Friday, November 29, 2013

Our Marketing Government

Have you seen this ad yet this holiday season?

Of course you have.  It is on nearly every other television break for major shows, including NFL football.  There are also other TV ads, plus radio ads as well.

Why?  Why in the world does the postal service need to not only advertise, but do so with a campaign flight that is the envy of major consumer package brands (after doing some digging, I found that the USPS spent roughly $150 million on advertising in 2011, along with some dubious line items)?  Do people who need to ship something actually not think of the Postal Service without a massive barrage of advertising?

This is only the beginning of our government marketing itself.   Be it ads to encourage sign up for food stamps, ads for signing up for social security, or this ad to encourage frat boys to sign up for Obamacare:

The bottom line is that our government feels the need to market to its people.  To the tune of likely over a billion dollars every year.  For advertising.  Given simple supply and demand, imagine what that does to costs for brands, retailers, and others that choose to advertise.

Like the carrier in the ad above with the giant snowman, it all kind of freaks me out.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

With so much going on in the world, it's easy to be jaded and to think only the worst.  And at times like these, Thanksgiving steps up, smacks you right in the mug, and forces you to see the blessings that have been laid at our feet.

A warm home.  Clean water, clothes, and sheets.  More food than I could eat.  Incredible wine.  And more than all of these, time with people that I love.

In the grand scheme of things, all is right in the world.  It is, indeed.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Blaming Fox News

Fox News replies to the Obama administration, which has continually pointed to them as a scapegoat for the nation's ills:

Saturday, November 23, 2013

How to Create a Killer LinkedIn Profile

My sister recently reached out to me about improving her LinkeIn profile, as she's starting to reengage her professional life.  I put together some thoughts to help her, and thought that what I developed  may help others as well.

Here's the email I sent her:

Hi Foof,

Welcome to social media - my world! 

From my perspective, there is NOTHING more important than LinkedIn from a personal branding perspective. You don't need pro help, you have me, and I'd argue that I'm in the 99th percentile when it comes to LI and effectiveness. My profile is not perfect, but it is pretty damn good.

The objectives of a LinkedIn profile are twofold.  The first is obvious - this is the new extension of the resume.  It is able to tell a lot more about you than that piece of paper ever could.  The second is far more subtle, but imminently more valuable; it helps you get found.  And that's a key way of how senior executives to managers are found in 2013.  It is how business is done.

Let's start at the top:

