Sunday, May 28, 2017

What's Got Mike Hacked Off Today?

In the current issue of 'What's Got Mike Hacked Off Today?' is Walgreens' Memorial Day television commercial. At the end of the advertisement, a sing-songy happy voice narrates, "We wish all of those who served a very happy Memorial Day!" (I'm paraphrasing and may be off a word or two, but that was pretty much it.)

What gets me is many people don't get Memorial Day and Walgreens' ad proves it magnificently. Memorial Day may be a National holiday and the unofficial kickoff to Summer -- hopefully we will spend it well and with our loved ones -- but it is actually a somber day; a day to reflect in memoriam at those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country: their lives.

Memorial Day should be a lot of things -- reflective, appreciative, thankful, honorable, respectful, enjoyable, etc. -- but happy? I don't know. Walgreens' wish for happiness runs askew of the reason for the holiday. It's disaffected corporate advertising prattle, but I know it also reflects many's misunderstanding of the holiday.

The millions of honorable men and women that serve and have served deserve our recognition and gratitude every. single. day. Their service to our country is a tough and noble task and one that many of us elected not to pursue. We are all indebted to their patriotic service and we should be thankful for them always and not just on their holidays: Veterans Day and Armed Forces Day.

But please take a moment tomorrow to think of our service members who have fallen in service to our country. If you've been fortunate to never had lost a family member during service, think of those who have. And if you have, please know that you have my highest gratitude for the sacrifice you have borne.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Looking Back with Patent Sincerity

It's fun to reflect on the time that I spent with my dad right after graduating college (1989). We were off pursuing his dream to patent and sell a unique product. While the concept was all his, I was the doer/experimenter/engineer/co-patenter. We bought a lathe; conducted electrical tests while standing barefoot in puddles in his garage, frequently shocking ourselves senseless; and we roared with delight when I designed and created a new piston on our pump that was able to shoot water out of a small hose up to a length of 25'. I remember that day well. I persisted until the late evening hours designing and building my creation. I finally hooked it all up and flicked the switch and... ta-dah! Water squirted across the driveway. I ran into the house and said, "Dad, you gotta see this!" It was our biggest technical victory and we were proud to show it to anybody who feigned interest.

Sadly Dad's health and well-being diminished and I finally had to tell him "Dad, I've accepted a job at another company. I'm starting in two weeks."

It's too bad I didn't have the knowledge that I have now back then. I could've taken this thing to great heights, but it's fun to look back what an awesome experience it was. I particularly enjoy looking at our patent, #5,085,563, and the drawings that I painstakingly labored over to create. It would be so much easier today with CAD, but I created these on a wooden drawing board with T-squares, compasses, and templates. Honestly, sitting at my desk crafting these images was about the most satisfied I ever was in my career. Good memories; I hope to carry Dad's innovative spirit and engaging personality within me as I move onto my next venture.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

You'd Be Nuts Not To!

The amount of tech, financial, career guiding, and leisure articles that I (we, I'm sure) get bombarded with daily can be overwhelming. And because of that, every so often we read about something that's really cool only to forget about it in the next article we browse.

Hearing about Acorns the first time was like that. I read about it and thought "That's really cool; I should do that!" and then quickly forgot about it. A recent conversation with a pal caused me to recall Acorns and, this time, I didn't forget.

Acorns is the modern, digital equivalent of throwing the change in your purse or pocket into a bedside jar every evening. You do this by rote and before you know it... ta da! You've got a few hundred bucks of change in your jar. With Acorns you link your credit cards and other accounts and set the round up amount up to a whole dollar, e.g., pay for your $4.45 grande Iced Chai Latte at Starbucks with your bank card and Acorn rounds up the amount to $5, depositing the difference (55 cents) immediately into your account. Acorn does cost something: $1 per month, but after using Acorns for only 4 days, I've already squirreled away a thoughtless, painless thirteen dollars and seventy-one cents. At this rate, I'll have sacked $1,250 in a year!

Another interesting item is Acorns' Found Money™ program. There's a bunch of stores including The Gap, Walmart, Airbnb, Walgreens, Old Navy, Nike and so on that offer to kick more into your account. For example, I think The Gap's is pretty good: They'll kick 2% of your purchase price when you pay with an Acorns linked card into your account up to $40 per month. Hey, if you were going to buy something there anyway, why not?

