version and it's insightful, the paid version even more so.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Trying out Amazon Unbox on TiVo

I'm a big TiVo fan, have been for years. When I received an invite for $15 credit to try out Amazon Unbox on my TiVo I jumped at the chance.

So far I've rented the past tv episode of 30 Days - Outsourcing, the movies World Trade Center and Miami Vice. Just ordered Catch a Fire and Fast Food Nation.

One downside is that your rental is only good for 24 hours, start playing your rental and you've got 24 hours to watch it as many times as you want.

You get full DVD quality downloaded to your TiVo box, the World Trade Center movie was a 2.72 gigabytes.

I haven't purchased a video yet, but apparently there is an online media center at Amazon were you can re-download it at your pleasure.

This is a great service, still trying to determine whether on-demand cable is better, same, or worse.

Supply and Demand on the web - economics of Google - great post

Alex Iskold has written a great post regarding supply and demand online versus the physical world. He does a great job comparing and contrasting Google to Starbucks.

Worth taking the time to read.

Monday, April 09, 2007

It's time to start golfing

In a continuing effort to improve my work-life balance and find additional activities that my wife and I can enjoy together we stopped by the Fairview Golf Center in Elmsford, NY to see about lessons yesterday.

Yes I do realize that it's a driving range, but since I hear consistency in your swing is critical what's better then being able to hit a bunch of golf balls in a row? They also have simulated holes out on the range so you can actually take aim.

I signed us up for a clinic this morning and we're off to two hour long classes during the week in the evening and then a private half-hour lesson.

After that we'll be off to hit on some real grass.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

PodCampNYC Recap Part 1

As I mentioned before, Diana and I attended PodCamp NYC yesterday in New York City. It was a free un-conference (sponsor supported), with multiple sessions per hour running 9am to 6pm. We were both looking to learn more about blogging since we both blog, me with this blog, and Diana with When we originally signed up it was marketed as blogging and pod casting focused. It was definitely slanted towards pod casting, but many of the sessions about various aspects of pod casting apply the same to blogging.

I'll recap the sessions and some of the key learnings. I'll also post links because part of the rule of this un-conference was that anyone could film etc. So there should be some high-quality video up online of the sessions soon.

First session - Social Media Convergence and Virtual Worlds - Joseph Jaffe, Greg Verdino, Mark Wallace, Johnny Ming, and Adam Broitman

We both found this particularly interesting because it touched on a part of the Internet that neither of us visit. During the panel, they had SecondLife up on the screen where they actually had setup an area with booths for all of the sponsors. We watched a presentation being projected on a screen in SecondLife. They talked about companies and their presence in virtual worlds.

Some quotes that stood out for me (I'm not a reporter, so these are as close as possible)

"A campaign has a start and end date, consumers do not, " J Jaffe.

"We live in a world of partial attention - people are twittering, emailing, while sitting up here on this panel," Greg Verdino.

Second session - What's Next? A discussion for looking ahead - Andrew Baron and Joanne Colan of Rocketboom (one other person as well, didn't catch his name)

Andrew started the session off with an interesting slide show showing the progression of technology and communications. The sound on the recording is a bit faint, but you do get to see some of his slides. There was an interesting discussion of a firm offering real-time translation captioning of video casts. I believe it was 8 languages simultaneously. Also some discussion of censorship in China as well.

More to come...

Execution vs Vision with Mitchell Caplan, CEO of ETrade

I'm a big fan of the History Channel show, History's Business. In this morning's episode Mitchell Caplan, the CEO of Etrade (stock ticker: ETFC), was interviewed and one particular quote stood out:

#1 Key to Success - "Not only for me, but truly for the management team it's about tactical execution... Every time I hear a CEO pontificate endlessly about vision, I would go back and short the stock, and every time I really can see true proof of execution that's what makes success." - Mitchell Caplan

While at the surface this is a strong statement, is Mitchell saying vision isn't important?

No, endlessly is the key word.

Once you have vision, you then need to execute that vision.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Heading down to PodCamp NYC tomorrow

Diana and I are heading down to PodCamp NYC tomorrow for a day of sessions covering blogging and pod casting. Apparently they are even holding the sessions virtually on Second Life.

I'll have more details tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Dark Side Of The Moon OZ Video Mashup

I'll apologize for the lack of deeper posts recently, my work and personal life has been hectic the last week or so.

What I did find while catching up on my magazines was a Rolling Stone magazine featuring an article on Pink Floyd, one of my favorite bands. We know the magazine click-through rate is low (someone typing a url from a magazine into a browser), but in this case they caught me with this video mash-up.

I've never had the opportunity to watch the Wizard of Oz and listen to Dark Side of the Moon which supposedly seem to follow each other. Rolling Stone matched up a few sections. Definitely interesting to watch - click here.