  • Picture is critical.  Always have one, and always have a good one.  Mine is out of date and bad, and my 2014 resolution is to update it.  It does not have to be professional, but it does have to be very good. Yours needs an update.  The fact that you're a good looking woman will strongly benefit you in this area.  That's not being sexist; that's reality and the way the world works.
  • The number and type of connections are critical, as who you know is often times as important as what you know.  You need to be constantly growing this, and your goal should be to fill that area with people that are at or higher than your level.  Certainly they'll not all be that, but when people go through your contacts, they need to be impressed by the crowd with which you run.  That means being strategic about reaching out to folks.
  • Along those lines, there is a courtesy in asking for a connection.  Never, and I mean never just send out the LinkedIn template request.  If you can't spend 10 seconds personalizing it to the relationship to make it meaningful for the recipient, you're just spamming them.  These people are getting multiple requests per week, and they're certainly not accepting all of them (I accept about 10% of what I get).  Give them a reason to want to connect with you by letting them know how connecting with you can be valuable for them or by reminding them of what you once worked on together.  
  • You've got a personal URL in LinkedIn - great job!  That's missed by a lot of folks, and it makes it a lot easier for you to be found outside of LI on traditional search engines.  Nothing to change there.
  • Contact info is critical as it will be the mechanism by which many will reach you, and it also says things about you.  You're missing your phone number, and this needs to be included (then we've got to work on your phone skills - keeping your inbox clear for incoming messages, firing off "busy" texts on inbound calls, etc.).  Also, your email address says a lot about you.  Since you're on an AOL domain, my assumption would be that you're not technically savvy.  I'd suggest getting a gmail account, and branding it appropriately (just your name, and nothing crazy like "" - people hate that.)
  • Your activity stream is important.  You need to be on LI for 15 minutes every work day, developing this.  People need to see what you are doing, and you need to be sharing your professional perspective so that people can see a deeper picture of you and what you thinking.  I'm not as developed here as I'd like to be, and that's because work is just too crazy now.  In a more normal period, I'm pushing out a thought a day, and looking to get engagement from my network.  Also, your posts can automatically be published to Twitter, and I suggest you establish a professional account there.  I'd make all of your tweets on LI and would save Twitter for only professional tweets.  Never tweet any personal information.  Politics is a definite third-rail.
  • Your background and experience needs to be filled in, and needs to be filled with the specific keywords that people would use to find someone with a skill set like yours.  Think about the search terms they'd use, and then use those terms in your content.  This needs to be very strategic.  LI provides you insight to how many times you've shown up in searches, and you need to be focused on that metric with the goal of growing it on a week by week basis.
  • Recommendations are important - they're references.  You need to cultivate these as much as possible, with the goal of having a couple per your last three gigs.  Your boss or client should be one of them if possible; direct reports hold a lot less value, but they're not worthless - they give your prospective employer direct insight on the kind of leader you are from your team's perspective, and that is valuable insight indeed.
  • The best way to get a recommendation is to first write one for the person you intend to ask.  Likewise, if you ever get asked to write a recommendation, always ask for one in return.  You might not like what you get back (not that it is negative, just that it is poorly written), and you have the right to accept the recommendation and publish it or not.  I have a number of recommendations that I have not published as I felt it did not align with the brand I am trying to cultivate, and that is OK.
  • Working on any projects?  Load them in that area.  Look for things like any community projects or pro bono charity work you might be doing.  Be creative here.
  • Remove your high school from your education.  You wouldn't put it on your resume, and it doesn't belong on LI.
  • Skills and expertise endorsements are pretty much a joke.  By all means, develop a list for yourself, and if people endorse you for them, outstanding.  But by no means does this take the place of the recommendation.  I personally view these as pretty worthless as I have people endorsing me for skill sets that they've never seen me execute in the hopes that I reciprocate.  I refuse to give that away, and in the past year I've not endorsed anyone for anything.
  • Your professional groups and the companies you follow say a lot about your professional curiosity and engagement, and both of those areas need to be a strong reflection of your personal brand.  Spend a lot of time there, and make the appropriate engagements.

That's it to start.  That won't be the end - there is fine tuning to do - but if you do all of these things you'll easily have a top tier LinkedIn profile.  It will take a lot of work - LI is NOT set and forget - but if you do put in the work, it will pay dividends for you.  It won't happen immediately, but the goal is to incrementally get better every week. 

Personally, I judge my effectiveness based on the about of recruiters that are on my page, and by the amount of recruiter calls I receive,  Right now I'm averaging about 3 to the page and about a call per week.  If I was in the job market, I'd love that kind of attention.  Define your own success metrics, and head after them. 

We can talk more on this when we get together, or feel free to call me at any time.  I enjoy this stuff very much (hence my career choice), and I'm happy to help.

Love you.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Social Media - You're Shouting to the World. What if the World is Listening?

A lot (perhaps most?) people think that what they do on social media is private; shared only with their friends and connections.  As has been stated here earlier, nothing could be farther from the truth.  What you do online, in just about every realm, can be found, traced, and tracked.

Everything.  And sometimes, without too much difficulty.

As graphic evidence, note this little social media experiment:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Knockout" Videos the Next Urban Big Thing

Hear about the "game" Knockout?  

Urban youth have:

A simple search for "knockout game videos" provides lots more examples.  Common denominators:

  • Targets are defenseless
  • Targets are usually not black
  • Every perpetrator is black
But it's not a hate crime.  It's just a "game."  Just a macho thing.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Dog Rube Goldberg Machine

I have no idea how many takes it took to make this work, but the results are incredible:

Hat tip to Cuz

Monday, November 18, 2013

Oppose Obama? Oprah Says You're Racist

Oprah Winfrey, the woman made obscenely rich by white America, says that the reason why people oppose Obama is because they're racist, and everybody knows it:

Never mind that the only reason he got elected in the first place was because a bunch of white people voted for him.  The first play in the liberal playbook is to never let facts get in the way when the race card is being played.