Personally, I see little risk but you should know that your money doesn't just go into a jar, it goes into an investment account. There are five accounts ranging from conservative to aggressive. So like any good adviser might advise: if you are risk averse or uncomfortable with digital security, Acorns may not be for you. Also, read the fine print.

I've got nothing to gain by promoting Acorns other than hoping you'll give it a quick study and see if it is for you. I think most of you could find it beneficial and a very simple way to save a little money.

Friday, March 3, 2017


The Milwaukee Repertory Theater's presentation of Dick Enberg's 'McGuire' was fantastic. Milwaukee actor Anthony Crivello was spellbinding and had the audience believing they were looking at Al McGuire by show's end. I had a chance to talk to Anthony after the performance and I shared my Al story with him; he added a new wrinkle. The abridged version is as follows...

In the late 90's, Kay and I braved an absolute white-out blizzard to indulge in our favorite pizza and a jug of chianti at Barbiere's on Bluemound. We lived nearby, so it wasn't much of a stretch for us to make the one-mile trip even though no one else appeared foolish enough to be out on the roads. As we dined in silence, we barely noticed that we were not the only guests visiting Barbiere's: there was another couple engaging in quiet conversation three booths away. After nearly an hour with no additional patrons, I excused myself to use the washroom. As I passed the other couple's table, an unmistakable voice called out, "Hey, buddy. Have you got the time?" I knew whose voice that was before I even turned around, but turn around I did and I looked Coach Al right in the face and replied, "Um. Ah. Er. Oh. Um.... *looks at watch* Eight o' clock, coach." "Thanks, buddy," was Al's reply.

I turned and visited the washroom a-tizzy thinking, "Wow. Championship Coach and famous broadcaster Al McGuire just asked me what time it was on a blizzarding Wisconsin evening!" I got back to the table and told Kay, "See that couple over there? That's Al and Pat McGuire!"

Anyway, that was my encounter with the iconic coach and famous broadcaster, but the wrinkle Anthony Crivello added tonight was this... He brought playwright and Hall of Fame broadcaster Dick Enberg to Barbiere's recently and said, "This was one of Al's favorite hangouts," and Enberg said, "No way. This isn't Al's kind of place."

 Mr. Crivello grabbed his omnipresent pocket notepad and scribbled my story and said, "I'm calling Enberg and telling him this. I knew that Barbiere's was one of Al's favorite Milwaukee haunts!"

Take that, Enberg.

(Note to self: If you ever become famous, carry a pocket notepad, scribe fans' comments, thank them, and tell them you will act upon their with their input. Fans love this kind of shit.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Snores. Smooches. Stupidity. Travel!

Today was unique, that's for sure.

Started by meeting an Iraqian. A truly amazing man who has accomplished a great number of things and was a joy to meet. I hope to see him again, just not in Baghdad, where he wants me to visit.

Then spending the afternoon with an Aussie, Brit, and young Swede and getting doused in kiwi lemonade from head to toe just before the young Swede took me to the airport in his BMW sports coupe at tremendous speed.

The airport was fascinating. Usually when I fly in and out of Dubai I'm flying out of Terminal 1 that has flights going to Sydney, Paris, Manchester, Chicago, etc. So you see a wide variety of ethnicities and cultures, but also many westerners. Terminal 2, however, is totally different. It serves flights mainly between the Gulf States: Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, etc. In Terminal 2, I STOOD OUT. With my sport jacket and tan slacks, I couldn't have looked more American if I would have dressed in Captain America's leotards singing 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' with Toby Keith's warble.

The flight from Dubai to Doha was an adventure. Atlanta to Dubai at 15 hours, no problem. Dubai to Doha was an hour and ten minutes and felt like an eternity. First, the flight was terrifyingly rough. Second, myself removed, the collective intelligence quotient on the plane was a number lower than the amount of pounds I've lost since New Years. When the pilot says "Turbulence ahead, please return to your seat and fasten your seat belt," don't get up and walk up and down the aisle demanding a cappuccino. (Yes, this happened.) Plus I was sandwiched between a smelly loud-snorer and a love-struck smoochie-smoochie Arab couple. Honestly, an hour and ten minutes of kissing noises is way worse than five minutes of a Ted Cruz/Donald Trump dialogue.

One other thing about the plane. You know how some people get up and begin removing their belongings from the overhead bin before the plane comes to a full stop at the gate? This happened on this flight too, but the difference was that they left their seat and opened the overhead bins while the plane was still doing about, oh, 200 miles an hour. One flight attendant freaked, shouted "Sit down!" and ran down the aisle slamming all the bins as the plane slowed to only ludicrous speed on the landing strip.

