Sunday, November 29, 2009

Site Redesign

Just a quick note to mention that I changed the template of this site from a black background to a minimalist white background. I hope it makes the content easier to read- I found the old template's width limiting and it didn't differentiate bold text from plain sufficiently.

I was on the fence about switching over to WordPress once again, but decided to stay with good old Blogger. It might not be perfect but it does 98% of the things I want a blog to do. Even if it's not always the prettiest thing in the world, Blogger is free and I'm familiar with it.

It's still amazing to me how many things need to be tended to in order to get a blog up and running nicely. Selecting a domain provider, Google Blogger custom domain mapping, picking a template, formatting takes forever to tweak sometimes, FeedBurner needs to be set up, icons sometimes need to be changed to accommodate a different background color, AdSense setup, search box setup, favicon needs to be added, nav bar needs to be suppressed, etc etc etc. Whew.

I picked this template up from Deluxe Templates- it's called Thematic. Another site I've used for Blogger templates is Our Blog Templates for their Newspaper theme.

Oh- we have a new E-mail subscription option from FeedBurner. Click HERE to subscribe to updates via E-mail.

Let me know what you think of the new site- especially if you something appears to be amiss. Thanks!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Celebrity Look-a-likes: Carrie Underwood and Betty Draper from Mad Men

Thursday, November 26, 2009

5-Fingers of Thanksgiving Fun

Remember when your fingers were small enough to fit in pitted olives?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hot Wheels Games Provide Perfect iMac Test Vehicle

This weekend, 4 year-old Sam was playing his beloved Hot Wheels games on our 4 year-old iBook G4. He was complaining about the game being too hard for him to play (he couldn't advance levels by winning races) so I reluctantly agreed to try to get him past the first level. After playing the game for a few minutes, it seemed like the computer was running really slowly, so I tried the same game on my work computer (a Lenovo T61p laptop). Wow- it was so fast I couldn't believe it! And the game was actually pretty fun. We spent the next half hour having a great time as he encouraged me to complete each level and unlock new cars.

This gave me an idea: This web-based game would be the perfect test for the 21.5" iMac I've been eyeing for a potential family Christmas present. We stopped in at the Apple Store today to give it a try. We walked into the store and found an open station in front of the machine we're considering. I pointed the Safari web browser to and navigated my way to the famous "Colors Shifters Track Action" game. A pop-up appeared saying that the Adobe Shockwave Player wasn't installed and prompted me to download and install it. I was familiar with this maneuver on the Mac since I upgraded the version of Shockwave on our iBook just yesterday so I proceeded with the download and installation.

Unfortunately in order to install Shockwave you need admin privileges, but just as I was about to give up, a friendly Apple Store employee appeared. He typed in the admin and installed Shockwave. As it was installing, it said something about 32-bit vs. 64-bit but we plowed forward and completed the installation (don't we always plow forward?). We reloaded the web page and although it didn't complain about Shockwave any more, Safari rendered an empty box where the game normally appears. Hmm... "What's up with that?" I thought.

The employee jumped over to a neighboring machine, did a quick Google search and then came back over to our machine. He did a Apple-key/"I"-key combo, brought up Info on the Safari application, asked it to open in 32-bit mode, and restarted it. We navigated to the game page again and this time it rendered correctly. We played the game and it was very fast.

This little 32-bit flakiness is something that I thought would be an advantage of Snow Leopard vs. Windows 7 (Apple's latest and first full 64-bit OS I believe, whereas Microsoft still asks you to choose which version of the OS you want to install: 32-bit or 64-bit). Turns out, there's components in the system that still need to run 32-bit and you might have to occasionally fiddle with this on a per-application basis.

Lest you think this is going to be a Mac-bashing piece, I thought I'd related a similarly frustrating story from this past week on my PC which also relates to Shockwave. A while back, I noticed a Norton Security Scan application pop up. I thought perhaps it was a work thing, but it was hard to tell. Wherever it came from, it was very persistent and I had a hard time stopping it from scanning my computer once it started. After asking around, it sounded like I may have inadvertently installed it so, I removed it.

I noticed it came back recently when upgrading, you guessed it, Shockwave. Why in the heck would Adobe Shockwave install Norton Security Scan? Bizarre, but it does unless you opt out when you're clicking "next, next, next" to install Shockwave:

So what's the point of the story? The point is that all computers can be a pain in the neck. We can say all we want about one operating system being better than the other, but all computers suffer from some flakiness of one sort or another as part of doing the things we do with them.

But here's the thing... In terms of buying a computer, you've got to do something if you're interested in being online without getting frustrated waiting for a slow computer. And with the iMac, at least you have a snazzy looking machine that can run Mac OS -or- Windows. Look at these alternative all-in-ones from Best Buy. You've got to be kidding me- why can't the PC industry make a better looking computer?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Is Your Credit Card Company Listening to You?


When I got a call on my cell phone this week from a representative from Chase credit cards, my first thought was "unusual spending patterns" and concerns about a stolen card. However, it turned out to be a proactive call to seek to understand why we weren't using the card as much as we had in the past.

I explained that we use our American Express Blue Cash card as much as possible because it offers 1.5% cash back on everyday purchases. The agent did a good job of engaging in a dialogue about some features I might not be aware of with our Chase Cash Plus Rewards card, and I let her know how bizarre I've always found it that they don't offer any incentive to take a $50 gift card in lieu of a $50 statement credit (who in their right might chooses a gift card over cash?). But in the end they don't offer a card that offers 1.5% cash back for every day purchases, so I won't be making any changes in our card at this time.

But here's the thing that got me to blogging about this interaction... Although I thought it was great they were proactively reaching out to see what they could do to retain or earn more of our business, I mentioned that I blogged in detail about why I use the credit cards I use. I asked her if I could E-mail her a link to that blog entry and she told me she didn't have an inbound E-mail address that I could send the link to. Yikes.

For me, great companies should be out doing Google searches to see what people are saying about the credit cards they carry. They'll be searching Twitter for occurrences of their name and responding to criticism and praise. Or better yet, using listening tools like Google Alerts, Twitter search RSS feeds, or Social Mention.

Companies often say they don't have time for social media- but somehow they have time to call individual card holders to engage in lengthy conversations? I just don't get it. Social media, if used effectively, provides leverage and helps companies improve not just one customer's impression of their brand but the impression of everyone that person interacts with.

So, my advice to companies like Chase is to interact with people the way they want to be interacted with. If you really want to hear what people think of your brand, get on Twitter, empower your employees with E-mail addresses, and open up the lines of communication. Otherwise, I'm left with little confidence that you really want to hear what I have to say, and even if you do listen you won't be capable of acting upon the conversation.

Friday, November 06, 2009

He Knows Me So Well

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