Obama is a horrible executive, leader, and president.  He's woefully over his head, has surrounded himself with sycophants, has overtly lied to the American people time and again, and has yet to convey any semblance of responsibility, humility, or resolve.  His tenure, especially in the second term, has been a nightmare.

But I guess to Oprah, that only means I'm a racist.

When do we get to the point in our culture where a man can be criticized based on his actions, and have that criticism stick without apologists invoking the color of the man's skin?

Obama was elected by many to right the wrongs done to African Americans throughout our history.  However, instead of making things better, Obama has only made things worse and made the division wider.  

Could his administration be any more of a failure? 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cabela's Haul

In social media, there's a concept called "haul videos," where the subject of the video, usually a teenage girl, shows of the "haul" she made shopping.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I went out to an early dinner.  After our meal, I let her know that I needed to stop by Cabela's for a case of ammo for an upcoming hunting trip.  She agreed to meet me at home, and we went our separate ways.

Maybe it was the couple of drinks that I had with dinner, or maybe it was just the majesty of the new store, but my quick trip for a flat of ammo went on for over an hour, and ended up with me filling the cart with two cases of shotgun ammunition, rifle and handgun ammo, a new hunting shirt, a sweatshirt, and a couple of really nice Christmas gifts.  See below:

I sheepishly approached the check-out with my now full cart, and the check out person started her work.  The net result?  $650 (ammunition is damned expensive).

I gulped hard.  This was supposed to be just one quick trip.  How would I explain to my better half this kind of indulgence?  Thankfully, I was about to be saved, as my checker said, "You have $773 in Cabela's points.  Would you like to use them?"

"Yes," I said with a relieved sigh, "Yes I would."

I basically use only one credit card, and use it for everything.  That would be Cabela's card, and as such, I rack up a good amount of points for my spending.  Over time, it builds to a tidy little sum.  Fortunately for me, it was big enough that I was able to fill the back of my rig with new gear, and without incurring any sticker shock on the monthly credit card bill.

And incurring the wrath of surprised spouse.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Battle of the Bulge, Part 4: The Tide Turns

A couple of months ago I saw my buddy Fuzzy, and he was fresh off of dropping a good chunk of weight.  I asked him how he did it, and he showed me this:

This little device is a Fitbit Flex.  It monitors your motion, via a very sensitive (and surprisingly accurate) tracking mechanism.  It tracks things like how much you've moved, how far you've gone, and even how soundly you slept.

Armed with this motivation to move, it also supplies a web interface which allows you to track things like calories consumed, heavier workouts, water consumed, and your weight.  Taking a spot on the wrist, it provides a constant reminder of your activities (or lack thereof), and to think about what you're doing.

I started using it, and have been religious about my use.  I log everything, and know exactly how many calories I've consumed, and how many additional ones I've earned via activity.  I know when I'm in a deficit, and when I'm over.  And more than that, for the first time in my life I know with great confidence the amount of calories contained in what is going into my pie hole.

And the result?  Since I started using it in September, I'm down about 25 pounds.  I've lost about 4 inches around my waist.  I now weigh an amount that I haven't weighed since I was in college.

And I'm no longer freaking obese:

Oh, it isn't over.  A war that has lasted since my childhood can't ever be over.  But for this portion of the battle, I'm winning.

And the war rages...

Friday, November 15, 2013

Obamacare in Flames

The roll out of Obamacare has been an unmitigated disaster.  From myriad technical failures, to minuscule registrations; from "You can keep your plan," to "no, you can't," to "your old plan was bad," we've been shown time and again that this administration hasn't the faintest idea of what it is doing.

They see their panacea.  The only trouble is that they're so inept that they cannot find a way to execute so that the bloated pig that is the federal government can take over 1/6 of the US economy once and for all.

And now, finally faced with push back from a formerly-fawning media, Obama just flat out says the law he asked to have pass just won't be honored.  And those policies that were cancelled?  Well, we didn't really mean that in the law.  Those companies can offer those policies up again, OK?