Upon deplaning, a man with five wives (FIVE!) were nonplussed by an escalator. The women stood at the bottom, fearful of taking a step onto the moving stairs. After 30 seconds, they gave up and looked for an elevator. (Why??) And the female half of smoochie-smoochie inexplicably fell on her ass (not related to the escalator). Giggles and smiles ensued between me and a group of nervous, new-to-Qatar Nepalese laborers.

Last but not least, my Kenyon cab driver unwarrantedly laid on his horn ten times whilst delivering me to my hotel.

Least, now that I'm at my hotel, America is waking up and the normal workday email chaos begins.

Phew. I'm having a beer and going to bed.

Monday, November 30, 2015


With the corporate marketing machine in its highest gear of the season, and it being "Cyber Monday," now might be a good time for me to make a plea to all parents and pet owners out there...

Get yourself a good camera! Your kids and pets are adorable, but you're preserving their life-long images on grainy, out-of-focus mobile phone cameras. Sure, mobile phone cameras are convenient, instant, and compared to no photo at all, a good alternative, but they are no match for the picture quality even an entry-level DSLR or midrange point-and-shoot (though I highly recommend the former).

Nikon D3200's and Canon EOS Rebel T5's dominate the holiday market and are great entry-level DSLRs. Right now they can be had for the best prices of the season. One of the things I enjoy about being a photo gear enthusiast is NOT buying the latest technology. Digital photographers are fickle and sell last year's gear for deep discounts. I still enjoy shooting with Nikon's 2006 model D40. So much so that I've considered buying them up and storing them in the closet. When I break, lose, or one wears out, I'll just grab another. It's a simple camera that's easy to use, but with enough features that if I want to get a little creative, I can do that too. (They're selling with lenses for between $150 and $200 on ebay.)

I also own a Nikon Coolpix AW100 point-and-shoot. Cropped to 100%, one can see some digital aberrations, but for the most part, it takes remarkable photos in a waterproof and nearly indestructible body.

Here's a deal that's really got my attention: on Olympus's website, they're selling a OM-D E-M10 with two lenses for $499.98. That's a CRAZY deal. I've looked at this rig before and frequently seen it well over $600 with one lens. Plus it's got wi-fi, so you can snap with the E-M10 and move these pictures over to your mobile for instant sharing.  This sale ends tonight. There likely will be another good one to follow, but if you're interested, I'd suggest snapping up this deal.

I've got no skin in the game suggesting you spend your hard-earned cash with these big Japanese corporations, but it's something I've considered often... the  preservation of my friends' and family's precious moments to flat, lifeless mobile camera photographs. Going into the holiday season, there's no better time to invest in an advanced camera. By Christmas, with a little practice, you'll be ready to take great pictures of your loved ones and your in-laws. (I kid! I kid!)

Do it! You'll thank me later!!

(Inset picture: my great-nephew, Graeme, taken with my D40 and Nikkor's 35mm f/1.8G lens--a good lens for shooting in low-light conditions. I'll also admit it's not the best I could do, but with 2-year olds, they don't sit still and you gotta be quick!)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Misguided Expectations?

After reading the U.S.'s, Great Britain's and Australian's State Department advisories, I recently declined traveling to Beirut, Lebanon to attend a meeting at a potential business partner's. All reports, condensed, said something like "DON'T GO."

Now what would be your thoughts to flying to Beirut and then traveling by car for about an hour roughly towards Syrian border? You'd probably conclude with the State Department's advisory. ISIS, Hezbollah, and captured western journalists in orange jumpsuits kneeling before a scarfed savage wielding a large blade would come to mind.

Those are the visions that came to mine. I know Lebanon has been mostly at peace for the last 10 years, but it's not that big and ISIS has made some inroads into this small country.

But then I saw our business partner's New Year's video on YouTube. And wow. Just... wow. It's nothing like I could have imagined. This is Lebanon? I know the journey would still be fraught with hazard. After all, I'm an American, but I'm kind of bummed that I declined this trip. Looks like it might have been fun!

Not what you thought an hour out of Beirut, Lebanon would look like, is it?

This is why I love international travel. Getting out and seeing how people live firsthand and not through the lens of the media. That said, I do recognize that precautions must be exercised and there are some places where we are just not welcome, but I may have been misguided by reports on Lebanon.