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.)