The biggest problem in all of this is the reputation of the Obama administration.  What they've done to their enemies via the IRS (and what they've likely done to their enemies via the NSA, just ask David Petraeus, but just don't ask him electronically - Hi NSA!), this group has zero credibility.  The guy once said "You can keep your plan.  Period," but then we found he lied.  Now he's saying just ignore the law?  

Yeah, right.

Two things are going to happen.  1) Those cancelled policies come back on line, leaving those opting in for Obamacare to be the sick and the old, which will then, in turn, have rates skyrocket.  2) A jaundiced public and insurance industry just flat out ain't gonna trust Obama to keep his word, and the USS Obamacare keeps on the same course and continues to sink from its own bloated weight.

Either way, the law as it is currently configured, is doomed.

And since it deals with a massive amount of our economy, so, too, may be our economic prospects.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

China Crisis Concert Review and Set List: Shank Hall Milwaukee

One of my all-time favorite bands is China Crisis.  Their Walter Becker produced album Flaunt the Imperfection is easily within my top 25 albums of all time, and their follow up What Price Paradise, while more hit or miss, was still strong.

Unfortunately, the band never gained a significant following, hence their touring, especially in the US, was limited.  Because of this, and because I'm such a fan, I just about hopped a jet to see them play in Liverpool a couple of years ago.  The economics of the whole deal finally made me come to my senses, but I truly came close to doing so.

So imagine my surprise to find out they were coming to Milwaukee; just two hours to the south of me.  And not only that, but they were playing the intimate Shank Hall, with room for just a couple of hundred.

No, it wasn't a full band effort.  Lead singer Gary Daly was there, and in incredible voice too I might add.  As was guitarist/vocalist Eddie Lundon, who like Daly, looked to be in very good shape.  Armed with another member (I failed to capture his name - I apologize) playing keyboards and digital tracks, and the little band wanted for nothing.

And neither did the audience.

Here is the set list, to the best of my recollection:

The Soul Awakening
Temptation's Big Blue Eyes
Seven Sports for All
Wall of God
You Did Cut Me
The Bigger the Punch I'm Feeling
Black Man Ray
Wishful Thinking
King in a Catholic Style
Working with Fire and Steel
African and White
Here Comes a Rain Cloud
Thank You
Diary of a Hollow Horse

Yeah, I missed Arizona Sky, but damn, that is still one great set list.

I went with my buddy Mac, and there's a whole other post about our mutual love for China Crisis, and each other, that I'll get into later.  Needless to say, he was as thrilled as I was to attend.  We were even more thrilled with our front row seats, and to meet both Gary and Eddie after the show:

Overall, it was a night of great music, a great band, and great friends.  

For the stop in the States, especially the one in Milwaukee, it seems only appropriate to quote one of the latter songs in their set:

And so I thank you
I do

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Invisible Bike Helmet

As one that bikes, albeit not as frequently as I want or should, I find this a pretty impressive technology.

Check it out:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Battle of the Bulge. Part Three: Motivation

The whole weight loss thing has been a struggle, and one that has raged throughout my entire life.  Yet, with my cessation of eating sweets in 2013, I have found a method that finally maintains my weight.  Things have finally been in flat line for most of the year, for the first time in my life.

Now, what to do about that excess baggage?  If I could just peel off 30 pounds or so, I feel like I finally have the ability to maintain it.

But how?  Great question, and the key to the whole mess.

In the past five years, I've had five good buddies that took a pretty drastic step and lost 20+ pounds.  And this was in their middle ages - tough duty indeed.  Some did it for medical reasons, some because they just wanted to, but all because they were tired of carrying around the excess baggage.

It was possible.  Now I just needed to understand how it was done.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veteran's Day

Good Lord, I miss Ronald Reagan...

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pre-Flight Hail Mary

About 25 years ago, I was involved in a flight that sustained severe turbulence.  The ride was like a rodeo bull, the cabin turned into a vomitorium, and the flight attendant, seated with her face toward us, was as scared as any flight professional that I've ever seen.

Obviously, things ended just fine.  But for about an eight year period thereafter, I had some serious issues with a fear of flying.  Ultimately, some hypnosis tapes, breathing exercises, and a hell of a lot of flying have got me over my fear.  Severe turbulence still bothers me, but nothing at all like it used to.  And now, instead of dreading flying, I actually look forward to my trips.

During this heavy fear period I developed a habit of saying a Hail Mary as the plane is taxiing for departure, and I still do it to this day.

On one of my more recent flights, I got seated early, and immediately started working on some pressing work issues.  I was banging out emails, sending texts, reading documents, making calls, and basically whipping myself into a froth of work for as long as I could with the door still open.  

After about 20 minutes, the door closed, and I had to power down and put away all of my stuff.  As I cleaned my space, I finally sat back and relaxed.  Noticing the plane was moving, I buried my head and said a sincere Hail Mary.  Upon completion, I looked up and noticed the cabin.  I had been so buried in my work that I didn't even notice the person that sat down next to me, others in the plane, or even what the flight attendant looked like.  I was so absorbed.  So "productive."

And as I thought about that Hail Mary, I wondered what if our flight would not be a safe one?  What if those moments of work, where I completely tuned out the entire world around me, would be the last that I lived?   Is that really how I want to meet my Maker, as one that worked so hard that he ignored his neighbor?

The older I get, the clearer it is to me that our time here is not guaranteed.  It is a gift not to be squandered with the choices we make.  And while I'm guilty of squandering it, I try to do better.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Battle of the Bulge, Part Two: Maintaing

I was attending my family's gathering at my sister's home in Charleston last Christmastime.  It was a grand time with lots of interaction with the family; both close and extended.  

As we ate dinner for New Year's Eve, the talk around the table was of the coming year, what we'd be doing with it, and our resolutions.  When my turn to share came up, I made a fairly generic comment about wanting to be more healthy in my approach to eating and exercise.

Dinner finished and dessert arrived, and I noted that the brother of my brother-in-law, a guy older than me but in very good shape, turned down my sister's homemade dessert.  "I don't eat sweets," he claimed, "I just don't."

Ah, sweets.  My love/hate relationship.  When in the mode of eating them, I found them to be absolutely addictive.  Every night I'd need to have some kind of sweet.  And I truly mean NEED.  However, over the past 20 years or so, I usually gave up sweets for lent.  And I found after a week or so after I gave them up, I did not crave them.  After another week or so, I didn't miss them at all.

I thought back to the comment of my dinner partner: "I don't eat sweets."  And then I thought about myself, forever struggling with my weight, and losing the battle.  I should be the last guy in the world to accept any kind of dessert.  How stupid am I?

So I made up my mind then and there that I'd be that guy that said, "I don't eat sweets."  I had no set goal other than that - no expectations, no time horizon, just doing it day to day.  And I've eaten no sweets since my sister's dessert that night.

No cake, doughnuts, candy, jam, pies, dessert.  And basically no fruit, honey, or sweeteners.  Not one damn bite.

And what have I found?  Three things: 1) I don't miss it.  I just don't.  People can eat the stuff in front of me, and I couldn't care less.  I don't crave it, don't want it, and don't miss it.  2) I like saying "I don't eat sweets," and being that guy. 3) My weight maintained.  I mean, constant.  For most of the year, I was in about a 5 pound range.  No more yo-yo; just steady Eddie.  Finally.

I know I can maintain.  It is powerful knowledge.  Now, what to do with it?

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Biggest Football Play Ever?

Likely not.  But given the stakes and the ripple effect, it is far from insignificant.

Grab the Kleenex...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Must Read Blog Post!

While working out this morning, I spied a commercial for the movie Last Vegas which came on the TV, and a headline taken from a recent review for the movie screamed, "MUST SEE!"

Really? A move for and about aging baby boomers is a MUST SEE?  

I don't think so.  Actually it sounds boring as hell.

And that brings me to the subject of this post.  It quickly appears that the use of MUST in any kind of headline is out of control.  Blogs, articles, and even social media posts are way too liberal in their consideration of what is a MUST do, own, see, experience, etc.

Personally, I think it is insulting.  The older I get the more outside of the mainstream I find myself; hence whatever is the most popular meme of the day tends not to intrigue me, it tends instead to just irk me.  Plus, and more insulting, defining something as "MUST SEE" has the implied subject of "you" - "You MUST SEE."  Such a sentence is rude, authoritarian, presumptuous, and ignorant.  

Personally, I "MUST" not do anything, really, even though others leveraging a rude, overused headline technique demand it.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tommy's Trials

Check out the attached news article, featuring a buddy of mine from college and his son:

Pretty amazing all that they've been through.  As we approach the Thanksgiving period, this sure provides lots to think about.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Vikings Just Plain Suck

I have tried to stay positive, but the record is the record.  And the record indicates the following: the Vikings suck.

Count me in the wrong on Ponder.  I felt with another season under his belt that he'd mature, and with the new weapons of Patterson and Jennings, we'd be able to move away from being a one dimensional offense.  Alas, that was not the case, as Ponder has consistently been the laughingstock of the coaches' clicker set, as he continues to miss wide open receiver after wide open receiver.

As such, the offense has stalled.  And those guys have to be seeing the same things in their own internal film sessions.  How long would you be willing to bust your tail and risk your body for someone that simply cannot execute what is required of his position?  

And on the defensive side of the ball, the losses in the secondary have stung, with the loss of leader Harrison Smith looming largest.  Couple that with the fact that the defense is on the field for a majority of the game, every game, and is just damned exhausted, and you can expect bad things to happen.

Is all lost?  Hell, no.  This team was a playoff team last year, with worse talent.  They lost three games on the final drive; two on the final plays.  It still has the reigning MVP, who showed sparks of his award-winning season in yesterday's game.  It will land a great draft pick.  And say what you want about Ziggy Wilf, but the guy is willing to spend on players.  Stadiums?  Not so much, but absolutely Ziggy will spend on players.

But in order to get back to being a playoff team the Vikings absolutely, positively must get a quarterback.  Not a retread like Matt Cassel, but a legitimate player.  Those guys are tough to find, even tougher to draft, and they don't make immediate impacts, but in this case they are absolutely imperative to this team's future. 

In the meantime, as loathe as I am to say it, the Vikings suck.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Arcade Fire Covers Uncontrollable Urge

With the release of the latest effort, Arcade Fire has been equally praised and pilloried.  Personally, I downloaded the entire album, and love it.  However, and band's effort was massively over-hyped, and the arrows they're taking likely stem more from a rejection of their commercial formula than they do over purely musical merits.

Folks, there's not a ton of great music out there that has been released in the past 6 months, and stacked against that, Arcade Fire's Reflektor is fabulous.

One thing I've admired about the band has been their hat tips to bands that came before them, and here is the latest.  In a recent concert in L.A, the band covered one of Devo's more obscure hits, and covered it extremely well:

Good stuff, indeed.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Battle of the Bulge, Part One. Where it All Began...

For nearly all of my life, I have battled with my weight.  While I've never been morbidly obese, by BMI definitions, I am indeed obese, and have been that way thorough most of my 20s, and all of my 30s and 40s.  

But it started well before then.  As a kid, while I wouldn't define myself as a fat kid per se, I was always on the larger side.  It was made manifest in 6th grade football, where I was deemed too heavy to carry the football as a fullback, and the coach at the time suggested I go on a diet.

So I did.  A diet for an 11 year old.  And the conversations over my spartan brown-bag lunch by my peers, just starting their cruel adolescent years, injured me with scars I carry to this day.

And it also initiated what has become a lifetime of fits and starts as it comes to dieting.

Diets through high school, college, adulthood.  Famines and fads like Cambridge, Vegetarian, Cave Man, Nutra-System, Atkins, and at least a half-dozen others.  Each successful, but none sustainable.  Hence, the net results were always fleeting.

Ah, yes, the inevitable failure.  And with it comes the loathing; for cameras, mirrors, my clothes, and myself.  Always for myself.

I title this segment the Battle of the Bulge, but given how long it has raged, and the costs associated, the title is understated.  This is a war, and one in which I've been losing far more than winning.

But the war rages, unabated.  And I continue to try and put up a fight.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Healthcare Mash Video

Just when you thought that infernal song would finally leave your head for the year comes this parody.

But it's really, really good.  Trust me:

As one that has launched about a dozen websites in my career (with hundreds of releases), I cannot understand what the hell our government did.  Amazing.